Friday, August 26, 2016

You Might Be A Pharisee If....


By John Stallings

 
This blog is for recovering Pharisees [like me.] Yes I’ll admit it. But that was several decades ago. I didn’t know I was a Pharisee. I’m still in recovery.

In those days, I’d be preaching & say things like, “Now I’m going to say this but you good people who’ve experienced divorce, please don’t be upset, I’m not preaching at you.”

All the while I was saying in my mind, [I didn’t realize this then] “I’m a bit superior here because I’ve never experienced a divorce, & to be frank, my marriage is so special it could never happen to me. So I’ll just keep on trying to help these battered victims of divorce.”

But after over 25 years of marriage, a marriage that produced three children, I was blindsided by a marital break-up I would have crawled on shredded glass to have avoided. In the blink of an eye I saw my marriage & a quarter of a century of work vanish before my eyes. I didn’t even lay material claim to the proverbial “Styrofoam minnow bucket.”

Over the next few years I was forced to look closely at myself. For one thing, I was a Pharisee. What was this preacher going to do now, who’d been taught that his ministry, if not his life was over if he ever divorced? Here’s what I did; not willing to remain single for life, after  years of trying to save the marriage, I was forced to move on. God gave me another chance. I remarried,- to my childhood sweetheart  & recently my wife Juda & I celebrated 28 years of marriage.

 Yes God hates divorce.  He also hates;

……a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running into mischief, a false witness & he that soweth discord among the brethren. Proverbs 6:16-19

  God hates it anytime His children miss the mark because people get hurt.

Are you a Pharisee, recovering or otherwise? Are you, like I was, a Pharisee & not even aware of it?

First let’s define a Pharisee.

The Pharisee’s were the legalists of Jesus’ day. They excelled at nit-picking. They would rather slap a coat of paint on something than get the rotten boards out.

The Pharisees are best remembered for their conflicts with Jesus. His harshest words & fiercest battles involved them. Jesus debunked them, calling them play-actors & hypocrites. There was no connection between their heart & mouth.


 
Matthew 23 for more background information on these people. This chapter is the quintessential reader on Pharisees.  They got Jesus stirred up because they pretended they were something they weren’t & no real fruit was swinging from their vines.

These old boys weren’t collaborators with the Romans or revolutionaries. They saw themselves as the protectors & propagators of the law. They were in “mission mode” to protect the law & they added 611 new fence-laws to Moses’ Ten. In Luke 18:9-14 Jesus told the story of a Pharisee & a tax collector who went into the temple to pray. The tax collector had the right attitude of humility but the Pharisee lifted his head & said in essence, "Thank God I'm special."

Jesus’ cousin John the baptizer was the first to spot & condemn these folk. He pinned their ears back telling them they’d sooner or later be axed.

The Pharisees took it on themselves to apply Jewish law to everyday life. They were big on keeping the Sabbath & used it as a frail-pole on Jesus. But Jesus had compassion for hurting people & while the Pharisees saw the details, He was seeing the bigger picture. They claimed to be holy but all the proof needed that they weren’t was the fact that they plotted to kill Jesus on the Sabbath day.


THE PHARISEES AREN'T AN EXTINCT SPECIES

We find them in churches & if we’re honest we can catch a glimpse of one in our bathroom mirror from time to time.

Here’s the bottom line. Anytime someone proceeds, in an attitude of superiority, to judge another person or act smug or superior to them, they can rightly be called Pharisees. That doesn’t mean that sin doesn’t need to be seen for what it is & corrected. It just means that we, imperfect as were are, are unable to see the hearts of our fellowman & cannot judge anyone’s righteousness but our own.

Paul also described the Pharisees when he said,

For I testify to them that they have a zeal to God but not according to knowledge. For being ignorant of the righteousness of God & seeking to establish their own righteousness they did not submit to the righteousness of God. Romans 10:2-3

The Pharisees held to a poisonous doctrine. They were the ones who brought the woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus. They wanted to trip Him up & see if He’d contradict the law. They were trying to get her killed as an evil lawbreaker when they themselves were evil lawbreakers, & despised all others who weren’t up to their “standards.” They were always ready to proselyte but Jesus told them the ones they enlisted became worse for the experience.

So, the Pharisees were loveless, judgmental, prideful, couldn’t differentiate between traditions & God’s clear commands, & they were hypocritical, not living what they taught.

There’s a little formula that we can quickly apply to our lives to see if we have a bent toward the Pharisaical. Here are some questions & I’ll take the test with you;

What do you say you believe?—Stated belief
What do you actually do?—Actual practice
Now we have our--Actual Belief.

If we find that our stated belief & our Actual belief are different, we have some problems in the Pharisee department. Let’s try it this way. John says he believes that speeding is breaking the law & it dishonors God but he has three speeding tickets recently & blames it on his “lead foot.” Here’s John’s equation;

“Speeding is breaking the law & dishonors God”---Speeding—“Speeding really isn’t that bad.”

We can apply this formula to many things. Honoring parents, prayer time, TV habits, music choices, our clothes, the way we talk about others & the list goes on. Just do the math & you can instantly see if you lean toward Pharisee-ism.

I’d like to point out 8 more practices that if we follow will mark us as modern day Pharisees. Are you ready? You might be a Pharisee if you;

1. NEVER HAVE ANY FUN

Jesus gave us a new concept of happiness. He used another word for it. He said;

……I am come that they might have life & that they might have it more abundantly. John 10:10

Do you ever let your hair down & just have fun? I’m not speaking about worldly & questionable things; I’m talking about not taking life so seriously & enjoying the journey.

I learned early in life that God will forgive us if we slip up & smile once in a while, or laugh out loud for that matter. Do you love having fun now & then? I do. Of course with folk my age a lot depends on how much fun you can stand.

Really, we need to reel in our lowers lips & let the joy come back into our lives, don’t you think? Some people are so negative if they walked out in the Sun they’d develop.

In Psalm 45:7, the Psalmist says of the pre-incarnate Christ,

God hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

That is telling us, in spite of the morose pictures we often see of Jesus, in actuality he was the happiest man in town. Have you really been enjoying the abundant life? If not, why not?

Jesus told His disciples,--These things have I spoken unto you that my joy might remain in you & that your joy might be full.-John 15:11.

Think about that; the very joy that Jesus has is available to us. His joy! Are you too spiritual to enjoy life? You might just be a Pharisee.

2. YOU MIGHT BE A PHARISEE IF YOU EXERCISE EXCESSIVE CONTROL

This spirit will manifest itself in too many rules & restrictions, rules that are pointless or too harsh. Psychologists say the two leading mental problems of our day are narcissism & paranoia, two off-shoots of needing power & control.

I’ve seen small children so controlling that their whole life is wrapped up in being the center of attention. If it doesn’t work for them they’ll pitch a conniption fit until it does work.

Many adults also have control issues, wanting to micro-manage the lives of those around them.

THE JEZEBEL SPIRIT--A CONTROLLING SPIRIT

Revelation 2:20 reminds us again of Jezebel whom we met in 1 Kings 21. She controlled the mind & actions of her wimpy husband Ahab, resulting in the murder of Naboth & theft of his vineyard.

Pharisees have controlling spirits. A person with a controlling spirit will connive & manipulate in unbelievable ways to have it their way & control everyone around them. They will lie, cheat, beg, borrow & steal to ram their agendas through. Many people are under the power of such a controller.

Here's a good rule of thumb to tell if you're dealing with a controller and a manipulator ; If when they need you to do something special for them, they present it to you with teary eyes and every drop of earnestness they can conjure up. You just know it's, for all practical purposes, a life or death situation. However when you go to them and present your special problem asking for their help, it's like they're a different person. There's no seriousness or deep concern about your need.

A controlling spirit will take what would ordinarily be good & right & use it to put others in bondage. For example, a husband can use the scripture saying women should be in submission to their husbands to make a wife little more than a puppet on a string. He forgets that he must earn the right to have his wife’s submission by loving her as Christ loved the church. Christ laid down His life for the church.

The Jezebel spirit can inhabit both sexes. There are mothers-in-law & fathers-in-law who exercise control over the minds of their married children. The Jezebel spirit can be a minister who wants to control his church or a boss who exercises control over the minds of those who work for him. This of course is to bring people under their power, position & influence for selfish gain. There are some pastors who don’t want revival to break loose in their church for fear of losing control.

Hitler & Stalin were controllers but there are controlling spirits all around us in businesses, homes & churches constantly working to bring people into bondage to them & their whims.

Are you a Pharisaical controller or are you under the bondage of one? If you are, God wants you free from that.

IF THE SON THEREFORE SHALL MAKE YOU FREE, YOU SHALL BE FREE INDEED.---John 8:36

3. PHARISEES OVERREACT TO FAILURE.

I feel, as I’m sure you do that I had the best parents a kid could have. Both my parents were preachers. This might sound a little strange to you, but I can’t remember ever hearing my parents say, “Son, everybody makes mistakes.” They were pretty smart people & they had that information, but I just never heard them say it.

That’s ironic because they had a son who made plenty of mistakes. I think the reason I never heard my parents say this was because they feared it would sound like a compromising statement. Maybe they thought it was a license to go ahead & make a lot of mistakes.

I also can’t remember ever hearing my folks preach or teach much on Grace. They knew about it, but again, I think they felt if you were always falling back on the Grace of God that meant you weren’t serious about towing the line of personal holiness.

I loved my folks & am grateful for the knowledge & training they imparted to me. But when it came to understanding God’s full & free Grace, & not being too hard on yourself, I had to get my own revelation on that.

Friend, we should not look at failure as the end of the world. Failure can be a wonderful opportunity for instruction. That doesn’t mean we should wallow in our failures, it just means we should never live in fear of failure.

The pursuit of excellent is completely different from perfectionism. God’s love for us isn’t performance-based & He isn’t expecting perfection, at least in the common usage of the word.

The more things we try, the more mistakes we’ll make but let’s not be so hobbled with “paralysis by analysis” that we fear to explore new avenues. That’s like committing suicide because you’re afraid to die. To be well adjusted in this life we’ll have to come to grips with the fact that mistakes & failures are basic to life.

You just might be a Pharisee if you’re;

4. IMPATIENT AND UNFORGIVING

Ephesians 4:32 says, And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted forgiving one another…..

Are you grouchy & irritable over everything that goes wrong? If so, your home, instead of being filled with joy, probably has an oppressive & negative atmosphere. If you & I are impatient & unforgiving we’ll drive ourselves & others to live in hopelessness & despair.

The word “long suffering” doesn’t mean, --I’ve been suffering a long time, -- it means being kind, loving & patient with others. Moses wasn’t allowed to set foot in the Promised Land because he lost his temper & was fractious with God’s people. We might minimize it but we pay a terrible price for being too hard on people.

I’ve known people that were so self-righteous about divorce they were insufferable. I’ve known preachers who got on radio & TV condemning folk who’d gotten divorced. But then someone close to them went through divorce & that shut them up quick. Often, all it takes is a little trouble in life to change some of our deeply held “convictions.”

You might be a Pharisee if you;

5. ELEVATE PERSONAL PREFERENCES OVER PRINCIPLE


It’s fine to have our own set of rules, rituals & standards but we run into trouble when we try to inflict them on others.


In the area of the essentials of the faith [we know what they are] we must all tow the line or risk drifting into spiritual apostasy. But in the area of non-essentials, we are given awesome freedom. We just can’t take our personal preference & place them on the level of Biblical commands.

Often we make the mistake of trying to spiritualize everything. If we start trying to enforce our preferential rules, we fall into the Pharisaical trap, for this is exactly what the Pharisees of Jesus' day did. Jesus’ radar quickly picked it up. Let’s be open & honest about what is Scripture, & what is not. 

You might be a Pharisee if you;

6. PROMOTE UNNECESSARY SEPARATISM & ISOLATION

We sometimes joke about people who are in-bred & in-grown, like the guy who prayed, “Lord, bless me & my wife & Joe & his wife-- us four & no more.”

I heard about a man who visited a little town & saw a Church of Christ on one side of the street & a Church of God on the other. He said, “Huh, I didn’t know Christ & God had a falling out.”

We home-schooled our children for a while & I’m all for it but problems can crop up if kids become so used to separatism that they don’t develop socially. Some people can be so “religious” that they only feel comfortable with those of their own stripe. Denominations are fine but the problem comes when we lose the desire & ability to reach out to unbelievers.

Ask yourself these questions, as I have;

Would the “worst of sinners’ feel loved by you or would they sense that you’re more likely to condemn & ostracize them? When you sing the words, “He saved a wretch like me” do you feel those words refer to someone else? Do you feel a twinge of jealousy when someone else is blessed or “more noticed” than you? Has your goodness become a habit or does it thrive as a response of love & gratitude to God?

Do you feel the need to let others know how spiritual & highly favored you are? Do you enjoy titles like...

 DOCTOR, REVEREND, THE RIGHT REVEREND, THE MOST RIGHT REVEREND, THE MOST HIGHLY FAVORED REVEREND, EXALTED REVEREND, & REVEREND-PROFESSOR? 

Here’s an idea; increase your “rank” by demoting yourself.

Do you consider your church-roll to be the Lamb’s book of Life? Are you disgusted by the moral filth that is playing on your own VCR/DVD player? Do you secretly feel the churches experiencing growth are probably watering down the Gospel? Do you carry the KJV because it’s what Paul & Silas carried?

You might be a Pharisee if you;

7. JUDGE OTHERS

A Pharisee will watch people carefully to make sure they’re doing things according to the book but they never see themselves. How convenient for them. Jesus’ most scathing words about them was, --Be on guard against the “leaven” or “Yeast” of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.-Luke 12:1

Since God is going to wait until the end of a life to judge it, we can & should refrain from judging others.

8. A PHARISEE HAS A PETTY, LOVELESS, SMALL MINDED, SQUABBLING SPIRIT

The Pharisees of Jesus’ day loved nothing more than they loved sitting around discussing petty things like;--If a Taylor or seamstress absentmindedly stuck a needle in their robe & walked out into the street on The Sabbath, was it a sin. ? Or, is it a sin to lift a child on the Sabbath. Or, if they saw a piece of an herbal leaf floating in their tea, they’d tear off a piece of it & run down to the temple to pay tithes on that little leaf before they drank it

In the book of Philippians Paul was coming against the pettiness he saw infecting that church. In chapter four he addresses two women, Euodias & Syntyche, who had faithfully worked for him in the past but are now using their talents & energies in disagreement rather than a common calling.

The problems that plague the church today are not so much the earth-shattering things we call “biggies.” Most problems, corporate & personal stem from pettiness.

Legalism is an ugly, ugly thing. It’s one of the most lethal cancers ever to strike a church or an individual. It will make you as mean as a snake.

Some were disappointed in Jesus when they learned He didn’t come to overthrow the Roman government, but rather He came to overthrow the legalism & mean-spiritedness he saw infesting the hearts & minds of His chosen Race. He saw it & He died to set us free from it.

THE ANTI-THESIS FOR LEGALISM IS LOVE

There’s a true story I heard, & I really don’t know where it happened or who it happened to but a Christian nurse was a witness to it.

A little girl named Liz had a rare & deadly blood disease. Her only chance of recovery was a blood transfusion from her five-year old brother who’d miraculously survived the same disease & had developed the anti-bodies to combat the illness. The doctor explained the situation to her little brother & asked if he’d be willing to give his blood to his sister.

The nurse said, “I saw him hesitate for only a moment before taking a deep breath & saying, “Yes” I’ll do it if it will save her life.” “As he lay in the bed next to his sister, I saw him smile, as we all did, as we saw the color returning to her face” she said. Then his face grew pale & his smile faded. He looked at the doctor & asked with a trembling voice, “Doctor, will I start to die right away?”

Being young, the little boy had misunderstood the doctor; he thought he was going to have to give his sister all his blood in order to save her; and even knowing that he did it. He did it because he truly loved his sister.

If you & I search our hearts & find even the smallest vestige of the Pharisee lurking around, let us get down on our knees & ask God to forgive us & take it away. We can go forth into this sin-cursed world, vibrant saints of God, singing of Jesus’ faith, bathed in Jesus’ hope & radiating Jesus’ love.

The world is waiting, not for another loveless, stinging critique, but to see & feel that staggering, holy love that comes to it from God.



 Blessings,



John










Sunday, August 21, 2016

Nip/ Tuck, Comb And Pluck

By John Stallings



Beauty? Let me tell you something...

 Being thought of as “a beautiful woman” has spared me from nothing in life, no heartache, no trouble. Love has been difficult. Beauty is essentially meaningless, and it is always transitory.”

Who do think spoke these words? She has been among People magazine’s 50 most beautiful people. No-it’s not Phyllis Diller, or Diva Clinton or even Drama Queen Pelosi. Her name? - Halle Berry.

I won’t even comment on the possibilities of what Sandra Bullock could add here if she was so disposed. You have to feel for the poor woman because she waited until she was in her late thirties or early forties to marry, hoping to pick the right man. Known globally for outward beauty, she probably kissed a lot of frogs before she found her “prince” who turned out to be a jerk.

According to a fairly recent article in the Chicago Tribune, inner beauty may not be enough these days. Did we ever think it was in America?

In an article Wendy Donahue called “When Inner Beauty Simply Isn’t Enough,” the author reports on the growing popularity of plastic surgery to improve personal appearance.

“Blame the Baby Boomers for turning 50 at the rate of about 5 million a year or the Hollywood Foreign Press for awarding a best Golden Globe to an “Extreme-makeover” soap opera.

But like it or not, the nip/tuck trend has and is spreading like wildfire in this country. The numbers are now in the millions according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. It’s not just Palm Beach socialites having procedures, at the end of the day everyone wants to look better.”

A female comedian recently said; “The doctor said he couldn’t give me a face lift -but he could lower my body.”

BEAUTY- FROM GOD’S POINT OF VIEW

I’m not critical of a woman for at least trying for physical beauty, as long as she doesn’t go too far. You might say, “Brother, who decides when it’s “too far?” I don’t believe anyone should try to be a judge in matters like this unless it gets totally ridiculous. However, even a child can look at a woman and know they have on too much make-up.

We once knew a wonderful lady who wore too much make-up. She was a warm and compassionate woman who loved God with her whole heart. If I were sick, I’d much rather have her pray for me than some of the “great and highly favored men of faith” on T.V. But this dear lady wore too much make-up. It must have taken her hours to get it all on and there must have been long hours in the “repair shop.”

One night in church a little 4 year old boy walked up to her and said, “You look like a clown.” The little fellow didn’t have a mean bone in his body and wasn’t being critical, he was just being honest. As you know, young children “calls em like they sees em.” His mother was devastated because she had no idea her little angel had that in him. I’m thinking he had a hard time sitting down for a few days after that.

Fortunately the lady took no offense and thought the whole thing was funny. I can’t say with any certainty that women are vainer than men in the area of personal appearance, but women probably put more emphasis on their appearance than most men do.

Women, -“get ready” for bed at night. That’s a feminine thing to do. They have their nighttime rituals. It takes them time to get ready for bed. I don’t know a man who gets ready for bed. Men don’t know how to get ready for bed, we just go to bed. Juda and I can arrive at a motel at three in the morning and she’ll busy around in the bathroom for a minimum of thirty minutes. Her mother taught her to take her make-up off before she goes to bed and it’s coming off, no matter what.

But the reality is, all of us use too much “make-up.” From time to time we cover up our real selves. We struggle with authenticity. Too often we can be like the people Jesus mentioned in Matthew 15:8, in that “we honor Him with our lips but our hearts are far from Him.”

CHILD’S PLAY

Practically everything children do in the area of play have to do with pretending to be something they’re not. In fact most all toys are designed to help kids pretend in some way. Girls have toy ovens so they can pretend to cook like their mother. Boys accumulate a collection of costumes so they can pretend to be heroes like Robin Hood, The Lone Ranger, Batman or Superman.

When I was a kid I had seventeen or eighteen horses. They were all stick horses but I covered ground on them, moving as if I were astride a real galloping horse. The gunfire noises I made vocally were so “perfect” you could imagine hearing the bullets ricochet off rocks or other hard objects. It was an awesomely [childish] thing to behold.

It’s fine, even good for children to play in this way because it’s a normal part of development as individuals. Pretending is O.K for kids but the problem comes when people carry a form of this childish behavior into adulthood. All of us have been guilty of “playing pretend” in various ways. How often do we do things to make ourselves look spiritual? Some folk will ask questions to make themselves look spiritual. They will say ‘deep” things to make themselves appear to be “holy.”

When adults embrace this kind of deceitful behavior, God considers it to be a sin. As a matter of fact, pretending is another word for HYPOCRISY. In the New Testament the Greek work for “hypocrite” is ‘actor.” Pretending to be something we’re not. If you and I do that we’re hypocrites. If you want to be reminded of what Jesus thought about hypocrisy, read Matthew 23.

PETER’S ADVICE TO CHRISTIAN WIVES

In 1 Peter 3:1-6 Peter is giving advice to Christian women who want to see their unbelieving husbands saved. His advice is about mixed marriages.

Peter tells us that in the eyes of the Lord inner beauty matters more than outer beauty. Truthfully, it would be difficult to find more sensible advice than Peter gives here. He has in mind a wife who has an unsaved husband that she’s repeatedly shared the gospel with. Peter is saying that if a man doesn’t believe the Word-speaking of God’s Word, he can be won without words. Peter’s advice is “don’t nag him.”

We all hate for others to nag us especially when we know they’re right. Human nature being what it is, nagging usually drives people the other way.

Peter probably has in mind here women whose lives had been changed by the gospel. Women who were once involved in sacrifice at pagan alters, women who’d found forgiveness, freedom and dignity through the Gospel of Christ. Now these women go to church, learn the Scriptures, sing Christian songs and have a whole new set of friends. They can’t seem to stop talking about their new found faith. And here’s the poor husband. He not only doesn’t believe, he doesn’t even understand what all the fuss is about. To him, this man Jesus is just another deity. And who are these strange people his wife is hanging out with and why does she always want to go leave him on Sunday morning? And what’s all this talk about needing to be saved? And now she’s trying to drag the kids into it. “She doesn’t seem like the same girl I married.”

He’s right! She isn’t the same person he married. She’s a new creation. But he doesn’t understand that truth. All he sees is that this Jesus has messed up his wife and upset his family. And now she wants him to get into it, too.

There are probably some women reading this piece whose deepest desire is to see their husband come to Christ. And because of that intense desire the tendency is to “pour it on.” Bible verses are hanging all over the house. Books, tracks, records, tapes, Cd's, new place settings with Scripture on them are all around the table. The battle is on for a soul. But the husband feels his wife is pressuring him. Peter knows that a person can’t be nagged into the kingdom of God. He’ll either be scared off or made angry. Peter is telling Christian woman married to an unbeliever, back off. Take it easy. It’s not your job to convert him. Only God can do that. The less you say the better. Don’t make him feel like a leper in his own home. So what’s a woman to do?

WIN YOUR HUSBAND BY THE QUALITY OF YOUR LIFE.


In verse 2, Peter mentions purity and reverence. Purity speaks to the moral goodness of your life, and reverence describes your genuine love for the Lord Jesus Christ. The simple power of a godly life will be a thousand times more effective than high-pressure tactics. Is Peter guaranteeing the husband will be saved if you focus on purity and reverence? No. This is a principle not a promise. The husband still has to make the decision for himself. An atmosphere of high-pressure Christianity in your home will never get the job done but an atmosphere of love where the husband sees every day the change Christ has made in your life will. A godly wife who loves her husband is a powerful tool in the hands of the Holy Spirit.

INNER BEAUTY

Peter says, “Your beauty shouldn’t come from outward adornment such as braided hair and the wearing of gold and jewelry and fine clothes. Instead it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” [1 Peter 3:3-4] Women in those days would sometimes sit at the mirror and spend hours with their hair, weaving gold and silver strands into it, then changing it all around to try something else. Talk about narcissism.

Since these verses can be easily misunderstood, let’s look at this passage in other translations;

Don’t depend on things like fancy hairdos or gold jewelry or expensive clothes to make you look beautiful. Be beautiful in your heart by being gentle and quiet. This kind of beauty will last forever.-The Contemporary English Version.

From the New Living Translation: Don’t be concerned about the outward beauty that depends on fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should be known for the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.
Again, I for one am not against the desire for outward beauty. This is neither wrong nor unnatural. Everything God creates has its own sort of beauty. God gave us the desire for beauty and an ability to appreciate it. As Ray Stevens wrote-“Everything is beautiful, in its own way.” I love that song because of the truth it expresses.

The women of the world emphasize outward beauty because they’re empty inside. Their constant changing of styles is a testimony to their bankrupt values.

What makes a Christian woman beautiful? The unfading beauty of a quiet spirit. There’s a lot to ponder in that statement. It’s beauty that doesn’t depend on eye shadow or lip gloss or silk skirts or contact lens or the latest fashion. It’s a beauty that’s just as beautiful when you’re 57 as when you’re 17. It’s unfading and therefore never goes out of style and never has to be replaced.

The “gentle” spirit is one where the Christian woman lives under the control of the Holy Spirit. The word “quiet” is an unusual Greek word that means tranquil or undisturbed, like the surface of a lake on a windless afternoon. It describes a heart that isn’t easily ruffled by the cares and concerns of life.

If the husband is the head of the home, the wife is the heart of the home. She sets the tone for the entire family. She sets the tone by her own spirit. Everyone else resonates to the note she sounds. If the home is peaceful, quiet, restful, it’s because the wife has created that atmosphere. If the home is hectic, loud, disorganized and strident, it’s also because the wife has set that tone by her own spirit.

Obviously Peter isn’t suggesting that women keep quiet around the house. He isn’t describing a weak, shy, timid scared woman. It takes a strong woman to do all women have to do in this world and be able to control her emotions and deal peacefully and gently with people.

I heard a comedian say one time that he hadn’t spoken to his wife for years. He didn’t want to interrupt her. Unfortunately some wives feel they have to be loud and bombastic to accomplish what they want.

Peter leaves a clue to his real meaning at the end of verse 6, when he says that Christian wives are the daughters of Sarah “if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.” The phrase “give way to fear” suggests an emotional state that is easily rattled by problems and quickly alarmed by the “what ifs” of life.

What if things don’t work out?

What if we run out of money?

What if my husband makes a bad decision?

What if I lose my job?

What if our children get sick?

What if we can’t find a place to live?

If you aren’t careful those legitimate questions can become so huge in your mind that they can completely destroy your gentle and quiet spirit. You can give in to fear or you can have a gentle and quiet spirit but you can’t have them both at the same time.

THE EXAMPLE OF INNER BEAUTY

For this is the way holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.-1 Peter 3:5-6.

Peter takes us back to the book of Genesis, to the story of Abraham and Sarah. From the life of Sarah he picks up one point; she called her husband “master” or “Lord.” Of course she wasn’t calling her husband Lord in the sense that he was “Lord God.” The Greek word used is kurios which could have also meant “master” or “sir” or “dear husband.” It’s a term of deep abiding respect.

There’s no passage where Sarah directly calls her husband “master” or “sir” or even “my dear husband.” The only reference to this term comes from Genesis 18. You will remember that God had promised Abraham that one day he and Sarah would have a son. That promise was made when Abraham was 75 years old and Sarah was 65. By the time we come to Genesis 18, 24 years have passed. Abraham is 99 and Sarah is 89. That’s a problem because both were well past childbearing age. Romans 4:19 says of Abraham, “his body was as good as dead’ and of Sarah, “her womb was also dead.” Now let’s pick up the story in Genesis 18:10-12.

Humanly speaking, Sarah was right. It was impossible. But God had promised a son. Note that even in her doubt; Sarah still calls Abraham “my master.” Note that verse 12 describes what Sarah was thinking as she heard the Lord’s promise. I don’t know if Sarah ever called Abraham “master’ to his face, but it doesn’t matter. She said it in her mind, which reveals her truest feelings. That’s the connection to 1 Peter 3. When old Abe said to Sarah, “let’s go to the tent a little early tonight” she said, “Okay, but I think you’re crazy.” But she went. And the rest is history.

Formula-God/Abraham/Sarah.

A woman has to ask herself; do I believe God can speak to me through my husband? God spoke to Abraham and Abraham believed God. Then Abraham spoke to Sarah and Sarah believed Abraham. Abraham believed God and Sarah believed Abraham. If you want to put it in one sentence: Sarah respected her husband enough to believe that God could speak to her through him. Not that God couldn’t have spoken directly to her; - He could. But in this case He spoke to her though Abraham. When Sarah called him master she was simply respecting him as the head of the home and was indicating that God was free to speak to her through Abraham if that’s what He wanted to do.

Here’s a point of decision every Christian wife must come to: do I believe God is able to speak to me through my husband? If the answer is no, then submission isn’t possible. If the answer is yes, then you can become a true daughter of Abraham.

ABRAHAM AND SARAH- GOOD EXAMPLES

The reason Abraham and Sarah were good examples for Peter to use was that they were both flawed people. They weren’t “plaster saints” who never made any mistakes. Abraham was a world class fibber who lied twice about his wife. Sarah was the one who dreamed up the bad idea of having Abraham sleep with their servant girl Hagar in a shortsighted attempt to help God out. These were imperfect people who nevertheless believed God and trusted each other when it mattered most.

We also know that Sarah was no “plain Jane.” She was a beautiful woman and the Egyptians saw that very clearly. That’s why Abraham lied about her being his sister so they wouldn’t kill him to gain possession of her. Genesis 12:14.

This helps us understand that Peter isn’t trying to put the “kibosh” on outward beauty. But Sarah is commended by the Lord not for her outward beauty but her inner beauty that allowed her to trust her husband in a difficult situation. When she’s willing to believe God and trust her husband her inner beauty shines much brighter.

What is God saying to all of us through this passage? Peter uses the phrase “in the same way” repeated in verse one and also verse seven. He’s pushing us back to the closing verses of chapter two when he admonishes all believers to follow in the steps of Jesus Himself.

Submission isn’t about you or your husband or boss or anyone over you. Submission is about your relationship to God. Jesus entrusted Himself to God and even while dying he had a gentle and quiet spirit. Through His righteous submission to His heavenly father He became our savior.

My next installment talks about the message Peter gives men. If it seems it’s been a little hard on women, Peter’s advice to husbands holds us men’s “feet to the fire,” and shoots straight from the shoulder to us.

A FINAL QUESTION...

Was Jesus beautiful? Isaiah 53: 2 tells us that when He was arrested and beaten He was almost beyond recognition. They beat Him until the skin hung in ribbons down his back. They pushed a crown of thorns on His bloody head and covered Him with a purple robe. It must have been hard to look at Him in that condition.

In Luke 23:46 He bowed His head and said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

The Father must have looked down from heaven and said, “That’s my beautiful Son.”

Jesus calls each one of us to take up our cross and follow Him. If we want to be like Him there will always be a cross of submission at the end of the road.

We can't skip the cross, but we need not fear or shrink from it.When we are like Jusus our lives will be filled with inner beauty and our prayers will be unhindered.

God will be glorified and the world will see Jesus at work in us.


Blessings,



John

Monday, August 15, 2016

Ten Principles Concerning The Tongue

By John Stallings



…. And he charged him to tell no man. Luke 5:14


I openly confess that a chain saw scares me.

One time I read a story about a man who cut off an arm and half a leg and a finger or two, and it just ruined me for chain saws. I didn’t see the movie “The Texas chain saw massacre” but I heard about it, and it didn’t help me a bit. Everyone from my father to the best carpenters I know have told me that a chain saw can back up on you and chew you up. That’s good enough for me. I have used a saw from time to time in my life under the tutelage of an expert, but can’t say I was ever comfortable doing it. If there is going to be one tool to hate, it seems to me that hating the chain saw makes the most sense.

A chain saw is loud like a dentist drill; it’s hard to control, packing a lot of destructive power. I can’t think of a better description of the tongue. Noisy, hard to control and it cuts things into pieces. Some of us have already been at it today.

People even glorify the tongue's power. Shakespeare was good at the crafted insult and clever barb. In entertainment, we laugh at people with caustic and sardonic wit. People laugh and say, “Doesn’t he have a clever tongue?"The most successful comedians are the ones with the most cutting, sarcastic edge. Though I’m much older now, I can remember like it was yesterday many hurtful things that were said to me as a child. What hurts me much worse is the fact that there are people who remember hurtful things I’ve said to them. The damage we do with these tongues is terrible.

LET’S LOOK AT TEN PRINCIPLES ABOUT THE TONGUE AND THE WORDS WE USE.


1. WORDS ARE SYMPTOMS OF A DEEPER CONDITION.

Words reveal what’s inside us. The activity of my tongue reveals the state of my heart. None of us wants to believe this but it’s true. We often say “I didn’t really mean that, it just slipped out.” Right! The truth is; that’s exactly what I meant. Like a chain saw, we massacre our friends with our tongues then, ashamed of the bloodshed, we say, “Wow, I guess my tongue got away from me didn’t it.” The reason we’re embarrassed is that our words have lifted the blinds on who we really are inside, and it’s not a pretty sight. When I gossip, it’s because I love gossip. When I lie, I display a deceptive heart. My words are windows into the state of my soul. Or to use an old saying, “What’s down in the well comes up in the bucket.”

I don’t hold Sigmund Freud in high esteem, but I think he had one thing right when he told us about the slips of the tongue we now call “Freudian Slips”. He believed that many of our slips of the tongue weren’t slips at all, but windows into what’s really going on inside.

In Matthew 12:34-37, Jesus really delivers the bad news to us;

….For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, that every idle word that men speak, they shall give account therof in the day of judgement. For by thy words thou shalt be justified and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.


2. WE SHOULD USE WORDS SPARINGLY.

Proverbs 10:19 says,... In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.---James 5:12 says… But let your yea be yea, and your nay be nay.

In other words, the more words we use the more likely we are to get into trouble.

The positive value of words is magnified when we use words sparingly. Do you know what would happen if the government started printing and releasing huge quantities of dollars and handing them out? We wouldn’t be richer. The result would be inflation—dollars would lose their value. [sadly, this is happening now.] Words are also subject to inflation. When we talk incessantly, people stop listening.

THE CHAIRMAN OF THE FEDERAL RESERVE IS A GOOD MODEL

The chairman of America's Federal Reserve has to be extraordinarily careful what he says, because investors pay attention to every word. One careless word from him can send markets around the world up or down. In the early eighties, a Florida stock market analyst caused a panic on Wall Street by sending out one word to his mailing list; SELL. Our aim should be to make every word count for good. We should treat words as a precious resource and use then sparingly.

There are times when God has a message he wants delivered and he calls on men and women to be his mouthpiece. There are other times when God does things secretly for reasons we can really only surmise; but we should take a lesson.

3. WHEN YOU KNOW YOU HAVE GOD'S FAVOR, IT'S BEST TO KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT ABOUT IT.

The first 13 chapters of Genesis cover’s a period of two thousand years. The last 13 chapters of Genesis deal with one man’s life and that man is Joseph. His life spanned only one-hundred and ten years. First God uses 13 chapters to cover two thousand years; then he uses 13 chapters to cover one-hundred ten years. That tells me that God strongly suggests we take a careful look at Joseph and study his life.

When young Joseph, dressed in the snazzy sport coat that his dad had given him, started telling dreams of his future dominion and greatness to his brothers, he was on dangerous grounds, and it almost cost him his life.

Later in Joseph’s life, God illustrated how this principle works. When Joseph was in jail in Egypt for thirteen years, God was working on a plan that would affect much of the world. Had the leaders under Pharaoh known that one day Joseph would come out of the prison and control the whole treasury of the land, second only to Pharaoh himself, its almost certain that they would have had him killed. He would never have seen daylight again. Not even Pharaoh knew what he was going to do in promoting Joseph until he’d done it. God can be very secretive.

When you and I have God's favor, we won’t have to tell people anyway; it will be so obvious, everyone can see it.

4. WORDS SHOULD BE SPOKEN SOFTLY AND KINDLY.

Proverbs 15:1-2 says, A gentle answer turneth away wrath but harsh words stir up anger.

I’m going to give you three statements and ask you to tell me what they all have in common.

# One. A schoolteacher speaks out in class to one of her sleepy ten year old students and says, “Joey, wake up back there or you’re going to fail this course. I know your mother and Dad have been having drinking and quarrelling lately at night and you’ve not been able to get much rest, but you have to stay awake and start listening.”

# Two. A doctor is at a party and as he sips a glass of wine he blurts out for all to hear, “You people all know Mrs. Jones, right? Well she wouldn’t sleep so well tonight if she knew what I know. We just got her tests back and it looks like cancer to me.”

# Three. A Pastor who’s chairing his church annual business meeting speaks to his church folk, “Folks, brother Jones and his wife are having serious martial problems and it looks like they’re getting a divorce so he’s withdrawn his name to be voted on as Deacon this year.”

What do these statements have in common?

They may be {are} true but any person with any heart at all would agree that to say those things publicly would be terribly heartless. These words aren’t kind. The people who said these things could never excuse themselves by saying, “well, it’s true.” It may all be true, but any intelligent person would say, “yes, but your truth telling is totally out of place and inappropriate and what you’ve done is cruel and thoughtless.” We feel in our hearts that a person at least should be given some modicum of right to privacy. Or do we?

5. WE MUST BE CAREFUL NOT TO USE WORDS AS WEAPONS.

Words have a potential for much goodness but conversely they also can be like containers of poisonous gas, and though we often take what we say lightly, God never does.

Have you ever noticed when you were out in public that you can hear a person talking angrily to someone, that it makes you feel terrible, even though the words weren’t spoken to you? Angry words spoken within earshot of you can cause your food to lose its appeal.

A stinging word is like a bullet, it leaves an impact on everything it hits. I know I'm mixing metaphors here but it also feels like being bitten, only it's an emotional bite. I know I've mentioned it a lot in my blogs but I've been flabbergasted, especially over the last year or two at how many famous people; actors, politicians and others have actually shot themselves out of the saddle with their words. Its like - something they've said comes to light one day and the next day they're gone-"and are going to be spending more time with their family." We all make mistakes with our tongue but sometimes I think we should write our elected officials and remind them to brush-up on the book of James once in a while.

Does this routine sound familiar?

HE- Hi honey, I’m home.
SHE- Did you remember to buy milk?
HE- I didn’t know we needed milk.
SHE- But I asked you to get milk.
HE- You never said a thing about milk.
SHE- Well you weren’t listening then. You knew we were out.
I can’t do everything you know.
HE- You don’t have to yell at me.
SHE- I’m not yelling.
HE- You are too yelling. Listen to yourself.
SHE- Well if I’m yelling it’s because you’re yelling.
HE- I never once yelled.

Now you’ve got a fight going. Right about this time, if either of these two people has a relative who’s been to jail, it’s coming out. All the living members of their respective families are fair game now and maybe a few people will even be brought back from the grave to be used as exhibits. Satellites start hooking up in space and begin to hum as the memory banks of both these people are ransacked, looking for material to use on each other. Incidentally, they will both lose.

I have used words on people that were carefully crafted to go straight to their heart and sting. I am ashamed to say it, but there is no one that will read this that doesn’t know exactly what I’m talking about. We do it all too often and we do it most to the ones we love best. Every one of us has been on the giving and the receiving end of this kind of cruelty.

So how do we stop the bloodletting? We must be spirit controlled and constantly be guarding the chain saw inside our mouths, and in case of any doubt, keep the thing turned off. God set it behind two rows of teeth and between two powerful jaws for a reason. James said the tongue is a force that can be set on fire of hell. The tongue may be small, but like the little kindling used to start a fire, it has power to destroy. As a matter of fact, it’s almost impossible to start a fire with large pieces of wood.

Proverbs 25:15 says, Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle word can break bones.

6. OUR WORDS MUST ALWAYS BE THE TRUTH.

The truth is a precious commodity. Our CIA knows this and will spend vast amounts of money to get truthful information about the world so we can make decisions on a solid foundation. But our CIA also spends much money and energy spreading inaccurate information about our country. Why; because lies are a deadly weapon.

One of the worst uses of the tongue is to lie. When I lie to you, I’m robbing you of information you need to live wisely. Proverbs 6:17 says that a lying tongue is disgusting to God. He hates lies. I haven’t heard it lately but when I was a kid they used to say, “you can lock up from a thief but you can’t lock up from a liar.”

Paul says in Ephesians 4; 29, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying that it may minister Grace unto the hearers.”
Paul is saying here that a thing has to be more than merely true, it has to be edifying. And then Paul goes on to say something else that is somewhat shocking. He says our words must be “ministers of grace.” With an ocean of ink and a thousand word processors and four lifetimes, we might start to scratch the surface on that subject.

7. WE SOMETIMES TELL LIES USING THE TRUTH.

I once pastored a lady who would never tell a lie. She was a wonderful lady. I never heard her say an unkind word to anyone. She loved and encouraged people. But she had one weakness—prayer requests. In her prayer requests she told on her husband who was a drinking man. We in the church knew all about his foibles. We got a running update every service. She loved to pass on her prayer requests and she did so often and in great quantity. This lady constantly spilled the beans on everyone in her life; friends, neighbors and relatives, and it was all done under the guise of prayer requests.

She didn’t really intend to harm anyone-and she certainly didn’t think of herself as a gossip. All her talking was in her sharing all of her prayer requests. Also, she loved details about other people’s prayer requests. I often heard her say, “Give me the details so I’ll know how to pray.” Once I can remember telling her how to formulate a prayer without having all the gory details. I never made a dent on her. She was God's prayer request Doberman and she "wasn’t going to let the devil stop her."

Gossip and slander often disguise themselves as concern, seeking advice, asking for prayer and unloading, but the big Elephant in the living room is just talking too much.

A simple rule; when you know someone is facing difficulties, talk with the person, and talk to God. There is almost never a need to talk to anyone else.


8. WE GOSSIP IN THE NAME OF PSYCHOLOGICAL HEALTH.

Many people are being encouraged to “Be completely honest and truthful about their feelings.” They are told by numb skull advisers that if you don’t spill out all the things inside you, you’ll be warped. Many times I’ve cringed when I heard the words, “I’m just going to be honest.” I can never remember those words being followed by anything good. They use words like “I don’t want to hurt you; I just have to be honest about my feelings.” Under the cowardly cloak of “pseudo-honesty” they slander their parents their spouses and friends. This isn’t what it means to speak truthfully. This is just an excuse to even scores with people, and to dump all of the trash and wickedness of our hearts out onto others. It’s a two-edged sword that at one and the same time appears spiritual, sharing their hurt, while slapping someone else in the face that was the real target anyway. And most tragic; often the people they dump it on aren’t strong enough emotionally to carry it and end up weaker.

## Don’t let “truth telling” become an excuse to dishonor parents or hurt other people by unloading your feelings.
Could it be that we are so vindictive that we want to hurt someone without being held accountable for the assault? After all, if we walked up to the person we wish to hurt and punched them in the face, we’d be jailed for it. So how can we do it without having to account for it? Oh yes, here’s a way to get-em; we can go public by being “painfully honest” and enlisting “ prayer- support.”

9. LETS DON’T FORGET! --A CHAIN SAW CAN BE A USEFUL TOOL.

The tongue has awesome power for good. If I were trapped under a fallen tree, the sound of a chain saw, as much as I fear them, would be music to my ears. Proverbs 18:21 says …The tongue has the power of life or death.
Kind words are among the most loving things human beings can give one another. Words can build up a person’s confidence and make them winners in life. It was said of Napoleon that half of what he accomplished was done with words.

If we allow our tongues to go on automatic pilot, they can simply revert to the old habits of gossip and lies. The antidote is to keep the tongue busy with words of blessing, praise, appreciation, forgiveness and apology. In I Corinthians 13:11 Paul tells us that one of the earmarks of a child is the way they speak. Children have no filter and will say just about anything that comes to mind. You can also identify spiritual babies that way. There are some things that a grown-up will never say in a million years, if it takes biting their tongues 24/7.

If we’re honest, most of us will admit we’ve been hurt with words in the last 24 hours. The wounds may still be fresh. The people we live with and work around aren’t always nice and polite to us. They yell at us, curse and insult us.

But it’s our calling as Christians to return blessings for curses—to return kind words for harsh ones. You can be an enormous influence for healing in your world if you simply accept it as your calling to exchange blessings for curses.

10. OUR TONGUE PROBLEMS MUST BE DEALT WITH AT THE CROSS.

I first need a change of heart. I can’t do that on my own. We must come to the foot of the cross and experience God’s grace and get a new nature. God gives us a new nature and a new heart and he also gives us the Holy Spirit. It then becomes our lifelong challenge to daily put the old nature to death and live according to our new nature. We all have an evil twin who likes to rattle on and on. The apostle Paul had his, and you can read about it in Romans 7.The tongue problem is just like a substance abuse problem, and when you catch yourself falling into old patterns, don’t feel alone. Just deal with it and keep on dealing with it but never "do a deal" with it.

#May God deliver us from cowardice, that dare not face the truth,

#Laziness, content with knowing half the truth,

#And arrogance that thinks it has all the truth.

May He deliver us from rudeness,
Cynicism about each other,
Intolerance and cruel indifference.

And may we all pray with David,


SET A WATCH O LORD, BEFORE MY MOUTH, KEEP THE DOOR OF MY LIPS. PSALM 141:3.

Blessings,

John

Thursday, August 11, 2016

An Arrow Not A Sword


By John Stallings

The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him and hated him……. Genesis 49:23-24


It must have been a remarkable sight to see the white haired Jacob sitting up in his bed while he bestowed his parting benediction on his twelve sons, Rueben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Asher, Napthali, Gad, Joseph & Benjamin.

For sheer poetry this has to be one of the greatest chapters ever penned. Any New York actor would give his right arm to be Jacob in this emotionally charged scene.

Jacob recollected Rueben’s sin & passed over Simeon & Levi giving them a passing rebuke. He gave others of them praise as he looked into the future of the tribes.

The old man’s voice was weak but he passed briefly over the names of his sons & then came that moment when his eyes fell on his youngest & favorite son, Joseph.

There stood Joseph, with all of his mother Rachael in his eyes--that dearly beloved wife of his, that boy for which his mother prayed so earnestly for twenty barren years. Rachael had been dead now for many years but here stands that golden boy who was so loved by his parents.

Mixed in with the special love Jacob had for this boy Joseph was a special tenderness for the troubles Joseph had gone through in his life. Jacob was remembering the way Joseph was snatched away from him & sold into slavery by his envious brothers but he also remembered the chapter of Joseph’s life when he was prince of Egypt.

Listen to the words he said over Joseph in Genesis 49:22-24, in those last moments;

Joseph is a fruitful bough,
Even a fruitful bough by a well,
When branches ran over a wall,

The archers have sorely grieved him,
And shot at him, and hated him,

But his bow abode in strength,
And the arms of his hands were made strong,
By the mighty God of Jacob……..


Jacob had one more blessing to give but surely this was the richest of blessings that he conferred on his son Joseph.

In actuality, Jacob is using analogy & poetic language here because when we read the life of Joseph we don’t see the physical equivalent of this. Joseph certainly endured many satanic attacks but as far as we know he was never actually shot by archers. So why did Jacob use this figurative language of archers & their arrows?


FIRST OF ALL, ARCHERS SHOOT ARROWS WHICH ARE SECRETIVE & SILENT.

The two greatest weapons of war in Joseph’s day were probably the sword & the bow & arrow. With a sword, the swordsman plants himself near you, foot to foot, face to face & let’s you defend yourself. He’s almost constantly right there in front of you & whatever comes, you’ll see it coming.

But the archer shoots from a distance. There’s something more cowardly in the attack of the archer. He stands at a distance & does his best to camouflage himself as he hides in the brush. The arrow comes whizzing through the air & penetrates your chest before you know what hit you.

Likewise many of the enemies you & I have will not show their faces before us because they are too small, weak, petty & ashamed. If they faced us, then we could reply, but they would have to stop up their ears. But shooting their arrows from a distance is perfect for them; they don’t have to be bothered with giving us a chance to answer their complaints because their tolerance for truth is non-existent. Their minds are made up, don’t frustrate & confuse them with the facts.

It has been said that the world is comprised of people who have something to say & can’t say it, & people who have nothing to say & have no problem saying it. Some people would rather jump to conclusions than dig for facts. Character assassination has become so common in our day we hardly notice it.

To murder a person’s good name is as much a crime as to murder his body. It’s easier than physical assault & involves much less risk for the assassin. It also leaves him free to commit the same crime over & over again.

I don’t know who wrote the following, if I did I'd gladly give them credit;

MY NAME IS GOSSIP

I have no respect for justice,
I cripple without killing,
I am cunning & malicious & gain strength with age,
I flourish at every level of society,
My victims are helpless,
They can’t protect themselves from me because I have no name & face,
To track me down is impossible,
The harder you try the more elusive I become,
I’m nobody’s friend,
Once I tarnish a reputation it’s never the same,
I topple governments & wreck marriages,
I spawn suspicion & generate grief,
I make innocent people cry on their pillows,
Even my name hisses,
I use telephones, parties & even do my work in churches,
I make headlines & headaches.

Before we
say something, we should ask if it’s true, is it necessary & if not--- “SHUT UP-- saith the Lord!”

Look at some words
that the Bible calls gossip, first in the Old Testament; Backbiter, slanderer, busybody, Talebearer, murmurer, & whisperer. In the New Testament there’s, Whisperer, backbiter, meddler, prating, & tattler. These are words describing the same thing; people injecting themselves into things which are none of their business.

Jacob when summarizing the life of his beloved son Joseph told us “the archers sorely grieved him.” Here are some arrows shot at Joseph;

1. THE ARROW OF ENVY WAS SHOT AT JOSEPH.

Joseph’s brothers envied him because of the love his father had for him. The special coat of many colors Jacob gave his son was a sticking point for the brothers & was “the straw that broke the camels back.”

The first homicide was caused by envy when Cain envied Abel because his offering was accepted by God. Oh the things in this world that parade behind the mask of some high sounding platitude but strip away that mask & you look into the ghastly face of envy.

Of all the sins we are forbidden to commit, envy is the cruelest. With lust, though vile it is, at least the flesh is gratified for the moment. Even with murder though the murderer exchanges his life for the one he took if he’s caught, at least there would be the satisfaction of doing away with the object of hate. With lying, despicable as it is, at least it can sometimes be handy though the liar will certainly be exposed & the Bible says, --All liars will have their place in the lake of fire.

But pray tell, where’s the pay-off for envy? All envy leaves us is ashes. It does nothing but destroy homes & friendships leaving us with nothing in return. The person we are envious of isn’t hurt but we are left feeling bad because our envy didn’t take one thing away from them.

Here’s the sad part, when people envy they must deal with that deep down feeling of worthlessness & the question haunts them, “Why can’t I be a better person? Why am I not a large enough individual to glory with this person for what they have?” Of course they’d never admit it to anyone even to themselves but deep down they’re wondering “what kind of person must I be to want all I can earn or achieve but want to take from others what they’ve achieved?” That leaves their self-image & self-worth face down in the gutter.

Even though we may seek to hide envy & cover it up by putting a mask on it to give our motivations a “righteous cover” others will see it but probably be too polite to tell us that we suffer from one of the lowest of the low motivations, “the green eyed monster of jealousy & envy.”

It’s said in Hollywood that a friend is someone who stabs you in the chest. This isn’t confined to Hollywood it just gets more publicity there. All of us at one time or another will be struck by “envy arrows.” Making the situation even harder to bear, the majority of the time these arrows of envy won’t come from the devil, if they did we could understand. We could even understand if they came from outside our sphere of influence. Far too many of these envy arrows will be shot by people close to us, even our closest kin who should be upholding us & those who should “have our back.”

You may remember the recent story about television star “Dog, the bounty hunter.” As I understood the story, the son was envious of his dad’s visibility & financial success & surreptitiously recorded their private phone conversations. Admittedly “Dog,” feeling he could speak freely to a blood kin, made some terrible racial remarks that would turn any decent person’s stomach. The son sold his father out by selling the private conversations to a scandal rag for a few thousand dollars. The bottom line of the whole thing was envy.

We watched a program where “Dog” participated & the upshot of the story was that he was using the incident to help those he’d made derogatory remarks about in a private telephone conversation & was humble & forgiving toward the son who sold dad out for “thirty pieces of silver.” Knowing human nature as I do, the forgiveness the son received from his dad was probably the most distasteful part of all.

Instead of it being a caring hand placed on our shoulder, it’s the sting of an arrow shot from a distance by a stealthy archer, maybe a phone-call to “leak” suspicions about you to hurt you. There’s some good news however, if you’re shot in the back it must be that you’re out front. As fighter pilots say, “If you’re not catching flak, you must not be over the target.”

Years ago I talked to one of the finest gentlemen in Country music, Duane Allen of The Oak Ridge Boys. He shared the thought that when he & his organization are having problems they ask where the problems were coming from, failure or success? If the problems were coming from something they were doing wrong or something being overlooked, they’d make sure it was fixed.

However, if the problems were being caused by success; maybe not enough free time because they were in too much demand, or someone shooting at them out of envy, then all they could do was expect more of the same because their intention was to work as hard as possible for success.


Before we leave the subject of envy, let me share something I learned. As a rule when people get grumpy or irritable towards me, it isn’t my weaknesses [and believe me I have my share of those,] they are upset about, it’s my strengths. Have you noticed that in your own life? If not, maybe you can derive some comfort from the fact that some people will like you more for your failures & weaknesses. - Than for your successes.

A true friend will be with us through our problems & they won’t resent our successes, but let’s keep in mind, the arrows shot at Joseph were arrows that came from his own brothers.

2. JOSEPH WAS ALSO SHOT AT BY THE ARROWS OF TEMPTATION.

Joseph was a Hebrew Brad Pitt. Mrs. Potiphar laid eyes on him & wanted him in her bed. Joseph endured her attempts at seduction day after day & finally she physically took hold of him & he had to wriggle out of his coat & leave it with her.

Joseph stood strong in the face of one of the most enticing pleasures that can be offered to a healthy young man. Of course-hell hath no fury like a woman scorned so by refusing Mrs. Potiphar’s advances, Joseph just bought a ticket to the slammer.

I wonder if any generation of people ever has been so focused on or saturated with sex as ours. Sex is a gift from God but a gift with “handle with care” written on it. Let’s face it; we’re all born with a strong attraction to the opposite sex & the way we deal with it will determine the quality of life we’ll have.

Sex outside of marriage is fraught with risks & dangers. If you’re a person who’s around people of the opposite sex & spend inordinate amounts of time with them you are in danger unless you’re 98. Being in situations like this is like driving your car on a high mountain road in the middle of the night in the fog & driving as close to the edge as you can get. When it comes to being placed in situations that could compromise you, you’d better not flirt with danger.

In those situations, we should be like Joseph & flee temptation & don’t leave a forwarding address.

I don’t want to get too graphic here because all of us aren’t made the same. But we all should eliminate from our lives those things that could become sources of temptation to us. For all of us there are some books we shouldn’t read, some web sites we shouldn’t visit & some movies we shouldn’t watch. Whatever the temptation is for you if you’re not fighting it you’ll be defeated by it.

A Christian lady who had always been faithful to her husband, confided in some Christian lady’s who were close friends that she was being tempted by a man who she was around at work. She shared how they both loved poetry & music & other things they had in common. She told the lady’s, “I need your help. I’m strongly attracted to this man, he really understands me, he calls me often & I know I’m on dangerous ground. It’s just a deep friendship now but I know it’s a problem. I’m afraid of where its heading & I know I’ve got to end this before it develops into anything more. I need you to help me, to hold me accountable to do the right thing.” This lady really didn’t want to end it but she knew she had to.

As the ladies prayed together, the phone rang. The woman who’d shared picked up the phone & it was obvious to the other women that it was the man of whom she spoke. She was quiet for a moment & then she said, “This isn’t a healthy relationship & we need to end it now. Please don’t ever call me again.” She turned to the others & they were stunned as they marveled at the timing of that phone call & the goodness of God in allowing him to call right in the midst of the moment when they were talking to God together about the problem.

Before you get too sanctimonious, listen to Paul in 1 Corinthians 10;

<Let this be a warnng for you. For you too may fall into sin. But remember this--the wrong desires that come into your life aren't anything new & different. many others have faced exactly the same problems before you. And no temptation is irresistable. You can trust God to keep the temptation from becoming so strong that you can't stand up against it, for God had promised this & he will do what he says. he will show you how to escape temptations power so that you can bear up patiently against it. 1 Cor. 10:12,13---[LB]

WE ALL NEED TO DEVELOP HEDGES AGAINST SEXUAL TEMPTATION.

Let us never forget we need others to pray with us & watch for us in this area. Here are a few suggestions to help in the area of sexual temptation;

a.If you’re married, keep pictures of your spouse & kids around you in obvious places & speak good things about them every chance you get.
b.Pray with your mate every day & talk on the phone when apart.
c.If you travel alone commit yourself to God each day.
d.Ask God daily to keep you & your loved ones sexually pure.
e.Don’t get too busy to spend time with your spouse & family often.
f.Be on guard & don’t allow self-pity to climb into the saddle, causing you to blame your mate for your lack of happiness.
g.Avoid potentially compromising situations. Married Christian men & women who’d never accept a date to go out & eat with someone other than their spouses will throw caution to the wind & stop at restaurants & eat with a colleague enroute to business appointments. This can be a trap & often is a subtle road to eventual adultery & divorce.
h.Avoid seductive dress.
i.Never assume you’re immune to temptation.

Just like Joseph, we all must be on guard for the flying arrows of sexual temptation but God will surely keep us safe if we are ever vigilant, watch, pray & daily walk in His word.

Think what it must have been like for poor Joseph. In some ways, I’m sure Joseph felt he’d have been better off if one of Potiphar’s soldiers had just come & cut him in pieces on the spot. His character had been ruined in the eyes of men & he was probably looked on with disgust even in the prison with low-life criminals feeling as if they were angels compared to him.

The archers sorely grieved Joseph.”

But look at the rest of this story. Jacob said of Joseph, “His bow abode in strength.” That meant Joseph also had a bow & could have retaliated if he’d have wanted to, but he didn’t. He might have drawn his bow & sent his arrows to their hearts with far greater force & precision than they’d ever done to him. But Joseph didn’t retaliate.

I believe there are people who’ll read this blog who’ve been hit by so many arrows they sometimes feel like a pin cushion. Like Joseph of old you feel a million miles from the destiny & dreams God once gave to you. But you may be much closer than you suspect. The things you’ve gone through & are going through have positioned you be in the place God wants you.

Had Joseph not been at Potiphar’s house he wouldn’t have learned the management skills needed to run a country. If he had not dealt with all those difficult situations he never would have been ready.

Let me give you a few more words of encouragement. No matter what you’re going through God will never forsake you. When arrows come toward you & even pierce your heart, be aware of God’s presence.

Forgive like Joseph forgave. Thwart those arrows of temptation when they come.

If you are breathing, God’s not through with you.

In closing, Listen to Ephesians give us the final answer to all those flying arrows.

For we wrestle not against flesh & blood but against principalities against powers against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God that ye may be able to stand in the evil day & having done all to stand.

Stand therefore having your loins gird about with truth & having on the breastplate of righteousness, & your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace,

Above all, taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

And take the helmet of salvation & the sword of the spirit which is the word of God…..Ephesians 6:12-16

Blessings,

John

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Pain Of..."Friendly Fire."

By John Stallings


One second. One mistake. One firing of a missile in the midst of the war.


The missile cannot come back. The weapon is now headed for you. And the one who fired it is on your side. It is war. You’ve been hit by “friendly fire.” It is the flack that we take from our own side.

And this is not Baghdad or the Battle of the Bulge or Pork Chop Hill. I am speaking of the many walking wounded in the body of Christ who’ve been hurt by other believers, people who have been battered and bruised by the betrayal of a Christian. Much as Malcus, the man whose ear was severed by Simon Peter’s sword, you’ve been hurt by a “good person.”

This hurt is no mistake. They meant to say those words. They meant to plot against you. They meant to bring you down. And you will never be exactly the same. The years you’ve spent building a great reputation will now be burned before your very eyes. You will suffer with this for the rest of your life. You might not go back to any church for quite some time. You will lick your wounds. You will be possessed for the rest of your life by the memory of the pain. And the pain can turn into malignant bitterness.

We’ve all been hurt at one time or another. Sometimes its friendly fire and sometimes the misguided bomb intended for the enemy that lands right smack dab in the middle of our hearts

Our parents hurt us, our children, our marriage partners, the people at work, the dog down the street. Hurts come easy.

Look at the biblical record: Noah was hurt, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, David, Jesus, Peter, Paul...I could go right on down the line. None of us are so holy, so good, and so perfect so as to avoid hurt. The majority of people that I’ve tried to help over the years were in need of help because of some hurt they experienced.

Though I’m not an expert on addictions, it seems to me that in the overwhelmingly majority of cases, the substances people get hooked on aren’t as much the problem as is finding a way to quell the hurt that racks the individual.

Hurts come from a variety of sources and due to a variety of reasons:

• The loss of a loved one, through death, divorce, or breakup.

• An emotional or physical attack from some other person.

• Long-term emotional or physical abuse that may or may not be currently happening.

• An unanswered prayer.

• An unmet expectation.

• A slight or offense from a coworker, a church member, classmate….

• Your boss fails to notice a job well done.

• A friend says something thoughtless and cruel.

Hurts can range from some of the most terrible things imaginable to the slight offenses of some passing moment. So, what do we do when we are stung by such hurts? I’ll try my best under God to offer some light on this question.

1. DON’T CURSE THE HURT

Joseph Richardson, a New York millionaire, lived and died in a house only five feet wide – believe it or not. It was called the "Spit House." It was called that because you could stand against one wall and spit all the way across to the other wall. Mr. Richardson owned a very narrow lot of land. Since it was of no use to him, he decided to sell it to one of the neighborhood owners. The neighbor, however, did not want to pay Joseph what he felt the property was worth. Therefore, to spite the neighbor, Richardson put up this so-called “Spit House” which disfigured the whole block. Then he condemned himself to a life of discomfort by spending the rest of his life in it. Do you and I have any “spit houses” in our lives? “Spite house” would be just as apropos.

A woman left instructions in her will for the executor to take one dollar from her estate, invest it, and pay the interest to her husband, "as evidence of my estimate of his worth."

Another woman bequeathed her divorced husband one dollar to buy a rope with which he would hopefully hang himself.

Banks have long printed checks in a wide spectrum of colors. Some, as you know, have offered checks with floral or scenic backgrounds. The modest-sized Bank of Marin in Marin Country, California, has gone one step further. Its customers can simply bring in their own photograph or drawing and have it printed onto a standard check form.

Undeterred by the higher cost, more than 500 customers signed up for the illustrated checks. But perhaps the most imaginative (and vindictive) customer is the one who ordered special checks to be used solely for making his alimony payments. They show him kissing his beautiful new wife.

How about one more: Consider this Swedish man. When his wife filed for divorce, he cashed in all their investments -- worth $81,300 -- and burned the cash. There was nothing left for either of them but a pile of ashes. In each instance, really, who hurt worse -- the hater or the hated? It is pretty obvious, isn't it?

QUESTION;

• How many acts of disrespect does it take, how many years of dishonor must be lived out, before one has fully repaid a mother or father for being an alcoholic, an abuser, an absentee parent?

• How many put downs will it take until the other person is sufficiently put down?

• How many checks showing the man kissing his new wife will it take before the debt is paid in full?

Sometimes repayment is impossible! Faith plays a part here. If I truly believe that God fights my battles for me, then I can leave the matter up to Him. If I do not believe that, then I must take matters into my own hands.

• Hebrews 10:30 says, “For we know Him who said, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, the Lord will judge His people….”

• Deuteronomy 32:35 adds, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time, their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.”

• Romans 12:17-19 says, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord.”

Revenge belongs to who? God! The fact is, when you retaliate against another person, then God stops acting on your behalf. If you’re disciplining one of your children and I come and intentionally get in your way, you would no doubt stop spanking your child and discipline me. God operates the same way.

Romans 12:14 offers a better way to handle hurts. Paul says “Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse.” The opposite of blessing is cursing. To bless means to speak positively to/about those who are speaking negatively about you. Build up those who are tearing you down.

Encourage those who discourage you. Look at the example of Jesus. Isaiah 53:3-7 notes:

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”

Jesus did not curse them. He could have, but He didn’t. He blessed instead of cursed. He died praying for His enemies. He died praying for their forgiveness. His example is our standard.

Have you noticed that today mental health professionals hammer away at the point: it's not what happens to us that determines the quality of our lives; it's how we respond to what happens to us that counts? The quality of our lives is mediated through our point-of-view, our mind-set, responses and assumptions.

2. DON’T REHEARSE THE HURT

In the late 1990s, Pete Peterson was appointed U.S. ambassador to Vietnam.

Peterson had served six years as a prisoner of war in the dreaded "Hanoi Hilton" prison camp. When asked how he could return to the land where he'd endured years of starvation, brutality and torture, he replied, "I'm not angry. I left that at the gates of the prison when I walked out in 1972. I just left it behind me and decided to move forward with my life.

Job 5:2 (Good News), “to worry yourself to death with resentment would be a foolish thing to do.”

Resentment is one of the great killers of our modern age. When you’ve got resentment, you’re focusing on the past, not on the present or the future.

Ephesians 4:31 says “Get rid of all bitterness, anger, slander along with every form of malice.”

1 Corinthians 13:4-5 (God’s Word translation) says, “Love is patient. Love is kind. Love isn't jealous. It doesn't sing its own praises. It isn't arrogant. It isn't rude. It doesn't think about itself. It isn't irritable. It doesn't keep track of wrongs.”

The Message puts it this way:

“Love never gives up.


Love cares more for others than for self.


Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.


Love doesn't strut,


Doesn't have a swelled head,


Doesn't force itself on others,


Isn't always "me first,"


Doesn't fly off the handle,


Doesn't keep score of the sins of others….”


Every time we review a hurt, it gets bigger. For instance, let’s say that someone criticizes you. Criticism hurts. I know. But if you keep thinking about the criticism, in time you begin to think that the whole world’s against you. The event gets blown all out of proportion. It gets magnified every time you rehearse it.

Quite honestly, I have known some very angry, bitter people. It’s almost as if they have all of their past and current hurts stand in review each and every morning. They inspect them, rehearse them, and make their vows before them.

• “I will get even with him even if it is the last thing I do…!”

• “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth…!”

• “He got me once, I will get him back twice!”

• “She will live to regret the time that she hurt me. I do not get mad, I just get even!”

Every day it is the same evil thing – rehearsal time.

ANTWONE FISHER

Here’s a short illustration from the movie “Antwone Fisher.” Based on a true story, the film tells of a young man who grew up in an abusive foster home. Over the years, Antwone grew bitter towards his natural family for giving him up. By the time he enlisted in the Navy, his anger got him into so many fist fights that he was sent to Navy psychologist Jerome Davenport, played by Denzel Washington who becomes a father figure to Antwone.

After they have built trust with each other, Antwone shares a powerful poem with Davenport. At this critical juncture, his counselor raises the key issue that Antwone must deal with to find healing.

The conversation takes place just after the Thanksgiving meal at his counselor's house. Antwone gives Davenport a folded piece of paper, and Davenport reads it aloud thoughtfully.

"Who will cry for the little boy


Lost and all alone?


Who will cry for the little boy


Abandoned without his own?


Who will cry for the little boy?


He cried himself to sleep.


Who will cry for the little boy


Who never had for keeps?


Who will cry for the little boy


Who walked the burning sand?


Who will cry for the little boy


The boy inside the man?


Who will cry for the little boy


Who knew well hurt and pain?


Who will cry for the little boy


Who died and died again?


Who will cry for the little boy?


A good boy he tried to be.


Who will cry for the little boy


Who cries inside of me?


Davenport says, "This is excellent, Antwone. You're good because you’re honest. You are more honest than most people. Even in your anger—the only thing you’re not honest with yourself about is your need to find your own family. Your natural family. You're upset with them because you feel they didn't come to your rescue. Maybe they didn't know."

Antwone replies bitterly, "How could they not have known?"

Davenport says, "That's the question you need to ask.”

Antwone says, "Why do I have to forgive?"

Davenport answers, "To free yourself, so you can get on with your life."

I like those last two lines. “Why do I have to forgive?” Davenport answers, “To free yourself, so you can get on with your life.”

3. DON’T NURSE THE HURT

Let me put it bluntly:

• Hatred is nothing more than a slow form of suicide. It can and will kill.

• Someone once put it this way, “It is not what we eat as much as what eats us that kills a person.”

“Seeking revenge is like taking poison and hoping the other person is going to die.” Or as the Chinese say: “If you're not willing to forgive, you better get ready to dig two graves."

During World War II, the U.S. submarine Tang surfaced under cover of darkness to fire on a large Japanese convoy off the coast of China. Since previous raids had left the American vessel with only eight torpedoes, the accuracy of each shot was essential. The first seven silent missiles were on target.

But when the eighth was launched, it suddenly veered off course. Instead of hitting its intended target, it boomeranged back unseen to strike the crew that had launched it. Too late, the emergency alarm to submerge rang out. Within a matter of seconds, the U.S. sub received a direct hit and sank almost instantly.

In the same way, we're also capable, while intent on attacking others, of doing irreparable damage to ourselves. The missiles of anger and hate we launch can return to hurt us. Again, anger can be a poison that kills.

Whenever we nurse a hurt, we give life to it. In short, we encourage it to grow and grow. How do we do this?

• By showing it off to others.

• By parading it around for others to see.

• By enlisting people to share in the offense.

• By emphasizing it, by exaggerating it.

• By feeding it.

And how do we feed a hurt, you ask?

• We feed it self-pity.

• We feed it anger.

• We feed it bitterness.

• We feed it hate!

The more that we feed it, the more it grows until the hurt can literally become all consuming. Someone has written that "blowing out the other fellow's candle won't make yours shine any brighter!"

Ephesians 4:26-27 “Don’t let the sun go down while you’re still angry and do not give the devil a foothold.” It’s OK to be angry. Anger is a legitimate response to hurt. However, it is important to remember that anger must have a time limit. It can’t go on and on and on and last forever. When we hold on to anger for an extended period of time, it can turn into bitterness, resentment, or even hatred. All of those things are sin. Job 18:4 therefore warns, “You’re only hurting yourself with your anger.”

You cannot please everybody. In fact, in trying to please everybody you’re guaranteeing you’re going to be hurt. Just about the time you get Person A pleased, Person B gets upset. Just about the time Person B gets satisfied, Person A gets upset. You have seen it happen.

Even God can’t please everybody. One person is praying for rain today. Someone else is saying they want it to be sunny. You get two people on opposite sides of the ballgame both praying for their team to win. This is an election year. Millions of people are going to pray for the Democratic candidate to win in November while millions more are going to pray for the Republican candidate to win. Whose prayer does God answer? Which group does He please and which group does He disappoint?Again, even God can’t please everybody. Only a fool would try to accomplish what even God can’t do. Give up your hurts – now – to God. Vengeance belongs to Him anyway.

No longer curse your hurt, rehearse your hurt, or nurse your hurt. Instead, just hand them over to God today -- once and for all. In other words, forgive.

Don’t place absolute trust in people.

Scripture says- “Thus says the LORD: Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD” (Jer. 17:5).

In the interest of balance, you and I must come to terms with the fact that everyone is human and will fail you at sometime or another. Even the pastor will make mistakes. The only one you can trust entirely without fail is God.

Realizing that any human can fall short, the degree of trust we place in people must be limited and will depend on their track record. The more we get to know a person’s character and the history of their behavior, we’ll be able to determine how trustworthy they are. This is one of the reasons why the scriptures tell us to get to know our pastors and spiritual leaders — so from their godly lifestyle, we’ll be able to trust their leadership. “And we urge you, brethren, to know those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you.” (1 Thess. 5:12).

There’s a difference between “love” and “trust.”

Remember that love and forgiveness is granted unconditionally, but trust must be “earned.” Trust is the acquired confidence in a person’s actions. We certainly can, and should trust persons who show trustworthy behavior, but because all men have the potential for failure, we should never put an infallible sense of trust in anyone but God.

When the Clock Stops

My first pastorate was a very small church in West Florida. One of my families was a poor family who lived in an old house on the banks of the Swanee River. I would go to visit periodically and we would sit in their living room and talk. One day I noticed that the clock was wrong. It said nine o’clock when, in fact, it was noon. I said nothing. But I saw the same thing the next month and then the next month. Finally, I said something to the husband and wife. Tears came to their eyes. “That was the moment our boy died ten years ago,” they told me. The clock had stopped in their lives.

The pain of friendly fire can stop the clock. This happens to people who get hurt and who fail to turn it over to God. The clock stops. They go through life, month after month, year after year, but the clock stopped in their lives way back when they were hurt. Today it’s popular to be a victim. But being a victim is not a good way to live because life cannot go forward when the clock has stopped at the point of our last betrayal.

What’s the most religious or spiritual thing you can do in a case like this? I would say unequivocally, the most spiritual thing you an I can do in all cases of hurt is to….

Forgive.

There was a time in my life and ministry, when some things came together to bring pain. I can’t relate many details. They’re too painful to me and too personal for others.

I was hurt and I brooded over my pain. For a while I was unforgiving in my heart toward several individuals. The pain festered for a long time. I would say, “These folk have hurt me and ruined something good for me.”

I was wrong. There is no resurrection for those who suffer without Gethsemane submission. There is no new life. There is only the grave. If that is your story, it doesn’t have to end that way. There is always a Gethsemane moment available for you. For me, I found my Gethsemane in a small apartment where I lived alone from nearly two years. I said, “Lord, this is in your hands now. Not that person. Not those people.”

One day, I saw the shadow of a cross coming over me. I knew crucifixion was coming and it came. I felt moments when the Father had abandoned me. But in my heart of hearts I knew He had abandoned His Son, so that He would never abandon me. I knew that for new green shoots to again appear in my life I had to embrace the thing that had come against me, to release and forgive those who may have seemed to bring the hammer and the nails and the cross. I cried and I cried. The tomb opened. I rose, and I lived again.

It didn’t take years of counseling. It took one moment of saying, “I want to know Him and the power of His resurrection in my life. I want take up my cross and follow Him, to claim Him as Sovereign King even in my rejection and my betrayals.”

God will transform you if you’ve been hurt, wounded, abandoned, sinned against, or betrayed. You and I can go from a victim to a victor by trusting in the One who was hurt, wounded, and rejected. The question isn’t, How do we stop hurt from coming? The question is, what do we do with it -for it will surely come to us? The question may also be put, Will I remain a victim, or will I move on to being a victor with Christ?

There is an answer; there is a way to healing. But I warn you, it will involve another kind of pain — the pain of Christ’s cross. As Paul says, “I Die daily.” But that cross will bring resurrection, and the new life He brings will also make the clock start ticking again.

Jesus Christ has transformed the cross from an instrument of destruction  to an instrument of salvation ordained by God.

In Him there can be no more victims — only victors. Remember His words as he read from the scroll of Isaiah…..

God's Spirit is on me; He's chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor, Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind, To set the burdened and battered free…….Luke 4:18—The Message


Blessings,


John