Wednesday, December 17, 2014

I'm Dreaming Of A Right Christmas

By John Stallings


A pastor worked in his study all through Christmas Eve preparing for the Christmas morning service.

Being very tired he dozed off & dreamt of a world to which the Savior had never come. In his dream he was looking around his home but there were no Christmas decorations, no candles or Christmas wreaths.He walked into his study & thumbed through his library but found no books about Jesus, & the Bible he found ended at Malachi.

He noticed that the last words of the Bible were,

LEST I COME & SMITE THE EARTH WITH A CURSE.

He walked out unto the streets & found no church spires pointing heavenward.He went back inside & a knock on the door brought a request to visit a dying mother. He went to her bedside but could find no comforting scriptures, for the gospels were not there. Paul’s comforting letters that included passages about life beyond the grave were missing. There was no promise beyond the grave. Even John’s book of Revelation was not there.

He could only bow his head & weep in hopeless desperation. Two days later he stood by the mother’s grave & conducted her burial but he could give no word of changed hearts & glorious resurrections, only, “ashes to ashes & dust to dust.” It was just one long, last, final farewell.

Suddenly nearby music awoke him from his sleep & he was sobbing uncontrollably. He realized he was hearing his own church choir in the sanctuary next door practicing for their Christmas service & singing “Oh come let us adore Him.” The fact was, Jesus had come & His coming had split history in two, giving hope for eternal life to all who trust in Him.

WHAT WOULD A WORLD WITHOUT CHRIST LOOK LIKE?

Had Christ not come we’d have no New Testament, no gospel, no church, no Lord’s Day, no repentance, no forgiveness of sins, no changed & transformed hearts & lives & no hope of His eternal presence.The angel wouldn’t have told Mary, -With God nothing is impossible.The angels wouldn’t have sung to the shepherds, Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will to men.

One of my favorite secular Christmas songs has always been ErvIn Berlin’s White Christmas. Though it’s always been a dream of mine, I can’t say that I ever experienced a white Christmas. In the last few years that dream has faded & been replaced with the desire to celebrate each year, a Right Christmas.What does a right Christmas look like?

A RIGHT CHRISTMAS IS BEAUTIFULLY SIMPLE & SIMPLY BEAUTIFUL.

Have you ever tried to explain the real meaning of Christmas to a child? It isn’t easy. There is so much tradition mixed up with spiritual truth that it’s sometimes hard to tell Jesus from Santa Claus & the Wise men from the snowmen.The very young have puzzled looks on their faces as they try to sort it all out. “Let me see if I’ve got this straight….Christmas is baby Jesus’ birthday, but I get the presents?” They end up thinking;-“Is this a great religion or what?”

THE MOST NEGLECTED CHRISTMAS VERSE OF ALL

There is one verse that for me sums up the real meaning of Christmas better than any verse in the Bible. Within this short verse we find the answer to the question, what is the right attitude about Christmas & --what is a right Christmas? Here is the verse,

---2 Corinthians 8:9: For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.

Let’s examine this verse for in it I believe we find the essence of a right attitude toward Christmas.

A. HE WAS RICH

I read last week that Wal-Mart is the richest & most successful business that’s ever existed on planet earth. My computer even knows who Wal-mart is because it just corrected my spelling of the name.This brings up a question in my mind: “Why don’t we let Wal-mart bail out General Motors?” But I digress. Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-mart was a “rich-en.” He was among the group of old boys who would light their cigars with a hundred dollar bill. The average rich ride first class. The medium rich charter a jet. The super rich own the jet. The incredibly rich own the airline.But Jesus Christ owns the skies. The Bible says---

HE WAS RICH!

This is speaking of what He had in heaven before He came to earth. You can take the richest men who ever lived, the most powerful rulers who ever lived, the wisest men who ever lived, the mightiest generals who ever lived, the strongest athletes in every sport, the most spell-binding orators, the greatest political leaders & any other great men on earth, calculate their wealth…power…skill…genius…wisdom…insight…& ability. Whatever that vast sum comes to, Jesus had more in heaven. No man or collection of men could touch Him. The pre-existent Jesus Christ wasn’t a pauper but a man who lived in glorious untold splendor.He Was Rich!!

B. HE BECAME POOR

When you & I celebrate a right Christmas we keep in mind the lowly baby Jesus who became poor. Exactly what does that mean? He was rich in eternity but He became poor when He moved into time. He left heaven for a remote village in a forgotten province, to join a despised race, to be born of an obscure teenage peasant girl in a stable, wrapped in rags & placed in a feeding-trough instead of a crib.But Jesus didn’t act “high & mighty.” He knew it all but wasn’t a “know it all.” He owned all the stuff but never did “strut His stuff.” He wasn’t a “name-dropper.” He wasn’t a showoff. He never asked people, “Want me to beam you into the 21st century?” Jesus could have constantly been saying things like, “I’ve got some property on Jupiter.”

But Jesus’ purpose wasn’t to show-off but to show-up. Jesus was holding the entire Universe together but you couldn’t tell it by watching or listening to Him. He wasn’t like that.Here is the creator of the universe who looked no different than the guy down the street. Jesus became poor & pitched His tent among us for a while. He didn’t Lord it over us but loved us so much He was willing to die for us. He wasn’t on an ego trip he was on a rescue mission.

A right Christmas is one that remembers that we are something special to God.Notice that Jesus became poor. You & I are made poor by circumstances but Jesus of His own free will became poor. The man who was richer than any man has ever been gave it up freely & became poorer than any man has ever been.If we have a right Christmas we’ll be remembering that the heart of it all, the heart of the gospel is that the richest person in the universe of His own free will became poorer than the poor.

I love the story of the atheist who would never go to church with his Christian family. One Christmas season, his wife & children were readying themselves to go to Sunday morning service & pleaded with him to go just this once. It was a special Christmas service & there’d be beautiful music.The unbelieving man refused to go, as usual, telling his family it would just be a waste of time for him, that Christmas was just a silly old tradition about a man who never really existed.The family left for church leaving the father sitting in his recliner near a large picture window that overlooked a big back yard. It was snowing & the sight of the flakes building up on the barn behind the house was breathtaking. He thought how much it looked like a Norman Rockwell painting.

Then something happened that almost startled him out of his chair. A flock of about twenty birds, not seeing the glass window, flew right into it, leaving several of them wounded & flapping around on the ground. The man, pitying the poor birds slowly got up & walked toward the window to get a better look. He stood & watched the birds slowly regain their composure & then begin to wander around the backyard in a state of confusion.

He went & dressed & got some bread from the kitchen thinking he’d try to feed the birds if they’d allow him to get close enough.His worst fears were realized when he approached the dazed & confused birds when they fluttered away, seeing every move he made as a threat to them. This went on for quite some time & the man finally had an idea. If he could open the big barn doors, & get the nearly frozen birds to go in they could have shelter from the blistering winds & maybe live to fly again.The man slowly moved across the barnyard & opened the doors, placing the bread crumbs on the ground hoping the birds natural survival instinct would kick in. The man tried every trick he could think of to get those disoriented birds to see that life was within their reach just a few feet away, but the birds stubbornly refused to co-operate.

Finally the man, not able to stand the bitter cold had to give up & go back inside to warm himself. As he stood at the window & watched the birds, still wandering aimlessly around the yard, the thought came to him; there was only one way he could ever hope to get those birds to go into the barn, but it wasn’t within his power to do it.The only way the birds could be saved was if he himself could become a bird & join the little flock & lead them into the safety of the barn.When his family returned from church, the man shared the experience with them.

Through that visual experience with the birds God had shown him the meaning of Christmas. Bethlehem was about God wrapping himself in human flesh & becoming a man. He entered the human race & became poor like us so that we would hear Him saying, “I love you.” Immanuel—God with us.

C. THAT WE MIGHT BECOME RICH

Here is “The right Christmas” message;

Jesus became poor so that we who were poor might become rich.

Think abut that. All the riches & grace of God is available to me by virtue of my relationship with Jesus Christ. All the power & all the right standing with God are mine through Him.You may say, “You don’t deserve that.” Indeed I don’t but that’s the grace of our Lord Jesus. If I deserved it I wouldn’t need Jesus, but through my relationship with Him suddenly I’m a rich man.

The theologians have a word for it. They call it the doctrine of imputation. He takes my sin & I take His righteousness. That’s grace by association.

Do you remember the wedding of Lady Diana & Prince Charles? We saw a T.V movie about it recently. Diana didn’t exactly come from poverty but compared to the royal family, her family was poor. But now, by virtue of her marriage to Prince Charles, all the wealth, all the prestige, all the power, all the pomp & glory of the royal family belong to her. Once she was an outsider; now she has access to the Queen. Did she earn such a lofty standing? No. It was imputed to her by virtue of her relationship to Prince Charles. Imputed honor- imputed wealth -& imputed standing.

What do you call a poor girl who marries a prince? You call her “Your Highness.”So it is that when we came to Jesus we were spiritual paupers. Our hands were empty & our pockets were bare. We had nothing to offer & no claim to make. All our lives it had been, one step forward & two steps back but when we came to Him, we were fed, clothed, filled, forgiven, & crowned with every good thing.Jesus took away our rags & placed around us His own righteousness.

Everything that was against us was gone & everything we lacked we now have. All this happened because of Christmas. He who was rich became poor for my sake, that through His poverty I might be rich.The Son of God became a son of man in order that the sons of men might become the sons of God.Again, what is a right Christmas?

A—He was rich

B---He became poor

C---That we might become rich.

And that’s the true meaning of Christmas.Only one thing remains. Have you found the Christ of Christmas & asked Him to be your Savior? Have you placed your trust in Him? Have you given up your spiritual poverty for the riches He offers to you?

One of my favorite Christmas songs is “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” I love this verse;

How silently, how silently
This wondrous gift was giv’n
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessing of His heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in the world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

And so He does!

May that be our experience as we all enjoy,

A RIGHT CHRISTMAS!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Blessings,

John

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Child With Four Names

By John Stallings

There are lots of people with three names.


Among them are, Sandra Day-O'Conner, US Supreme Court Judge, Jaquelyn Kennedy Onasis, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tommy Lee Jones, Billy Bob Thornton, Billy Ray Cyrus, James Earl Jones, and Sara Jessica Parker.

Of course we can’t forget those with one name like Madonna, or Cher or Elvis.

One of the many important decisions confronting new parents is, “What shall we call our baby?” Most new parents spend hours debating this question. We all realize that names matter. Shall the new baby be named after his father, his uncle, a favorite friend? Should he be given a name that happens to be popular at the moment? Or one that simply sounds good?

Charles Phillip Arthur George


Names are important because once you pick out a name the child will be stuck with it for a long, long time! Babies have no voice in the selection of their names. They have to live with them — to live them down or live them up.

Every so often you’ll run across a person with multiple names, such as Charles Phillip Arthur George Windsor. That’s sounds odd until you discover it’s Prince Charles. If you say that’s a heavy load to lay on a baby, remember He’s royalty and He needs a long name.
So it is with Jesus.

Even before His birth, He was a child with many names. The prophet Isaiah, writing 700 years before He was born, prophesied that Messiah would have four names:

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

We know that there are many other names for Jesus; however this verse reveals four of those names. Each one features an aspect of His character. They teach who He is and how He can help us. One of our beloved carols is cast in a plaintive question:

What child is this, who laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping?”


Listen to Isaiah’s divinely-inspired answer. These four names speak to us about wisdom, power, security, and assurance. The first name is…

1. WONDERFUL COUNSELOR


Literally this title means “a wonder of a counselor.” It speaks of the wisdom of his plan. The word “wonderful” means “astonishing” or “extraordinary.” The writers of the Old Testament used it for acts of God which man cannot understand. The word “counselor” means “advisor” or “ideal ruler.”

There are several professions that make their living giving advice to others but they can’t claim perfection. Psychiatrists routinely make $150 (and sometimes $350) an hour for their counsel. Much of it is good, some not so good. But the Lord goes to no one for advice. And when anyone comes to him, He gives them the counsel they need.

He is therefore the perfect teacher and the ultimate counselor. This gives us insight into his working. His plans are not our plans, His ways not our ways. He will accomplish things beyond human comprehension and He will do it in ways we cannot fathom. He will do the greatest work ever accomplished and He will do it seamlessly. A violent death would not be man’s way to victory but it was God’s plan and our Lord carried it out perfectly.

As the Wonderful Counselor, He gives great direction to His people. Those who follow him will not walk in darkness but in the blazing light of day. In this tiny baby we see all the wisdom of God wrapped in swaddling clothes.What Child is This? He is the Wonderful Counselor. Then He’s the…

2. MIGHTY GOD


This speaks of the “Power of Accomplishment.” It is first of all a statement of deity. The baby born in the manger is not just the Son of God; He is also God the Son. All the fullness of God dwells in the Lord Jesus Christ. As the ancient creeds declare, He is “very God of very God.”

That can never be said of any mere human baby. Something else is important in this title. The word translated “mighty” is the word gibo, which means “strong one” or “the powerful, valiant warrior.” Thus the term “mighty God is actually a military title. He is the God who fights for his people! At the Incarnation, God took the form of human flesh. That’s why one of his names is Immanuel–God with us.

Now take the first two titles together and what do you have?

As the Wonderful Counselor — He makes the Plans.
As the Mighty God —He makes the plans Work.

All of his wonderful plans will be carried out with all of God’s infinite might. There is in this little baby’s arms flailing around in His crude bassinet all the strength of Deity. The power of God is in those tiny fists. He has strength which is divine. The omnipotence of God is at His command. Whatever He desires, He is able to achieve.

Carl Sagan Meets Jesus


When we meet Jesus, we meet God. If He is not the “mighty God,” then we are deceived and it is blasphemy to worship him. There is no middle ground here.

If He is not God, we are fools to worship Him. If He is God, we are fools not to.

Some time back renowned astronomer Carl Sagan died. He is best remembered for his famous PBS series called “Cosmos” in which he evangelized for his evolutionary views, especially the notion that the universe is billions and billions of years old. He repeatedly said that he didn’t believe in the afterlife. However, he also said he wasn’t an atheist because he didn’t know enough to rule out the possibility of God. I would argue that God never gave a human being the power to be a real atheist, but that’s another article.

Carl Sagan is an evolutionist no longer. And at this moment he is neither an atheist nor an agnostic, for he has met the Mighty God whom he refused to worship in this life. Despite his great learning and his notable achievements, Carl Sagan died a fool’s death because he would not bow before the Babe of Bethlehem.

HERE’S THE REAL REASON MANY PEOPLE RESENT MANGER SCENES IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE…


Banning manger scenes or other Christmas scenes from public places has nothing whatsoever to do with being “politically correct” or offending people of other religions. Let’s do a post-mortem on the real reason some people fight so hard to call Christmas trees “Holiday trees” and say “Season’s greetings,” or “Happy holidays” taking all mention of Christ out of Christmas.

Christmas is the great dividing line of the human race. No wonder some people want all mention of Christmas expunged from our public schools and from our public life, indeed from human consciousness. They understand that Christians believe Christmas is based on the belief that at Bethlehem, God Incarnate slipped out of timelessness into time, to land in the arms of a virgin girl. Now, if this is true, then unbelievers have problems.

When a person says there is no God, rejecting Christianities tenants, they are telling themselves they can live like the devil then die like a dog. How “very nice” for them. They want to believe that at death, that’s it, it’s over. They’ll never be faced with standing before a Holy God being judged based on what they did with their life, and especially what they did with Jesus.

These “atheists” may never darken a church door. They can live their lives and never open a Bible. They never have to even hear the name of God or Jesus Christ except in cursing. But once a year, here comes Jesus again. And that’s every year, for about a month. More toasters will be sold in Jesus’ name than any name in history. More turkey and Ham will be sold in His name and more money will be spent in His name than any other name. The only way these folk could escape it would be to leave the planet.


Now, if they’re not careful they’ll hear Christ’s name coming out of their own mouth, and we couldn’t have that. A manger scene isn’t only about a cute little baby. Who could be offended by that? The entire world loves a baby. But baby Jesus is different. If you accept that manger scene then you’ve got to accept that God exists, the miracle of the virgin birth, and the rest that goes along with it. This is too painful for them because when you extrapolate it out, you’re faced with things like- one day giving account for yourself to God and then issues like what your eternal address will be, - heaven or hell.

If we take out manger scenes and the name of Christ, we’ve erased some of the best gospel preaching imaginable, and to these people that’s a good thing.

In this tiny baby we see the power of God sleeping on Mary’s lap. What Child is this? He is the Mighty God. He is also…

3. THE EVERLASTING FATHER


In the Hebrew the phrase is literally “the Father of Eternity.” This speaks of the purpose of his coming.

He is before, above, and beyond time. He is the possessor of eternity. He is eternally like a father to his people. This is not a statement about the Trinity, but about the character of our Lord. All that a good father is, Jesus is to his people.

Because He’s like a father, -caring for his people. Because He owns eternity, He can give us eternal life. That’s so important for those of us who live on this sin-cursed planet. No one lives forever. Sooner or later we will also find our own place in the graveyard. We’re not immortal, but transitory. We’re here today, gone tomorrow. A dead Christ will do us no good. Dying men need an undying Christ.

Here’s a key phrase: He is a father forever! That’s important to me because I had a father, but not a father forever. I had a father, but he is gone now… He was a very good man, but he was not a father forever. . I am father to daughters but not a father forever. I will someday pass away. All human fathers must go. But Jesus is a father forever! He’ll outlast the stars in the heavens.

When our children need anything, we run to help them. If they cry, we go. If they want us, we will come to them. We would never kick them out. They belong to us. They are ours, in a manner of speaking. What we are in a poor way to them, Jesus is in a perfect way to all who believe in Him.

In this tiny baby we see the love of God sleeping in a stable. What child is this? He is the everlasting Father and he’s also…


4. PRINCE OF PEACE

The phrase literally means “the prince whose coming brings peace” This speaks of the effect of his coming. This final title is the climax of all that has gone before. The word “prince” means something like “General of the Army.” It speaks of his high position. The word “peace” speaks of his basic nature.

Recently I read that there are more wars raging right now than at any time this century. All over globe there are ethnic conflicts and tribal wars. Closer to home not a day goes by without word that someone else has been murdered in America. We see so much killing that it no longer surprises us—or even bothers us.

In Florida where I live, just this week a man, embittered because his wife had lost her teaching job went to a school-board meeting intent on killing several school board officials. The video has been played over and over with the warning about its violence. He was a very angry man but thankfully a bad shot and was gunned down by officials. This video will probably go viral on YouTube.
We’re practically immune to violence because we live in a violent world.

Isaiah 9:6 tells us that God’s plan for world peace is focused on a one person—a baby asleep in a manger in Bethlehem. He is the ultimate man of peace.

· In the past, His coming made peace with God*
. In the present, those who come to Him find peace in their heart when Christ comes in.
· In the future, His second coming will usher in a kingdom of peace. There is no peace today. -So much strife and bloodshed. He is not a failure. We are.


Christ is no warrior, no greedy conqueror, and no empire builder. He came to bring peace. He did. He does. He will.

In this tiny baby we see the peace of God welcomed by angels and shepherds. What child is this? He is the Prince of Peace.

In this one verse you have the four names of Jesus. This is what they mean to us today:


If you are confused…He is the Wonderful Counselor.
If you are weak…..He is the Mighty God.
If you are scared……He is the Everlasting Father.
If you are disturbed….He is the Prince of Peace.
You never know what may happen in the world because a baby was born. No doubt the Innkeeper didn’t know who he was turning away. Even Mary couldn’t fully imagine what it all meant that night. But that baby born in Bethlehem has become the centerpiece of human history. We even divide time itself by his coming—B.C. and A.D.

What child is this? He is … the Wonderful Counselor … the Mighty God … the Everlasting Father … the Prince of Peace.

For to us”


The most important part of our verse is the first three words……."For to us” The gift of Christ is a personal gift from God to us. A gift requires a response. If I put a gift under your tree, you may acknowledge it, may admire it, may even thank me for it, but it isn’t yours until you open it and take it for your own.

Why Would God Visit Us?


Mankind has made a total mess of things. We blew our one shot at immortality—and now the graveyards are filling up. But God is not finished with us yet. Go to Psalm 8 and find these words;

“What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”


David seems to say; why bother with people like us? We ruined Eden, you gave us another chance, and we fouled up so badly that you sent a flood to wipe out the human race except for one family. Why not just hit the delete button on the human race? Why not just admit that this was an experiment that didn’t work out? No one could blame God if He decided to get rid of us all and start over again.

David’s question comes to the very heart of Christmas—What is man that God should pay attention to us? What is man that God should care about us after we’ve failed so miserably? Why should God care about us at all?

The New King James Version renders verse 4 this way: “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” Why would God care enough to visit people like us? It is right at this point that we see the glory and wonder and mystery of the gospel.

Jesus visited us to become like us in his nature. That’s the Incarnation. That’s Bethlehem. That’s Christmas. He came into this world as a tiny baby, born in a stable, in an obscure village, born in poverty, unwanted by the world. He was just another face in the crowd. Few knew that He was coming. No one cared that He had arrived. Jesus “had” to do this. In order to truly “visit” us, He had to become like us.

Jesus tasted death because that is our common destiny… Jesus could not have truly “visited” us if He had held himself back from “the last enemy” that confronts us—death. In order to be fully human, He had to taste death. Jesus suffered and died because that was the only way He could save us. Only by dying could He give us life.

Jesus came to restore all that we had lost in Eden. The Bible calls Jesus “the last Adam.” One of the verses of “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” calls him the “Second Adam from above.” He came to reverse the curse that we brought upon ourselves. Now in heaven He is crowned with glory and honor. One day all those who believe in Jesus will share that glory with him.

God said, “I will not leave you alone. I will not let you destroy yourself, each other, and the world I have made. I love you too much to let you alone.” So He sent prophets. We killed them. He wrote letters. We ignored them. He told us how to live—and we said, “Who are you to tell us what to do?” We mocked the God who made us, we broke his laws, we said we didn’t need him, and we made up our own gods that we liked much better because they looked so much like us.


Oh, we made a mess of things. God had every reason to kill us all. But he didn’t. He said, “I love you too much to let you go.” And after we had trashed everything, God said, “I’m coming down there so you’ll know once and for all how much I love you.” We didn’t pay any attention; it didn’t even make sense to us. How could God visit us? But He did—and He came to the world in a very strange way. He entered a virgin’s womb and came out as a baby, born in Bethlehem, a baby named Jesus, born to save us from our sins.

So He came as a baby, and when He grew up, we butchered Him, slaughtered Him and murdered Him on a cross. That’s the thanks we gave to God for visiting us. But we were wrong about everything. After we killed Him, He came back from the dead—proving that He was right all along and we were really wrong—dead wrong about everything—and still God loved us and came from heaven to earth on the greatest rescue mission in history.

He came because we blew it so badly.He came and we killed him.He died and became our Savior.

WHAT A STORY! WHAT A CHRIST!


That’s the good news of Christmas: God has done it all. The only thing left to you and me is to believe. God wrapped up his Son in swaddling clothes and said to the whole world, “This is my Christmas gift to you.”

Someone rightly called Christmas “the happiest holiday.” But it will only be truly happy for those who truly believe in Jesus. I cannot prove to you that what I have said is true. You will have to decide that for yourself. But I can say without any reservation that I have staked my life on the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the incomparable Son of God.

Christmas matters because truth matters. And the heart of the truth is that God did not leave us alone, but in our misery He came to visit us one dark night in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.

Christmas is all about who we are, and who God is, and how far God will go to reach us.


Blessings,


John


Merry Christmas



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Friday, December 12, 2014

Watch Your Step

By John Stallings


My steps had well nigh slipped. Psalm 73:2

Having your feet to slip unexpectedly is no small matter.

Its happened to me many times. I’ve slipped on rocks in swiftly running mountain streams. I’ve slipped on frozen ground, I’ve slipped in fishing boats, & I’ve slipped going down a flight of stairs carrying a large turkey that had just been taken out of an oven. [It’s a long story.]

The above doesn’t count the bicycles I fell off, & the swings & other playground maiming machines I flew off of as a kid. Suffice to say-I’m well acquainted with “road rash.”

No, I’m not a klutz; I think I can say I’m sure-footed. I’ve just led a very active life. In none of these falls was I seriously injured, just shaken up a bit. Thank you Jesus! One thing I’ve never done is to slip on a banana peel. Have you ever noticed they aren’t all that slippery?

Slipping is an awful experience; mainly that first instant you realize your feet are no longer underneath you where they’re supposed to be. Now it just remains to see how bad a landing you’ll have & how long recovery will take. It’s a great feeling after we’ve slipped & fallen to realize that the only thing that’s really been hurt is our pride.

Most, if not all of my slips happened long ago. I say that in humility knowing it could always happen again, to me or to any of us unless we take great care. As we grow older slipping takes on a more serious nature. In the elderly sometimes even the smallest slip can be life threatening. Paul’s admonition to “take heed lest we fall” is apropos in many areas of life.

Slipping is frightful, even if it’s not followed by a crash landing because, to point out the obvious, when you slip & fall, there’s only one way to go. We all know which way that is, & it isn’t up. Slipping & the law of gravity have been very tightly woven together since the foundations of the earth were laid. I think it’s true that “the bigger you are, the harder you fall.”

The bottom line is; to slip & fall is dangerous, to slip & fall is painful, & sometimes to slip & fall can be catastrophic.

PSALM 73

Since I first found this wonderful Psalm as a young man it has fed me in so many ways. The writer came within an eyelash of having a tragic slip. He starts off by saying,-My feet were almost gone, my steps had well nigh slipped.
He’s telling us that he came close to slipping catastrophically.

When did he almost slip?

When ENVY invaded his heart.

My steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.”

ENVY

A number of years ago I saw the movie Amadeus. Though I could hardly stand some of characters, I was captivated by the story & brilliance of the actors. I could easily see why the movie was an Academy Award winner.

The story revolved around the musical genius Mozart, & a man named Antonio Salieri, a court musician to Austria’s King. Salieri was envious of the rich talents of young Mozart; talents he fell far short of. Though he could compose music it was not great music; consequently he was consumed with envy of Mozart’s talents. This led him to scheme & plot against Mozart at every turn.

He stole Mozart’s compositions, bribed Mozart’s servants & informed the King about Mozart’s indiscretions. Salieri’s envy eventually drove him to insanity. The movie ends with Salieri cursing God for denying him the talent which He gave Mozart. The story line shows what happens when a good man like Salieri is filled with & finally destroyed by envy.


As a minister, I’ve heard people admit to things that would make a sailor blush but I’ve never heard a person admit they had a problem with envy. So the first thing we know about envy is- it always travels incognito. We’ll see some reasons for that in this article.

1. One reason we envy is we assume that anything anyone has, we too should have.

In all probability we never even wanted the thing that someone else has until we noticed that he/she has it. Suddenly the fact that they have it, & we don’t have it is intolerable.

Another reason we envy is we don’t like admitting there are people who have greater talent or intelligence or skill than we have. We think that to acknowledge someone else as more talented or intelligence or skilled is to declare ourselves failures, which is WRONG!

2. A world system encourages us to envy.

What is advertisement if not something to make us unhappy with what we have? Want, anger, & resentment blended together becomes envy.

A Danish proverb claims, “If envy were an illness all the world would have a fever.” One wonders when we look at the present financial condition of our nation & the world, how great a part envy has played & continues to play. On Main Street as well as Wall Street there seems to be an envious spirit that feels merely being a millionaire is humiliating.

Envy is the twin of jealousy, though they’re not quite the same. Jealousy is concerned with not losing what it has while envy makes a rival of anyone who has what it wants. Both envy & jealousy stem from pride & deep self-centeredness so one sin begets another.

3. Envy poisons relationships.

Gore Vidal, a humanist author said famously, “Whenever a friend succeeds, a little part of me dies.” How sad is that, when even the good fortune of a friend can conjure up envy? How small is the heart that has no room to celebrate another person’s happiness?

You & I don’t envy people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs or The Queen of England. We envy our dear friend or relative. Is this not tragic? If we have a friend who makes the same amount of money as we do, & he suddenly is making several thousand a year more than we earn, or maybe someone dies & leaves him some money, he appears less dear. In fact now he displays faults we never saw before. As we began to castigate this friend, we remain unaware of what’s going on in our head & heart.

The 800 lb.Gorilla in the room is we feel we’ve been left behind by our friend. We feel he has belittled us. In truth, he never intended to belittle us & in truth his money didn’t belittle us. But non-the-less we are as certain as we are that the sun rises in the east that our friend is now belittling us. Then, we think that we can restore ourselves to our rightful size by knocking our friend down.

Now we’re slipping are we not? Envy is always bent on leveling. So, end of relationship! Right?

4. The equation—Envy, belittlement, anger, self-rejection.

Envy causes us to be downhearted. Someone else having something we lack has caused us to feel like losers & now we find ourselves caught up in self-loathing. We think “how could they do this to me?” The more anyone tries to love us out of the mullygrubs, the worse we feel.

The Psalmist cries out— “my feet had almost slipped. I nearly fractured both legs, plus my spine & skull. I was nearly immobile. I almost went insane when I became envious of the prosperous.”

You may think “insane” is a little too strong a word for the Psalmist but if you read what he says next you’ll see how absolutely irrational he’s getting. He says,

These prosperous people have no pangs. They don’t suffer. They aren’t as finite & frail as we non-prosperous folk.”

See how silly he’s getting? But let’s be honest; when we’re envious of someone don’t we think of them as if they’ve “got it made?” Not only that, we think they can never be “unmade,” right? They can never suffer misfortune of any kind. Because they’re protected from financial loss, they are also protected from human loss of any kind. We go on in our foolishness to assume these prosperous folk are riding a gravy train with biscuit wheels.

5. Envy blinds us to so many things.

We have no compassion for the person we envy because they’ve “got it so good.” They are totally pain free & affliction proof. See how crazy envy can make us?

Envy poisons, envy embitters, envy blinds, envy turns us into self-pitying, self-righteous snivelers. It’s no wonder no one will admit to being envious. Who would brag that they are a poisonous, embittered, self-righteous whiner?

Listen to the Psalmist;

“All in vain have I kept my heart clean”, the Psalmist whines in his envy, “I have kept my heart clean & I received nothing for it.”
The truth is, he hasn’t kept his heart clean. He may have kept his hands clean in that as yet he has done nothing visibly wrong. But his heart? How can he pretend to have a clean heart when he is envious & his envy has turned him into a pitiless critic? No, he hasn’t kept his heart clean.

ENVY IS A LARGE SUBJECT IN THE BIBLE

Envy is listed as one of the lusts of the flesh in Gal.5:21.

When envy is compared to anger & wrath, it’s so ghastly that the question is raised, “who is able to stand before envy?” It’s possible to be envious of anything; the ability to hit a baseball, score a basket, or water-ski. You can envy someone’s intelligence, wisdom, knowledge, & ability to talk or pray in public. You can envy another person’s possessions, spouse, money, children, family, job or career. I heard a preacher say once that some folk can be envious of the very “shine on your shoes.”

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of the New Testament defines envy as “The feeling of displeasure produced by witnessing or hearing of the advantage or prosperity of others.”

Envy is one of the most subtle, & ugly sins of them all. Webster defines envy as;

“A chagrin or discontent at the excellence or good fortune of another.”

In other words, envy is feeling bad about another person doing well. When our neighbor gets a five bedroom house & we are upset because we only have four, that’s envy. Eventually the envious person will end up hating the person who is the object of their envy.

When someone you envy gets into trouble, it’s hard to suppress a feeling of satisfaction. The face of envy is never attractive. It is among some of the most debasing & degenerate sins that ever characterized sinful men mentioned in Romans chapter one (Rom.1:29.) In the Bible, envy is always in the worst of company.

PRAY TELL WHERE IS THE GRATIFICATION IN ENVY?

Envy is unique. Other sins are terribly destructive, but they at least have a few thrills & gratification, in the early stages.

Does envy, even for a minute ever make you feel better? As far as I can see, we gain nothing from envy. All you get from it is endless self-torment, yet its appetite is ravenous & ever increasing. The wise man said envy is “the rottenness of the bones.” Bone Cancer. (Prov.14:30.)

The awful bite of envy packs a double-whammy; for it causes you not only to feel bad because of someone else’s good fortune, at the same time it causes you to devalue your own good gifts. Isn’t that horrendous?

For example, I can hear another preacher who is outstanding, & if I’m envious, my first tendency is to think of myself as a very unskillful preacher. What I forget is-- that preacher didn’t steal his gifts from me. I’m just as good (or bad) a preacher as I ever was. That preacher hasn’t done one thing to devalue, or diminish my preaching. But that old devil envy has robbed me of the ability to appreciate what I have, & who I am in God.

Yet with this thing called envy, when you meet someone you think might have more gifts & skills than you, you start to see yourself as having fewer gifts. Such is the awesome power of envy to distort our thinking processes.

BUT YOU HAVEN’T HEARD THE WORST ABOUT ENVY

Just feeling bad because you don’t have something that the other person has isn’t the worst part. The worst part, the most tragic part is; you wish the other person didn’t have what they have so you wouldn’t have to suffer your “imaginary disadvantage.”

Jesus knew how harmful envy could be. Not only is He God, he was schooled in the Hebrew religion & its many illustrations of the destructive power of envy. The Bible abounds with examples of unchecked envy & its dire consequences. Envy has a very high mortality rate.

• The very first murder, the killing of Abel by his brother Cain, was sparked by envy.

• The 10th commandment is about envy-“You shall not covet.” If we’re not careful, envy will cause us to break the 8th commandment, “You shall not steal.”
• Envy is the big factor in the story Jesus told about the laborers in the vineyard, in Matt. 20. Look at the story. The owner of the vineyard, at the end of the day paid all the workers the same though some came early & some came later in the day. The workers who worked hard all day felt it wasn’t fair to be paid the same as the ones who only worked a short time. However, the owner reminded them that he hadn’t defrauded them in any way. They were paid what was agreed upon. The owner went on to say,

Why are you envious because I am generous?”

The same thing was happening in the story of the prodigal son. The older brother said, “It isn’t fair for you to welcome this wayward brother home with a big party when I’ve stayed home all these years & worked hard. You never gave a party in my honor.”

• Joseph’s brothers were “moved with envy”& hated him so much they couldn’t speak a kind word to him, & finally they sold him into Egyptian slavery.

• The religious leaders were motivated by envy when they lead the Jews to crucify the Son of God. -Matt. 27:18.

• Rachel envied Leah because she was barren & Leah had children. Gen.30:1.

• The Philistines were envious of Isaac because of his large flocks & many servants. Gen. 26:14.

• James says envy is devilish. James 3:15.

All we have to do is look at the 73rd Psalm to see how unhappy envy can make a person.

One thing is for certain. We will never be able to find contentment in this life if we compare ourselves to others because there’ll always be things that won’t seem fair. Envy makes it impossible to be happy with another person’s good fortune. It makes sense that envy & depression are great traveling companions.

In the middle of Psalm 73 the Psalmist has a moment of clarity. He starts to realize how badly he’s gotten off the beam. He gets a revelation on what envy is doing to him & what it can do to those around him. The New English Bible puts it;

Had I let myself talk on this fashion I would have betrayed the family of God.”

But the Psalmist needs more than he’s able to figure out on his own. He needs God. He says;

I went to the sanctuary of God & there I understood the situation the people I envy are really in.”
You will probably remember the death of John Kennedy Jr. in 1999. Kennedy was flying his wife & a friend of hers from New York to Massachusetts late one July afternoon. Not being cleared for flying on instruments, he made his plans to get to his destination before dark. However, because of delays he found himself flying over the ocean in darkness. The darkness made it impossible to keep his equilibrium by lining up with the horizon.

Expert pilots explained that Kennedy experienced disorientation or vertigo, a condition that allowed him to be flying upside down & not realize it. Then he lost airspeed & the plane stalled going into what pilots call the “graveyard spiral.” Kennedy lost his bearings in the darkness & kept saying, “where’s the ground?”

This is what insane envy did to the Psalmist. It caused him to lose orientation with “the ground.” He became spiritually disoriented. The only way you & I can keep from slipping & crashing is to re-orient ourselves constantly. For us that groundedness is God.

The only way we can avoid a crash is to stay in constant contact with God. As soon as that crazy thinking sets in, like the Psalmist, we must run to our heavenly Father for help. As the Psalmist enters the Sanctuary of God he is able to checkmate any further spin-offs & return to his “right mind.”

As we come to the end of Psalms 73, the Psalmist can scarcely believe how seriously absurd his thinking had became. He said,-I was stupid & ignorant,” he cries to God. “I was like a beast toward thee. I was insensitive to God & couldn’t see it.”

As his envy evaporates, sound thinking returns & he knows he’s been on the cusp of a catastrophe. He came within an eyelash of a “death-spiral.”

As Psalm 73 comes to a close, the Psalmist asks God,

Whom have I in heaven but thee? God is the strength of my heart & my portion forever.
This Psalm is a study in the pathology of envy. It also shows us the way to be delivered from poisonous envy, which can be a fatal condition.

Listen to the Apostle Peter’s words;

Wherefore laying aside all malice & all guile & all hypocrisies & all envying & all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of The Word that ye may grow thereby, if ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. 1 Peter 2:1-2

Envy is a product of our old fallen nature. For that reason we can’t fight it in our flesh. Envy at its core is grasping, & godliness at its core is emptying.

Envy tells us that there isn’t enough & what we have & isn’t adequate.

Paul said;

But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:19

Instead of having a list of all the things you don’t possess, make a list of all you have. The writer of Proverbs reminds us;

……but he that is of a merry heart, has a continual feast.—Proverbs 15:15


Blessings,


John

Sunday, December 7, 2014

ABUSE OF POWER

By John Stallings


Why did the writers have to put this story in the Bible?



It would have been so easy to leave it out. This is such an evil & appalling episode in a man’s life it could easily have been swept under the rug. Why tell everything?

Some writers & painters throughout history have reconstructed the scenes in this story to make the women a seductress, deliberately displaying her charms in front of the poor hapless man -making him a victim. They would have us believe the man in the story was lured into the relationship.

But the Bible makes it clear. The woman in this story wasn’t responsible for what happened to her. She was simply going through the ritual of taking a bath.

I’ve been sickened at times hearing preachers [few, thankfully] depict this woman preening, styling & profiling & trying to get the man’s eye. That never happened. The Bible says not one word, not one suggestion, nary even a hint that this woman has any agenda of her own nor any part to play- beyond being the object of a powerful man’s lust & greed. Sad to say the woman was “collateral damage.”

Women who live in countries where God is honored & the gospel is preached, should get down on their knees in praise & honor to a Savior that has raised their gender above the level of beasts of burden. One only has to fly mere minutes by jet from the United States to see that multitudes of women in our world are still treated as nothing more than chattel. Where the gospel goes, women are released & elevated.

WHAT WE HAVE HERE IS A ROYAL POWER-TRIP

Of course I speak of King David & Bathsheba. David was anointed king behind Saul’s back, even while Saul was still king. David was brave, strong, clever & handsome. The kind of guy legends are based on. He made Israel a nation to be reckoned with, a secure land in which to live. David was a king anointed by a prophet of God. I thought about it & I can’t think of a man alive today or for that matter- a man I’ve read about in recent history that, considering all his gifts could stand in David’s shadow. However, if David were alive today we might raise our eyebrow at his warlike tendencies & we’d definitely raise them at the story we’re considering now.

Having risen from his siesta one afternoon, David noticed Bathsheba, the wife of one of his most devoted men, Uriah. He called for her & seduced her. On discovering that she was pregnant he made arrangements to get the husband brought home on leave so it would look as if he was the father.

But it didn’t work & David ended up having Uriah murdered, bringing Bathsheba into his harem, as if he didn’t have enough wives already. Power had finally gotten to David’s head. He had come to see himself as someone who could use power to get whatever he wanted. One brave soul, the prophet Nathan dared to criticize him & to his credit David accepted the criticism & repented.

But the consequences of David’s abuse of power were horrific for all concerned. Bathsheba lost not only her husband but also her child & was obliged to marry the killer of her husband & her seducer. All she could do was bow to David’s power, the oppressor & the oppressed inexorably bound together.

In this one act, an act that more than qualifies as a terrible sin plus a hideous crime, David sets himself up as a paradigm of the abuse of power. If there ever was a power grab this was it & Bathsheba fell victim to it. It all happened very quickly. There is nothing I can find in the story that says David is interested in anything more than a one night, or afternoon stand with Bathsheba. No love or affection is mentioned & no lasting relationship is desired. David is done with her until she sends him the message, “I’m pregnant.” That changes everything. This thing isn’t over.

Just a few words about sexual sins; in today’s culture, people seem to think sexual sins are just about like all the others. We even say-in the eyes of God; sexual sin is a sin alright but so is lying & stealing. However, we’d do well not to be so blasé on this subject. Sexual sin has many consequences other sins don’t have, such as feelings of guilt, self-condemnation, anxiety, damaged self-esteem, hypocrisy, emptiness, anger, depression, dishonesty, wasted time, diminished effectiveness, regret, abortion, crime, punishment, disease & death. Sexual sin harms our testimony & our usefulness to God.

But, there’s good news. We have a God who will forgive us of every sin & remove it from us as far as the east is from the west. However, it’s always good to keep the aforementioned things in mind less like David; we are tricked into thinking that our actions won’t have any negative repercussions. As we’ve shown, all sin is sin but sexual sins have a different stigma & the long term effect can certainly be more devastating.

It seems to be difficult if not impossible, outside the grace of God for a human being with power to maintain their integrity. If we look closely at Abuse of Power it takes on the attributes of a plague, a rampant- infectious disease. It takes extraordinary integrity, insight, & strength of character to have power & not abuse it.

People in power somehow have always felt above the law. Social mores & legal codes that the rest of us follow to maintain order in our society don’t apply to them. They assume that respecting others & their rights no longer applies. They feel that to show their power, maintain it & accomplish their agendas they can break all the rules, thinking that the end justifies the means.

Here’s something interesting.

In 2 Samuel 11, we are given the details of David’s sin with Bathsheba. Earlier in this piece when I questioned why the writers of the Bible would include David’s awful sin, maybe you thought, “Stallings, the writers didn’t have any choice. God saw to it that this sin was to be exposed.”

If this was your thought, I would then direct you to 1 Chronicles 20 where the same story is again told but told a little differently. Chronologically this passage of scripture speaks of the exact time in David’s life but the entire disastrous episode with Bathsheba & Uriah is left out. The whole catastrophic story in David’s life & career is glossed over. Thankfully in 2 Samuel 11the story is preserved in detail. In this passage we get a complete picture of David as a human being.

In the interest of full disclosure, it very well might be the writer of first Chronicles felt it best not to commit overkill on the subject of David’s sin with Bathsheba. It’s possible that leaving it out in this passage was saying-we already know that part so why obsess over it? Anyway, the point remains that all this could have been hushed-up but God saw fit to let the world know about it.

Keep in mind this is David we’re talking about. David the anointed one, -whose linage will produce the Messiah. In getting a full & complete picture of David’s life we are allowed the chance to find ourselves in him. We’re allowed to see what it means to fail, what the consequences are & how God relates to us in the midst of our failings, working to redeem us & the damage we’ve done.

Again, women in David’s time were considered property, first of their fathers, & later their husbands. Which may explain why the narrative says nothing about Bathsheba’s reaction to any of this, or why she goes so calmly to David afterward to tell him she’s pregnant, or why after the mourning for her husband is over, following his death in battle, there’s no mention of resistance on her part to becoming a part of David’s harem.

A CLOSER LOOK AT POWER

Have you ever considered how much frustration & anger manifests because we feel powerless in a situation? Power is a dynamic in every relationship. Power exists in national & international relationships as well as on a smaller scale of relationships within our families, our colleagues or employees & our friends. In each of these relationships we are faced with a choice between using that power to serve our own needs & wants & using it to meet the needs of others. We can empower each other or try to overpower each other.

YOU AND I MAY NOT BE COMPLETELY INNOCENT HERE

We’ll get back to David but we may need to do a “mirror check” right about now. We all have power of some sort. Maybe it’s parental power, the power of a caregiver, pastoral power, chairman of a committee or company, a therapist’s power or the power of an attorney or banker. We all have power of some kind & none of us are immune to the temptations to abuse it.

Maybe that’s the reason the Bible writers preserved this horrendous chapter of David’s life. God, ever the great storyteller, must have felt this true story would be a warning to us all.

Fear of losing power is scary to many people because there’s a myth that somehow there isn’t enough power to go around, so you & I both can’t have it. This is crazy on its face. If I have power that doesn’t mean you can’t have it. Like oxygen, there’s enough power to go around. The real issue is how we’ll use that power.

The Bible trumpets & teaches us emphatically that the abuse of power is almost as common as breathing in the human family. In that respect --“all have sinned & come short of the glory of God.”

NABOTH’S VINEYARD

In the book of 1 Kings there’s the story of a little guy named Naboth. It’s not a pleasant story. It’s a story of the abuse of power. King Ahab wants Naboth’s little vineyard because it’s so close to his palace. Ahab’s wife Jezebel schemes to get it for him by having Naboth falsely accused & killed. Once Naboth is dead, Ahab takes possession of the little plot of land but soon Elijah finds out about it & pronounces God’s judgment on him for it.

Naboth refused to sell his land because he got it as a result of an inheritance. As a matter of fact, he tells Ahab, “The Lord forbid that I should give you my ancestral inheritance.” There are many places to “hang our theological hats” in this story.

We have here a henpecked husband & a conniving, manipulative wife. Although Ahab repented, & acknowledged his sin he still didn’t’ escape the consequences of his deeds. Elijah told Jezebel that soon dogs would lick her blood from the street & that indeed was the case in short order. This is just another example of God looking with disdain on the powerful throwing their weight around & it will always culminate in judgment.

SARAH, ABRAHAM AND HAGAR

What can these three teach us about abuse of power? The story is in Genesis 16. Our matriarch feels powerless to bear children so she suggests her husband & Hagar, their servant girl produce a child. Isn’t this the most harebrained idea that ever came down the pike?

This is never going to work. When Hagar has the child Sarah feels she’s been lowered in Hagar’s eyes. After all, Hagar is pregnant with Abraham’s seed. She becomes furious & asked her husband to intercede & old Abe doesn’t use his power right. As a matter of fact he gives his power away to his wife -& Sarah, in her pitiful jealous rage deals harshly with the servant girl.

Now on the Lam, Hagar runs into the desert & she is soon sitting & crying because her son is near death. God intervenes for Hagar & sends an angel to save them. God is the only one in this story who uses His power for good.

IMHO THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ABUSES  POWER

Some things about the president haven’t shocked me. I knew he’d never so much as ran a candy store .

However, I’ll have to admit that even I have been shocked by president Obama’s clueless ness about the mood of Americans & what they want. The man who smashed the Clinton machine, almost from the time he walked into the Oval office has been disjointed & alienated from the people who put him there.

The recent"shellacking" handed to president Obama, by giving the Senate to his opponents, IMHO, was such a shock to his system that he immediately confirmed the old saying that  "Denial is more than a river in Egypt."

To me it seems like he doesn’t care that huge chunks of the country have given up on him. When a large percentage of the country are saying they don’t want ObamaCare, nor do they approve of the way He's bypassing Congress in the illegal alien situation , can we categorize Obama’s uncaring attitude to what the country wants as anything other than abuse of power, when he persists in ramming things down the throats of the people-all in the name of, “I don’t give up?”

What do you call it when voters by a large margin have said for months they don’t want his brand of healthcare so he pushes it even harder? I call it abuse of power. People thought he & his Chicago buddies would deliver bipartisanship bur he insists on giving his hard-left allies the keys to the kingdom.

Obama supporters worry about terrorism so he wants to close Gitmo & move the worst of the worst to the homeland. His approval ratings drop like a rock & over 60% say the country is on the wrong track & he responds by giving himself a “good solid B-plus” for his first years. Each & every day new voices in his own party are saying-“he just doesn’t get it.”

The story we’re considering about ancient king David is obviously a story from the distant past. But when you look at some of its salient points & compare them with our current president, it seems shockingly similar, especially as regards abuse of power. To be fair, I must say Obama isn't the first to do this & probably won't be the last.

When something goes wrong, it’s not Obama’s fault. - “greedy” insurance companies, doctors who cut off limbs just for the money, special interests, the media—have all taken their turns being blamed for what he hasn’t fixed. One thing for sure—the buck doesn’t stop at Obama’s desk.

BACK TO DAVID

It seems that being God’s anointed isn’t enough to save David from his own nature. When David hears Bathsheba is pregnant, he must now go into damage-control mode. He sends word to Joab his general & asks him to send Uriah back from the battlefield for consultations with the king.

You have to admit David has come up with a rather simple plan to take care of his problem.


THINGS GET OUT OF CONTROL

Up to now David has been in control of his life, but watch how that control slips away from him. Now everything is basically in the hands of others.

Understand that I don’t take a super-spiritual attitude about sexual temptations. I’ve always been as red-blooded as other normal men & certainly know what temptation is. But I’ve never really understood how a preacher could commit adultery & think he’s going to walk away from it as if it never happened. Doesn’t he know anything about human nature? Better yet, doesn’t he understand women any better than that?

I’ve often said, “If I ever, God forbid, commit adultery, I hope I’d have a better excuse than—“I thought she’d keep the secret, I thought she wouldn’t tell.” What does an individual whose committed adultery do when the phone rings late at night or a mysterious knock comes at their door? There are many warnings given in God’s word about sexual sins, but if that wasn’t the case, if the Bible was silent about it, to me one of the reasons not to do it, other than concerns about your own character, & your love for your spouse, would be-you have to put your life & reputation in another person’s hands, & like David, your life isn’t your own anymore.

Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband came back from battle & David did everything he could to get the boy to go home but noooooo—he wasn’t going home. He turns out to have more integrity than the king. He’s a straight-up kind of guy. Since he couldn’t get Uriah to go home, David’s cover story starts to fall apart. His scheme didn’t work. Isn’t this about as repulsive a story as you’ve ever heard?

DAVID’S FINAL, UGLY ACT OF POWER ABUSE

David orders Uriah into one of the sharpest areas of battle & gets him killed. David has solved his problem or so he thinks. At last he can breathe freely again. His neck is out of the noose. Or is it? God is still going to face him with his sin by sending Nathan. The sword will never depart from David’s house.

So the last word hasn’t been spoken yet in David’s tangled web. David feels a relief but a relief that won’t last.

That human beings will abuse power seems to be a given. A fact of life. Let’s be honest... David’s actions were appalling but hardly stand out from what the leaders of our day do routinely.

Though we pray we’ll never do anything on the scale of what David did, we can find ourselves in this story; coveting what isn’t rightly ours; forgetting who we are & whose we are, hurting or stepping on others to get what we want; taking great measures to cover up what we’ve done; using others who seem nameless & inconsequential like Bathsheba for our own gain.

How we or anyone uses their power is a choice we make. The choice can only be truly made by staying in touch with the real power through prayer & communion with God.

David & his family paid a heavy price for his abusive moment of self-indulgence but God wasn't finished with him just as He isn't finished with us. He's in this project called humanity for the long haul. I think it no accident that hundreds of years after David passed; Matthew began his gospel with a list of ancestors of Jesus. He did something rarely if ever done in Jewish genealogies; he named a number of women among Jesus’ ancestors & one of them is Bathsheba.

Matthew understood that no abuse can ever thwart God’s power to redeem & create new beginnings.

That should give us hope that even the destructive consequences of our own abuses of power may be forgiven & redeemed as well.


Blessings,


John

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Spots In Your Love Feast

By John Stallings


Writing has been one of the most humbling things I’ve ever attempted. 

If you read this blog much you’ll know that I make  mistakes though I try,- I really try to get it right. One of my drawbacks is that I type by the scriptural method, “seek and ye shall find.”

HEY JUDE!

Jude, a brother of Jesus seemed to have no such problem. He was a magnificent writer. He had a way with words, & was especially the master of metaphor. He doesn’t just tell you something, he paints a word picture. I wish I could have heard him preach.Jude must have looked a lot like Jesus because Mary & Joseph were also his parents. Maybe he even sounded something like Jesus when he spoke. The same Galilean accent; the same mannerisms. Jesus drew word pictures with parables. Jude did it with short phrases that were rich in texture & in meaning.In verses 12-13, Jude says some very interesting things.

JUDE CONTRASTS “AUTHENTIC CHRISTIANITY” WITH “SYNTHETIC CHRISTIANITY.”

If you were to ask the average Christian today what a church meeting was like in the days of the apostles, you’d probably get difference answers. A Charismatic person would feel that the early church service consisted of singing & preaching & the exercise of the gifts of the Spirit, & they’d be partially correct.Many other people would no doubt believe the early church services were mostly a celebration, featuring the Lord’s Supper & the symbolic elements of bread & wine. They also would be partially right.

This may shock you but a dominate part of the worship of those early Christians was centered around a meal! That’s right—a meal! The early Christians referred to this meal as the “agape meal” or love feast. What happened to this meal? Well; it fell through the cracks over time for various & sundry reasons.Jude explains that counterfeit Christians had infiltrated his church.

First he says; These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves.What is Jude talking about here? What does…spots in your love feast… mean?The love feast would be equivalent to our covered dish suppers. They would combine these meals with The Lord’s Supper. The early church didn’t just meet for an hour or so, they got together & worshipped & ate together. They called these “Love feasts” because they were characterized by Christian fellowship & love.

The problem with these love feasts was that some who came didn’t exhibit love. Sound familiar? These people came in their sin, with raunchy attitudes, with no intention of repenting thereby spurning the gracious love of God.Paul was dealing with these types when he talked to the Corinthians. He talks to them about the divisions & factions that were destroying the unity of the church. With Paul & with Jude, people were actually coming to the love feast early & eating all the food.

So when the late folk came after long days of work there was no food left. The early-birds had stuffed themselves with food & wine & some were lying around “three sheets in the wind.”In Jude’s church there were “spots in your love feast…serving only themselves.Christianity has two distinct groups; those who are authentic & serve God, & those who are synthetic & serve only themselves.

HAVE YOU EVER HEAR ANYONE SAY- “I STOPPED GOING TO CHURCH BECAUSE I WASN’T GETTING ANYTHING OUT OF IT?”

Certainly a church should be a feeding station where we can get our souls fed. But there’s a fine line between- “I wasn’t getting anything out of it,” & “I go where I can get the most for my money.” Or “I’m looking for the best show in town.” The bottom line is; True Christianity is about true love. Everything else is just the surface appearance of Christianity.

Listen to Pastor James;Pure religion & undefiled before God & the Father is this, to visit the fatherless & widows in their affliction & to keep himself UNSPOTTED from the world.—James 1:27.

Have you ever considered that a church service is a lot like the old schools sixty or seventy years ago, when one classroom had grades one through twelve? I don’t know how those teachers did it because they had to see to it that each of those grade-levels were challenged & taught helpful lessons.When a church meets, the same thing is happening on a spiritual level. The pastors & teachers have to literally have something for everybody. One of the old time preachers put it this way; “There are spiritual Giraffes & spiritual Chihuahuas in every service.” This makes it a little difficult for ministry & without the Holy Spirit taking the things of God & revealing them to the people, nothing much would happen.

The next time you go to church, & you aren’t getting what you feel you need, & you feel the message is above your head, think about this; maybe God is looking out for the spiritual Giraffes that day. Or if you feel the Word is too elementary, maybe God is feeding the spiritual Chihuahuas that service.Jude uses other metaphors to describe these folk who are serving self only but I want to stick with the love metaphor here.There are several different kinds of love. There’s romantic love, family love, brotherly love & Agape love.AGAPE LOVE. John uses agape love in 1 John 4:7-11;

Beloved let us love one another; for love is of God and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.He that loveth not knoweth not God for God is love. In this was manifest the love of God toward us because that God sent His only begotten son into the world that we might live through Him……beloved if God so loved us we ought also to love one another.

John does a great job here of teaching us about agape love. He tells us that as Christians we should be exhibiting agape love. He tells us where Agape love comes from; he tells us what it looks like & shows us if we have this kind of love we’ll be a blessing to others.But here’s the kicker; you & I aren’t actually capable of this kind of love. It isn’t going to happen. That is- in our own strength. We can’t love like that. As humans we’re just incapable. So in short John is asking us to do something we can’t do. You don’t have agape love & I don’t have agape love. We can produce family love & brotherly love & romantic love but we can’t produce agape love. It’s beyond humans to have sacrificial, God-like agape love.

The Beatles sang—All you need is love…& then they broke up. So how are we to fulfill this mandate to love—agape—others? John tells us that if we are born of God we know Him. That means to intimately know Him. If you & I are true believers who’ve committed our lives to Christ, then we know God.

AGAPE LOVE IS BEYOND OUR PAY GRADE

Do you remember the “pot-bellied” craze a few years ago when people were spending hundreds of dollars to own one of those exotic house pets imported from Vietnam? Well, this craze started when breeders of these particular animals claimed that these mini-pigs were very smart & that they would only grow to a weight of 40 lbs. For some reason people loved the idea of a smart mini-pig running around the house because thousands of these pigs were sold.Well it turned out the breeders were only half-right. The pigs were smart. Some could even be trained to walk on leashes & use litter boxes.

But they often grew to be as much as 150 lbs or more! I heard of one that grew to weigh 250 lbs & when the truth came out, as the pigs grew older they could become openly aggressive-not at all pet-like.So what did the people do with their unwanted pot-bellied pigs? Fortunately, according to U.S News & World Report, a man named Dale Riffle came to the rescue. Dale was given a pig as a gift & he fell in love with it—even though it never learned to use its litter-box & developed a tendency to eat carpet, wall paper, & dry wall.

Dale loved his pig so much that he sold his suburban home & moved with his pig to a 5-acre farm in West Virginia…& then he started taking in unwanted pigs. Before long the guy was living in “Hog heaven.”

When the article was written Dale had 180 pig residents on his farm enjoying a luxurious lifestyle! The little porkers snooze on a bed of pine shavings & wallow in mud puddles. They wait in line for one of Dale’s belly-rubs. These little rascals never fear that they’ll someday become bacon or pork chops. Not surprising, there’s a waiting list for unwanted pigs to get a hoof in the door at Dale’s ranch. At last report none of the pigs had ever had lipstick put on them which is comforting to know. In Dales’ own words; “We’re all put on earth for some reason & I guess pigs are my lot in life.”

It seems strange to me that anyone would fall so in love with pigs, especially if they were in their right mind.But let’s be frank; isn’t it even more amazing that a perfectly holy God is passionately in love with we who are so imperfect, so openly rebellious & frequently indifferent?Listen to the way God describes & paints the human race in...

 Romans 3:10-17;

There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away; they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing & bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin & misery mark their ways & the way of peace they do not know.

All of us are flawed because of sin but God loves us anyway. Isaiah says our goodness is like filthy rages compared to a holy God.1 John 3:1 says;-

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!

Friend, you & I are utterly unable to generate agape in ourselves. The only way that happens is to be regenerated & born again. When we’re born again, then we have the ability to have this agape love because then we know Christ in an intimate way. Turn it around & it sounds like this; if we don’t have agape love it’s because we don’t know God. John tells us- if we don’t have this agape, sacrificial love, then we don’t know God.

Let me put it in question form; how can we have “the God kind of love, & love others in the way God loves us, if we don’t know God?

How can I do calculus if I don’t know calculus?

How can I speak Portuguese if I don’t know Portuguese?

How can I fly a plane if I don’t know how to fly?

How can I have agape love if I don’t know God who is the essence of that love?God then agape love isn’t within my personal universe.An individual can’t be an agape-loving -person unless they’ve been taken hold of by God & transformed into a loving person. That clears up a lot of things doesn’t it? Have you ever wondered why someone had no love? There’s’ your answer. They don’t know God, thus they can’t have agape love. John doesn’t go into detail about how this happens he just let’s us Know it’s a “God thing” & when we get straightened out with God this loves just comes. John can’t explain it & I certainly can’t because it boggles the human mind. All we know is when we know God He works in us in such a way that we can agape like He agapes. And when this love comes to us, it won’t come as a philosophy, it will come as a force, a living, practical force that we are to live out day by day.

If Jesus said “I feel for you” that would be Sensitivity.

If Jesus said “your sin is illogical” that would be Rational.

If Jesus said “Only bad people sin,” that would be Judgmental.

If Jesus said “Tell me about your problems” that would be Therapy.

If Jesus said “You should have seen it coming” that would be Pity.

If Jesus said, “Relax & try not to think about your failures” that would be Meditative.

If Jesus said “Don’t worry about your sins, things will get better” that would have been blind Optimism.

But Jesus said, “Take my hand & let me pull you out of your sin & forgive you. That’s Agape Love!

HERE’S ANOTHER SURPRISE…

If you looked at John’s language structure in this passage, it would be logical for him to say this; - “since God has loved us with this agape love, then we ought to love Him.” But John doesn’t say that. He says,--Since God loves us with agape love, then we should love one another with agape love. God’s agape is what enables us to agape.The more you & I experience God & walk with him in intimate fellowship, the greater our ability to agape others. The more of God I have the more agape I will have with which to love others.

So what I want to do is experience God as much & as closely as possible, because that’s where I get my power to agape love people. How do I build up my agape love level? I experience God. How do I experience God? By spending more time in His presence. What kinds of things bring me into this intimate fellowship with God? Worship, prayer, Bible study & quite time so that I can take on more of the reflection of God.

Friend, I want to encourage you, if you’re not already doing it, to add a time of quiet each day with God. Over the years I’ve found that this time of closeness where I can press into God & listen to Him as He speaks, has been perhaps the most healing thing in my life. I have found that this & only this gives me a growing ability to love that I just don’t naturally possess.

In verse 12, John says God’s love is perfected or completed in us.Do you have a sense of emptiness in any area of your life? Is there something that eats at you or something that’s missing & you just cant put your finger on it?

In time, as you draw nearer & nearer to God, He’ll make those things that are stressing you now irrelevant. He’ll take the things that seem to be missing & make them inapplicable. How? In the ever increasing experience of the agape love of God, all things pale in comparison.Here is what God envisions for you & me;

….That He might present to Himself a glorious church, without SPOT or wrinkle or any such things; but that it should be holy & without blemish.


Blessings,


John

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Dottie Rambo and me

By John Stallings

This is as close to a “Christian tell-all” as you’ll probably ever read.

I was as shocked & saddened as the rest of the world when I heard a few years back- in the early morning of May eleven, Dottie Rambo slipped through the phantom walls that separate this life from eternity. Heaven must be in a hub-bub as we speak. “Dottie’s home you’ all.”

The first words I spoke to Juda were, “well, Dottie died with her boots on.” How poetic. Dottie went to heaven on Mother’s day. She died as she lived. Always the dramatic. Always the poetic. Always Dottie.

Dottie was four years older than me. She was born in 1934 & I in 1938. When we started off in evangelism in the early 1960’s, we recorded & sang mostly Dottie’s songs. The reason: I hadn’t as yet written songs good enough to sing in our meetings. Maybe I still haven’t.

I can remember the first song of Dottie’s that we sang; “Its me again Lord.”

Here’s something you’d never know if I didn’t tell you. I won a Dove Award before Dottie did. Interesting. Right? But if you’ll stay with me, you’re in for an even greater surprise.

In 1974 I was pastoring a church in Montgomery Alabama. We had just completed the new sanctuary seating just over 1,000. I booked the Rambo’s for a concert that year. They drew a good crowd & “outdid” themselves.

To be frank, Dottie didn’t really know me then & I didn’t know her very well. We never got to know each other very well. Three years later I wrote “Learning to lean” & in 1977 it won Nashville’s Dove award for- Song of the year.”

When Dottie & I were in the same room in Nashville, in a post- Dove Award party, Dottie wouldn’t speak to me. That’s right. Dottie walked right past me, nose in the air & --no speaky.

But wait. That never bothered me because I totally understood. Musicians are a temperamental bunch. The reason she wouldn’t speak was that she was upset. Upset because she’d never gotten a Dove Award. That’s right. The great Dottie Rambo hadn’t as yet ever won a Dove award. This was a travesty. To Dottie, my winning the Dove was “beginners luck.” As far as the Nashville crowd was concerned, I was a “nobody.”

I think Dottie got her Dove five years later with “We shall behold Him.” Listen; if I’d been writing gospel music since I was eight years old & had been overlooked by the Gospel Music Industry, I’m sure I’d have been steamed also.


Please don’t think I put myself on the same level musically with Dottie. I don’t. Dottie had a body of work that was almost beyond comprehension. Songwriting wasn’t something I started out to do in life anyway. Even if it had been, I doubt I could have ever come close to Dottie. She was “the bomb.”

Over the years since she went to heaven, I’ve thought a lot about Dottie. I guess it’s my way of mourning the loss of such a gigantic talent/ministry. I’ve taken another look at her work & learned lots about her I never knew. She wrote songs of unimpeachable truth from a deep well of insight into truth of the heart's experience & the soul's knowledge.

I’ve often jokingly told people “I started out young.” Didn’t we all? But with Dottie Rambo that’s no joke. She started writing songs at eight & she caught Governor Jimmy Davis’ eye when she was ten. I was just learning to wave buh-bye at that age.

Have you given any thought to the irony of Dottie’s passing? Her most famous early song was “Sheltered in the arms of God,” & it talks about how she’s protected from the storms of life. Investigators say it’s almost certain her tour bus was blown off the road by strong winds that were blowing across the state at the time she was killed. One line in that song says, “I have no fear for naught of earth can harm me.”

But right here is where the Christian faith is so different, so magnificent. When we’re in God’s hands He protects us & if anything hits us it only moves us closer to Him. We also believe in Healing but if we die, God has just totally healed us, we’re with Him.

Paul said, “To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.” Dottie suffered right up to her death with back pain & had gone through nine serious back operations in her life. To utter an understatement; Dottie’s not suffering now; she’s sheltered in the arms of God eternally

Dottie died early in the morning on Mother’s Day on a starless night somewhere by the side of the road. In years to come, should Christ tarry, every Mother’s Day we’ll automatically think of Dottie. She died so unexpectedly. I hope & pray none of her loved-ones were giving her the old “cold-shoulder” at the time, if so, Mother's Day to them will always mean something very different.

One last thing; I’ve been asking myself why I never wrote Dottie when she was alive & told her what an inspiration she was to me. It’s too late now. But I’m not going to let the Devil beat my brains out over it. Let’s see, who else is there who's still breathing I could write & give some affirmation to? So, so many, & you can believe I’ll get right on it.

Perhaps Dottie’s’ greatest song, the one that won her The Dove Award was, “We shall behold Him.” She doesn’t need that Blessed Hope anymore, she’s with The Master eternally, but you & I certainly do.

Aren’t you glad she left these words?

We shall behold Him, we shall behold Him,
Face to face, in all of His glory.
And we shall behold Him; yes we shall behold Him,
Face to face, our Saviour and Lord.


Congrats on your promotion Dottie. We’ll miss you, but we'll see you soon!

Blessings,

John

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Nine Ways To Say "No Thanks"-A Thanksgiving Message

By John Stallings


I once read the story of a young Canadian student in 1860 who was awakened one night by the sound of two ships colliding.

His name was Ed Spencer. He jumped out of bed, saw the situation and being a strong swimmer, jumped in and started swimming out to the rescue. Many passengers of those ships died that night but Ed’s willingness to risk his life saved seventeen of them.

Ed suffered from paralysis after that night and wasn’t able to complete his studies, basically becoming an invalid for the rest of his life. Years later, now an old man living in California, Ed was interviewed by a Los Angeles paper and asked what he recalled about the rescue. “Only this” replied Ed, “of the seventeen I saved, not one of them ever thanked me.”

Someone has said, “Of all the emotions we human beings experience, gratitude is the hardest for us to feel.”

A SIMPLE ENOUGH STORY, WITH A FAMILIAR RING

Luke 17:11-19 tells the story of ten men suffering from leprosy that Jesus healed and sent on their way. One turns back, happy and thankful to Jesus. But Jesus asks,

“Were there not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?” Can none be found to return and give Glory to God except this outsider?” Message Bible.—

This sounds so eerily familiar that it reminds us of one of our first childhood lessons; “What do say when you’re given something? Thank you. Okay, good for you.”

I often wonder when reading this story, was Jesus upset, surprised, amazed or disappointed; or maybe a combination of them all.

THERE ARE SEVERAL BOXES IN THIS STORY.

1. THE BOX OF LEPROSY.


We know enough about leprosy to know it’s a dirty disease, a horrible flesh eating sickness and no one can recover from it. In Bible days a person infected with the disease had to give up home and family and live outside the social matrix because of its contagious nature. The physical suffering was compounded by the fact that lepers were social exiles, they were forever unclean.

Lepers were boxed in, not only by the disease, but because of its contagious nature they were considered ritually unclean. A leper was allowed no contact with non-lepers, and that’s why, in this story, the lepers “stood at a distance” when they called out to Jesus. They stood far off like wounded animals with rags wrapped around their hands. Others had their feet wrapped up with pieces of cloth. They could stay just close enough to society to allow them to beg, as long as they cried loudly, unclean, unclean, unclean.

Think what it would be like to have leprosy. It’s hard to think about. Imagine the waiting, the hoping, wondering how long it will take and how much suffering will be experienced before death.

There was a very famous leper in the Old Testament named Naaman. His story is in 2 Kings 5.Naaman was boxed in by pride and anger and almost lost his miracle because of it. He finally dipped seven times in a muddy little river, quiet beneath his dignity, but his obedience enabled him to escape the terrible box of leprosy.

2. THE RACIAL BOX.

We are not told specifically if the non-returning lepers were Jews, but the fact that Jesus makes much of the tenth and thankful leper being a “foreigner” or Samaritan, seems to imply it. Also the fact that the Jews and Samaritans fraternize in this story is in itself an “out-of-the-box” experience. It’s also out-of-the-box for a Samaritan to be willing to come back and thank a Jewish healer.

We remember that in Jesus’ day the Jews looked down on the Samaritans. Racial prejudice is something that is still alive and well in our world. However the gospel of Christ is fundamentally incompatible with racial prejudice.

THE ISSUE IS SIN-NOT SKIN
When God sees this world he doesn’t look at skin color. All people regardless of their race, background or skin color are significant, loved, fallen and redeemable. No race has any advantage over any other race and no group is better than any other group. God doesn’t play favorites and skin color doesn’t matter to Him. Race isn’t an issue with God. “Red and yellow black and white, they are precious in His sight.”

3. THERE WAS THE GEOGRAPHICAL BOX.

We know that Jews tried to avoid traveling through Samaria, yet here is Jesus, Luke tells us, in “the region between Samaria and Galilee.” Jesus was skirting the borderlands, the in-between area that doesn’t fit neatly in any geographical box.

4. JESUS STEPPED OUTSIDE THE HEALING BOX HERE.

Read this story carefully and what do you find; Jesus usually healed with a touch, but in this case He didn’t. As a matter of fact, He didn’t pray, He didn’t pronounce their healing; He did very little except to tell the lepers to go show themselves to the priest. The priests controlled most everything in those days. This approach is indeed out of the box for Jesus.

Priests even functioned as health inspectors. As the lepers started to go at Jesus’ instruction, they noticed that their sores and wounds were drying up, and their blemishes began to disappear. With every step they took they felt stronger, younger, and more energetic. When they rounded the final turn on the way to the village, they were completely healed. It must have been an incredible walk for them.

Think of it—after all their suffering, all of the sudden at the word of a stranger, their loneliness, pain and banishment began to evaporate. In a matter of moments they all had the clean, healthy, supple skin of a baby.

Someone may say, “I don’t believe in divine healing.” That’s O.k. Healing isn’t for you anyway. Healing is for believers. If you’re sick or have a friend or relative who is, here are 101 reasons God will heal those who’ll trust Him for healing;

God said…

1) I am the Lord that healeth thee (Ex. 15:26).
2) Your days shall be one hundred and twenty years (Gen. 6:3).
3) You shall be buried in a good old age (Gen. 15:15).
4) You shall come to your grave in a full age like as a shock of corn cometh in his season (Job 5:26).
5) When I see the blood, I will pass over you and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you (Ex. 12:13).
6) I will take sickness away from the midst of you and the number of your days I will fulfill (Ex. 23: 25, 26).
7) I will not put any of the diseases you are afraid of on you, but I will take all sickness away from you (Deut. 7:15).
8) It will be well with you and your days shall be multiplied and prolonged as the days of heaven upon the earth (Deut. 11:9,21).
9) I turned the curse into a blessing unto you, because I loved you (Deut. 23:5 and Neh. 13:2).
10) I have redeemed you from every sickness and every plague (Deut. 28:61 and Gal. 3:13).
11) As your days, so shall your strength be (Deut. 33:25).
12) I have found a ransom for you, your flesh shall be fresher than a child’s and you shall return to the days of your youth (Job 33:24, 25).
13) I have healed you and brought up your soul from the grave; I have kept you alive from going down into the pit (Ps. 30:1, 2).
14) I will give you strength and bless you with peace (Ps. 29:11).
15) I will preserve you and keep you alive (Ps. 41:2).
16) I will strengthen you upon the bed of languishing; I will turn all your bed in your sickness (Ps. 41:3).
17) I am the health of your countenance and your God (Ps.43: 5).
18) No plague shall come near your dwelling (Ps. 91:10).
19) I will satisfy you with long life (Ps. 91:16).
20) I heal all your diseases (Ps. 103:3).
21) I sent My word and healed you and delivered you from your destructions (Ps.107:20).
22) You shall not die, but live, and declare My works (Ps. 118:17).
23) I heal your broken heart and bind up your wounds (Ps. 147:3).
24) The years of your life shall be many (Pr. 4:10).
25) Trusting Me brings health to your navel and marrow to your bones (Pr. 3:8).
26) My words are life to you, and health/medicine to all your flesh (Pr. 4:22).
27) (My) good report makes your bones fat (Pr. 15:30).
28) (My) pleasant words are sweet to your soul and health to your bones (Pr. 16:24).
29) My joy is your strength. A merry heart does good like a medicine (Neh. 8:10; Pr.17:22).
30) The eyes of the blind shall be opened. The eyes of them that see shall not be dim (Isa. 32:3; 35:5).
31) The ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. The ears of them that hear shall hearken (Isa. 32:3; 35:5).
32) The tongue of the dumb shall sing. The tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly (Isa. 35:6; 32:4).
33) The lame man shall leap as a hart (Isa. 35:6).
34) I will recover you and make you to live. I am ready to save you (Isa. 38:16, 20).
35) I give power to the faint. I increase strength to them that have no might (Isa. 40:29).
36) I will renew your strength. I will strengthen and help you (Isa. 40:31; 41:10).
37) To your old age and gray hairs I will carry you and I will deliver you (Isa. 46:4).
38) I bore your sickness (Isa. 53:4).
39) I carried your pains (Isa. 53:4).
40) I was put to sickness for you (Isa. 53:10).
41) With My stripes you are healed (Isa. 53:5).
42) I will heal you (Isa. 57:19).
43) Your light shall break forth as the morning and your health shall spring forth speedily (Isa. 58:8).
44) I will restore health unto you, and I will heal you of your wounds saith the Lord (Jer.30:17).
45) Behold I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure you, and will reveal unto you the abundance of peace and truth (Jer. 33:6).
46) I will bind up that which was broken and will strengthen that which was sick (Eze.34:16).
47) Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you and you shall live. And I shall put My Spirit in you and you shall live (Eze. 37:5,14).
48) Whithersoever the rivers shall come shall live. They shall be healed and everything shall live where the river comes (Eze. 47:9).
49) Seek Me and you shall live (Amos 5:4, 6).
50) I have arisen with healing in My wings (beams) (Mal. 4:2).

New Testament

51) I will, be thou clean (Mt. 8:3).
52) I took your infirmities (Mt. 8:17).
53) I bore your sicknesses (Mt. 8:17).
54) If you’re sick you need a physician. (I am the Lord your physician) (Mt. 9:12 &
55) I am moved with compassion toward the sick and I heal them (Mt. 14:14).
56) I heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease (Mt. 4:23).
57) According to your faith, be it unto you (Mt. 9:29).
58) I give you power and authority over all unclean spirits to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease (Mt. 10:1 & Lk. 9:1).
59) I heal them all (Mt. 12:15 & Heb. 13:8).
60) As many as touch Me are made perfectly whole (Mt. 14:36).
61) Healing is the children’s bread (Mt. 15:26).
62) I do all things well. I make the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak (Mk. 7:37).
63) If you can believe, all things are possible to him that believeth (Mk. 9:23; 11:23,24).
64) When hands are laid on you, you shall recover (Mk. 16:18).
65) My anointing heals the brokenhearted, and delivers the captives, recovers sight to the blind, and sets at liberty those that are bruised (Lk. 4:18; Isa. 10:27; 61:1).
66) I heal all those who have need of healing (Lk. 9:11).
67) I am not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them (Lk. 9:56).
68) Behold, I give you authority over all the enemy’s power and nothing shall by any means hurt you (Lk. 10:19).
69) Sickness is satanic bondage and you ought to be loosed today (Lk. 13:16 & II Cor.6:2).
70) In Me is life (Jn. 1:4).
71) I am the bread of life. I give you life (Jn. 6:33, 35).
72) The words I speak unto you are spirit and life (Jn. 6:63).
73) I am come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly (Jn. 10:10).
74) I am the resurrection and the life (Jn. 11:25).
75) If you ask anything in My name, I will do it (Jn. 14:14).
76) Faith in My name makes you strong and gives you perfect soundness (Acts 3:16).
77) I stretch forth My hand to heal (Acts 4:30).
78) I, Jesus Christ, make you whole (Acts 9:34).
79) I do good and heal all that are oppressed of the devil (Acts 10:38).
80) My power causes diseases to depart from you (Acts 19:12).
81) The law of the Spirit of life in Me has made you free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2).
82) The same Spirit that raised Me from the dead now lives in you and that Spirit will quicken your mortal body (Rom. 8:11).
83) Your body is a member of Me (I Cor. 6:15).
84) Your body is the temple of My Spirit and you’re to glorify Me in your body (I Cor.6:19, 20).
85) If you’ll rightly discern My body which was broken for you, and judge yourself, you’ll not be judged and you’ll not be weak, sickly or die prematurely (I Cor. 11:29-31).
86) I have set gifts of healing in My body (I Cor. 12:9).
87) My life may be made manifest in your mortal flesh (II Cor. 4:10, 11).
88) I have delivered you from death, I do deliver you, and if you trust Me I will yet deliver you (II Cor. 1:10).
89) I have given you My name and have put all things under your feet (Eph. 1:21, 22).
90) I want it to be well with you and I want you to live long on the earth. (Eph. 6:3).
91) I have delivered you from the authority of darkness (Col. 1:13).
92) I will deliver you from every evil work (II Tim. 4:18).
93) I tasted death for you. I destroyed the devil who had the power of death. I’ve delivered you from the fear of death and bondage (Heb. 2:9, 14, 15).
94) I wash your body with pure water (Heb. 10:22; Eph. 5:26).
95) Lift up the weak hands and the feeble knees. Don’t let that which is lame be turned aside but rather let Me heal it (Heb. 12:12, 13).
96) Let the elders anoint you and pray for you in My name and I will raise you up (Jas.5:14, 15).
97) Pray for one another and I will heal you (Jas. 5:16).
98) By My stripes you were healed (I Pet. 2:24).
99) My Divine power has given unto you all things that pertain unto life and godliness through the knowledge of Me (II Pet. 1:3).
100) Whosoever will let him come and take of the water of life freely (Rev. 22:17).
101) Beloved, I wish above all things that you may…be in health (III Jn. 2


NINE WAYS TO SAY “NO THANKS
"

What if a newspaper of that day had gone to do a story on these nine lepers who didn’t return to thank Jesus? Imagine them gathered in one room and the reporter asking for their side of this story. Let’s first talk to leper, Jim.

1. JIM, what happened to you after Jesus healed you of leprosy? Jim might reply, “Well, I guess I wanted to wait for just a little while longer to see if the cure was real and was going to last. After all, there’s a little thing called “remission” you know. And by the time I realized the healing was the real thing, Jesus was dead.

2. JACK. And how about you jack? “Well I started to wonder if I had ever had leprosy. Whatever I had was much improved so I really didn’t give it much more thought.

3. JASON. “And you Jason, why didn’t you return? “Well, I was grateful for the cure but I had to take my son to his baseball game that day. I have been so busy lately, you wouldn’t believe it. You know now-a-days, I don’t know where the time goes.” And another thing, I was very anxious to just get back to my old life, my old routine.

4. LYLE was next to speak; “I didn’t know we were supposed to return to thank Jesus. I was just following instructions. You know, Jesus told us to go and show ourselves to the priest and that’s what I did. As lepers, we’ve become so used to following orders that we really just do as we’re told. And another thing, when Jesus told us to go, our feet started to move before our minds could think about it. We lepers move, eat, sleep, and speak according to instructions with little choice in the matter.

5. TIM “Tim, can you tell us why you never returned to thank Jesus for your cure? Well, I once took a psychological behavioral test to show me what personality type I was, and would you believe, I’m a procrastinator? Yeah, that’s right, and also the test said that we procrastinators are indecisive, tentative, and I found I have a touch of ADD. Hey, look at that bird up in the sky.

6—8. THE LAST FOUR lepers were Deaf leper, who loved music, Leper-Con, he was Irish, Spotted leper; strange name I know, but his healing caused him to have an identity crisis. He’d been a leper so long he wasn’t prepared to change. He was so at home with lepers that he couldn’t readjust.

9. The ninth leper sent word that he highly resented being labeled an ingrate simply because he conformed to the traditional way of expressing his thanks; in the Temple, before the priest, just like Jesus instructed. He also wanted to go on record that he felt a sense of “entitlement” to the better things in life, and added that it was about time God answered his prayers.

10. THE LEPER WHO RETURNED TO THANK JESUS.
This former leper teaches us, by his actions, to be more spontaneous with our gratitude. Luke said that he was “praising God with a loud voice.” In fact, the ex-leper fell on his face before Jesus. He was completely carried away and beside himself with joy and happiness. He felt like dancing a jig and shouting from the housetops. He was so excited, so anxious to thank this stranger that he didn’t even take time to have his healing verified by the priest.

He didn’t show up at the interview because he was so busy telling people what Jesus had done, he didn’t feel he could spare the time. He said he was so ecstatic he wasn’t in any shape to answer questions, even a year later.

Sometimes it’s good to throw away the restraints and let yourself be carried away with gratitude and joy.

A SENSE OF URGENCY CHANGES US IN REGARDS TO PRAISE.

Most of us find it easy to stay inside the box, playing it safe and following directions until something earthshaking happens. At those times, we find it comfortable to throw off restraints. We seem more inclined to give gratitude free rein when we feel a sense of urgency. People stand up at funerals and weddings and shock others with their free-flowing expressions of love and praise.

If a person is diagnosed with cancer, they are quick to begin telling the people they love how much they love them. Now time is of the essence, so they do it, now. Most of us would agree that we shouldn’t operate like this, but being human we do.

Our lives would be much more fulfilling if we would integrate appreciation and praise, not only to God but to one another into our everyday lives. If you think I’m wrong, ask yourself, have you ever grown tired of being loved, thanked and appreciated?

HERE ARE SOME THINGS THIS STORY TEACHES US.
# God reminds us that if we don’t cultivate thankfulness, it will take more and more to make us thankful.

# Jesus would also remind us of some of the things for which HE gave thanks.

# He gave thanks for 5 loaves and 2 fishes, before He multiplied them to feed a multitude.

# He gave thanks for the bread and wine He ate with His disciples before His death, even though He said they were symbolic of His broken body and shed blood.

# He gave thanks to His father at the tomb of Lazarus, just for hearing His prayer.

# Who in your opinion would be the "lepers" in our society? Do you think Jesus would minister to them if He were on earth in a physical body? What could you and I do to reach out to these people, or should we just leave them alone?

One last thing in this story is found in Luke 17:19. Jesus told the returning leper,

Arise and go thy way, thy faith hath made thee whole.”

The returning leper received a gift the other nine missed out on.

He received “wholeness” for body, mind, soul and spirit.

Blessings,


John