Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Five Mistakes Christians Make

By John Stallings


A couple had two boys ages 8 & 10 who were mischievous. If there was any trouble around they were usually involved.

A new preacher came to town that’d had success with disciplining problem children so they asked if he would speak to the boys.

The minister agreed to see the two so the mother sent her 8 year old first in the morning, with the older boy to visit in the afternoon.

The preacher had a big booming voice so the youngster’s eyes grew large as he asked him sternly, “Son, where is God?” The kid’s mouth dropped open but he had no response, sitting there in wide-eyed shock. So the minister asked again, “Where is God?”

Finally the preacher stood in front of the boy & shook his finger in his face & asked again as loud as he could, “SON, TELL ME, WHERE IS GOD?”

The boy screamed & bolted from the room, ran home & got in the closet slamming the door behind him. His older brother found him in the closet & asked him “What happened?” The younger brother gasping for breath replied, “We’re in big trouble this time dude. God’s missing--& they think we did it!” I realize this story doesn’t necessarily fit here but I think it’s hilarious & I wanted to tell it.

When people get desperate, or think they are, it’s amazing what they are willing to do. For example, a wife has been faithful to her husband for years, but because he isn’t as attentive as he should be, she throws discretion to the wind & has an affair.

Or a Christian young man, unwilling to continue to wait to find a Christian mate gives in & marries a woman whose faith is dubious if she even has faith. Or a Christian teenager fed-up with inconsistent parents, rebels & starts taking drugs & having promiscuous sex. The aforementioned are acceptable ways of coping by much of the world. The theme that permeates many popular songs & much of television & movies is; “whatever gets you through the night.”

Recently I was watching Jay Leno in his “man on the street” skit. He asked a man to name one of the Ten Commandments & he replied, “Freedom of speech.” A woman was asked to complete this sentence, “Let him that is without sin……. The answer came, “have a good time.”

Is our society in trouble or not? But not only are the unsaved in trouble these days, many Christians are so desperate for answers they cook up remedies for their problems that are worse than the problems themselves.

Here are some ways even Christian’s are ruining their lives.

1. ALLOWING EMOTIONS TO OVERRULE GOOD SENSE

Recently I heard a financial expert say;-“most people will never buy a car in their lifetime where their emotions aren’t deeply involved.”

I can relate to that statement although we’ve put over one-hundred thousand miles on our present car & almost a quarter of a million miles on the car we owned before that.

We do far too many things because of our emotions. Actions usually follow feelings like baby ducks follow their mother but that doesn’t mean the mother knows where she’s going.

The other day we were driving on I-4 in Orlando & suddenly came on a wall of tail- lights. We feared the worst but when we got close enough to see the problem it was a mother duck, out in the middle of one of the world’s busiest Super-hi-ways with about ten baby ducks following her. They were cute little rascals but that mother duck didn’t have clue-one as to where she was going nor how much danger she & her babies were in. I don’t know about you but I’ve learned that my emotions usually don’t know where they’re going either.

I won’t belabor it here because I’ve talked about it so much but letting our emotions rule us is always a bad idea, because our emotions & moods can change in 15 minutes for no apparent reason.

I’D LIKE YOU TO IMAGINE A SCENARIO FOR A MOMENT.

Picture a young woman, an immigrant from another country. She’s unfamiliar with the culture & the language but she’s eager to succeed & get ahead. She finds a position working for a wealthy couple in their large home. They are God-fearing people & she feels valued there & is treated like a family member.

But as time goes by she notices problems between the couple. She tells herself it’s none of her business but soon she finds her boss stopping to talk to her as she works. He confides to her there are problems in the marriage & becomes more & more affectionate towards her, which starts to make her uncomfortable.

But to whom can she turn? She has no friends & no support network. She’s completely dependant on her employers for everything. As the boss’s advances become more obvious the young girl wonders what to do. If they fire her she could be out on the street without a job or a roof over her head. This is supposed to be a good & upright man & a respectable citizen. One day her employer comes right out & lets her know he wants her to take his wife’s place in his affections & in his bed.

Did you imagine this story was taking place in a sprawling mansion of a multimillionaire? A high-rise in a big city penthouse apartment? Would it surprise you to know the original story I based this anecdote on happened in a tent made of animal skins at a desert oasis almost four thousand years ago?

Of course it was a different time & customs were different. A slave girl belonged to her owners & there was no such thing as human rights or a place to report sexual harassment. Polygamy was common & a man had a prefect right to have another wife or concubine if he wished, especially if his first wife was unable to have children.

ABRAM AND SARAH

In Genesis chapter 16 there’s this story of Abram & Sarah & their desperation to have a child. Sarah, - are you listening, - Sarah concocted the idea that her husband should have a child through their young Egyptian slave girl Hagar. How foolish does that sound to you?

Though this practice wouldn’t have raised a single eyebrow in that time & among the folk of that day, Abram & Sarah [I know her name was Sarah at this point but I’ll call her by the name that’s most familiar to us,] were abandoning their faith in God’s promise he’d made them by a covenant in chapter 15. Abram & Sarah, so faithful in their lives to this point are now scheming according to the flesh & not according to faith in something that will result in disaster for them & all who would come after them. They were making the mistake of doing God’s business for God.

It’s interesting to note in this story that when Sarah is laughing Hagar is crying & when Hagar laughs, Sarah weeps. Their fortunes & prospects are always moving in opposite directions. Note also that Sarah & Hagar both speak but never to each other. Hagar speaks to God & Sarah speaks to her husband but no one but God addresses Hagar by name. The people around her speak about her but never to her & never call her by name. You may be interested to know Hagar is the only woman in the Bible who dares to give God a name when she calls Him “El-Roi,” meaning “The God Who Sees.”

Getting back to emotional thinking, emotions will say things like; “Well I don’t know what God thinks but I’m going to do this anyway.” Or, “I don’t care if I do go to hell, its hell to live in this condition anyway.” Before you use that last line as an excuse, I’d advise you to go back & read the eighty words that were spoken from hell in Luke 16:23-31.

The second foolish thing Christians do to mess up their lives is;


2. THEY LISTEN TO THOSE WHO ARE UNFAMILIAR WITH THE WORD OF GOD.


Psalm 1:1 says, How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked.

In verse 2-4 of Genesis 16, the deed was done. Abram & Sarah at last would have the child they’d wanted for so long. The house would soon be filled with the sounds of happiness. Sounds like its right out of a story-book doesn’t it?

But the euphoria was short-lived. Trouble was already brewing. Before the child saw the light of day tension filled the house so thick you could cut it with a knife. What was meant to produce happiness would end up producing nearly endless sorrow in areas they never expected.

Verse 2 says, -So Abram listened to the voice of Sarah.

You may say, “What’s wrong with a man listening to his wife?” Nothing; unless his wife doesn’t understand the will of God. God had spoken to Abram when he left Ur, when he left Haran, & when He made the covenant with him to give him a son. The revelation was made solely to Abram, & Sarah knows far less the he does.

It may surprise you to know how many people when seeking advice, will actually seek out either weak believers or those who don’t know God’s Word at all. As a matter of fact the surest way to make an enemy of some people is step in & tell them what the Bible says.

In Galatians 4 Paul says, --Before you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus Himself. Where then is that sense of blessing you had... Have I therefore become your enemy by telling you the truth?

I blame Abram for what happened here just as much as Sarah, in fact he shirked his responsibility big-time when he simply didn’t refuse what she suggested & remind her of what God had promised.

The third thing Christians do to mess up their lives is;

3. THEY BLAME OTHERS FOR THINGS THEY BRING ON THEMSELVES.

Surely when the trouble started because of what Sarah & Abram did they recognized their fault & owned up to all this, right? Wrong!

After the baby comes Hagar is suddenly elevated from the position of slave to second wife. She now had two things to hold over Sarah’s head; she’s younger & she can have babies. From Sarah’s vantage point this wasn’t the way it was supposed to work out.

But when we resort to fleshly schemes things never work out like we expected.

Whew! But there’s a bright spot here. As soon as it dawned on her what she’d done, Sarah humbled herself & went to her husband & apologized for her ill-fated suggestion. Right? Wrong again! She blamed Abram. That’s right, she’s blaming him. It’s hard to believe that this is the same woman who’s held up to us in the New Testament as a model wife. But to be fair, everyone in this story is just doing what comes “naturally” not obeying God & doing things His way.

It’s very common for people to blame others when their own chickens come home to roost. A sure sign of spiritual immaturity is when people refuse to accept responsibility for their own actions.

I used the story in a message some time ago about a small airline operating out of South America. Most of the clients were missionaries who were shuttled around in the light planes owned & operated by this fledgling air-transport company.

One day one of the planes took off carrying several missionaries & two well known Bible translators to a remote area. The plane had been airborne just a few minutes when it burst into flames & crashed killing all aboard.

When the news reached the headquarters of the little airline where the plane took off & all the planes were serviced, a Christian mechanic took the news hard. The reason he took the news so hard was he remembered his hands were the last to touch the ill-fated aircraft before it left. As he contemplated it, he remembered that in the process of servicing the plane, he’d left a cap off a gas tank. He’d made a mental note to come back & secure the cap but had forgotten to do so.

One of the things that made the story so unusual was that the mechanic didn’t have to tell his story to anyone, but he was convinced his mistake had caused the plane to crash. I was impressed by that story for so many reasons, not the least of which was that mechanic was one in ten-thousand who’d implicate themselves when it would have been easier to just keep quiet about the part they played in the tragedy.

However, life seems to happen less in a linear manner than cyclical, & this man knew in his heart that in the long run he’d be more a candidate for God’s grace to help put it behind him & experience healing if he was open & honest about his mistake, rather than just bottling it all up inside himself.

If we can’t come clean about our mistakes we’re much more likely to repeat them. Many people stagger through life from one crisis to the next, battered, bruised & taken advantage of & it never occurs to them that they hold the key to changing things, but they’re too proud to admit they’re wrong. The wife blames the husband as Sarah did here & as Adam did in the Garden when he told God, The woman thou gavest to be with me she gave me from the tree & I ate.

The fourth thing Christians do to mess-up their life is;

4. THEY COMPROMISE THEIR CONVICTIONS FOR THE SAKE OF KEEPING PEACE.

Doesn’t it seem to you that its time for Abraham to take the bull by the horns in this story? Isn’t it about time he administered the Word of God to his bickering family?

He could have started by saying, “Guys, this all started because I let it happen. I didn’t have to consent to this fleshly scheme but I did & I was wrong. But Sarah, honey, I need you to own up to your guilt & admit it was your idea in the beginning. You brought this on yourself so its high-time you stopped pointing your finger at everyone but yourself; OK? You should have stopped & considered how Hagar was going to react in all this. And Oh, Hagar, girl you need to climb off your high-horse & remember you’re still a servant in this house & you must treat Sarah with respect because she’s my wife.”

So does Abraham start sorting it all out & put things back in order in his house? Nope! Abram turns out to be more of a push-over than a patriarch in this situation. Let’s face it; Abram didn’t want to deal with two bickering women so it’s much easier in this incidence for him to be a mouse than a man.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating that men be overbearing with their wives, a thousand times no. But the husband is supposed to be the leader of his home & sadly many men don’t even know what that means. Godly pastors are preaching & teaching it all over America but men aren’t showing up to hear it. In America’s homes today about the only way a man’s going to rise up & breath fire is if someone misplaces the TV remote. Wives are frustrated, children are exasperated & many men are pusillanimous passives.

Twice during the difficult years of this story Hagar left Abraham’s camp. Once was just before Ishmael’s birth when she ran away because of conflicts that arose between herself & her mistress Sarah. On this occasion an angel from the Lord told her to go back to Abram & Sarah—perhaps because as a runaway slave she’d have no means of support & care for her baby outside their household.

The angel also told her she’d bear a son & that she should call him Ishmael the name that means “God hears.” Fourteen years later Hagar left Abram’s home again this time Ishmael was a young man. Not surprisingly his stock in the family had gone down with the birth of the promised child Isaac. The conflict was so bad Abram sent them away but God spoke to Hagar again & provided water when her son was dying of thirst. God also provided encouragement for her & Ishmael as he led them into a new life. Certainly Hagar was marginalized if not victimized in this situation, a woman without value & standing in the eyes of man. Though God didn’t plan to send the promised son through her, & she wasn’t the lawful wife of Abram, He didn’t see her as insignificant, nor ignore her. God saw her, He spoke to her & he reached out & touched this woman who had no reason to believe her life was of any value to anybody.

Most people know that what we are seeing in the Middle East today, the bombings that are in the news almost daily is the fruit of Hagar’s son Ishmael being born; the fruit of what went on ‘behind the tent flaps” of Abram & Sarah’s household so many years ago when they left God out of their planning & took up fleshly methods rather than rely on the promises of God.

The fifth thing Christians do to mess-up their life is;


5. THEY JUST AREN’T WILLING TO WAIT FOR THE GOOD THINGS GOD HAS FOR THEM.


Nobody likes to wait. As a matter of fact our culture hates to wait. Waiting isn’t one of our strong traits. Make us wait too long & we’re pretty sure something is wrong. Waiting frustrates us, makes us mean, challenges our faith & tempts us to lose hope. There’s a name for people who can patiently wait without going nutso. They’re called saints. Many people however if forced to wait too long, give up & become cynics making the decision to just coast through life. They become permanently disappointed with God & man.

Here’s where young people get in trouble in our materialistic society. They look at what mom & dad have, maybe three cars, an RV, a five bedroom house, flat-screen TVs all over the place, plus a quarter of a million in their retirement account. Not understanding that it took the parents 45 years of working their fingers to the bone to accumulate what they have, the young person sets out to have what the parents have, but they want it NOW!

And just how are these young folk going to do this? Easy! ---Think with me about the credit card you have in your wallet or purse. Did you know it’s a “time machine?” Oh yes, that card at least for a while can reach out & grab the future & pull it right into your present. I’ll bet you never thought about it that way did you? Each day people are charging their way into the future because they’re too impatient to wait for the future to come.

Saving is such a slow & tedious way to work toward home ownership that people have signed for mortgages they can barely afford. Also it’s hard for young people to wait for marriage to have sex so fewer & fewer couples are waiting.

Are you waiting for something big to happen in your life, your marriage, your health, finances or even your ministry? Will you let me tell you something extremely important?

 Here it is;--LIFE IS PRETTY MUCH A WAITING GAME. Let me go a little further. Life is slow, tedious, many times mundane & is so full of waiting if you’re not careful it can cause you to do something crazy; that is if you don’t know what I’ve just told you. Life includes seasons of running & seasons of waiting with a lot more valley time than mountain-top time.

If you’ve read many of my messages you’ve heard me say—God isn’t a time-dweller & isn’t impressed with time as we are. He calls on us to wait.

God wants us to wait in humility because He’s the king & we’re His subjects. He’s in charge. He knows when the time is right.

Waiting doesn’t mean we’ve been bad or that God is angry at us. Waiting doesn’t mean we’re lost or that God is punishing us.

Let us not grow weary of waiting like Abram & Sarah did & produce Ishmaels in our lives. Let’s not try to jump from mountain-top to mountain-top so we can live on a “false high” all the time.

Waiting doesn’t necessarily even mean that we are in need of repentance of some sin. Waiting just means that we need to be faithful & continue serving God in life’s routines.

In Hagar’s grief & agony, in her shame & hopelessness she cried out to the God of the helpless & the hopeless. The God who saw Hagar also sees you. He sees your need. He sees, knows & cares about your feelings & wants you to reach out to Him. Will you turn to Him? This story reminds us there’s a wonderful wideness in God’s unassailable love.

I invite you to remember with me this marvelous verse;

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run & not be weary & they shall walk & not faint.—Ish. 40:31


Blessings,

John

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

When Abigail Met David

by John Stallings



“Either you have it or you don’t.”

Ever heard that one? It’s true. It’s difficult to describe the giftedness, the magic or the charisma of the few who seem to be blessed almost no matter what they do. Put it any way you want; “they are on the fast track, their star is rising.” Nothing average folk could do would ever measure up against them.

They are natural born communicators and are looked up to as brilliant by all who meet them. Their timing seems always impeccable. They only have to smile and presto, their charm carries them through any situation. The birds seem to come out of trees and sit on their shoulders. They somehow disarm everyone as they sail through life with none of the problems common to others.

The most careful observation to try to analyze them falls short. They remain a riddle, enveloped in an enigma, wrapped in a mystery, their essence never really isolated and defined. Whatever this quality is, it’s undeniable and anywhere they go people recognize it. They can walk into a room and everyone turns to look not realizing why. Seldom are they the most beautiful or handsome one in the group but still they stand out as if they were. They have great personalities but that still doesn’t give a satisfying answer to what this “It” is they possess.

Even as children, they could do no wrong. They are called “golden boys” or “golden girls” with “special, indefinable qualities.” We know them when we see them but can’t find words to describe why they are different. They were the ones who got all the stars and awards while the teachers never knew it was they who brought the spiders to class. They are consistently in all the “most popular, “most likely to succeed” and “best liked” categories. They live their lives surrounded by admirers and whatever the circumstances, always get a second chance. They have the “Midas touch” and whatever happens they always land on their feet. They are the rare, the few.

IN THE BIBLE, DAVID IS SUCH A PERSON

His life story reads like the story of Cinderella. If it could ever be said that one man had it all it would be David. He was ruddy cheeked and richly endowed with qualities that made people see him as kingly. He had great common sense, was eloquent and had an ability of making and keeping life- long friends. He had a great heart with a gargantuan capacity for love. He was a sweet-singer, poet, lyricist composer and prolific scribe. He was an undefeated athlete, a musician, warrior, pop-hero, crafty politician, magnetic and handsome, father of his country, founder of a dynasty, impulsive sinner, pious saint, had a bright eyed zest for life and he never makes an unforgivable mistake. Seemingly when he is born God has already decided to cherish him while Saul ultimately plunges into madness for his blunders and sins. To put it succinctly, David with all his dents and dings is nonetheless “A man after God’s own heart.”

David was born in Bethlehem, the youngest of eight sons. It was his music that first opened the doors for him. He started as an armor bearer for King Saul and was catapulted to fame by a victory over the Philistine giant Goliath.

He finds his way into the royal family by his friendship with Jonathan, Saul’s son and ends up marrying Michal, thus becoming Saul’s son-in-law and part of the royal family. David had favor with the prophet Samuel causing the jealousy of Saul to grow more and more towards him. Samuel comes right out and tells Saul that God has chosen another to rule Israel. It seems evident who it is when the women dance in the streets singing, “Saul has killed his thousands while David has killed his ten thousands.”

King Saul’s grip on sanity starts to unravel as he sees David’s massive appeal and finally tries to kill him, putting him on the lam. The following story in 1Samuel 25, takes place while David is a fugitive from Saul.

Amid the rich tapestry of Bible stories, none stands out more than this one. Among this stories many sub- plots, one is the quintessential story of a good woman in a bad marriage. I believe it serves well as a pattern for Christian women living with unregenerate husbands. It’s the story of a woman named Abigail; a gracious, smart woman married to a very wealthy but stingy, sullen, and Ill-bred man named Nabal.

Nabal was from the linage of Caleb and from outward appearances he had much going for him. He was a wealthy landowner, had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats and was married to the beautiful, intelligent, eloquent woman Abigail. There was one very unfortunate thing for Nabal however, his name actually means “foolish, and in this story he lives up to his name big time. He obviously has a bad personality disorder made worse by a tendency to hit the wine bottle, hard. Nabal was what some today would call a Jerk, and believe me that don’t overstate the case. You might call him a loser but perhaps he’s in the “better class of losers” category. The story is intriguing; containing many of the same elements that exist in stories of couples we see today when the matchmaker makes a bad match.

Abigail had no way to know that she was getting ready to be a cast -member in a melodrama that would take her down in history as a tragic heroine but also as role-model for all good women caught in bad marriages.

The passionate and intrigue filled drama unfolds when David and his band of about four to six hundred men were camping not far from Nabal and Abigail’s home. David’s proximity to their ranch made it possible for his men to serve as protection for Nabal’s men and herds from time to time. This detail is important for it answers the question of why David was so quick to ask such a large favor of Nabal.

Abigail had for some time been hearing about this man David. She’d heard about his killing of Goliath and his many other exploits. Of course, most everyone knew about the enmity between David and Saul. Abigail is aware that David and his men are camped not far from where she lived. Most of Israel knew that David during this time was walking a thin line between being on the run and looking like a criminal and just taking the things he needed. Food & provisions for an army like his was a big concern.

One day David sent ten of his men down to Nabal’s house to ask him to share provisions with his men. It was sheep shearing time and David knew Nabal would be preparing plenty of food for the shearers, and there would probably be a surplus available. Maybe they could share it with David and his men.

It wasn’t going to happen. When David’s men came to Nabal and politely stated they came in David’s name making a request for food, Nabal showed his worst side, treating them in a harsh, spiteful manner and refusing to give them anything. He had some bad things to say but suffice to say he let the men know he held David in contempt and wasn’t going to share a morsel with them. The young men departed politely and quickly went on their way to report back to David. When they returned to camp and told David what Nabal said, he flew into a purple rage.

Being the warrior that he was, and faced with the responsibility of feeding his army, David immediately flew off the handle and declared war, gathering his men to march down to Nabal’s compound. David was so livid at the insult that he fully intended to kill every male in Nabal’s household.

It’s important to realize that one act of anger can destroy a life. Proverbs 16:32 says,-- “HE THAT IS SLOW TO ANGER IS BETTER THAN THE MIGHTY AND HE THAT RULETH HIS SPIRIT THAN HE THAT TAKETH A CITY.”

Jails are full of people who like David, in a moment of anger, acted in a rash manner destroying themselves as well as the lives of others. The good thing about anger, if I can call anything about anger good, is that it’s one of the quickest emotions to cool if just given a moment or two. Yet anger takes its terrible toll because people don’t have the patience and self-control to wait and give themselves a chance to calm down.

Ephesians 3:31 says, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and evil speaking be put away from you with all malice.”

Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.
Not only was David angry, he was going to compound the problem by taking vengeance which he knew was wrong. Vengeance belongs to God and David knew this but his hot temper was overriding his judgment. God takes a dim view of people seeking vengeance.

In Genesis 4; 14-15, God marked Cain and said anyone who harmed him would pay seven-fold. Even though Cain had committed murder, God wanted no man to punish him. Think of the havoc that would be wreaked if every man took the law into his own hands. In an instant all of society would break down and slide into chaos.

Romans 12:19, says: =Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves but rather give place unto wrath: for it vengeance is mine and I will repay, saith the Lord.”

God will fight our battles if we will only give him time & His sense of timing is impeccable. When Nabal’s wife Abigail hears that David’s men had been insulted and sent away by her mean spirited husband, she immediately knew what must be done. She knows that her husband has acted foolishly and if something isn’t done quickly to quell David’s anger, the blood of all the men in her family and in their employ will very likely be spilled. So Abigail springs into action.

There are some things that shouldn’t be acted on hastily & are better left to simmer and not acted on too hurriedly; but there are other times when all will be lost if someone doesn’t take charge quickly.

Abigail knows she is faced with a time sensitive situation so she must strike while the iron is hot to save the day for her husband and family. It’s amazing how fast she moved, quickly loading several donkeys with two hundred loaves of bread, wine, five dressed sheep ready to cook, fruits, two hundred cakes and other goodies. This woman is a marvel. If it could ever be said that a woman was a multi-tasker, it was Abigail in this story.

She moves with great haste for she must get to David to curb the angry attack she knows is coming. When she finally reaches David on the road, (ver.23) she jumps off the donkey she’s riding & falls down in front of him and gives one of the longest speeches by a woman in the entire Bible. She shows her wisdom, loyalty, humility and determination in the appeal she made to David.


Here we see a good woman trying to protect her husband when everyone who knew him knew he wasn’t worth protecting. Often, in life, a right woman finds herself married to a wrong man. At that point we ponder and ask the age old question; WHAT’S A WOMAN TO DO?

What Abigail did was, in spite of her husband’s faults, stand up for him endeavoring to save him from himself. She would rectify his awful blunder if it was in the realm of possibility. Abigail knew her loyalty to her husband was loyalty to God.

When we make our wedding vows we are making them not only to the other person but also before God. To just cast our vows aside without a second thought because of some real or perceived weakness in a partner, is tantamount to the abortion of a relationship.

In I Peter 3:1-3 Peter talks about how a woman can win an ungodly husband by her Godly lifestyle. Peter tells the woman that without even bringing the Word of God into it, she can witness to her husband by the way she lives her life. I am in no way defending husbands who mistreat their wives here. Nor am I placing all the onus on the wife to make up for all the wrongs a husband might be committing.

What I am saying is that God’s Word teaches that He will honor a wife or a husband in a marriage when they take a stand for righteousness and live in a faithful, Godly manner even in the worst of circumstances. In a nut-shell,--we must endeavor to do the absolute most we can for as long as we can.

Abigail isn’t out to defame her husband, she is protecting him. She sees his terrible faults and admits he has acted foolishly but still she pleads with David to spare him. I have known women who put up with terrible husbands for many years because they loved them and didn’t want to give them up to the devil. Certainly if certain lines are crossed in a marriage a spouse doesn’t have to stay in it but it’s also possible for marital victory to be snatched from the jaws of defeat. Abigail realizes Nabal has by his foolishness, brought all this danger on himself but still she’s prepared to do what she can to save him and the rest of her household.

Abigail doesn’t even consider appealing to her husband before she goes; probably because she knows him good enough to know how stubborn he is. Plus, there is no time. She does the next best thing and goes around him doing the only thing she knows to do to stop David from killing him. Can anyone sing---Stand by your man?” Abigail even asks David to put her husband’s guilt and punishment on her head. What a woman. Don’t think for a moment that God doesn’t take note of this sort of thing. Abigail will be honored and her life will soon change for the better because of her loyalty to her husband.

Sometimes this same principle works in a church where Pastoral leadership is lacking and a strong member of the congregation will fill in the gap rather than see important things neglected. This of course is a far cry from usurping authority and taking it away from the rightful leader who’s trying to do his job. The only time God would countenance this would be in a case of dereliction of the leader’s duty, and then if it’s done at all it would be wise to make it a “kid-glove” matter.

This also happens in homes where there is weak male leadership. Oft times rather than see things go down the drain because of weak or non existent male leadership, a strong wife will of necessity assume leadership. A man who doesn’t step up to the plate and lead shouldn’t complain if a woman steps in to save the floundering family ship.

This is exactly what is happening here with Nabal and Abigail.

She doesn’t criticize her husband even though he did a foolish thing. She pleads for his life at the same time reminding David that he’s also getting ready to do a foolish thing, and if he doesn’t stop and think will have blood on his hands.

David is visibly moved by Abigail’s intervention.

Upon hearing Abigail’s plea his head starts to clear and good sense begins to prevail. As it usually happens in these emotional situations, when David had a little time to think he was relieved that Abigail had stopped him. One thing about David was that once he saw his fault he’d fall on his face and ask forgiveness. In contrast, if that had been King Saul, he’d probably have started making excuses for what he’d done to cloud the issue. This is the mark of a small man. But David immediately became sorrowful and repentant. This woman in one quick action stood in the gap between two hot-headed men, saving David from himself. She also gets credit for straightening out her husband’s mess.

When Abigail gets back home, she finds her husband having a drunken party so she puts him to bed drunk and waits until morning to talk with him about what has happened. When Nabal awoke the next morning and was sober enough to talk, Abigail told him what she’d done in going to meet David and how his anger against him had been assuaged. When Nabal heard this he had a strange reaction, at least for so obviously an insensitive person. The Bible says his heart became like a rock.

His reaction to his wife’s actions hit him like a thunderbolt and it devastated him. His male pride had been so damaged and the humiliation so complete that it shook him to his core and he just couldn’t get over it. His utter stupidity had come home to haunt him as he realized that in all his foolish male bravado, he had almost destroyed his family. Were it not for his wife’s good sense and quick wit, he’d be dead. Nabal just could not deal with that fact and for ten days he remained like a walking ghost, unresponsive, and dead while he lived. When a man goes against God he ultimately dies spiritually and in a great sense he is dead while he lives. At this point, Nabal becomes a dead man walking.

Exactly ten days later, God steps in and kills Nabal.

The Bible actually says that God killed the man. (Vrs.38) There’s a sin unto death spiritually but there’s also a physical sin unto to death. In the book of Acts, Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead for lying to the Holy Ghost. God reserves the right to end a life when he deems it necessary.

However, there’s no doubt Abigail would have gone on making the best of the bad situation had not God intervened.

When David learned that Nabal had died, he sent men to Abigail and asked for her hand in marriage. He had been so favorable impressed with her intervention for Nabal that he saw the streak of greatness in her. All Abigail could say was, “well, I’m available.”

There’s no doubt that if Abigail hadn’t been a faithful woman and hadn’t moved so heroically to save her husband, her life would have turned out much different. Instead of taking it upon herself to punish her unworthy husband, she acted to protect him and God honored her for that action.

In these kinds of complex issues, if leadership isn’t acting in a responsible manner, we should take the high road, honoring God by being loyal and respectful to them. In so doing we are pleasing God. If we want authority we must know how to be under authority. There are times in life when we may not be able to respect the individual but we should still respect the office they hold.

When you read this story can your see yourself anywhere in it? Nabal was a victim of his own impetuosity and quick tongue. Are there places in your live where you’ve been Nabal-like? Where your words have been hasty and harsh? When you see how David acted in this story can you see some of yourself in his hot temper and quickness to fly off the handle?

What about his good traits, like David’s being approachable and flexible when faced with the truth? Can you see that or perhaps the lack of it in your life?

What about Abigail? Can you identify with her, and feel that at times you’ve had to serve as peacemaker for those around you who had no control over their emotions? Does Abigail’s example of loyalty to her husband inspire you to be more supportive of those you love and be more patient in standing by them?

Multitudes of rewards come for that kind of grace in a life. Sooner or later, if we go on living, we will be handed one of these complicated life situations. We will be called upon to dig deeply into our hearts and souls for a love and commitment we scarcely knew we possessed, and will be tested in ways we never expected.

But look who we’re working for; God is in a position to promote us and give us more than we can imagine, for as He said...


All the earth is mine!

Blessings,


John

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

ARE YOU WASHED IN THE BLOOD...?

By John Stallings

A group of mountain climbers were climbing in the Swiss Alps.

The lead climber lost his footing & fell, dragging the next two climbers after him.

The other climbers braced themselves for the jolt. As the three went over the cliff the rope pulled tight & suddenly broke in half. The others watched in horror as their three fellow climbers fell four thousand feet to their death on the glacier below.

Once the others were safely back they examined the broken rope. They discovered that there was no red strand running through it. The special type of rope they used had an identifying red strand. It had special strength to withstand the extreme tension they had experienced in their accident that day. The current rope, though, was a cheap imitation. It was a weak substitute. It cost three men their lives.

Most of us remember hearing in Sunday School about a red strand that runs through the Bible. That red strand is a strand of blood. If that red strand is left out what is left is weakened to the endangerment of the souls of men. It loses its power to save.

 Sadly, blood is such a repulsive thought to many that they’ve sought to remove its mention from Christian songbooks. However, when speaking of Christ’s passion, bible writers use the word “blood” three times as often as “death.” Jesus could have died in many different ways without shedding His blood, but there is a special significance in that precious blood being shed.

 We live in a sad hour. Many of the main-line denominations are proclaiming a mere social gospel. As for me, the blood is the bed rock of my faith & I’ll cling to this blood & its power to save & keep. Apart from the blood of Christ we’re all doomed to spend eternity in a devil’s hell. Others may call it unnecessary but I’ll just stick with the blood of Jesus. Robert Lowery got it right when he penned,--“Nothing but the blood of Jesus.”

THE MODERN DAY CHURCH IS LOSING BLOOD

Songs like “Nothing but the blood,” “There is a fountain filled with blood,” “Are you washed in the blood,” & “There is power in the blood” are still sung in some places but fewer & fewer & there aren’t that many newer songs or praise choruses focused on the blood. The Cross, yes; redemption, yes; but the Blood, not so much. We’re eager to speak of life but hesitant to speak of blood. I’m told that even among Catholics, centered as they are on the Eucharist, they are more apt to speak of “the Cup” than “the Blood.” Could it be true that with our churches designed to look like malls, with information booths, coffee shops & book stores with everything bright & shiny, we wittingly or unwittingly are trying to remove the sting of offense from an “arcane bloody gospel?” Are we trying to distance ourselves from what has been called a “slaughterhouse religion?”


THIS MIGHT DISTURB YOU

Vampires are hot stuff right now. These creatures leer from the covers of books, magazines, T.V & movie screens. Vampires lust after their prey wherever they can be found. Following up on the Twilight movies, Stephenie Meyer’s wildly popular vampire-romance series, hundreds of vampire publications have been published in the last three years. These vampire stories borrow greatly from Christian theology, because of the idea of achieving immortality through blood.

 Like it or not, & most of us will not, these modern parodies mimic Christianity because of the ingesting of blood. This is what we do symbolically at the communion table. Of course the drawing of a parallel between the vampires who live on blood & the atoning nature of Christ’s blood is a cheap counterfeit of the true salvation offered through the blood of Jesus.
In a medical setting blood is considered to be a hazard. Steps are taken to cover clothes, eyes & hands from contact with the patient’s blood. Rescue workers are constantly trained to take precautions to avoid contact with the blood. HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C can be transmitted through accidental contact with an infected person’s blood.

There is one man’s blood however that is sought after by those who recognize its importance. Although man’s blood can kill, Christ’s blood can heal. Those who wash in it become free & forgiven. It’s strong enough to wash the clogged, putrid, infected & malignant puss of sin from your heart, soul & mind. It can wash away all of our tears, broken hearts & broken souls. Christ’s blood opens the windows of your heart & lets the sunshine in.

BLOOD IN THE OLD TESTAMENT

From outside the gates of Eden in Genesis 4, to inside the gates of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21, the Bible is filled with the importance of blood in regards to salvation.

We first hear of blood with the animal sacrifices Abel made unto God. Later, Noah offered sacrifices to God. Abraham was tested by God when he was commanded to offer Isaac as a sacrifice.

It’s interesting to me that if a person picks up a Bible & reads from the first page, in 22 chapters they come to the story of God’s command to Abraham to sacrifice his son & God subsequently stopping him & allowing a ram to be sacrificed instead.

 One might think that God would tuck this story further back in His Word, after a person had a chance to read more “uplifting” things. People might be turned off reading a story like this before they have an opportunity to read more about the wondrous love & grace of God. People might misunderstand & say something like, “well, this Christianity certainly is a gruesome business.” It’s possible that a person might not read any further after reading this story, in spite of the fact that God didn’t require Abraham to sacrifice Isaac.

The point being; God didn’t think a blood sacrifice was somehow “off the reservation.” God takes the shedding of blood seriously. He doesn’t seem to concern Himself in the least with someone finding the subject distasteful. This fact should & certainly does tell us something very important.

The story is told of a large religious service that was being conducted at the Golden Gate Exposition in San Francisco. The Christians in attendance became aware that the minister delivering the main address wasn’t thoroughly Christian. He was a great speaker but it was evident he was directing his eloquence against the power of the blood of Christ. When the old “wind-jammer” finally finished, you could have heard a marshmallow fall on a carpet.

Everyone knew something would have to be said, but no one knew what to say. Finally a, timid elderly lady stood up in the audience & began to softly sing the great hymn written by William Cowper as a rebuttal to the modernist minister. A hush fell over the place as the folk assembled there heard the faint but familiar words;

 “There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Immanuel’s veins, and sinners plunged beneath that blood lose all their guilty stains.”

 Before the lady could complete the second verse, approximately a hundred people rose to join her. By the time she reached the third verse nearly a thousand Christians all over the audience were singing that wonderful song of faith. Then these words were sung by the joyous crowd,

-Dear dying Lamb thy precious blood shall never lose its power, till all the ransomed church of God be saved to sin no more.

For the Jewish people, an important festival related to blood. While they were slaves in Egypt, the death angel was going to pass over the land. They were to take a lamb without blemish & slaughter it & some of the blood was to be placed on the doorposts & the lintel of their houses.

The blood shall be a sign for you, upon the houses where you are; & when I see the blood, I will pass over you & no plague shall fall upon you to destroy you. [Ex. 12:13]

Just as the Jews were slaves in Egypt, you & I were slaves to sin. But that was before the blood of Christ was shed for us on Calvary. In the Law of Moses, the Jews were given numerous regulations that involved the use of blood.

Listen to Leviticus For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it for you upon the alter to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement, by reason of the life.

BLOOD IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

Jesus was riding high in the popularity polls of Israel until the day He pulled out His “cannibal sermon.” In John 6:50-60, Jesus began to talk about his broken body & His blood. He told the people that unless they ate His flesh & drank His blood they had no life in them. Slowly the crowds started to dwindle away. They didn’t grasp the concept; neither did the disciples grasp the concept. To be frank, they weren’t anywhere near the concept yet. It must have been a sobering moment when Jesus looked at His twelve disciples & said,-will you also go away?

At the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus explained it further; -This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.-Mt. 26:28

Paul said, -Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in His blood…Roman

The apostle Peter reminded Christians,-You know that you were ransomed….with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without spot or blemish. 1 Pet. 1:18-19

In Revelation a scene in heaven is observed where no one is found worthy to open a scroll. Then we read;

And they sang a new song saying, thou art worthy to take the book and to open the seals…for thou wast slain & hast redeemed us to God by thy blood…Rev. 5:9.

Not Abel’s blood that cried out from the ground,
Not that blood.

Not the blood of bulls & goats,
Not that blood.

Not the millions of gallons of blood that was shed over many hundreds of years, that had no power to cleanse,
Not that blood.

Not the blood of murder & mayhem,
Not that blood.

Not the 50,000 deaths of the American Revolutionary War,
Not that blood.

Not the 646,000 causalities of the Civil War,
Not that blood.

Not the multitude of casualties of WW1 and of WW11,
Not that blood.

Not the 211,000 American soldiers who died in Vietnam,
Not that blood.

Not the multiple thousands of casualties of the war in two Iraq wars,
Not that blood.

Not the blood of millions of martyred Christians throughout the centuries,
Not that blood.

The blood of Christ alone. One man. One cross. One blood.

The apostle John explains that the shed blood of Jesus is the cleansing agent in the life of the Christian throughout our lives. He writes;

If we walk in the light as he is in the light we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.-1 Jn.1:7

If I’m reading that right, if you & I aren’t having fellowship with those of like precious faith, it must follow that we’re not walking in the light.

1.    THE BLOOD OF CHRIST’S BACK PROVIDES HEALING.

When He walked the earth it was mandatory that Jesus heal people because it had been prophesied that He’d be a healer.

One of God’s first promises to Israel in the Old Testament was---I am the Lord your God who heals you. He called Himself Jehovah-Rapha, meaning-God our healer. Jesus, being God’s son, did exactly what His father did.

Isaiah said, speaking of Christ -Surely He took up our infirmities & carried our sorrows…but He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him and by His wounds we were healed.-Ish. 53:4

Throughout the Old testament God showed Himself as a merciful healer.

Pilate’s lacerating whip on Jesus’ back provides us with divine healing. I might add right here; when ObamaCare finally kicks in & America sees what it really is, we’re all going to have to go back to divine healing. Thankfully, Doctor Jesus is still making house calls.

2.    THE BLOOD PROVIDES FOR US A SOUND MIND.

A crown of thorns was placed on Christ’s head & a Roman soldier probably took a spear & struck it, causing the thorns to stick deep into His brow. One writer has said the long spike-like thorns could have easily stuck down through His eyelids making prison bars for Him to look through on His way to Calvary.

Christ’s mind never entertained one vile affection. For thirty-three years He walked in a body subject to the same temptations as were are yet Satan never succeeded in polluting His mind. This means you & I can silence the accuser’s mental attacks by declaring victory through the blood that spilled from Christ’s crown of thorns.

The reason our minds endure constant assault is because life’s battles are fought there. It’s Satan’s preeminent area of attack. He attacks when we’re awake & when we’re asleep. He attacks with tormenting thoughts, bizarre dreams, fearful flashbacks & attacks our conscious & subconscious mind.

Friend, here’s how we can counter every Satanic attack. Rebuke him with the blood of Christ. When you plead the blood against old Satan, you remind him that he ripped into Christ’s body with a whip, nails, thorns, & a spear, drawing that Holy Blood. When you do that, he’s hearing you recount the worst mistake he ever made. You can be sure Satan won’t linger & let you pummel him by pleading the Blood.

1 Corinthians says we can claim “The mind of Christ.” Paul told Timothy—God has not given us the spirit of fear but of power, love & a sound mind. [2T1 1:7]

Hebrews 9:14 says, How much more then will the Blood of Christ who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death so that we may serve the living God.

2 Corinthians 10:5 says—We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

 Christ’s death liberates the mind. Don’t permit Satan to harass you with the Blood-covered, confessed sins of your past. Christ’s Blood has freed you from that bondage.

3.    FROM CHRIST’S RIVEN HANDS AND FEET HE PROVIDES VICTORY FOR OUR WORK AND OUR WALK.

There’s an interesting Old Testament passage that deals with the application of blood on the Levite priests. Leviticus says that priests were sprinkled with blood “on the lobes of their right ears, on the thumbs of their right hands and on the big toes of their right feet.”

 This emphasized anointed hearing, anointed working and anointed walking. The blood anoints our work and our walk.

4.    THE BLOOD FROM CHRIST’S SIDE PROVIDES FOR CLEANSING OF THE SOUL.

The spear going near Christ’s heart opens up a flow that cleanses from all sin. Leviticus tells us that life bubbles from the circulatory system. It’s impossible to live without blood. Our eternal life depends on Christ’s uncontaminated thoroughly Holy Blood.

A person may know all about the Blood theologically but unless it’s applied to their lives, nothing will happen. I can go to a Doctor & get a prescription, but if I take the medicine home & never open the bottle & ingest the medication, it can’t help me. I could go to the computer & Google the medicine until I knew everything about it but if I never took the medicine I’d get no help from it. You may have heard about Jesus all your life but until you by faith receive Him into your life His redemptive power is of no advantage.

Many years ago in Detroit, Michigan, the famous evangelist Dr. Charles Finney preached on the text-“The blood on Jesus Christ, God’s Son cleanseth us from all sin. 1 John 1:7

After the service a stranger asked Dr. Finney to walk home with him. Advised against it by church officials who knew the man, Dr. Finney went with the man.

Ushering the preacher into the rear of a building, the stranger locked the door & put the key in his pocket. “Don’t be afraid, I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to ask you a few questions. Do you believe what you preached tonight?”

Dr. Finney said, “I most certainly do.”

The man continued, “We’re in the back of a saloon. I’m sole proprietor. Mothers come in here, lay their babies on the counter & beg me not to sell liquor to their husbands. I turn a deaf ear to their cry. We see to it when a man leaves here he’s well under the influence. More than one night a man leaving here has been killed by the train the runs behind the saloon. Dr. Finney, tell me, can God forgive a man like me?”

Finney replied, “I have but one authority, the Word of God which says, “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son cleanseth us from all sin.”

“But that’s not all” added the man. “In another room we run a gambling hall. If a man doesn’t spend all his money on liquor, we bring him back here & with marked cards see to it that he’s fleeced out of his last dollar. We often send men home penniless to a hungry family. Dr. Finney, I’m sole owner. Tell me honestly, can God forgive a man with a heart like that?”

Again Finney replied, “I have but one authority, the Word of God which says, “The blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son cleanseth us from all sin.”

The man spoke again.” That’s not all. Across the street is my home where live my wife & little daughter. Neither one has had a kind word from me for five years. Their bodies bear marks from my brutal attacks. Dr. Finney, do you think God could forgive a man like me?”

Finney’s head lowered. His eyes filled with tears as he said, “My friend, you have painted one of the darkest pictures I’ve ever gazed upon, but I still have one authority which says, “The blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son cleanseth us from all sin.”

The man opened the door, ushered the preacher into the night, then never left that room till daybreak—not before ripping up the decks of cards & pouring the contents of the bottles down the sink. Across the road at home he sat in his living room. His little girl called, “Daddy, Mother said breakfast is ready.” When he answered his little girl kindly she ran back to her mother, “Daddy spoke kind to me. Something is the matter.” The mother followed her little girl to the living room. The man took one on each knee he explained to their amazement that they had a new husband & daddy. He said, “I’m done with that business across the street!

The man later became a member, then later a leader in a leading Detroit church. When asked to tell how his life was changed, he’d reply, “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son cleanseth us from all sin.”

It reaches to the highest mountain. It flows to the lowest valley. The blood that gives me strength from day to day, it will never lose its power.--Andrae Crouch
                                                                                                 


Blessings,


John

Saturday, April 28, 2018

The Pain Of..."Friendly Fire."

By John Stallings


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• An emotional or physical attack from some other person.

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

• An unanswered prayer.

• An unmet expectation.

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

• Your boss fails to notice a job well done.

• A friend says something thoughtless and cruel.

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

1. DON’T CURSE THE HURT

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. DON’T REHEARSE THE HURT

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Message puts it this way:

“Love never gives up.


Love cares more for others than for self.


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


Love doesn't strut,


Doesn't have a swelled head,


Doesn't force itself on others,


Isn't always "me first,"


Doesn't fly off the handle,


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ANTWONE FISHER

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

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

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

"Who will cry for the little boy


Lost and all alone?


Who will cry for the little boy


Abandoned without his own?


Who will cry for the little boy?


He cried himself to sleep.


Who will cry for the little boy


Who never had for keeps?


Who will cry for the little boy


Who walked the burning sand?


Who will cry for the little boy


The boy inside the man?


Who will cry for the little boy


Who knew well hurt and pain?


Who will cry for the little boy


Who died and died again?


Who will cry for the little boy?


A good boy he tried to be.


Who will cry for the little boy


Who cries inside of me?


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

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

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

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

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

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

3. DON’T NURSE THE HURT

Let me put it bluntly:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• By showing it off to others.

• By parading it around for others to see.

• By enlisting people to share in the offense.

• By emphasizing it, by exaggerating it.

• By feeding it.

And how do we feed a hurt, you ask?

• We feed it self-pity.

• We feed it anger.

• We feed it bitterness.

• We feed it hate!

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t place absolute trust in people.

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

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

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

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

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

When the Clock Stops

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

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

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

Forgive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Blessings,


John