Friday, February 5, 2016

Spots In Your Love Feast

By John Stallings


HEY JUDE!

Jude, a brother of Jesus, 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

Monday, February 1, 2016

Emptiness-Recipe For Disaster

By John Stallings


If you could do anything you wanted, go anywhere you chose, buy anything that appealed to you - would you be happy?

There was such a man. He was a powerful, wise, respected, wealthy man. He was able to do anything he wanted because he was the king, the absolute monarch of his nation. He had all the options imaginable in life because he was unbelievably wealthy.

He wrote three books. One when he was young and head- over- hills in love, -The Song of Solomon. Book number two was written when he was a little older, the greatest book on successful practical living ever written, The Book of Proverbs.

The last book he wrote is simply the testimony of a burned out life, despondent, weary and hopeless. The first paragraphs of Ecclesiastes are anything but inspiring.

Listen to verses one and two:

"The words of the teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem: 'Meaningless! Meaningless!' says the teacher. 'Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless."-

What a way to start a book. This book screams…“Been There, Done That, Now What?"

Of any place he wanted to go under the sun, Solomon could say, "Been there." Of any lifestyle or act of pleasure or fulfillment, Solomon could say, "Done that." Having been there and done that and finding it meaningless,he asked, "Now what?"

It’s not enough to say "Solomon, you ought to go to church." Solomon went to church. In fact, Solomon built the Temple. Further, Solomon preached and taught in the church. Verse one calls him, "the teacher." In other places he is called, "the preacher." He asked for and got wisdom which comes from God and he taught it in the Proverbs and preached it in the temple, but he lived by the wisdom which came from his own mind.

He indeed became rich, powerful, respected and EMPTY.

Let’s be real. Just as in the case of Solomon, our life can be empty. Perhaps in spite of all the glitter and glamour; deep beneath the surface lays an empty reservoir of lost dreams and hopes. Void and lack plague our lives and prohibit our pursuits of fulfillment and satisfaction.

All of us, in spite of our ages, wages, races and ethic identities, have to wrestle with the issue of emptiness. Empty marriages, careers, and even ministries sadly are the norms of our times. Life with all of its commotions and promotions still leave us empty. These are “The days of our lives.”

We pep and step, bling and ching, style and profile yet we are empty. “The butler, the baker, and even the candlestick maker, Lottie and Dottie and everybody” are wrestling with this thing called emptiness! All the subjects, servants and those who are served can’t escape cold harsh winter winds of emptiness. The question that confronts us all today is how do we deal with emptiness in our lives? How do we deal with failing and faulty finances, bankrupt relationships, broken homes and hopes that leave us stranded on an island of suffering and sorrow like Skipper and Gilligan-or Tom Hanks?

EMPTINESS MADE CHRIST’ FIRST MIRACLE NECESSARY.

God does big things in small places. The first miracle of Jesus took place in a place called, Cana of Galilee. Cana was an inconspicuous and obscure little town that lay outside of Nazareth. You talk about the “hinterlands” Cana had no social significance in its day!

However there happened to be a wedding in Cana and Mary the mother of Jesus, and Jesus and his disciples had all been invited to this wedding.

Cultural norms would have us to understand that this was a “peasant” wedding. Otherwise, Mary, of low estate would not have been there. Jesus’ ministry began in a small, and unimportant town.

Weddings then were a lot like weddings now; they were a big deal. The bride from babyhood had been prepared for this moment. For girls in Jewish culture, from the moment they were born, they were never allowed to be alone with any male other than their father and brothers. The lack of virginity could be a disgrace and financial liability to her family. The wedding ceremony would take place late in the evening after a time of feasting. Note that late in the evening means the wedding took place at the dawn of the Jewish day. The father of the bride would take his daughter on his arm, and with the wedding party and parade through the streets of town so that everyone could come out and congratulate the bride.

Finally the wedding party would arrive at the home of the groom. The wedding actually took place in the front door of the groom’s house. After the ceremony the bride and groom walked through the streets accompanied by flaming torches. This trip could take hours, many guest would wait along the road and join the wedding party as the procession passed. Attendants would walk with them keeping a canopy over their heads.

Once the couple arrived back at the house of the groom, the groom would carry the bride over the threshold and then stand at the door as the processional party entered the house. All that were to be a part of the festivities had to enter the house before the door was shut. The couple kept open house for a week. They were treated like royalty. They dressed in fancy clothes and many times actually wore crowns on their heads. Whatever they desired was granted. Jesus and his disciples showed up at this wedding by invitation.

Whenever Jesus shows up it is always the breaking of a new day.

CHECK THE GUEST LIST OF YOUR LIFE

If things are to start off right in our lives, or progressively get better Jesus must be invited. In those areas where we find emptiness in our lives we should check the guest list and see if Jesus is there.

It’s Jesus that transforms houses into homes, weddings into marriages, males to men, and females to women. Without Jesus our bright day is dark, our happiest moment is shallow, our lives are mere shells of what they could be. We need to check the guest list and see if we have invited Jesus in those empty and lonely areas.

Many have invited some Hollywood star, or musician to occupy an important place in their life. With others it may be some political cause. You and I need to check the guest list and evaluate who has access in our lives. We need to issue summons of restrictions for some people and things and extend a VIP invitation for JESUS. He wants to come into your situation, but He will not break in. He stands at the door of our hearts and seeks access.

Often we invite everything but the right things into our lives. I challenge you to check the guest list of your life and make sure Jesus is there. This story emphasizes that the disciples were the disciples of Jesus. They were there because of their affiliation and occupation with Jesus.

People miss the celebrations of life because of their lack of connectivity to Jesus. There is coming according to the book of Revelation another wedding celebration and only Jesus and his disciples/children will be there. Have we dedicated ourselves to the discipline of becoming His disciples?

When Jesus is in the house, he brings generous abundant blessing. He brings forgiveness, he brings the gift of the Holy Spirit, he brings purpose and direction for our lives, he brings the best. Jesus said - I have come that they might have abundant life. What a difference it makes when Jesus comes.

Not only should we check the guest list and ensure we have given access to Jesus, but we must ;

RECOGNIZE OUR NEED AND BRING IT TO JESUS

Mary, says to Jesus -they have no wine, -translation, we’re empty, we’re all out.

The Jews didn’t get drunk at these celebrations. Drunkenness was considered a social disgrace and spiritual defilement. But the host could have actually been sued for a breach of hospitality to his guest if there was no libation. This was no minor issue. Mary understood the urgency of the moment and so she comes to Jesus and says, “Son, we’ve got a problem here, and we need your help. The groom’s family is running out of wine.”

There are differences of opinion as the whether the wine Jesus made was fermented or just grape juice. I’ll let you make up your own mind about that. All I’ll say is- I’ll gladly have a glass of anything Jesus makes.

MARY HAS A LITTLE TALK WITH JESUS

Mary is obeying a Biblical principle here. We’re told;

…. in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.- Philippians 4:6

Mary coming to Jesus with such a problem is a portrait of what we need to do when we are running out of spiritual strength and life is getting on our “last nerve.” This is how to respond to empty situations. Mary goes to Jesus and tells him all about it. When we’re empty we shouldn’t hesitate, or cover up. Follow Mary’s example and come clean about the situation.

Mary shows us that if we are serious about our search for solutions to the problem of emptiness we must be real about our situation. This is a prerequisite to the manifestation of God’s power; he requires that before He will show up; we must be willing to call out to Him.

There’s something here that at first blush seems a bit puzzling; Jesus seems to tell his mother off: ‘Woman, what concern is that to you and to me?’ The NIV puts it: ‘Dear woman, why do you involve me?’ ‘My time or hour has not yet come.’ It helps us if we remember that in different cultures people have different customs and speak in different ways.

In the culture that Jesus lived, it was in no way rude to address a person as woman, although we would think it rather rude. That’s why NIV makes it ‘Dear woman’. Jesus was not rude to his mother, but rather what he was saying to her was ‘My main purpose in life from now on is not solving all the practical problems of my family and friends. God has given me another task to do, and the time for that has not yet come.’

Jesus basically came to do two things; to teach and preach to the “house of Israel” then to address himself to the mission of dying for the sins of the whole world. Remember, he lectured the Syro-Phoenician woman about this. Then he went ahead and granted her request anyway. His mercy constrained Him to reach through dispensational walls if necessary to help people.

Though we realize that Jesus is concerned with greater issues than just our minute problems and difficulties, that’s no reason to stop bringing to Him our requests and concerns and putting our trust in him. Mary heard what he said but she still persisted in her faith and trust, knowing Jesus was going to make something good happen. She says to the servants, ‘do whatever he tells you.’ That is always very good advice for anyone,

DO WHAT JESUS TELLS YOU TO DO

There were six large water pots available that had been used for Jewish Rites of purification, but Jesus pressed them into a different use.

Jesus took 180 gallons of Jewish laws, the rituals of purification, and transformed them into 180 gallons of grace. Jesus took 180 gallons of guilt, 180 gallons of laws, laws and more laws, 180 gallons of “don’t do this and don’t do that,” 180 gallons of laws that numbered more than 600 regulations. Jesus then transformed these religious regulations into a new religion, a new wine that would burst old wine skins. Jesus transformed the old religion into the new religion.

There is enough grace here for a whole city, enough grace for a whole state, enough grace for the whole wide world. From God’s fullness of grace, right up to the brim, we all have received grace upon grace upon grace. I love that line in the text where the vats are filled up right to the brim, right up to the top of the lip of the vessel.

THE DANGER OF EMPTINESS –SEVEN MORE DEVILS

Let’s look at another example of emptiness.
Jesus said,

“When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he says, I will return to the house from which I came. And when he comes, he finds it swept and put in order. Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”

This is the story of a demoniac who suffered a relapse. The man was demon possessed, and by the power of God the demon was cast out of his body. A demon is a fallen angel. But after the demon was cast out of him, the man did not repent of his sins, improve his life or make any changes in his life. Again, an empty life is a recipe for disaster.

When the demon came back and found the man's heart and life empty he entered the man's body again and brought seven more demons with him more wicked than himself. Jesus said the last state of that man was worse than the first. The chief lesson in this passage is the danger of emptiness of good in a person's life after God has cast evil out of his life.

There are two profound truths in this passage. One is that unless our minds are possessed of good, they will be possessed of evil. The other valuable truth is that evil once removed from our lives can return to our lives, and as a result, we will be far worse than ever were before. This story is about far more than a demon possessed man, for Jesus said the same thing that happened to this man could happen to most of the nation of Israel. In Matthew's account of this story Jesus said,

“So it will also be with this wicked generation”(Matthew 12: 45

When a demon returns to a life after being put out and he finds man's heart bad and empty of good, he’s even better suited for that man than before. He had not repented of his sinful life, and therefore was a very fit dwelling place for a demon. Some people today, after God has forgiven them of their sin, refuse to correct their lives and grow in grace, fall into a worse condition than before they became Christians.

Judas Iscariot is a perfect example of that. Jesus spoke of people whose last state became worse than their first state. As the demon possessed man had a relapse, many Christians have had relapses into sinful living.Then Jesus made an application of this teaching to the entire Jewish nation by saying, “Even so shall it be also to this evil generation.”(Matthew 12:45).

The last years of Jerusalem before the Romans destroyed it were years of wickedness. Their condition was evil when Christ walked among them, but by 70 A.D. they were in worse condition than when Jesus walked their streets. What Jesus is saying here is that the nation would be worse off for having known Him and rejecting His teachings. His teachings could have changed their lives and made them righteous and holy in God's sight.

What all this amounts to is a serious warning about negative improvement only. To receive forgiveness for sins of the past life, but make no positive course correction and improvement in our lives puts us in a most dangerous condition. This is quite common in Christianity. People get rid of their sins, but then make little or no improvement in their character. At conversion the character of Christ is not transferred to us in some mysterious way as a gift.

The only righteous people are those who practice righteousness. We must correct the mistakes of the past; and we must develop a Christian character. God won’t do that for us. We must do the repenting and the changing. We must overcome evil in our lives; and Christ will not do that for us. He cleanses our heart from evil at the new birth, but we can leave our hearts empty; if we choose. But if we do so evil will return to us. As a result we will be worse than were before we became Christians. Jesus framed these words so as to include the entire Jewish nation when Jesus lived.

Those listeners to whom He was speaking were fitting representatives of most all people in Israel who rejected Jesus as their Messiah. The words of the Lord in Luke 11:26, “the last state of that man is worse than the first,” are quoted by Peter.

The apostle Peter applied these words to Christians in 2 Peter 2:20,

For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the proverb: A dog returns to his own vomit and a sow having washed to her wallowing in the mire.”

Can you imagine such words spoken to Christians who were once cleansed of an evil life, and then returned to their old evil way of life and enjoyed it? Peter referred to many who became immoral and false teachers and caused pollution in the church. This is exactly what happened to some who had been healed of demon possession, and Jesus says this same condition can occur in people who have never been demon possessed. When God cleanses our lives by the truth, and we continue to live an impenitent and unrighteous life, we are worse off than we were before we became Christians. Jesus applied this teaching to the entire nation of Israel, and it equally applies to you and me. Another step for dealing with emptiness is;

CONSULT A SPECIALIST

If your life seems empty and tasteless, don’t try to fill it with some substance or some exotic location. You can travel the world looking for meaning and when you return home and put your hand on the doorknob, the same old emptiness will be there. If you tried to do it without the Lord you’ll say- “been there, done that, now what?”

Mary not only acknowledges the crisis, and verbalizes the deductive conclusions of her rational comprehension, but she demonstrates to us; it’s not so important that we have problems, but what we do with the problems.

Mary recommends to us that when we have problems, we should CONSULT A SPECIALIST.

Too many turn to sister Cleo, and palm readers, fortunetellers and other forms of spiritual witchcraft. Mary says to us; when we are empty, it’s not Taurus the bull, or Pisces the Fish or the Gemini Twins that will help us, -we need someone who specializes in making a way out of no way. If your car were broken, you would seek a specialist. If your vision were failing you would consult a specialist. Mary takes her problem to Jesus.

We have to take our hurts and brokenness to someone that specializes in meeting human need.

As an old song says;

Got any rivers you think are uncrossable. Got any mountains you can’t tunnel through?” God specializes in things thought impossible. And He can do what no other power can do."

Forgive me for waxing ancient here but there’s another old song I seldom hear these days. If I knew the author I’d gladly give credit;

Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus,
He is a friend that’s well known,
We’ve no other such a friend or brother,
Tell it to Jesus alone.


Blessings,


John

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

"I Can See Clearly Now...."

By John Stallings


Back in 1972 a little song called “I can see clearly now  entered the American music lexicon without much fanfare. But, as they say, it had legs.

There are few people on the planet who haven’t heard it at least once and it somehow seems to stick with you.

I don’t begrudge Johnny Nash his song but as I’ve said about lots of pop songs, I wish some gospel writer could have thought of it first and written it around a spiritual theme.

The words to the chorus are;

I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)
Sun-Shiny day.

In Mark 8:22-26 when Jesus came to Bethsaida, they brought a blind man to him desiring Jesus to touch him. The Bible doesn’t give us the name of this blind man. He was destitute of the precious sense of sight. He had long been a stranger to beholding the beauties of nature. He could not see the lovely region around Bethsaida, the shimmering waters of the lake, the lovely flowers of the Galilean hills, nor the stars and the moon as they decorated the sky on a clear night. This man had a problem, and the people brought him to Jesus.

The healing of this blind man is one of the most fascinating miracles Jesus performed during His earthly ministry. It is also one that has produced a lot of conjecture and misunderstanding.

Let’s unpack this story and try to unravel some of the questions it presents.

The story is related to us very succinctly in five short verses, but in fact contains teaching that impacts our understanding of several spiritual truths. The disciples were granted the opportunity of witnessing a remarkable miracle in a city that was condemned for its unbelief.

Listen to Jesus’ words…

Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you” (Matthew 11:21-22).

Note that Jesus chose three Jewish cities and rebuked them for their unbelief. They had heard His preaching and seen His miracles yet had not repented. He compared them to present and past Gentile cities filled with sexual perversion, idolatry, and heathenism. These were the present cities of Tyre, Sidon, and the Old Testament city of Sodom. Jesus said these cities were better than the cities of Israel. If these cities had seen the same miracles and heard the same preaching, they would have repented. It will be more tolerable at the Great White Throne Judgment for the heathen Gentile cities than for Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum in Israel.

Jesus took the blind man by the hand and led him out of town before healing him. This blind man lived in Bethsaida so Jesus separated the man from the unbelief of the city. Jesus didn’t need snide remarks and insults to be hurled at this man who was young in faith. He could heal in the midst of unbelief, but this man could not maintain his healing surrounded by the ridicule of the city in which he lived. This is why Jesus led the man out of town and healed him away from the view of the religious population of Bethsaida.

The grave opening, deaf destroying, lame restoring, water walking, multitude-feeding, eye opening Jesus then spat on his eyes and touched him with his hands, then asked him if he could see. The blind man answered by saying, "I see men as trees, walking."

WHY DID JESUS SPIT ON THE BLIND MAN'S EYES?

Regardless of how you examine spitting in the Bible, it’s a great insult to spit on someone or to be spit upon. Anyone under the law who was spit upon had to wash themselves and their clothes and were considered unclean until the evening. (Leviticus 15:8) Other scriptures deal with the insult of being spit upon. (Numbers 12:14, Deuteronomy 25:9) Jesus was spit upon as a great insult before He was crucified. (Matthew27:30)

Some folk miss the point of the miracle and the insult Jesus was giving by bringing spit into the transaction. Jesus didn’t spit on the blind man; He spat on the blindness. This was the ultimate insult to sickness and disease. If Jesus could speak to sickness and rebuke it, then apparently sickness can hear. (Luke 4:39) If sickness and disease can hear, it can also be insulted. Jesus released all of His contempt for Satan and his works when he spit on the blindness.

Jesus spat on two others in the New Testament. He healed another blind man by spitting in the clay and rubbing it in the man’s eyes. (John 9:1-7) He also spit on the tongue of a man with a speech impediment. (Mark 7:33) Notice in each of these cases, Jesus spat on the diseased part of the body demonstrating He was spitting on the disease, not the person. Jesus did not always lay hands on the diseased part of the body. He touched Peter’s mother-in-law on the hand to heal her of a fever. He touched people, but He spit on the devil and his works.

WHY DID JESUS PRAY FOR THE MAN TWICE?

 Jesus spit on the blindness, but He laid hands on the man for healing. In fact, He laid hands on the man twice. After laying hands on this man once, his eyes opened partially and he told Jesus he saw men walking, but they were blurry, they looked like trees. This man was not born blind, but somewhere in his life, perhaps through an accident, he had become blind. He knew what men looked like. He also remembered what trees looked like. When Jesus laid hands on the man a second time, his vision was completely restored. He saw clearly.

This is the only case recorded in the word where Jesus laid hands on a person more than once. Why? Because of the unbelief of the city of Bethsaida where he resided. He was filled with doubt concerning the ability of Jesus to heal him. Being separated from the people of the city allowed him to open himself up, albeit with skepticism, to the healing power of God. Once he could see partially, he resolved himself to being healed completely. Jesus didn’t lay hands on this man twice to release more of God’s power. God's full power was in manifestation. Jesus prayed twice because the man was now more open to God's healing power.

Although this is the only case where Jesus prayed twice for a person, it’s not the only case where a person was prayed for more than once. Jesus had to cast out the devil from a boy who had already been prayed for by the disciples. Jesus cast out the devil and then upbraided the disciples because of their failure due to the skepticism of the religious leaders and the pressure of the crowd. They had failed because of their unbelief.(Matthew17:20)

MANY PEOPLE DON’T SEE SPIRITUAL THINGS CLEARLY.

Listen to 2 Corinthians 4:4;

In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not…..

Also in Ephesians 4:18…

Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Ephesians 4:18)

When we read the Bible we need to pray like the Psalmist, "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law" -Psalm 119:18.

Humanistic religion won’t make you free; rationalism will not make you free; existentialism will not make you free; denominationalism will not make you free. All of these isms will keep you from seeing clearly.

There are many kinds of sight: physical, spiritual, intellectual, and hindsight, and there are so many people who need a second touch. A famous actress was recently asked why she remained single but adopted children. She said, "I had a baby at twenty five because I wanted to have a baby and I could afford it. I didn’t get married because I firmly believe that marriage destroys relationships.” Really? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that in the grand scheme of things this woman isn’t seeing the big picture. She just isn’t seeing clearly.

Apollos, the eloquent preacher, did not see clearly and was given a second touch of teaching by Aquila and Priscilla. After that he could say “ I can see clearly now.” (Acts 18:24 28). The twelve men at Ephesus didn’t see clearly when they only knew of the baptism of John; but a second touch of teaching by the apostle Paul caused them to see clearly. Acts 19:1-5. Even though they had been saved they hadn’t even heard of being Spirit filled. After Paul expounded they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, just like on the Day of Pentecost.

You can’t be taught wrong, understand wrong, believe wrong, obey wrong and end up being right. Paul taught the Ephesians right; they understood right, believed right, obeyed right and were filled with the Holy Spirit.

The Ethiopian Eunuch was a church-going, Bible-reading man, but he did not see clearly. He was reading in the Old Testament and didn’t understand what he was reading. But evangelist Philip gave him a second touch of teaching by preaching Jesus to him and then the eunuch could sing –I can see clearly now. (Acts 8:27-39). There are many church-going and Bible-reading people who do not see clearly. They need a second touch of divine revelation.

This story under scores the fact that…

GOD DOESN’T TREAT US THE SAME WAY.

God isn’t limited by anything or anyone and he doesn’t treat us all the same. He heals one with a touch, another with a word, another with a glance, and yet another at a great distance. He touches one and never sees the other, and yet all are healed.

It’s a mark of maturity to say, “Lord, you don’t have to treat me the way you treat my neighbor.” We all understand that truth theoretically, but it is hard to come to grips with it when your child is sick unto death and your neighbor’s children are healthy and happy. No one knows exactly why two people get cancer and one lives while the other dies.

Many people struggle with this concept. They think that because God did something for a friend or a neighbor or a loved one, then God must be bound to do the same thing for them. But it doesn’t work that way. God can deliver your neighbor from cancer and not heal you. Or vice versa. Envying your neighbor because he has something you don’t have is a waste of time because God treats us as individuals, not as groups. The truth is, he might do for you exactly what he’s done for someone else, or he might do more or he might do less or he might do something entirely different. He’s God. He can deal with us the way he wants.

When Peter asked about John’s fate, Jesus brushed him off with a mild rebuke, as if to say, “Don’t worry about it.” In essence he was saying, that’s him, not you. God deals with us as individuals. The Lord isn’t obligated to bless you the same way he blesses anyone else. And he is not obligated to put you through the same trials [either greater or lesser] that anyone else goes through. Our only business is to make sure we are following Jesus closely. If we do that, we don’t have time to worry about how he treats our friends.

When Jesus entered the room to raise Jairus’ daughter from the dead, the mourners had already arrived and laughed Jesus to scorn for declaring the daughter was not dead but asleep. Jesus removed them from the room before He prayed. This was for Jairus’ sake. The father had already begun to fear when he heard the report of his daughter dying. (Mark 5:36) Jesus didn’t want this man surrounded by the unbelief so rampant in Capernaum. Jesus separated the man from the atmosphere of skepticism.

Notice the last thing Jesus told this blind man after his sight was restored. “Go back to your home, but do not go back into the city or tell anyone of your healing.” What a wonderful statement to anyone needing healing today who is bothered by the reports of unbelief given by friends, relatives, church or business associates. We can go home but we need to separate ourselves from the village of unbelief that could so easily sway us and cause us to be defeated. Home is where we can be alone with God to pray and study His Word.

God still asks us today, “whose report will you believe?” To believe His report, we must dwell on it and study it until it becomes a part of our lives.

WE DON'T GET BETTER AT THE SAME RATE OR THE SAME WAY

For every man who is suddenly, radically, completely transformed, it seems that there many more who must grow in grace slowly, through stages, and whose spiritual vision starts off cloudy and only slowly gets better. To say that is not to give in to pessimism. Often it’s for our benefit to get better gradually. Spectacular healings always amaze us—and thank God they do happen yet we should realize that God often chooses to heal slowly.

This principle works across the spectrum of spiritual life. Some people come to Christ and grow quickly, becoming strong Christians in a short period of time. Others take much longer to learn the Word and become strong in the faith. Many will struggle with blurry vision for a long time. I daresay that all of us have areas of “blurry vision” where see things very unclear. Every believer has blind spots which by definition we don’t see because if we saw them, they wouldn’t be blind spots.

A WORD ABOUT HOW YOU CAN RECEIVE HEALING

If you desire to be healed and are not a Christian, you should first find healing for your soul. Repent of your sins and seek God with your whole heart. When you repent of your sins, believe in the Lord Jesus [not just some things about Him, but believe Him and trust Him and what He says in His Word], and confess Him with your mouth, - then you will be saved (see Romans 10: 9, 10). When you are born again by the spirit of God and born into the family of God, you are eligible to ask in faith for any of His promised benefits.

THE CHRISTIAN AND HEALING

If you are a Christian and haven’t received healing, examine your life and attitudes in light of God's Word. God hasn’t shown respect of persons in your case, as that’s contrary to His divine nature. If you are still sick, there is a reason, and God's Word will reveal it to you if you’ll diligently seek His face. When you find the problem and correct it, God's healing touch will be yours. This is God's guarantee, and God cannot lie.

Many fail to receive healing because they have been taught that sickness and physical suffering is God's way of bringing out the best in them, or developing the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. They believe that they must be patient in affliction and wait until it’s God's time to heal them. They believe that God is working out patience and long-suffering in them. Or perhaps God is chastening them for some unknown sin.

It’s true that sin opens the door for sickness to enter, but all God asks is that the sin be confessed and forsaken. God doesn’t say, “Is any sick among you? Let him patiently wait until God has finished chastening him" but rather…

Confess your faults one to another [now, today], and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The promise is, The prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him (James 5:16, 15).

God is not glorified when Christians continue in sickness. Build your faith on the Word of God. Search the Word to find the reason you have not been healed. Get rid of the problem, and then accept your healing joyfully, in whatever way God sees fit to give it.

God may choose to heal you instantly or He may choose to let the healing be gradual. He may choose to give a sudden manifestation of your healing, but at a little later time. Or, as in the case of one whose time has come to go, He may bring deliverance from pain and suffering by taking the person to his eternal rest.

Lay aside your own ideas of how God is going to heal you and accept the healing God's way. Believe God and take Him at His word. God says healing is for you. God, who cannot lie, says to- believe that ye receive it and ye shall have it.

Don’t cast away your confidence if recovery doesn't come immediately. Hold fast to your faith in the Word of God. Stand upon the promise and God guarantees that your healing shall come.

SAVED BY HIS HONESTY

What finally saved this poor blind man was his honesty. He didn’t lie to Jesus. That’s a crucial insight. He could have said, “Lord, I see all things clearly.” If he had said that, he would never have gotten better. His honesty gave him the sight he did not have.

Sometimes it’s hard to be honest with God. How difficult to admit our weakness.

Jesus didn’t ask this man, “Can you see anything?” in order to get information he didn’t have. Jesus knew the answer to the question. He wanted the man to be honest about his true condition.

We must come to the Lord just as we are, and when we do, he takes us as we are, but he never leaves us that way. That’s why the invitation of Jesus is always very personal.

Cast yourself upon the Lord and he will not turn you away.

Blessings,


John

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Peril Of Little Things

By John Stallings

I read about a man who was aboard the Titanic when it sank after striking an iceberg in 1912.

 He escaped this horrific tragedy in one the ship's lifeboats. In the Navy three years later he was aboard a ship when a German submarine fired a torpedo at it. He escaped death for a second time in the middle of the ocean.

He was a man who survived huge obstacles. One day however he slipped in the creek next to his house, hit his head & drowned in a foot of water.

A man by the name of James Berkley who hunted man eating tigers & lions didn’t die from the jaws or claws of one of these animals. He died after being scratched by his barnyard cat in his backyard. He developed blood poisoning from the incident & died one year later.

Charles Blondin who was famous for walking a tightrope over Niagara Falls; once he pushed a wheelbarrow filled with sand across, tripped on the doormat of his own home & fractured his leg. A year & a half later he died from complications that developed from the injury.

It’s amazing how people can overcome the largest problems & trip over minor tribulations. The truth is, minor things can & do shatter lives. How many relationships have been ruined because of a minor, often foolish problem? An untrue rumor, a misconception, & someone’s immaturity are minor problems that have the potential to destroy relationships. All too often people win the biggest battles & die climbing the smallest hill. It’s too bad that these minor cuts & bruises of life have such destructive power.

Sometimes the things that we get hurt over are unintentional, things said in a careless moment but you feel the pain & are hurt by the comment. This happens often in our relationships. At other times the hurt could be intentional, when someone wants to cut you. The most damaging thing about this kind of offense is when we get hurt intentionally; if we’re not careful, we’ll let someone else’s mistake rule our destiny.

It's amazing how an offhand comment like, “hey you need driving lessons,” can hit us at just the right time & really sting especially coming from a person who, when you ride with them your knuckles stay white the whole time.

An old acquaintance might say something that rubs you the wrong way & before you know it you’ve said, “Well- why did you say that; you must really despise me. You’ve been hating me for years haven’t you? As a matter of fact you’re just hateful period, aren’t you?”

“I’m sorry, look I’m sorry!”

No you aren’t.”

“Yes I am.”

“Oh, please!”

Sometimes we can take something someone said & suddenly we can add a mutated, perverted heart & intention to it. Now we create a straw-man & the problem takes on a life of its own. It was never intended to have these connotations but now we’ve become victims of the monster we’ve created. We’ve all had the experience of “jumping to conclusions” about something only to later find we were wrong. The mind can play tricks on us & it can happen with very little real evidence to go on.

One time I was talking to a preacher friend of mine & I mentioned to him how easy it was to imagine things that weren’t true. I was telling him that we could get it in our mind that someone didn’t like us or had it in for us & it all could just be imagination. I’ll never forget his reply; “Yeah, but what if that person really doesn’t like you?” There went my theory, but in truth, we both were right. Obviously this was one of my more pragmatic friends.

Think about it. What if it were impossible for you to never be offended again? Wouldn’t life be almost like heaven on earth? Well I can’t tell you how to wave a magic wand & make that happen. I can’t show you how to never be hurt again by the slings & arrows of outrageous fortune. (Pardon the Shakespeare.) Like I heard a comedian say, “I learned the secret to happiness back in the nineties but I forgot to write it down.” Well I haven’t learned any secrets other than things from the Word of God that can certainly be helpful. Ready?

1. Guard your heart.


Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. Proverbs 4:23--NLT

You heart is your internal dictionary where you hold your definitions. Those definitions determine how you define & interpret everything that happens to you. We are constantly building our internal dictionary & our perspective is based on the definitions in this “book.” These perceptions can & very often do tell an individual whether they’ve come to the end of the road or view their situation as nothing but a new beginning. If you’ve placed Godly principles & definitions into your heart, then you will see things from God’s perspective. As Christians this is what we are aiming at & it’s our job, not Gods, to guard & build our hearts & make sure the right attitudes & principles are placed there.

God is more concerned about our heart than anything else. The New Testament tells us to build good treasure in our hearts.

The good man out of the good treasure of his heart will bring forth what is good, and the evil man out of the treasure of his heart brings forth what is evil. For his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart. Luke 6:45.

We get to choose what kind of treasure we’re going to build & what definitions we want in our dictionary. The choice is ours.

When God tells us to guard our hearts; that means there’s a lid or door to our hearts that we can open & close. We have to watch that lid like a Hawk because we’re responsible for what goes into our hearts. If it’s not right don’t let it in & if it’s good allow it in; it’s that simple.

Some people wrongly suppose that to show they are open & gracious; they should go around with the lid to their heart open. We sometimes call these people --folk who “wear their heart on their sleeve.” That’s not only wrong it’s dangerous because now you’re at the mercy of everybody’s dysfunction & character deficiency. The next thing you know you’re walking around all beat up & bruised because everything that’s said or done has direct entrance right in to your heart.

God is saying, “Don’t do that, guard your heart for out of it flow the issues of life.

2. Ask God for wisdom.

James tells us that God will give us His wisdom if we’ll just ask for it. But when we get God’s wisdom it won’t do us any good unless we apply it. When you ask for God’s wisdom, you may not like what you hear. As a matter of fact your flesh won’t like what God tells you. It will kick up a big fuss & tell you it won’t work.

God’s wisdom will probably run along the lines of (and I’ve had some experience here) telling you to stop dwelling on the problem & look to Him, forgive & put it behind you, try to work out the misunderstanding with the individual who you feel has hurt you, & consider the things you’ve done to others just as bad as what’s been done to you. You’ll surely be led to pray for the person who hurt you, & to closely inspect your own life. God usually turns natural wisdom on its head. We can be fairly certain that God’s wisdom will go against out human pride, but as you know pride is what turned angels into devils.

Several years ago a well known Charismatic preacher & equally well known Baptist preacher were seated together on a lengthy cross-country flight. They knew each other mostly by reputation. Things progressed rather nicely for a while & the two even found they had numerous things in common. However, something happened in the course of their conversation & their fellowship was suddenly thrown into the deep-freeze. The rest of the several- hour long flight was spent in silence between the two preachers. They left the plane some time later, dazed & confused & relating almost like rank strangers. Both men left puzzled not knowing how or when the wall went up between them & things “went sideways.”

Ten years later both these preachers were invited to speak at a large convention & they found themselves having breakfast together in a hotel coffee shop one morning. As they talked, one of them mentioned the last time they’d seen each other was the flight where they sat together ten years earlier. Since the men were now ten years older & hopefully wiser & more mature, the question came up of how distant they’d become on that flight after just a few minutes of fellowship. The upshot was that the Charismatic preacher had strongly felt the Baptist brother had said something of a snide nature & he’d taken it to mean the preacher felt he was theologically above him. The Baptist brother was shocked & said nothing could have been more wrong & that to the contrary, the Charismatic brother led him to feel he was spiritually superior to him. When these two preachers finally got real with one another they came to realized they’d been victims of a gigantic misunderstanding & because of it they’d lost the opportunity of ten years when they could have been friends.

If malfunctions like this can occur between two men who are full time ministers who pray daily & spend 24/7/365 doing God’s work, it can happen to any of us, & it does. That’s why we must pray for God’s wisdom.

3. Fix your eyes on things eternal.

Recently Juda & I were on a trip & as I drove I noticed two motorcyclists who were sharing our space on the road on that particular day. We’d pass them & a little while later I’d see them coming up behind us & they’d pass us. We played road tag most all day like that & I began to notice a blond wisp of hair waving outside one of the rider’s helmet. It caused me to wonder if the rider was a woman. When Juda awoke after a time I asked her to look at the two motorcyclists when we passed them next time & tell me if she thought the blond hair was a woman or man. As we swung around to get in front to them I asked Juda “what do you think?” She said, “I think you’re going to kill them if you don’t slow up.” I hadn’t realized that I was watching them so closely I was drifting toward them.

Here’s a good rule to follow, on the hi-way or in any area of life: You will ultimately become one with what you’re focusing on.”

2 Cor. 4:18 says, --So we fix our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary. But what is unseen is eternal.

When we get too caught up in our earthly cuts & bruises, it may be God’s way of reminding us that our eyes have become too focused on the temporal objects of life.

THAT WHICH IS SEEN IS PASSING. THAT WHICH IS UNSEEN IS YOUR DESTINY!


  Blessings,


 John

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Incomparable Christ

By John Stallings


FOR IN HIM DWELLS ALL THE FULLNESS OF THE GODHEAD BODILY.-COLOSSIANS 2:9

If you saw the movie It’s a wonderful life, you will remember that the plot was about allowing one man to see what a hole would have been left in the world had he not been born. 

This of course would be true of all of us, for just by being here we have changed the world in some way.

BUT-Nobody has changed the world like Jesus, nobody!!

He even split time into two parts; AD and BC. Think what a gaping void would have been left in this world had Jesus never been born.

· He has over a billion followers worldwide.

· His life-story is a best-seller every year.

· He is respected by almost all religions, not just Christianity.

· His birthday is celebrated worldwide each year.

· Without money & arms He conquered more millions than all great leaders combined.

· Without Science He shed more light on all things than all the philosophers combined.

· Without formal training He spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since & produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orators or poets.

· Without writing a single line He set more pens in motion, furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, and learned volumes, works of art & songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient & modern times.

 His words about non-violence inspired Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. & Desmond Tutu. His words of concern for the poor inspire the Salvation Army, World Vision, ADRA & others.

· His words have caused mini-revolutions in every generation by changing people’s lives, inspiring love & generosity & high ideals & bringing out the best & highest in human life.

· Think about it; Jesus said, “My words will never pass away.” And His words have been passed into more languages, more books, talks & songs than anyone else’s-they’ve just never passed away.

· Let’s look at his life, who He was and why He came. Most people will accept He was a great teacher but Jesus said-and He said it often- that He was God! If that’s false then Jesus was either a mad man or a liar.

 Was Jesus mad?

Do you see signs of madness in Him? How much ego is there in someone who called Himself the servant of the people? He said He didn’t come to be served but to serve. He made friends with powerless people-lepers-prostitutes, outcasts, as well as rich, religious & powerful people. He took time to care for children & women in a culture where they were nobodies.

 If you read His life story in the Bible you see an incredible personality & can understand how He has inspired people to be like Him. You’ll notice that He was even-tempered whether the crowd was cheering for Him or picking up stones to kill Him. He can tolerate personal hateful attacks & answer rough questions & even predict His own death with incredible emotional balance.

 Plus, how could a madman be a teacher?

Who do you think I am?”

With that brief question Jesus Christ confronted His followers with the most important issue they would ever face. They had spent much time with Him and He’d made some bold claims about His identity. Now the time had come for them to either believe or deny His teachings and His personage.

Who do YOU say Jesus is? Your answer to that question will determine your lifestyle, values, and eternal destiny as well. While He lived there was much confusion about who He was. That hasn’t changed. Later we’ll examine his claims.

First let’s look at what other great men have said about Him.

** “I am an Historian, not a believer. I must confess as a Historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.”H.G Wells—British Author

** “The name of Jesus isn’t so much written as it ploughed into the history of the world.”
Emerson
—Philosopher

** In his famous book Mere Christianity, C.S Lewis makes this statement, “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic-on the level with a man who says he’s a poached egg- or would be the devil of hell. Either this was who he was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up as fool or fall at his feet and worship him but there’s no patronizing nonsense about calling him a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.”

** Napoleon said,

“I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius”? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His Empire upon love: and at this hour millions of people would die for Him. Everything in Christ astonishes me. His spirit overawes me and His will confounds me…I search in vain to find the similar to Jesus Christ, or anything that can approach the gospel. All other empires fall. The Church remains.”

**Lew Wallace, famous general, literary genius and avowed atheist was going to write a book to embarrass Christians and show the world Jesus Christ was a hoax. Within two years of research about the life of Christ, he suddenly found himself on his knees crying out to Jesus saying, My Lord and my God.” He then proceeded to write Ben Hur, one of the greatest books ever written concerning the life and times of Christ.

**The late Mother Theresa poured her life into helping the poor and downtrodden and always told people, “My work is only the expression of my love for Jesus Christ.” Thousands of others like her upon meeting Jesus, from that day on disregarded their own needs so that they could consecrate their lives on helping others. Their outlook on life was altered forever.

** Saul of Tarsus was the chief persecutor of early Christians. He dragged people to prison when they didn’t recant their faith. But when he had a dramatic encounter with the risen Christ on his way to Damascus, he was transformed from Saul the enemy of Christianity, to Paul the main propagator of its message. He promptly left his position of prestige in the Jewish society to become a traveling missionary and experienced incredible suffering in order to share the love of Christ throughout the Roman Empire. About the sacrifices he endured he said,

I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ. Philippians 3:8.

JESUS WAS ONE OF FOUR THINGS;

· A LEGEND,
· A LUNITIC,
· A LIAR,OR
· LORD AND GOD

* If He were a liar, would He have died for His claims when He could easily avoid it?

* If He were a lunatic, how did He engage in intelligent debates with His opponents (at twelve years old) or handle the stress of His betrayal and crucifixion, all the while showing deep love for those killing him? Does this sound like a mental case?

* He said He was Lord God and the evidence supports him.

Here are some of the claims of Christ.

1. HE CLAIMED TO BE SINLESS.

John 8:28-29, So Jesus said, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know who I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me, he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.
John 8:46-47, Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.

2. HE CLAIMED TO BE THE ONLY WAY TO GOD.
Not one of several ways, but the one and only way. Not to teach the way, but to be the way to God. Nobody has ever made claims like that before and backed them up, but Jesus did through his love, Holy life and miracles.

John 14:6, I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father but by me.
Matthew 11:27, All things have been committed to me by my father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

3. HE CLAIMED TO SHARE THE GLORY OF GOD IN HEAVEN.

Jesus claimed to have pre-existed the people He spoke with theapostle John, who shared bread with Jesus wrote that Jesus was with God in the very beginning, and all things came into being through Him, and without Him not one thing came into being. (John 1:1-5)

In John 17:5 Jesus said, Father glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
In John 10:30 Jesus said, I and the Father are one.

4. HE CLAIMED TO BE ABLE TO FORGIVE SINS.

One of the reasons the Jewish leaders were so angry with Jesus was His continual practice of forgiving sins. The religious leaders understood clearly that since sins were a rebellion against God Himself, only God could forgive sins.

Luke 5:20-21 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend your sins are forgiven.’ The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, ‘Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?

Luke 7:48-49. Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ The other guests began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’

5. HE CLAIMED TO BE A HEAVENLY KING.

Luke 22:69, But from now on the Son of man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.

Luke 23:1-3, Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ a King. ‘So Pilate asked Jesus, ‘Are you the King of the Jews? ‘Yes, it is as you say’ Jesus replied.
John 18:36-37 Jesus said, ‘My Kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.’ ‘You are a king then, said Pilate. Jesus answered, ‘you are right in saying I’m a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this came I into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.

6. HE CLAIMED TO BE ABLE TO GIVE EVERLASTING LIFE.

He didn’t just tell people how they could find everlasting life, or deepen their own life experience. He actually claimed to give life Himself.

John 6:40, For my Fathers will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
John 6:47, I tell you the truth, he who believes, has everlasting life.
John 19:28-30 I give [my followers] eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my hand. I and the Father are one.
John 11:25 Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies, and whosoever lives and believes in me shall never die.

7. HE CLAIMED HE WOULD DIE AND COME BACK TO LIFE.

John 12:32-33. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.’ He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.John 16:16, In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.
Luke 18:31-33, Jesus took the twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock, insult him, spit on him. On the third day he will rise again. 

8. HE CLAIMED HE WOULD RETURN AGAIN TO JUDGE THE WORLD.

Matthew 24:27-30, So as the lightening comes from the east and flashes to the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. At that time the sign will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.Matt.25:31-32, When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him and he will separate the people one from another as a Shepard separates the sheep and the goats.
Mark 14:61-62, And the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One? I am, said Jesus, and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.
So again, we are faced with two choices; either we believe Jesus is who He said He was or we don’t. Some people think there are many paths to God, but remember what Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, the life, no one comes to the Father but through me.

*CONCLUSION--JESUS IS THE ONLY ACCEPTABLE OBJECT OF SAVING FAITH.

The Bible says Jesus is God, the Holy One, the Savior, the only valid object of saving faith, the Sovereign Lord and the Righteous Judge. He is the theme of every book in the Bible. In the Word of God He’s,

· Promised in Genesis,
· Revealed in the law
· Prefigured in History
· Praised in it’s Poetry
· Proclaimed in its Prophecy
· Provided in the Gospels
· Proved in the Acts
· Preeminent in the Epistles and
· Prevailing in Revelation

Who do you say He is? That’s the inescapable question.

 If He was a fake His first problem would be to be born in the right year, the right town & tribe, but let’s say He fluked that. Somehow He could fake the prediction of the type of work He would do & the year He would start His ministry. For the sake of argument He could tell His friends to betray Him-although it would be hard to know he’d get exactly 30 pieces of silver.

But what about the prediction of the exact date He would die? Maybe He could just misbehave & get the Romans to kill Him but could He have said, “Can you make that Friday?” Right! And would they let you chose crucifixion instead of a death by sword?

The thought of faking it is too hard. What would you gain? Could He have just gotten lucky? One mathematician said the chance of Jesus fulfilling only eight of the prophecies about Him would be one in 100,000,000,000,000,000.

 For 48 prophecies it be would one in 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.
. Some scholars cite 332 prophecies but I don’t have the energy to type all those zeros.

Look at a few predictions about Jesus,

1.He’d arrive before the last of the Jewish Kings lost power. Gen.49:10-Written 1,500 BC. Roman power finally took over in AD70.

2.He’d start His work 483 years after Jerusalem started being rebuilt-Written by Daniel—(9:35)-600 years earlier. Rebuilding started in 475 BC.

3.He’d be killed by piercing his hands & feet, wrote David in c. 100BC even though crucifixion wasn’t know in Israel until 165BC. Psalm 22:16

4 He’d be born in Bethlehem & belong to the tribe of Judah.-Micah 5:2.Gen.49:10

5. Too much else to write—see “Evidence that demands a verdict”-- by Josh McDowell-Thomas Nelson 1979.

· Bottom line: can you see why a billion people believe He’s God?

Was Jesus a con? Why might He do a con job?

FOR MONEY? - When we read His life we see He lived very simply.

FOR POWER? -No, He didn’t let the people make Him King when they wanted to. He chose to die rather than start a war of revolution.

POPULARITY? No, Jesus’ enemies out-numbered His friends because He told the truth when He knew it would bring his death.

GOD WHAT A MAN!--MAN WHAT A GOD!-- WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO WITH HIM??

ONE SOLITARY LIFE

He was born in an obscure village
The son of a peasant woman.
He grew up in another obscure village,
Where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty.

He never wrote a book.
He never held an office.
He never went to college.
He never visited a big city.
He never traveled more than two hundred miles
From the place where He was born.
He did none of the things
Usually associated with greatness.
He had no credentials but himself.

He was only thirty three when
His friends ran away.
One of them denied Him.
He was turned over to his enemies,
And went through the mockery of a trial.
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.
While dying, His executioners gambled for his clothing,
The only property He had on earth.

When He was dead
He was laid in a borrowed grave
Through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen centuries have come and gone
And today Jesus is the central figure of the human race
And the leader of mankind’s progress.
All the armies that have ever marched,
and all the navies that have ever sailed,
All the parliaments that have ever sat,
All the kings that ever reigned put together,
Have not affected the life of mankind on earth
as powerfully as,
THIS ONE SOLITARY LIFE.

WHEREFORE GOD HATH HIGHLY EXALTED HIM AND GIVEN HIM A NAME WHICH IS ABOVE EVERY NAME;THAT AT THE NAME OF JESUS EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW, OF THINGS IN HEAVEN,AND THINGS IN EARTH, AND THINGS UNDER THE EARTH;AND THAT EVERY TONGUE SHOULD CONFESS THAT JESUS CHRIST IS LORD, TO THE GLORY OF GOD THE FATHER. Philippians 2:9-11


Blessings,


John



Thursday, January 7, 2016

Whining And Dining

By John Stallings



……And the Lord spake unto Moses saying, I have heard the murmurings of the Children of Israel…Exodus 16:11-12

Do all things without complaining & disputing…Phil.2:14

I’ll be happy when_______?

Welcome to the fine art of whining. Most of us, no matter what profession we’re in, constantly get our fill of whining. Pastors, teachers, restaurant owners, sales people, politicians, parents, you name it, all get more than their share of whining. At Malls, restaurants, book stores church and almost anywhere else you go, one of the hallmarks of the experience will be children whining and fussing. Its part of the package and we’ve pretty much learned to accept it. Pastors aren’t exempt but the one thing they can’t say is, “don’t come whining to me.” I have seen nice church folk sit down to a free meal & complain because the forks were placed on the wrong side of the plates.

People in most walks of life get thick-skinned and learn to ignore the carping and develop the philosophy, “The dogs keep barking but the caravan moves on.”

Most people think happiness is related to money or a relationship. Some think happiness is some sort of “physical shape” or a vacation destination. They truly believe they at all times are one shopping trip from happiness. What is it for you that you think will make you happy? If it’s money, what does that figure look like to you? Is it 10, 15, 50, 100,000 dollars in the bank? Is it when you can pay off all your bills or buy all the clothes, cars or houses you want?

Will it really make you stop grumbling & complaining & make you more delightful & content so that you no longer argue & dispute with others?

QUESTION—WHAT EXTERNAL CIRCUMSTANCE CAN CHANGE YOUR INTERNAL STATE?

Maybe you’ll blow these questions off & answer smugly, “Brother, I’m happy because I have Jesus.” O.K. Fine, after all I was just throwing some questions out there anyway. And here’s why;

81% of us want more than we earn.
94% of us know we’re too materialistic, yet…
89% of us expect to “have it all.”

Per capita we are the richest country in history yet we are also the most depressed people in the history of the world. We are also the most bored & discontent. We have the highest suicide rate, murder rate & committed insane in institutions than any nation. There are almost 100 nations in this world where the average person spends less on themselves per year than we spend on our garbage bags. We have over twice as many Malls as we do high schools. 75% of the people in Malls right now have no real idea why they are there & went for “retail therapy” trying to purchase happiness. That “buzz” will only last 15-20 minutes & then buyer’s remorse sets in.

The average American has over 8 thousand dollars worth of credit card debt. The average American will spend more on themselves for watches & jewelry & clothes than they will spend on education for themselves & their children. Over the last 20 years the number of items in supermarkets has grown by 200%. We work more than any other nation so we can buy more things but we have less time to enjoy the things we worked so hard to get. We are lucky if we get 2 weeks of paid vacation per year, while most Europeans take 1-3 months off for vacation.

The average American parent spends 6 hours of the week shopping & 40 minutes playing with their kids. Our suicide & divorce rate tripled from 1970-1999. Our nation comprises only 4.6% of the world’s population yet we use 40% of the world’s resources. American’s are born consumers & probably the greatest consumption is sex. America spends 32 billion dollars a year on pornography which is more than baseball, basketball & football combined.

Americans are 10 times more depressed & 40 times more violent than we were in the 1950s. We have bought the great lie that possessions & affluence means happiness & freedom. Our consumerism has given rise to horribly unhappy lives & we’ve become slaves to our possessions. In simple terms, we think the more stuff we have the happier we’ll be, & it hasn’t happened.

We’re driven to buy things to make us happy & are so in debt we live in fear of losing things we don’t even own. We can’t rest & enjoy the fruit of our labors because we don’t own the fruit. We can hardly walk through the mall without being stopped by an “opinion pollster” acting as our friend when all he/she wants us to do is tell them how to better sell things to us. I stopped co-operating with them years ago. Buying is bred into us from the first moment we were able to formulate thoughts using everything from cartoons to the backs of cereal boxes.
Discontentment with the way things are is hammered into us & our children. Materialism & thirst for things has led our children to never be happy with what they have. Instead of using our hands on the backsides of unruly kids like our parents did, we too often leave them undisciplined & just work harder to buy them more things.

Discontent has bred impatience which is another mark of our times, along with long lines, rude people, high prices, traffic jams, terrible drivers & crying babies. Road rage & abused & killed babies are byproducts of this kind of impatience. Then some people have a “mid-life crisis” when they realize there is less life ahead than behind & they haven’t gotten all the the “stuff” they’d dreamed of. Spurred by this, many of them then have “one last flaring up before fading out.” Many little red sports cars, & or, face & body work is then sold to them.

PEOPLE BRING THIS CONSUMERISM INTO THE CHURCH.

They want shorter, funnier sermons. They want less theology & they want catchy music. They want more convenient service times. They want to hear less about sin & more teaching on love. Do you get the point?

What we seem to have forgotten is that God doesn’t exist for us, we exist for Him. The church doesn’t exist for us; we exist to be the church. The pastor doesn’t exist to be our fishing buddy. I know it hurts to hear it but the world doesn’t revolve around us. What is needed in the church is for us to be turned away from being consumers to being true worshippers of the living God.

There’s one thing I’ve learned that I can share with you. The more I whine, the more negative and miserable I become. Whining and complaining will sooner or later cast you in a sea of negativity that will rob you of energy, enthusiasm, and life itself. It’s just a small step from whining to cynicism. I once heard a definition of a cynic. “A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past; they are prematurely disappointed in the future.” But really, that attitude isn’t too Christian is it?

When I get all whiny, I start to talk about how hopeless everything is and how useless it is to try. However, I always pull myself out of it for the one simple fact; I know that’s not who I am and that’s not where I want to be. I know that if I stay there with the moaning and the groaning, I’m going to hurt myself and everyone around me. Once you’re “ in the soup” of complaining negativity, it doesn’t really matter if you got there by whining about small, imaginary things or real issues, you’re still “In the soup” and are going to be cooked.

WHINING IS CONTAGIOUS

Ask Moses and Aaron. As you know the Israelites got out into the desert and went negative. They had faced down Pharaoh and escaped the Egyptian Armored Divisions. They had walked a super hi-way through the Red sea. Their enemies were in the land God had promised them and they were digging wells for them and building homes and roads for them. But what do they do? They start getting negative and asking, “Are we lost?” They don’t give Moses a plaque with the names of the twelve tribes on it. They don’t offer him a decorative quilt. They don’t even say thank you. They don’t have a thanksgiving service. They say, “The deserts too hot.” “How much further is it?” “I’m hungry”, and so on.

Isn’t it interesting that God hears their complaints. You might think that our great God would turn a deaf ear to their grumblings and whining. You might think that God would be so big that He’d say, “Well, they’re only human, what else is to be expected of them.” But no, God hears it and takes it serious. There are two sides to that. One is the side that God is attentive to his children and hears each cry. The other side, which isn’t such good news, is that God heard these bitter cries and took them serious; as a matter of fact he seems to take it personally.

Then God starts to give them Manna twice a day. I don’t know what manna is but I like to think of it as cinnamon-buns served with boiling hot coffee. But what do they do? Do they praise God from whom all blessings flow? No, they whine. They’re eating, they’re full, they’re feasting on the riches of Gods grace, but they’re whining and dining at the same time.

The problem now becomes, there’s only so much you can do with manna.

• Fried manna
• Boiled manna
• Baked manna
• Manna fritters
• Manna and banana
• Manna scampi
• Manna etouffe’

Then the Israelites starting wanting meat to eat; they whined so much that God finally said; O.K you want meat to eat? I’ll give you meat until it comes out your noses. Really! You can look it up. God puts them on the Adkins diet, all meat.

Do you want me to tell you what this looks like to me? It looks like God has His limits. He has a place He comes to where He says, “Get a grip & put your problems into perspective.”

IF SOMETHING IS BOTHERING YOU SO BAD YOU’VE STARTED GOING ON AND ON ABOUT IT, ASK YOURSELF THESE QUESTIONS.

• Ask yourself if the thing you’re bothered about really matters. If it really matters, you need to do something about it. If it doesn’t, let it go. Before you dump it on a friend, a co-worker or anyone else, ask yourself what’s really bothering you. What is it you’re really unhappy about? More often than not our whines are symptoms of what’s going on inside of us and sometimes it hard to face up to what it really is. Are you talking to the right person? If not, it’s triangulating or gossiping and that’s going to hurt everybody involved. There’s no use whining to someone who can’t do anything about it but get negative with you.
• Realize the effect that your complaint will have on the person you share it with. It takes 10 positive remarks to balance out a single negative one. Is your complaint going to be worth the damage it might do?
• Consider ways you may have contributed to the problem and ways you might help solve it. Consider also that others may have a completely different way of looking at the problem and don’t be offended if they don’t see it your way.
• Finally, be sure you express your problem if you do give voice to it, within a context of mutual respect and concern. Seek to find solutions not punish. Seek solutions that will build toward better relationships later on not leave people frustrated and discouraged. Unity is still the Christians goal and severed relationships are serious in Gods eyes.
• Don’t let a minor complaint become a major division.

EVERY BATTLE ISN’T ARMAGEDDON.

In closing, if you are someone who needs a prayer partner to help you pray something through, that’s not whining.

If you are passionate about some issue, and need to vent, that’s not whining.

If someone has hurt your feelings and you want to talk, talk to them, that’s not whining.

Life is too precious to fritter away on negativity. Our missions are too important to be sacrificed to the nibbling of minnows. We all need positive people to help keep us from becoming negative. We should do that for one another, don’t you think? God is patient with us and we should be patient with one another.

May we never get so thick skinned that we fail to relate to others who may have a burr under their saddle.

May we put things into perspective and keep the carping down to a minimum. We have so much more to be grateful for that we do to complain about.

Paul speaks to the complainers in the Philippians 2 & tells them to;

Work out y our salvation (not work for our salvation) in fear & trembling. Vr.12

In other words we’re to work out our salvation with fear & trembling without complaining & disputing. The word complaining in the Greek is gongusmos which means guttural grumbling sound when you are disgruntled & frustrated. It’s like someone talking about someone behind your back & under their breath so you can’t quiet hear it. It’s the same kind of grumbling we read about in 1 Corinthians 10:10 that Paul used to describe the Israelites who grumbled & were “destroyed by the destroyer.” 14,700 grumblers were destroyed & not allowed to enter the promise land because Korah & his company murmured against Moses & Aaron & ultimately against God.

God is a loving father who gives us many good things & too often we start to worship these things instead of Him. That’s why we get miserable because when the excitement of these things wears off we want a better one, a bigger one & a faster one. Our goal is to be true worshippers of God. When we worship Him instead of the things He gives us our lives become a wellspring of true joy that ends in happiness instead of disillusion & death.

MAY GOD GIVE US A GRATEFUL SPIRIT SO THAT WE MIGHT SHARE WITH THE WORLD OUR REASON FOR HOPE, OUR LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST.

Blessings,

John