Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Sometimes The Boat Sinks Anyway

By John Stallings



Shipwrecks are fascinating.

Remember the movie, “Titanic?” It was the blockbuster movie of the year all about the ship which was called “unsinkable” hitting an iceberg & going down on her first & only voyage.

What did the Titanic teach us? For one thing the maritime nations of the world changed their policies about ship’s radio rooms after a neighboring ship turned off its radio set for the night because it was bedtime, when the Titanic was starting to sink with hundreds of souls beneath the cold waves.

Shipbuilders learned about lifeboats becoming useless when a ship lists to one side. And they also learned you have to have enough lifeboats for all on board. And maybe they learned from the Titanic not to boast as if she were actually unsinkable because clearly, she wasn’t.

In this article we’ll look at perhaps the most famous shipwreck in history, Paul’s shipwreck in route to Rome & see what spiritual lessons we can learn. That story is dramatically told in Acts 27.

One thing I’ll tell you up front is that the storm Paul encountered has to be one of the most horrendous experiences any man ever endured. It lasted two weeks & much of that time neither the sun nor stars were seen.

I’ve lived in Florida most of my life & can tell you that two days in the grip of a ferocious storm is about all a human can endure, & that’s’ with the provision that you’re on stable ground, not like Paul, aboard a small ship.

We’ll see one thing for absolutely certain, & that is even in the worst of times, God’s redeeming hand can come forth & give us a reason for hope & good cheer.

Secular literary experts & writers have given kudos’ to chapters 27 & 28 of Acts which recount Paul’s shipwreck, saying that for sheer purity of story telling, they are unrivaled in all the history of the literary world.

Luke, who wrote Acts, besides being a physician, was a cracking good writer & storyteller. If it weren’t for Luke we’d not have what has become the classic telling of the Christmas story. If it weren’t for Luke we’d have never heard the line, “There was no room in the end,” nor would we know about the stable, the shepherds or the angels.

Luke alone gives us the memorable parables of the Prodigal Son & the Good Samaritan. Luke introduces us to little Zacchaeus & crafted the post-Easter story about the “Road to Emmaus.”

In the book of Acts Luke tells us about “The day Of Pentecost,” the drama of Ananias & Sapphira, the Ethiopian Eunuch, Saul’s Damascus road conversion, Eutychus falling out the window after a long sermon by Paul, & the missionary journeys of Paul, Peter & the other Apostles.

But nowhere in Luke’s writings are his rich descriptive powers on display better than in the last two chapters of Acts.

Luke’s telling of Paul’s shipwreck has even been studied by scholars as a kind of primer in ancient sea-faring techniques. Luke’s description of the sailors, the ship, the riggings are so detailed as to give us an accurate, technological glimpse into how they used to navigate the seas back then.

But as an evangelist, Luke never wrote only for the artistry of it all. His purpose was always to help the reader to come to a better & stronger faith in The Lord Jesus Christ as the Savior of the world.

As Acts opens, Luke is encouraging Theophilus & his flock to see that there were always struggles in the Christian life & that there was never any “golden-age” of the church during which there were no problems, quarrels among believers, no mistakes & no suffering.

In my opinion nowhere in scripture do you see that message more clearly than in Acts 27. Paul’s shipwreck is an actual historical event but it’s also a kind of parable & metaphor with its high seas, storms that come & winds that howl, for the trials & difficulties in the lives of believers.

Paul had been traveling across the Near East for nine months preaching through Israel & Syria, Turkey & Greece & now he’s headed for the greatest city in the land, the center of military & political might on earth, Rome.

He’s requested an audience with Caesar. He’s been under arrest for a while & has exhausted his legal options in the smaller venues so as a Roman citizen he has this final right to take his case directly to Caesar & it couldn’t be denied. You have to give Paul some credit, he went for it. So now, finally he’s being transported via ship to Italy.

Paul is on a grain-carrying ship, which is also a ship full of prisoners. Against his advice the sailors are going to try a wintertime trip during the stormiest season. During this era, massive amounts of grain were being transported by ship which was a money-maker for the ship owners, thus their willingness to take a risk.

As Paul predicted, the ship & its crew encountered a nightmare of a storm. It didn’t take an experienced sailor to know there’d be no saving of the ship. The sailors did all possible to keep the ship afloat, including throwing grain overboard & finally things that were vital to the ships viability. In the end all that was saved were the souls on board. This brings me to the first important point;

WHEN YOU ENCOUNTER A STORM, DO EVERYTHING YOU CAN YOURSELF.

The sailors worked night & day, undergirding the ship, which means they ran cables underneath the ship to keep the planks from separating & twice they lightened the load to keep it afloat. If you & I are in a storm & our boat is sinking, if we don’t do everything we can it will probably sink. While the saying “God helps them who help themselves” isn’t in the Bible, the principle & thought most certainly is.

When I was a kid they used to say, “Work like it all depends on you then pray like it all depends on God.” Good advice.

Ephesians 6:10-17 admonishes us to “put on the whole armor of God,” & it lists all the battle dress for the child of God. God doesn’t put the armor on us, we do that ourselves & though God will help us, we’re expected to put on the armor & be ready to fight the fight of faith. Next;

PRAY AND ASK FOR GOD’S ASSISTANCE—Acts 27:29

The sailors prayed they’d see the light of day.

I remember reading about a woman who worked in a factory & was trained to operate an expensive machine. After her training, her superior told her if the machine ever got jammed, not to try to force it to work, but to call for him.

One day the machine jammed & the woman began to do everything she could to get it working. She cut it off, then cut it back on, pushed & pulled to no avail. She worked frantically with the jammed machine until she smelled smoke & finally cut it off & called her supervisor. When the supervisor came & checked the machine out, he saw that the well intentioned woman had burned up its motor. The woman cried & said, “I did all I could do to get the machine running again.” Her boss said, “Lady, you’ve never done all you can do until you’ve called me.”

After you & I have exhausted all our efforts & seen no success, & we’ve come to the end of our abilities, we can call on our heavenly Father in prayer & be assured of His help.

If however we fail to call on God & our boat hits the bottom, we have to take the responsibility for the calamity.

Have you ever wondered---?

WHAT’S GOD’S GREAT MAN OF FAITH DOING IN A STORM ANYWAY?

Some people believe if you have enough faith you’ll never encounter a storm but in this story, Paul, “God’s man of the hour, -of faith & power” gets into a killer hurricane & it goes on for two weeks.

This may shock you, but—Faith produces storms!

There’s nothing in the Bible even remotely hinting that a Christian will be exempt from trouble. You very well could come under persecution in your life just for being a Christian. Jesus, Job & many of the Bible greats got into trouble not because they were bad but because they were good.

There is more persecution of Christians worldwide at present than there ever has been in history. We should be grateful we’ve not been called on to resist unto blood. In countries like Australia & Canada the pulpit has been declared a public place & ministers have been fined & threatened for things they’ve preached. Things that heretofore could be said freely are now prosecuted under “hate speech laws.”

Maybe your persecution will be so subtle you hardly even recognize it as persecution. You might have someone say, “You know, you profess to be a Christian but……” --then they proceed to rake you over the coals, holding you to some standard they themselves miss by a million light years.

The fact that they profess nothing & you profess Christ somehow in their mind leaves them freer to condemn you. The real motive behind their attacks against you is their disgust for your love & devotion to Jesus Christ.

Though the ship Paul is sailing on is tossed around like a toothpick & he hasn’t seen the sun in days, he doesn’t panic. He stands before the 276 sailors aboard & assures them that God will spare all of their lives, with one provision; they unequivocally must stay with the ship. Here’s another lesson;

WHEN YOU’RE IN A STORM--DON’T JUMP SHIP!

One of the temptations in a storm is to try to get away from the problem.

I’m tempted to laugh when I hear young ladies say things like, “I’m tired of all these house rules & pressures from my parents, & I’m going to leave home & get married.” This young lady doesn’t know much about marriage if she thinks it means liberty to do exactly as she pleases.

I smile when I hear young men say, “I’m sick of people telling me what to do & having to live with curfews & all that stuff, I’m going to join the Marines.” This young man will get a surprise when he arrives at boot-camp.

Here’s a question for all of us; --how are we ever going to see God perform a miracle if we leave the place where the miracle is needed?

The most important thing a person could possess to be successful, outside of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, is stickability. Staying power; the ability not to run when the going gets tough. You may need a vacation, but don’t jump ship. You may have to fast & pray but don’t jump ship.

LIGHTEN YOUR LOAD DURING A STORM.

Luke tells us after a few days rolling around in this killer of a storm that the sailors started lightening the ship. To show you how desperate they were, they even threw overboard the grain which could have been eaten.

Then things got so desperate they threw overboard the tackling of the ship.

If I knew exactly what tackling was I’d share it with you but for the life of me I can’t tell you. It must have been masking & sails & other paraphernalia but I know they had tackling on the ship. They probably went out & bought tackling before they shoved off. I can hear two sailors talking a day or two before the ship was to sail, “Hey Sam, we’ve got to get some tackling for the ship before we sail you know?” “Right Joe,” Sam retorts, “we have to get that tackling.” Hey Sam, what’s tackling?” Sam probably said, “Well, I don’t rightly know what tackling is either but they told me to go buy some & there’s a tackling store down on Main Street.”

TACKLING IS ANYTHING WE DON’T ACTUALLY NEED TO SURVIVE.

I don’t know what the tackling is in your life. It would probably be different than my tackling but we all have tackling. I think a good rule of thumb would be; --tackling is whatever we don’t really need to survive when things start getting stormy in our lives.

We’re entering choppy waters in America economically & politically. Sadly we’re seeing unprecedented home foreclosures, high energy costs & people of all strata’s are feeling the squeeze. We’re entering an era now where things that we’ve always had in abundance will be harder & harder to come by.

Yet our culture is a consumer oriented culture geared toward always showing us things we need to “be happy.” I have a car with over one-hundred thousand miles on it & it’s a great car. However now & then I get itchy, wanting to buy a new car with that new car smell & look. The advertisements tell me there are 48 easy payments. I know that’s a lie. There may be two easy payments, the first & last ones, but those other 46 payments are hard.

In America we strive for bigger houses, better cars, more money & power. Jesus never taught us to directly condemn wealth but He spoke often about the danger that wealth could cause.

IT’S IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER- MONEY HAS A DEMONIC DIMENSION.

What would drive a person to sell their body? Why would someone risk prison by selling illegal drugs? What drives people to cheat on their taxes or break into homes & steal? M.O.N.E.Y.

Jesus taught that there only two masters, not God & the devil, but God & money. Mammon is a Syrian God of money & people bowed down to it & worshipped it. They prayed for its success in their lives. In short there was a demonic stronghold & it held sway over people. When Jesus spoke of the God/mammon, people knew what He was talking about.

Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:10—For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness & pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

MONEY ALSO HAS A SPIRITUAL DIMENSION.

In Luke 19:11-27 Jesus told us about 3 men who were entrusted with money & then God basically stood back to see how they’d handle the money that He deposited into their care. When we stand before God He will ask us how we spent the time & talent He invested in us while on earth.

When Jesus went to church, He didn’t sit on the front seat or the back seat. Believe it or not, He sat over by the offering plate actually watching what the people were dropping in. What if your preacher did that?—Matt.12:41

GIVING IS THE STRONGEST ANTIDOTE THAT EXISTS AGAINST GOD-MAMMON!

I don’t have space to drill down into the true nature of tithing in this writing but suffice to say it’s a weekly reminder of who’s in charge of our lives, God or God-mammon.

After Paul & the other passengers on board this ship had struggled for two weeks, the ship they were sailing on splintered into pieces & all of them made it safely to shore on a little island called Melita, or modern day Malta.

GOD CAN BRING US SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCES WHEN WE’RE STRUGGLING TO KEEP OUR HEADS ABOVE WATER.

Here’s something amazing; while Paul was fighting for his life & the lives of others aboard a ship that was just about to disintegrate, with all kinds of violent wind, an out of control steering gear & steady pounding by huge waves, Paul had a dream or a vision.

Isn’t that something? This dream didn’t come when things were going smoothly, this appearance of an angel from God. There was no mood music playing & pastel lights turned low. No, thanks be to God He spoke to Paul when things were in chaos, when there was trouble on the left, disaster on the right, problems up ahead & tragedy right behind. That’s when God chose to speak to Paul.

When things get a little crazy, maybe God knows He has our attention. God speaks to us through thoughts, dreams, visions, instincts & a multitude of other ways. Many times He’ll speak when we are full of adrenaline trying to meet the clear & present danger that we face. God can & does often speak when we are so exhausted we don’t think we can do another thing productive to keep things afloat.

Are you going through a storm? It won’t be all bad if God uses that time to let you see things in a different light.

SOMETIMES, AFTER ALL OUR PRAYERS & EFFORTS-- THE BOAT WILL SINK ANYWAY.

Sometimes in spite of all your efforts & all your tears & all your prayers & all the love you've invested , all of it will die right before your eyes. Just like the destruction of the boat Paul was traveling on, after the victory he saw in the salvaging of every soul on board, his boat sank anyway. In these times it's important to remember that God is still in control & His children will be rescued no matter what.


Most of us are familiar with the eccentric [I almost wrote crazy man] cable television billionaire Ted Turner. At an American Humanist Association banquet when he received an award for his work on the environment & world peace, he openly criticized Christianity.

He said, “Jesus would be sick at His stomach over the way His ideas have been twisted. I’ve been saved seven or eight times but I gave it up when despite my prayers my sister died. The more I strayed from the faith the better I felt.”

Ted Turner is dead wrong but his attitude isn’t much different than many, especially people who’ve been around as long as Turner. It’s interesting at least to me that Turner & I, give or take a few days, are exactly the same age.

Like Ted Turner, I’ve seen my share of “boats” sink & hit the bottom. Some of my greatest heartaches have come because of the failure of people I’ve loved.

I know I’m not alone in this but I’ve helped people in my life & have been shocked & disappointed when they turned against me & did everything in their power to destroy me. I’ve lived to see [not believe] that seemingly “no good deed goes unpunished.”

If God had put me together differently I’d have long ago sworn-off helping anyone ever again. But something in my heart has demanded that I keep reaching out to others as much as is in my power.

I’ve had friendships but certain things have happened which broke the friendship & the wreckage blights the landscape of my life.

Like Turner I also have had prayers that so far have seemed unanswered but the difference is, I truly believe that God’s at work in every detail of my life & the only reason He didn’t give me what I asked for is so that He may, in His own time, give me something better.

No matter what happens to you today it will be better tomorrow.

I believe that if you just live, you’ll outlive many of your problems. I’ve learned that people love the human touch, a warm hug or just a pat on the back. I believe that even when I’m in pain I don’t have to be one.

I’ve learned that no matter how many “ships” I see sink God will put others in my life if I refuse to get bitter & keep an open heart.

I have learned, I truly have learned, that I still have a lot to learn.

Paul understood that even in the midst of life’s storms, God proclaims, God performs & God provides,- in your storm, or in mine, ---in a private storm or a public one,

In the life of an individual ---or a church or a nation.


Blessings,


John

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Attitude Is Everything

By John Stallings

In the spiritual life, attitude is everything.
We need to learn to be rigorously honest in discerning our heart attitudes. Certainly we know a critical, fault- finding heart is not healthy for us, spiritually or physically.

Attitudes are -inner feelings that wiggle to the surface and express themselves in actions.

Attitude will ultimately manifest outwardly in words, body language, and a myriad of other ways.

Arms crossed tightly across chest, facial expressions, eye rolls, throat clearing, patting the foot impatiently are just a few subtle indicators of attitude. Oh, and the eyes. Let’s not forget the eyes. Breathes there a person who can’t remember “the look” their mother used to give them when they were children when she was displeased? When we men get married we find that our spouses can give us that same look. I’ve often suspected that somewhere they’re holding classes for women called “The Look 101.” Every married man has seen that look and it sends cold chills down the spine, though to be frank, we men know in our hearts when we get that look we probably richly deserve it.

Speaking of body language, many times I’ve sat on church platforms and seen couples sitting in the congregation with their legs crossed, -their body pointed away from their spouse. Often this is indicative of maybe a little “lovers quarrel” on the way to church. Attitudes [inner feelings] will always bubble up and manifest in some overt way.

A resentful, critical attitude is just like a toxic waste. If we’re going to try and handle such volatile material, then we better take every precaution. Such hazardous material is known to cause cancer. Everyone needs a regular thorough detox from bad attitudes if we’re to stay ahead of the problem, and it’s crucial that we be very thorough in our dealing with attitudes such as anger, resentment, cynicism and criticalness.

Many of us are hardest on the people who’re closest to us. Husbands are hard on their wives. Wives mercilessly criticize their husbands. Parents tear down their children and strip away every vestige of self-esteem. Friends attack friends, Christians criticize each other, and many families are held together by the glue of mutual disdain. Why is it that we are so hard on those we say we love the most? But if a person we don’t know offends us, we’re quick to let him off the hook. It makes no sense.

Christian love is not blind. God never says, “Ignore the faults of others.” But he does say, “Take care of your own faults first.” Look in the mirror! Ask God to show you your own sins. The familiar words of Psalm 139:23-24 come to mind:

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!”

If we would pray that way and mean it, we would do a lot more confessing and a lot less judging.

The order in which we do things is crucial. We are to judge ourselves first by asking God to show us our sins. We sit and wait and pray for the Holy Spirit to show us our weaknesses, our faults, our mistakes, our bad attitudes, our foolish words, our pride, our arrogance, our need to be in control, our need to run the world, our need to tell others what to do, our desire to have our own way, our anger, our bitterness, our lack of mercy, our lack of love, our lack of compassion. I can tell you from personal experience, if you wait long enough, the Lord will always show it to you.

THE ELDER BROTHER

I don’t think there’s a more perfect picture of a bad attitude in the Bible than the prodigal's whining elder brother. This party-pooper was so full of resentment toward his prodigal brother that it’s downright embarrassing.

I confess that I see in myself much that reminds me of the prodigal's elder brother. I have not lived a life of rebellion or moral abandon. I came to Jesus at an early age, began living for Him in earnest as a teen, and have sought to stay true to Him to this day. Don't misunderstand me. I am just as much a sinner as the most profligate prodigal - no difference. And my steady pursuit of Christ has not kept me from presenting a pitiful picture of what it means to be His follower on occasions without number. Despite my failures, flaws, and growing pains along the way, however, I’m a fair example of the classic "good kid."

So when I see the prodigal's descent into the depths of loose living, I can't identify. But when I hear his brother protesting, “Look! For so many years I have been serving you and I have never neglected a command of yours” [Luke 15:29], I hear in his words the voice of my own dissenting heart. I have expressed words like his, words of disappointment in God for His seeming lack of appreciation.

There are prodigals and there are prodigal's brothers. Though we’ve focused mostly on the Prodigal who left home, if we look at the context in which Jesus told this story, taking nothing away from the wayward son, it’s clear that he had the elder brother in mind.

The prodigal's obstacle is his sense of unworthiness to lay claim to the heart of his father. The obstacle of the prodigal's brother is his sense of entitlement, an insistence upon God's approval for his faithfulness. In its advanced stages, "Prodigal's Brother Disease" (PBD) can rob an individual of their joy. We can become a spiritual scrooge who mutters "Bah, humbug" on occasion.

Are you a prodigal's brother? Then the antidote is to serve without strings before it robs you of joy. Stay faithful to God without getting sucked into thinking that God owes you recognition. Your faithfulness matters. Never forget what Jesus says to the prodigal's brother,

“And he said to him, ‘Son, you have always been with me, and all that is mine is yours’

There are many things in which you and I must take the lead, depending on God’s Holy Spirit to help. Paul didn’t say, [I’m paraphrasing here] “I used to speak, act and understand like a child but when I was converted, God just took all my juvenile ways away from me. “ No-Paul said, “When I became a man, “I put away childish things.” Paul didn’t say, “I used to have a problem with discontent. I was rarely happy except in really great circumstances. But one day I got a supernatural revelation on how to be content.” No-Paul said, “For I have learned to be content in whatever circumstance I find myself in.”

Instead of you and I saying, “I’ve never had a problem with anger, criticalness, jealousy, resentment, unforgiveness, or any of those old bad attitudes,” we need to say rather, “I’m on a daily quest to be more Christ like and He’s giving me more and more power to discern and root out the B.A [bad attitudes] the devil would like to slip into my heart.” This clears the way for God to infuse more of His Holy Spirit power in us.

Jesus is very clear when he says. “Do not judge. Instead take the log out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

We shouldn’t appraise another person’s character unless they reveal their character to us voluntarily. In reality there’s no positive reason to criticize others. But the fact is because of our fallen nature, we’re pretty much all very critical creatures. Without God and His daily dealings with us, we’re all by nature -not very nice people.

Nowadays it’s almost impossible to dialogue with Christians about things political. We know we can’t allow vitriol to exist in our hearts about fellow Christians, but when it comes to politics; we can make up for it by venting our wrath on Politicians or Parties. It’s common to see Christians who’re highly critical of people with whom they differ politically.

I’m not advocating here against open and opinionated political conversations, where we freely and articulately make our views known to whomever, whenever, wherever. A thousand times no!! I often vent publicly on political subjects, and make no apology for it. I do however believe that as Christians, we should beware lest we get so caught up in a battle and a conflict with the folk with whom we disagree that we can develop resentments and judgments that are very unhealthy spiritually.

IMHO, it’s far better to leave off political pontificating when we get to the place that when someone speaks from another viewpoint, there’s virtually no ability to actually hear them. This stems from a critical spirit. It’s a wrong attitude and it quenches the power of God in the Christian’s life. This “devise of the Devil” masquerading as patriotism can rip apart nations, families, churches and even marriages. In other words, speak your mind- Good. Get on a high-horse until every dog on the block is barking, bad.

Another example can be the “small church, large church” syndrome. Christians can get so entrenched in one of the above; it’s hard for them to feel at home in the other. This unease is a critical spirit. In truth, if the gospel is preached, we ought to rejoice. The same thing applies with the “Old-church-Contemporary church” syndrome.

So what do we do? We take thorough stock of our critical heart. We learn to turn our eyes from focusing on the speck in our brother’s eye to the log in our own.

We should immerse ourselves in the teachings of Christ until we understand that any criticalness, unforgiveness, anger, desire to expose, loveless ness, resentment etc. can constitute a spiritual disease that places us in spiritual danger. Don’t, like the Rich Young Ruler, turn away sad in the first rudimentary Christianity 101 class that Jesus gives us. He’s our leader; we need to learn to take spiritual direction from Him. If we take His direction and allow ourselves to be changed by His words and if we respond in a healthy way, then we will find the power we so desperately need.

MAKE A LIST

The following would be helpful. Make a list of all the people you resent or are critical of. Maybe you already do this. I’ve done it for years and still do. The first list I made years ago, I found that the list had over 100 names on it. I was horrified. It seemed I was critical of everyone. The whole world. All political parties. All denominations. Most of my friends. My family. My extended family. My college roommates. Kids from grade school. Members of my church. My kids. My parents. My parent’s old friends. My old friends. My old friend’s parents. My old friend’s brothers and sisters. The English. The French. The Germans. Pentecostals. Conservatives. Liberals. The elders of the church. The deacons. My mentor. My superiors. My co-workers. My ex-co-workers. Old girlfriends. My sister and her husband. My sister’s friends. Her husband’s friends. Kids from the neighborhood. Musicians. Tone deaf people. Theologies. Men in general. Women in general. My circumstances.

To be painfully honest we can all get mad at the world and find it exceeding easy to get resentful of someone just because they don’t respond the way we think they should.

To have a large list does not mean that frustration with life is the main theme of our character. No one would look at me and say I am an angry person. I’m known as a jovial dude. A “Hail fellow well met.” But for a person killed by cyanide they wouldn't have to take a huge amount of cyanide. A little of this toxic stuff can make us spiritually sick. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. Therefore, we must make sure that even the slightest remnant of frustration or criticalness be dealt with ruthlessly. You may have to just do it every day and every night for awhile.

WHAT DID THEY DO?

After we make our first list (which could take a few hours or a few days), we begin to list what they did that makes us angry or critical. For example, your brother….he didn’t defend me in front of the neighbor kids. Your mom….she divorced your dad. It’s that simple. Do not write a lot of words. Some people greatly err on this point. When we write it all out, we’re venting. Venting only teaches us to be angry. As a rule do not write more than 10 words on an instance. You may break down and weep just thinking about the injustice of it all. This is normal. But I warn against writing a lot about why you are angry on a certain point.

Writing a long dissertation is usually just rationalizing why you are angry as if we’re trying to find some reason to stay angry. We are not trying to stay sore. Also, for some people say like a spouse, we may have many lines of things we are critical of or bent-out-of-shape about. Also when writing about a spouse you might consider a code.

EXAMPLES

My wife…she gets angry when I go golfing.

My husband….he watches too much TV

My wife….she shows disrespect in front of the kids

My husband…he spends too much money. He bought this…

Bob Smith….he won’t return my call

Joe Jones…he criticized my preaching behind my back.

My boss…he threatened to fire me.

My co-worker…he told the boss I’m not dependable.

My co-worker….he told the boss my department was a problem and didn’t speak to me first.

My co-worker….he said I have an ego problem.

My friend…he won’t take my advice.

The list can go on and on and it should. Be very thorough.

How did this incident hurt you?

What we are doing is accepting that an actual hurt occurred. The incident may have hurt us financially or emotionally. Our spouses’ may have embarrassed us in some way. Yes, that hurt emotionally, financially, socially. This process is simply to help us see that the stuff of life really does hurt us. We are getting real with our heart here. We are being honest that we are indeed quite sore about things.

Ask for Forgiveness for our Anger

At this point, we need to make sure we accept Jesus’ saying,

“I say if you are angry, you are liable before the judgment” (Matt 5:22).

This step is the most important. The Word of God must be our standard. If we have anger, or words of judgment or a critical heart toward our brother or sister, we are liable to the judgment. We have real guilt before God if we have anger. Therefore, we need to be convicted of this sin by the Word and the Spirit. This point cannot be over emphasized. Ask God to take away our anger and our hatred…we admit that our love level is low and in fact do wish harm on some people. Hold the standard up high and get real! This is the key!!

Finding our Fault

Before coming to this step, we need to be thorough about the step of confessing our sin of being angry and critical. We might well take a day or so between steps four and five. Really we are now doing something different. First we were being ruthlessly honest with our sin of anger. We exposed to ourselves the reality that we are a mad, prone to sin person. This confession of deep anger is a breakthrough in itself. I suspect that everyone is a really ticked-off person at least part of the time.

JOSEPH

If ever a man had a right to be angry and resentful it was Joseph.

Sold by his brothers into slavery, then wrongly accused of trying to sexually abuse his master’s wife, Joseph gets placed by God into one of the most powerful positions in all of Egypt. Though he’d been mistreated by the Egyptian system, he accepted God’s call to save this pagan land and all the surrounding areas from famine.

Given the opportunity to get back at his brothers because of his position and their need for help, Joseph tests them and then finally reveals who he is. After their reconciliation he receives the blessing of their father before he passes away. They have a huge beautiful funeral and then the brothers once again get scared. They think their brother now has the power to get back at them and so they send a message saying that their father sent word before he died that he wanted Joseph to forgive them all for all the wrongs they’d done to him. Then they finish with, “We are your slaves.” Joseph’s response was to weep before them all. What he says next is so powerful.

’Don’t be afraid. Am I in the place of God? You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. So then, don’t be afraid. I will provide for you and your children.” And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.’” (Gen. 50:19-21, NIV)

The movie Dead Man Walking tells the true story of how an unsuspecting Catholic nun became the spiritual director of a death row inmate. Throughout the movie, this prisoner, who was convicted of the brutal murder of a young couple, does little to make us identify with him as a human being. He is sickening and repulsive. Yet this nun, Sister Prejean, continues to guide him, hoping somehow to touch is soul. Finally she leads him to an act of contrition and penance and as a result, he declares to the parents of his victims, "I hope that my death gives you some peace."

But for the parents of the young girl, there is no peace. The only thing they have is their hate. And under the circumstances...their reaction is understandable, even natural.

But, the father of the young man is not as hardened. He attends the grave side services for the murderer, but stands at a distance. Sister Prejean goes to him and he tells her, "Sister, I wish I had your faith." She replies, "It's not faith. It's a lot of WORK."

I’d like to suggest a simple prayer for the Holy Spirit to take over our life. Saying words alone won’t change our hearts, but if these words reflect your deepest desire, then today could be a new beginning.

Heavenly Father, our problem is not with your Word. We know what it says. And our problem is not with other people, not even the ones who have hurt us deeply. Our problem is on the inside. We confess that too many times we have been critical of those around us. Forgive us our thoughtless, unkind, hurtful words. O Lord, show us a better way! Without you, we will never change.

Thank you for showing us how to live. Thank you for showing us how to die. Thank you for showing us how to forgive the people who have hurt us the most.

Holy Spirit, fill us with your power so that we might become truly different people. Set us free from bitterness, from anger, and from a judgmental spirit. Grant us power to love each other.

Make us like Jesus, full of grace and truth. And do it now, in this moment.


Blessings,


John

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Win The War With Worry!

By John Stallings


Don’t worry about anything, - pray about everything.
Phil.4:6 –New Living Translation


A lady went to her doctor after she’d convinced herself she had an incurable condition.

Her doctor told her she could rest assured that wasn’t true. Then he went on to say, “Anyway, you wouldn’t know you had the condition because it causes no discomfort of any kind.”

“Oh dear,” the woman replied,” Those are my symptoms exactly.”

I think what we have here is a genuine “worry-wart.”

According to a recent study, some of the top sources of worry today are,-- health, the U.S deficit, the hole in the ozone layer, global warming, air quality, road rage, national I.D cards, soil erosion, credit fraud, the weakening dollar, etc.

On the humorous side, people used to worry about finding a new, “hip joint” to hang out in. Now they’re worried about getting a new hip-joint.

People used to desire long hair, now they’re “longing for hair.” People used to worry about passing the driving test, now they’re worried about passing the vision test.

People used to be trying to look like Brando or Liz Taylor. Now they worry about not looking like Brando or Taylor. [I’m aware that both these individuals have now passed on.]

People used to worry about folk not coming to their party. Now they worry about no one coming to their funeral.

One definition for worry is—“Being filled with anxiety, & having done nothing about it."

One of the frightening manifestations of worry & fear some people experience is now called “panic attacks.” Having had a few of them in my younger days I can tell you they are hellish. A panic attack occurs when our nerves, far from “breaking down” are working so good that they get super-sensitized. A panic attack can strike like a snipers bullet in the form of overwhelming anxiety for no apparent reason. One minute you’re fine; the next minute panic has iced your heart, immobilizing you.

Panic attacks can hit preachers in the pulpit, rendering them incapable of saying a word, drivers on the hi-way, a shopper looking into a store window & they can make a man about to take his wife to dinner suddenly afraid to leave the house. Not being a psychologist, I can only say this is another expression of fear, anxiety & worry & maybe a matrix of them all. Panic attacks are really for another blog, another day so maybe I’ll write on the subject eventually, because of the personal experience I’ve had with them & also cases I’ve been familiar with over the years.


THE MOST STRESSFUL DAYS


Maybe you already knew this but a long-term study of 4,000 men found that 38 died of sudden heart attacks on Monday while only 15 died on Friday. For men with no history of heart disease, Monday was particularly dangerous.

Among that group, an average of 8.2 heart attack deaths occurred on each of the other six days of the week while nearly 3 times that many occurred on Monday. Maybe the idea of ministers taking Mondays off is a good idea!


LEGITIMATE CONCERN IS NEVER CONDEMNED

Let’s be clear here and make an important distinction; there is such a thing as legitimate concern over situations we face in life. Nowhere in the Bible are we told never to be vigilant, not to work hard to care for our families, or not to be fervent in business. From time to time certainly we’ll all carry prayer burdens that would seem to grind us to powder.

There’s no shortage of legitimate concerns. Jesus mentioned several matters of common concern in Matthew 6:25-34. He spoke of our very lives, what we’ll eat or drink & wear. We could add other worries; Nuclear war, Bio-terrorism, accidents, aging, criticism, etc. But of course Jesus went on to declare that our heavenly Father knows what we need & will supply it for us. He then added,

-“But seek first the kingdom of God & His righteousness & all these things will be given to you as well.

Did you notice that this teaching comes right out of the middle of probably Jesus’ best known sermon? Also, did you notice how lovingly He dealt with the people, pointing them to the birds of the sky & the lilies of the field, reminding them that God took good care of them & likewise He’ll provide for us?

As we’ve said, there are real concerns to be addressed in our lives; however, you & I need to be ever watchful that we don’t let those “prayer concerns” morph into flat-out worry sessions.

The word worry in the Greek [merimnao] means to be divided. Worry is to be pulled in different directions. That is exactly what worry does.

Let me throw a little “hypothetical” at you here. Think for a moment or two & see if you can think of one good thing you’ve accomplished by worrying. Try to dredge up what you’ve achieved through worry. The goals you’ve reached, the joy & happiness worry has won for you, and the inspiration worry has brought into your life. Here’s my first point;


DO SOMETHING PRACTICAL TO OFF- SET THE WORRY!


If you were going to take an exam to, say, seek to advance in your job, which would benefit you the most; worrying about the test for ten hours-- or studying for two hours? Indeed, worry serves no good purpose—accomplishes nothing, achieves nothing, always assumes the worst can & will happen in every situation.

Years ago a man had a job that required that he travel extensively so he went to a therapist to discuss his fear of flying. He was afraid someone would put a bomb on a plane. The therapist advised him to study up on what the odds of someone bringing a bomb on the plane would be.

In a short time the man was able to fly with no worries. The therapist asked him what had helped him get over his fear of flying.

“Well, I went to a statistician & he told me the odds of there being a bomb on a plane were 1,000,000-1. I still felt it was too risky, so
I asked the odds of two bombs being put on a plane. The expert told me those odds would be so statistically remote it would be deemed to be impossible. So now I carry two bombs on every plane I travel on & I have no more worries.” Now before I get reported to Homeland Security concerning bombs on a plane let me hasten to say I’m not suggesting this. My point is, even though it was so silly as to be almost thought crazy, at least the man had an idea & instead of worrying he looked for a solution.

Worry is like a rocking chair; it gives us something to do but gets us nowhere. Worry tends to bend an individual over & someone has said, “Anything bent over too long will finally break.” Another wise man said, “There are two things we can worry over, things we can do something about & things we can’t. It makes no sense to worry about things we have control over because we should get busy doing something to effect the outcome. If it’s something we have absolutely no control over- well if we have no control over it, what’s the use of worrying about it?

I’m convinced that one of the major reasons we worry is—now this is going to sound strange—we worry because we can’t come to terms that life is dangerous, uncertain & fragile. We, like children, refuse [or at least we want to refuse but can’t] either on a conscious or subconscious level, to admit that life is fragile & our grip on life is almost unbelievably weak.

Too often we occupy ourselves with trying to render life 100% secure only to finally have to accept the fact that life can’t be domesticated like this. Life isn't foolproof, accident proof, disease proof, suffering proof & our attempts at making life that way end in anxiety beyond telling & we end up wrapped around the axle. This can end up causing us to be fretful, anxiety riddled, & warped profoundly. Too often we put stock in the myth that life can be made perfectly secure, consequently our worries & anxieties multiply.

HOW TO WIN THE WAR!

The way God has chosen for us to be joyful & victorious is to understand life is a vapor, nothing here is permanent, total security as far as this world is impossible, “all flesh is grass,” “all flesh is dust,” “ the form of this world is passing away,”& our one true security lies in Him & His care for us. Can you see it? When we change our focus we change our thinking & our attitude.

A lady was facing knee surgery & was a bit worried so she asked a Christian doctor how to cope with the fear. He said, “Turn your worry into prayers, get plenty of rest & don’t lick your incision.” My kind of doctor!

GET A SFJTD BOX AT YOUR HOUSE

Place on the outside of the box these words from Jesus;

“Today I’ll be handling all your problems. Please remember I don’t need your help. If the devil sends a problem, don’t try to handle it. Kindly place it in the SFJTD—Something For Jesus To Do—box. Once the problem is in the box don’t try to remove it, you’ll only delay the outcome, which by the way will come in my time not yours. If you think you can or should handle it yourself, first consult with me to be sure this would be wise.”

Once in a while my computer pops up a notation that I have a problem. After some checking, I’m warned I’d be wise not to try to handle it myself but to call a technician. I almost always honor this directive. If I ignore it I’m usually sorry.

Jesus’ instructions continue; “Remember, I don’t slumber nor sleep so there’s no need for you to lose any sleep. Rest my child. If you need to contact me you know my phone number [Jer.33:3] you can call me anytime.” Another way the Bible tells to fight worry is;


REMIND YOURSELF THAT WORRY IS SIN & DOES HARM, NEVER GOOD!


Jesus said,-“Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

Statistically, Mayo Clinic has stated that 80% to 85% of their case load was in reality due artificially or directly to mental stress. Some experts have suggested that stress has taken the place of bacteria in the causal effect of disease. One leading physician has written that 70% of all medical patients could cure themselves if only they got rid of their worries & fears. Think about that! Medical science has closely tied worry to heart trouble, ulcers, high blood pressure, thyroid malfunction, migraine headaches, & a host of digestional tract disorders. An estimated 25 million Americans have blood pressure disorders due to stress/worry. 8 million have stomach ulcers & each week 112 million people take pills for stress related systems.

OFF-LOAD YOUR WORRIES THAT ARE BEYOND YOUR CONTROL TO YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER WHO LOVES YOU & CAN BE TRUSTED.

Friend, we can find ourselves caught in a rip-tide so strong we’re not equipped to swim against it. It’s at these times when God’s Word is so very precious to us.

Remember Isaiah 26:3—Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

Remember 1 Peter 5:7—>Casting all your cares on Him because He cares for you.


REMEMBER, YOUR WORRYING CAN CAST A SHADOW ON THOSE YOU LOVE & ASSOCIATE WITH.


I am married to the emotionally strongest lady I’ve ever known. But God has dealt with me over the years that my moods, my bouts with weak faith & just my deportment in general can have great effect on her either for the bad or the good.

I’m not much of a “flower guy” but I’ve noticed along the way that flowers have an orientation toward the Sun & when they get plenty of sunlight they bloom effortlessly.

Husbands, have you noticed the truly beautiful wife you have? It’s possible to cast shadows of worry, doubt, & gloom over our mate making it difficult for them to bloom. It’s possible for us to be so engrossed in our own worries that we forget the role we play in the lives of others who need some water & sunlight.

You & I can be an encouragement or we can be a detriment.

We don’t see it often enough but occasionally we see on the face of an individual a glow of reflective beauty when they, like a flower have been basking in the sunlight of God’s tender love & care.

We can readily see they’ve won the war on worry & are allowing the peace of God which passes all understanding to keep their hearts & minds through Christ Jesus.

May we all be that person!


Casting all your care on Him-for He cares for you.


Blessings,


John

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Dottie Rambo And Me

By John Stallings


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aren’t you glad she left these words?

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


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


Blessings,


John

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Our Unique Bible

By John Stallings

Unique… “One and only, different from all others, having no like or equal.”

A prominent Christian minister stood in the pulpit recently and his message focused on how Christianity was like no other religion.

His actual words were;-“I’m here to tell you that Islam isn’t just as good as Christianity. Islam was founded by Muhammad, a demon-possessed pedophile who had 12 wives and his last one was a 9 year old girl.”

Those words hit like a thunderbolt causing the Council of American Islamic Relations to say in response;

“It’s unfortunate that a top leader of the Christian church would use such hate-filled and bigoted language in describing the faith of 1/5 of the world’s population.” Then they asked the minister for an apology. They didn’t get it.

But how do you apologize for telling the truth? How do you apologize for saying that there’s a big difference in what a Christian believes and what a Muslim believes?

We’ve gone in our society from saying everyone has a right to their opinion to the absurd notion that every opinion has equal merit.

Christianity refuses to take its place alongside other religions. The reason for this isn’t—because I say so, or someone is trying to be stubborn. The reason is---Our Bible! Yes, our Bible is, as regards this question, “The Problem.”

Why? Our Bible sets Christianity apart from everything else. When you know the truth about this book you can clearly see why Christianity is very different from every other religion.

A. HERE IS A BOOK THAT WAS WRITTEN...

1. Over a long period of time
a. About 1500 years
b. A span of 40 generations
2. By approximately 40 authors from every walk of life
a. Moses, political leader trained in the universities of Egypt
b. Peter, fisherman
c. Amos, herdsman
d. Joshua, military general
e. Nehemiah, cup bearer to the king of Persia
f. Daniel, prime minister in the courts of Babylon
g. Luke, physician
h. Solomon, philosopher king
i. Matthew, tax collector
j. Paul, rabbi and tent maker
3. In different places
a. Moses in the wilderness
b. Jeremiah in a dungeon
c. Daniel on a hillside, and in a palace
d. Paul inside prison walls
e. Luke while traveling
f. John in exile on the isle of Patmos
g. Others in the rigors of a military campaign
4. At different times a. David in times of war
b. Solomon in times of peace
5. During different moods
a.Some writing from the heights of joy
b. Others from the depths of sorrow and despair

You might say, John, you can’t say the Bible is God’s Word simply because it claims to be. What does it matter what the Bible says about itself? After all, isn’t that “circular reasoning,” to try and prove the Bible is God’s Word simply because it claims to be God’s Word?”- Not really; hundreds of times the Bible claims to be recording the actual spoken words of God.

Exodus 7:1….And the LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron they brother shall be thy prophet.

Exodus 20:1-3…And God spake all these things, saying, I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

There are many other times where the Bible say’s its recording God’s actual words. For instance it records some of God’s spoken words with Adam and Eve. It records conversations God had with Abram; it records God talking with Moses at the burning bush. Human language according to the Bible is not a barrier for God and the Bible claims to be a record of some of His spoken words.

And the LORD said unto me, they have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. -- Duet. 18:17-18

Here the Bible says that God put His words in the mouth of His prophets and that a prophet’s words were God’s words. So not only does the Bible claim to have God’s words spoken, but it claims to have the prophet’s words which were God’s words. God took His spoken words through the prophets very seriously.

And Samuel said to Saul, thou hast done foolishly; thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel forever.

But now thy kingdom shall not continue; the LORD hath sought him a man after His own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be caption over His people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.—
1 Samuel 13:13-14

Samuel here says that Saul has not kept the command that the Lord gave him. Who gave the command? The Lord didn’t speak to Saul directly. Samuel had told Saul God’s commands. When Saul broke Samuel’s commands he broke God’s commands because they were one and the same. That is only one of many times when a prophet said he spoke with the same authority as God.

If you were to take the books of the OT and look through them you would find that they all have the same claims to authority, they either record God’s words or someone speaking God’s words.

NEW TESTAMENT


When you come to the NT the Bible is just as explicit that its God’s words its recording.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.—2 Timothy 3:16-17

This is one of the clearest and best-known verses in the Bible about the origin of the scriptures. Many people think that the word “inspired” here means that after the Bible was written, God breathed into these books. The Greek word here literally means breathed out not breathed in. So Paul is saying that the words of the Bible are literally from the breath of God.

As also in all his epistles, speaking of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and some unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.—2 Peter 3:16

When Peter writes this letter he considers Paul’s letters as scripture. This is the same word for the OT scriptures. Peter says that Paul’s writing have the same authority as the OT scriptures.

For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.—
1 Thess. 2:13

Paul is claiming that his letter is the word of God, not the word of man. He realizes that his letter should have the same authority as the other scriptures.

Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.—1 Peter 1:23

Peter quotes from Isaiah in the OT and tells those he’s writing to that the words that have been preached to them, the message that he has been telling them is the word of God that will endure forever. He’s fully aware that he’s writing God’s words and that those words would abide forever.

How many times do you think the Bible claims to be the very words of God or have the authority of the word of God? 50? 100? 200...Try over 1,500. It’s almost as if God made sure His signature is on every page of the Bible.

THE BIBLE DOESN’T LEAVE US WITH ANY OPTIONS!

Either the Bible is the very words of God as it claims to be or the Bible writers were deranged lunatics and the Bible is the most fraudulent book ever written. Furthermore, we’re just as crazy for thinking it contains morally worthy teachings and is the biggest pack of lies in the history of the world.

THE BOOK OF MORMON

You’ve most likely heard of the Book of Mormon. It’s the record of a lost civilization that existed in America. This book contains the details of coinages, descriptions of mountains, cities, rivers and intricate details of a past civilization.

BUT-The Mormons have a serious problem. To wit; not one geographic site that’s mentioned in the book has ever been discovered. Not one piece of archaeological evidence has ever been unearthed that substantiates the claims of the book of Mormon. Zero, Zip, Nada! Joseph Smith claimed to be speaking for God but there has never been a single prophet or man or woman of God of any era that has agreed with the book of Mormon. Incidentally, Mohammed’s writing of the Koran has as many problems being substantiated as the Book of Mormon.

The Bible is very different. Rather than being one individual’s testimony about God, the Bible is a book of 40 different authors over a period of 1,500 years. Find another book that took 1,500 years to write. The Bible was written in three different languages. During that time empires rose and fell, cultures came and went yet none of that affected the unity of the message of the Bible. There is no way there could have been some kind of general editor who trimmed it’s message or orchestrated it to insure that it would say things that were consistent over 1,500 years. It’s impossible.


What if we had a book of medicine that was written by 40 different authors over a period of 1,500 years, from all over the world, many of whom didn’t know one another yet when the book came together it was so up-to-date that it’s medical advice could still be used to heal the sick? Would that not be incredible? Yet the Bible talks about great lofty subjects such as man and his relationship with God, something even more controversial than medicine yet talks with intelligence, consistency and unity.

Admittedly in some cases the writers of the Bible knew what previous authors had written. For instance Malachi probably was acquainted with other books of the OT, but Daniel would have never known what Ezekiel had written. Paul didn’t know what John was writing, James didn’t know what Paul was writing, yet they wrote with agreement concerning things of God.

The Bible writers wrote on different topics but over all the diversity there is one central theme found in all of them and that’s man’s separation from God because of his sin and the restoration of that relationship that God provides through His Son. The Bible isn’t 66 different stories but ONE story developing in 66 books.

As one anonymous writer had said, “This book contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers ... It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labor, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents.”

Jesus is the central figure in the Bible. In the OT He’s the one hoped for and looked forward to and in the NT He’s the model but in both He’s the center of everything.

Christ even said He was the theme of the Bible.

Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.—John 5:39

For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me.—John 5:46

Then He said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself.—Luke 24:25-27

In Genesis 1:1 the word used for God is Elohim. Elohim is a uni-plural noun denoting both oneness and plurality, meaning that God is revealed in Genesis 1:1 as existing in three persons. From verse one in the Bible the trinity is exposed to our thinking yet it’s much later on that he’s presented as a trinity; the father, the Son and The Holy Spirit.

It’s no wonder to me that many die-hard skeptics have been converted as they read the Bible because of its unparalleled unity. It’s as if God was building one cathedral with 40 different architects from all corners of the world who did their work separately over 1,500 years and when the pieces were all eventually shipped to one location and assembled, they fit perfectly.

THE PRINTING PRESS WAS INVENTED TO PRINT MORE BIBLES

The Bible has been on the best seller list for over 300 years. The famous atheist Voltaire who died in 1778 said that within 100 years the only copy of the Bible still in existence would be in a dusty glass cabinet in some old relic museum.

Less than 50 years after Voltaire’s death the Geneva Bible society purchased his house in Paris so they could use his printing press to print Bibles because of the high demand in for them in Europe.

The Bible is the only book in existence that is actually alive. Cut it anywhere and it bleeds. It pulsates with a divine power to change lives. I believe many Christians are weak and spiritually shriveled because they simply won’t read, study or care about this book.

In A. Z. Conrad’s delightful poem, “There It Stands,” are these impressive words spoken about the Bible:

Century follows century ... There it stands.
Empires rise and fall and are forgotten ... There it stands.
Atheists rail against it ... There it stands.
Agnostics smile cynically ... There it stands.
Profane prayerless punsters caricature it ... There it stands.
Unbelief abandons it ... There it stands.

Higher critics deny its claim to inspiration ... There it stands.
The flames are kindled against it ... There it stands.
The tooth of time gnaws but makes no dent in it ... There it stands.
Infidels predict its abandonment ... There it stands.
Modernists try to explain it away ... There it stands.
The Bible is the word that lives forever, because it deals with eternal issues. The Bible is never out of date, or old-fashioned. It tells us where man is from, where he is going, why he is here, and how he should live while here on the earth. It deals with the greatest principles of ethics: love, justice, righteousness, truth, beauty and self-disciplined obedience to God.

When John Lennon of The Beatles boasted of his group’s popularity as exceeding that of Christ--the eclipse and ultimate demise of his group had already begun. And today as their inconsequential words move toward Oblivion, the influence and power of the words of Jesus will continue. He alone, of all men of all time, could say, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matt. 28:20).

As we read the New Testament we see mirrored therein the likeness of those around us. If we are completely honest we also see ourselves. The word of God is the mirror of the soul. If we would see ourselves not as we see or even as others see us, but as God sees us, we have but to look into this mirror fashioned by God. If we do not like what we see either in ourselves or in the world about us, and the chances are that we will not, the book contains the remedy. Its God’s inspired word that provides the hope of the future of mankind.

The salvation of the individual soul and the salvation of society in general rest upon an acceptance of the truths in this book. It was James who said,

“He that looketh into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and so continueth, being not a hearer that forgetteth but a doer that worketh, this man shall he blessed in his doing.” (James 1:25).

As mentioned by the apostle Peter, “The word of God, liveth and abideth forever.

The sixty-six books of the Bible have a unity of theme and purpose unmatched in any other book. On occasion we hear the derogatory statement that the Bible is merely one of many allegedly inspired books. Yet man’s investigation and time’s ravages have proved the Bible to stand alone as the one, truly inspired book of ages.

Only the Bible pleads for the universal brotherhood of man and the Fatherhood of God. Admittedly, other books have been influential; other books have made certain contributions toward the betterment of mankind. But only the Bible points the way from earth to heaven.

Most books are for the old or the young, the rich or the poor, the educated or the unschooled, but the Bible is for everyone. While meaningful to a child, it is even more challenging to the mature man. It can be compared to the ocean. At its edge it is shallow enough for a child to wade in perfect safety.

Yet farther out man cannot cope with its great depth which defies man’s finest intellectual abilities. Such names as Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Priestly, and Kelvin grace the list of men of science who were noted for their implicit faith in the Bible as the inspired word of God.

When the world renowned chemist-physicist, Michael Faraday, lay dying he was asked, “Faraday, what are your speculations now?”

“Speculations,” he replied, “I have none! Thank God I am not resting my dying head upon speculations.” Then he quoted the words of
the apostle Paul,

“I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (II Tim. 1:12).

Pastor James has further advice for us;

Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted WORD which is able to save your souls.
Jesus said;


“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall never pass a way.”

Blessings,


John

Monday, May 23, 2016

What Happens In Vegas...Doesn't Stay In Vegas!

By John Stallings

One day a band of strange men came to Israel’s camp at Gilgal.  [Joshua chapter 9.]

Their clothes were worn out and their shoes were full of holes. Their donkeys carried on their backs old sacks that were ready to fall to pieces. Even the skin bottles, which these men had used for carrying wine, were old and torn, and the little bit of bread that remained in their sacks was dry and moldy.

God had promised the land to Joshua, and he and the children of Israel were to destroy all the inhabitants of the land. The Promised Land included the neighboring country called Gibeon.

These strange men asked to speak with Joshua and with his officers. They said they had come from a country very far away, and that their people wished to be friends with the Israelites. But the men of Israel answered, “We do not know who you are. You may live in Canaan, and we cannot be friends with these people of Canaan because God has told us to destroy them all.”

The men showed their moldy bread and said, “See, we brought this for our journey and it was hot when we took it from our homes. We are indeed from a far country. When we heard how your God brought you from Egypt and helped you to destroy your enemies, our people became afraid of you and they sent us to ask you to let us live and become your servants.”

THESE MEN WERE DECIEVING JOSHUA

Joshua and his men examined the bread and saw that it was moldy. They believed the story the men told them. Joshua and his officers didn’t know they were being tricked and worst of all, they didn’t take time to pray about it.

The Bible says, “They asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord.”

Joshua thought the matter was so clear that he had no need to seek God’s direction. So instead of talking to God about these people and asking God what to do, Joshua promised to let these men live and sent them back to their homes.

When the Israelite soldiers went out again to battle against the people of Canaan, they hadn’t gone very far when they came to the part of the land where the Gibeonites lived.

Then they learned that the strange visitors at Gilgal had come from Gibeon. They were near neighbors to the Israelites. They had taken dry, moldy bread and worn-out shoes and purposefully deceived Joshua and the officers of Israel making them believe they’d come from a country far away.

In realty, they were Canaanites—people whom God wanted the Israelites to destroy. Joshua was a great leader and loved God with all his heart- but he was fooled. Hind-sight is usually 20/20 isn’t it?

THE PRICE CAN BE HIGH WHEN OUR GUARD IS LOW

Normally Israel would be more alert but they didn’t think they were under attack. Is that not a favorite technique of Satan today? How many times do people who are in serious trouble begin their explanation by saying,

“I didn’t realize....”? “I didn’t realize taking a drag on a joint would lead to addiction. I didn’t realize a little flirtation at the office would lead to an affair.”

WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS………NEVER STAYS IN VEGAS!

You are probably aware of the advertising slogan for Las Vegas. It plays on the latent adolescence in all of us. After some titillating, open-ended scene the ad ends with the wink-wink, "What happens in Vegas- stays in Vegas."

This slogan is an effective marketing mentality. The clear implication is that you can do pretty much whatever you want in Vegas. Of course, the irony is that you can do pretty much whatever you want to anywhere. And given our privacy invasion, everyone can know about it too, as many politicians recently have learned.

What happens in Vegas, comes home to your family, your church, and it appears in the test results in your Doctor’s office. It pops up on your bank statement and it lives forever in your conscience.

The market-slogan encourages you to believe you can hop on a plane, travel way out to the desert, enthusiastically indulge in all the hedonistic pleasures that sin city has to offer, when your Vegas trip is over you hop on your return flight and by the time your plane touches down you’re back to your normal life. Their promise is that-“what you do in Vegas stays in Vegas. There will be no connection between your secret behaviors in Sin City and the other 51 weeks out of the year."

There are even bumper stickers that say, “WHIVSIV.” There’s a line of clothing saying the same. The insidious intent behind this phrase is that there are vacuums in which sin is free. It says that there are actually “safe zones” that exist in which a person can sin and not be held accountable. But the Bible says,

Be sure your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23).

Also, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7-8).

Can you smoke in Vegas and have no cancer risk anywhere else? Can you murder in Vegas without penalty back home? Can you lie, cheat, steal, drink, gamble, or be unfaithful in Vegas with impunity? I think not. Life is interconnected. Sin in one area of life causes repercussions in other areas. To believe –"What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" is just another satanic deception opening a life up to attack. Here’s the truth; What happens in Vegas -follows you home.

Since Satan often uses lies and sneak attacks, like he did with Israel at GiIgal, I want to spoil his fun and share with you some techniques for catching Satan attempting to sneak into your life.

ASK DIRECTIONS FROM THE LORD

The devil wants us to commit “assumicide.” At the heart of all sin is the assumption that we don’t need God in some area of our lives. The most poignant comment in Joshua 9 is the statement in vs. 14,

“…the leaders…did not ask direction from the Lord.”  They examined the evidence through human eyes and the issue seemed a no-brainer to them –

#- But they did not ask direction from the Lord! Common sense suggested the Gibeonites were being truthful –

#-But they did not ask direction from the Lord. The whole situation seemed innocent enough –

#-But they did not ask direction from the Lord. Just to be sure no one will miss the point of this message, let me spell it out clearly –

#-  "Ask direction from the Lord!

If you are a teen and wondering whom to date, what are you supposed to do… Ask direction from the Lord!

If you want to find that special person and marry them what should you do…Ask direction from the Lord!

If you are about ready to give up on your marriage what are you supposed to do…Ask direction from the Lord!

If you are trying to choose a college what should you do...Ask direction from the Lord!

If you need to make a career choice what should you do…Ask direction from the Lord!

If you are surfing the net looking for something to interest you, what should you do… Ask direction from the Lord!

There are no circumstances in our lives where we do not need the Lord’s direction. Wise Christians slow down and take time to be in the presence of God before making major decisions.

 Proverbs 3 says,-“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”

The first technique for catching Satan attempting to sneak into your life is ask direction from the Lord! A second technique for catching Satan attempting to sneak into your life is:

EXPECT THE DEVIL TO GANG UP ON YOU

Have you ever noticed how much help the Devil has? The Bible refers to the devil and his angels. He has help! He has-big time back-up! The Bible speaks of principalities and powers and rulers of the darkness of this world. He has help! Look at how those on Satan’s side band together in vs. 1-2 –

“...when all the kings west of the Jordan heard about these things....they came together to make war against Joshua and Israel.” Normally those city-states would go to war against each other.

When God’s people begin to do God’s will, the forces of evil will inevitably unite. It happened in the days Jesus walked this earth. Traditionally Pharisees and Sadducees couldn’t stand each other, but their common enmity for Jesus caused them to unite. Evil can put some strange bed-bedfellows together.

Herod and Pilate were mortal enemies but they became friends the day they crucified Jesus. The Romans and the Jews had nothing but animosity for each other but they co-operated to kill Jesus. Evil unites when it is threatened by righteousness. Listen to the words of Ps. 2:1-2 –

“Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One.”

If you take a stand for God evil will unite against you if it perceives you as a threat. If you are a new Christian let me be especially clear to you. You have recently won a great victory. People have said and done reinforcing things. You feel forgiven and clean and empowered to live a righteous life. Don’t be naive. If you become a threat to Satan, he will unite evil and attack. How do you catch Satan attempting to sneak into your life?

First, ask direction from the Lord!

Second, expect the devil to gang up on you.

The third technique for catching Satan attempting to sneak into your life is…

EXPECT THE DEVIL TO FREQUENTLY CHANGE STRATEGIES

Sometimes Satan can be in your face and loud. I Peter 5 describes the devil as… “a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

At times you have heard his roar. At other times Satan can be so subtle you hardly recognize him. The devouring lion can change forms and become a sneaky serpent. II Corinthians 2 reminds us.. “Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning.”

Jesus said in John 8:44,

“The devil was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Satan prefers deception because if you don’t realize he is present, then you won’t try to get away from him. He loves to hear you say, “I didn’t realize....”

In Australia there is a plant called the Sun Dew Plant. It looks inviting. It's covered with a substance that looks like dew but is so sticky that when an insect lights on it, it can’t get away. As the struggling insect tries to fly the vibration alerts the plant and it begins to close up and in short time devours the insect. The very thing that attracted the hapless insect becomes the instrument of its death. That is how Satan operates. That’s why the Bible warns in Hebrew 3:13 –

“...encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

This story in Joshua 9 takes an interesting turn before it concludes centuries later. The story ultimately teaches us that…

GOD’S FAITHFULNESS IS GREATER THAN OUR FOOLISHNESS

Eventually the Gibeonites become a blessing to Israel. David will put the tabernacle in Gibeon. One of David’s mighty men was a Gibeonite. Solomon offered sacrifices at Gibeon. It was at Gibeon that Solomon asked for wisdom. The Gibeonites came back from captivity with the Israelites and helped build the wall around Jerusalem. God’s mercy was bigger than Israel’s mistakes.  

Your life may be a hodgepodge of success and failures, of promises made and broken, of sin resisted and given in to. Your life may be a huge mess no man can straighten out. Here’s the good news. God specializes in messes.  Here’s another satanic lie…

“NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW”

Many will remember the late eighties when a world known evangelist was exposed for consorting with known prostitutes. He did the right thing by confessing his sin and to his credit has kept his home and ministry together.

He was cruising around and slumming in large cities  dressed like Willie Nelson, at least the pictures looked like that to me. His obvious intent was to hide his sin. He believed he could pull it off and the world would never know. The longer I live the more amazed I am at man’s ability to lie to himself and rationalize almost anything.

This preacher wanted to be famous and he was. He wanted to be able to go to any corner of the earth and immediately be recognized. And he could. He poured decades of his life into being, among other things the most famous preacher on the planet.

But then, on the other hand he occasionally wanted to slip out of the spotlight’s glare and redeem a small part of his privacy and go slumming. In his desire to just be incognito for a few minutes now and then, he convinced himself that he wouldn’t get caught because no one would recognize him. The question that still haunts is this; if the evangelist had never been caught would he have persisted in his double life? Another lie is…

MY SIN AFFECTS ONLY ME”

No. Sin affects other people. Exodus 32:21.

“And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?”

The characters flaws and unrepented sins that were lodged in the heart of Aaron did not exist in a vacuum. Aware of it or not, his sins impacted Israel.

A Christian young man in our aquaintence recenlty found that sin has awful consequences. During his late teens he lived extremly loose morally. In later years he became a Christian, married a fine young Christian girl and they have several beautiful children.

One day the phone rang and what he heard turned his world upside down. One of the girls with whom he’d committed fornication and had borne his child had applied for Government assistance. Now this young fellow was being asked to supply DNA to ascertain who the father of the child was. The upshot was, this young man who was now struggling to support his new family has to also support a child he fathered during his wild teenage years. For this sin and indescretion he'll pay many hundreds of dollars per month for the next number of years.

When we teach our kids about the dangers of alcohol and drugs, we err if we don’t also stress the dibilitating consequences of any kind of sexuel contact outside the boundraies of marriage.

I CAN STOP WHENEVER I WANT TO”

No. Sin entraps. Moses predicted this unforeseen result of sin in Exodus 23:33.

 “They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me: for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee.”

Like the ancient Chinese finger trap, one may easily enter into the act of sin, but soon find that it is impossible to back out of it. One man found out that the sweet little clingy teenager who only needed the comfort of a strong male figure in her life turned into vicious, manipulative hustler once she had him in her clutches. Also, just as every coin has two sides, every individual act of sin has two sides: Commit the sin; Cover the sin. The instant a sin is committed the flip side comes into play.

"I CAN MANAGE MY WEAKNESS”

No. Sin opens the door to other sins.

“For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” 1 Samuel 15:23.

How can rebellion possibly be related to witchcraft? How could iniquity ever share common ground with stubbornness and idolatry? Because all branches of sin grow from the same trunk. That’s why John the Baptist said,

“And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees.” Matthew 3:10.

The root of offense gives rise to many sinful branches. Saul didn’t conquer his initial disobedience; therefore, he experienced a chain reaction of repeated sin and tragedy in his life. David’s lust led to adultery; his adultery led to deceit; his deceit led to murder. Once the essence of sin gains admission into one’s life, it brings with it the seeds of further transgressions. James said,

“For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” James 3:16.

GOD WILL FORGIVE ME”

Yes, if you repent and forsake your sin because sin cannot go unpunished. When we sweep sin under the rug, when we treat it differently from person to person or when we simply let it slide the sinning person gets a false view of God’s justice. God knows that without consequences, sin loses its dread. A diminished view of sin means a diminished view of Calvary. Ambivalence toward sin casts doubt on the efficacious blood of Jesus.

Operate your life out of truth, not mythology.

Vegas lies when it says “WHIVSIV.”

Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”


Blessings,


John