Friday, February 22, 2008

Acts 19:2 Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?

This is Paul speaking to a small group of believers in Ephesus. . .

Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? (Acts 19:2)

This is not a question of doctrine. This is not a theoretical question meant for only the apostolic fathers. This is a question Paul had for a small group of believers that Paul ran into taking the road cross country in modern day Turkey some 620 miles from Jerusalem as the crow flies. A world away the way Paul traveled. . .

Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed? (Acts 19:2)

This is a question not for the movers and shakers of the religious epicenter of the universe. This is a question Paul asked those well away the Holy Land. Paul is evangelizing. This is about the beginnings of Christianity. . . This is not about the ministry of Jesus. This is about Jesus great commandment, to all of us, to spread the Gospel into all the world. . .

If you did not receive the Holy Ghost when you believed? Then just what is your belief?

They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." (Acts 19:2)

They did not know. They had not heard. . . How many today are like these believers?

They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." (Acts 19:2)

These are believers. These are not unbelievers. These are believers who do not know that there is a Holy Spirit. . . .

They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." (Acts 19:2)

Did Paul just shrug his shoulders and walk away? Did Paul just say that it was only for those apostolic fathers in Jerusalem? Did Paul think it unimportant?

Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?" (Acts 19:3)

Paul did not ask, 'if they were baptized.' They are believers, therefore Paul knows that they are baptized. Is there more than one baptism? If Paul is asking 'what baptism?' this must mean there is more than one baptism.

Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?" (Acts 19:3)

What are you talking about Paul? What do you mean? What are the choices?

John the baptist speaking:
I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. (John 1:33)

Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit. . . John baptizes with water. . . Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit. . .

Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?" "John's baptism," they replied. (Acts 19:3)

Do you want the baptism of Jesus? These believers were baptized with water. That is the baptism of John. Jesus did not baptize with water. Jesus baptizes with the Holy Spirit. . . Did Paul walk away, saying it was only for the believers in Jerusalem in the upper room. Did he say that it was not for every one? Did he say that it was not really necessary?

Paul said, "John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus." On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all. (Acts 19:4-7)

Christianity is spreading. This is not the telling of an historical event merely important in that it is about the apostolic fathers. . . Paul is spreading the Gospel unto all the world. . .The believers out in the areas well away from Jerusalem, across the Mediterranean Sea, the new believers (not the apostles) were re-baptized in water, in Jesus name and then the baptism of the spirit fell upon them. As evidence of this they spoke in tongues and prophesied. . .

What did Jesus say about all this?

you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you (Acts 1:8)

You do not have this power before. . .

you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you (Acts 1:8)

Do you want this power? Do you need this power?

What did Jesus say?

I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. (John 3:5)

These are the words of Jesus. What does being born of the water and of the Spirit mean? What did Jesus mean by that? I have heard lots of ways of trying to explain this verse. . . We can jump through all kinds of hoops trying to avoid the obvious. . . What is the easiest most straight forward explaination for being born of the water and of the Spirit? What New Testament action do we have that involves being reborn and water? What mention do we have of being born of a water baptism, and a baptism in the Spirit?

Read. . . study. . .pray. . . meditate. . .These are not my words. These are the words of Paul, John, and Jesus. . .

What does it matter the traditions of men. . .Those were the arguments of the Jews. . .Jesus showed them how their traditions were flawed. Jesus violated their sense of the way things had always been. He upset their traditions. . . He made them uncomfortable. Listen to His words. . . Look past the traditions. . .

If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. . . .

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Palatte of My Pages. . .

Whenever I finish an email or an article or what ever you want to call my little messages, I wonder if I will again ever write anything. It seems so very mysterious to me and so very removed from my will. . . I have no control over it. I cannot sit down and just manufacture something to write about. I try that at times. When I seem dry and the urge to put my thoughts on paper comes, sometimes I try to force it and write without inspiration. It doesn't work. I have many false starts. I spend much time praying for God to allow me to create something beautiful. . . . I pray and I wait. . . I know that when the time is right, that when I begin I will have enough steam (if you can think of it that way) to complete what I have started. I don't know where I am going to end up when I put the first word to paper, but when the time is right I never have to agonize over not having enough to say, but my problem is more one of keeping the river of my thoughts directed in one channel and not wandering over all of creation like some mental spring flood tide.

Jackie and I went away this weekend. Usually that is a very fruitful time for me to write. The combination of a long drive in the car, with time to meditate and pray coupled with long lazy afternoons of Bible reading and devotions usually will predictably inspire me into being able to write something. It was not that way this trip. I tried the things that usually work to no avail. . . nothing came.

I wrestle with not knowing how this works. Think about it, it is like you are a major league baseball player. Baseball is your passion. In many ways it is your life and yet all you know about it is that you walk up to the plate, close your eyes, and swing the bat. Somehow you hit the ball and get on base. . . sometimes a home run. . . sometimes a lowly single. . . but you have no idea of what happens between the closing of your eyes and the crack of the bat. You have no idea of how to fix it if you were in a slump. You have no idea as to what to attribute it to if you hit a dozen home runs in a row. . . It is all faith. You just walk to the plate, bat in hand. . . There is nothing else to do. . .


It comes to me that one of the reasons that I am able to write is that in ways I feel things in an exaggerated way over what other people may experience. I at times greatly wrestle with depression. A couple of times a year a dark cloud hangs over me, twice a year for weeks on end. I also at other times am blessed with an enthusiasm that others are not often given to experience. This is just me. This is the palette of my pages. . . If I am able to write at all, it is possible maybe only because I have been given deeper and richer colors of emotion than many other people. I can write of darkness out of my intimacy with caves and black holes. I can write of the splendor of vibrancy and passion as I experience those on a regular basis also. That is just me. . . I do not know that there is much that I can do to alter that part of me. . .

To wish to write. . . to pray to God to be able to create, is to be asking Him for vivid colors of emotion to convey. This can be of wonderful golden purple sunsets. . . or it can be of the starkly dark landscape of the dank shadows of midnight. . .Either are equally stark, vivid and material offering possibilities of creation. . .

My sister called me weeping this afternoon. . . it has been 2 1/2 weeks since our Mother's death, surely you must be thinking, enough time to have recovered her. . . our composure. . . but I too, while the past weekend was restorative, am still very much in a battle. . . For both my sister and I this is a difficult time of year. I usually have dark times in October and March, but it can easily vary a month or so either way. I think this is what is going on for both of us. . .

My sister was weeping. I haven't wept for a couple of weeks now, but today I have been feeling just awful. . .I can only compare it to my days of drinking. I feel like I am hung over. I have a dull headache. I have this pervasive fear within me. It is very real. It very much reminds me of times when I have been so drunk that I couldn't really remember what I had done the night before and I had a awful aching fear in the pit of my gut that I had done something horrible, committed some horrible sin, some terrible black crime that I could not remember. . . I have that same feeling of doom about me today.


I feel like I am accused of something that I'm not sure that I did not commit. I question everything about myself. I question my sincerity toward God. I question my faith. . . my salvation. . . I feel great shame. . . over what? I do not know. . . I do not set and weep for my mother. I do not sit and weep at all and yet somehow this must be related to her death. I have no idea why I'm writing these things, but that in some way I believe that God has given me an ability to write and He has given me this experience to write about. For me to write without deeply felt emotion is pointless and the emotions that I am having right now, are if nothing else, deeply held and of stark and vivid color. . . .

Whether anyone wants to read about such a landscape as I am viewing now, is unknown to me, but I can only write about those things that I know. I cannot write about the exotic black lava sand beaches of Hawaii or the mysterious ancient ruins of Greece. I have no firsthand knowledge of them. I can only write of what I know. . . I do not want sympathy. I am not looking for pity. . . I am looking for a way out of this darkness and please. . . in a way writing is a help to me. . .

I know that God is the light that I need and when I worship. . . when I pray. . . when I meditate on His word, the darkness recedes. I know in which direction that the light is in. I have a compass that points me in the right direction but right now the minute the prayer, the praise, the meditation stops the clouds come rolling back in. . .

My sister calls me every day. She tells me that it makes her feel better, even knowing that I am fighting the same battle as she. My mother's stroke brought my Mom and I very much closer in the last eight months of her life than we had been in 40 years or more. . . The battle that my sister and I now share, is bringing us closer then we have been in a similar amount of time. . . It is forging a bond between us that smooth seas and sunny skies would never have required. . .


I love you my God. . .
If possible my Lord, shine your light even brighter that I might see you through my storm. . .

Dave Stokely

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Jehovah-Tsidkenu

Righteousness

Jeremiah 23:6 (H6664 ) righteousness 77, just 11, justice 10, righteous 8, righteously 3, right 3, righteous cause 1, unrighteousness 1, misc 2

Jeremiah 23:6
In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Our righteousness comes from God. We have no righteousness of, nor on our own. Following is the entire 64th chapter of Isaiah. Originally I was only looking for verse 6, which I have highlighted, but take a moment or wait until you have a few moments and then read this passage.

Isaiah 64:1-12
Oh that thou wouldest rend the heavens, that thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at thy presence, (2) As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make thy name known to thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at thy presence! (3) When thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at thy presence. (4) For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him. (5) Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, those that remember thee in thy ways: behold, thou art wroth; for we have sinned: in those is continuance, and we shall be saved. (6) But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (7) And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities. (8) But now, O LORD, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand. (9) Be not wroth very sore, O LORD, neither remember iniquity forever: behold, see, we beseech thee, we are all thy people. (10) Thy holy cities are a wilderness, Zion is a wilderness, Jerusalem a desolation. (11) Our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee, is burned up with fire: and all our pleasant things are laid waste. (12) Wilt thou refrain thyself for these things, O LORD? wilt thou hold thy peace, and afflict us very sore?


Only through abiding in Him can we attain any measure of righteousness. It comes not from us, not from any works that we do, but flows down from God. He is the God of our righteousness. . . Further in the book of Revelation is says that you and I, all who are loved by Him and washed and cleansed of our sins by the blood of Jesus are made kings and priests like Jesus unto God. . .

Revelation 1:5-6
And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, (6) And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.


If I am a King. . .If I am a Priest. . .I don't know. . .it surely is an honor, but it is also much more. To be a king and a priest is not a mere title. Kings and priests have responsibilities. Kings are the leaders of nations, leaders of political structures. Priests are religious, moral, spiritual men and women who lead service and the ministry of others unto God. These are not only pretty words. There is meaning in these words. Kings and priests are judged with a finer measure than the commoners and altar boys. . .with greater responsibility and recognition comes greater accountability. . .

Exodus 19:5-6
Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: (6) And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.


We continue in that heritage. Our heritage is of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. . .We are now today of the New Contract, the new covenant, the New Testament, but surely the heart of God is revealed in His instructions to His Chosen People. We are instructed:

Deu 16:20-21
That which is altogether just
(6664, 6664) shalt thou follow, (7291) that (4616) thou mayest live, (2421) and inherit (3423) (853) the land (776) which (834) the LORD (3068) thy God (430) giveth (5414) thee. (21) Thou shalt not (3808) plant (5193) thee a grove (842) of any (3605) trees (6086) near (681) unto the altar (4196) of the LORD (3068) thy God, (430) which (834) thou shalt make (6213) thee.

I thought this first verse was fascinating. I am showing it with the Strong's numbers. Note the beginning. . .the first two words are the Hebrew tsedeq (6664) tsedeq (6664). . . righteous righteousness. . . translated by the KJV as altogether just. . . think about the doubling of the word. . . not just purity, but pure purity are we to follow. . . not just correctness, but correct correctness. . . righteousness multiplied by righteousness. . . righteousness squared. . .We are instructed to be absolutely correct, absolutely without a hint of shadow upon our actions. . .Immediately following that instruction, "Thou shalt not plant thee a grove of any trees near unto the altar of the Lord. . ."

All through the history sections of the Old Testament kings are judged on how they handled the groves and high places. Here are just a few:

(2 Chronicles 17:6) And his heart was lifted up in the ways of the LORD: moreover he took away the high places and groves out of Judah.

(2 Chronicles 19:3) Nevertheless there are good things found in thee, in that thou hast taken away the groves out of the land, and hast prepared thine heart to seek God.

(2 Chronicles 24:18) And they left the house of the LORD God of their fathers, and served groves and idols: and wrath came upon Judah and Jerusalem for this their trespass.

(2 Chronicles 31:1) Now when all this was finished, all Israel that were present went out to the cities of Judah, and broke the images in pieces, and cut down the groves, and threw down the high places and the altars out of all Judah and Benjamin, in Ephraim also and Manasseh, until they had utterly destroyed them all. Then all the children of Israel returned, every man to his possession, into their own cities.

(2 Chronicles 33:3) For he built again the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down, and he reared up altars for Baalim, and made groves, and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served them.

(2 Chronicles 33:19) His prayer also, and how God was entreated of him, and all his sin, and his trespass, and the places wherein he built high places, and set up groves and graven images, before he was humbled: behold, they are written among the sayings of the seers.

(2 Chronicles 34:3) For in the eighth year of his reign, while he was yet young, he began to seek after the God of David his father: and in the twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem from the high places, and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images.

(2 Chronicles 34:4)And they broke down the altars of Baalim in his presence; and the images, that were on high above them, he cut down; and the groves, and the carved images, and the molten images, he broke in pieces, and made dust of them, and strewed it upon the graves of them that had sacrificed unto them.


Dozens and dozens of verses outline how one yardstick of measurement of kings is how they deal with the groves and high places of idol worship. . . The one New Testament reference:

Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

I meditate upon and pray this verse often when walking up and down the streets of our city, when we gather together on our monthly prayer walks, praying against the strongholds of darkness and evil. I have always read this verse before, thinking of the high places mentioned here, as in the lofty towers of government, etc., but in the Old Testament, which Paul was certainly familiar with, the high places refer to a particular geographical location, on a hill top for example where idol worship was given up, places where sacrifices to wooden and stone gods was conducted.

Where have the high places gone? Have the groves all been cut down and not grown back? Did they all disappear with the coming of Jesus. Are they uniquely an Old Testament phenomenon?

I am asking questions that I at present have no certain answers to, but I do not imagine that without constant vigilance that the groves would remain away. . . Where are the groves? What are the places of spiritual iniquity? Will we like past kings, be measured in part on how we dealt with idol worship and places of spiritual wickedness in our midst?

2 Kings 23:10 And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech.

The people of the day sacrificed their children to Molech. . .We have in our community, known places where our unborn children are sacrificed to the god of hedonism. . .We buy our gas and morning coffee where pornography is sold alongside of the milk and bread. . .I can go on. . .we have mediums and seekers of familiar spirits in our midst. . .We have become accustomed to these things. 50 years ago there would have been outrage where today we accept and blithely ignore these things.

I walk up and down the street praying against the rulers of darkness and spiritual wickedness in high places. . .and yet if I do not express my faith by acting, am I not like the man James talks about:

James 2:14-20 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? (15) If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, (16) And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? (17) Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. (18) Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works. (19) Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. (20) But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?

I have questions. . . at this point I do not have answers, but I am becoming more and more convicted that my faith must have legs. . . I am surely not advocating any violence at all, but activism need not be violent.

Do we not have the responsibility as kings and priests of addressing those things in our midst, places in our communities that have no business being there? Can we just go about our daily lives, ignoring the groves and high places? Will I not be asked these questions some day?

Please guide me Lord. . .
Please lead me into your will. . .

Dave

Saturday, February 9, 2008

My Mother's Funeral. . .

My mother died on February 2nd around 4:30 a.m. We had the funeral service for her yesterday afternoon (Wednesday February 6th) at a local funeral parlor. What a tremendous day. All day long I was overcome with the kindness and love people showed for my family. What a holy day filled with love. Many many friends from my work, lovely brothers and sisters from church, family members whom I hadn't seen some in decades, staff members from Greencroft nursing home where my Mom had resided for nearly 8 months. . . even now. . . too much to think about. I replay the day remembering, savoring the tremendous kindness and love and ministering given toward we who needed it so dearly. I say it again. . . what a day. . . what a tremendous day.

I believe that the ripples of this day will be felt for. . . in some cases for eternity. Numbers of wonderful things happened as a result of yesterday. My Mother's spiritual leader, a good friend of mine Kermit Weaver and his wife Mary were there. Kermit baptized mom May 24th of last year. Kermit spoke. He gave us a message of encouragement and hope in the salvation and forgiveness of our sins through the redeeming power of the blood that Jesus shed for us on the cross. I did not instruct Kermit on what subject to speak upon. He asked me for input and I told him with no compromise to let the Lord lead him for how ever long and in what ever direction the Lord wanted him to go with the message. I asked a man of God to speak at my Mother's funeral. I am surely not going to tell God what message I needed to hear.

Prior to Kermit's message, we had a powerful time of testimony. We heard from ladies who had ministered to my mother from a local church and a chaplain at Greencroft. We heard a wonderful testimony from the staff at Greencroft. Three of the staff showed up. . . what kindness. . . what compassion. . . what love. . . words are not enough. . .

There surely was loss and sorrow yesterday, but the balm of healing love was so thick. . . so powerful yesterday at the funeral. . . I was not at all prepared for the dinner at the church. I was again overcome. . . the preparations. . . the gathering room at the church was wonderfully setup. . . the tables set with place setting, and decorated with Mom's name and little words of encouragement and words of her relationships printed out, cut up and distributed all up and down the many banquet tables. The food. . .wonderful casseroles, meats, drinks, cold cuts, desserts. . . Jackie and I have made hot dishes for funeral dinners before. . . never realizing how healing and nurturing those wonderful foods were. We needed the comfort. . . we needed the fellowship. . .we needed so much and we were provided in abundance beyond our dreams. . .


The kindness of so many wonderful brothers and sisters working. . . sacrificing for our benefit. . . I weep now remembering. . . I hesitate to name names fearful of overlooking someone and causing regret when I desire to give a blessing, but I saw. . . I saw. . . I saw and more importantly my family saw. . . they saw and felt the love. I was maybe a little prepared, but they were overcome. . . the comments I have recieved from them. . . thank you. . . thank you. . . thank you. . . . . .

George, Mom's boyfriend, asked to see the sanctuary. I took him upstairs. We were up there for more than half an hour walking around looking at things. George just took it all in. . . The presence of God was so strong. . . I was overcome with God's spirit. . . The air was so thick. . . it was powerful beyond belief. . .George wanted to know all about the church. . . did we have a choir. . . who sat in the balcony. . . what the drum cage was. . . He inspected the steps on the altar. . .How many people did it hold. . . when was it built. . . lots of other things. . .a hunger. . . a thirst. . . a curiosity. . .I saw him again tonight. We dropped off some of Mom's things at his house. . . He hesitated a couple of times. . . I think maybe fearing rejection. . .then asked me if I would like to go out to eat some day. . . "Yeah George. . . we can do that. . .How about tomorrow night. . . ." I weep again. . . please pray for me to be able to minister to George. . . ripples spreading. . .

When Jackie and I were picking up Mom's things on Monday night at Greencroft, one of the nurses noticed the prayer box and CD's that I gave Mom for her Christmas present. . .Jackie asked her if she would like it. . . she was touched by it. . .tonight another nurse asked if I were the same son that read the Bible for mom on the CD's she had seen when she went up over Christmas and visited Mom at Elkhart General Hospital, "Yes I am. . ." I asked her if she would like a copy of her own. She hesitated, not wanting to ask, maybe not wanting to admit, but I can see it in her eyes. . . wanting. . .hungering . .She said that she's pretty busy and doesn't have time to read the Bible, but she has a CD player in her car that she can listen to the Bible on her way to and from work. . .she would really like that. . . . ripples. . .^. . . ^. . .^. . . ripples on the pond. . .


I talked to another man today who didn't know Mom very well. He came to Mom's funeral and stayed for the dinner at the church and more. . . He came on a whim rather than anything else. . .He said yesterday was one of the best days of his life. . .He felt so uplifted and encouraged. . . ^. . . ^ . . .^. . .

Please join me in prayer for these seekers, for these who hunger. . . for a mighty wind of God's Sprit that will arise and blow and turn these little ripples into mighty waves that will change the course of lives. . .

I love you my God. . .

Thank you my Lord. . .
Thank you my God for brothers. . . sisters. . . saints. . . angels among us. . .

Thank you so very much all. . .


Dave Stokely

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Thoughts of a Man. . .

Genesis 6:5
And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.


The thoughts of man, our greatest blessing. . . our greatest stumbling block. When Adam and Eve left the garden they were dressed in the skins of animals. They had nothing in the way of tools and implements to use in their daily life. It is not recorded that God gave them knives or hammers or wheels for their carts. Through their own inventiveness and creativity, from the thoughts of their minds they had to come up with ways to subdue the land, to process the abundance of the world around them for their daily needs. From that humble beginning each generation has built upon the foundation laid by those who have gone before them until today a single man using the tools available to him can accomplish tasks that would have taken entire villages of men without modern tools. Our productivity increases and increases beyond imagination, but unfortunately so has our ability to commit evil likewise increased.

Bondage and evil come in many forms. Already popular in Europe, soon coming to America ~ streaming pornography on our cell phones. We have modern drugs that can enslave one from almost the first use. We kill babies by the tens of millions. In our public schools we teach our children that perversion is an acceptable choice in life. As a society we Americans have as among our greatest health problems issues arising from gluttony and over consumption while much of the world goes to bed hungry each night.

Our thoughts can be our great blessing or our great stumbling block. We must gain control of our thoughts:

2 Corinthians 10:3-5
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;



This must be an unending process, a continuing spiritual battle. Until my last breath I believe that I will need to be on guard for thoughts that will tempt me and try to lead me astray. I thought it would be interesting to look at thoughts of men and women in the Bible which proved to be stumbling blocks for them. It is always good to take lessons from those who have gone before that we might profit from their misfortune and avoid the same mistakes in our own lives.

Genesis 6:5-6
And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (6) And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.


This is the first usage of the word 'thought' in the Bible. It concerns the evil thoughts and black heart of man and the sorrow filled thoughts and breaking heart of God. The thoughts of man grew so evil so much of the time that God was sorry of His creation of man. . . What a depth of feeling. . . My children have disappointed me. . . I surely have disappointed my parents. That is an inherent part of creation to be disappointed and let down by your creation but as a parent to be so disappointed in your offspring that you wish they had never existed. . . what black sorrow and bleakness that represents. For God to not merely regret of the creation of man, but to destroy all of mankind, with the exception of Noah's family, in an attempt at a new beginning. . . Oh, the sorrow and pain that must have been in God's grieving heart. . . Yes our thoughts get us into trouble. . .

Genesis 20:11
And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife's sake.



Abraham is rightly counted as one of the great pillars of faith in the Bible, but in this chapter of his life Abraham took his focus off of God and filled his mind, his thoughts with the ungodly. He moved his eyes from God to the sinful people who surrounded him. He allowed his awareness of the sinful ungodly nature of the people around him to dictate his actions. Abraham turned to the sin of lying to protect him rather than to depend upon God for his protection. He told what might be by some considered a little white lie, a half truth, a lack of faith.

Abraham like most of us alternated between periods of great faith and acts of unfaithfulness, in this case a lie. In the taking into his own hands the fulfillment of God's promise of a son by conceiving a child with Hagar, Abraham and Sarah caused huge problems that continue even to this day. It is never wise to allow a weed to grow in your garden. The weed itself may be small, but the offspring of it will be many and noxious. The lie about Sarah, the conceiving a child with Hagar were acts of unfaithfulness to God. These acts were born of Abraham's thoughts that did not have God as their focus. The focus was upon fear and desires of his own flesh. We need to develop a spiritual compass by which to evaluate the things which come into our heads. We need to look at each thought, each idea which comes into our awareness and before we admit ownership of it we must look to see which direction the needle of this thought points. If it does not point at God, then we must discard it without regard to how logical or attractive this idea may seem. This is the only sure way of maintaining our righteousness.

Will you tell a lie because the people who you are dealing with will not respect and forgive your admitting the truth? Do you allow the sinfulness of others to dictate your behavior? Do you compromise your standards in the presence of those who do not value holiness? You are on a dangerous road with a destination that you cannot foresee. Any and every road that does not lead to God eventually leads to a place of pain and suffering and death no matter how pleasant the countryside appears at the beginning of the journey. Learn a lesson from Abraham. . .


Genesis 38:15
When Judah saw her, he thought her to be a harlot; because she had covered her face.


Judah saw a woman sitting by the side of the road with her face covered. He mistook her shame to be a shame of her sinfulness as a prostitute. Knowing full well God's prohibitions against adultery, he ignored God's will and sinned (without realizing who she was) with his now widowed daughter-in-law Tamar. His thought of her as a harlot in his mind, and rationalizing this then allowed him to sin with her. In his mind, her perceived sinfulness justified his sinning with her. His devaluation of her led him to devalue himself. Her shame was already his shame. He had neglected and reneged on his duty to provide the seed for an heir for his departed son. This was important in the days of Judah as the land was divided and passed on by the family genealogy and if a widow took a new husband outside of the family of her deceased husband the inheritance of that land would go with her. It was the duty of a family to provide seed from within it's heritage for a widow with no children. Judah had not fulfilled the duty of the family to her. She was not a harlot, but that Judah in a couple different levels of meaning turned her into one. She was originally the honorable one, but through this act both were sullied. . . Judah should have been the one hanging his head in shame and covering his face.

Is it more acceptable in your mind to sin against those outside of the church family? Do you place value on others by their perceived holiness? Would it be more acceptable in your mind to cheat a stripper than to cheat your pastor or another saint in the church? Would there be any less shame and sin involved in that? The genealogy of Jesus passes through the shame of this act:

Matthew 1:3
And Judas begat Phares and Zara of Tamar; and Phares begat Esrom; and Esrom begat Aram;


The heritage of Jesus was sin. He had no sin, but without sin there was no need for Jesus. Figuratively and literally without sin Jesus would not have been born. . .

Our thoughts. . .get us into so much trouble. It is a war we have with them, a never ending war. They are the source of such great great beauty and incredible blackness. . .It all depends upon their direction. . .

There is surely more to be written upon this. . . to be continued (maybe). . .

Lord, I pray please help me keep my thoughts upon you. . .

Dave

Monday, February 4, 2008

When Your Mother Dies. . .

Lessons learned when you were four become much more meaningful. . .

The temperature of the whole world chills a little. . .

Toll House cookies are no longer merely a snack, but a monument. . .

Mothers day changes from an obligation to a craving. . .

Sometimes the air thins and you gasp for breath just sitting in a chair. . .

Crying for Mommy returns after a fifty year absence. . .

You lose something vast and precious that you didn't even know you had. . .

You crave being held and hugged all the time. . .

The last time you spoke to her is now at the bottom of a big ache. . .

Tears are found in totally unexpected places. . .

Never again. . . her magical home made vegetable soup. . . wonderful green beans, potatoes, and ham that aren't falling apart and soupy. . .meat loaf with just the perfect amount of ketchup on top. . . those just right crispy fried potatoes. . . never again. . . for ever. . .

Your chance to repay an enormous debt is lost. . .

You lose the founding member of your fan club. . .

The one person who would take on anyone, or anything. . . (any army for that matter) in your defense is no longer there for you. . .

The pain of your rebellious teen years returns from a different direction. . .

You pray and hope God loves to give hugs. . .

You have an understanding of Memorial Day that you never had before. . .

You need and appreciate friends more than you ever did before. . .

There is now one date on the calendar that you really do not like at all. . .

You very much want to give a big hug to every little old lady you meet. . . and you would love for them to hug you back. . .

Dave





Saturday, February 2, 2008

Jehovah-Shammah

Present

This word is used some 823 times in 724 verses.

Ezekiel 48:35
It was round about eighteen thousand measures: and the name of the city from that day shall be, The LORD is there.

Ezekiel 43:1-7
Afterward he brought me to the gate, even the gate that looketh toward the east: (2) And, behold, the glory of the God of Israel came from the way of the east: and his voice was like a noise of many waters: and the earth shined with his glory. (3) And it was according to the appearance of the vision which I saw, even according to the vision that I saw when I came to destroy the city: and the visions were like the vision that I saw by the river Chebar; and I fell upon my face. (4) And the glory of the LORD came into the house by the way of the gate whose prospect is toward the east. (5) So the spirit took me up, and brought me into the inner court; and, behold, the glory of the LORD filled the house. (6) And I heard him speaking unto me out of the house; and the man stood by me. (7) And he said unto me, Son of man, the place of my throne, and the place of the soles of my feet, where I will dwell in the midst of the children of Israel forever, and my holy name, shall the house of Israel no more defile, neither they, nor their kings, by their whoredom, nor by the carcasses of their kings in their high places.

Jeremiah 29:4-13
Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all that are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem unto Babylon; (5) Build ye houses, and dwell in them; and plant gardens, and eat the fruit of them; (6) Take ye wives, and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons, and give your daughters to husbands, that they may bear sons and daughters; that ye may be increased there, and not diminished. (7) And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the LORD for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace. (8) For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Let not your prophets and your diviners, that be in the midst of you, deceive you, neither hearken to your dreams which ye cause to be dreamed. (9) For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the LORD. (10) For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. (11) For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. (12) Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. (13) And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.


I love this last verse. . . I use it often. . .And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. . . Notice what it says. . . notice what it does not say. . . God does not instruct you as to where to search for Him. Rather it is the passion and intensity and completeness of the seeking that guarantees the finding.

God is a spirit. Where ever you look for God you will find Him. He is everywhere. To put an 'x' on the map and to say that God is there, is an important symbol or sign for man, but not for God. We need to have something on which to to focus our attention, a burning bush for example for us to believe, to show us that we are in the presence of God.

I have been in churches where we were instructed that we could walk and go anywhere, excepting a three or four foot radius behind the pulpit which was reserved as holy ground and no one was allowed to tread upon this sanctified area, but the Man of God. I understand the respect thereby being given to the pulpit and the podium reserved for preaching . . but. . . but. . .but every minute we exist, every mile we walk we are in front of Him. To signify one place as being particularly holy over all other places, I believe misleads us into thinking we need to be especially dedicated and devout at one spot on the map, but not so dedicated or devout at other times and locations. . . We are always in God's presence. . .

Jesus said let your 'yes' be a 'yes' and your 'no' be a 'no'. Take no oaths giving a particularly high level of assurance that you are being honest. Do not have separate levels of honesty depending upon the circumstance. Do not have one level of honesty when on the witness stand in a courtroom and another level of honesty in your everyday interactions. In the same manner I do not believe that we should have separate codes of behaviour depending upon whether we are seen as standing upon or near a spot seen as holy. He does not require a house to reside in. He is spirit. He exists everywhere. . . He is omnipresent. . .An ordinary patch of dirt in the desert is holy when God reveals Himself to you there. . . Moses take off your shoes. The ground upon which you stand is holy ground. . .

Jesus was no respecter of persons. He was as respectful and attentive, as concerned and loving and generous equally to prostitutes and beggars, and to the Roman centurion, a man of authority and means. He did not consult the resume of the man or look upon his past accomplishments before deciding on how to treat him. and I do not believe that either does He need a particular place in which to be reserved for His worship and honor. . .Ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. . .It is not the place that is important. It is the seeking with all your heart. . .

In the passage of Jeremiah quoted above. . . in the city of your enemies. . . in the place of your captivity. . . pray for the peace of that place. . . do not pray for the destruction of that place. I am there. This is accomplishing My purpose. . .In my presence is holy ground. . . I am everywhere. . .it is all consecrated. . . it is all His. . .

Where ever you look. . .Jehovah-Shammah. . . God is there. I lay upon my bed at night. I stroke and pet my dog. I pray. . . I visualize stroking the head of God. I softly caress my dog's ears. . .I pray. . . I minister to God. . .All through the day, if I show kindness to my fellow man. . . Jesus said that thereby I do it unto Him. If I do it unto the least of them. . . I do it unto Him. . .where ever I look. . . where ever I go. . . Jehovah-Shammah. . . God is there. . .

A few moments ago, I received a call. . .my mother has passed away. . . .
It happened at very nearly the same time that I got up to write these words to you all. . .
Jehovah-Shammah. . . God is here. . .

Dave Stokely

Friday, February 1, 2008

Jehovah-Shalom

Peace

Isaiah 9:6
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.


Strong's word H7965

Translated as:
peace 175, well 14, peaceably 9, welfare 5, salute + 07592 4, prosperity 4, did 3, safe 3, health 2, peaceable 2, misc 15

Psalms 4:8
I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.


The God of peace brings to us the peace of God. . .

Even today this word 'shalom' is a common greeting between the Hebrew people. As a young man growing up in the sixties, I was a youthful supporter of the peace movement of the Vietnam war where many of us adopted the peace sign and used shalom as a greeting between us. Indeed shalom can mean freedom from war, but more significantly it also has a meaning of inner peace and well being. In reading accounts of the unspeakable evilness of committed in the death camps of Hitler's Germany for many Jews there was still a sense of God's presence and comfort. . . Jehovah-Shalom was there providing His strength. . . His presence. . . His comfort to those who abided in Him. There surely was not peace as viewed from the perspective of freedom from violence and war, but internally without regard to the happenings in our careers, our finances, our health, our families our faith in God can bring to us a comfort and serenity which is a mystery to those who do not know God.

Psalms 18:30
As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.

Ephesians 6:16
Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.


This shield of God, this buckler is protection for us from fear and tension. . . it protects us from all attacks of doubt. . . if. . . if . . . if we reside behind this shield. . .

Philippians 4:7
And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

The peace of God. . . Jehovah-Shalom. . . The God of peace! God is the source of all our strength. If we look for strength and reassurance anywhere else we are weakened. Your bank account, your job, your health, your marriage, your house, your spouse, your children can all be taken from you. If your peace, if your happiness, if your faith rests upon them you are in a vulnerable position.

I've related it before, but a few years ago I was troubled by concerns for the future, I was anxious and fretting. . . worrying and in an instant, as soon as I stepped back behind my shield of faith, as soon as I realized that the source of my happiness is not from the world around me, but from God. As soon as this thought came into my mind, I was completely filled with peace.

I talked about an attack against my worship, against my peace that I had a few days ago, an attack about the sincerity of my worship. I was worshipping God when the thought came into my head, "Would you feel this same way if things weren't going so well for you?" One of the main reasons I knew that this was not of God, is that it was an attempt to get me to worry about something that I have no control over. There is no way for any of us to know for certain how we will react under extreme circumstances. We want to think we will do well. We are all like Peter, saying that we will never ever deny Jesus, but until we are faced with the actual circumstance we will not know the depth and strength of our faith. I can do nothing about how I might react to the events of tomorrow. Therefore for me to worry about it is pointless.

Jesus was very clear about this:

Matthew 6:34
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

This attack against me was an attempt to steal my peace. I can do nothing about tomorrow. It is not for me to worry about it, but at the same time I can practice, I can rehearse in my mind. I can visualize adverse circumstances and see myself acting the way that is good and holy and righteous and Godly. One vivid mental image that I have often used is being chin deep in a closed septic tank, with only a few inches of air to breathe. . . and praising God, worshipping Him in the most dire circumstance I can think of. I want to be able to praise God in any circumstance that I might face. In the army we couldn't duplicate the conditions of actual battle, but we still mentally prepared, we physically tested ourselves in various ways in order that when the actual circumstances arose we would not be as shocked or completely surprised. We would have a basis of how to act under fire and not completely fall apart. I believe as Christians we can prepare ourselves in a similar manner. If we try to place ourselves mentally in trying circumstances, try to imagine how we might feel, imagine ourselves overcoming physical pain, mental anguish. . . .it surely will not be the same as being actually in that situation, but I believe that it will strengthen us. If we cannot abide in our God of peace in time of peace, how will we abide in Him in time of trial and war?

Again and again in the Bible, living for God is compared to a battle, the symbolism of weapons and the tools of war abound. Victory in war is achieved though both strength and preparation. Strength without preparation is foolishness. Preparation without strength is futile. God has given us the strength. Let us not fail to prepare. . .

Thank you for my peace that you bring me Lord.
Let me always abide behind your sheild.

I love you God. . .
I love you all. . .

Dave Stokely