"What is desired in a man is kindness" (Proverbs 19:22).
Kind people live in a kind world and mean people live in a mean world! What kind of world do you live in? Most people create their own worlds; in fact most people will respond to you the way you treat them. Most will be a mirror image of the way you treat them.
Several years ago Jan and I had flown into the USA for a series of meetings. We arrived late at night and I was to rent a car and drive several hours to the city where we were to minister the next day. As I approached the desk of the hire car firm I heard the young lady attendant say "I'm sorry but we are out of cars and it will be several hours before we have any available!" Great, I thought. It was already past midnight and I still had a two-hour drive to make and now there were no cars available.
As I was struggling to hold back from voicing my frustration to this young lady, a very rude and arrogant man stepped in front of me and began to unleash one of the strongest verbal tirades I have ever heard. I mean this man had studied the subject of rude and had passed with flying colours. I watched the young lady wilt under this verbal assault. Her lip began to tremble and I thought she was about to cry. By the time it was my turn to speak, the rude man had said it all. What could I add? About that time the Lord spoke to me and said, "Why not show a little kindness. This girl doesn't need anymore criticism". And so I stepped forward and was as nice to the young lady as I could be. ?That was the rudest man I have ever met", she said. "You wouldn't believe how rude he was. It's not my fault that there is a problem with the cars. I?m just doing my job," she said.
"Well if it's any consolation," I said. "I thought you handled a very difficult and ugly situation really well." I was nice to the lady; I was kind, even though in the natural I was irked over the delay too. I went and sat down next to Jan to wait until a car was available. After about 15 minutes a white Cadillac pulled up out front. The young attendant jumped out, raced in and dropped the keys to the vehicle onto the girl's desk. "This car's ready!" he said.
Now the young lady could give this car to any of the 8-10 people seated waiting, anyone she wanted to! Jan and I had only ordered a medium sized car. Without hesitation the young lady picked up the keys, walked straight passed Mr. Rude and dropped the keys in my lap."There's the keys to your car Mr. Stringer!" she said. And then turned in the direction of Mr. Rude and said (as loudly as she could). "It pays to be nice to people!"
We were the first to leave and we left driving a beautiful white Cadillac (which I had not paid for). I believe that Mr. Rude would have been the last to leave and when he did he was probably driving a Gogomobile! It's interesting that this young lady treated us so differently She reacted and treated us both in the same manner we had treated her.
Some time back I was thinking that if there was a song that best summed up my life what would it be? "I've lost that loving feeling!" Or the words of that Glen Campbell hit, "try a little kindness and overlook the blindness of the narrow minded people, in the narrow minded streets." Look at these words of wisdom: "If you are kind to these people, and please them, and speak kind words to them, they will be your servants forever." (2 Chronicles 10: 7). In this passage of Scripture we find where Solomon - the wisest man who had ever lived - son Rehoboam was about to take become king. Gathering the wise men, he enquired as to how he could best serve his people: "King Rehoboam consulted the elders ... saying, "How do you advise me to answer these people?" And they spoke to him, "If you are kind to these people ... and speak good words to them, they will be your servants forever." (2 Chron.10: 7).
Imagine a business where the customers were loyal, or a church where members stayed committed! A marriage where the partners remained faithful Is such a thing possible? It is if one believes the Bible. And the key? Kindness! Could this be the reason that some churches never grow, why some businesses fail, why some marriages end in divorce? This Bible passage is worth is priceless. It's a principal for for loyalty, be it in business, church or marriage. Kindness - a small word but a powerful force! Kind people live in a kind world, mean people live in a mean world. What sort of world do you live in?
Over the past few months Jan and I have been greatly alarmed at the marriage breakdown rate not only among born again, Spirit filled Christians, but pastors and ministry. While I don't want to appear an alarmist, the situation is certainly not getting any better. Over the last few months we have seen some seven nationally and internationally recognized ministers succumb, but Jan and I have been personally impacted by the breakdown of the marriages of some of our closest friends in ministry. To say the impact of these tragedies on us has been devastating would not be an overstatement. Rather than just focus on the problem we must begin to look at the causes and render help and assistance wherever and however we can. But we do have to identify and admit there is a problem before we can deal with it.
Selfishness Is A Major Cause
One of the major causes of marital breakdown is straight out selfishness. (I can imagine the letters I will get from that statement alone). But someone has to stand up and say -enough is enough! Let me hasten to say that I consider myself as selfish as the next bloke. Selfishness seems rampant in our modern society. Scripture says: "You should know, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be unloving and unforgiving and have no self control. They will betray their friends, be puffed up with pride and love pleasure. You should stay away from people like this." (2 Timothy 3: 1-5 NLT) Few would argue that these are exactly the things we are dealing with today. The problem with selfishness is that we quickly see others in this light, but never ourselves. If we are selfish we are usually the last to recognise it as part of our own behaviour.
One of the contributing factors I have noted with the marriage breakdowns is this selfishness factor. Of course this is not always the case, perhaps it has only been 99.9%!
Another problem is that we want to justify our actions. "It's not my fault, my spouse did this, or didn't do that!" This is what we so often hear. As though this action or lack of it gives licence for the aggrieved person to do as they wish.
Reproach On The Church
The catastrophic results of these continued affairs, adultery and marital breakdowns is the reproach that it brings upon the Church. The media have been enjoying a field day with the sex abuse scandals involving priests and ministers. To say that the credibility of the ministry has received a black eye would be a gross understatement. (The world can't differentiate and simply lump us all together).
It never ceases to amaze me how the Church thinks that what impresses them automatically impresses the world. For instance, we think that because a minister has been blessed with the ability to preach or teach that it impresses the world. Not always! Have you ever heard of such renowned worldly speakers as Anthony (multi-millionaire) Robbins and other motivational speakers.
What about a minister that can flow in the gift of healing? Surely that impresses the world? Not necessarily! As David Yonggi Cho points out, the occult and eastern religions include healing in their philosophy.
How about ministers that flow in gifts of the Spirit such as words of knowledge or words of wisdom ? these are gifts that ensure the Church will be packed, surely they would impress the world? Again in all honesty - not always. One can dial up a "Dial a Dill" or some physic or fortune teller and get a "word" over the phone. New Age conventions are a dime a dozen now a days. I do not wish to give the impression that I am belittling the wonderful gifts of the Spirit, what I am trying to show is that what impresses the Church does not always impress the world!
What Impresses The World?
The thing I hear over and over from the world is that "the church is full of hypocrites"! Maybe it's time to listen to some things the world is saying! What would impress the world? In my view, it would simply be people of honour and character. Ministers and Christians that actually lived what they preached Husbands who truly loved their wives and remained faithful to them. Families that stayed together through thick and thin. Christians who put others before themselves, who "laid down their lives for their friends".
Please hear my heart, I am not setting myself up as a judge. I am deeply concerned, not only over the marital breakdown rate in the church, but the selfishness. How some ministers treat marriage so lightly, that ministry comes first.
I believe both the world and most of the Church are tired of people who preach and teach one thing but then live their lives in a selfish manner. The Scripture has much to say about "hypocrites". Luke 18:9-13 in particular deals with it: "Two men went into the Temple to pray, one was a Pharisee, and the other a dishonest tax collector. The proud Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer; "I thank you God, that I am not a sinner like everyone else, especially like that tax collector over there! For I never cheat, I don't sin, I don't commit adultery...." But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead he beat his chest in sorrow saying: "O God be merciful to me a sinner." I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee returned home justified before God. For the proud will be humbled, but the humble will be honoured." (NLT).
Notice the attitude of the tax collector - no hypocrisy, no hype, he is not full of self-importance, self and reputation. The man is real, he cries out for - and throws himself on - the mercy of God! While the Pharisee is full of himself, a real "I'm all alright Jack" mentality. Let me quote a friend, Kansas City Renewal Pastor Steve Gray: "If you don't like what you're growing - you'd better change what you're sowing!"
Paul's Teaching On Grace
If ministers today stand up and call sin sin they are often accused of preaching condemnation, "It's all covered by grace, brother!" Let me quote Rick Joiner: "Paul walked in God's grace to the end because he never forgot the mercy God extended to him. Therefore, in genuine humility he really did consider himself the most unworthy of all of the saints.....Interestingly, Paul did not start his ministry this humble. Even when he was young and his conversion still fresh, a progression of humility can be seen in the chronology of Paul's letters. In one of his earliest letters he claims to not be inferior to even the greatest apostles. A few years later this attitude had changed and he called himself "the least of the apostles." ... "the least of all God's people."... Because God truly does resist the proud and gives His grace to the humble, those who are progressing toward true maturity, which is the true grace of God, will also be progressing toward increasing humility. This is all about grace, and therefore those who are pursuing God's grace are also pursuing humility."
We preach a different Gospel to the world, right living, family values, honour in marriage, character and virtue. That's what the world wants to see demonstrated in Christians lives, people who live what they preach. The power of God, the Grace of God to change our lives, homes and morals.
Praise the Lord! Great things are happening. Jan and I are excited to report that we have been out and about in this great land preaching, teaching and bringing the Word of God to the ?bush". After all this is "The Year of the Outback". We have been blessed to see people coming to Jesus in many of our meetings. The last three churches we have shared in we have seen sixteen people come forward to receive Jesus or to be restored from a back-slidden state. God is so good!
I also had the privilege of representing "Word of Faith" Churches (along with Pastors Jim Newton and Margaret Court) at the Australian Pentecostal Ministers Fellowship in Sydney. It was great to see some 2000 people from all streams of Spirit- filled believers in attendance. Groups represented included ICFM, AFCM, Assembly of God, Christian Outreach Centre, Christian Revival Crusade, Christian City Church, Apostolic, Victory Life, Bethesda, Full Gospel as well as Spirit-filled Baptists, Anglicans and many others. It was awesome to see what the Lord is doing among the Churches. No flag waving or pushing any particular group, but just wanting to see God move in this nation.
The Importance of the local Church
The Lord has had me sharing on the importance of the local church lately. Jesus said: "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it." (Matt 16:18).
He didn't say He would build a home fellowship, TV ministry, apostle or prophet! (As important as they are, but nothing takes the place of the local church).
I believe God is bringing a fresh emphasis on the importance of the local church. For some time now I have felt that some para-church groups, fragmented break-away home churches, and ministries have been drawing people and finances away from the local church. Anyone that is not helping build His church are just doing their own thing, building a monument to self. Jesus loves His church, he said: "I will build My church!"
Jan and I pastored for many years, we know the importance of the local church, nothing will or can replace it. We are sticklers in the support of the local church and wherever possible we try to hold our meetings in local churches. We want to add to, build up and support the church.
When Jan and I were first saved we attended the local Baptist Church. They were not Spirit-filled and there was little happening, but they did instill into us the importance of being in church regularly. We were taught it was a privilege to be in church, to read our Bibles, to attend prayer meetings etc. Our family rarely missed a meeting.
But today we are raising some "spiritual delinquents". I am not suggesting that we shouldn't move with the times, but we are supposed to be 'in the world but not of it". I think we have taken that wrong, it seems that many are "of the world, but not in it"!
We need to teach our children that that is an important reason for them to be in church! The church is the house of God!
Look at this passage from 1 Timothy 3: 14-15, which proves this to be true: "....I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God."
Deception - Sign Of End Times
In Matthew 24 the disciples asked Jesus what will be the signs of the last days, of His return. I know most end time books and preachers site such things as wars, famines, earthquakes etc - and they are mentioned. But if you note this passage of Scripture you will find that 50% of the signs Jesus talks about deal with deception! Matt 24:4-5 says: "Take heed that no one deceive you. For many will come in My name, saying, "I am the Christ," and will deceive many." Verse 11 "Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many".
Jesus says the predominant sign of the last days will be deception! Few would challenge that this is a sign we are witnessing in the world, and the church - now! Today we have so many Christians that do not see the importance of the local church. In fact some have actually become enemies they speak against it, incite people to leave and even write books why we need not attend church! Others think that the TV Church has replaced His church. That is outright deception. Nothing takes the place of the local church. Remember, Jesus said: "I will build My church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it!"
Jan and I want to thank you for your very much appreciated support for our ministry. Whatever our reward, it is also your reward. We are covenant partners,we are joint labourers together. Thank you! From the bottom of our hearts. We love you, pray for you and believe in you!
by Jan Stringer
The Bible is full of repentance. There are 100 references (58 in the N.T. alone). So I would say that God places much importance on the subject. It is the missing ingredient in modern evangelism yet is the keynote of N.T. preaching. John the Baptist preached it (Matt. 3:2). Jesus preached it (Matt. 4:17. The disciples preached it (Mark 6:12). Just before Jesus left for Heaven he mentioned it again in Luke 24:47. While Luke 15:7 says that all Heaven rejoices over the repentance of one sinner.
Peter and Paul preached repentance. Everywhere in the Bible repentance leading to faith is preached as a condition of salvation. So let's take a look at it more closely by asking first of all WHAT REPENTANCE IS NOT?
Conviction isn't repentance. It includes it but a sinner can be deeply convicted but still not repent. Acts 24:24, 25. Felix was convicted but did nothing about it.
Hatred of sin is not repentance. It should be included in it but how many of you would be honest enough to admit that you were sorry for your old life-style but would have to say that you really enjoyed it. You thought it was fun at the time and still get some enjoyment from the memory of it. But of course you wouldn't want to go back. So hating the sin doesn't mean everyone will stop it. You can hate the sin but keep on doing it.
Sorrow for sin is not repentance. Repentance does include sorrow and remorse but it's much more than that. It's possible to be sorry for a sin and yet not repent of it. Paul writes: "I am no longer sorry that I sent that letter to you, though I was sorry for a time, for I know that it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you but because the pain caused you to have remorse and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. For God can use sorrow in our lives to help us turn away from sin and seek salvation. We will never regret that kind of sorrow. But sorrow without repentance is the kind that results in death" (2 Cor. 7:8-10).
Promising to do better is not repentance. Many people make a lifetime habit of always intending to do better. Is it any wonder we say that the road to hell is paved with good intentions? You have to face up to sin and call it for what it is and not say, "I slipped, made a mistake, I fell." No! You sinned. I was raised Catholic and had to go to confession. Although I realize that doctrine is not correct at least we were forced to confront our sin and acknowledge it. "Forgive me father for I have sinned". The prodigal son when he came to his senses said; "Forgive me father for I have sinned against you and God." Of course I realize this can be taken to an extreme and people become too sin conscious forgetting that we are the righteousness of God in Christ (but I doubt that ever happens amongst "Word" people.) I always have believed and still do that it's better to acknowledge sin than whitewash over it by saying "I had an affair". No! You committed adultery/fornicating etc.
Turning from one sin is not repentance. We have to deal with the sin nature. Say the root of a tree is the sin nature, which produces fruit of differing kinds of sin. Rip out the tree by the roots and fruit will no longer grow. Jesus realized this when he cursed the fig tree from the roots. How do we do this? By receiving a new nature from Jesus. So it's not just a matter of giving up a few sins but giving up sin. 1 John 3:4-9 says that God's children don't make a practice of sinning. Sheep hate to wallow in mud but pigs love it. Go into your garden sometime and pull the tops off the weeds. What happens? They keep growing! Repentance is all about dealing with the root and not just the sins. You could give up boozing and sleeping around etc. but still be a sinner because there's no repentance! So we know now what repentance is not, part two will deal with what repentance is.
Our Son Mark and Angela were married in Victor Harbour on 8 June 2002. Mark recently returned home safely (thank you for all your prayers) from his tour of duty with the UN in East Timor. On 8th June, Mark married Angela Cooper, a Police Officer from Darwin.