Learning often equates to spiritual growth and development, but not always.  We hear the term spiritual growth and development or spiritual maturity, but what is the measure of spiritual growth and maturity?  Is it a certain amount of hours spent working for God?  Or maybe a certain number of hours spent in prayer?  Or maybe it is a certain amount of money given to the LORD?  Or maybe it is being able to operate in the spiritual realm in a supernatural way for a certain amount of time.  Now all of these are good to do, but have nothing to do with the question. Believe it or not the answer to the question is how we handle the truth, especially the truth about ourselves.  Do we do the right thing (unlike the last time) the next time we are faced with walking according to God’s word and will?   I wonder why we as Christians say “happy new year?”  Is it a wish or a hope that the new year will be happy?  Well in God there is no happy new year, only another year and whether it is happy or not depends not on God, but on us doing the things we know to do, the things God told us to do.  God’s intention (His desire) for us is for all of our years to be happy and fruitful, but whether they are depends on us, not God.  God can do no more than speak His intention (He will not force us) in our lives so we can hear and make the choice for ourselves.  Man is focused on happiness (happen-in-stance or situational) while God is focused on eternal things NOT dependent on situations and circumstances.  A happy new year or a God centered new year, it is our choice.

The year 2010 was a great year for Family Stahl.  It started off tough with the death of my father on 3 Jan, but you know in my heart I do not miss him because I have a hope that I will see him again.  Oh I mourned his passing with tears and a great sadness (even still cry sometimes when I think of him), but the year ended with Noah David Stahl (my son David’s son) being added to Family Stahl.  I made an observation about mourning.  I have found out those who have dealt with the deceased in a dishonest or selfish matter seem to take the loss much harder.  Maybe it is because of their heart being crushed for the dishonest dealings or maybe because of the financial or other loss they will suffer from the passing.  I at all times treated my father with the utmost respect and honor; it was more than a father son relationship.  We had a crimson tread that jointed our hearts together by way of military service to country. I alone of my brothers and sisters knew of the heartaches and selfless sacrifice my father made, this bound us even closer with duty, honor, and service.  And of course what makes for a happy new year is if we moved closer towards the LORD.  And to do this we must have learned some things about our nature and character as compare to God’s along the way that move us ever closer.  God’s nature and character is always the standard we are measured against.  Thus, I would like to share four major lessons I have learned in 2010 and will probably re-learn in the coming years:

The first lesson is good works does not mean a good heart.  I cannot begin to tell you the number of Christians I have talked to that believe all we have to do is  treat others good, take care (feed and clothe) of the poor and down-trodden, and God will look past the sin in our lives.  My friend the sin in our lives must be dealt with.  God does not forgive sin someone must pay a price for our sin and if the precious blood of Jesus Christ has not been applied to blot out our sin then we must pay the consequence of our disobedience with our eternal life.  Our choice is crystal clear, but this weak kneed, free grace doctrine that is sweeping the world has blinded and blurred the truth to salvation; where all we have to do is have good thoughts, think positive, treat people kindly, and all will be fine.  After all most churches (especially in America) do not believe in sin;  I heard Joel Osteen say on CNN he does not preach against sin and he does not believe in hell, well my friend Joel and the 60, 000+ people of his church are deceived if they believe these lies.  It does not matter what we do for God, but it matters what we become in God. Sin was the number one topic Jesus talked about during His earthly ministry.  Our heart is changed only when we allow God to deal and judge in it.  The more we allow God free reign in our heart and lives the more our heart will become like His.  Good works (even though needed) will not change our heart condition only God’s dealings and judgments and our election for free reign and sway.           

The second lesson is peace at the cost of Godly principles is devilish.  In my family Karen and I have been shunned by my relatives because we have dared to speak to them about their souls; about them walking away from God, the lesbianism, and homosexuality that is alive and well in our family.  This behavior has been condoned by my mom and dad (just love and prayer for them we were told) in the past to keep the peace, but in reality it was just more time given to provide cover for the open rebellion moving in our family against God’s word.  And for this we have paid a price within the family.  I can feel in my spirit the resentment and hatred they have for us even though they say they love us.  The Holy Spirit does not lie.  My friend I am here to tell you if you compromise the truth of the word of God to keep peace in the family there will never be peace between you and God.  God will see to it that your spirit will be troubled until you submit to what He wants. As children of God either we stand for the truth of the word of God or we will go along to keep harmony.  Harmony without truth is devilish.  God’s word is truth and unless we align with His word we can have no peace, things will be okay until someone gets offended and then all hell will break loose.  We must stand on Godly principles even at the cost of strife in the family.  It is better you anger your dad, mom, brothers, and sisters then to anger God.  Now do I want to see my relatives come back to Christ before it is too late?  You bet I do, I pray for them all every day, but whether they do or not is not up to me or God it is up to them.  I know Karen and I have taken the Godly approach with them and our prayer is for them to allow God to open their eyes to the truth of the word of God again before it is too late and that the heinous spirits of lesbianism and homosexuality would be stripped from our family forever before it is too late.  There is no peace in compromise only loss and destruction.            

The third lesson is if you draw back from God you will lose your motivation.

Sadly I have seen this moving some in my life.  Ever since we returned from Europe in 2003 I have seen a very very slow drifting and sliding back from where I was in God.  Now I am not talking about turning my back on God, but just a slight and subtle drawing back; not fasting like I use to, maybe enjoying more of a life of ease, or maybe not so looking forward to getting on an airplane for 12-24 hours to travel to other parts of the world.  The older we get the less we like to be inconvenienced, the more we like hot showers (maybe that is only me), and the more our lives seems to become more dear to us. Well if we have a desire to serve God all of these things must be dealt a death blow, if not we run the risk of losing our motivation to be used of God.  We must take heed and guard against this from moving in our lives.  The only way to prevent this is by recognizing what is going on and as Barney Fife said, “just nip it in the bud.”  We must force ourselves in this area.  It must not be a question of our desires and will, but a question of do we want to disappoint God and go against His will?  We must not give our flesh any quarter, we must kill it no matter how much it screams to live.  Our flesh must be put to death, if not we will lose our desire for the things of God.  Being dead to our flesh is the requirement to know the power of God.     

          And the fourth and most important is our character must exceed our revelation of God. Sadly I have a friend (who has a deep understanding of God’s word) of over 30 years who walked away from our friendship in 2010. All because God used me to share a character flaw, he got offended, and broke off our communication. The really sad point is I really believe if my friend (I still consider him my friend, brother, and love him no matter his heart condition towards me) would have allowed God to show him these areas he would have a deeper and greater revelation of God’s word.  Loss in our lives comes out of our disobedience to what God is bringing into our lives, no matter who God uses to bring it.  Peter tells us, “Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. 6Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: 7Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.”  (1 Peter 5:5-6)  Notice verse seven said, “care” not cares no “s.”  Cares are earthly things (cars, homes, money, clothing, etc.) but, “care” is the attitude of caring.  Peter told us to cast our attitude of caring for earthly things on God, because He “careth” for us. Do you see that?  I hope so.  But, humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God? I wonder what the mighty hand of God looks like?  To Joseph God’s mighty hand was his brothers, Potiphar, and the Pharaoh of Egypt.  What does the mighty hand of God look like in your life? The condition to be exalted is for us to humble ourselves.  At the same measure (God always works on the same measure) we can humble ourselves; at that same measure we shall be exalted no more no less.  Now I hope and pray my good friend can find enough of God in him to call or email me (I have tried) again, but if not well . . .  that is his choice.  No matter how much of the revelation of God we can behold the work of God is to be done in our character not in our ability to teach or preach.  If one is a great teacher or preacher of the word of God, but treats people like they are not equal to them by expecting people to always do things for them, i.e. get their bags, pay their food, tell them how wonderful they are, and never consider themselves equal to anybody because they think they have a greater revelation of God.  But is it not our revelation it is God’s!  These are all human signs of arrogance and presumption. Did you know God is more concerned about our character than He is about how long we can speak in tongues, how much we work around the church, how well we can sing and dance, how fast we can run, how many points we can score, or even how much money we give to the church.  God’s number one focus in our lives is how much we are like His dear precious Son Jesus Christ not the service we can give.  This is God’s number one objective in our lives.  God is not trying to make us happy (He really does not care about our happiness), rich, or popular, but will do His best (everything we will allow in our lives) to conform us into the character and nature of His Son Jesus Christ. If we really have a desire to become like Jesus Christ we MUST really internalize this truth because then we will be willing to endure tribulations in our lives, which I feel are coming more often and more intense in 2011. We are to be the expression of the Father as Jesus Christ was.  Do you see that?    

I hear Christian preachers and teachers on TV say, “send me money so I can help God bring in the harvest in the last days.”  Well God needs no help to bring in the harvest.  Or I hear them say, “a great revival is going to sweep over the land and many people will be saved.”  Well the Bible I read (KJV and Greek) does not support such a lie.  The Bible I read talks about a great falling away in the last days, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;” (2 Thessalonians 2:3) Did you know you cannot revive a dead body? No one in the Bible (even Jesus) ever revived a dead person, oh no they must be resurrected.  You can revive someone almost dead, but then you will never know the resurrection power of God.  But to be resurrected we must die and no one wants to die.  Unless we die we will never be able to walk in the truth of Paul’s words when he said, That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” (Philippians 3:10)  Please notice the order here; knowing Him (God), His power, and His suffering so we can be made (a process) conformable (to look like) His death.  We must know Him to know His power and we must know His power so that we can endure our suffering and die.  In 2011 we must learn how to die in God.  Not physically per say (well maybe so for some Christians outside America), but spiritually.  If not we will never be able to “know him and the power” that brought Jesus back from the dead.  How much faith will we need in 2011?  Just enough to believe God can raise us from the dead as He did Jesus.  What will we need to learn in 2011?  How to die like Jesus.