Israel Trip 2024

Dear Pilgrim,
I trust you had a blessed Easter Resurrection celebration. I noticed how many people who have SeaOfGalileegone to Israel with me posting pictures of their trip during Easter Week because, well, Holy Week is never the same for anyone after they visit Israel.
People have begun to register for the 2024 trip with an optional add-on excursion to Jordan. Here is the link with the information. I urge you to call and pay your deposit now. Inspiration Cruises will walk you through what you need to do to complete payment later in the year.
IsraelGroupShotIf you have any questions, please let me know. We will have some meetings before we go (Zoom and in person) so you will get to know one another a bit before you meet in Israel. Also, if you need a roommate, let Inspiration and/or me know.
As the saying goes, "next year in Jerusalem," can be a reality for you. Don't miss this opportunity.

Your Easter Breakthrough

Can you imagine what it must have been like for those disciples, who thought Jesus was dead and gone, only to find that He was  Screen Shot 2023-04-09 at 7.41.11 AM alive and thriving? It must have been a shock to say the least and that is what I want to talk about in this entry. I want to look at one of the women who went to the tomb on Sunday morning only to find it not as she thought it would be. So let's go back in time and see if there is any lessons we can learn from her encounter with the empty tomb.


When Mary came to the tomb, she found it empty and went to inform the disciples. They went running and found it as she said, while Mary stood outside crying, assuming that someone had stolen and hidden Jesus' body. Two angels sat in the empty tomb and spoke to her, asking her for whom she was looking. She said that she was looking for Jesus, and repeated her assumption that someone had taken Him away. It was then that Jesus Himself appeared to her:

At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”) (John 20:14-16).

Mary was well acquainted with Jesus and certainly knew His voice, yet her preconceived notion that Jesus was dead and gone prevented her from recognizing Him. Her thinking affected her perception and she couldn't hear God speaking to her, even though she knew His voice. The same can happen to you and me.


Mary's thinking was an impediment to hearing God. The same can happen to you. You can be consumed by worry, fear, doubt, wrong assumptions, or anxiety and miss the Lord, even though you're familiar with His voice. You can read His word and still not comprehend it because of your heart or, should I say, mind condition. You would do well to heed the admonition found in Hebrews 4, where the writer warned,

God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts" (Hebrews 4:7).

What situation do you consider hopeless into which God is trying to speak today? Where is there a tomb in your life, where you think you know what the outcome will be, but where God wants to speak to your heart and bring hope and life? You may not think your heart is hard, but any number of things can numb or deaden you to the presence of God in your life and His voice in your heart. So in effect, God can be speaking to you and you not realize it's Him. Thus the barrier to your breakthrough isn't in your circumstances but rather in your mind.

One of the lessons of Easter is that what is impossible with man is possible with God. You must see your situation from God's perspective or you may miss what He's trying to say and do, and that would be a real tragedy. So go to the tomb today, but don't go in a hopeless state of mind. Go expecting to hear the Lord and see new and fresh things. When you do, your circumstances may not change, but how you see them will, and that may be the breakthrough you are looking for and God wants you to have. Have a great week and a blessed Easter celebration!

A Resurrection Myth

There's a detail in the account of Jesus' resurrection that has captured the attention of scholars and Bible GraveClothesPicstudents over the years. The passage is John 20:6-7 and it tells us what Peter saw when he came to the tomb: "Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen."

Some have found  meaning in the fact that Peter found Jesus' face cloth separate from the linen that had wrapped His dead body before He was hastily laid in Joseph of Arimathea's tomb. The myth surrounding the face "napkin" (as the King James referred to the face cloth) is that it was folded as a master would fold his dinner napkin to let the servant know he wasn't finished eating but was coming back to the table after a brief absence. People have assumed that Jesus was sending a message to His followers that He wasn't "done" but was "coming back"' in due time.

While this a touching thought and interpretation, it's not true. First-century Jews didn't use a dinner napkin (that was a European custom) and there doesn't seem to be any biblical evidence that the face cloth was folded a certain way. It was simply not with the body linens, but rather in a separate place.


Does the face cloth detail have any meaning? It must, otherwise John wouldn't have found it significant to include well after the other three gospels had been written that had omitted the face cloth placement. So what's the significance?

First, the fact that the face cloth was present and not thrown aside indicates that "body snatchers" hadn't stolen the body as was later reported. If someone is breaking into a tomb with armed guards asleep at the entrance, they wouldn't take the time to fold or place a face cloth in its appointed place. Speed would have been essential, so the body would have been grabbed as is, and unwrapped later.

Second, when Lazarus was raised from the dead as reported John 11, he had to be freed from his grave clothes. Granted, Jesus had been hastily entombed because the Sabbath was nigh, so He probably wouldn't have been fully wrapped. Still, it seems He needed no human help extricating Himself from His wrappings, either performing the task Himself or having angelic help in doing so.

Finally, Jesus' resurrection was just another "day at the office" for Him. The scene in the tomb didn't depict a violent struggle or an escape that had to be completed quickly and silently before the guards discovered what was happening. Jesus had surrendered His life to the Father because He trusted the Father's promise in His word:

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand (Psalm 16:9-11).


There are several lessons for us in this simple detail. Here are some thoughts as we close:

  1. God will do what He promised He would do. He promised His servant would not see decay and He didn't.
  2. You don't need to frantically work to fulfill your God-given assignments. God is with you and will empower you as He did Jesus.
  3. No one can wrap you in grave clothes so tightly or completely that God can't free you.
  4. You may have a role in removing your own grave clothesthose things that restrict your faith movements in God.

And one final thought: If Jesus is alive as He promised He would be and as reported in the gospels, and that's no myth, then His resurrection is real and He shares His resurrection power with us right here, right now. I urge you to put aside the fear and doubt that try to wrap and entomb you, and do so as nonchalantly and calmly as Jesus put aside His grave clothes. As you do, I know you will have a blessed Resurrection celebration!

A Daily Easter

People who don't darken the door of a church throughout the year will come to church on Easter Sunday Screen Shot 2023-04-07 at 7.49.12 AMalong with some who have returned to the area to visit family, which will make for a packed house. They all sit with the regular attenders, family and friends, and pay homage to the fact that Jesus was raised from the dead.

We will assemble on Easter and say by our presence, "Yes, we believe Jesus was dead. Furthermore, we believe that He was in the tomb for three days. Yes, we believe that God raised Jesus, who was both fully God and fully man, back to life. And yes, we further attest to the fact that Jesus ascended into heaven, and that our flesh, Mary's boy, intercedes for us at the right hand of the Father."  I hope you agree that those affirmations summarize the truths of Easter. But is that all the truth of Easter?

It always intrigues me that many will come and attest to these truths yet all too often those truths have no meaning in or implication for their daily lives. Stop for a minute and ask, "So what if Jesus was raised from the dead? What difference does that make in my life?" Those are good questions; let's try to come up with some answers so you can enjoy Easter every day of your life.


If you believe Jesus was raised from the dead, then you can believe God for anything! If God raises the dead, which He does, then He can cure cancer. He can provide for your business or ministry. He can transform you into the person He intended you to be, that person you want to be. If God can take a dead body and give it life, then nothing is beyond His miracle-working power. What's more, you have the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead living in you! It's not a replica or a portion of that Spirit. You have the Spirit that raises the dead living in you. Here's what Paul had to say about the implications of this Spirit-resident:

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you (Romans 8:9-11).

I trust you plan on being at your local church fellowship this weekend. Don't go as someone merely giving mental assent to the historical fact of the resurrection, go celebrating the truth that God is alive in you  Then find how to release that resurrection power into your life, relationships, work and purpose. If you can believe that God raises the deadand you shouldthen you can believe God for anything.  Have a great resurrection-power-filled weekend filled with a daily Easter! Happy Resurrection Day!

An Appeal for Help

Dear Reader,

Last month, I was visiting the Stanko Academy in Nairobi, Kenya with 10 others who accompanied me on the trip, when I heard something bizarre and troubling. Two of our teachers, Boniface and his wife, Shebby, were being introduced. Last year, this couple lost a child right after birth, but Shebby is now eight months pregnant. That’s why what I heard was so preposterous, so surprising that I had to get confirmation of it before we did anything else. What did I hear?

I learned that Boniface and Shebby were living in one of the classrooms at the Academy (pictured here), in a room with metal IMG_7106roof and concrete floor, with no wash facilities, heat, or privacy—except for a curtain they had put up in the middle of the room. I couldn’t believe my ears. What did I do? What could I do?

I took the mike, asked them to come forward, and told them to go look for a place to live for which we would pay the rent for two years. Plus, I promised we would give them some money for furnishings and household items. Their monthly rent: $60, which makes the total cost for the two years $1,900. How could I not help them for such a relatively small investment? How could I have Shebby, whose pregnancy is already high-risk, continue to IMG_20230310_121800_825live in those conditions? I could not and I hope you agree. As I write, they have found their new home.


That’s what life is like in Kenya and I’m always confronted with unexpected and moving needs, for which I sometimes have no answer or resources to help. One church asked me to assist them build out a Sunday School classroom and church office: cost $3,000. Our friend, Pastor David, needs a tractor to fetch water down a treacherous road that requires a three-hour round trip up and back: cost $18,000. The Stanko Academy must expand where it’s at so the orphans who attend there don’t have to sleep on the floor while we build out the new Academy on our recently-purchased property: cost unknown for both the temporary and permanent facilities.

I won’t describe the other needs that were presented to me, but they’re all in addition to the daily needs of 100 IMG_7280orphans (28 at the Stanko Academy and 72 at another ministry), our Stanko Library sites, school fees, and the usual medical and clothing expenses for the children. I have to keep reminding myself and our partners that I’m not their source—God is. I’ll always help as God provides but I can’t promise beyond what I have. Yet it’s difficult not do so when we have so much (and often take it for granted) and they have so little. That’s where you come in.

I’ve often been overwhelmed by the needs I see and have neglected to do something because I didn’t consider it substantial or “big enough.” I didn’t give $1,000 because it wasn’t $10,000. I didn’t give $100 because it wasn’t $500. I didn’t give $50 because it wasn’t $100. Perhaps you have done the same. But I assure you, if your heart is moved by what I’m writing and you want to help, then doing what you can—and not waiting to do what you can’t do right now—is the way to go. Your $10 gift will feed an orphan for a week. Your $120 will pay the rent for Boniface and Shebby for two months. Your $500, along with that of 25 others, will enable us to purchase the tractor. You get the idea.


Paul explained what I’m describing when he wrote,

For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have. Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little” (2 Corinthians 10:12-15).

In short, I’m asking you to do what you can do right now to help our friends who are in need. Give what you have and allow God to mix your gift with those of others so the needs can be met. The only promise I made on my trip was to Shebby and Boniface; I told everyone else I will help as the Lord provides through you. Of course, any contribution you make is tax-deductible. You can contribute through my PurposeQuest International mobile app, my website, the Cash App ($stankojohn), Paypal, Zelle, Venmo, Facebook, or by sending a check made out to PurposeQuest International, PO Box 8882, Pittsburgh, PA 15221-0882.

IMG_20230310_121558_375I have no promises to make if you give to these causes, other than God is watching. He’s mindful of the poor and wants His people to do likewise. I’m giving you a chance to invest in people who can’t say thank you, who have nothing to give in return, except to say, “Thank You, Lord” as Shebby and Boniface did when I told them what we would do. In fact, as I mentioned at the beginning, they IMG_20230310_121608_692have secured a home and sent me some pictures to show us around (click to enlarge them or watch the video here). While they may never meet you or know who you are, God does and we know He has a way of rewarding those who are faithful to causes that are near and dear to His heart. May the Lord bless you for your prayerful and financial support.

In His Service,

Dr. John Stanko

Church Leaders Devotion 16: Woe #4

As we continue looking at the list of "woes" Jesus presented in Matthew 23, we come to Jesus' fourth Screen Shot 2020-03-20 at 12.15.11 PMadmonition as found in Matthew 23:23-24:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel."

These leaders had overextended the Law to apply to irrelevant matters, or as I wrote last week, they were majoring in minors. Their hollow ritualism caused them to be blind to weightier matters that according to Jesus were the concepts of justice, mercy, and faithfulness.

Before we condemn these men too quickly, do we have any traditions that also major in minors? How about the practice of armor bearers that some leaders deploy? Or how about the attachment to titles like author, apostle, prophet, or deacon? Or corner offices for leaders and cubicles for "lesser lights." Every culture has bestowed certain perks on its leaders, but do those perks contribute to justice, mercy, or faithfulness? If not, then perhaps Jesus is speaking to us as well.

How do you present yourself with justice and mercy through your personal interactions or via social media? By treating others as you would want to be treated? How do you present yourself with justice and mercy to the church or government? By asking them to help you do what you are already doing to express justice and mercy, and not demanding they do it in your place?

Do you have any traditions, ways of thinking, or pet peeves that are blinding you to the need for justice, mercy, and faithfulness in your life? Are you majoring in minors? Are you self-righteous like those people Jesus was addressing in Matthew 23? Don't answer too quickly, for you may be blinded to the reality of your own heart, just like the leaders in Jesus' day were. Instead, ask the Lord to show you where you lack justice, mercy, or faithfulness and then seek to correct your own approach to those matters before you try and correct someone else.

Church Leaders Devotion 15: Woe #3

This week, let's look at the third woe Jesus listed in his sermon found in Matthew 23, in which He had more Screen Shot 2022-10-22 at 8.11.11 AMin the way of explanation than for any of the other six:

“Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it" (Matthew 23:16-22).

Jesus attempted to show the leaders they were majoring in minors by emphasizing and teaching principles that seemed spiritual but were not. What does this tell us about God's expectations for leaders in and out of the Church?

  1. God is the source of authoritative teaching on what's right and wrong. That source is embodied in Jesus, whom the leaders were contradicting and rejecting. They neither understood Jesus' heart or the truth He represented.
  2. Teachers and leaders must be able to learn principles and then properly apply them to real-life situations that aren't specifically addressed by those principles. For example, some aspects of modern life and ministry aren't specifically mentioned in the Bible. God expects His leaders to address and adapt those modern aspects according to the timeless guidelines from His Word.
  3. A good example of this would be social media and technology. Many leaders today reject or limit their use of technology and assume God approves. Yet, Paul and others used the technology of their day (pen, ink, papyrus, and the Roman road and sea system) to address the Church. How can leaders today take God's command to reach the nations and do it using technology? That is an example of the issues address in this woe.
  4. Jesus labeled the leaders blind (three times in this passage) and had said earlier in Matthew's gospel, "Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit" (Matthew 15:14). If leaders can't see where they are going for themselves, they can't lead others to a good place.

Leaders must constantly study to improve their discernment and gather wisdom, so the Jewish leaders were correct in regularly gathering to study, but their blindness caused them to study the wrong things and/or come to wrong conclusions. This points out the importance for all leaders to challenge their "starting points" to ensure they're starting from an accurate, godly point of view.

For example, the Jewish leaders' "starting point" was that God would never heal on the Sabbath. When Jesus healed, they logically concluded from an incorrect starting point that He wasn't from God and had to be executed. In this third woe, the leaders were doing the same thing: starting at the wrong point (swearing by the gift on the altar) and then traveling down the wrong path that led to an erroneous conclusion. Their conclusions were logical but flawed because of their incorrect assumption from which they started.

Do you challenge your starting points to ensure you are basing your leadership on the truth? Are you growing and learning how to apply past experiences and ancient wisdom to daily problems you face? Who do you have in your circle of influence who challenges your thinking, starting points, assumptions, and conclusions? Are you willing and able to change your starting points so you don't lead people astray?