Deterioration of the Heart
“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” - Matthew 12:33-37.
Twenty something years ago when I was working in the oilfield I had started going to church and wanted to invite the men working on my crew to attend church with me. There was a revival at my church and so I invited them. Their response was a surprising one. They said that whenever I stopped cursing they would come to church and laughed. Well it was true I did have a problem whenever things would go wrong or I would hit my finger or whatever one or two words would just seem to come out of my mouth. But we made a deal if I could stop for a week; they would come to church. It took me six weeks before I made it through a whole week without a curse word coming out of my mouth. Only one of them ever came to my church but I have never had a problem since with cursing.
According to a Parent’s Television Council report released March 30 sex, violence and foul language on television have increased by three-fold since 1989. Specifically since 1989 foul language has increased five and one-half times. References to previously unmentionable things have also increased many times. I do not have any statistics but I would suspect that the language of people as a whole who watch television programming has deteriorated on a similar proportionate basis.
Luke 6:45 gives us some direction for controlling our speech and actions. According to Luke 6:45 if we store evil things up in our hearts then evil things come out in our lives. However, if we store good things up in our lives good things come out. Romans 13:14 in the KJV tells us not to make provision for sin and another translation tells us not to even think about how to gratify our sinful desires. Philippians 4:8 tells us what we should think about instead.
As I found out with my language problem once you have the sin problem it is much harder to rid yourself of it. The best thing to do is to guard your heart/keep your heart (Proverbs 4:23) so that evil things are not coming into your heart. If you only have good things stored up in your heart it is much more likely that only good things will come out. What have you been putting into your heart?
A Safe Landing
“For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity.” - Proverbs 24:16.
“His head was down, his feet were up, and he came whizzing by screaming.” Chris Hoyle had looked out her window just in time to see Ken Larsen on the way down from the top of a five-story building. Larsen survived the fall with no broken bones and was only bruised and scraped.
Ken Larsen’s frightening fall seems to be a picture of many of our lives, which for a variety of reasons may go out of control. Many of the prayer requests we receive are from those whose lives appear to be rapidly heading for a crash landing. Some have financial problems, health problems, marital problems, job problems, sin problems or a combination of problems. So what do you do when you find your life coming apart and you are falling?
Ken Larsen was on top of the building laying telecommunications cable. He was walking backward pulling on the cable and his co-worker was holding the spool feeding it out. When Ken stepped off the roof he still had the cable in his hands. He held on gripping tighter and tighter which broke his fall. He landed on his feet even though much of the fall was head first. Meanwhile back on the roof his co-worker leaned against the spool of cable trying to slow the rate the cable fed out.
The only thing that will slow our fall is to hang onto God. In I Corinthians 15:58 we are told, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord....” To have a safe landing we must be steadfast, immovable in our confidence in God. It also helps as it did for Ken Larsen for others to be trying to slow our fall as well. It does make a difference when we do as the apostle exhorted us “that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men...” (I Timothy 2:1).
In The Long Run
“My Son, attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh.” - Proverbs 4:20-22.
“Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil.” - Proverbs 4:26-27.
In 1967 Bo Black was 21-year-old cheerleader at the University of Wisconsin. Playboy came to the Madison campus that year to photograph women of the Big Ten Conference. Bo Black was on the cover of the magazine. Thirty-three years later Bo Black is the director of Milwaukee’s Summerfest music festival. Kellyn, Bo’s 20-year-old daughter, was out shopping and was shocked to see her mother’s photo (the same one that was on the cover of the 1967 Playboy magazine) on a shower curtain. She bought the curtain and counted her mother’s picture on it twenty-two times. Stephanie is Bo’s oldest daughter and she was looking through a Playboy catalog at a friend’s when she saw her mother’s photo on a shirt. A Playboy spokesman said that Bo Black had most likely signed away any of her rights to the photo. The spokesman made this statement: “For the most part, Playboy retains all the rights to the photos it uses. We can use the photos in any way we want.”
A decision made thirty-three years ago still affects and in a way overshadows the life of Bo Black. What a lesson to all of us about the long lasting consequences of the decisions we make today. The writer of Proverbs was so very right because each step we make along the path of life is important. We should consider carefully whether our decisions are being made according to the Word of God. The only way to really do that is to so imbed God’s Word into our hearts and lives that we automatically do what is right. We are told in Proverbs to keep His Word before our eyes and in the midst of our hearts.
In the long run what all your friends are doing or all your friends are saying you should do may not be the best option. In the long run removing your feet from evil will bring blessing, joy, and life to you.
The Burning Bush Devotional
Your Personal Trainer
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” - John 14:26.
In the Philippines overweight police have a new fitness program. Their program consists of having to climb the Mount Pinatubo volcano once a month. In addition some will have to jog and do push-ups it would be easier if they only had a personal trainer like Monica. Monica Lewinsky has hired a personal trainer to visit her at home several times a week. These trainers who may charge as much as $90 an hour usually don’t make house calls but are making an exception for Monica because she’s high profile right now. Of course it is going to be easier for Monica get in shape this time and the rest of us too because of the Twinkie strike.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have your own personal spiritual trainer? Someone like Billy Graham to come in a few times a week and give you some pointers would be nice. Actually every child of God has a personal trainer and He’s on the job every minute of the day. He not only comes to your house He lives inside of you and there is no cost. The Holy Spirit, God Himself is your personal trainer. What a deal!
Now when Monica’s personal trainer shows up do you think that the trainer is the one doing all the exercising? No, the trainer will show her what exercises to do and how to do them. It will be up to her to follow through with what she has learned. In the same way God is there for us. He can speak to our hearts about what we need to grow spiritually but He will not do it for us. The Holy Spirit will bring to remembrance all things Jesus has said. But how can you remember something you have never heard? We must read and study the Bible and then the Holy Spirit is able to teach us and to bring to remembrance those things we have read and studied. Memorization of God’s Word will make available those verses for the Holy Spirit to bring to remembrance at critical times in your life.
Your personal trainer is waiting.
Using the Rod
“He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly.” - Proverbs 13:24.
“Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; the rod of correction will drive it far from him.” - Proverbs 22:15.
“The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” - Proverbs 29:15.
At Eastern Connecticut State University they have a new form of discipline for their students. Instead of fines they face being sent to the opera or to a symphony. It is punishment by Puccini, or by Tosca. The alternative program has been effective thus far. Paul Harvey recently told about a similar mode of punishment. In one community a young man had his rap music turned up so loud that it drew the attention of police and others. The judge ordered the young man to listen to several hours of Wayne Newton music as punishment.
The “rod” of correction has changed some over the years. My parents never spanked me although they did my older sister. Having to stay inside which I had to do sometimes was a form of punishment far worse than any paddling. However, at school I did encounter the “rod” a few times. They used a board made in shop class with holes drilled through it. When used effectively it would lift your feet off the ground and bring tears to your eyes.
Discipline is necessary for our children but each child is different. What works for one may not work for another. What works in one situation may not work or may not be appropriate in another. There is a fine line also of going too far with our discipline. We are told in Ephesians 6:4, “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” In Colossians 3:21 we are told, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” After one incident of my son and his friends almost catching the neighborhood on fire I quietly shared some words of “rebuke” with them. I explained how dangerous their actions had been and then I prayed with them and for them. It was enough and they still remember it.
A Listening Heart
“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” - Ephesians 4:29-32.
Doctors now have the evidence that if they lend an empathetic ear to caregivers of the terminally ill it will reduce their depression and make the situation more bearable for the dying. According to the study when doctors listened to the caregivers it significantly reduced the depression of the caregivers. The study also found that patients who felt their doctors were not empathetic were more likely to consider euthanasia or doctor-assisted suicide. Terminally ill patients were less likely to feel guilty about the burden they placed on others when their caregivers had a more positive attitude.
If listening along with kind and encouraging words will make such a difference in these difficult situations what would it accomplish in everyday life? Just a few kind words and a listening ear could radically change for the better marriages, workplaces, churches, families, and every area of human interaction. To listen to someone, really listen, makes a difference. As Christians while we listen we can also pray and while we pray the Holy Spirit is able to speak words we could never say.
When loved ones have passed away it is often difficult to know what to say to the family. Most likely they will not remember the words so much as that you were there with them. Some pastors have reported families thanking them for words that they know they did not say. But they knew the Holy Spirit had spoken words of comfort beyond anything they could have said themselves.
Is there someone in your life you need to listen to today? I have always had a rule that when people are pouring out their hearts I need to take the time to let them. Just a few minutes of compassionate listening and a few kind words can change the course of lives.
The Stranger's Voice
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the door keeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” - John 10:1-5.
Following the wrong voice can cause you much trouble and pain. One little boy found that out recently in Auburn, California. The little boy had gone to a dental complex with his two teen-age sisters and they left him in a play area for children. While they were gone the little boy’s name was called and he followed. They put him into a dental chair, injected him with Novocain, X-rayed him and removed two front teeth. It was the wrong boy! There were two other boys with the same name in the play area. The family has filed a lawsuit in Placer County Superior Court.
Adam and Eve had a somewhat similar experience listening to the voice of a snake with legs. Looks like there would have been a clue there somewhere? Much pain and heartache has followed for all of us because of their choosing to follow the wrong voice. Jesus made the right choice in Matthew 4 when he rejected the voice of the devil and all of his temptations. But the voice of the stranger is often very attractive. The fruit of the tree appeared good to eat to Adam and Eve. The devil offered Jesus the kingdoms of the world. I wonder whether the little boy was tempted with a small toy that some dentists have in their office?
During the Christmas season I heard there was a garbage strike that affected an affluent neighborhood. Bags of garbage were piling up in the alleys and along the curbs. It was becoming ugly with the smell of it all but one man found a way to have his garbage removed. He wrapped his garbage up in Christmas wrapping paper and left it on his front porch at night. In the morning thieves would always have it removed. The voice of the stranger wraps his words in the most tempting things. But if you look closely you will see what the stranger is offering is still just garbage.
The Sport of Evil
“To do evil is like sport to a fool, but a man of understanding has wisdom. The fear of the wicked will come upon him, and the desire of the righteous will be granted. When the whirlwind passes by, the wicked is no more, but the righteous has an everlasting foundation.” - Proverbs 10:23.
In Russellville, Arkansas a man received ten months in jail for contempt of court after mooning a judge. Robert White was serving as his own attorney in a municipal court on a disorderly conduct charge. White stated the hearing was a “kangaroo court” and began using foul language. Then He mooned the judge. Judges do tend to view such things as contempt of court. While I was a probation and parole officer a man I was supervising attacked his girlfriend injuring her and he also attacked his own parents. He received only minor punishment for the attacks but he had violated his probation. In a hearing to revoke his probation the judge was very kind and allowed him three days to take care of things prior to going to prison. Just after the judge left the courtroom the man began using foul language cursing the judge. The judge was told and he reentered the courtroom calling the court back into session. The man was then ordered immediately to prison.
To so flagrantly flaunt authority is beyond foolishness and yet many do so. Why? It has become their way of life. Doing evil is how they live. Doing evil things is a sport and they enjoy it. They have a lust for evil, for wickedness, for things that are wrong. In Proverbs 11 the Bible says about them, “the unfaithful will be caught by their lust,” “the perversity of the unfaithful will destroy them,” “the wicked will fall by his own wickedness,” “when a wicked man dies, his expectation will perish, and the hope of the unjust perishes.”
How much better for those who do good instead of evil. In Proverbs 11:19, “As righteousness leads to life, so he who pursues evil pursues it to his own death.” And when the righteous die they are “delivered from trouble, and it comes to the wicked instead” (Proverbs 11:8). The life of righteousness is far better than the sport of evil. “...the righteous has an everlasting foundation” (Proverbs 10:25). That everlasting foundation can only be found in Jesus Christ. “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Corinthians 3:11).
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” - Exodus 20:16.
“You shall not circulate a false report. Do not put your hand with the wicked to be an unrighteous witness. You shall not follow a crowd to do evil; nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after many to pervert justice.” Exodus 23:1-2.
“A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who speaks lies will not escape.” - Proverbs 19:5.
How would you feel if you were falsely accused of a serious crime? Just today there are two stories of such false accusations in the news. In one incident a coach was falsely accused by seven sixth graders (six girls and one boy) of watching girls undress and worse at a Maryland school. After several weeks of investigation the stories of the students fell apart and they confessed to having made up the whole thing. They were angry with the teacher who is a disciplinarian because he had reportedly yelled at them. The students face a 10-day suspension and community service. They may also have to move to another school.
In another incident a college student running for campus president in Florida was accused of being a child molester. An honor society opposing his election posted dozens of filers making the false accusation. A jury has awarded a six million-dollar judgment against the person primarily responsible for the smear campaign.
In Proverbs there is a list of six things the Lord hates (Proverbs 6:16-18) and it includes “a lying tongue,” and “a false witness who speaks lies.” Not bearing a false witness is the ninth of the Ten Commandments. Lying and bear a false witness are more subtle than a robbery, a carjacking, a murder, or theft but the writer of proverbs makes it clear it is just as bad. In Proverbs 25:18 we are told: “A man who bears false witness against his neighbor is like a club, a sword, and a sharp arrow.” When you make a false accusation about someone it is just like taking a gun out and shooting them. Not as obvious but the results can be even more devastating to a person’s life.
Could it be that we really do need that ninth commandment up on the wall somewhere in our schools so all the children may read it frequently?
“From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!’” - Matthew 16:21-22.
An organization called People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is receiving a little criticism today for a new advertising campaign. There advertising campaign is a parody of the “Got Milk” campaign of milk producers and we remember the milk mustaches that were used in promoting the product. It appears that PETA wants to replace milk mustaches with beer foam mustaches and their slogan is “Got Beer.” There intentions are to draw attention to the benefits of alternatives to milk such as soy milk. They are also opposed to the treatment of animals by the dairy industry. However, several groups today are pointing out the error of the “Got Beer” promotion. Milk advocates have been vocal in letting us know that milk has many valuable nutrients that beer does not have. Mothers Against Drunk Driving have reminded us that “...underage drinking is the number one drug problem among American youths.” Many others are also denouncing PETA’s “Got Beer” campaign.
Peter had good intentions when he told Jesus that what he said about His death and resurrection would not happen. But Jesus said to Peter, “Get behind Me, satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men (Matthew 16:23).“ Shortly before this incident was the great confession of Peter when he said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16).” It is a reminder to us to examine our motivations. Jesus pointed out to Peter that he needed to be mindful of the things of God and not the things of this world. It would have been easier in the short run for Peter and all the disciples if Jesus had not been crucified. But we would not have a Savior if Peter had gotten his way.
Seeking first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33) will protect us many times from our own good intentions. In our relationships with others Philippians 2:3-4 is an excellent guide. PETA’s “Got Beer” campaign can serve as a reminder to us that sometimes well meaning people can get off on the wrong track. It is also a reminder that Godly counselors can be very helpful in keeping good intentions from causing harm. “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety (Proverbs 11:14).”
“But evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” - II Timothy 3:13.
What a surprise Trevor Tasker had. Trevor over some time had romanced a 30-year-old woman over the Internet. He lived in South Carolina and she lived in England. Trevor was full of hope when he flew to England to meet his new love. It must have been a surprise to discover that Wynema Shumate was not 30-something or even 40-something but 65 years old. If that wasn’t enough Trevor found out that Wynema was arrested earlier this month when the body of her former roommate was found in a freezer at her home. She was charged with unauthorized removal of a dead body. Meanwhile Trevor not only doesn’t have a new love in his life but is also the center of much media attention.
In love and the spiritual world there seems to always been someone trying to deceive us. The apostle Paul gave Timothy some instructions about how to withstand those who would deceive him. Paul said: “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (II Timothy 3:14-15).” Paul becomes even more specific and says: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (II Timothy 3:16-17).”
Very little of the time I spend watching television or surfing on the Internet is profitable. But every moment I spend in God’s Word is profitable. It is profitable “for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Spending time in God’s Word each day will make it much harder for someone to deceive you.
“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” - Luke 6:45.
Researchers in New Mexico have discovered while testing students that those with certain chemicals (or higher levels of those chemicals) in their brains scored five to six points higher than other students on IQ tests. It appears that what you eat does matter in terms of brain power. There were five chemicals identified as essential for healthy brains ranging from omega 3 fatty acids to B vitamins. By eating the right diet you would be able to have a healthy brain.
It appears that what is true in the physical is true in the spiritual realm as well. It does matter what we receive as spiritual input. If we put good stuff in than good stuff will come out. If we put bad stuff in than bad stuff will come out. Just as with the physical there are some things we can put into our lives which will improve our spiritual health.
Here are some of those spiritual necessities (Not necessarily in the order of importance.):
The Word of God (Matthew 4:4).
Prayer (Luke 18:1).
Church (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Service (Galatians 6:9-10; I Corinthians 15:58).
Right Thinking (Philippians 4:8).
What have you been storing up in your heart? Proverbs 4:23 tells us: “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.”
A Growing Faith and Hope
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited.” - Jeremiah 17:5-6.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.” - Jeremiah 17:7-8.
Researchers in Illinois and Maryland have found that people with strong religious faith are less likely to suffer clinical depression. They found strong religious faith had an even greater impact on reducing hopelessness, which typically accompanies and can cause depression. Jeremiah relayed a message from God stating in vivid terms much the same thing.
If you are without hope and clinically depressed you will be “like a shrub in the desert.” Even when good comes you will not recognize it and you will “inhabit the parched places in the wilderness.” But if we trust in the Lord and the Lord is our hope we will instead be like “a tree planted by the waters.” Even when the bad times, the “drought” comes those trusting in the Lord will not be “anxious.”
This passage in Jeremiah reminds me of Psalm 1 and from this we see how we can increase our faith and our hope. For where does our eternal life come? From the living water of our God (John 4:10). In Revelation 22 John sees this vision: “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” The waters Jeremiah and the Psalmist are referring to are the waters of life flowing from God. To increase our faith and hope we must put down our roots deep into the things of God growing ever closer to Him.
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13).”
“You shall not tempt the Lord your God.” - Matthew 4:7.
“Do not be overly wicked, nor be foolish: why should you die before your time?” - Ecclesiastes 7:17.
You have to wonder why people do the things they do. Here are some examples: A lawyer and two buddies were fishing on Caddo Lake in Texas when a lightning storm hit the lake. Most of the other boats immediately headed for the shore, but not our friend the lawyer. Alone on the rear of his aluminum bass boat with his buddies, he stood up spread his arms wide (crucifixion style) and shouted: "HERE I AM LORD, LET ME HAVE IT!" God delivered. The other two passengers on the boat survived the lightning strike with minor burns. You would have to think that this was not only being foolish but also tempting God.
Then there are the two guys playing catch with a rattlesnake. You can guess what happened. One of the Alabama men died from the rattlesnake bites. The friend was hospitalized. Again you would have to say this was being foolish and dying before your time. If they were depending upon God to protect them it would be tempting God as well.
Most of us are not going to do such things so obviously foolish as stand in an aluminum boat during a lighting storm or play catch with rattlesnakes. Somewhere along the way our parents, teachers, or life has taught better than to do something like that. However, we are foolish and tempt God in more subtle ways. It may be that we drive too fast or carelessly. Do we buckle our seat belts? There is overwhelming evidence that seat belts save lives and after all for most of us it is the law. Then there are our personal health habits. What do we eat and drink? Is it healthy or unhealthy? Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. You can most likely probably think of many other ways in which we are foolish and tempt God.
Just in case you are ever tempted Eagle’s Rock African Safari Zoo would want you to be warned about one thing. They would want you to know that super gluing both hands to the rear end of a rhino can be not only dangerous but also very unpleasant. The man who did this lived but they had given Sally the rhino some laxative just prior to his foolish move. Very unpleasant!
I think we can see that we can live much longer lives simply by not being foolish and not tempting God.
Do Not Feed The Monkeys
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.” - Ephesians 5:8-13. (Also read Ephesians 5:1-7.)
Nikko, Japan is the home of the famous statues of the monkeys that see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, and speak-no-evil. Nikko also has a large population of living monkeys of the wild macaque variety. Troops of these simians are causing some major problems for those living in Nikko. The monkeys while scavenging for food occasionally bite people and continually damage property. Officials blame tourists who feed the monkeys, which makes the situation worse and worse. There are more and more incidents of monkeys grabbing bags, which they think, may contain food. The people of Nikko would like for all of the tourists to please stop feeding the monkeys!
God makes it clear in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that He would like for us to stop feeding our monkeys too. In Ephesians 5:3-5 we are told of some of those monkeys which we are to avoid. Paul says we are to “have no fellowship” with them. In other words don’t feed them! Cut off the relationship with “the unfruitful works of darkness.” In Romans 13:14 we are told to “make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” We shouldn’t even think about how to gratify those desires. The more we feed the monkeys, the more we have fellowship with them, the more we make provision for them the worse they become.
To rid ourselves of the monkeys we must cut them off. We must stop feeding the monkeys, stop fellowshiping with them, and stop providing for them. We must kick them out. But it is not enough just to do that. We must replace them with something better. We are to “walk as children of light finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.” We are to “be imitators of God as dear children (Ephesians 5:1).” We are to “walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us... (Ephesians 5:2).”
Have you been feeding the monkeys? Stop it!!
Pull It Out
“Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and you heart will utter perverse things. Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying: 'They have struck me, but I was not hurt; they have beaten me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?'” - Proverbs 23:31-35.
A woman in Darby, Pennsylvania was shopping for groceries when someone running by slapped her on the back of the neck. At least that’s what Darlene Jones thought. She finished her grocery shopping and bought a newspaper before walking the half-mile back to her home. After Darlene returned home her daughter noticed something sticking out of Darlene’s neck. It was the handle of a kitchen knife. When the daughter jerked out the knife Darlene began to bleed and they rushed her to the hospital. Saturday she was listed in fair condition. The incident was described as a “random, vicious attack.”
Amazing that someone could have a knife in their neck for so long and not know!? Darlene would have eventually died from her wound if her daughter had not noticed the knife. Darby Police Chief Robert Smythe said “five or six people walked right past her without even noticing.” How many people have been struck with an addiction and don’t even know it? How many people have started drinking, or doing drugs, or looking at pornography and don’t realize they have a wound that could destroy them? Most people can walk by them and would not notice their mortal wound.
In Proverbs 23:29 we are asked: “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause?” The writer of Proverbs is talking about drinkers but it seems to apply to all those with addictions. If you have an addiction you will have woe, sorrow, contentions, and complaints. Now’s the time to pull the knife out and get help before it is too late.
“Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” - Ephesians 4:32.
In Davenport, Iowa a woman has a new approach to avoiding a speeding ticket. Her method is biting the deputy. She refused to sign the ticket and when the deputy attempted to arrest her she bit him on the arm. She has been given 60 days in jail and a $1000.00 fine. While I was a parole officer I had a client who was also in trouble for biting. It seems officers were attempting to arrest him and turned their police dog loose on him. However, my client bit and severely injured the police dog. He was arrested on several charges including injury to a police officer (the dog).
Human nature seems to enjoy violence and if someone slights us in some way we want to have revenge. We see it with the shooting of six year old Kayla Roland in Michigan by her six year old classmate. Horrifying as it is we can see human nature rearing its ugly head. Reportedly there was some sort of scuffle or quarrel between the two the day before (It is not my intention to infer that Kayla did anything wrong. After all Kayla was only six years old.). Human nature just wants to reach out and bite all those it can.
The sad situation in Michigan shows that it is never too early to begin to teach children Biblical principles. The most effective way of doing that is by example. They learn best by seeing us being kind, forgiving, and tenderhearted toward them and others. On the other hand if they always see us biting back at them and others that is how they most likely will respond as well.
Today is there someone you want to reach out and bite? Don’t do it! Instead be kind; be tenderhearted, and forgiving. Just maybe they will pass it on to someone else.
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” - Joshua 1:8-9.
When they combined boric acid and silicone oil it appeared to be a failure but it did some unexpected and silly things. This silly thing they had created bounced and even though solid it flowed like a liquid. But someone named, Peter Hodgson, took this silly thing and packed it in plastic eggs. It was marketed in a toy store catalog. Fifty years later we know Silly Putty has made over $140 million dollars and new uses for this silly stuff are still being discovered. Who would have thought it possible except maybe Peter Hodgson? You can find out more about Silly Putty at http://www.sillyputty.com.
Joshua was asked to do what the world would call a silly conquering of a powerful enemy city. God told Joshua to march around the city each day for six days and on the seventh day they were to march around the city seven times. Then, the priests were to blow the ram’s horns and the people were to give a great shout. The people of Jericho most likely thought that was a silly way to conquer them. By the seventh day they were probably laughing each time those crazy Israelites marched by. But when the horns blew and the people shouted and the walls came crashing down no one was laughing any more.
Where did the success of Joshua and the people of Israel begin? It began with what many in the world would say is silly. Their success began with a focus on the Word of God, which was a focus on God. This focus on God allowed them to be fearless in the face the world’s mockery and fearless in the conquest of Jericho and of the giants of the land.
What would happen in your life if you stopped worrying about what people might think and instead began to focus in on what God wants? You can begin at the same point Joshua began with God’s Word. From that point onward God will be saying to you as He said to Joshua, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
An Extra Day
In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
What will you do with your extra day? 24 hours more in the year 2000 makes this year even more remarkable. This year is an exception to an exception because years which end in “00” usually are not leap years but 2000 is because it is divisible by 400. Since you have an extra day maybe you will just sleep in, or go somewhere special today? Most likely you will not be able too even though you have an extra day.
It seems each day has its challenges even if it is a leap day. There are some Y2K like glitches which some have to deal with like Japanese computers reporting double-digit rainfall on a day without rain. Merchants in New Zealand had trouble verifying transactions. Sony Corporation has advised those owners of older video cameras and word processors may experience problems. Personally I have noticed my watch has a Y2K-like glitch. It appears the date is March 1 when it should be February 29. Where did I put those instructions? I wonder if I should contact the Senate’s Y2K advisory panel before they disband and report the problem?
It seems every day has special challenges and problems even when it is an extra day. It appears that Jesus knew all about that when He said to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Yesterday’s praying will not take care of the praying needed for today. Just as today’s praying will not take care of the praying needed for tomorrow. Each day is unique with needs of its’ own. Each day needs to be covered in prayer as well. On leap day why not take some extra time to thank God for an extra day.
Sweet Moment of Prayer
“Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.’” - Matthew 26:40-41.
We sometimes sing the hymn “Sweet Hour of Prayer.” The words of the hymn were written by William Walford who lived 1772-1850. It is a beautiful old hymn with great expression of a mature Christian’s love for communing with God. The first verse:
“Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer,
That calls me from a world of care
And bids me at my Father’s throne
Make all my wants and wishes known!
In seasons of distress and grief,
My soul has often found relief,
And oft escaped the tempter’s snare,
By Thy return, sweet hour of prayer.”
But how many Christians in the year 2000 really pray for an hour a day? How many have ever prayed even once for an hour? How many pray for 30 minutes? How many pray for 15 minutes? How many even pray for five minutes? How many pray nothing at all?
Yesterday, at a prayer conference I was told that the average evangelical Christian prays only four to six minutes per day. Maybe we should change the words of the hymn to “Sweet Moment of Prayer, Sweet Moment of Prayer.” It is no wonder we are powerless Christians with so many “enter(ing) into temptation.” The hymn in our hymnal immediately after “Sweet Hour of Prayer” is “Take Time to be Holy,” which seems to be appropriate. E. M. Bounds wrote, “Prayer and a holy life are one. They mutually act and react. Neither can survive alone. The absence of one is the absence of the other.”
As we can see prayer is a vital necessity for the child of God. It may be that we do not know where to begin or even what to pray about. The apostle Paul gives us a starting point when he says “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (I Timothy 2:1-4).”
Our Moral Compass
"This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander...." - I Timothy 1:18-20a.
To her credit, Darva Conger, the bride of "Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire" seems to have come to her senses. She's not wearing her wedding ring, she's back home with her mother, and she plans no communication with her husband, Rick Rockwell. Darva says she is a Christian and never expected to actually marry anyone. According to Darva the marriage was in name only and will be annulled. Once the event had proceeded to the point of Rick picking her as his bride Darva says she felt trapped and unable to stop the marriage from occurring. She has advice for others and says "look before you leap."
Darva has found her conscience and it almost seems that the people of the United States have found a conscience. At least there seems to be broad condemnation for Rick, Darva, producers of the show, and Fox network. So, how does that work? It is okay to live together without being married. It is okay to engage in an alternative lifestyle such as homosexuality. It appears it is okay to use drugs, drink, and to do most anything you want according to the American conscience. Except now we know that in America we draw the line at marrying so-called multi-millionaires that we have never met before.
For our faith not to become "shipwrecked" our conscience requires continual maintenance. It requires that we abstain from doing those things that we know to be wrong. Every time we intentionally do something that we know to be wrong we weaken our conscience's ability to provide us with the moral direction we need. We will need the Word of God just as Timothy did so that we too can fight a "good warfare" against those who seek to weaken our consciences. To keep from having a "shipwrecked" faith do as the apostle Paul says he did in Acts 24:16; "I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men." Paul always tried to keep his conscience up to date, always clear, and that way he could stay on course and avoid those shipwrecks. Is your moral compass pointing in the right direction or are you headed for the rocks?
Love, Money, and Marriage
“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God.” - II Corinthians 6:14-16.
We have gone from “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” to “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire.” We have to wonder what is next? As one newscaster put it I was one of the 22 million American sickos that watched “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire (WWMM).” There are several things that came to mind while I was watching and since with the additional revelations about the Multi-Millionaire, Rick Rockwell. At the very best it was a very poor way to choose a wife or husband and at the worst it borders on prostitution.
Throughout WWMM there was no mention of God, or Christianity, or religion, or anything spiritual. WWMM degraded marriage to a new low. Marriage should be a sacred binding of two lives together. How can that be done in the name of money and publicity?
Having watched Rick Rockwell and Darva Conger marry without any previous knowledge of each other was somewhat shocking. But what if you were going to have to marry someone you had never met or seen before? What if you could only ask this person one question before making a decision concerning your marriage? What would that one question be? I believe the very most important question we could ask a prospective husband or wife would be whether or not they are a Christian. Also, I would want them to share their testimony of when they received salvation and became a Christian. Why? Because when I married I thought I was a Christian. I had told my wife I was a Christian but in fact I was not a Christian. It was only after living with me for a while that Jeanie came to the realization that I wasn’t a Christian. So, one night she shared with me her testimony and then asked me to share my testimony. Only then did I realize I didn’t have one. I was a member of a church and had been baptized but I was not a Christian.
If you only had one question to ask what would it be? How much money do you have? How much education do you have? What do you look like physically? Or, are you a Christian and would you share your testimony?
The apostle Paul was urging the Corinthians to prepare an offering to help the Christians in Jerusalem who were enduring difficult times. Usually when we think of giving that is what comes to mind: giving financially. However, God not only loves those who cheerfully give of their financial resources but those who give of themselves. In the letter to the Galatians, Paul talks about the need for giving of ourselves. “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:7-10).”
When I married at the age of 19 I was not a Christian and I was a very selfish person. Everything I did centered around what was in it for me? How was this going to affect me? Would this be good for me? Shortly after our marriage I came to know Jesus as my Savior and He began to work on this problem I have of selfishness. We are told in Philippians 2:3-4, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Easier said than done but God has been working on me.
Early this morning I received a phone call that a faithful Christian had suddenly died. She fell, hit her head, and was gone in a moment of time. Kim Boswell was only 39 years old. She has a husband, Mark, and two wonderful children, Tara, and Trevor. Kim was a giver. Not only was she a giver but she was a cheerful giver. She was constantly giving of herself to her family and to her extended family. She gave of herself through her career in social services. She gave of herself at church as a youth leader and in many other ways. She gave energetically, abundantly, overwhelmingly, and so cheerfully. If I could only be such a giver! It appears God still has some work to do on me. What about you?
A New Life
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” - II Corinthians 5:17.
“Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” - John 3:7.
We remember the horrific crash of two passenger trains in west London near Paddington Station last year. Karl Hackett who is 37 years old watched the crash and saw it as an opportunity to start another life under an assumed identity. Pretending to be his supervisor he called an emergency line and reported himself missing. Just to be sure he called again posing as his brother and again reported himself missing. His family attended a memorial service at the site of the train crash believing he had perished and the body was unrecoverable. However, Hackett’s new life didn’t work out quite as he had hoped. He has been given a five month suspended sentence for his deception. His attorney, Michael Ivers, said: “His employment in the field of computer graphics has come to an end. He is now effectively humiliated in terms of his employment.”
Many others have tried similar deceptions in order to gain a new life. It seems that eventually it always fails. It is never quite what they had hoped. However, we do not have to assume someone else’s identity in order to have a new life. No, we can be “born again.” By receiving Jesus as our Savior we will become a “new creation” and “old things” will have “passed away.” We will also receive a “new name.” Revelation 2:17 tells us “and I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written no one knows except him who receives it.”
Sometimes we may not feel like we are a new creation. That is because we are designed for a new heaven and a new earth. Someday the old heaven and earth will pass away as well (Isaiah 65:17). When that happens we will be ready! Until then we are "ambassadors of Christ" (II Corinthians 5:20) to share with others the joy and hope of the new life.
The Perfect Marriage
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. - I Corinthians 13:4-8a.
20,000 people were married Sunday in a mass wedding conducted by the Unification Church of Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Most of the couples were total strangers with their matches being made by church officials. Moon and some elder church officials paired the couples by examining their photographs. Many of the couples were only half present at the ceremony. Lee Hwa-shin said, "I am very happy although my husband is not here. I have no regrets, because I know I am doing the right thing." During the ceremony she held a framed picture of her new husband. At the end of the ceremony Lee placed a gold ring on her own finger.
At many weddings I say the words from the love chapter in I Corinthians 13. That kind of love is necessary for a good marriage. However, Rev. Moon may have found a way to make that unnecessary. If the husband and wife only exchange letters and phone calls it is less likely that human nature will rear its ugly head. But we know that kind of marriage would be a sham. The reality would be a marriage in name only. A real marriage is not picture perfect and involves the actual practice of love.
I Corinthians 13 describes agape love. It is a definition of Christian love, which we can only have through a relationship with Christ Jesus. For that love to be imparted into our lives we must have continuing contact with our Lord. The more contact we have with our Lord through His Word, through fellowship with other believers, through prayer, through service the more love we will have. The more agape love we have the better our marriage will be.
None Of The Above
“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’” - John 14:6.
Al Shugart is spending a million or more to encourage people in California to vote for nobody. Shugart is the author of Proposition 23 which is a measure on the March 7 ballot in California. Proposition 23 would allow Californians to have the option of voting “None of the Above.” Shugart tried to have his dog “Earnest” placed on the ballot in the 17th Congressional district but that effort failed. Now his “None of the Above” campaign is named “Friends of Earnest.”
It is easy to see how we as frustrated voters would sometimes like to vote “None of the Above.” Many voters have simply dropped out of the process. This frustration seems to be carried over to the spiritual side of our lives. Many have opted out of organized religion. They clump all religions from Christianity to Buddhism together and vote “None of the Above.” The covering up of our eyes and ignoring the spiritual realities is actually still a decision. Voting “None of the Above” spiritually is a rejection of Jesus Christ. Jesus makes it very clear that there are not many options in the spiritual realm. There is only one option and He, Jesus Christ, is it.
Jesus says in John 3:18, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
“For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are.” - I Corinthians 1:25-28.
David McCullough writes in an article discussing presidential power that it is the unseen characteristics of former presidents which gave them their greatness. In Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s “The Little Prince” there is a scene when the fox says that what’s essential is invisible. Here are some of the invisible characteristics David mentions: integrity, depth of soul, and courage. David points out that our presidents have come in all shapes and sizes. Some have had great educational experiences and some have not. In other words what really made these individuals great would not be found in words or a photo on a resume.
It seems to be the same with the great people of the Bible. People like Gideon and David. They were the least of their families. But God knew their hearts, their inner essence, which towered above others around them. They had usable hearts. Some like David and Timothy were too young in the eyes of the world but God used them anyway. Some had hearts like that of Isaiah which said here I am Lord send me. Some had hearts like Gideon and Moses. They thought they were unusable but once God touched their lives they were unstoppable.
Many churches are searching for pastors but they are looking with the eyes of the world. If Jesus were to submit a resume to your church you would most likely reject it. Why? Because he had no formal education. His only work background prior to ministry was as a lowly carpenter and He came from a little unknown place called Nazareth. Even after he began his ministry he didn’t go to seminary and he just wandered around from place to place with his little cult of followers.
The point being that before we consider others unusable or unqualified we need to consider what God thinks. Before you consider yourself unusable or unqualified you need to know what God thinks.
“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” - James 4:7-10.
In Australia an eight year old girl barely escaped from the jaws of an eight foot crocodile after her little brother distracted it. Paul, who is five years old, grabbed the beast’s tail which gave Martina the time to get her feet out of its’ mouth. Their father then killed the croc with an ax. The family had been hunting for turtles in a creek in Australia’s Northern Territory when the reptile suddenly attacked.
There is a spiritual beast who is just as dangerous which loves to tear down, destroy, hurt, kill, and steal everything that is good in our lives (John 10:10a). What do you do when the beast has you in its’ jaws and is carrying you off? What do you do when it seems you are going under for the last time? What do you do when everything seems to be going wrong and nothing seems to work? Martina’s little brother had the right idea. Most likely it is time for a distraction. Something is needed to take the beast’s mind off of you.
James says that we should submit ourselves to God. As humbly and best that we know how we should come before God in the Name of Jesus asking for His help. What happens is Hebrews 2:18 which says “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” The word aid has been translated as help, succor, or a more literal translation is “run to the cry.” Now that will get that old beast’s attention when the Lord comes running to help!
Then James says we are to resist the devil. How did Jesus resist the devil in Matthew 4? He resisted the devil with the Word of God. We need to saturate our lives with the Word of God. We need to read it, memorize it, recite it, meditate on it, listen to it and then we need to use it to defeat the enemy. It will then become the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). James says what will happen is that the devil will flee from us. Give that old devil a distraction and you too can escape from the jaws of the beast!
This Is It!
“But God draws the mighty away with His power; He rises up, but no man is sure of life.” - Job 24:22.
Bruce Willis who recently contemplated his life and his mortality in an interview with USA Weekend apparently agrees with the observations of Job. He says “I’ve lost a couple of friends in freak accidents.” “It makes you realize how fragile life is, how quickly it can be taken away.” Surprisingly he says, “I think about my death at least once a day. I say to myself, ‘Am I living my life? Am I enjoying my life today?’ Because this is not a rehearsal. This is it.’”
How true! Each day is important and we have no guarantee of tomorrow. The apostle Paul seems to have lived his life with this awareness of the urgency of life as well. Paul says, “...forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13b-14).” It is indeed a high calling to be a child of God (John 1:12).
The writer of the book of Hebrews also understood this urgency and great calling of God as he wrote, “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).”
This is it!
“And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ’Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” - Matthew 7:3-5.
In Chumuckla, Florida volunteer firemen received an unpleasant fire call. It seems their firehouse was on fire. The first fireman who arrived at the scene was able to save two of their trucks but the firehouse burned down in about 30 minutes. Lt. Gerald Kelley of the fire department said, “I saw flames about six feet above the roof when I rounded the corner.“ The cause of the fire is still under investigation but it is believed that a propane heater that had been installed a few days earlier caused it.
For fire departments to be able to function properly it is obvious that their own house must be in good order and free of fire hazards. In Oklahoma last year investigative reporters found a fire department of a medium size community in obvious violation of several state codes. How can they encourage the people of their community to be free of fire hazards when they themselves are in violation? The result is very little effectiveness in communicating the need for safety.
It is the same for us as Christians. If we are not living it ourselves most people will not take us very seriously. There is a note of encouragement in this passage of Scripture. That note is that it is possible for the speck/plank to be removed. Then we will be able to see clearly how we can help others to do the same. The Psalmist says to the Lord, “Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my mind and my heart (Psalm 26:2).” In Psalm 139 the Psalmist says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.“ Ask the Lord to examine you, search you, and reveal the specks/planks, which need to be removed. Remember “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9).
(Please note after writing this I have noticed some large planks in my own eyes and hesitated to share the devotional with you. I pray it will serve only as a tool in allowing us to take a fresh look at all areas of our lives even some areas we would rather avoid.)
“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like.” - Galatians 5:19-21a.
The grocery stores in Yardley, Pennsylvania had a problem recently with someone purposely mutilating food. No, they were not squeezing the Charmin but they were crumbling the cookies. They were also squeezing or mashing the loaves of bread. The masher struck again and again. He went on squeezing and mashing dozens of times with the total damage estimated at $8000. It was such a problem a cookie company finally put up a hidden camera to catch the villain. The cookie masher was finally caught and his attorney had this to say “I squeeze bread when I go to the store, but I don’t get arrested for it.”
It is hard to understand why someone would purposefully destroy food products. But than there are others who do worse things. There are some people who delight in purposefully destroying lives. They simply enjoy being mean. Stabbing someone in the back is their idea of fun. “Why be nice when you can be mean?” seems to be their motto for living life. “Why give an inch when you can push someone down?” appears to be how they operate on a daily basis. “Why say something kind when you can criticize?” must be their mindset.
Being mean on purpose is in direct opposition to most of the qualities listed as being the fruit of the Spirit which all Christians should have in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Just because others are being mean does not justify our acting in the same way. We are called to a different standard. It is a standard called the Christian life (Following the example of Jesus.). Instead of being mean we are kind, loving, peaceful, joyful, good, longsuffering, and gentle. It is the only kind of lifestyle, which will overwhelm and conquer the mean spirited people of this world.
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” - Matthew 5:27-29.
Gov. Jesse Ventura apparently has a different version of the Bible than I do or maybe it is the interpreting that he does differently. In a second interview for Playboy magazine he was asked “have you ever lusted in your heart?” Ventura’s answer: “Hey you can look all you want.” “If a gorgeous woman walks by, as a man you always look. And wonder. Sure. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Most likely Gov. Ventura has never read the passage in Matthew chapter five. I was working in the oilfield a few years after becoming a Christian when I was confronted with this issue. A man working on my crew made it clear to me for the first time that sin can be committed not just by our actions or words but by our thoughts. The grasping of this concept and knowledge resulted in a struggle within me. It may be that lust is not a problem for you. However, lust is not the only sinful thought we can have. We can have greedy, envious, hateful, unforgiving (etc.) thoughts as well.
How can we possibly overcome our thought life? We cannot but our Lord can. In II Corinthians 10:3-5 we are told: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare (Eph. 6:10-18) are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
The Final Play
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” - Psalm 119:105.
Today (Sunday, January 30) as many know was Super Bowl Sunday in the United States. The Tennessee Titans played the St. Louis Rams. I arrived home after church in time to see a few minutes of the game and the final play. The entire game came down to one final play where the Titans could have tied the game and sent the game into overtime. The play fell short by less than a yard and the St. Louis Rams won this year’s Super Bowl. However, football players and coaches would most likely tell us that it really wasn’t one play that won or lost the game. Every play made during the game had an impact on the final outcome of the game. Each player’s decisions and actions during each play had an impact on the outcome of the game.
The final outcome of our lives is much like that final play of the football game. One play, one action at the end of the game or the end of our lives is not the deciding factor. Each step, each action, is important during the course of our lives. For us to make the right decision for each step of our lives we must have the proper light in a dark world. God’s Word provides us with that light.
Henry Ward Beecher who was a great preacher during the 1800s once said: “The Bible is God’s chart for you to steer by, to keep you from the bottom of the sea, and to show you where the harbor is, and how to reach it without running on rocks or bars.” In the year 2000 Henry Ward Beecher is still right and God’s Word is still true. Each step is important and we need the light of God’s Word for every one.
A Bad Hair Day
“For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was in me.” - I Corinthians 15:9-10.
Ever have a bad hair day? Some people are more prone than others are. I can’t just jump out of bed in the mornings and take off because if I did people would be laughing at my hair. It has just enough curl and the right texture to make it always unruly in the mornings. Now I know the reason I try to have my hair looking presentable before I leave the house. According to a study conducted my Marianne LaFrance a Yale Psychology professor a person’s self-esteem is reduced on those bad hair days. It was found on those days that people felt less smart, less capable, more embarrassed and less sociable. Surprisingly it was found that men felt even less smart, and less capable than women on bad hair days.
It seems silly that our hair can affect our lives in such a powerful way. Just because our hair is out of place doesn’t mean we are really less intelligent or less capable than before. It is silly too when we do the same thing with other things in our lives. The apostle Paul could have been beating himself up the remainder of his life because he persecuted the church prior to his salvation. Because of that Paul said he was the least of the apostles. Paul could have just wallowed in a gigantic pity party for the remainder of his years. But Paul said to himself, “by the grace of God I am what I am.”
Don’t let what has happened in the past prevent you from being what God would have you to be now. Yes, you may have had problems with an addiction, or even done some terrible thing but nothing is beyond the reach of the grace and mercy of God through Jesus Christ. You are what you are and God loves you so much that His Son went to the cross for you. We have to go beyond the pity parties and the bad hair days. We are what we are and God loves us. Paul understood and that is why he was able to labor through the grace of God “more abundantly than they all (the other apostles).” God would have you and I to do the same.
“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” - II Timothy 4:6-7.
What if you were in an elevator at the Empire State Building and the elevator cable snapped? What would your final thoughts be? Shamika Peterson and Joe Masoraca had that terrifying experience Monday afternoon. Shamika said, “We were on our way down when all of a sudden the elevator dropped, like a bungee jump.” “I was terrified.” “I thought I was going to die.” The elevator dropped 40 stories but Joe and Shamika were saved by an emergency breaking system, which stopped it at the fourth floor.
The apostle Paul’s death did not come suddenly. When he wrote the letter we know as II Timothy he was facing execution as a follower of Jesus Christ. Paul was imprisoned and living in difficult circumstances. Since his encounter with the risen Lord on the road to Damascus he had lived each day for the Lord and his life since that encounter had been poured out for Christ. If Paul had suddenly faced death in a plunging elevator perhaps his thoughts would have been shorter as expressed in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
If you were to face death today what would your final thoughts be? Would you be thinking that you have fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith? If not today could be the day of a new beginning. Paul had such a day on the road to Damascus (Acts 9) when everything changed. Instead of persecuting the church Paul became a preacher, missionary, church planter, and writer of a large portion of the Bible through the leadership of the Holy Spirit. If Paul can change, you and I can change. Whatever time we have left of this life let us live it for Christ.
Calling Evil Good
“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” - Isaiah 5:20.
We have been trying to remove saturated fats from our diets because we have been told they are harmful. We have replaced them in part with trans fatty acids. Now we are being told that trans fatty acids may be even more harmful than the saturated fats. According to a 1994 study by Dr. Joseph Judd trans fatty acids increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL) also known as the “bad” cholesterol. They also seem to lower the high-density lipoprotein (HDL), which is the “good” cholesterol. If that wasn’t enough trans fatty acids negatively affect a hereditary risk factor for heart disease and may be a risk factor in tumorgenesis. Not only that but large numbers of popular products on the market do not even list the amount of trans fatty acids contained in their products.
With foods we definitely have seen the bad called good and the good called bad. In life we see the world saying that all manner of things are good and those things come in attractive packages. But the truth about sex outside of marriage, abortion, consumption of illegal substances, abuse of alcohol, divorce, lying, cheating, stealing, deceiving, etc (Just plug in your own pet sin.) is that these things destroy life. Trans fatty acids were said to be healthy but now we know we were deceived. Sin destroys life as well. Trans fatty acids have sneaked into our lives and at first there did not appear to be any ill effects. But now we know the effects appear over the years and result in higher rates of heart disease. Sin does the same. Sin slowly sneaks into our lives and gradually over the years takes away life.
Romans 6:23 is still true: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We can have sin and death or we can have Jesus and life but we can’t have them both. We must decide whether we want to really live or settle for the lies of the world. God calls upon us to make a decision. Here are a couple of verses for you to consider: Joshua 24:15 and James 4:8.
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” - I Corinthians 15:58.
I’ve only climbed some very small mountains that some would consider hills. However, even looking at a small mountain prior to climbing it we can see in our minds the problems, hazards, expenditure of energy that will be necessary. Usually we overestimate how difficult the climbing will actually be. Dennis Proffitt a psychologist at the University of Virginia has actually performed a study which concluded that most people when standing at the bottom of a hill will believe the impending climb looks a lot worse than it really is.
Profitt in his study determined that people would consistently overestimate the slope of shallow hills. The people involved in the study would judge five-degree slopes to be about 20 degrees. According to Profitt there appears to be a mental protection mechanism at work here. The mental mechanism causes the eye to overestimate the task at hand, which helps prevent you from overexerting yourself.
In modern life the mountains we face are all too often not in the physical realm. However, they can be just as difficult to climb. It seems easy to become discouraged in life. We can look at our work or problems facing us and feel overwhelmed. It may only be a five-degree climb but it looks completely vertical from where we stand. We face one problem after another and they take a toil on our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual stamina. As a result we may come to a standstill as far as doing anything for the Lord.
The apostle Paul would tell us to be steadfast, immovable always abounding in the work of the Lord. Yes, you may be facing another problem but most likely it is not as bad as you think. Your mind is telling you it can’t be done but Paul would say that you can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13).
“Let no corrupt word (unwholesome talk) proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification (building others up according to their needs), that it may impart grace to the hearers (that it may benefit those who listen).” - Ephesians 4:29.
One of the latest techno gadgets is a robot pet. Sony had one out last May and Sega Toys plans to launch its robot dog in April. Poo-Chi is the puppy-sized robot’s name. The robot will respond to light, touch, and to sound. Where a real dog’s eyes should be is a visor, which changes to indicate the mood of Poo-Chi. When the dog is patted on the head it may show hearts on the visor. When it is left alone it may snore.
Communication between humans could become much easier if we really knew what the other person was thinking. If we were to say “I love you” and they started snoring we would know they could care less. On the other hand if hearts suddenly flashed on a visual display we would know they loved us too. Precise communication is vital in human interaction. Wars have been started, marriages and relationships ended as a result of poor communication. Too often we take for granted that by our words others know exactly what we mean.
When we are involved in trying interactions with others we must not guess at what is meant. We should tell them what we think they are saying and give them the opportunity to rearticulate if necessary. It may be that what we thought was really hateful was not meant that way at all. Of course, sometimes it is meant exactly as it sounded and then we must remember to respond in a way that builds up instead of tearing down. And we can be thankful there is not a visual display showing how we really feel!
“He who is greedy for gain troubles his own house, but he who hates bribes will live.” - Proverbs 15:27.
We are used to being able to order pizza for home delivery and other items. Manhattan (New York) perhaps was the first to have large-scale delivery service for cocaine. Mainly small amounts were delivered to individuals at prearranged spots, bars, restaurants, and residences. It is estimated the deliveries were earning $11,000 per day. Someone posing as a livery cab driver would make the deliveries. Ten men have been indicted for their participation in the drug delivery service.
During the oilfield boom days of the late 70s and early 80s illegal substances were being used by many. Drugs (Along with other things.) were being used by some companies as bribes to gain jobs. I talked with one man several years after the fact that told me of his struggle. He said that he was given an opportunity to help buy a shipment of drugs, which would later be sold to oilfield workers. He agonized over his desire for money and what was right. He finally turned down the offer and knows he made the right decision. I also know of others who did decide to participate in the drug trafficking. Some were caught and sent to prison. Others were never arrested but all of them paid a heavy price for their greed.
Have you ever been tempted to do something illegal or clearly immoral for money? The truth is you may never be arrested or serve prison time but there are other costs. Those costs are even more severe. Greed will trouble your home. Greed will rob you of peace of mind. Greed will rob you of life.
The Burning Bush Devotional
A Secret Visit
“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry.” - Psalm 34:15.
The judges in Israel were a little upset last week with the Justice Minister. Yossi Beilin who is Israel’s Justice Minister dropped in on several courtrooms in disguise on Tuesday. In spite of the disguise, dark glasses and blue baseball cap, some of the judges recognized him. The Israel Association of Judges released a statement expressing their “astonishment and displeasure” with Beilin’s actions. It must have been a shock to recognize their supervisor in their courtroom. You have to wonder whether their recognition came before or after they had made any improper statements or actions.
As Christians we do not have to wonder whether or not God will show up for a secret visit to check up on us. The Holy Spirit lives within us (I Corinthians 3:16) hearing every word we say, every thought we think, and He sees everything we see. God monitors our every movement because He has His eyes on us 24/7. He has better technology than a spy satellite because God can see through the dark, through walls, and the view is always clear.
When we sin there is no way to hide it. When we fail He knows. When we fall He sees. When we’ve had all of sin we can take and we finally cry out for His help - He hears. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9).”
What does God see as He looks at your life today?
Power for a New Year
(Originally sent one year ago 01-04-99)
"But as many as received him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.” - John 1:12.
I noticed something new hanging on the wall in my parent's living room a couple of years ago. It was a small poster which said in bright letters, "God Hath Power To Help." It looked like it was quite old and so I asked my mother where it had come from. She said it was my grandmother's. Seeing that poster has made me realize that my grandparents must have faced challenges beyond their own strength just as I have. Whenever I see that poster now it brings a warm feeling to me to know that my grandparents relied, just as I do, upon the power of God.
It is God's will for us to have the power to meet the challenges of life. Not only to meet them but to conquer them! We have available power to be the sons and daughters of God. Paul says in Romans 8:37, "...in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us." Now that is super empowerment when we consider that God is the Creator of everything and the sustainer of all life. What is there that is too tough for God? Nothing!
Ahead of us stretches a new year. Many challenges, dangers, and toils await. Some face financial problems. Some face health problems, family problems, job problems, and many other situations. Whatever it is, God still Hath Power To Help.
“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold.” - Proverbs 22:1.
“By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life.” - Proverbs 22:4.
With the technological computer revolution there have been a vast number of people catapulted into the realm of the rich. It seems the newly rich have a problem. Their riches seem to be adversely affecting their children. Their children are becoming spoiled brats or is that spelled “rich snobs“? It has become such a problem that there are people now helping the newly rich to deal with it. They even have a name for it: affluenza.
Actually affluenza has been around for a long time and it does not just infect millionaires and billionaires and affluenza does not just infect children. Moses warned the Israelites in Deuteronomy 8:11-14: “Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest - when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage... (v. 17) then you say in your heart, ’My Power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’”
It is a problem for every generation. When the living is easy we tend to forget about God. We suddenly believe that all of the good things in our life are a result of our own efforts and we leave God out of the equation. True riches, true honor, and true life all come through humility before God. The apostle Peter tells us: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time (I Peter 5:5b-6).”
The writer of Proverbs was so very right when he said “The rich and poor have this in common, the Lord is the maker of them all (Proverbs 22:2).” We must always remember our Creator and train up our children (Proverbs 22:6) in this knowledge so they won’t be infected with affluenza.
The Right Weapon
Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.” I Peter 2:11.
The largest grocery chain in the United States, Kroger, is covering up Cosmopolitan magazine at its checkout stands. The cover up comes because of the lurid headlines, which have received even more complaints than the lurid photos on the covers. The new magazine racks being installed will cover up everything but the magazine’s name. We can only wonder why it took so long. There seems to be a number of other publications sold at the checkout counter, which could use some covering up as well. If our Internet filters were used on grocery stores we would have a hard time finding one to enter.
Cosmopolitan and other checkout stand publications appeal to our fleshly lusts. Cosmopolitan has the highest newsstand sales of any publication with half of those two million sales coming at checkout counters. It is a war. It is a war against our souls! But it is not just publications at checkout stands it is everywhere. The world and the devil are doing a fantastic job of appealing to the fleshly lusts and they have a lot of help.
How can we defend ourselves against this onslaught of evil? Obviously we cannot always avert our eyes in time and unless we completely isolate ourselves we will be confronted at times with worldliness. Peter gives us the key to our defense in I Peter 4:1-3, “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles - when we walked in lewdness, lusts....” We must arm ourselves with the mind of Christ. Saturate our lives with Him.
It is a war and if you are not armed you will be destroyed. Arm yourself by saturating your life with the things of God. Read His Word, study His Word, memorize His Word, meditate on His Word, and talk with Him, walk with Him and His mind will become your mind. When you are armed the world will have lost its appeal and the devil will flee from you. Are you armed?
Global Networked Society
“Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and marvelous: seven angels having the seven last plagues, for in them the wrath of God is complete.” - Revelation 15:1.
According to Gerald Levine the merger of AOL and Time Warner has accelerated the creation of a truly Globally Networked Society. How much the process has been accelerated and how far reaching the effects remain to be seen. But we know it is coming. The Internet has linked the whole world together but it is going to become even more pervasive. Every aspect of our lives will be affected. Fewer and fewer people of the world will be untouched by this global network.
I keep thinking this is it. This is as far as we can go with technology but technology keeps accelerating. My computer is like a dinosaur compared to the new ones out now. We have to wonder how far it will go? Will knowledge continue increasing at quantum speed or will some event occur which limits further increase? The seven last plagues of God in the Book of Revelation seem to be a candidate for such a catastrophic event. Prior to the seven last plagues the two witnesses are slain and their bodies are seen laying unburied by the entire world (Revelation 11:9). At the battle of Armageddon (Revelation 14:20) we see that technology apparently has crashed. The horses are splashed with blood even to their bridles. There are no tanks, planes, or automobiles mentioned.
The accelerating technological ability indicates we are living in the time of increased knowledge. How long before the end time events? No one knows but we are closer than ever before. With the increased knowledge and techno capabilities there is a tendency I believe for us to put out trust in those things. Those things, just like money, are temporary and can be taken away in a very short period of time.
There is only one permanent thing on which we can truly trust. The Bible closes out with one final great invitation for us to put our trust in what is really permanent and eternal: “’I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.’ And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely (Revelation 22:16-17).”
“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” - Matthew 4:4.
We read the words and we hear the words but do we really listen? Sixteen times in the New Testament Jesus challenges us to use our ears to listen. If we are really listening then we will apply the words to our lives. In the case of Matthew 4:4 it would mean the intake of God’s Word just as frequently as we have our meals. I think we can agree we should read/study/mediate on the Scriptures at least once a day. But do we do it?
Why would we want to give up our time and spend it in the Scriptures? If we do not eat physical food what happens? We grow weak physically. If we do not have our spiritual food we will grow weak spiritually. When we grow weak physically we become susceptible to all kinds of physical ailments/diseases. When we grow weak spiritually we become susceptible to the attacks of the devil, the allurements of the world, and the lust of the flesh.
Having a quiet time where we spend time reading the Bible and praying is much like physical exercise. The time spent in physical exercise is returned to us in the need for less sleep and better quality of life. In much the same way God provides the energy we need to seek Him. Time spent in prayer and reading the Bible is not time lost. Instead it seems to generate its own time with more energy and better quality of life.
We are now living in the 21st Century. This century brings with it moral pressures which will destroy those who are not spiritually fit. The only way to be spiritually fit is to have a daily quiet time which includes Bible reading/study/meditation and prayer.
“Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked...in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness-.” - II Corinthians 11:25-27.
Tomorrow is the day which Intercessors for America are urging Christians to unite in prayer and fasting for the United States. It seems fitting that their should be a day of prayer and fasting to begin the year 2000. We are urged to pray for several things: Lordship of Christ, Spirit of Wisdom, Sanctity of Life, Congress, and Presidential primaries. We can most likely think of a few other things to pray about as well.
Prayer and fasting. I remember the first time I tried to fast. My pastor had spoken briefly about fasting and I was intrigued. It was the first time I had really thought about it and understood that Christians are to fast. In II Corinthians the apostle Paul includes fastings in a list of the sufferings he had endured for Christ. I understood a little more about that by the afternoon of my day of fasting. My head was killing me! No caffeine, and by about 5:00 P.M. my fast was over. I was thinking “I am never doing this again!” I did not try fasting again until after I was a pastor. I now realize the tremendous importance of fasting but it is still difficult for me and not something that I do lightly.
Fasting throughout the Bible seems to be something that gets God’s attention. Fasting seems to be a statement to God that we are very serious about a certain matter. It allows us to focus on God. The Psalmist says in Psalm 35:13 that he humbled his soul with fasting. In Psalm 69:10 the Psalmist chastens himself through fasting. Fasting is beneficial to our attitude and our health. Through fasting we are in continuous prayer during the time of our fast.
How can you fast? Fasting is basically the abstaining from solid food. Many fast with only liquids during the day and a light meal in the evening. Some fast with liquids only but use a blender to provide sustenance. Extended fasts should be approached cautiously with medical advice when medications or health conditions are involved. However, food is not the only thing we can fast. We can fast time watching TV, or time on the computer, or other things that may be important to us.
I would encourage you to try fasting if you never have. I have always been encouraged by time spent in fasting. No, you may not enjoy it but Paul didn’t say he enjoyed the shipwrecks, stonings, and beatings with rods either.
What Better Time?
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” - I John 2:15-17.
When I was younger I looked forward to the year 2000 as a significant step in my life. I believed that major milestones would have been reached by this point and in almost 50 years of life much has happened. Life in the 21st century seems to be much the same as life in the 20th century. I have not noticed any major differences. The electricity is still on and the water is flowing. We are still going to work, eating, and sleeping. People are still being born and people are still dying.
My great-grandfather Curtis Zachary Taliaferro at the turn of the last century (1900) at the age of 51 moved from Texas to Oklahoma to homestead. I’m glad I am not facing the same challenge today! But we have different challenges. Many of them are spiritual. There are increasing venues of communication from radio to internet. In addition, the print media is far advanced from simply putting words on paper to elaborate photographic images. With the increasing venues of communication have come barrages of moral temptations. We have also had an increase in addictive substances from crack to designer drugs and more probably on the way.
In the 21st Century it will be easier than ever to fall away from the faith. It will be easier than ever before to seek worldly substitutes for God. In the 21st Century only God can keep us from coming apart at the seams in the rush of technological life. I know my ancestors depended upon God to carry them through many difficult times. Only God can carry me through the time in which I now live. What better time than now to make a fresh commitment to God and to live for Him during the year 2000 and beyond? What better time than now to commit ourselves to a daily quiet time of Bible reading and prayer? What better time than now to commit ourselves to “not forsake (ing) the assembling of ourselves together” with other believers? What better time than now to commit ourselves to living out the Christian life before those around us? What better time than this??
“So the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.’” - Genesis 4:8.
In San Francisco Saturday a man with a meat cleaver ran down a busy street hitting and slashing those in his way. Two women were hospitalized with head and neck injuries. A police officer also suffered injuries when he attempted to subdue the man who has a history of mental illness. The story reminded me of when I was a parole officer. One of my clients had a new found friend and had moved in with him. I tried to warn my client that his new friend had mental problems and I took extraordinary measures to protect my client from his friend. My client’s new friend had once been arrested after neighbors called reporting he was chasing his unclothed pregnant girlfriend down the street in the middle of the night with a butcher knife. My client didn’t really understand why he had to find some place else to live until a few weeks later. A few weeks later my client’s new friend broke into a home and robbed a family at knifepoint.
Sin is like a crazy man with a meat cleaver who wants to destroy you. God told Cain, “sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you....” Sin is not reasonable. The only reason sin has is the unreasonable. Sin tears down and destroys our lives in every possible way. It destroys those around us just as Cain killed his own brother. One of the reasons we do not prosper (Not just financial prosperity.) is sin. Sin robs us of blessings and starves our souls. The Bible makes this clear. Here are two verses, which speak of this:
“Your iniquities have turned these things away, And your sins have withheld good from you.” - Jeremiah 5:25.
“Thus says God: ‘Why do you transgress the commandments of the Lord, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, He also has forsaken you.’” - II Chronicles 24:20.
A temptation that leads to sin is usually very appealing and alluring. The true nature of a temptation is usually not obvious. So, the next time you are tempted remember your temptation is worse than a crazy man with a meat cleaver and he is trying to destroy you and your family.
“But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” - Revelation 21:8.
In the words of one newsperson, “we made it!” Y2K seems to have had little effect on the world other than the 500 billion dollars spent to prepare for it. There appears to have been no rioting in the streets or terrorist attacks. Y2K has almost been a nonevent. No planes falling from the sky, no nuclear meltdowns, and the ATMs didn’t spew out all of their money. We can only praise God and know that it was the restraining power of the Holy Spirit, which has kept us in relative safety through this transition to a new century.
Now all we need to prepare for is Y3K. Are you Y3K compliant? Now you may be thinking “why do I need to prepare for something that is going to happen a thousand years from now?” No, your computer will probably not make it a thousand years but you will. No, your physical body as it is now constituted won’t make it a thousand years either. But your soul, your consciousness, that innermost part of you that is your emotions, your thoughts will be alive a thousand years from now. But unless you are properly prepared you could be facing a fate much worse than your computer crashing. Unless you are Y3K compliant you could end up in the Lake of Fire (Revelation 21:8b).
John 3:16 tells us if we believe on the Lord Jesus we will “not perish, but have everlasting life.” To be properly prepared we must receive Christ Jesus as our Savior. He is the only fix for the Y3K problem. Nothing short of “everlasting life” will keep your systems from crashing into the “lake of fire.” If you haven’t already done so why not prepare today? Turn from your sins and invite Jesus Christ into your heart as your Lord and Master.
Copyright 1999-2000. Ed Wrather. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for use of this material on a non-profit basis with source noted.