APRIL - DECEMBER 2009
BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONALS

The Burning Bush Devotional
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12.30.09

Begin Again - Part 3

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable (…stand firm. Let nothing move you. - NIV), always abounding (Always give yourselves fully - NIV) in the work of the Lord, knowing (because you know - NIV) that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. - 1 Corinthians 15:58 NKJV.

The apostle Paul gives us some direction as to how to continue to move forward with life, beginning again and again. Those directions are given in 1 Corinthians 15:58. The first instruction that Paul gives us is to “…stand firm. Let nothing move you….” The second instruction is “…give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord….” Why should we do that? Why should we stand firm? Why should we let nothing move us? Why should we always give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord? “…because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

I am reminded of a verse in Isaiah 55:11 about God’s Word that says, “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” God says in Isaiah that His Word will not go forth in vain, His Word will accomplish His purpose. The apostle Paul is saying the same thing about our labor, our work for the Lord. Our labor for the Lord will not be in vain, it will accomplish its purpose, it will accomplish what God means for it to bring about, and it will prosper.

Beginning again can be so very difficult. I have often pondered some of the challenges of the great missionaries like William Carey, who was a missionary to India in the early 1800s. He was also an intellectual giant and was busy translating the Bible into many of the various languages present in India. For ten years Carey had labored in those translations, he had established a print shop to print the translations, and it was in that print shop that he kept all of his work. On March 11, 1812 disaster struck in the form of a fire that destroyed the print shop and all of the work of Carey and others. Ten years of work gone!

How do you begin again? How do you stand firm and not let something like this move you? How do you continue on to give yourself fully to the work of the Lord in the face of a disaster like this? How do you do it? Carey began again and found that he could do the work of translation even better the second time and because of the publicity about the disaster funds were more than adequate. It is reported in one biography of Carey that he translated and published the New Testament in more than 30 Indian languages and dialects. What does Romans 8:28 say? “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

William Carey not only began again giving himself fully to the work of the Lord, but he went further than he had gone before. His translations were better the second time, and he translated the Scripture into far more languages than before. He stood firm, he did not let this move him, and God brought about His purpose in spite of a disaster that would have stopped so many of us in our tracks.

What challenge are you facing? Are you coming to an end of one phase of your life, with a new one ahead? Have you experienced tragedy, disaster, pain, illness - how do you go on? You go on; you begin again by standing firm in your faith, by letting nothing move you away from your full devotion to the Lord. You go on; you begin again by giving yourself fully, totally, completely to the work of the Lord.

Don’t settle for anything less, than the very best that God has for you. Begin again, stand firm, let nothing move you from what God has for you. Move forward, give yourself fully to the work of the Lord because it will not be in vain, it will accomplish its purpose, it will not come back void.

Let us begin again in this coming New Year!

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12.29.09

Begin Again - Part 2

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable (…stand firm. Let nothing move you. - NIV), always abounding (Always give yourselves fully - NIV) in the work of the Lord, knowing (because you know - NIV) that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. - 1 Corinthians 15:58 NKJV.

Life is made up of beginnings and endings and more beginnings. As we travel the road of life the more of those beginnings and endings that we encounter the more difficult it can be to begin again. The apostle Paul gives us some direction as to how to continue to move forward with life, beginning again and again. Those directions are given in 1 Corinthians 15:58. The first instruction that Paul gives us is to “…stand firm. Let nothing move you….”

Next Paul gives us the vital instruction for getting started again, for moving forward, for living life, for experiencing the abundant life. Paul says, “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord….” When we come to an end of a phase of our lives, when we experience tragedy, when we experience failure, when we are face-to-face with our own mortality - it can be very hard to take that step forward, to move ahead, to begin something new. The key to doing so is to “…give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord….”

We have just celebrated Christmas and at Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Christ Jesus, we celebrate the birth of our Savior. But what did Jesus have to do in order to be born as a human being upon this earth? He had to give up the glories of Heaven, the comforts of Heaven. To be our Savior, He would have to experience life as we experience it with all of the trials and tribulations - with all of the joys, and all of the pains. Jesus had to give Himself fully to leave Heaven and descend to the humanness of walking upon this earth. This was an all or nothing project. He could not do this halfway with one foot in Heaven and the other upon earth. He had to fully leave Heaven and fully enter the life of a human being upon this earth.

Jesus walked upon this earth it is thought for about 33 years and during that time He experienced joy, pain, tragedy and temptation. Jesus was not moved, He stood firm in the work that His Father had set before Him. At the very end of His human life Jesus faced one last challenge and that challenge was whether or not to go that last mile, to take that last step that would mean an agonizing death on the cross. The death on the cross, and His resurrection from the dead could not be accomplished with one foot in life, and one foot in death. He could only become our Savior by giving Himself fully, totally, completely upon the cross for our sins. That, we know, is what Jesus did. He gave Himself so that we might have life, life eternal, life pressed down and overflowing beyond our imaginations. To have life we must also give ourselves fully to the work of the Heavenly Father, just as Jesus did.

In Luke 9:23 we are told, “Then he said to them all: ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’” Jesus was saying much the same as the apostle Paul was saying. Jesus is talking about a total surrender, total giving of our lives to the work of the Lord. Remember Jesus had to take up His cross and carry it in humiliation through the streets of Jerusalem until He collapsed in exhaustion. It was that same cross that He carried that He would die upon.

What happened after Jesus died on the cross? He rose again. What Jesus was saying, what Paul was saying, is that if we want to live, really live - then we will have to die - die to self, die to this world; and, give ourselves fully to the work of the Lord. In the next verse in Luke 9:24 Jesus says, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” To have life, to begin again, we must give ourselves fully, totally, completely over to the work of the Lord.

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12.28.09

Begin Again - Part 1

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable (…stand firm. Let nothing move you. - NIV), always abounding (Always give yourselves fully - NIV) in the work of the Lord, knowing (because you know - NIV) that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. - 1 Corinthians 15:58 NKJV.

Life is made up of beginnings and endings and more beginnings. Winter ends and spring begins. Spring ends and summer begins. Summer ends and winter begins. We are ending one year and starting a new year with the challenges of the past year behind and the challenges of a new year ahead. We end childhood and begin young adulthood. We end being young adults and enter middle age. We end middle age and become senior adults. We are born, we live, we die, and then if we know Jesus as our Savior, we live again.

I have found that the older I become the harder it is to begin again, the harder it is to move forward, and not to stop. The older I am, the harder it is to try something new. The older I am, the easier it is to do nothing. The older I am, the easier it is to think I have done enough. The older I am, the easier it is to plan for dying instead of for living. The older I am, the harder it is to continue with life when bad things happen - to begin again.

How do you begin again, how do you move forward with life, how do you really live as long as you are living? This verse in 1 Corinthians 15:58 gives us some direction as to how to do that. The first instruction that the apostle Paul gives us about how to begin again, how to live is this: “…stand firm. Let nothing move you….” He is saying that we should let nothing in this world deter us, keep us from living the abundant life that Jesus came to give us (John 10:10b). We should let no bad thing, no evil thing, not even a good thing keep us from living our lives for the Lord.

For the early Christians, there were some obstacles to living the Christian life, especially in Corinth. Corinth was an evil place, a wicked place. If you were a Christian in Corinth you could count on feeling out of place, out of step with most of the people who lived there. If you were a Christian in Corinth you could count on encountering persecution in one form or another. Paul was telling them don’t let that stop you from living like you should “…stand firm. Let nothing move you….”

Paul from the context of this verse, the preceding verses, was also talking about the discouragement caused by death. The discouragement caused by knowing that we all will someday die a physical death and the discouragement that comes from the deaths of those that we love. The fact of death looming ahead of us is something that we all have to deal with. Both of my parents passed away in 2007 and there is something about your parents no longer being alive that changes your perspective - it makes you more aware of your own mortality. This year there have been so many that I know who are around my age who have passed away. Last Monday one more of my high school classmates passed away. It makes you wonder sometimes if you are next. We have seen so many of our young people in this area who have died at an early age, and it is particularly hard when you are close to them.

What is it that Paul would say to me? What is it that Paul would say to you? “…stand firm. Let nothing move you….” Not even death. “…stand firm. Let nothing move you….”

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12.10.09

It’s Up to You

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. - John 1:12.

The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs - heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. - Romans 8:16-17.

But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. - Galatians 3:25-27.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. - Galatians 3:28-29.

Have you ever wondered if you were adopted? Some people have had that surprise in their lives, and Matthew Roberts is one of them. He found out from his sister when he was ten-years-old that he had been adopted. After Matthew became an adult, he was able to locate and to make contact with his natural mother. Matthew’s natural mother, Terry, did not at first want to reveal the name of the father. However, she eventually told Matthew the truth that his birth was the result of a rape in 1967. His father, Matthew now knows, is Charles Manson. Of course, it was a shock to discover what had been hidden from him and for a while he sank into depression. Matthew says, “I wasn’t able to speak for a day” after finding out about his father. Matthew believes that he is different from his father in that he, unlike his father, is a very peaceful and non-violent person.

I enjoy genealogy and find it to be somewhat like solving a mystery. For the most part, I have been excited to learn about the lives that my ancestors lived; however, with a couple of them, I was sad to find out that I was related to them. For the vast majority of people if you could go back in time researching your genealogy you would find at least one or two of those ancestors that you might call the black sheep of the family. Matthew Roberts found one a little more closely related than most of us, but he appears to be handling this unpleasant knowledge well.

The good news is that we are not responsible for how our ancestors lived their lives. We are responsible for ourselves, and how we live our own lives. Of course, how we live our lives will definitely have an impact upon our descendants.

The even greater good news is that if we know Jesus as our personal Savior, we have been adopted into the royal family of the King of kings and the Lord of lords. We have become heirs of God Himself and our inheritance will be eternally wondrous.

Even if your natural father is Charles Manson or even Adolf Hitler you do not have to live like they did. You can instead live your life for the Lord and become more and more like Jesus. You can establish a spiritual heritage of goodness, and righteousness to pass down through the ages. It’s up to you.

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12.07.09

Foolish Living

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God. - Ephesians 5:15-21.

In Anchorage, Alaska, there was an incredible sequence of events fueled by consumption of alcohol. Two people were arrested as a result and both had blood alcohol levels two times the limit for legally driving. Benjamin Brady while leaving the Gaslight Lounge in his Cadillac Escalade was hit by another vehicle. Brady then left his vehicle and physically hit the driver of the other vehicle. Meanwhile, Jane Tukrook got into and drove off with the Cadillac Escalade. Tukrook while driving the now stolen vehicle ran down and hit Brady’s wife, Kristin Trujillo-Brady. According to Tukrook, Kristin had verbally insulted her and her children. Kristin apparently had been a passenger in the Escalade prior to Tukrook stealing the vehicle. Kristin did have a severe cut to her head, but it was not a life threatening injury.

After Tukrook was arrested, handcuffed, and awaiting transport to jail in the back of a patrol car, she kicked the rear window causing $500 in damage. Tukrook is facing additional charges by frightening bystanders who thought the Escalade was going to hit them. She is facing a total of seven criminal charges. Brady was charged with drunk driving and assault.

Even without drinking or doing drugs we sometimes act as fools but when we consume alcohol, illegal drugs, or abuse legal drugs it makes the possibility that we will become fools a much higher probability. It is obvious in the event in Anchorage that these were not people who were filled with the Spirit. Instead, they were controlled by alcohol, and their own fleshly desires. As a result the three primarily involved in the event in Anchorage will look back upon that day as being an evil day.

The apostle Paul is not just talking about the hazards of being controlled by alcohol or other substances. Ephesians 5:18 goes far beyond that to include anything that would control our lives instead of the Holy Spirit. What are some of the other things that can sometimes control our lives and make us act like fools? Greed, envy, jealousy, lust, anger, bitterness, selfish ambition, and I am sure there are other things as well.

If we want to avoid acting like fools and having countless evil days we need to surrender control of our lives to the Holy Spirit. As Paul says in Galatians 5:25, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” When our lives are controlled by the Spirit the “fruit of the Spirit…love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)” will enable us to live wisely, and to enjoy the abundant life that Jesus came to give us.

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11.19.09

Get Back

I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” - Luke 15:18-19.

Eric Steward says he just wanted to take a “nice peaceful drive” but ended up making a wrong turn. The 81-year-old man drove for nine hours and about 400 miles (643 km) from Yass, NSW to Geelong, Victoria in Australia before asking for help. He finally stopped and asked a police officer to help him. He gave the officer his cell phone, so he could talk to his wife and the officer was able to help him find his way home.

There’s an old Beatles song called “Get Back.” A few of the lyrics are:

Go home
Get back, get back
Back to where you once belonged
Get back, get back
Back to where you once belonged
Get back Jo Jo

The Prodigal Son of Luke 15 was not really lost in the physical sense like Eric Steward. The Prodigal Son knew where he was, and he knew where home was at. However, the Prodigal Son has a lot in common with Eric in that he took a wrong turn in life, and he just kept on going. They both finally reached a point where the ride was no longer fun, and they just wanted to go home - back to where they belonged. To get back where they belonged, they both had to swallow some pride.

Are you off track with your life? You know you took a wrong turn back there somewhere but how do you get back on the right track? How do you get back to where you belong?

Step one to get back to where you belong is to swallow your pride and ask for help. Ask your Heavenly Father to help you to return to where you know you should be. If there are sins that have led you astray, confess them, and forsake them.

Step two to get back to where you belong is to do what you know you should be doing spiritually. You know you need to pray. Jesus said, “Men ought to always pray (Luke 18:1).” Sit some time away every day, even if it is only for a few minutes that you are going to visit with your Lord and talk with Him about what is going on in your life. Read your Bible, even if it is only a verse or two every day. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).” Attend church regularly and faithfully, unless you are providentially hindered from doing so. The writer of Hebrews gives us this command, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:24-25).”

Step Three to get back to where you belong is to continually repeat Step One and Step Two.

Go Home! Back to where you once belonged.

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11.04.09

The Grinch

My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, "You sit here in a good place," and say to the poor man, "You stand there," or, "Sit here at my footstool," have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. - James 2:1-9.

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound. - Isaiah 61:1.

The president of a homeowners’ association in the Chicago suburb of Oak Brook does not like having poor people around. His home is in a gated community so you would assume that would prevent most poor people from being able to knock on his door. However, that is not enough for Constantine "Connie" Xinos, he was concerned that a home for the elderly nearby would result in more poor people being in Oak Brook, so he was able to block the permit the home needed. Xinos says, "I don’t want to live next to poor people. I don’t want poor people in my town." Xinos has not stopped and continues to try to keep the poor out of his town. His current campaign is to try to close the local library which he apparently believes brings poor kids into Oak Brook. The librarians are now trying to unionize to protect their jobs and Xinos has told them to "stop whining."

It sounds like the Grinch is alive and well and he would probably steal Christmas too if he could. (Grinch is defined by dictionary.com as "a person or thing that spoils or dampens the pleasure of others.")

Thankfully, our God is not a respecter of persons as Peter says in Acts 10:34-35, "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him." When Jesus says in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son," He did not say God so loved the rich people in the world, or God so loved the property owners in the world, or God so loved the Jewish people, or white people, or black people, or any other special select group of people. Jesus died so that all peoples could have a Savior if they would believe in Him.

Knowing that our Lord loves all people equally should we not follow His example? Jesus died for those who were at the time His enemies (Romans 5:8). Instead of being a grinch, love others according to the "royal law" and "love your neighbor as yourself."

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11.03.09

It’s Loose!

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. - 1 John 1:8-10.

For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. - James 2:10.

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 5:19-21.

If you happen to see a green reptile, five feet long, with a long snout wrapped with tape and a long tail wandering around call the U. S. Fish and Wildlife service. They‘ve lost one! Just in case here’s their website address www.fws.gov Dave Brady an officer for the service had a great idea after he captured the reptile. His daughter’s school in Panama City Beach, Florida was having a show-and-tell day and so Officer Brady taped up the alligator’s snout and showed off the reptile to his daughter’s class. According to a spokesperson for the wildlife service "They were impressed." However, when the officer was putting the alligator back into his truck it jumped out and ran to a nearby pond. So far, the alligator has escaped being captured and is still on the loose.

Some of us have pets that we keep, and we are very attached to them. I am not talking about little animals like dogs and cats, these pets are spiritual. These spiritual pets are what we like to think of as little sins that everyone does to some extent. There are many lists of these pet sins and depending upon your denomination and convictions you might or might not consider some to be sin. Here are some of those spiritual pets that we become attached to: procrastination/laziness; lying; substance abuse; gambling; anger; lust; ambition; greed; gluttony; dishonesty; gossiping; envy; arrogance; foul language; and, as Paul ends his list in Galatians 5, "and the like."

We become comfortable with our little pets, and usually they are well behaved. It is rare if we engage in lying that we are caught in telling a really big whopper, and even if we are we can laugh it off. But if the FBI comes to your door, and you do not tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth you can end up in prison just like Martha Stewart and many others have. Our substance abuse may seem like a minor thing until the patrol car lights are flashing in our rear view mirror, and we face the embarrassment of arrest with our names in the newspaper and possibly even some time in jail or prison. Lust is one of those sins that is insidious. Lust in the mind can spill out into the physical resulting in adultery, divorce, and even murder (as in the case of King David and Bathsheba).

Our little pet sins are usually kept under control, you know we have their snouts all taped up, and we try to keep them on a leash. What many people forget about alligators is that they can jump, and they can run. The same with our little pet sins, sometimes they have a mind of their own, and they can jump, they can run, and they can cause all kinds of havoc in our lives. So, before your pet sin makes a break for it, now is the time to remove it from your life. 1 John 1:9 is always a good place to start.

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11.02.09

Just Having Some Fun

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. - 1 John 2:15-16.

To do evil is like sport to a fool, but a man of understanding has wisdom. - Proverbs 10:23.

Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin." - John 8:34.

After the San Juan County Sheriff’s Department in New Mexico received a report of a disturbance at a party in an isolated outdoor area deputies were sent to investigate. However, upon arriving at the scene, they did not find anyone present. While walking back to their vehicle one of the deputies unlocked it with an electronic keyless entry device. When the deputies were a short distance away from their vehicle, Matthew Anderson, 21-years-old, jumped in and drove away before the deputies could stop him. The stolen vehicle was found about three hours later and Anderson was found and arrested not much later walking down the highway east of Aztec, New Mexico. Anderson was charged with theft of the vehicle and obstructing a police officer. When asked why he stole the car, Anderson said he thought it would be fun.

Matthew Anderson somewhat typifies a person who is adrift in life. His priority in life is simply to have fun because he appears to love the world and "all that is in the world." Stealing the deputies’ vehicle seemed like a fun thing to do or as the writer of Proverbs puts it "sport to a fool." The apostle Paul writes in Romans 3:23, "For the wages of sin is death." Anderson received some wages for his fun - he paid a fine of $250 plus court costs, was placed on unsupervised probation, and he must participate in alcohol screening, and attend alcohol abuse classes. It could have been much worse for him, but still it was a costly little bit of "fun" that he enjoyed for a few brief minutes.

Actually, Matthew was only being obedient to his master. His master is sin as Jesus says and his master will continue to allow him to enjoy more of his "fun" along with more of the "wages of sin" being paid to him. As Matthew has more and more "fun" his wages will increase until on his ultimate payday, he receives, "death." However, Matthew does not have to continue to participate in his "fun". He can choose a new master and instead of being paid with death, Matthew can begin to receive life because, "the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23b)."

Just before the writer of Proverbs says, "To do evil is like sport to a fool" he says this, "The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it." Unlike living life just to have "fun", there is no sorrow, no regrets in living your life for the Lord.

If your "fun" has been giving you more and more increases in wages that have been more and more unpleasant maybe you ought to consider a change in allegiance. Call upon the Name of the Lord Jesus (Romans 10:13) and "you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32)." You will be free, free from the wages of death, and instead of having sin as your master - Jesus will be your master, and He says, "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:29-30)."

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10.15.09

How to be Happy

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness! No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. - Matthew 6:19-24.

Mark Dreier is not as well known as Bernie Madoff and his fraudulent schemes were not as far reaching, but they were devastating to all those they touched. Dreier’s schemes only reached into the hundreds of millions, whereas Madoff’s were in the billions of dollars. However, they are both in prison now where hopefully they are no longer destroying the lives of the people around them. Dreier is serving 20 years in prison for his fraud. Why did Dreier do it? When asked he said, "I thought it would make me happy." Of course that’s what so many people in this world think, "If only I had more money, I would be happy."

Then there are those who have decided to live without money. You can do a search on Google for "living without money" and find them. There are thousands of them, and they have dropped out of modern society as we know it. Daniel Suelo is one of those "living without money." Nine years ago Daniel simply stopped using money and started living in a cave, literally. Daniel uses a public library computer to write a blog at zerocurrency. blogspot.com and he says about money, "When I lived with money, I was always lacking. Money represents lack. Money represents things in the past (debt) and things in the future (credit), but money never represents what is present."

There are extreme views about money with Dreier and Madoff representing one extreme and Suelo representing the other extreme. Of course, both views are incorrect if we want to live effectively as Christians. Money is not, in and of itself, evil. The apostle Paul does not condemn money as being evil in his epistle to Timothy instead he says, "…the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil… (1 Timothy 6:10)."

Money is a tool which can be used for good, or it can be used for evil. All of the material things that we have in this life actually belongs to God and have been given to us by God. We are stewards of God; we are responsible for the proper use of what we have been given to further the Kingdom of God (Matthew 25:14-30).

The way to happiness in this life is to stop being “doubled minded (James 4:8)” by trying to serve two masters as Jesus says, “You cannot serve God and mammon.” Stop trying to gain the world and at the same time to live for God because it is not possible to do. Let go of the world, and the things of this world and begin to serve only God. As Paul says to Timothy and to us, "But you, O man of God, flee these things (the love of money) and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith… (1 Timothy 6:11-12a)." Then you will have "godliness with contentment" which is "great gain (1 Timothy 6:6)."

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10.02.09

The Wrong and the Right

Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life. - 1 Timothy 6:17-19.

Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; for all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and You are exalted as head over all.

Both riches and honor come from You, and You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might; in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.

Now therefore, our God, we thank You and praise Your glorious name. But who am I, and who are my people that we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from You, and of Your own we have given You. - 1 Chronicles 29: 11-14.

Something is wrong with a 22-year-old Chinese woman, Dan Dan, having to sell herself in marriage to raise the money for a classmate’s surgery. About $24,000 is needed to cover the treatment her friend needs for encephalomyelitis. There is something wrong about the Sultan of Brunei spending about $24,000 for a haircut when the money could be used in a much better way. There is something wrong about anyone buying a $24,000 diamond studded computer mouse offered by a Swiss company when the money could be used to help some who are facing desperate situations. There is something wrong about paying $24,000 for two melons at an auction in Japan even though the melons were exquisite.

There is something right about a third-grader in Florida raising $24,000 selling lemonade to give to a cancer center. There is something right about the Franklin Central High School students in Indiana, who raised $24,000 for the Riley Hospital for Children. There is something right about the Arizona IHOP’s raising and giving $24,000 to the ChildHelp organization that is dedicated to helping victims of child abuse and neglect and at-risk children. There is something right about the Naples Women’s Club in Florida raising and awarding $24,000 toward 18 college scholarships.

As David points out, "all things come from You, and of Your own we have given You." We are only stewards of those material things that we have in our possession. Everything that we have actually belongs to God. The apostle Paul advises Timothy and us of how those who do have material things ought to use them as he writes, "Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share."

We may not be rich, and we may never have $24,000 in our bank account or even $24 in our bank account. However, even the dollar or the penny that we have, and the clothes that we wear belongs ultimately not to us but to God. We are to be good stewards of that penny, and of those clothes. As the apostle James says, "…to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin (James 4:17)."

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08.25.09

When Bad Things Happen

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. - Romans 5:1-4.

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. - 1 Corinthians 15:58.

We often think of bad things happening to people who have done something that they should not have done. However, bad things sometimes happen to people who are just living life doing the best they can day after day.

Anna Ramirez and her family encountered this sad truth up close and very personally when they were unexpectedly and without reason evicted from their home. The Ramirez home and furniture was auctioned and sold to the highest bidder by their bank. The family was given only three hours to leave the home with their personal possessions. The entire unfortunate incident was the result of an error by the Miami-Dade County Clerk’s Office. Eventually, a judge did rectify the situation and the Ramirez family recovered their home and furniture.

Donald May encountered another traumatic incident when he was driving home from work. An officer stopped him because of an expired tag on his car. Donald had a mint in his mouth when the officer stepped up to the window of his car. Seeing the white mint the officer believed it was crack cocaine and arrested Donald and impounded his car. The officer made several claims that were false and Donald ended up falsely imprisoned in jail for three months. He was finally released after tests proved that the mint was just that a mint and not cocaine. Meanwhile, Donald lost his job, his apartment, and his car which the police department auctioned off. As Donald says, "I lost everything."

Bad things do happen to good people who are just busy trying to live life. How are we to respond as Christians when those bad things happen to us? Do we blame God? Do we give up on trying to live the Christian life? What are we to do?

What we are to do is to stand up, put one foot in front of the other, continue on with living life, and serving our Lord. We are the beneficiaries of "grace in which we stand." That grace was not and is not free; it was paid for by the blood of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ on the cross at Calvary. While we are still clothed in this flesh and living on Planet Earth bad things do happen. We must not let that deter us from our mission to be "ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).” Instead of being discouraged, we must stand in the grace with which we have been blessed. Instead of being broken and beaten by life, we should be "steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that (our) your labor is not in vain in the Lord."

How is it possible for us to be steadfast in the face of evil? We can do all things through Christ, who strengthens us (Philippians 4:13), and we are His "ambassadors." Instead of focusing in upon the trouble, the problems, the pain that life may have sent your way - put your focus upon Jesus: "…consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls (Hebrews 12:3)." With your focus on Jesus you will have "perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3)," and you will be empowered and able to meet any challenge that you may encounter in life.

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08.11.09

Dry Lands and Green Pastures

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures…. - Psalm 23:1-2a.

O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. - Psalm 63:1.

The thrill seekers riding the Invertigo rollercoaster in Santa Clara, California found their thrill lasting a little longer than the planned 70 seconds yesterday. There reportedly was a problem with a lift chain which brought everything to a sudden halt leaving 24 riders just hanging out with their feet dangling. No one was upside down during the wait, but they were either leaning over backward or leaning forward at a severe angle, and it was a very warm day with the temperature in the nineties. Firefighters rescued the riders using a cherry picker one at a time. It took only an hour to rescue the first rider and close to five hours before they were all on the ground. None of the riders indicated that they would want to repeat the rollercoaster ride of their lives any time soon.

Living life as children of God can sometime be like a rollercoaster ride that comes to a sudden stop. However, it may take years before it starts to move again. Some of the greatest servants of God experienced it. King David experienced life stopping in a good place as in "green pastures" and also in "a dry and thirsty land." You may have experienced life in both places too. David’s experiences were both literal and spiritual. As with David, in whatever place you may find yourself, God will use it to mold and shape you so that you will be more and more conformed to the image of Christ.

The disciples of Jesus spent about three years with Him before His crucifixion and resurrection. It is said of Paul that he had his three years with Jesus too. From the time, he was forced to leave Jerusalem and go to the isolation of Tarsus until Barnabus came to find him again must have seemed like an eternity. In the quietness of isolation the apostle Paul received the finishing touches upon his character that he would need to faithfully carry out the missionary journeys and persevere through the persecution he would face. In the quietness of the isolation, the Lord’s still, small voice must have been amplified many times over.

I have only once thought that I heard the Lord speak to me audibly. It was years ago, before I was a pastor, and I was working in the oilfield. I was seeking God’s will for my life, praying for Him to bring about His will. I believed then and know now that He had called me to preach His Word but why was I not being allowed to do so? It was a dry, hot summer, and I was on a deserted oilfield location putting the finishing touches on an inspection job while the rest of the crew was at another location. There was no one else there. I was thinking and praying all of these things on that day which seemed to stretch out forever, like every other day that summer. That was when I heard someone call my name. One word, just my name. I stopped and turned in a circle looking for who it was - but there was no one there. One word, but it was enough to sustain me through those times and into the ministry.

In these days that I am living in now the Lord has made me to lay down in "green pastures." It is not a perfect place; however, it is a good place that my life is in now. I believe that God may possibly have something more for me, and if so, in His timing it will be revealed when I have been properly prepared for it.

Whether you are in a "dry and thirsty land" or the Lord has made you to lay "down in green pastures" it is not a wasted time. He is molding and shaping you for greater service as you come to be more and more like Jesus. Listen for His Voice.

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07.27.09

Directionally Challenged

Teach me Your way, O LORD, and lead me in a smooth path…. - Psalm 27:11.

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.

Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. - Psalm 37:4-6.

Max Kirsch had a few drinks and thought that the tunnel he drove into would take him to downtown area of Bochum, Germany, so he could watch a movie. Max finally realized that something was wrong when his car ground to a halt after the suspension system on the vehicle failed. Even though the ride must have been terribly rough he did not realize that anything was wrong until he got out of his car and found he had actually driven into a train tunnel. Because of his taking the wrong road Max now has to have his car repaired and has pending driving while intoxicated charges. Taking the wrong road caused some disruption as trains had to be stopped while police and fire personnel removed the vehicle from the tunnel.

There are some who are directionally challenged and end up going down train tunnels and going the wrong way on one way streets. Sadly, I have just heard about another severe accident with several deaths from a driver going the wrong way. In my only experience with driving in another country, I found myself going the wrong way on a one way street in Matamoros, Mexico. I thought that was scary, so we parked our car and found a taxi to take us to the Matamoros Market. The taxi driver knew where he was going, but I was rethinking my decision when he turned into the wrong lane to drive through a red light. I was a little concerned too when he waited for us at a bar to have a few drinks while we were shopping. Actually, our experience was mild compared to what one couple on their honeymoon shared about their Matamoros taxi ride, "If you're a fan of roller coasters, especially ones that become derailed mid-ride, you'll love a taxi ride in Matamoros. Taxi drivers have a completely different set of rules for driving than the rest of the population. Taxi drivers have no speed limit. They also have the right of way. Everywhere. The roads are very narrow, and if oncoming traffic is in your lane, the taxi driver may (and does) take to the sidewalk. Taxi drivers also use one way streets a lot. Since they are taxi drivers, however, they don't have to go the correct way down the street. This is the primary cause of the sidewalk driving, I believe. As I climbed shakily out of the taxi, I assured the driver that no, I would not be needing his services for the trip back to the border. I would walk."

Many people are a lot like Max and Matamoros taxi drivers; they know where they want to go, but they keep making the wrong turns to get there. They want to have a good life but really have no idea about how to successfully arrive at their goal. There are thousands and thousands of books that have been written about how to live life but do they have the correct directional information or are they filled with misinformation? How do you know the map of life that you have is providing the right directions? It may be that there are some great books about living life that are out there but how do you sort them out and find one that really works?

The great thing about the Bible is that you can trust it because the Bible has a proven track record of thousands of years and it has been used successfully by millions of people. The directions for life provided within the pages of the Bible have been proven to actually work in the laboratory of life. If you want to make your life path easier, smoother, and better than do this: "Commit your way to the LORD." Study the pages of God’s life map, the Bible, everyday and then "He shall give you the desires of your heart," and "bring forth your righteousness as the light."

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06.16.09

Are You Seeing Stars?

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. - 1 John 5:14-15.

Eighteen-year-old Kimberley Vlaminck is seeing stars; at least she sees them whenever she looks in a mirror. She is seeing stars in the mirror because she now has 56 stars tattooed on her face. Kimberley claims that the tattoo artist at the Tattoo Boy shop in Courtrai, Belgium misunderstood her because of his poor command of English and French. Kimberley went to sleep while the artist was working and woke up seeing stars. Kimberley in tears said this about her condition, "It is horrible, he has turned me into a freak. I can’t go out on the street now without people looking at me." However, the tattoo artist Rouslan Toumaniantz says that Kimberley "got what she wanted." Rouslan also indicated that Kimberley only became upset after her Dad became angry and her boyfriend left her. Kimberley is now suing so that she can obtain the funds necessary to have the stars removed from her face.

In life, it is true that sometimes we get what we ask for and when we do; the result, the outcome is sometimes very bad. Spiritually, we can always have a good outcome by seeking and asking according to God’s will. We can have "confidence" that if we ask "anything according to His will" that we will receive what we "asked of Him." God loves you so much that Jesus suffered and died for you (John 3:16). Of course, God wants the very best for your life. Of course, God’s will to be done in your life is the very best thing that could happen because, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:9)."

How often though do we turn in every direction except to God when we have needs? You need a job and so without any prayer you immediately start contacting friends, networking, sending out resumes, and filling out applications. You are facing the prospect of having your electricity turned off because of failure to pay for it, or you are unable to pay for your medications, or feed your family - so what do you do? Rob a bank?

What does Jesus say in Matthew 6:33? "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness…." Everything in our lives should be bathed in prayer. Before you jump to conclusions and in your desperation wake up seeing stars you ought to first…PRAY! Before you give up on ever having meaning and purpose in your life you should first…PRAY! Before you take that jump and do something crazy, take some time to…PRAY! Before you give in to your addiction as being something that is impossible to overcome…PRAY! Before you have someone give you 56 star tattoos on your face, maybe you ought take a moment and…PRAY!!!! As the apostle Paul puts it, we ought to "pray without ceasing (pray continually - NIV) in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18)."

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06.03.09

When the Wheels Fall Off

For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope. Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus. - Romans 15:4-5.

A car in Switzerland literally had its wheels fall off right in the middle of the road. Those traveling in the car had stopped a short time before and changed the tires replacing the winter tires with some summer tires. This is often necessary in Switzerland where there is so much snow in the wintertime. However, they used the wrong wheel nuts on the summer tires. Thankfully, no one was hurt in the incident.

"When the wheels fall off" is a proverbial saying that has its roots back to the time of horse drawn wagons. There have been songs written about it and most of us know that it basically means something bad. Without your wheels, your forward motion comes to a sudden, complete, and shocking halt. I’ve lost a wheel off of the trailer of a truck that I was driving, but we never found it. I was once following a truck when it lost one of the wheels, and it caused the car immediately behind it to go off the roadway and flip violently over and over several times. But I have never actually heard of a vehicle literally losing all four of the wheels at the same time!

In life, it sometimes happens that our wheels fall off and everything that we were doing comes to a sudden screeching violent stop. I have had my wheels fall off in life, and it has never been a pleasant experience. My wheels fell off when my wife left me for a week early in our marriage. My wheels fell off whenever I was laid off from a job, and when the business I was operating in the oilfield no longer had any customers because most of them went out of business or were bankrupt. My wheels fell off when I realized my income was far less than the bills that I had to pay. My wheels fell off when our second son was born with Down Syndrome and when sometimes our "perfect" older son would have problems. My wheels fell off too when I was hospitalized in 2003.

My wheel losing experience pales in comparison to what some have had. I have had the unpleasant experience while I was a parole officer of seeing broken people come into my office and share the details, of how they messed up their lives through criminal activity. I have had the unpleasant experience of arresting people at their place of employment because they had written a bad check. Not something that I wanted to do, but I was ordered to do so. But even those kinds of things pales in comparison to having a wife, or husband, or child to lose their life through illness, or because of an accident, or in some other way.

What do you do when your wheels fall off? Where do you turn, where do you go, where do you find help? The apostle Paul gives us some direction as he tells us how to find patience and comfort. Where do you find the patience to continue to live life during those very difficult times when your wheels have fallen off? How do you find any relief, any comfort? Through the Scriptures, through the Bible, Paul says there you find patience and comfort from the God of patience and comfort. If you want patience and comfort, you need to go to the source and that source is God. God is the One who has picked me up, put me back together, and got me going again every time that my wheels have fallen off. He will do the same for you, if you will let Him.

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06.02.09

Inconvenient

For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. "What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish. - Matthew 18:11-14.

I read an amazing story this morning that happened in Bridgeport, Connecticut; a bride who had just left her wedding reception spotted thick smoke coming from a house. Georgette Fogary Clemons yelled at her friend Hanifah Bost, "Stop the car, stop the car." Even though Georgette was still wearing her wedding dress, she got out of the car and ran through the thick smoke into the house. She could see that someone was in the house and when they failed to come out after she shouted at them, she went in after them. Hanifah ran after her and said later, "I don't know what she was thinking, she had just gotten married." Because of Georgette’s heroics the family was able to escape the inferno that soon erupted and everyone is okay. But Georgette did not stop there, she ran next door to warn the neighbors too. After it was all over Georgette said, "My shoes got messed up, but what are you going to do? At least the people are OK."

(There is a photo of Georgette posted at ConnPost dot com along with a story. At least one TV station has a video about this and there are a huge number of other media that are reporting, and blogs that have been written, also telling about this incredible story.)

It was terribly inconvenient for Georgette to disrupt her plans and become a heroine saving the lives of those in the burning house. Georgette had plans but those plans were changed when she saw the danger that an unknown family was in. She rushed in risking her own life to save the lives of people that she had never met. She could have lost her life, she did have her wedding day schedule changed, and it is likely that the course of her own life has been changed because of her heroic actions too.

It is usually inconvenient and even sometimes dangerous to share the gospel with the lost. There are times when we can make plans and approach our friends and relatives at a time that is comfortable for us and for them. However, that rarely happens, and we have to take advantage of opportunities that are presented or make opportunities to present the gospel. Sometimes it is awkward, and sometimes it is terribly inconvenient but the Spirit within us, compels us to say the words that will bring eternal life.

Often the opportunities to reach the lost will be thrust upon us unexpectedly just as Georgette unexpectedly found herself trying to save a family from the fire. I pray that we will have the courage to take advantage of those opportunities. Jesus came "to save that which was lost." If we are His children surely we will try to do the same, even if we have to leave the comforts of our usual life to do it.

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06.01.09

Just Having a Bad Day

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:6-7.

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. - 1 Corinthians 15:58.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care (anxiety - NIV) upon Him, for He cares for you. - 1 Peter 5:6-7.

At a Mobil Service Station in Boston a woman tried to run over another woman and rammed her SUV into the service station building several times. She narrowly missed hitting other people that were also at the station. Apparently, some words were said between the driver and the woman that was the target of the driver’s rage. One witness stated that the driver said that she was "having a bad day."

In Fort Smith, Arkansas a would be robber encountered a convenience store clerk who refused to give him any of the store’s money. The robber said to the clerk, "I hate to do this," as he lifted his shirt to reveal the gun that he had and demanded $40. After the clerk’s refusal to hand over the money the robber said that he needed the money for insulin. The clerk then gave the robber $40 of his own money to buy the insulin. The robber thanked the clerk and shook his hand before leaving. Of course, the police are searching for the would be robber.

There is no doubt that there are extreme pressures on many people in these days of job losses, investment disasters, and home foreclosures. But surely there is a better way to handle these pressures than by blindly lashing out at others or by turning to criminal activity.

What would it take for you to lose it and go off the deep end? How much pressure would have to be exerted before you abandoned your faith and began to act like a non-believer? Would only a few harsh words spoken at the wrong time send you over the edge like it did the woman in Boston? Would your own or your child’s health needs force you to turn to criminal activity?

When we are faced with seemingly impossible situations as Christians we are to be "steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord." How is this possible? Only through supernatural empowerment is it possible. It is not possible in our own strength to survive the pressures of life without at some point "losing it."

God has the resources that we need to cope with whatever we may encounter in life. Instead of lashing out at others, stop and pray, and then you will experience "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding," which "will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." Instead of turning to crime, turn to God - "casting all your care (anxiety - NIV) upon Him." By placing your problem, your need into the hands of God, you will allow Him to give you wisdom, guidance, and the provision that you need. God might have given, the would be robber the wisdom to go to any hospital emergency room and ask for help (Matthew 7:7-8). If they were unable to help, they would know who would be able to help him.

Just having a bad day is not a good reason for a believer to go off the deep end because as Psalm 118:24 says, "This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." Every day given into the hands of God has the potential to bring about good (Romans 8:28). Remember this: Whatever your problem, God has what you need!

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05.20.09

Unseen Dangers

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust." Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler (rescue you from every trap - NLT) and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. - Psalm 91:1-6.

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. - Isaiah 26:3.

In Malipo, China a family was living with an unseen danger for 20 years. The father of Wang Hexiong accidentally discovered that there was a strong magnetic attraction below a hallway in their home. The truth of the situation was revealed after the family told a police officer about the magnetic attraction in the hallway. A police unit was brought in to dig under the house to investigate and they found a cache of 38 old rusting World War II bombs that had been lurking beneath the family all these years. Even munitions from the US Civil War that have lain around far longer have proved to be deadly when mishandled.

Every day we pass through a minefield of potential dangers and many of those dangers are unseen. There are potential hazards to our health from toxic chemicals and environmental pollution. There are the threats posed by illnesses from viruses and bacteria. We know about the H1N1 virus, but it is now suspected that obesity may be caused by a virus. It has also recently been shown that one cause of high blood pressure may be a common virus. God only knows what other diseases may be caused by a microscopic virus or bacteria. We depend upon our vehicles, and even though we try to keep them in good shape, there may be a defect that could suddenly become evident. Financially we know now that there were unseen problems that have affected most of us and have devastated many.

How are we to cope with the potential dangers that we all face in life? We could become like Howard Hughes and become an urban hermit avoiding all contact with people. We can try wearing those surgical masks but maybe a big yellow self-contained environmental hazard suit would be safer to wear for whenever we leave our homes. Kings of old had their cupbearers to taste everything they ate and drank to be assured that it had not been poisoned. Maybe we could hire our own cupbearers? But most of these things are impractical and far too expensive for most of us. How do we find peace of mind in this modern world of potential dangers, which surround us?

Our place of safety, our refuge, our fortress is our God. We move forward with the living of life by placing our minds upon God instead upon the potential dangers that surround us. He will give us perfect peace when we trust Him and our minds are stayed upon Him. Live your life under the shadow of His wings praying for His will to be done in every aspect of your life; and you will have the strength, and the peace to cope with whatever you may encounter in life.

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05.13.09

Do You Smell?

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? - 2 Corinthians 2:14-16.

Someone working in an office in San Jose, California found an unplugged refrigerator that was full of nasty, moldy food, and decided to do something about it. This woman took all the food out of the fridge and put it into a conference room while she used some cleaning products to work on the refrigerator. The woman who was cleaning has allergies and was unable to smell the horrible odor that was created by the mess along with the cleaning materials. The horrific odor rapidly spread through the AT&T building in downtown San Jose. Someone called 911 and a hazmat team was sent in to investigate - by that time 28 people needed treatment for nausea and vomiting with seven needing hospitalization. What about the woman who was cleaning the refrigerator? She was probably delighted that the company had sent in a special team to help out with the cleaning, and because of her inability to smell, the odor did not bother her at all!

Did you know that some Christians smell? To some people Christians are a sweet smell and to others it appears from what the apostle Paul says that Christians smell like death. The odor of your life is spread wherever you go, by everything you do, by every interaction with others that you have. Everything that you touch in one way or another, with your life spreads a fragrance.

The fragrance of your life to some is a very sweet and wonderful smell because through your life, they are pointed to salvation in Jesus Christ. To others the fragrance of your life is the smell of death! Why is that? Some people touched by your life reject Christ and reject you because with your life you bring the judgment of God. Your life brings with it the fragrance of judgment and the knowledge of their unbelief toward Christ. Rejection of Christ as their Savior will ultimately cause eternal death, separation eternally from God.

It appears, however, that some Christians have no smell. The lost cannot smell them because they are not living their lives for the Lord. Surveys show that there is little difference in the way that the lost live their lives and the way that many Christians actually live their lives.

Can the lost smell you? Are you spreading the fragrance of Christ everywhere you go and with everything that you do? Is the fragrance of Christ spreading out from you touching life after life across this world? Live your life for Christ and not for the world and your life will have an eternal impact upon this world, just by the way, that it smells.

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05.12.09

Above the Law

Now the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the LORD. And the priests’ custom with the people was that when any man offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come with a three-pronged fleshhook in his hand while the meat was boiling. Then he would thrust it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; and the priest would take for himself all that the fleshhook brought up. So they did in Shiloh to all the Israelites who came there. Also, before they burned the fat, the priest’s servant would come and say to the man who sacrificed, "Give meat for roasting to the priest, for he will not take boiled meat from you, but raw." And if the man said to him, "They should really burn the fat first; then you may take as much as your heart desires," he would then answer him, "No, but you must give it now; and if not, I will take it by force." Therefore the sin of the young men was very great before the LORD, for men abhorred the offering of the LORD. - 1 Samuel 2:12-17.

And the Philistines fought, and Israel was smitten, and they fled every man into his tent: and there was a very great slaughter; for there fell of Israel thirty thousand footmen. And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain. - 1 Samuel 4:10-11.

Marcus Einfeld is a well known federal judge in Australia. Judge Einfeld had been the recipient in the past of the Order of Australia one of Australia’s greatest honors. Now, it appears that it is likely that he will be disbarred and the Order of Australia may be revoked. Judge Einfeld is 70-years-old and appears to have led a life of service to his country prior to this time in his life. It is especially sad that the judge has come to this point in his life because of lying to avoid a speeding fine of $50.00 ($77.00 Australia).

Judge Einfeld received the ticket because of an automated radar speed control system that indicated that he was driving 10kph above the speed limit. He could have just paid the fine, but instead he lied and said that it was not him but a friend, Teresa Brennan, who was driving. That worked well for a while until it was discovered by a reporter that Teresa Brennan had died three years before. Even after being confronted about his falsehood, he continued to claim his innocence until his court hearing where he pled guilty. In addition, another woman, Angela Liati, has become tied up in the situation by claiming that she was driving the judge’s vehicle at the time of the speeding offense. Angela is awaiting sentencing for her false statement.

In the Old Testament, we have an example of the sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, who thought that they were above the law of God. Hophni and Phinehas took what belonged to God for themselves. As it is written in 1 Samuel, "…the men abhorred the offering of the LORD." Sadly, Eli who was a man of God, did not intervene to prevent his sons from continuing in this travesty. This resulted in a direct punishment from God of the death of Hophni and Phinehas.

Sadly, there are many governmental officials and judges in the United States who believe that they are above the law. They cheat on their taxes, they take bribes, they commit other illegal acts, and it has made the government as a whole to appear to be corrupt. It gives an example to the citizens that this kind of behavior is acceptable because rarely is anyone prosecuted with more than with a proverbial slap on the hand.

There may appear to be little consequences for the corrupt actions of those in government and public life; however, we as children of God know that they are accountable to a higher authority, just as we are. We may indeed be able to avoid prosecution for something on this Earth but there is a higher authority. Let us lay our sins at the foot of the cross and never pick them up again because no one is really above the law.

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05.11.09

Following the Herd

And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: "I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people." Therefore "Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters says the LORD Almighty." - 2 Corinthians 6:16-17.

Mira Loma High seniors celebrated with their prom at the Sacramento Grand Ballroom. One of the seniors at the prom came up with the idea of trying to find out how many people can be crammed into an elevator. A chaperone did hear one of the kids talking about this, and it brought back memories of trying to do the same with the VW Beetle. They were able to squeeze 24 seniors into the elevator but then someone had the brilliant idea of taking the elevator up to the next floor. The elevator immediately became stuck between floors and as one student reported it was hot and hectic, since they did not know what was going on. One of the girls was claustrophobic but thankfully no one was injured seriously. It took two hours before firefighters finally found a way to rescue these teens from their self-imposed nightmare. I guess that’s why they have those load limits posted on most elevators.

The elevator fiasco was a result of following the herd, everyone else was doing it, so they got into the elevator too. If there had been room for 50 people on the elevator 26 more would have tried to crowd in. Following the herd has been a problem for people for as long as their have been people. The snake tempted Eve and she ate of the forbidden fruit. Eve gave Adam some of the fruit and he ate of it too, and if there had been a few more people back then they would probably all have eaten of it even though God had told them not to do it.

Following the herd is hard to avoid because of the peer pressure. When teens are at a party and alcohol is available will they drink it or will they not? When other teens are engaging in immoral behavior will they follow the rest? When the drugs are passed around will they take them or will they refuse? When others are cheating on their homework will they take the easy way too? I think that God would tell those contemplating such things to, "come out from among them…." Of course, adults have problems with following the herd too.

How can you avoid the following the herd trap? By deciding ahead of time that you will not be a part of anything that will dishonor your God. Decide now that you will not be a part of anything that will endanger the lives of others or your own. If you wait until the moment that you are confronted with an immoral choice to make up your mind you will make yourself much more susceptible to making the wrong choice. Decide now, not later, that you are going to be God’s man or God’s woman and that you will make a stand for what is right no matter what those around you may think. In the long run, you will never regret doing what is right. So, "come out from among them…."

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05.08.09

Imperfect Governments

My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, "You sit here in a good place," and say to the poor man, "You stand there," or, "Sit here at my footstool," have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? - James 2:1-4.

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. - James 2:8-9.

About a year ago the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise in Elk City, Oklahoma, which I live about 30 miles from, built a new restaurant. A preacher friend of mine pointed out to me at the time, a sign that is right next to the KFC building. The sign proudly announces that Elk City is a "bird sanctuary." Apparently some birds are more protected than other birds! Surprisingly, the sign has never been moved to a less conspicuous place.

In the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America signed July 4, 1776 we find these words, "WE hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…." Of course, we know that some people were not actually considered to be a part of "all men" even though obviously they were.

On July 9, 1868, the 14th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States was ratified which states in part, "no state shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws" Since that time "hate crime" legislation has been enacted on a federal level to attempt to further protect persecuted minorities. However, in the attempt to protect certain groups of people with "hate crime" legislation it appears that other groups of people will become less protected and less privileged.

Governments, as with people are imperfect. We, of course, desire for a government of free people to be perfect in the governance of those people. However, such a perfect government has never been seen on the face of this Earth, and it never will be until our Lord‘s return. In some ways, a government is a mirror of the people that are governed especially in a free society. As we see an increasingly corrupt government it mirrors the corruptness of the people who vote to elect those that govern.

What is the best way, the quickest way to change a corrupt, inept government? By a change in the hearts of the people. In the Book of Judges this occurred repeatedly. When the hearts of the people changed, God raised up a leader that led them to freedom from the oppression that had been placed upon them. The problem for the people began when in Judges 2:11 we read, "Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD…." The result of their sin was that, "Wherever they went out, the hand of the LORD was against them for calamity, as the LORD had said, and as the LORD had sworn to them. And they were greatly distressed (Judges 2:15)." In Judges 3:9 we read, "When the children of Israel cried out to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for the children of Israel, who delivered them…."

Let us as Christians live as Christians treating all people as equals. Let us as Christians cry out to God seeking His will to be done in our lives and in the country in which we live. 2 Chronicles 7:14 tells us what we must do, "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."

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05.07.09

Lost in the Woods

Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, "This Man receives sinners and eats with them." So He spoke this parable to them, saying: "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.

"Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!’ Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." - Luke 15: 1-10.

(Read also the Parable of the Lost Son - Luke 15:11-31)

Joshua Childers has been found! Joshua had been lost in the woods of Missouri’s Mark Twain National Forest for 50 hours. He slipped out of his family’s mobile home late Monday morning and wandered away. He was found about three miles from home wearing only a shirt, one shoe, and he was all wet. He had survived over two days of exposure in the cold and wet woods. Joshua is only three years old! The man who found the boy, Donnie Halpin, said that the family was, "…just happy, so happy to have their little boy back." Madison County Sheriff David Lewis knew that time was running out and thought that three days would be the most that a little boy could survive on his own in the woods with no food, and hardly any clothing. Sheriff Lewis said after the boy was found, "It's a miracle, I'm so happy you can't believe it!"

You may have never been lost in the woods wandering around trying to survive but there are a lot of people who are lost in a spiritual sense in this world. They are just as lost as that little boy was, they do not know which way to turn, and when they do make a decision, it often makes their situation even worse.

Many of the lost have given up on trying to make sense of the world; they are just trying to make it through another day. Often the lost may feel as though no one cares for them or knows what they are going through. However, they are wrong about that because God makes it clear that He is searching for them, and that He cares for them. In fact, not only is the Holy Spirit there trying to get their attention, there is an army of believers who are out looking for them and trying to find them.

Thirty-nine years ago my wife shared with me her testimony of when she had prayed to receive Jesus as her Savior when she was a little girl. The next day I made an appointment to see the pastor of a church that was a few blocks away from us. As the pastor, Finley Tinnin, led me to the Lord, he shared with me Revelation 3:20 where Jesus says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." Dr. Tinnin then asked me if I wanted to pray and ask Jesus to come into my heart. I prayed silently asking Jesus to come into my life. I’m not really sure that I prayed in words, I just wanted Jesus. Jesus walked through the door and into my life.

If you have been lost in the woods of life, Jesus is knocking at the door of your life, and He wants to come in - now, would be a good time to let Him in. Why not open the door and ask Him to come into your heart and life, right now?

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05.06.09

Looking Back

The sun had risen upon the earth when Lot entered Zoar. Then the LORD rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah, from the LORD out of the heavens. So He overthrew those cities, all the plain, all the inhabitants of the cities, and what grew on the ground. But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. - Genesis 19:23-26.

In Fresno, California, a 20-year-old man is back in jail, again. The man had been arrested and incarcerated being charged with child abuse and marijuana possession. He was released from jail (It is unknown whether those charges are still pending.); however, he has now been arrested and incarcerated for the felony charge of receiving stolen property. What was the stolen property? A Fresno County Jail T-Shirt with the word, "PRISONER" on the back. He apparently had taken the shirt with him when he was released on the first charges. Why? Maybe he had enjoyed his stay in jail so much that he wanted a souvenir to help him to remember the good times that he had while he was there. Of course, now he gets to wear his "PRISONER" shirt for real.

Lot’s wife appears to have had a problem similar to that of the man in the Fresno County Jail. Lot and his family had been delivered from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and the delivering angels had warned them, "Escape for your life! Do not look behind you (Genesis 19:17b)." But Lot’s wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt. What was it that she was missing back there in Sodom and Gomorrah? Why was it that God destroyed the place with fire and brimstone? Abraham is told in Genesis 18:20 that it would be destroyed, "because their sin is very grave (NKJV) (grievous - KJV; immense - The Message; flagrant - NLT; extremely serious - Holman)." Did Lot’s wife miss the immorality of the place so flagrantly h_mos_xual that the men of the city demanded that Lot send out the angels so "that we may know them carnally (19:5c)?" Or, was she missing her material possessions, a house, and other things that she was leaving behind?

Do you see the parallel to the Christian life? Lot’s wife had been saved from immediate death - angels had been sent to personally deliver her and her family. She had seen the angels with her own eyes but still looked back, apparently wanted to go back. So many of us as Christians have been saved from eternal destruction, we have been rescued by Jesus who suffered and died in our place. However, we are like Lot’s wife, and sometimes we try to go back. Sometimes we start acting like we used to act before we were set free. We start wearing our "PRISONER" shirts around acting like we are still in jail for our sins.

What would God tell us to do when we are tempted to look back? Perhaps he would tell us what the apostle Paul says in Philippians 3:13-14, "Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." May we all forget those things that are behind us, that we have been saved from, and reach forward, pressing on for "the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

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05.01.09

Ludicrous

The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." - Psalm 14:1.

H1N1 aka Swine Flu is a problem and in a few months it may be a more severe problem when a second wave of the flu may sweep across the world. In what is called "bizarre" by some in Great Britain a MP there has gotten into a little trouble with his humor suggesting that the singing sensation Susan Boyle (What a voice!) caused swine flu. On his Twitter page Sion Simon posted this: "I’m not saying Susan Boyle caused swine flu. I’m just saying that nobody had swine flu, she sang on TV, people got swine flu." I have a word for that: ludicrous! Dictionary dot com defines ludicrous in this way: "causing laughter because of absurdity; provoking or deserving derision; ridiculous; laughable."

Here are some other things that I think are ludicrous:

Denial of the Holocaust - Six million Jews massacred.

Take a look at a list of some of the evidence held by the United States Holocaust Museum: http://www.ushmm.org/research/collections/overview/

Denial of the Armenian Holocaust - 1.5 million Armenians massacred.

There are many articles that you can find about this but one by Robert Fisk grabbed my attention: http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/27/057.html

God does not exist.

"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:20)."

God doesn’t care.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son… (John 3:16a)."

Believing you are a Christian just because you are a member of a church.

"Thomas said to Him, ‘Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:1-6).’"

Believing you will go to Heaven because the good things you have done will outweigh the bad things you have done.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9)."

We may not want to believe that some things are true but that does not make them any less true just because we refuse to believe it. The evidence is overwhelming that the Holocaust and that the Armenian Holocaust occurred. We may not want to believe that Stalin murdered millions of people but the evidence is overwhelming. We may not want to believe the horrendous killings that occurred in Rwanda, but they still happened whether we choose to believe it happened or not. We may not want to believe that some things are lies but just because we believe a lie to be true does not make it true. As Jesus said, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:31-32)."

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04.30.09

Not too Old

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish. - Psalm 1:1-6.

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. - 1 John 1:8.

In Rome, an elderly 76-year-old Dutch man was just minding his own business on a little trip to Italy. He did have a suitcase full of oranges, but as he told the custom officers he needed to keep his vitamin C level up. Strange, but true, these oranges had a little extra bite to them. Officers discovered that the oranges were filled with 13 pounds (six kilograms) of cocaine and the cocaine would have had a street value of about 6.6 million dollars. Now this nice little old man has been charged with international drug trafficking charges. Of course, now he does not have to worry about how he will make it through his retirement years since Italy will be providing for his room, board, and medical care for probably the rest of his life.

They are not just picking on little old men, in Pennsylvania two sisters (one is 65-years-old and the other 70-years-old) have been charged with selling heroin. Of course, they were just trying to supplement their social security, and you know that extra $10,000 dollars a week really helped out.

A 2008 report from Japan revealed that more of the elderly there are involved in crime. No mention of drug activity but they are picking pockets, shoplifting, and one 79-year-old woman was arrested for slashing with a knife two women near a Tokyo railway station. She stated that she had left a homeless shelter and wanted the police to take care of her. It is a sad situation there, and I suspect across the world in these difficult economic times. Criminal activity in Japan has doubled in the last five years for those 65-years-old and older. I would not be surprised to find a similar doubling of older criminal activity across the world.

Do you think that if you were a hundred years old that you would no longer have a problem with sin? I read a news report recently from Africa of a 107-year-old man arrested for illegal drug activity. It appears that you cannot become so old that you cannot be tempted by sin, whether it is selling drugs, shoplifting, picking pockets, telling lies, or you can fill in the blank ________.

It is to some extent frightening to think that in our older years, we might be tempted to succumb to some temptation that ruins our witness and harms the ones that we love. What can we do to guard against that happening? The Psalmist has the prescription. The Psalmist tells us not to hang around with the ungodly, and instead delight ourselves in the law of the LORD meditating in it day and night. The result will be a godly life with roots growing down deep which sustain us when we grow older and will help to keep us from succumbing to those temptations.

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04.29.09

Break the Cycle

And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. - 1 John 3:22-24.

When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place. - 2 Chronicles 7:13-15.

What would you do if you had to repeat the same day over and over again? In the movie "Groundhog Day" that is what happens to Phil Conners (Bill Murray) who is sent to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to do a story on the annual Groundhog Day festivities. Phil finds himself repeating the same day over and over and over again. Things go from bad to worse until he decides to take advantage of the time instead of wasting it. Phil spent months learning the art of flicking a card into a hat perfectly each time. But Phil’s heart changes and eventually the day arrives when it is no longer Groundhog Day but tomorrow.

In the Book of Judges the Children of Israel have their own Groundhog Day. No, it is not the same day repeating over and over but it is the same cycle of life repeating itself over and over. After the death of Joshua the Israelites had abandoned the worship of the One True God and instead served the false God of Baalim (Judges 2:10-13). When the people sinned God would allow their enemies to defeat them. In their torment, the people would cry out to God for help. Each time this happened God would send a leader, who was called a judge to deliver them. This cycle of sin, torment, repentance, and deliverance was repeated over and over again. It happened to the children of Israel, and it can happen to the United States or to any country that turns away from God. We need to be crying out for God to deliver us before the judgment of God comes upon us.

This painful cycle of sin, pain, repentance, and deliverance occurs not just to countries but in our lives as well. Until we learn the lesson and break the cycle by walking in obedience to God, we are doomed to go through that cycle over and over again. We will never fully experience the abundant life until we break out of this cycle.

Phil Conners eventually learned his lesson. Will we?

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04.28.09

Finish the Race

And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. - Acts 20:22-25.

In the Aaron’s 499 race at the Talladega Superspeedway at Talladega, Alabama, Carl Edwards was in the last lap of the race when his car went airborne crashing into the fence protecting the fans. Some of the fans were injured, but thankfully they are going to be okay. Carl was uninjured, and when he realized he was okay he climbed out of the car… and then he finished the race. He could no longer win the race, but he could finish the race, and that is what he did as he ran across the finish line on foot.

The apostle Paul was determined to finish his race too. Paul’s race was the race of life, and he had already had some "crashes" on his way to the finish line with much opposition. He had been stoned to death but raised by prayer (Acts 14:19-20), he barely escaped in Thessalonica, and there was a continual harassment by the Judaizers following him around trying to cause problems. In Acts 20, Paul is headed for Jerusalem even though he has been supernaturally told that there are difficulties ahead for him. He does not know definitely what those difficulties will be; however, he knows what is ahead may be very bad because he has been through some bad things along the way.

In Acts 21, we are told that Paul receives a further more definite warning about what is to come. Although it appears that Paul may have already perceived this as a possibility and the warning was to help those with him to understand. In Acts 21:10-13 we are told this, "and as we stayed many days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. When he had come to us, he took Paul’s belt, bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.’ Now when we heard these things, both we and those from that place pleaded with him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, ‘What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’" Paul wanted to finish the race, even if he had to crawl across the finish line. He wanted to live his life in the center of God’s will down to the last moment of his life, down to and through the last breath that he took.

How is your race going? Are you in the last lap or are you just going into the first turn? Wherever you are at along the way you are going to need something to make it to the end. That something that you need is a determination to finish the race no matter what obstacle or obstacles you may encounter. How do you get that kind of determination, that kind of strength? Jesus is the only One who can give the determination and the strength to you that you will need. That is exactly the source of Paul’s determination and strength. Paul knew that well as he said in Philippians 4:11-13, "Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

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04.27.09

Boasting in Evil

Why do you boast in evil, O mighty man? The goodness of God endures continually. Your tongue devises destruction like a sharp razor, working deceitfully. You love evil more than good, lying rather than speaking righteousness. Selah. You love all devouring words, you deceitful tongue. - Psalm 52:1-4.

When you do evil, then you rejoice. - Jeremiah 11:15c.

"Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed; nor did they know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time I punish them, they shall be cast down," says the LORD. Thus says the LORD: "Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’" - Jeremiah 6:15-16.

Mass murderers, serial killers, pedophiles, scam artists, crooked politicians, s_exual deviants, same-s_x marriage, drug dealers, bank robbers, pirates, financial frauds, greedy bankers and stock brokers, pay-to-play political cronyism, an er_tic section on something called craigslist, and the list goes on and on and on. What kind of list is this? It is a list that is indicative of the sickness of our society. There has always been crime and evil, but it does appear that in the United States and across the world that the level of evil is increasing.

The attitude of many who are involved in evil appears to be the same as during the time of Jeremiah and as David wrote in his psalm. Many today who ought to hang their heads in shame instead appear to take pride in their involvement in evil. I have yet to see Bernie Madoff appear to be ashamed of what he has done. Instead of confessing and trying to restore the victims he and his family have been busy trying to hide their financial assets. I have yet to see any politician admit to responsibility for the financial disaster that we are now experiencing. Instead we see the appearance of corruption with pork barrel pay-offs and billions of dollars unaccounted for by anyone. I have not seen anyone involved in the financial world stand up and say that they were wrong - instead we see them grabbing for all the money they can lay their hands on.

What is wrong with our country? What is wrong with our world? I believe the immorality that we are seeing that is so abundant everywhere is a result of being on the wrong path. Somewhere along the way we have gotten off course. When I was growing up, I was in a nominally Christian family but I have learned that I have ancestors who were very devoted to the Lord.

Somewhere along the way the children of the devout have gotten off course, and it has impacted their children and their children’s children and on and on. It will continue to have a negative impact upon our lives, unless, we do what? Unless we "Stand in the ways." Stop going down the wrong path. "Ask for the old paths." Ask the Lord to help us to find the right path for our lives and to give us the power to live godly lives as many of our ancestors once did.

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04.24.09

Pretenders

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. - James 5:16.

"…casting down arguments and every high thing (We demolish arguments and every pretension - NIV) that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. - 2 Corinthians 10:5.

An intoxicated 23-year-old man fell off a bridge in Minnesota early one morning. He did not really intend to fall off the bridge, although while he was pretending to be falling off the bridge, he actually fell. He fell about 30 feet into a marshy area of the Minnesota River and thankfully was in stable condition following his rescue. A friend was present at the time and called for help.

Have you ever pretended to be something that you were not? Have you ever pretended to be "holier than thou" when you were really just a worm of a sinner (Romans 3:23) like everyone else? Have you ever pretended that everything is perfect in your family and life when actually everything is falling apart? Have you ever prayed for all those others out there with addictions when you have your own secret addiction?

I am often told about situations and problems in the lives of people but am told at the same time that this is very private and not to send out a prayer request about it. I do understand their fears about others knowing of some secret, perhaps shameful thing because I have had those fears too. However, if we really want God to do something about the situation or the problems we need to share what is going on in our lives with our brothers and sisters in Christ. If we were all upfront and honest about our lives it would be easier to share about our own lives because then we would know that those Christians pretending to be perfect are not any more perfect than we are.

Before we come to know Jesus as our personal Savior, we pretend that we have no need for God because we are self-made people. We live in denial of our lost condition by pretending that we do not sin any more than anyone else and so if they are going to Heaven, we will too. After we come to know Jesus as our personal Savior and are born again many then begin to live their lives, as if they have no need for God because their lives are perfect. How sad! Let us stop being pretenders!

Pretending we are something that we are not just causes more problems, fear, and pain. If we are truly brothers and sisters in Christ then we are family. If we are family, we should be able to share our problems with one another and then the whole family can help to bear those problems. If you are a child of God you are not alone! You have a family. You have brothers and sisters who love you and care about you. You no longer have to pretend because God is your Father and through Jesus you are perfect in His sight. Rejoice! He has covered you with the "garments of salvation…the robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10)."

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04.23.09

How to be Wise

For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly. - Proverbs 2:6-8.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by me your days will be multiplied, and years of life will be added to you. - Proverbs 9:10-11.

And Bezalel and Aholiab, and every gifted artisan in whom the LORD has put wisdom and understanding, to know how to do all manner of work for the service of the sanctuary, shall do according to all that the LORD has commanded. - Exodus 36:1.

As for these four young men, God gave them knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom; and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams. - Daniel 1:17.

In a junior high school class that I once had, gum chewing was forbidden on penalty of spanking; however, all my other classes allowed the chewing of gum. One day I had forgotten to remove my chewing gum prior to the class beginning, but even though I tried to hide the fact of the gum being in my mouth, Mr. Wise spotted the error of my ways. I then experienced the humiliation, the embarrassment of being the only student caught in violation of the gum chewing rule the entire year, and I remember well the three licks with the board of correction with holes drilled in it. My fondness for chewing gum was substantially diminished on that day. Imagine my shock to learn today that chewing gum may actually raise the academic performance of teenagers! According to the study conducted by the Baylor College of Medicine, gum chewers scored higher on standardized math tests than non-gum chewers and the gum chewers had higher grades at the end of the term. Now I know what I have always suspected, Mr. Wise was not really all that wise.

There is even a better way to intellectual success than gum chewing. The way to become wise is through the wisdom of God, and we are given some examples in the Bible of how God was able to supernaturally give wisdom, knowledge, and skill to individuals. In the book of Exodus, we are told of those who were given skill as craftsmen. In the book of Daniel, we are told of the four young men who were given "knowledge and skill in all literature and wisdom." Then there is the example of Solomon of whom it is said that he was the wisest man who ever lived. We are told in 1 Kings 4:29-32, "And God gave Solomon wisdom and exceedingly great understanding, and largeness of heart like the sand on the seashore. Thus Solomon’s wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the men of the East and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men—than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was in all the surrounding nations. He spoke three thousand proverbs, and his songs were one thousand and five."

Solomon’s wisdom came directly from God and God is the source of all true wisdom. Shortly after Solomon became King, God told Solomon to ask whatever he wanted from God. Instead of asking for riches, Solomon asked, "…give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours (1 Kings 3:9)?" God gave Solomon, "a wise and understanding heart (1 Kings 3:12)."

If you really want to be wise you must go to the source of true wisdom which is found only in God. If you really want wisdom then do as Moses says in Deuteronomy 4:29, "… seek Him (God) with all your heart and with all your soul."

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04.21.09

Standing Up

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.

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination. - Leviticus 1:22.

(See also: 1 Corinthians 6:9; Romans 1:19-32.)

According to various news reports the following question and answer was recorded during the 2009 Miss USA Pageant:

Perez Hilton, one of the judges asking a question of Carrie Prejean, Miss California: "Vermont recently became the fourth state to legalize same s_x marriage. Do you think every state should follow suit? Why or why not?"

Carrie Prejean: "Well I think it is great that Americans can choose one or the other. We live in a land where you can choose same s_x marriage or opposite marriage. And you know what, in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offense to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised and that’s how I think it should be between a man and a woman. Thank you very much."

Thank you Carrie Prejean for deciding to state what you truly believe in the midst of a very difficult situation! Carrie knew the answer that Perez Hilton wanted to hear, and she also knew that not giving the politically correct answer could cost her the Miss USA crown but she chose to stand up for what she believed to be right. The consequences are obvious in that she did not win the pageant and instead is the first runner-up. However, Carrie has won something far better and greater than a temporary title and crown; she has won the knowledge of knowing that she did what was right and the respect and admiration of millions of people.

According to at least one poll 70% of Americans agree with Carrie Prejean but not everyone who believes it, is standing up for it. We are as Christians to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Jesus says, "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:13-16)." Carrie’s "salt" has not lost its savor and her "light" is shining and everyone can see it.

For the 70% of Americans who agree with Carrie and those across the world who are also in agreement, we need to ask ourselves these questions: "Am I still the ‘salt of the earth?’" "Is my light still shining?"

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04.15.09

Tax Day

When they had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, "Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?" He said, "Yes." And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their sons or from strangers?" Peter said to Him, "From strangers." Jesus said to him, "Then the sons are free. Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened its mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you." - Matthew 24:24-27.

Then they asked Him, saying, "Teacher, we know that You say and teach rightly, and You do not show personal favoritism, but teach the way of God in truth: Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" But He perceived their craftiness, and said to them, "Why do you test Me? Show Me a denarius. Whose image and inscription does it have?" They answered and said, "Caesar’s." And He said to them, " Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s." - Luke 20:21-25.

Today is the day in the United States that most citizens are required to file a tax return. Some of us may file extensions and send in the completed form later, however, whatever money you owe is still due today. Failure to file your tax return is a crime and failure to pay will result in accumulating financial penalties and interest charges. So, even if you do not have the money to pay all that you may owe in taxes you should always file your tax return. Although I have personally known some people who have not filed a tax return in many years…I guess you could call that a denial of the reality of the world in which we live.

Across the United States today tax protests in the form of tea parties are being held. The original tea party helped to stir the colonies to rebel against England back in the 1700s. Some 2,000 tea parties are planned today but no one really knows how many will attend or what impact they may have. No doubt many of us are frustrated by the amount of taxes that we pay and what now appears to be an increasing tax burden coming our way.

One question for us as Christians is whether or not God would have us to pay our taxes? The answer is, yes. Jesus paid not only the Roman tax but also the temple tax. One problem with the Roman tax was that the Roman Emperor claimed that he was divine. So if the tax was paid would it amount to worship of a pagan god? Jesus answered the question by saying, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s."

For those of you that believe in a very literal translation of the Bible here are some questions. Since Jesus paid his taxes with a coin should we only pay our taxes with coins? Perhaps pennies? Then, of course, you have the fish question. Are you only able to pay your taxes if you go fishing and find a coin in the mouth of the fish you catch?

The good news from the Bible about tax day comes from Matthew 6:25-26 as Jesus says, "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?"

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04.14.09

Think, Jesus

Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. - James 1:12-16.

Artyom Sidorkin showed up at a hospital in Izhevsk, Russia with a fir tree growing in his lung! Well, it was actually only five centimeters long, but it was large enough to cause him some major pain and he was coughing up blood. When doctors first examined him, they suspected that he had cancer and ordered a biopsy. However, they were a little surprised to find some green needles! The tiny little tree was removed successfully. It is thought that Artyom may have breathed in a bud; then it began to grow in his lung and cause major physical problems.

Our problems with sin usually begin with a tiny little thought or idea that is placed in our hearts. Instead of dismissing the thought we let it hang around for awhile. Every few days we find ourselves thinking about the forbidden fruit of a thought that has somehow become implanted in our heart. Whenever we think about that forbidden fruit of a thought it grows a little larger, and little larger. We find that we have been "drawn away" by our "own desires and enticed." Then we find that the little bud of the forbidden fruit has "conceived." "It gives birth to sin" and as it grows larger begins to bring pain and death into our lives.

One of the tricks you could say of dealing with a sinful thought is not to focus on that thought. The more attention that we give to the sinful thought the more likely we will act upon it. What we need to do is to immediately focus our thoughts upon something else. One of the best things to do is to focus our thoughts on Scripture. If we have verses of Scripture memorized, we can begin to run one of those verses or even several of those verses through our minds. If we do not have Scripture memorized, and we are where we have access to a Bible or New Testament, we can begin to read God’s Word when we have those thoughts. Another thing to do and perhaps to do in combination with the other things is to pray. We can always pray silently. We can pray very short and effective prayers such as, "Lord, help me!" "Lord, guard my heart." "Lord, unite my heart."

The writer of the Book of Hebrews understood this principle of refocusing our attention. We are told in Hebrews 12:1b-3, "…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." In the next verse he says, "For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls (Hebrews 12:3)."

So, when you are confronted by sinful thoughts or ideas refocus your attention. Look "unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" and contemplate upon all that He has done for you. "Consider Him" placing your thoughts and focus upon Jesus through Scripture, through prayer, through contemplation, and you will defeat the evil thoughts and desires that sometimes come your way. Remember, think, Jesus!

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04.13.09

Don’t Jump!

Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine, those who go in search of mixed wine. 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 your 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 23:29-35.

A 32-year-old woman jumped willingly into the polar bear pit at the Berlin Zoo. Not surprisingly, this did not turn out very well for her as one of the bears bit her on her arms, legs, hips and back. Perhaps the most surprising thing about this is that the woman actually survived although with severe injuries. An adult polar bear can weigh as much as 1500 lbs. (680 kg.) and is a vicious predator. Much credit goes to the zoo employees who reacted immediately to try distract the bears and at the same time pull the woman out of the pit.

We can learn an important lesson from this sad event at the Berlin Zoo. We can learn that if you jump into a pit with polar bears it is not going to end up very well for you and you may even end up being lunch for the polar bears. It does seem strange that we human beings are capable of such non-rational acts. We seem to have a habit though of jumping into things that will obviously bring much pain into our lives.

If you drink alcohol to excess it is going to cause you problems as the writer of Proverbs says, "at the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper." If you jump into the pit of methamphetamine use, or cocaine use, or the abuse of any drug you are going to be bitten. If you jump into the pit of having an affair you can expect to be bitten. If you jump into the pit of felonious behavior, whether robbing banks or writing bad checks you can expect to be bitten.

You can spare yourself a whole lot of pain in life by just refusing to take the jump. Don’t jump into the polar bear pit! Don’t jump into the alcohol pit! Don’t jump into the extra-marital affair pit! Don’t jump into an illegal drug use pit! Don’t jump into the law breaking pit! Don’t jump into the doing anything to make money pit!

The Bible warns against many things, our laws prohibit many things, and our parents tell us not to do other things. Why? Because there are things out there in this world that are just as dangerous as a hungry polar bear. Before you jump into the pit you might want to give it another thought, ask for some advice, wait a few minutes or even better, pray about it. You don’t really want to be lunch for a polar bear do you?

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04.11.09

Finding Life

Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, "Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’" And they remembered His words. Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them. But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened. - Luke 24:1-12.

If you had been one of the women who went to the tomb of Jesus on that Sunday morning of the resurrection what would you have thought? How would you have responded? You have to remember that a huge stone had been placed in front of the entrance to the tomb and a seal had been placed on it. In addition, guards had been placed at the entrance to make sure that nothing happened to the body of Jesus. When the women arrived at the tomb the stone has been rolled away and the guards are gone (Matthew 27:66). The body of Jesus is not there! They expected to find the body of a dead rabbi, and they fully expected that he would remain dead.

When the women told the disciples about what they had seen, their words "seemed to them like idle tales." In other words, the disciples thought the women were crazy to be saying something like that.

Peter ran to the tomb to see for himself. He found that the tomb was empty except for the burial clothes or cloths. How did Peter react to this scene? The NIV translates it in this way "…wondering to himself what had happened." Even though Jesus had plainly told his disciples that He would be put to death. In Luke 18:31-33 we are told: "Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.’"

Too often we have problems similar to those of the women and of the disciples when we are trying to find help spiritually. We try to find solutions to life’s problems, but we look for those solutions in the cemetery. The spiritual solutions that we need will not be found in the dead ways of the world. Taking another drink, popping another pill, having another affair, buying a new car, and on and on; will not give us happiness, peace, and fulfillment. Jesus, the Prince of Life, is the One, who can give you life, and life more abundantly. Jesus is the only One who has the power to lay down His life and to take it up again.

Too often we read about God’s power, and we think it is crazy to believe that God can change anything in our own lives. The disciples thought the women were just crazy for saying that Jesus was not in the tomb. The truth is that the resurrection power is available today through Jesus Christ and that power can change your life. That’s what Easter is all about!!

May you have a glorious Resurrection Sunday!! May the Lord touch your life in a fresh and new way!!

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04.09.09

He’s on His Way

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know. - John 14:1-3.

Growing up on a farm it was rare to be able to go to town and visit my friends except during school. One of those rare days arrived during the summer when I was ten years old. My Dad was taking the tractor and mower to the big town of Canute, Oklahoma (Population about 500.) to help clean up the empty lots. I was allowed to take my bicycle along and spend the day having fun with my friends.

When the time came to go home, I asked my parents if I could ride my bike home. It was four and a half miles to our farm. They agreed and they would be coming along later. The first mile went fine but I had to walk up Turkey Creek Hill and then I noticed both my tires were nearly flat. By the time I had pushed the bike another mile I was hot, tired, and crying. That was when my parents drove up. They could see I was upset and my Dad said, "Didn’t you know we would be coming?" While I had given up my parents were on their way to pick me up.

Sometimes, most of the time, when bad things happen, we become impatient. All we can see is what is going on in our lives right then. All we can feel is the pain we feel then. What God would want you to know is this: He’s still there, He’s still God, He still loves you. He’s on His way to pick you up.

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04.08.09

Twisting Off

Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ; not with eye service, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good anyone does, he will receive the same from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free. And you, masters, do the same things to them, giving up threatening, knowing that your own Master also is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him. - Ephesians 6:5-9.

Masters, give your bondservants what is just and fair, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven. - Colossians 4:1.

During these difficult economic times there has been a wave of "bossnappings" in France. There is a previous history of bossnapping in France dating back to 1968 and into the 1970s. A bossnapping usually involves desperate workers being laid off, holding the boss hostage, demanding better terms. The bossnappers usually want guarantees of jobs, no sudden lay offs, and reasonable pay.

Long before the current economic problems there have been problems between employees and their supervisors. Thankfully (and hopefully), there are no longer bondservants or slaves in most modernized countries. Problems often arise in employee supervisor relationships when the employee is viewed as an object, a tool, or even as a slave by the supervisor. Often the employee feels trapped and because of their financial situation is unable to simply quit and walk away from their job which results in increasingly adverse workplace conditions.

While I was working in the oilfield there was a term for those who suddenly quit or walked off from their employment usually because of poor working conditions and the relationship with their supervisor. The term used for that kind of behavior was for someone to "twist off." The term came from when a string of drill pipe was lost in a hole when the pipe "twisted off." I once twisted off after being cussed out in front of my crew for nothing that I had done or that my crew had done. Two of my crewmembers after I had left then participated in a bossbeating. That is what happens in the real world when people are treated like slaves. People can be pushed to a point where it does not matter what the financial or other consequences may be, they simply will not take that kind of treatment any longer and there will be a rebellion. You could think of a group of people going out on strike as a more formalized form of this kind of behavior and in France, they have bossnappings. So far, I have not heard of any bossbeatings but that may be coming if things do not improve.

Having supervised large groups of men during sometimes very difficult conditions in the oilfield I know that the best way to keep operations running smoothly is to treat your employees as you would want to be treated yourself. I never asked anyone to do anything that I would not have been willing to do myself. The Golden Rule as stated by Jesus in Matthew 7:12 should be the Golden Rule not just in life but also for employees, employers, and supervisors. Jesus says, "…whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets."

Here is an additional reason for employers and supervisors to observe the Golden Rule in their relationships with their employees: "…you also have a Master in heaven."

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04.06.09

Search the Scriptures

Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. - Acts 17:10-12.

In Elkhart, Indiana while searching an apartment during a drug raid officers found a handwritten recipe for manufacturing methamphetamine in an unusual place. The meth recipe was written in a Bible on the last page of the Book of Revelation. Two of the residents of the apartment were arrested and charged with possession and manufacturing charges. Several months ago a methamphetamine lab actually blew up in the same apartment building. I guess what I find most strange about this is that one of the officers took time to read the Bible during the search! Probably, something drew the officer’s attention to the Bible, and they may have been searching for something other than drugs which would have required a more intensive search. I do, however, think that it is a wonderful thing that these officers were searching the pages of the Bible - searching the Scriptures.

In the comparison of the Bereans and Thessalonicans we see a stark contrast. Many of the Thessalonicans were hard-hearted, and close-minded toward the Gospel; they were unwilling to even listen to how the Scriptures could have been fulfilled through Jesus Christ. They had their story and they were sticking to it. They were just mad that anyone would have the nerve to even suggest that the Messiah had come, and they had missed Him. Their attitude is somewhat similar to the Muslim world’s harsh persecution of Christians today. If a Christian has the audacity to share their faith with a Muslim they risk being put to death. However, there are still Christians today with the same courage of the Holy Spirit spoken of by the apostle John as he says in Revelation 12:11, "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death."

The attitude of the Bereans was an attitude of seeking the truth. The Bereans realized that they could possibly have missed out on something spiritually. In other words, the Bereans did not think that they had arrived spiritually and knew all there was to know about God and the spiritual world. They were willing to search the Scriptures to see if these things that Paul was saying could possibly be true. As a result of their study of the Scriptures many of them believed in Jesus Christ.

Even though we have the New Testament readily available to us today we still need to search the Scriptures. There are those today that would love to sell you their own personal religious philosophy based upon their spiritual experience. We must be careful to search the Scriptures to make sure that the "experience" is verified by the Word of God. As we prayerfully search the Scriptures does the Holy Spirit verify that these things are true or not.

If you are reading these words today, and you are not a Christian I want to challenge you to do as the Bereans did. Read the Bible beginning with the New Testament and ask God to reveal the truth to you as you search the Scriptures.

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04.03.09

Overlooking the Obvious

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. - Acts 2:42.

A woman in Kissimmee, Florida had a real problem, and so she called 911. The woman thought that she was locked inside of her car after the electrical system stopped working. She tried again and again to open the doors with the electric door locks but nothing happened. She complained to the 911 dispatcher that it was getting hot, and she was not feeling very well. The dispatcher though had a great idea, the dispatcher told the woman to manually unlock the car door, and…it worked. In the words of the woman who thought she was locked inside her car, "Um, I’m sorry."

Have you ever been in a similar situation, a situation in which you were growing more and more desperate, but suddenly you realized or someone told you the solution which was very simple? I know I have been in situations like that before. Even though we may have been Christians for many years we still often overlook the obvious spiritual solution.

One of those things that we often overlook as Christians is the vital necessity of prayer. No matter what the situation prayer is available to us. We can verbalize our prayers and God will hear us. We can pray non-verbally and God will still hear us. We may only have time for a very short prayer, as in, "Help me!" But God hears all prayers that are according to His will as the apostle John tells us, "…if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him (1 John 5:14b-15)." When the world around us is going crazy we can pray and God will give us peace, peace "which surpasses all understanding," and that peace "will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

Something else that should be obvious to Christians that we overlook is the reading of the Bible. We know we ought to read the Bible, but we have not made it a habit and put it into our daily schedule. As a result we may go for weeks or months without really sitting down and reading the Word of God. We wonder why it is so hard to cope with the circumstances that life sends our way. We wonder why we have a hard time handling things emotionally. It is because as Jesus says, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4)." If we want strength to live life as it ought to be lived, we need a daily intake of the Word of God.

It is troubling to me that one of the most overlooked things in the life of many Christians today is attending church. It should be obvious that attending church is God’s will because the church was God’s idea. Christ died for the church, and He is head of the church (Colossians 1:18). It should be obvious that if you are not attending church that you are not in God’s will for your life. Yes, there are hypocrites in the church, but they are God’s problem not yours. If we want to grow as Christians we need the church, and we should do as the writer of the book of Hebrews says, "let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching (Hebrews 10:24-25)."

Let us not overlook as Christians the most obvious essentials of our faith. Prayer, Bible, and the Church are not optional accessories; they are essentials that every child of God needs integrated into their lives.

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04.02.09

You Who Fear God, Listen

Paul advised them, saying, “Men, I perceive that this voyage will end with disaster and much loss, not only of the cargo and ship, but also our lives.” Nevertheless the centurion was more persuaded by the helmsman and the owner of the ship than by the things spoken by Paul. - Acts 27:9c-11.

But after long abstinence from food, then Paul stood in the midst of them and said, “Men, you should have listened to me, and not have sailed from Crete and incurred this disaster and loss.” - Acts 27:21.

And after the reading of the Law and the Prophets, the rulers of the synagogue sent to them, saying, “Men and brethren, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, say on.” Then Paul stood up, and motioning with his hand said, “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen.” - Acts 13:15-16.

A woman in Wisconsin following the directions provided by her GPS unit traveled down a road which eventually became a snowmachine trail and became stuck in the snow. By the time the woman was convinced she was on the wrong road it was too late and because of the 18 inches of snow she could not turn around. She did have a cell phone and was able to call for help. Sheriff’s deputy Keith Svoboda said these very profound words about the GPS unit, "People shouldn't believe everything those things tell you." This is the second story that I have read about someone being misled by their GPS navigational unit. Probably there have been many others that did not result in the vehicle becoming disabled. The first story was about the van in England turning onto a highway which was actually a small river.

In Acts 27, the apostle Paul has appealed to Caesar and is being taken in chains to Rome. Paul is fasting and praying and God has revealed to him a disaster that is ahead for the ship and for all those aboard the ship. He tries to warn the Centurion who is the Roman officer in charge. However, the Centurion did not listen to this word from God; instead he listened to the captain of the ship and to the owner of the ship. The captain and the owner did not want to waste time waiting for a storm to blow by because it would cost them money to delay. However, after the storm had blown the ship around for several days and they all feared for their lives they finally did listen to Paul. Because the centurion, the captain, and the owner finally listened to Paul, God saved the lives of all those onboard. This was quite a storm lasting for 14 days before the ship finally broke apart and sank when it ran aground.

The apostle Paul when he spoke before the synagogue stood and said, “Men of Israel, and you who fear God, listen.” “You who fear God.” Do you fear God, do you reverence God, do you respect God? Do you really? If your life were to be examined by a jury of your peers would they determine that by the way you have lived your life you really do fear, reverence, and respect God? In other words, if you were on trial for being a Christian would there be enough evidence to convict you?

We are free to choose the direction we want to travel in this life. God has given us the spiritual freedom of choice. Because of this we often listen to and follow the wrong directions. It was vital for all those onboard the ship with Paul to heed his warning and directions. It is no less vital, it is of no less importance to us today to follow God’s directions for our lives. If you are traveling down a snowmachine path and the snow keeps getting higher and higher maybe it is time to get some new directions.

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04.01.09

In God We Trust

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. - Romans 8:28.

…And they went to the country of Moab and remained there. Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left, and her two sons. Now they took wives of the women of Moab: the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth. And they dwelt there about ten years. Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died; so the woman survived her two sons and her husband. - Ruth 1:2b-5.

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife; and when he went in to her, the Lord gave her conception, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi, " Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without a close relative; and may his name be famous in Israel!" - Ruth 4:13-14.

The admissions director at the University of California at San Diego made a big mistake when she welcomed by email 29,000 or so applicants who had actually been rejected. The welcome email was only intended to be sent to those students who had actually been accepted by the University. Can you imagine the confusion of the students who received the email congratulating them on their acceptance and then receiving a second email stating their rejection?

It is often difficult to handle rejection; however, those students turned down by UCSD may find a better path for their lives as a result. About 12 years ago I was a bi-vocational pastor searching for that second vocation to be able to survive financially. I had a job interview for employment for a very similar position to the one I had held in the past. I was very hopeful that I would be employed. I fasted and prayed for more than a week about this job and I received confirmation from the Lord that He had heard my prayers. However, I was not hired, but at the same time I was encouraged knowing that this was apparently God’s will for my life. The bi-vocational pastorate turned out to be more full-time than part - time, although I did some substitute teaching which I enjoyed. With 12 years of life experience since the rejection of my job application I am thankful that I was rejected. I am thankful because I would not be writing these devotionals if I had been hired for that position. I am also thankful because I know that God protected me from going down the wrong path with my life.

There are more difficult things that can happen to us in life than being rejected by a college or not getting the job that we wanted. Naomi and Ruth experienced one of those more difficult things, their husbands died. Even though this terrible thing happened in the lives of both women Naomi was faithful to the Lord and Ruth followed her mother-in-law’s example. As a result Ruth is in the human genealogy of our Lord Jesus, and she became the great-grandmother of King David. Although God did not cause the tragedies to happen, He surely brought good out of the death of their husbands. He brought good out of it as Naomi and Ruth faithfully followed the will of God for their lives step by step, day by day.

In my own family, my great-grandfather’s first wife passed away soon after their only child, a daughter was born. He then married a woman whose first husband had died. I know that my great-grandmother was a godly woman who had much influence for good upon her family. One of her sons, my grandfather, his first wife (my grandmother) passed away before I was born. He then married a godly woman whose example and prayers are still impacting my life.

When the bad things happen in our lives we are encouraged to remain faithful. In 1 Corinthians 15:58 the apostle Paul encourages us with these words, "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." "In God We Trust" is not just a motto; it is God’s will for our lives in good times and in bad times. Trusting in God is always the eternally right decision.

Copyright © 1998 - 2009. Ed Wrather. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for use of this material on a non-profit basis with source noted.


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