DECEMBER 2002 - FEBRUARY 2003 BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONALS

The Burning Bush Devotional
02.27.03

Hold Your Horses

”Teach me Your way, O LORD, and lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies. Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and such as breathe out violence. I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD!” - Psalm 27:11-14.

In Kansas a while back the cities of Lawrence and Dodge City experienced runaways. In Lawrence the stage coach, which they use as a tourist attraction, crashed when the horse pulling the stage veered into a ditch. In Dodge City a horse pulling the stage slipped and when it got up it was frightened and took off like a runaway. As a result the stage slammed into a parked car, overturned and injured five passengers. They should have held their horses.

Horses have a tendency to do the unexpected, even those that have been around people for years. My great-grandmother’s nephew was killed and his father injured when the horses pulling their wagon took off and control was lost of them. “Hold your horses” used to be a term with serious meaning. Whoever was holding on to the horses had control and it meant the difference sometimes between life and death. Sometime in the 1800s “hold your horses” began appearing in print in reference to humans. As applied to people “hold your horses” means to “be patient and wait.”

When you read the word “wait” in the Bible; God is saying, “hold your horses!” When God says to wait it is serious business. King Saul found out the hard way that to launch out when God says, “wait” can be very costly. In fact it cost him the kingdom (I Samuel 13), which God then gave to an unknown shepherd boy named David.

An example of what can happen when you are obedient to the Lord’s command to wait can be seen with the disciples just after the ascension of Christ. In Acts 1:4 we read, “And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father….” They waited and we know what happened! “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…(Acts 2:1-3a).” They waited and the Holy Spirit came upon them empowering them to be the Lord’s witnesses as He had promised (Acts 1:8). On the day of Pentecost alone about 3,000 people came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:41).

When God says to “wait” there is always a good reason. When God says to “wait” it will always be to your benefit. When God says to “wait” it will always be better later. “Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD!” It may be that God is saying, “Hold your horses.” It may be hard to do but it is a very important and at times courageous thing to do. So, “hold your horses!”

The Burning Bush Devotional
02.26.03

Hard-Pressed

“We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but nor forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed - always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus‘ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” - II Corinthians 4:8-11.

John Opp was sleeping in a CSX rail car on a bed of lime rock gravel when he had a rude awakening. He was awakened when more of the lime rock gravel was poured into the train car and Opp was buried up to his neck in the gravel. Rail workers heard Opp screaming and called for help to free him. Tom Francis, a spokesman for the Jacksonville Fire-Rescue said, “He seems to be OK … in the sense that there were no visible injuries; no compound fractures.” Opp, who is 24 years old, told police that he had been forced to try riding the rails home to Minnesota after being robbed in West Palm Beach, Florida.

John Opp knows what it is like to be hard-pressed on every side. It was not a pleasant experience as evidenced by Opp’s screaming and flailing about. The apostle Paul knew all about being hard-pressed as well and very possibly you may know what it is like too. A fact of life is that at some point everyone will experience some problems. Job shared, “Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble (Job 14:1).” Things have not changed much since the time of Job. John Opp most likely would testify to that.

There are several ways we can face the pressure of life. The way many try to handle pressure is by “screaming” and “flailing” about. It may result in someone rescuing you but most likely it will not be a long-term solution. Another approach is that of the apostle Paul’s. Paul realized that the pressure of life was only temporary and he also saw and understood an amazing thing. What Paul could see and understood was that the more pressure he was under the more of Christ that was evident in his life. The weaker Paul became physically the stronger he became spiritually as the Lord manifested Himself in Paul’s life (John 14:21).

What hope do you have? Who will help you in your time of trouble? Who will sustain you when the pressure is becoming stronger and stronger? The writer of Hebrews says, “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” We must look beyond this world and remember that just as our Lord Jesus was victorious and rose again - so will we who know Him as our Savior. We may be hard-pressed but through the great sacrifice of our Lord we will never be destroyed.

So the next time you are tempted to start screaming and flailing about remember that your Lord is with you and He will never ever forsake you.

The Burning Bush Devotional
02.25.03

Richly Dwelling

“And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” - Colossians 3:15-17.

Two months ago the spirits of those aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln were in great shape because they were heading home. But then new orders came requiring them to remain in the Persian Gulf area. Jonathan Carpenter is a 24-year-old serving aboard the ship. Carpenter said about the new orders, "We've been extended, and we don't know how long. It could be months - it could be years. I miss home cooking, a shower that I don't have to wear shower shoes in, and I miss the seasons." How does Jonathan Carpenter endure the uncertainty and absence from home? He says he finds strength to continue on through reading his Bible.

The apostle Paul tells us to “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly….” To “dwell in” means, “to live in”. We are to have the word of God living in us. Joshua 1:8 defines to a certain extent what it means to keep the word of God dwelling in our lives, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it.” To have the word of Christ or the word of God dwelling/living in us requires a continual effort. We should constantly have the words of God upon our lips, which will require some memorization (Psalm 119:11). We should constantly be thinking the thoughts of God mining deeper and deeper into the meaning of His word as we meditate upon them. Also, we should not only know and think about the words of God but we should put those words into practice in our lives as we abide in Him (John 8:31-32).

If the word of Christ is dwelling richly in you then you will see your faith increase (Romans 10:17) and instead of fear you will have hope (Romans 15:4). Jonathan Carpenter is just one of countless millions who can testify to the power of the word of God.

Would you like to have more faith? Would you like to have hope instead of fear? Then allow the word of Christ to dwell richly in your heart and life.

The Burning Bush Devotional
02.24.03

Fear Of Failure

“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear….” - Psalm 27:1-3a.

Many of us have unreasonable fears. A seven-year-old boy in England at one time had a fear of all foods except for jam sandwiches. He was finally cured of this fear. A woman in San Francisco was terminated by her employer because of her fear of showering in the morning, which resulted in her having an offensive body odor (Exacerbated by her allergies to deodorants.). Others of us have reasonable fears such as the fear of our hard drive crashing. Reasonable fears are usually based on our past experiences. Some fear traffic accidents having experienced those accidents in the past. Some fear flying because they were at one time in a plane crash.

Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke one of the most well known quotes about fear in the midst of the great American depression. At his inauguration as president he said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." This is very applicable to what may be the Christian’s greatest fear, the fear of failure. What is it that keeps us from doing what God wants us to do? What keeps us from witnessing to those around us? What keeps us from responding to God’s call upon our lives? What keeps us from seeing the fulfillment of those God given dreams in our lives? It is the unreasonable fear of failure that keeps us down and holds us back.

Why is the fear of failing at what God wants us to do unreasonable? It is unreasonable if we believe God is really God. Do we believe that the God we serve is the Creator of the Universe? Do we believe that He is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent? Do we believe that He is holy? Do we believe that He provided the Way of salvation for us through the sacrifice of His Son? If we really believe that our God is all of these things and more than what have we to fear? We only have fear itself to fear. King David came to that point of no longer fearing fear whether those fears were unreasonable or reasonable. He had complete trust and faith in His God.

Overcoming our fear of failure requires the development of faith (Hebrews 11:6). Development of our faith requires immersion in the Word of God. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).” Develop your faith! Overcome your fears and launch out into greater service to the Lord your God. Believe as Abraham came to believe: “And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb. He did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform (Romans 4:19-21).”

The Burning Bush Devotional
02.19.03

Getting It Together

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” - II Corinthians 5:17.

Dan Rather, the CBS evening news anchor had an interesting experience recently in Kuwait. He had the opportunity to talk with the man who tried to steal his car 12 years ago in Texas. It was a chance meeting with U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer Tamarsh Thompson who is now a pilot of an Apache helicopter. Tamarsh had tried to steal Rather’s car in Fort Worth, Texas hotel parking lot. Rather decided not to press charges but did have a talk with the young man about his choices in life. Rather said about the man, "He got his life together and is putting it on the line for his country."

We can be glad for Tamarsh that he has his life together and that he is no longer stealing cars. But does he have it together spiritually? Contrary to what some have written and said - God is in the business of helping people get their lives together and he has a long and successful record of doing so. Perhaps at the top of the list should be the apostle Paul who while known as Saul viciously persecuted the early church resulting in death and destruction. God dramatically intervened in Saul’s life on the road to Damascus where Saul encountered the risen Lord and was temporarily blinded in the process. Saul, in giving his life to the Lord became the apostle Paul with a fervor for souls that would never die.

God did the same with 11 of the 12 disciples. They were unlearned fishermen, and tax collectors but through their relationship with the Lord they gained great wisdom and courage. Their God given wisdom and courage resulted in the continued spread of the early church even in the face of persecution.

God is still helping people get their lives together today. He certainly has changed my life and continues to push, pull, provoke, and encourage me to move forward with Him. Only through His power and efforts does my life have any semblance of being together. I had no idea when I prayed to receive Christ as my Savior 33 years ago what a life changing decision I was making. Through reconciliation with God my life has meaning, and purpose. He keeps picking me up when I fall, dusting me off and saying, “continue on.” Unbelievable but true is His mercy, His grace, His love.

Want to get your life together? Allow God to come into your life through Jesus and then you’ll understand and praise Him forever. And if you already know the Lord as your Savior - remember, “…we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

The Burning Bush Devotional
02.20.03

The Empty Highway

“The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. ‘Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher; ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.’ What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun?” - Ecclesiastes 1:1-3.

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” - Ecclesiastes 12:13.

North Korea has carved the four-lane “Reunification Road” through the mountains and deep gorges. It was built at great expense in money and in human life. An interesting feature of the highway is the almost total absence of traffic. The vehicles that do travel the road besides bicycles are mostly army vehicles and those are in sad shape. There are more vehicles in the capitol of Pyongyang but still the traffic is a long way from becoming a traffic jam. An interpreter for a journalist said, “Recently we began producing our own cars in Korea in the city of Nampo. They are called Hwiparam - it means ‘whistle’ in Korean.” The Journalists asks her to point out one of these new cars the next time she sees one. But she replies, “I’ve only seen it on television.”

Some reaching the end of their lives see the paths they have traveled which were built with great expense. But the pathways they traveled are empty of life and meaning. They wonder what was the purpose of such a life of emptiness? Why did they travel that way and why did they travel this way? How they ask did they arrive at the end of their lives with so little of any importance when they contemplate the eternity ahead? How did they end up like this?

Solomon too struggled to find meaning in life even with the great wisdom he had been given by God. He strived to find meaning in a wide variety of endeavors and activities. You can feel his frustration through one translation of Ecclesiastes 1:2 which translates the verse in this way, "‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ says the Teacher. ‘Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.’"

Although Solomon traveled down many expensive empty highways in his life it is thought that toward the end of life he came to his senses. In the last chapter of Ecclesiastes, Solomon sums it all up by saying, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” Solomon came to the conclusion that in order to have meaning and purpose in life that God had to be included in the equation. A life devoid of the presence of God results in an expensive highway with very little meaning. But a life filled with the presence of God results in traveling paths that bring great joy, meaning, satisfaction, and eternal purpose into our lives.

What kind of highway have you been building?

The Burning Bush Devotional
02.18.03

God’s Timing

“To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” - Ecclesiastes 3:1.

“Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’” - Mark 1:15.

“But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” - II Peter 3:8.

While a piano tuner was at our home recently he noticed something that I had not. We have a small plaque with a clock mounted in it. Our church gave us the plaque several years ago on our 25th wedding anniversary. The plaque is engraved with the words, “God’s timing is perfect.” The piano tuner (Bob Pankhurst) noticed that the clock was stopped (Because it makes a noise that is mildly irritating I have taken the battery out of the clock.). Bob shared that the clock being at a different time seemed to be appropriate because God’s timing differs so often from our timing. How true!

We are not the only ones who have had difficulties with God’s timing. Abraham and Sarah had a few problems with God’s timetable. They thought that surely the son of promise would be born to them before they were 100 and 90 years old respectively. Because of that they tried to help God out which only caused more problems.

Moses too had a timing problem. He wanted to lead the Egyptian people to freedom when he was forty years old but it was not yet time. His hurry caused him to commit murder, cover-up, and brought about his self-imposed exile. Forty years later on the backside of the desert Moses had a crisis of faith, as God said now is the time. Moses did not want to go but after his excuses were taken away he believed and became the great man of God that he was intended to be.

The disciples and the people of the first century also had a problem with God’s timing. The Jewish people were looking for a ruler like David or Samson to be sent by God to break the yoke of oppressive rule that was upon them. They were looking for a physical kingdom but God was establishing a spiritual kingdom. The physical kingdom will come but it is not yet time. The difference in the people’s view and God’s view of the timing resulted again in problems for those out of step with God. We see this being manifested with Peter cutting off the high priest’s servant’s ear at the time of the arrest of Jesus (John 18:10). But Jesus said to Peter, "Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me? (Luke 18:11).”

We must learn, as have Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Peter and so many others to trust God. Trust in His timing. Trust that He truly does know what is best for our lives. You may know that God has called you to an area of service but you have frustration because it has not yet come about. Trust Him. If God has spoken and you are faithful it will happen but in His time. Until then it is a time of preparation. God prepared Abraham and Sarah for parenthood. God prepared and trained Moses to lead millions of people across a wilderness for forty years. God allowed Peter to experience the results of his flawed timing which resulted in his thrice denial of his Lord. But as a result after the resurrected Christ restored Peter he became the great preacher of Pentecost.

God’s timing is perfect and it is wonderful when our timing is in synch with His. So, what time is it in your life?

The Burning Bush Devotional
02.17.03

When Temptation Comes

“Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing. For ‘he who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit.’” - I Peter 3:8-10.

It must have been horrifying for Lindsey Harris. She had no way of knowing the intentions of her stepmother, Clara Harris. It must have been a tremendous shock when Clara told Lindsey she could kill her husband and get away with it. Lindsey testified, "She said she could kill my father for what he had done and get away with it. She was calm, and I didn't think anything of it. I knew she wouldn't do anything like that." But she did.

How many people have encountered the opportunity to do right or to do wrong? We would call it temptation. When those ugly situations come along whether it is a cheating spouse or the opportunity to illegally pocket some money what do we do? During times of temptation there seems to be a something drawing us to do wrong. It is not God. It may be the enemy or just our flesh. You could call it a voice but it is unlike an audible voice. However, during those times of temptations there is another voice that is speaking at the same time. That other voice is the voice of reason, the voice of our conscience and the voice of God.

Peter shares some reasons why we should listen to the restraining voice during times of temptation. Before we give in and succumb remember the rewards of obedience. Obedience opens the door to God’s blessings in our lives. Disobedience closes the door. Our lives, as we choose to obey become blessings in the lives of those around us. So, when we resist the voice of temptation we open up the door for God to bless our lives and at the same time become a blessing to those around us.

But the greatest reason of all for our choosing to obey instead of succumbing to temptation is because of God’s great mercy. During those times of temptation let us turn our eyes upon Jesus. As Peter puts it, “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot (I Peter 1:18-19).”

So obey, be blessed and become a blessing to others remembering how great a salvation you have been given.

The Burning Bush Devotional
02.14.03

Under The Circumstances

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” - John 3:16.

The tradition of sending a valentine or writing love letters on this day is believed to have originated with Bishop Valentine. However, the choice of the date of February 14th seems to be rooted in a pagan background. Valentine was serving as a priest in Rome during a time of great persecution. The ruler of the city was Claudius the Cruel and he had forbidden Christian marriages and Christian conversion. Because Valentine persisted in continuing with his Christian duties in secret and refused to worship Roman Gods - he was imprisoned. He became friends with the jailer’s daughter while in prison and led many to Christ even while incarcerated. Claudius eventually executed Valentine. On the day of his death Valentine wrote a note to the jailer’s daughter and signed it, “From Your Valentine.”

St. Valentine has given us a wonderful example of continuing to extend the love of Christ even under the most difficult circumstances much as did the apostle Paul. What do we do when we are “under the circumstances” - when life has taken a wrong turn and we believe things are not working out as we think it should? Many of us climb into our foxholes and the last thing we want to do while “under the circumstances” is share our faith with someone else.

Certainly our Lord Jesus was “under the circumstances” as He was arrested, beaten, mocked, crucified, and buried in a borrowed tomb. You cannot get much more “under the circumstances” than that. But Jesus did not stay there did He? No, He rose again. His resurrection power is seen demonstrated in the lives of the apostle Paul and St. Valentine who also refused to remain “under the circumstances” but continued on with their mission of sharing the love of Christ with all those with whom they came into contact.

You could say that the cross is our Lord’s Valentine Card to all of humankind. The message of His love written in His blood continues on. Let us continue to share that message with all we come into contact no matter what our circumstances may be.

Happy Valentine’s Day!!

The Burning Bush Devotional
02.11.03

The Paraclete

"And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever." - John 14:16.

Have you ever seen a mother comforting her baby who was hurt in some way? Have you ever been in a courtroom or watch on TV a lawyer defending his client? Have you ever encouraged or heard of someone else who was encouraged in a desperate situation like a commander encouraging his troops in the heat of battle? The Holy Spirit is all of that and more. He is the Christian’s comforter, advocate, and encourager. Paraclete is the Greek word used in John 14:16 for “Comforter” as translated in the KJV and the 21st Century KJV above. Other Bible translations use additional words, which give even greater understanding of the word: Helper, Counselor, Intercessor, Strengthener, and Standby. My son tells me that the ancient Greek word meant "Shield Brother," or the "one who holds the shield." When a warrior was in battle a man went with him to hold the shield to protect him from attacks by arrow, or by any other means.

I was asked this morning what was the cause of an addiction to pornography. I'm not sure that I have ever really thought about the root causes of a pornography addiction. But I believe the cause is the same as for other addictions in that we use those addictions to bring us comfort. You have heard people talk about comfort foods such as chocolate, candy, chips, etc. Whereas some people take a snort of cocaine or a good stiff drink when they are feeling down or have problems others eat or some look at pornography. That is the beginning. There is a progression downwards from there. The addiction takes over more and more of a person's life bringing destruction with it.

Only God can truly give us relief from our addictions on a sustained basis. Alcoholics and drug addicts who have overcome their addiction continue to refer to themselves as alcoholics and addicts because they are always going to be more susceptible to the temptation than others. They must also constantly for the rest of their lives be on guard against it. The same goes for pornography and every other addiction. It is an ongoing battle once you have the addiction.

The key to breaking the addiction is in learning to turn to God and His resources for comfort, strength, and support instead of to whatever you are addicted to. The addiction will only take you further down causing more pain. However, God and His resources will always take you up giving you more life and leading you to a life free of those addictive things.

One great help in times of temptation is the Holy Spirit. He is our "Comforter" and so much more as I have described above. Since through our addictions we are seeking comfort - ask the Holy Spirit to comfort you, to help you, to shield you, to strengthen you for the battle. Pause and wait for the comfort and strength to come upon you for 1 to 5 minutes. Before you give in to your addiction wait for His comfort, help, and strength to come upon you.

You can defeat your addiction but it will be a battle and you must commit yourself to using God's Resources. For additional help read the message "God's Help For The Tough Problems" http://www.theburningbush.org/2.html
Read Part II of Journey to Fruitfulness "Help For the Journey" http://www.theburningbush.org/10#PartII
Read “Devotionals for the Journey” http://www.theburningbush.org/DevForJourney.html
Subscribe to the Burning Bush Restoration and Recovery Group and access the archive of articles and devotionals posted there by sending a blank email to tbbrr-subscribe@myinjesus.com.

Today’s devotional was written by my son, Clark Wrather, who is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Clark may be contacted at fbcbb@pine-net.com. The Scripture and title have been added.

The Burning Bush Devotional
02.07.03

When Your Brother Fails

“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother (Read also verses 16-20 in regard to church discipline.).” - Matthew 18:15.

“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” - Galatians 6:1.

Last Sunday during my sermon, I noticed a couple of people while I was preaching. I had that itchy feeling between my shoulder blades and turned around to see my Music Director giving me a strange look. This happened a couple of times. I also noticed a woman in the congregation that was looking in my direction with an odd smile on her face as well. Anyway, these two people were noticeable.

After the sermon, the woman came directly to me and said she had something to tell me. She said that while she was in the choir behind me that she noticed the seat of my pants had a huge rip in them. Of course, I was quite surprised as I turned to put my back up against the wall.

She said that she had wanted to tell me while she was in the choir loft, before she went down to the sanctuary, but that she didn’t know what I could do about it. She said I was about to preach a sermon and there was no sense in me worrying about it while preaching. She was right, I’m glad she didn’t tell me before the sermon, but it is still quite embarrassing.

Sometimes God leads us to tell other Christians certain things. Maybe we have noticed something wrong in their lives or a sin they need to put behind them. When He leads us to do this, it is going to be very hard for us to tell them. I’m sure it was hard for that lady to tell me about my rip problem, but she did and I needed to hear it.

When God leads you to tell another Christian about something wrong in their life, do it, because they will need to hear it.

(Key words in Galatians 6:1: Spiritual (ie: your life is under control and not out of control), restore, and gentleness.)

The Burning Bush Devotional
02.06.03

The Long Arm Of God

”Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me.” - Psalm 139:7-10.

Condoleezza Rice, US National Security Advisor, spoke this morning at the National Prayer Breakfast. The passage of Scripture Condoleeza turns to most often when she needs guidance and strength of conviction is Romans 5, primarily Romans 5:3-5 which says, “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Condoleezza related how she was the daughter, granddaughter, and niece of Presbyterian ministers. She grew up in Birmingham, Alabama where she and her family faithfully attended church (Condoleezza is also an accomplished pianist having dreams at one time of becoming a concert pianist.) However, she said that after moving to California that her life was very busy and she had stopped attending church. One Sunday morning in Palo Alto she was in a Lucky Supermarket when an African-American man approached her. He was shopping for items needed at a church picnic and he was wondering if she knew how to play the piano because their church was looking for one. Condoleeza said she thought, “My goodness! The reach of God is long, even to the spice aisle of a Lucky Supermarket!” As a result she began playing the piano in an African-American Baptist Church and her faithfulness in attendance was renewed.

We may forget about God but He never forgets about us. As David asks, “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence?” The answer as David found out so well was there is no escaping God. His long arm will find us wherever we may attempt to hide. Many call God the “Hound of Heaven.” Many have attempted to find God and when they do they find that God has been seeking them their entire lives.

Why would you ever run or try to hide from God who turns your tribulations into perseverance, character and hope and who pours His love out into your heart? “And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

The Burning Bush Devotional
02.05.03

Your Mission

“For we are God’s fellow workers….“ - I Corinthians 3:9.

Over the past several days we have mourned the loss of the Columbia astronauts. They were all brilliant and courageous with so much more to offer in service to the world if they had lived. The commitment and dedication of those astronauts is an inspiration to all who aspire to greater service. Their mission of conquering and learning more about space, which included expanding all human knowledge, was a part of every aspect of their lives. Their mission was a continual focus moving them forward to greater heights. Sunday morning CNN newscaster Paula Zahn spoke with awe about their “devotion to the mission” and their “sense of discipline.”

It may be that in the background of our thoughts we are thinking if we had such a great mission we too would have devotion to the mission and great discipline in achieving that mission. But the fact is that every child of God, every Christian has a great mission. In many respects our mission, your mission is a greater mission than that of the shuttle astronauts. No, you are not going out into space to go boldly where no human has gone before. No, you have a greater mission. Eternal destinies hang in the balance and your “devotion to the mission” and your “sense of discipline” will make the difference.

What is your mission? It is an amazing thing. We are to join God Himself in His work! We are to follow the example of Jesus who said, “the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel (John 5:19-20).” We are to look to where the Father is working and join Him in that work. The apostle Paul in I Corinthians makes it clear that we are co-laborers with God when he writes to the Corinthians, “For we are God’s fellow workers (I Corinthians 3:9a).” Paul was a fellow worker in Christ and often greeted others such as Priscilla and Aquila in that way.

After the resurrection of Jesus and before He ascended to Heaven He left some last important instructions to his followers. “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20). Those instructions, actually commands, are still in effect for us today. That is your mission. God has not changed His mind.

Will you join God in this great mission? Will you blaze the trails so that others will follow in the future? Will you have great devotion, courage and discipline in fulfilling the mission that God has given to you? Look around and you will see that your Father is at work and is calling you to join in this great work of eternal purpose. Remember the great example of devotion to mission and discipline that the shuttle astronauts have given you and move forward in the power of God (Acts 1:8) to complete your mission.

The Burning Bush Devotional
01.31.03

Wavering

“Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 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 10:19-25.

In the United Kingdom one of their largest power generating stations was virtually shut down because of a chimney problem. An old unused chimney smokestack started swaying in the high winds. A spokesperson said of the situation at that point, “Only the most essential staff are at the plant, we are carrying out a risk assessment.” 150 of the plant’s 200 employees were sent home during the crisis. But thankfully after the winds died down the chimney had stabilized by the next day and the plant was again operating under normal conditions.

The writer of Hebrews is speaking to Christians when he says, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering….” It seems there was some wavering going on in the early church much like a chimneystack wavering in a high wind. In our modern culture and a world of increasing danger it appears that there is more and more of the wavering going on. We think will there be another terrorist attack? Will they detonate a dirty bomb in our country? Or, do they have a suitcase nuclear device? Or, will it be a biological attack using smallpox before we can all be vaccinated? Maybe it will be anthrax? Maybe it will be VX gas or some other deadly chemical agent that they will use? Others of us are more worried about our financial situation and whether we will be able to continue putting food on the table. Others are concerned about their health situation, which is growing worse.

There are a multitude of winds blowing against our lives. There are the winds of drug abuse and the winds of lust. Some of the winds threaten to blow us apart and it seems like we are being assaulted by tornado or a hurricane. But whatever it is, it is not that much different than some of the storms the early Christians faced. The writer of Hebrews assures them and us that, “He who promised is faithful.” We must remind ourselves that we are no longer what we once were but have, “boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us….” He is faithful and we may come to Him boldly through the blood of our Savior. He who has saved us has the power to hold us, sustain us, and keep our wavering faith standing even through these storms, which keep coming upon on us.

The “day” is approaching when our Lord will return and surely that “day” is closer now than ever before. As we see the “day” approaching let us stand through His faithfulness provoking, encouraging and loving one another “and so much the more!”

The Burning Bush Devotional
01.30.03

Trust

"Listen to this, O Job; stand still and consider the wondrous works of God. Do you know when God dispatches them, and causes the light of His cloud to shine? Do you know how the clouds are balanced, those wondrous works of Him who is perfect in knowledge? Why are your garments hot, when He quiets the earth by the south wind? With Him, have you spread out the skies, strong as a cast metal mirror?” - Job 37:14-18.

What would you do if life threw you for a loop and when you landed you were just barely hanging on with your fingers? Life literally did just that to Joe R. Thompson III (18 years old) in Kansas City. Thompson lost control of his Jeep after another car turned suddenly right in front of him. His vehicle may have rolled over five times before the top was ripped off and Joe was thrown out. Joe was not wearing a seatbelt. Actually Joe was thrown up because before he came down he grabbed hold of overhead utility lines about 25 feet in the air. He had to hold on for dear life for 20 minutes before a rescue was made bringing him down by a ladder. Thompson suffered no serious injuries and said later, “God was definitely in control.”

The fact is that most of the time we do not know what to do when life throws us for a loop and our fingers are barely hanging on. But there is One who does know what to do. That One is the Creator of the world who makes the winds blow and be still. He makes the sun to shine and the rains to come. We do not understand how He has made all that He has made or how He is able to make everything continue to function. We do not understand how God could be God. But then He wouldn’t be God if we could do all that He does and know all that He knows.

We must come to a point of trust in God. Joe Thompson apparently came to a point of trust while he was dangling in the air for 20 minutes. Sometimes that is what it takes for us to come to a point of trust in God. Job went through the loss of his family and wealth but in spite of that he would not curse God. Job did not fully understand but he finally understood that God was indeed God. Through the loss and pain he came to a greater understanding and degree of trust in God. I’ve been reading Lisa Beamer’s book “Let’s Roll.” I’ve cried as I read through much of the book because I know what happened on 9/11. But I see how Lisa has such a deep trust in the goodness of God in spite of the tragedy that will overshadow the remainder of her life. She speaks of her father dying when she was a teenager and of how she asked and settled many spiritual questions at that time. It helped to prepare her for 9/11 and for the aftermath of the attack. Because of Lisa’s trust she has been a most powerful spokesperson for God during this horrendous time.

So, the next time life throws you for a loop and you’re barely hanging on - trust. Trust that God is still God.

The Burning Bush Devotional
01.28.03

On Being Salt

"But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and of the unjust. This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men." - Acts 24:14-16.

"You are the salt of the earth...." - Matthew 5:13a.

One weakness we have as Christians which is also a strength is our trust of other people. In part this trust comes from our new nature (II Corinthians 5:17) and from our own striving as did the apostle Paul "to have a conscience without offense toward God and men."

While I was a parole officer my trust of my fellow human beings took a nose dive. I saw and heard a continuing stream of people who said one thing and did something else. I heard reasurances about the non-use of illegal substances. But when they were forced to verify through urinalysis this compliance too many times it simply confirmed their continuing use of those illegal substances.

One man (Leroy) that was under my supervision claimed to be disabled with a long list of physical ailments. His alledged disabilities provided an excuse for non-payment of supervision fees and restitution. He always arrived in a wheel chair and his parents had to drive him to my office. However, I received reports about his ability to drive himself and his performing physical labor. It was at about this point in time that I resigned to enter the ministry on a full-time basis.

A few years later Leroy kidnapped one of his relatives and eventually shot and killed her. To commit this crime he had to be able to drive the car, physically assualt and subdue her and place Inabell into his car trunk. Inabell was a very faithful member of the church I pastored then and now. Leroy is on death row continuing to claim his disability and trying to con any and everyone with whom he can communicate.

Our current world situation with Saddam Hussein reminds me of so many of my clients. We sincerely want to believe that Saddam is telling the truth about his no longer having weapons of mass destruction. It would indeed be wonderful if it were to be true. However, I think most of us know that Saddam is once again attempting to deceive the entire world.

While I was a parole officer I was in a position of responsibility charged with protecting others from the clients I supervised. As Christians we may have perhaps lingered too long in the love chapter (I Corinthians 13). The apostle Paul not only wrote about love, truth and having a clear conscience but he also wrote about fulfilling our responsibilities. In fact Paul is very forceful in dealing with areas in which the Corinthians needed correction. Paul writes in regard to the one involved in sexual immorality, "deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (I Corinthians 5:5)."

Let us extend love to all and strive to keep our conscience clear before God and man. But at the same time let us oppose to our last breath evil in whatever form it may be manifested. We are not only to be the "light of the world (Matthew 5:16)" but we are also to be the "salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13)" preserving and preventing the further deterioration of the societal fabric of this world.

The Burning Bush Devotional
01.27.03

The Need For Wisdom

“My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.” - Proverbs 1:10.

“’Cast in your lot among us, let us all have one purse’ - My son, do not walk in the way with them, keep your foot from their path; for their feet run to evil….” - Proverbs 1:14-16a.

“To do evil is like sport to a fool, but a man of understanding has wisdom. The fear of the wicked will come upon him, and the desire of the righteous will be granted. When the whirlwind passes by, the wicked is no more, but the righteous has an everlasting foundation.” - Proverbs 10:23-25.

The seniors on the New Britain High School all-girl marching band drill team (The Canettes) had some fun at the expense of the newest members of the drill team. The seniors sent the new members on a scavenger hunt for such things as a mailbox. All of the items that were found by the drill team were stolen. In fact police officers found a 50-foot-long pile of stolen items in November that the drill team had taken. Of course their parents, along with police and school officials were shocked that these normally law-abiding young girls would do such a thing. For the girls it was difficult to understand that they had done anything wrong. One of the girls said, “I just thought it was a custom… kind of like a camaraderie thing. If the seniors said it was OK and they were in charge, then it was OK.”

The really sad thing is that there are many who are not naïve young girls who are deceived, tricked and taken advantage of by those who view evil as fun. There are others who know it is wrong but still listen to the voices of their friends and do it anyway. Because “everyone else is doing it” has become a mantra for young people, which can lead to some very serious trouble. For adults it can lead to very serious trouble as well. Many adults have been led to believe that there is a way to escape the payment of income taxes. But that fairy tale is simply not legally true. Others have been led to believe that the use of illegal substances such as marijuana or MDMA (Adam, ecstasy, XTC) is without any dangerous effects. But that is just another fairy tale. How many people because everyone else was doing it have an addiction today that controls everything in their lives?

How can you avoid being tricked, deceived, and manipulated by those who see evil as fun or as a sport? Solomon indicates that a man of understanding is able to see through those things. How can you have understanding? The beginning point is righteousness. Solomon says that the wicked will be destroyed “but the righteous has an everlasting foundation.” We can only become righteous through Jesus (John 14:6; Romans 5:19). Once we have the right foundation there is some building that needs to be done. Using the right materials will result in the growth of wisdom and understanding. Jesus says, "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock (Matthew 7:24).” Jude sums it all up by saying, “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life (Jude 1:20-21).”

The next time someone tells you that “everyone else is doing it” or “it’s okay because of who else has done it” pause for a moment and think - ask yourself what Jesus would think about it. We must allow God to develop in us as the apostle Paul puts it the “mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16c).”

Today’s devotional was written by my son, Clark Wrather, who is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Clark may be contacted at fbcbb@pine-net.com. The Scripture and title have been added.

The Burning Bush Devotional
01.24.03

Things Can Change

Last night, I watched my beloved Sooners play Bobby Knight’s Red Raiders (basketball). If you watched the game, you know that it was very close. Throughout the game, there was rarely more than a three-four point difference in the score.

OU was ahead of Texas Tech for most of the game. They maintained their lead until the game was almost over, but Tech did finally take the lead. There was only four seconds left in the game and OU was down by two points. The Sooners had possession of the basketball, but they had to travel the length of the court and make the basket under pressure to send the game into overtime. They had only four seconds to work a miracle.

I just knew my team was going to lose. I had lost my faith in them after their tragic loss to…*Sniff*…the osu cowboys. I just knew that OU was going to lose to a Texas team, which is actually worse than losing to osu. I did not believe that there was any way that the Sooners would end up with a victory.

I could not have been more wrong. The Sooners moved the ball quickly down the court and hit a jumper right before the buzzer to send the game into overtime. OU took care of business during overtime and actually won the game. (We now know that somehow there was an extra 1.7 seconds added in to those final seconds barely giving OU the time needed to make the basket to send the game into overtime. It has not yet been decided as to how the 1.7 seconds came into being.)

In life, things are not usually as bad as they seem. Sometimes we believe that there is nothing that can be done to change our bad situation. Or we think that our lives will never get better.

My friend, you never know what may happen next. Things may change for the better in a moment’s notice. If you have believed in Jesus Christ, God cares about you and your life and your situation. When you believed, you became one of God’s special sons or daughters. God does care about you and when He uses His mighty power on your behalf, things can change in the blink of an eye. There is always hope if you know the Lord.

(Thinking of some Biblical examples of God intervening and doing the impossible in the lives of people I thought of the following - there are many more. The next time you are facing an impossible situation read through these passages of Scripture.

- Joseph sold into slavery and unfairly put into prison. Genesis 37 -50.
- Moses and the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. Exodus 14.
- The Giant Goliath challenging the Israelites. I Samuel 17.
- The Jews during the time of Esther having a death sentence upon them. The
Book of Esther.
- Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace. Daniel 3.
- Daniel protected from the lions while in the their den. Daniel 6.
- Jesus bringing Lazarus back to life. John 11
- The apostles delivered from prison by an angel. Acts 5:17-20.)

The Burning Bush Devotional
01.23.03

Marriage Is Not For Wimps

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” - Ephesians 5:22-33.

Today is my 33rd wedding anniversary and we have enjoyed always being in complete agreement about everything. We’ve never argued or raised our voices with each other. Everything my wife does always pleases me and everything I have done has always pleased my wife. Those of you who are married or have been married know that there is no way that any of the above could possibly be true. The only thing true in the statement is that today is our 33rd wedding anniversary.

We were both 19 years old when we married and as happens in some marriages Jeanie was more mature than I was. In addition, she was a Christian and I was not at the beginning of our marriage. My only act of physical abuse toward my wife took place in the first two weeks of marriage. She had said something I didn’t like and I wanted her to take it back. She refused. If I had not found the Lord our marriage would not have had a chance. Two months after we married I came to know Jesus as my Savior and He began to change me into someone Jeanie could stand to spend her life with.

Without the Lord marriage can bring out the very worst in people. The most recent example is that of Clara Harris running over her husband whom she thought was having an affair. And husbands with the Super Bowl being next Sunday it might be a good time to be extra sensitive to the needs of your wives. After all they have suffered through months of football to this point and some wives do snap. In 1994 when Marlene Lenick’s husband announced that he wanted to watch yet another football game - she shot him.

For any marriage to succeed it requires a radical commitment to marriage. If the husband and wife actually know Jesus as their Savior it does improve the chances of their marriage surviving. In addition if we will have the attitude the apostle Paul says for husbands and wives to have toward each other it virtually guarantees the success of the marriage. But one thing is for sure and that is that marriage is not for wimps!

The Burning Bush Devotional
01.22.03

Trash Talk

“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” - Ephesians 4:29-32.

There are many reasons to be careful about what you say and here are some real life examples. In 1994 John Luckett attended a meeting in which Sarah Brady delivered a gun control speech. Luckett vigorously heckled Brady but his heckling was a little too vigorous and Luckett (age 70) died of a heart attack.

In 1996 in Bedford, Virginia John M. Kirby was driving around with a car full of friends when he passed some police officers. Kirby decided to show what an amazing person he was to his passengers by shouting some trashy things to the officers. The officers noticed a faulty taillight on Kirby’s vehicle, pursued and stopped him. The officers found that Kirby had a suspended driver’s license and also some marijuana in his vehicle.

In 1997 Ronnie Wade Cater was in a bar in Hampton, Virginia and had been drinking for some time. Cater was concerned that police might stop him for drunk driving on the way home. So, he called in a bomb threat saying the bomb was at another bar thinking that officers would leave the area and go to the other bar. But Cater enjoying his bomb threat call stayed on the phone a little too long and the call was traced. And Cater was arrested.

I learned a long time ago that the very best thing to say to a police officer was only “Yes Sir,“ and “No Sir.“ Those words that come out of our mouths can cause so much trouble!! On the other hand if we are careful only to say those things that we believe will build other people up - words can be a source of much good. How wonderful it would be if all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, evil speaking and malice were put away from us. What a wonderful world it would be.

If every hateful or unkind word that you have ever heard or read were erased from your memory you would be a different person than you are now. I know I would be. If I could erase every hateful word that I have ever said or written I would have a more peaceful life and my relationship with some people would be so much better.

The fact is that we cannot erase the unkind and hateful words we have heard or that we have said. But we can extend forgiveness to those who have lashed out at us and we can apologize to those we have spoken to in an unkind way. We can also go to our Lord seeking His forgiveness committing ourselves to speaking only what is kind and good. What better time then now to make that commitment?

The Burning Bush Devotional
01.21.03

If You Are Lost

“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. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh…that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.” - Ephesians 2:8-20.

Luc Goguen had the most unpleasant experience of being lost for four days. Not only was he lost but he was lost in the dangerously cold environment near his home in Cocagne, New Brunswick. Luc lost control of his all-terrain vehicle and was forced to try to walk out of the backwoods. Along the way back he fell in a swamp and lost his boots. Because of being soaked from his fall and the bitter cold in the snow-covered environment he suffered severe hypothermia, frostbite and was disoriented when he was found. Luc said about the experience, “I believe it’s a miracle. I never stopped praying.”

All who are without a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ are spiritually lost and are living in a most dangerous environment. Their lives are out of control and the longer a person is spiritually lost the more dangerous their condition becomes. Eighty-eight percent of all professions of faith in Jesus come before the age of nineteen. Sixty-eight percent of all professions of faith occur between the ages of 9 and 14. It is not impossible to be saved as an adult but as age increases it becomes more and more unlikely.

The Bible clearly describes the pitiful condition of those who are lost spiritually.

The lost are without life. “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life (I John 5:12).” We have eternal life only through Jesus.

The lost are without true peace. “’There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘for the wicked (Isaiah 57:21).’” Only through Christ can we truly have peace. “For He Himself is our peace (Ephesians 2:14a).”

The lost are without spiritual strength. “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6).” We have strength through Christ as the apostle Paul says in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

The lost are without hope and without God. “…having no hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12c).” Our God is a God of hope. “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:24).”

The lost are without excuse. “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation (Hebrews 2:3a).” “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.”

So, if you are lost let me suggest that you do as Luc Goguen did - PRAY! Pray and ask God through Jesus Christ to save you. Jesus is saying even now to you, “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 (Revelation 3:20).” Why not pray right now? Open up the door of your heart and invite Jesus to come in.

The Burning Bush Devotional
01.16.03

Body Piercings

“Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” - I Corinthians 3:16.

Brent Moffatt of Winnipeg, Manitoba has made his way into the record books. In less than eight hours Brent pushed and shoved 702 needles into his body. He was somewhat disappointed because he had hoped to accomplish 1,000 piercings but had to stop when the pain reached his threshold of endurance. Moffatt said after sitting the record that, "I'm in a lot of pain. It feels like somebody's electrocuting my legs." The previous record for number of piercings was 200 so Moffatt must indeed be an iron man or maybe he is a steel man - not sure what needles are made out of today. But Moffat might want to seriously consider that iron man competition because he definitely has some endurance.

The subject of piercings is something that I've started to write about many times but could never bring myself to actually do so. For one thing I know that there are some who read my devotionals who have piercings and I certainly do not want to appear to be their judge becoming an oracle of condemnation. However, tonight I have sensed a need to at least say what I believe the Biblical viewpoint about piercings is, as I understand it. So please bear with me.

First, if someone who is a Christian is contemplating having some body piercings and wondering whether or not God would want them to do so - the answer I believe is, "no." There are several passages of Scripture that you might possibly base this upon but the most clear in the New Testament for me is I Corinthians 3:16-17. The body of the child of God, a Christian is literally the dwelling place of God because the Holy Spirit lives with in you. We are created in the image of God and when God came down to Earth to walk among us He took on the form of a human being becoming fully man and fully God. This would seem to indicate that the form of God is somewhat similar to that of a human being. God created us and says we were created in His image. To modify the image that we have been blessed with would seem to be a defilement of that image. Of course, this brings up all kinds of other questions about cosmetic surgery and other image altering surgeries. But let's put that aside for now. If consuming alcohol and abusing drugs (legal or illegal) is considered to be damaging to the temple of God, the body? Then it would stand to reason that a most obvious scarring and alteration of the temple for no medical reason would appear to be damaging to the temple of the Holy Spirit.

So, if you are contemplating the piercing of your body and asked if I thought it would be wrong I would have to say, "yes." And if you really wanted to be obedient to your Lord and your God you would not pierce your body. Does that mean I am condemning everyone who has pierced their body? No. I am not their judge or your judge. Certainly I have done things to my own body, which were not good for it. For example, I have overeaten and I have pushed my body physically in the past far beyond what would be healthful and I'm sure there have been other ways as well that I have abused my body (Of course it is not really my body it is the Lord's.).

Once you understand that abuse of the body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit, is not the will of God - you and I have a decision to make. Will we continue on with what we know is not in the will of God or will we cease and desist from what we know He does not want. Whether it is body piercing, overeating (Or not eating things which are healthful), doing drugs, drinking, or sexual sins and on and on - whether we continue on in the face of the Truth of God's Word is a decision every child of God must make for themselves and bears personal responsibility for that decision. And that includes me as well as every other Christian. I pray that each of us will truly seek to be obedient to our Lord.

(01.21.03) A further word on Body Piercings: Because hindsight is always better I can see especially with the input of many some additional things that should be said about body piercings.

Many view piercings as beautification and not as mutilation. I think that it comes down to an attitude of the heart. If in our heart we truly believe we are bringing glory to God by piercing and cosmetic surgery - if that is the intent and belief of our heart and the way we are living our lives then it would not be defilement of the body. On the other hand if the source of our actions is that of rebellion against God then it is defilement. It does appear that many who practice piercings and body mutilation are in rebellion against God. Of course they may not realize they are rebelling against God and think they are just rebelling against their parents or against society as a whole but ultimately they are in rebellion against God.

The attitude of the heart I refer to is what I believe Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 6:12-13, "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body."

The Burning Bush Devotional
01.15.03

Like A Little Child

“At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.’” - Matthew 18:1-5.

Jerry Jones and Bill Parcells are as some writers have noted “self-made men in love with their maker.” The length of Parcells tenure as the coach of the Dallas Cowboys is definitely in doubt. Can their two gigantic egos withstand the constant collisions they will inevitably have? We may laugh at Jones and Parcells but in the American mind many envy their independence and self-reliance. It is part of the Code of the West to be self-reliant. To be able to stand on your own two feet and live life without anyone having to help you out is an admirable accomplishment. Being independent and self-reliant are traits that many are taught from the time they are born.

But Jesus says what? “…unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” We are to become like a child. One of the characteristics of children is that they are completely dependent and they realize it. You’ll never hear a five-year-old child saying, “I’m a self-made, independent child who makes it on my own.” You’ll never hear anything like that from a child. Instead you’ll hear things like “I’m hungry,” “Will you get that for me?” “Help me,” and, “Will you carry me?”

In the Kingdom of God we too need to become like little children - children who are completely dependent upon their God. The apostle Paul tells us, “…we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us (II Corinthians 1:9-10).”

We are to be disciples and part of the definition of a true disciple is being dependent upon your teacher. Instead, of being self-made men and women we must instead depend upon God for everything. A frequent statement made by Bill Clinton was that if you see a turtle on a fence post you know somebody put it there. Alex Haley the author of Roots and many others have said much the same thing. Haley says, “Every time I’m tempted to think, ‘aren’t I marvelous? Look at all I’ve accomplished!’ I look at the picture I have on the wall of a turtle on a fence post and remember how this turtle - me - got up on that post.” Becoming holy, becoming great in the Kingdom of God by ourselves is about as possible as a turtle climbing a fence post. The fact is that we cannot do it on our own. We need His help. We must depend on Him just like a little child.

To live the overcoming abundant Christian life we must reach a place of surrender and absolute dependence upon our God. We must become like little children trusting Him for every detail of our lives.

The Burning Bush Devotional
01.14.03

The End Of Innocence

“Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression.” - Psalm 19:12-13.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” - Romans 3:23.

At the age of three or four I had one of the first encounters that I remember with unpleasant consequences from my actions. My cousin and I were playing in my sister’s closet where on a chest of drawers was an old ceramic piggybank. The bank had belonged to one of our ancestors and I had been warned about climbing on the chest because of the danger of breaking the bank. But my cousin and I were playing when in the midst of our play the piggybank fell and broke into many pieces. Of course I felt bad about it and apparently my parents were even more upset. Never again would my play be quite as innocent as it had been before the piggybank broke.

In the 1980’s Don Henley sang a song called “the end of the innocence.” Here are some of the words, “Remember when the days were long and the road beneath the deep blue sky didn’t have a care in the world, with mommy and daddy standing by. When happily ever after fails and we’ve been poisoned by these fairy tales, when lawyers dwell on small details, says daddy had to fly. Oh we’ll find a place where we can go still untouched by men, and sit and watch the clouds roll by and the tall grass raise in the wind. You can lay your head back on the ground, and let your hair fall around you, offer up your defense, this is the end of the innocence.”

David asks the question, “Who can discern his errors?” Who can understand or even know all the ways that we have failed? There comes a point in every person’s life when we know that we have failed. As the apostle Paul says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Most of us realize there may even be ways in which we have failed that we are not even aware of. The age of innocence has passed - it is over. The burden of failure has fallen upon us.

Is there any hope of relief from this burden of failure and loss of innocence? Yes! "Come now, and let us reason together, says the LORD, though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool (Isaiah 1:18).” And the apostle Paul tells us, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).” And the apostle John writes, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9).” The burden of our failures can be washed away and a renewed age of innocence can begin in the sight of God.

The Burning Bush Devotional
01.13.03

Who Has Woe?

“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.

In Modesto, California a man had his head split open by a brick and was taken to the hospital. The police investigated thinking that someone had attacked the man. However, witnesses said that he was throwing a brick into the air trying to see how high he could throw it. But at 2:30 A.M. in the dark it is hard to see a falling brick. The man lost track of the brick and it hit him in the head. Why would anyone do such a stupid thing? The police department said that alcohol did appear to be involved in the incident.

We automatically understand when we are told that alcohol or drugs are involved in some act of stupidity. We understand because we know intoxicated people often do irrational things. Here are some ugly facts just for alcohol. Alcohol is a contributing factor in: 65% of drownings; 53% of all highway deaths; 50% of spouse abuse cases; 38% of child abuse cases; 54% of those in jail for violent crimes; and 49% of those convicted for murder or attempted murder were intoxicated when they committed the crimes. Of course alcohol abuse is very damaging to the physical body as well.

Then there are illegal substances such as methamphetamines, which can cause heart palpitations, nausea, and damage to blood vessels in the brain, shortness of breath, mental confusion, malnutrition, anorexia, severe anxiety and depression. A more severe manifestation of chronic toxicity is a state of paranoia closely resembling paranoid schizophrenia. Psychotic symptoms include visual and auditory hallucinations, paranoid delusions, and delusions of parasites and bugs in the skin. Continued use may lead to permanent damage to the brain or death. One former user of meth states: “It’s like selling your soul to the devil. When I was high, I felt alive for the first time in my life. While I was using, I thought nothing could touch me. I was beautiful and perfect in my meth world. In the real world, my body was rotting from the inside out.” (Methamphetamine information from the County of San Diego Methamphetamine Strike Force website.)

Do you have woe, sorrow, contentions, complaints, wounds without cause, and redness of eyes? Why not come out of the darkness and the self-inflicted misery? Instead of worshipping alcohol and illegal substances do as the apostle Paul urges: “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:1-2).” Your mind and your very life can be transformed and renewed through the turning from the things of this world to the things of God. The formula for relief is simple: Prayer, Bible and Church add them up and they will equal the power of God to overcome whatever addiction you may have. It really depends on you. Do you want help and really want to change your life? If you do God has the power and it is available for free (Philippians 4:13; Philippians 4:19).

Today’s devotional was written by my son, Clark Wrather, who is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Clark may be contacted at fbcbb@pine-net.com. The Scripture and title have been added.

The Burning Bush Devotional
01.10.03

God Cares

“Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but give grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” - I Peter 5:5-7.

My oldest son, Madison, has been sick for the last couple of days. He had it bad last Sunday. Madison had a good old-fashioned stomach virus. He looked paler than I have ever seen him, with almost no color at all in his lips. He was still and quiet, which was also an obvious indicator of how sick he really was.

Sunday afternoon, he said he was going to the bathroom to throw up. After a few minutes, I realized he had never came out and went to investigate. Madison was lying stretched out on the bathroom floor, sound asleep and snoring loudly. I called for Libby and said you’ve got to see this! I haven’t seen anything like this since college.

Madison ended up sleeping until the next morning. In all, he slept over fourteen hours. Even though he had lots of sleep, he was still weak and unable to keep down food the next day.

This was probably the absolute worst that Madison had ever felt in his short life. I felt so sorry for him. He just laid around and felt miserable. I wished I could be sick for him. I hoped he would feel better. I just hated knowing that he was having such a horrible time.

I’m not a perfect father, but God certainly is. When I was thinking about Madison, I was given insight, into the way our Father in heaven feels about us when we are going through difficult times. God cares deeply about us and actively takes care of us. Madison probably didn’t notice all the little things I did for him when he felt so bad. We probably don’t notice all the little things our Father in heaven does to take care of us, when we feel so bad.

The Burning Bush Devotional
01.09.03

Living in Beulah Land

“You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married.” - Isaiah 62:4. (Hephzibah means literally, my delight is in her. Beulah means literally, married.)

“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.’” - Revelation 21:1-3.

Looking out my back door I can see calves grazing on the green wheat pasture. It is a peaceful setting, an idyllic setting. The calves have no worries about their future because their immediate need of food is cared for by the expanse of wheat available for them to eat. However, the calves cannot see that at some point in their future they will be loaded up and taken to be sold. The calves will become neatly packaged meat in some grocery store.

The lives of many people resemble that of cattle. Many become absorbed in their day-to-day activities of work and play. They have little desire to hear about the future because the present is fulfilling. But we are not cattle. We have the capacity of mind to look forward in time with imagination to our ultimate end. What is it that you see when you look toward that time? Do you know what is waiting for you there? Do you look forward with anticipation or dread?

I can remember one of the first times I looked forward in time to the end of my life. It was a frightening experience because in my mind it was dark and unknown. I didn’t know what would happen when I reached the end of my physical life. Five years later after I received Christ as my Savior I could then look ahead to the future and the darkness was gone because I knew what lie ahead. What lay ahead would be Heaven - living in a perfect place where the Lord God will be the very light. The marriage will have been completed in New Jerusalem and we will be living in Beulah Land.

The Bible says at the end of Revelation 21, “But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (v. 27).” Is your name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life?

The Burning Bush Devotional
01.08.03 (Updated 01.31.12)

An Appointed Time

Go into the city to a certain man, and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, "My time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at your house with My disciples”’ - Matthew 26:18.

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven…A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck what is planted. - Ecclesiastes 3:1; 2.

Lake Superior State University of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan has issued its 26th annual extreme list of words (In 2003) "banished from the Queen's English for mis-use, over-use and general uselessness, which the world needs ‘now, more than ever.'" They received a record 3,000 nominations for the list this year with most of the nominations being received through their Website. Nominations were, and are being accepted apparently from everyone who takes the time to nominate. This year’s list contains 23 words and phrases such as "must-see TV," "got game," "mental mistake," "frozen tundra," and "an undisclosed, secret location." Last but not least according to the list was the phrase, "untimely death," sometimes used by obituary writers and others. The phrase according to some would indicate that some deaths are more tragic than others. Donald Burgess of California asks, "Has anyone yet died a timely death?"

The answer to the question asked by Donald Burgess is, "Yes!” Some have indeed died timely deaths. At the top of the list, is our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus began His physical life on this earth at the proper time, "But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son…(Galatians 4:4)." He also died at the proper time, "My time is at hand (Matthew 26:18)." There is a "time" to be born and a "time" to die according to Ecclesiastes 3.

If there is a "time" to die, then it is reasonable to assume that there is a wrong "time" to die. The Bible also addresses this in Ecclesiastes 7:17 and says, "Do not be overly wicked, nor be foolish: why should you die before your time?" It is possible to die ahead of schedule before your appointed days (Hebrews 9:27) upon this earth have been completed. The word "appointed" in Hebrews 9:27 comes from the Greek word "apokeitai” meaning "reserved, awaiting, laid up." It has been appointed a proper time for us to die and for Christ, which is mentioned in the next verse, "so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many (Hebrews 9:28)." Since there is an improper time to die, how could that happen? Man has a free will. We can choose to commit suicide. We can choose to do unwise things such as mountain climbing without the proper skills, driving to fast, using illegal drugs, and we know we can be unwise in a vast number of other ways, which could lead to death. That is why we are warned in Ecclesiastes not to be foolish.

We can die in peace when we die in the Lord at the proper time. Simeon is an example of this. Simeon was "just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel (Luke 2:25)." "And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ (Luke 2:26)." When Mary and Joseph brought the child Jesus into the temple, Simeon "took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said: 'Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation (Luke 2:28-30).'"

Let us live, not as "foolish", but justly, and devoutly so that we too may "depart in peace" at our "appointed" time.

The Burning Bush Devotional
01.07.03

The Trail

“Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all people, and holiness….” - Hebrews 12:12-14.

Michael Brown was arrested after breaking into a bank after hours in a small community in Arkansas. All of the bank’s money was in the vault and unreachable so Brown took what was available - candy. As Brown left the bank he began to eat the candy (Dum-Dums) unwrapping each piece and throwing the wrapper on the ground as he walked to his home. Police officers spotted the trail of wrappers and followed it to Brown’s home at a mobile home park where he was arrested.

Michael Brown vividly illustrates that we each through the lives we live leave a trail. It may not be as visible as the one Michael left but it is still a trail. Some like Michael leave trails, which are not straight, and if followed will not bring healing but further pain. Others leave trails that if followed will bring healing and strength to the weak and weary. The writer of Hebrews calls these trails “straight paths.”

If we would travel the “straight paths” and lead others along those paths we must avoid the crooked paths. Anger is one of those crooked paths. We are told in Hebrews to “pursue peace with all people, and holiness” and we are warned “lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble.” Are there roots of bitterness marking your path? Or, is your path one marked by peace?

Today, where are your feet headed? Are they on the straight path lifting up the weak hands, giving strength to the weak knees, bringing peace to the troubled, healing to the lame? What path, which path are you traveling today? What kind of trail are you leaving?

The Burning Bush Devotional
01.06.03

Learning To Drive

“Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” - John 3:3.

“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.

On New Year’s Day in Canada (Edmonton, Alberta) a couple of guys (One 17-years-old and the other 18.) had a bright idea. They thought they would carjack a pizza deliverer along with the pizza and money. They ran into one little problem. When one of the guys began to drive away he discovered that the car had a manual transmission with a stick shift. The clutch and the stickshift were too much and finally in frustration they simply made off with the pizza and the money. However, the police spotted the robbers going into the very same home where the pizza had been ordered. They were arrested and the pizza and the money were recovered. A police spokesperson said, “It was a toss-up between pizzas and the car, and they knew how to operate pizzas.”

One of the most frustrating things for a new Christian is that the Christian life is more complicated than it first appears. You’ve received Christ as your Savior, you’ve been born again and the Holy Spirit lives within you but living the Christian life still can appear overwhelming. It is much like trying to drive a car with a stick shift and manual transmission for the first time. To successfully drive the car there are some things you need to do in the proper order. First, depress the clutch. Second, while the clutch is depressed put the stick shift into first gear. Third, slowly release the clutch while giving the car more gas by depressing the accelerator. Repeat the process for other gears.

How do you start moving forward in the Christian life? The very first thing that the first Christians did after Christ ascended to Heaven was to pray (Acts 1:13-14). They waited in the upper room and prayed. Prayer is much like the clutch. Without prayer nothing else is going to work. Before shifting gears, depress the clutch. Before doing anything in the Christian life pray!

So you have prayed - what’s next? Read the Word of God. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (II Timothy 3:16-17).” As you read God’s Word listen for His Voice (This is also praying.) ask Him to speak to you. After you finish reading pray again. If God gave you instruction while you were reading His Word pray again before proceeding and pray while you are doing what He has told you to do. Pray after finishing. Prayer is a constant activity for the Christian. Reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on God’s Word is a daily activity.

An at least weekly activity for the child of God is assembling with other believers (Hebrews 10:24-25). Before you do so pray. Pray for other believers, pray for the pastor and ask God to speak to your heart. Afterward pray again.

Just as with driving a vehicle with a manual transmission requires certain mechanics or steps every time so does the Christian life. The mechanics of the Christian life do not change. So if you have been trying to shove the gearshift into third without the clutch of prayer why not stop and pray for a moment? I think you will find everything will go so much more smoothly with everything bathed in prayer.

The Burning Bush Devotional
12.20.02

How To Be Happy: Give

“When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.” - Matthew 2:10-11.

Psychologists have found evidence in their studies that “altruistic” acts boost happiness in those who give. Looking up altruism in my dictionary I found that it means, “regard for or devotion to the interests of others.” Interesting in that this is what the Bible tells us we should be doing. In Philippians 2:3-4 we are told, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

The wise men gave us an example of how to give. First they gave more than they expected to receive. They were giving to a child whose family was poor in material goods and there was no way the child or family could give anything in return. The wise men also gave out of love. There was no obligation on their part to give expensive gifts to a child in a far away land. The wise men through their gifts gave an indication as to the value with which they believed the child’s life to be worth. They gave the gift of gold, which was a gift for a king. They gave the gift of incense, which was the gift for a priest. They gave the gift of myrrh, which was a gift for someone who was to die. Their gifts were prophetic in that Jesus would be the King of Kings, and the great High Priest, and He came to die for our sins.

God Himself gave a gift that said that we meant something to Him. Of course, that’s why we give gifts at Christmas time because God has given the greatest gift of all and we are to follow His example. No greater gift can be given than that of our Lord Jesus who came down from Heaven and while we were still His enemies (Romans 5:8) He suffered and died for us that we might have a Savior.

As we follow our Lord’s example looking to the interests of others and give we will find that happiness will result. John Bunyan in “Pilgrim’s Progress” says, “He who bestows his goods upon the poor, shall have as much again, and ten times more.” Henry Ward Beecher said, “There never was a person who did anything worth doing, who did not receive more than he gave.”

Saint Francis of Assisi prayed a prayer, which indicates the heart of an altruistic person:

“Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair. Hope.
Where there is darkness, light; and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born
to eternal life.”

From now until the first of the year I will be unable to write on a regular basis but I will be praying for you. I pray that your hearts and lives may be blessed and filled with great joy during this Christmas season!

The Burning Bush Devotional
12.12.02

How to be Happy: Gratitude

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” - I Thessalonians 5:18.

Karen Ellis Richardson has gratitude for some new things now that she has completed paddling in her kayak from her Florida home to her high school reunion 1,750 miles away. Karen who is 48-years-old received along the way five marriage proposals, and seven nights of free lodging from many new friends. But perhaps what she has the most gratitude for is as Richardson says, “It feels good to stand up!”

A character trait which psychologists now recognize as being helpful in the development and maintenance of happiness is gratitude or thanksgiving. Of course those of faith have long known that gratitude is an essential to living the successful life. Counting your blessings and naming them one by one has sustained many a saint of God through the storms of life. Psychologists finally have come to the realization that talking and writing about what you are grateful about increases your happiness and they have done the studies to prove it.

The Psalmist in Psalm 18 gives the Christian some things for which to have gratitude. Here are just a few:

God wants to have a personal relationship with you. God is your Strength.
God is your Rock.
God is your Fortress.
God is your Deliverer.

Do you want to be happy? If you do then you will need gratitude and to develop that gratitude you must grow in the awareness of those things in your life that are blessings. Everyday find something new to be grateful about and throughout the day thank your God for it. Each day find something new to praise Him and thank Him for. In just a few weeks you’ll find that you have developed an attitude of gratitude and along the way increased your level of happiness. What are you most thankful about today?

The Burning Bush Devotional
12.11.02

How to be Happy: Forgiveness

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.” - Matthew 6:12.

"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” - Matthew 6:14-15.

Psychologists for years have concentrated on the negatives but there are a growing number who are now focusing on the positives. Positives such as how we can be happy and what it is that makes a person happy. One of the character traits that contribute to happiness has been found to be a readiness to forgive or an easy forgiveness. Psychologists have found that the trait most strongly linked to happiness is forgiveness. University of Michigan Psychologist Christopher Peterson says of forgiveness, “It’s the queen of all virtues, and probably the hardest to come by.”

Those who are Christians know what a great weight unforgiven sin can be. But we also know what a great joy it is to go to our Lord Jesus in confession and repentance and be forgiven and cleansed from all unrighteousness (I John 1:9). What joy to know that the weight, the burden of our failures have been washed away and that we have been made as white as snow in the sight of our God! In much the same way that the weight of our own sin bears upon us there is also a burden, a weight, a cost for being unwilling to forgive others. That burden is in knowing that we are living outside of the will of God. That cost is a high cost coming in the form of increasing unhappiness and often resulting in a physical manifestation of deteriorating health.

How can we forgive when someone has hurt us? We must always remember that we were the enemy of God and yet Jesus died for us that we might be forgiven. Our love for our Savior should be more than our hatred for our enemy. God calls upon us to forgive, He pleads with us to forgive, He warns us to forgive. The Bible has much to say about forgiveness: "And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses (Mark 11:25).” “…bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do (Colossians 3:13).” “For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment (James 2:13).”

If you are having difficulty forgiving someone begin to pray for that person and ask God to bless their lives. At the same time ask God to help you to be able to forgive. I think you will find that it very hard to harbor hatred toward someone you are truly praying for. Allow yourself to be happy. Forgive!

Today’s devotional was written by my son, Clark Wrather, who is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Clark may be contacted at fbcbb@pine-net.com. The Scripture and title have been added.

The Burning Bush Devotional
12.09.02

Something Missing

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that I may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” - Philippians 3:20-21.

I spent Thanksgiving with my wife’s family in Texas. I had a good time, ate too much food, and even watched a little bit of football before snoozing away the afternoon. This is how I’ve spent my Thanksgivings for a number of years.

Even though I celebrated in the usual manner, something seemed to be missing from the day. It was nothing I could put my finger on at the time, but something was left out of the day. It took me a while to figure out what was bothering me, but I eventually did. Even though I was surrounded by great people, good food, and good football…it wasn’t home.

My family hasn’t had a real Thanksgiving in several years. Every year as I grew up, we would get together at my grandparents in Elk City. I would see my cousins and all of us would eat too much food, watch some football and possibly enjoy a catnap in the afternoon. I believe that I must miss those times more than I realize. The longing for this kind of holiday with family at home made me think that something was missing from the Thanksgiving I did have.

In life, we sometimes feel like something is missing. We go to church, spend time with our families, do well at our work and still…when it’s late at night…we may feel like something is missing.

If you have believed in Jesus Christ, my friend, you may just be longing for your real home. Because the Holy Spirit lives inside of us, it is hard for a believer to be completely, totally satisfied on our fallen world. At least, I hope that none of us are.

The Burning Bush Devotional
12.06.02

Enlarge Your Tent

“Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; do not spare; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes. For you shall expand to the right and to the left, and your descendants will inherit the nations, and make the desolate cities inhabited.” - Isaiah 54:2-3.

Long before William Carey (Born in Paulerspury, England in 1761.) became the founder of modern day missions and missionary to India he was a promoter of evangelism. While still a cobbler Carey put up a homemade map of the world above his workbench and talked openly of world evangelism. Carey wrote a book entitled “An Enquiry Into the Obligations of Christians” and soon afterwards preached a long remembered sermon from Isaiah 54:2-3. Carey ended his sermon with his motto: “Attempt great things for God! Expect great things from God!” Finally as a result of Carey’s efforts a Baptist society was born with the purpose of “the propagation of the gospel among the heathen, according to the recommendations of Carey’s Equiry.” Carey was sent out as the societies’ first missionary.

Lottie Moon continued to enlarge the tent of overseas missions in the 1800s. She was born in 1840 and grew up with her mother reading the Bible to her. Because there was not a church in their area Lottie led the services every Sunday for her family, and neighbors. When Lottie was 33 years old she heard a sermon from John 4:35 about how the harvest fields were, “white unto harvest.” Lottie committed her life to being a missionary to China and for forty years she worked there in the midst of disease, poverty and the storms of war. When a famine came upon China she gave her food and her last dollar to help those starving. She died on Christmas Eve 1912. Lottie said, “I would that I had a thousand lives that I might give them to the women of China.” As a result of her passionate service the Southern Baptist Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for foreign missions (Now International Missions) has raised millions to support thousands of missionaries across the world.

Even though we may never go to India or China to serve as missionaries are we not also called to enlarge our tent by reaching out to the fields of souls that are “white unto harvest?” What great things have you attempted for God? What great things are you expecting from God?

Begin where you are. Carey and Moon both began to passionately serve where they lived and then God enlarged their tents and sent them forth to even greater harvest fields. Place your life in the hands of God and allow Him through you to touch hearts and lives across this world.

The Burning Bush Devotional
12.05.02

Spams, Scams, and Hoaxes

“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; He guards the paths of justice, and preserves the way of His saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice, equity and every good path. When wisdom enters your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul, discretion will preserve you; understanding will keep you, to deliver you from the way of evil, from the man who speaks perverse things, from those who leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness; who rejoice in doing evil, and delight in the perversity of the wicked; whose ways are crooked, and who are devious in their paths.” - Proverbs 2:6-15.

It appears that email spamming along with the scams associated with them is increasing. Just today a list of the top ten email spams and scams was released for the past month. The list was compiled by Sophos an anti-virus firm. The number one spam and malicious scam was the email claiming that the file jdbgmr.exe was a virus and giving instructions to delete the file. The claim is that by removal of the file it will keep your computer from getting a virus but this is a hoax. Instead of removing a problem it will create a problem if the file is removed.

Then there is the Bill Gates (number 9 on the list) spam, which claims that Bill will give you $245 every time you forward the email to another person. Not true! And there are still the giving away a fortune emails, which seem to be multiplying daily. Most of these originate in Nigeria and claim to be willing to give you a large sum of money. But there is always a catch and many have ended up losing much of their money trying to get the promised amount.

How can we protect ourselves from these often malicious emails? We need wisdom! True wisdom comes from our Father who is willing to bless us abundantly with great wisdom. From the writer of Proverbs we see that wisdom comes from the “mouth of the Lord.” His Holy Word provides us with wisdom. The more of the Word of God we have in our life the greater will be our wisdom. As we act upon the Word of God in obedience we will find that we are “walk(ing) uprightly.”

As we saturate our lives with the Word of God and live according to that Word we find we will reap countless benefits as a result. Some of those benefits are wisdom, knowledge, understanding and discretion. Then we will be delivered from the “way of evil” and from those who delight in “doing evil.”

Copyright © 2002 - 2003. 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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