Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins. - James 4:13-17.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. - James 1:5.
Last week a woman who lives in Levy County, Florida saw some kind of animal in her yard, and she went outside to check it out. The animal turned out to be a fox, and it attacked her. The fox bit her on the leg but wouldn’t turn loose, and so she told her husband to go get their rifle. The husband did manage to kill the fox after firing seven rounds from the .22 caliber gun, but he also hit his wife once in the lower leg. She apparently is going to be okay.
Early in our marriage, Jeanie and I were both working at a cotton gin that my father-in-law managed. Our car needed a tune up and there was a garage close to the gin that I took it to. Not long afterwards Jeanie and I heard the sirens of fire engines. We all wondered where they were going since this was a small city. It wasn’t long before I found out. The mechanic came from the garage that I had taken our car to. He said that the fire had been…my car! All the wiring and everything except the block under the hood had been destroyed.
We contacted our insurance agent, and he tried to go to the garage to check out the damage. But he couldn’t check out the damage because the garage was locked up. The mechanic had left and went to California for a week with our damaged car locked up in his garage. We did finally gain access to the car and after another week our car was finally repaired. Sometimes the cost of a tune up is higher than you might think.
Life seems to always have the potential to throw us a curve ball when we least expect it. We think we know what tomorrow will bring, but we really have no control. We think we will have good health for many years to come, but we know that tomorrow all that could change. We think that we have many years to live our lives for the Lord. But the end of our life could be today. We think that we have plenty of time to reach that neighbor, friend, or relative with the good news of Jesus. But the truth is we may never have another opportunity.
The truth is that life has twists and turns that none of us can predict or foresee. Unexpected things occur in the life of every person on a frequent basis. Some of those occurrences are big, some are little, and some are life changing. Things happen! However, God does know what is coming around the corner and He is the only One who really knows. Let us not depend on our fallible human wisdom, knowledge and resources but instead seek the wisdom and guidance of the Lord for each step of every day. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him (James 1:5).”
When Bad Things Happen
And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, "Be saved from this perverse generation." Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. - Acts 2:40-47.
When bad things happen in my life my response, since I have been a Christian has always been to turn to God. Do I blame God for the bad things that have happened? No. Do I ask Him to help me? Yes. Does He always help me the way that I want Him to help me? No. However, He does always bring good out of the bad as His Word promises in Romans 8:28. I may not immediately be able to see it, but eventually I know that I will and I have every time something bad has happened. Is that the only way that God helps when the bad things happen? No. He is able to hold me together and give me peace in spite of the turmoil and the anguish that may be spinning around me. Philippians 4:6-7 is not just words on a paper because prayer really does make a difference. Sometimes God does move in answer to those prayers to change things supernaturally. I would like for Him to do that every time but even when He doesn’t I trust Him to know better than I do what is best for my life (Isaiah 55:8-9; Jeremiah 29:11).
Before I was a Christian, I did not turn to God when bad things happened. I ponder sometimes what a great difference it would have made in my life if as a teenager I had been walking with my Lord and had called out to Him when I was hurting and alone. Oh, life during those days would have been so much better, more full, more exciting, more everything….
Why do people turn away from God or blame God when bad things happen? Acts 2:42 explains why the early church did not do that, "And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers." This verse says much about what we need as Christians today. When our world comes crashing in and everything is going wrong, what do we do? Where do we turn? We should follow the example of the early church and continue on. They "continued steadfastly." This seems to indicate that there was at least some opposition to their doing what the remainder of the verse states.
When all seems lost, continue on. Continue on in the "apostles’ doctrine" which was and is the Word of God. Continue on reading, studying and meditating upon the Word of God. Continue on memorizing and imbedding the Word of God in your hearts.
When all seems lost, continue on. Continue on in fellowship with other Christians. Continue on provoking and encouraging others to love and good works and assembling with other believers (Hebrews 10:24-25). Continue on and stand firm with your labor for the Lord because we know that it is never in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). Continue on in that fellowship of obedience to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). Continue on and you too will have "gladness…of heart!"
Great and Mighty Things
Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know. - Jeremiah 33:3.
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. - Ephesians 3:20-21.
Before Dawson Trotman became the founder of the Navigators he was a truck driver. The verses above from Jeremiah and Ephesians were upon his heart when he felt a great burden to pray. He and a friend who was a plumber met together outside in the hills at five o’clock in the morning for 42 days to pray and claim those promises. They at first prayed for the United States and then with a map of the world began to pray for the countries of the world. Little did Dawson know that God would use his life to touch the lives of people in all the countries for which they were praying.
Billy Graham once said about Dawson Trotman: "I think Daws has personally touched more lives than anybody I have ever known." Those verses in Jeremiah and Ephesians are included in the early version of the Navigator’s Topical Memory System and the topic for those verses is “God’s Answer.” The topic just prior to God’s Answer is “Praying Alone” and the verses are Matthew 6:6 (“But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”), and Mark 1:35 (“Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.”).
The Word of God changed Dawson Trotman’s life leading him to a saving knowledge of Jesus and then through His Word God trained and empowered Dawson for the work that God had for him. While Dawson was driving a truck he memorized a verse a day for three years. Those verses of Scripture changed Dawson Trotman’s life and the lives of countless others. Through memorization of Scripture God changed my life and I was able hear more clearly the still small voice of God speaking to me about His call upon my life. He will do the same for you.
God says through the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 33:3), “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” What are the great and mighty things that you do not know that God wants to show you for your life? You may be a truck driver, or a dishwasher, or an executive, or a pastor, or have some other occupation but what great and mighty things would God show you if you were to spend an extended time in prayer? What impact would it have upon your life? What impact would it have upon the lives of countless others? It changed Dawson Trotman’s life forever.
Why not begin to call upon God today in a deeper way than you ever have before? Allow God to reveal to you the great and mighty things that you do not know.
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. - Hebrews 11:6.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. - Psalm 32:8.
Barnabus Shaw along with his wife, Jane, was the first Wesleyan minister to come to South Africa in 1816 and he had planned to preach the Gospel at Cape Town. However, he was forbidden from doing so by the governor. Uncertain as to how to proceed, the Shaws acted on faith according to a passage of Scripture that God had placed on their hearts (1 Samuel 6). They bought oxen and a wagon and loaded their belongings into the wagon. Then they did something really strange - they allowed the oxen to go wherever the oxen wanted to go. In a month they had traveled about 200 miles and there they were met by a group of Khoikhoi people. The tribe had left their home and they were on their way to Cape Town to find a missionary so that they could learn about the Word of God. What incredible faith!
The Bible is hard for our human minds to accept. Because when we read the Bible we are suddenly in a world where seas part and people walk across on dry ground. A world where bushes burn but are not burned up. In this world of the Bible, manna drops out of the sky to feed the people, not once but every day (six days a week). In this world of faith people walk on water, the blind are able to see again, quadriplegics are made to walk and even the dead are brought back to life!! Even though it seems unbelievable somehow we believe, and we know that the Bible is true and that God exists. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).”
What is even more amazing is when God’s people begin to exercise their faith. I once heard a sermon about faith and the pastor said the exercise of faith is:
Believing when you don’t see it.
Obeying when you don’t understand it.
Giving when you don’t have it.
Persisting when you don’t feel like it.
Praising before you receive it.
And trusting when you don’t get it (i.e. what you have prayed for).
The exercise of that kind of faith is a testimony to a faithless world. Is your faith being exercised? I ask that because God is still God and we still must walk by faith and not by sight in this world. Maybe it is time for you to give up the reins of your life to the Lord and allow Him to guide you with His eye? It may be that the Lord has something humanly impossible for you to do that will require real faith. Will you answer His call?
There are Consequences
(Update of a devotional from 1998)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:9.
For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. - Romans 3:23.
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. - Romans 6:23.
Are there any consequences for our sins if we ask God to forgive us? If we are cleansed from unrighteousness, washed and made as white as snow, and our sins are put as far as the east is from the west and remembered no more; are there any consequences for sins that have been forgiven?
Remember King David in the Old Testament and how he committed adultery, ordered the murder of Bathsheba’s husband Uriah? After David is confronted by the prophet Nathan, David then cries out to God in Psalm 51, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me (Psalm 51:1-3).” I believe that David would tell you that even after God had forgiven him there were some consequences for his sins.
What were the consequences? They are spoken from the lips of the prophet Nathan who says beginning in 2 Samuel 12:10, “Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. Thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.’ So David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the LORD.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die.’” All of those things spoken by the prophet Nathan came to pass as is recorded in Scripture even though David had been forgiven of his sins! If we sin there are consequences and those wages must be paid.
You may be thinking but that was in the Old Testament and that God does not do things like that now after Jesus died on the cross. In Acts chapter five, Ananias and his wife Sapphira lied about the amount they received from selling property they owned. The consequence for their lying to the apostle Peter and in actuality to the Holy Spirit was the immediate supernatural death of Ananias and Sapphira.
You may think that you can knowingly live in sin and that there will be no consequences for you. Sadly, there are always consequences for sin - those wages must be paid. You may not think that you are paying them but you are by living beneath your privileges as a member of the royal family of the King of kings and Lord of lords. When you are living outside of the will of God there are always consequences and those consequences affect everyone and everything around you because the wages of sin must be paid.
The good news, the great news is that you do not have to live outside of God’s will for your life. You can turn back. You can begin again. You may have wasted years of your life but you do not have to waste the rest of your life. Change now. Begin now. 1 John 1:9 is the place to start. Do it now. Please don’t risk another day of disobedience to your Lord because the wages must always be paid.
Out of Gas
(Update of a devotional from 1998)
Just a day or two ago in Cookeville, Tennessee three thieves ran into a problem while making their getaway. The three were in the process of stealing a recliner from a Goodwill store. Now, they did succeed in loading the recliner into their truck and they were able to begin to drive away but that was when their problems started. Before leaving the parking lot of the store the truck ran out of gas and by that time someone had called the police about the break-in. They were all arrested and have been charged with the attempted theft.
Some of you may never have run out of gasoline in your car. It has only happened to me once and that was enough! I was 17 years old and a friend had set up a double date for us. We were on our way to pick up the girls and I was in a hurry. It was a complete shock when the car began to spit and sputter and then die. Needless to say we were late for the date, and the evening turned out badly which was probably for the best.
Spiritually we can run out of gas as well. We are busy people with jobs, children, their activities, our activities, church, our responsibilities at church, and church activities. We are preoccupied with the immediate. Then it happens, a crisis comes into our lives and we find that the spiritual tank is empty. We turn to the Lord and try to fill it back up but the crisis is such that everything we take in immediately goes back out. We put on our happy faces and pretend that everything is okay but really we are just barely crawling, trying to make it through another day. Sound familiar?
The fact is we can’t wait until that storm blows in to fill up the tank. Just as we need physical food frequently in order to live we also need spiritual food. We need that daily intake of reading, studying, and meditating upon the Word of God. We also need to pray every day. Jesus says to pray in the Lord’s Prayer, the model prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread (Matthew 6:11).” In Mark 1:35 we are told, “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.” Jesus had a quiet time and we need one every day too - preferably early in the morning before beginning our day.
Maybe it’s time to fill up the tank? Don’t let the devil catch you when you’re, out of gas!
Judgment is Coming Soon
(Update of a devotional from 1998)
No one, when he has lit a lamp, covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed, but sets it on a lampstand, that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light. Therefore take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him. - Luke 8:16-18.
In the time in which we live, we can understand how God is able to keep a record of our lives. Camcorders have made it possible to record in color with sound many of the events of our lives. There are millions of cell phones that also contain cameras and digital cameras that all may be used to record the events around us. We know that whatever our capabilities may be that God’s abilities to record our lives are far superior to ours.
For those who do not have salvation through Jesus Christ, they will one day be at the Great White Throne judgment which is spoken of in Revelation 20:11-12, "Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books."
Those of us who know Jesus as our Savior will one day stand before a different judgment. This judgment is known as the Judgment Seat of Christ. It is spoken of in 2 Corinthians 5:10-11, "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences."
Someday if we know the Lord Jesus as our Savior, we will stand before him face to face. His fiery eyes will examine our lives. He will see everything we have ever said, done or thought. The apostle Paul is speaking of this event in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire."
Revelation 1:14 gives this description of the Alpha and Omega, "His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and His eyes like a flame of fire." One day those burning eyes of fire shall examine our lives. All the junk, the sinful things, the wasteful things, all of that will be burned away and only those things fit for Heaven will be left. Some, as Paul indicates, will arrive in Heaven only with the smell of smoke upon them and nothing else. However, the apostle also assures us in Romans 8:1 that, "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit."
As current world events are now unfolding it is possible to see that the end times are near if we are not already in them. The time remaining to do the work of the Lord is not limitless. Let us be about our Father’s business, see where He is working and join Him in that work because judgment is coming soon.
Return to the Lord
(Update of a devotional from 1998)
Ephraim shall be desolate in the day of rebuke; among the tribes of Israel I make known what is sure. The princes of Judah are like those who remove a landmark; I will pour out My wrath on them like water. Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment, because he willingly walked by human precept. Therefore I will be to Ephraim like a moth, and to the house of Judah like rottenness. When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, then Ephraim went to Assyria and sent to King Jareb; yet he cannot cure you, nor heal you of your wound. For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will tear them and go away; I will take them away, and no one shall rescue. I will return again to My place till they acknowledge their offense. Then they will seek My face; in their affliction they will earnestly seek Me. - Hosea 5:9-15.
Many young people at the Falls Creek youth camp in Oklahoma recommitted their lives to the Lord last week. I remember some periods in my own life when I was far away from the Lord. Once you have experienced the fellowship of God, to live life without His fellowship places upon you a sense of great emptiness. God told his people in Hosea that He would withdraw from them and it was for the purpose of their realizing their need for Him.
I like what the people say in the first three verses of Hosea chapter six as they decide to return to the Lord: “Come, and let us return to the Lord; for He has torn, but He will heal us; He has stricken, but He will bind us up. After two days He will revive us; on the third day He will raise us up, that we may live in His sight. Let us know, let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord. His going forth is established as the morning; He will come to us like the rain, like the latter and former rain to the earth.”
In the same way when we turn again to the Lord He begins to restore us. What has been torn down over a period of time is not instantly repaired. But as we begin anew to walk with our Lord we see that new life is breathed into our relationships, new life is breathed into every area of our lives, and we can once again hear that small, still voice of God.
As we “follow on to know the Lord (As the KJV puts it in Hosea 6:3)” - then His presence, restoration, and blessings in our lives will be like the rain. As we serve Him and follow Him, He will continually rain His Spirit upon us beyond our imagination. As we “follow on to know the Lord” we walk deeper and deeper into that river of His love. We walk ankle deep, then knee deep, then waist deep, and then there are waters to swim in (Ezekiel 47).
Where are you now? If you have walked away from God, He is calling, “Come and return to me and I will restore you.” If you are walking with Him, then He is still calling you - He is calling you to a deeper and deeper relationship with Him.
The Devil is Selling Lemons
(Update of a devotional from 1998)
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 gives 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. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. - 1 Peter 5:5-11.
Have you ever bought a car that was a lemon? Wikipedia gives this definition for an automobile that is a lemon: “A lemon is a defective car that, when purchased new or used, is found by the purchaser to have numerous or severe defects not readily apparent before the purchase. Any vehicle with these issues can be termed a 'lemon,' and, by extension, any product which has major flaws that render it unfit for its purpose can be described as a 'lemon'.”
I did once buy a used car that was a “lemon” and it was not a pleasant experience. The car was for my oldest son and on the outside it was beautiful, however, I failed to inspect it sufficiently. It was raining on the day we purchased the car and so I did not crawl underneath of the vehicle. If I had crawled under it I would have seen that the car had been in a severe accident. Later I found out that it had been totaled and sold for salvage or junk. Someone had bought it and rebuilt it enough for it to pass as a desirable vehicle.
This car was at the mechanics too many times to remember. I thought that eventually we could replace and repair what was wrong with it. We had too much money in it to just give up or at least that was what I was thinking. After sinking several thousand dollars more into the car a service manager told me that if it was his car he would get rid of it. Why? Because it was a “lemon” and it would never be a good car and it would always have problems. Now he tells me, right!
That old devil is constantly trying to sell us some things too. They all look good on the outside but if we look at them closely we will see that they are lemons. What harm will one snort of cocaine do? Ask the person who drops dead from a heart attack. What harm will a few minutes with a prostitute do? Ask the man who contracted HIV. What harm will a little gambling do? Ask the person who develops an addiction and loses their family.
Before we buy what the devil’s selling we ought to crawl underneath and take a good long look. Submit yourself to God’s will in every area of your life and resist the devil - the Lord will “exalt you in due time.”
(Update of a devotional from 1998)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. - 2 Corinthians 5:17.
There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” - John 3:1-8.
“It’s a boy!!” Ten years ago today our first grandchild was born and I was and still am a very proud grandfather. I marveled again at the miracle of birth. Before our grandson was born he was inside the womb. Inside of his mother, he heard her heartbeat, her muffled voice and the muffled noises of countless other things. But suddenly in birth he is no longer in the darkness, he can see, he can hear, he can smell, taste, and feel. He has begun to learn, to grow in this new world and hopefully will do so for the rest of his life.
Jesus compares the salvation experience to the experience of birth in John chapter three and Paul describes this new birth in 2 Corinthians 5:17. Just as a child is delivered from the darkness of the womb, through believing upon Jesus we are delivered out of spiritual darkness. Just as a baby grows and learns we as Christians should grow and learn.
Before our new birth we have difficulty understanding and comprehending spiritual things as the apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” However, once we have become that “new creation” the Holy Spirit dwells within us and speaks to us. After being “born again” when we read God’s Word the words are different than they were before. The Bible somehow seems alive as the Spirit speaks truth through those words to our hearts. Sermons are no longer dull and boring because we know and sense the Spirit speaking to us. Praying is no longer going through some ritual but communicating with the Creator of the Universe - listening for His voice. When we have truly been born again things will never be the same as before because we will have spiritual life that has been breathed into us by the Spirit of God.
Someday there will be another birthing experience, some call it death but really it is another beginning. In 1 Corinthians 13:12 we are told, “For now we see through a glass, darkly (dimly-NKJV); but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” As much as we are able to experience of God, of spiritual reality, of life now, it is only like looking through a dark glass compared to actually experiencing the wonders of eternity!!
Have you been “born again?” If not, I want to encourage you to believe now upon Jesus Christ receiving Him as your Lord and Savior. If you have a desire to do so the Holy Spirit is speaking to your heart and today is the day of salvation. Today can be your spiritual birthday. It can be the day that you are born into the family of God.
For more information about the new birth visit this page at my website: http://www.theburningbush.net/articles.asp?columnid=2939
Laws of Combat
(Update of a devotional from 1998)
In 1998, someone sent me a copy of Murphy’s Laws of Combat that was given to Cadet Matt Greb during his first month at West Point. It was interesting to me to see how well those rules seemed to fit in with the Christian life. They fit so well because we as Christians are all involved in combat, a spiritual war.
Several of those rules were right on, such as: “Anything you do can get you shot - including nothing.” How true! Whether we are fighting for our Lord, running away, or just standing still we are fair game for the enemy. If we think that the enemy will leave us alone if we do nothing we are mistaken. The Bible says in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” Sometimes it is easier for the enemy if you are just sitting there doing nothing.
Another one of the Laws of Combat that got my attention was: “You are not Superman.” There has only been one man that was tempted at all points without sin and His name is Jesus Christ. We need other Christians around us as we live the Christian life. There are several verses in the Bible that communicates this need, such as:
Matthew 18:19, “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.”
Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”
Hebrews 10:24-25, “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.”
Here are a few of the other Laws of Combat and some thoughts that crossed my mind. You may be able to think of some other ways that they apply to the Christian life:
“Don’t look conspicuous - it draws fire.” (Pride.)
“When in doubt empty your magazine.” (Don’t be content with just enough holiness to keep the devil at bay.)
“If your attack is going well, it’s an ambush.” (When souls are being saved and a church is growing the enemy will launch a counterattack.)
“The important things are always simple.” (How simple is the gospel? So simple that a child can understand. What do we need to do to be happy? Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.)
“The easy ways always mined.” (There are two roads of which the Bible speaks, the narrow road and the broad road that leads to destruction.)
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:10-12).”
Since we as Christians are all involved in the same spiritual war I hope that these laws of combat will provide a little wisdom for your own theater of operation.
(Update of a devotional from 1998)
Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. - 2 Corinthians 4:1-4.
But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. - 1 John 2:11.
One morning about ten years ago I woke up with a ruptured disc in my back with severe pain down my left leg (A few weeks later the pain was gone and my back was much better.). Two weeks after that morning I woke up with a brown recluse spider bite on my left leg (It slowly healed and it is hard to even see the scar now. I am very thankful for all who prayed for me and to the Lord for answering those prayers!) I can only conclude after those two incidents that sleeping can sometimes be dangerous!!
Of course Samson could confirm that sleeping is dangerous (Judges 16:19). Sisera could also confirm that sleeping is dangerous (Judges 4:21) and there are several others that could as well in the Bible. Eutychus could confirm that it is dangerous to sleep in church (Acts 20:9). But the most dangerous sleep of all is the spiritual sleep of those who have been blinded by the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). Those blinded by the god of this world (satan) appear to be unconcerned about death. They appear to have little concern for anything other than the material world. Spiritually you can only describe them as being asleep to the reality of eternity. There seems to be so many of them and they think they know where they are going but “the darkness has blinded” their eyes.
It may be that the reason so many are blinded by satan is that there is another category of sleepers. That category is the sleeping Christian. The apostle Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:6-8, “Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.”
Time is rocketing forward as we move closer and closer to the time when our Lord Jesus returns. The time that we have to reach those blinded by satan is running out. Let us wake up and reach out to those around us who are so close to entering eternity without Christ and without hope. As the apostle Paul writes to the Thessalonians, “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? For you are our glory and joy (1 Thessalonians 2:19).”
Where are they?
Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. - 1 Peter 5:7.
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “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.” Amen. - Matthew 28:18-20.
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. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. - John 3:16-18.
Sometimes Jeanie, Nick and I go to cemeteries to find where our ancestors are buried. On our recent trip to Texas we visited a couple cemeteries where some of Jeanie’s ancestors are buried. When I walk through a cemetery I always try to read at least some of the inscriptions on the headstones. Some just had the names and dates, others had short inscriptions, and some are now unreadable. I liked the inscription on Jeanie’s three great-grandmother’s headstone which says, “She died as she lived trusting in God.”
You can’t walk through a cemetery like that without being touched by the tragedies of life. So many lives cut short, many while only children. With each headstone you see a marker representing lives lived out here on Planet Earth. As I look at the headstones I wonder sometimes whether they knew Jesus as their Savior. I wonder where those people are at now? Are they with Jesus, or are they in that other place of torment?
So many people going out into eternity each day. They are all around us. Does anyone care about their souls? God says that He cares. Not only does He say that but He also demonstrated it through Jesus suffering and dying on the cross. John 3:16 tells us of God’s great love. But how will these people on their way to eternity without a Savior ever know of God’s love? God has a plan and it involves you and me. What is the plan? God says to you and me, “Go therefore....” in Matthew 28:19.
God cares, but do we? Do we care enough to be obedient to the command of God? Do we care enough to share with someone lost and on their way to an eternity of terror how to have salvation? We say we care, but do our actions demonstrate that we actually do? We have an example, His name is Jesus, and He cared enough to die for you and me. How much do we really care?
What to do in a Storm
This is an update of a devotional that I wrote about ten years ago in June 1998. There is an enhanced risk for tornadoes in the United States today.
In Mark chapter 4 (vs. 35-41) the Bible tells us of the disciples and Jesus being caught in a storm at sea. The disciples are terrified but Jesus is sound asleep. In their terror the disciples cry out to Jesus, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Jesus “...arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.”
Several neighborhoods in Hugo, Minnesota were devastated by a tornado on May 31, 2008. Jeff Janus believes that he was protected in the midst of that horrific destruction. He was outside when the storm suddenly hit but he ran inside because as he says he “…saw people’s houses flying by.” He only had enough time to find his dog and cat and holding one in each arm huddled down in a hallway. The bedroom doors were ripped off but somehow were gently placed on top of him which gave him protection from the falling and blowing debris. The doors protected him even though his home was destroyed. Jeff does not mention praying but it is obvious that he was protected and it may be that someone was praying for him.
Soon after I was married we were living in Oklahoma City in 1970 on Northwest 34th street in a duplex apartment on the top floor. A tornado hit one night causing damage to the south of us, passing over the top of our duplex, and causing damage to the north hitting a motel. My mother-in-law was staying with us that night and we were all three praying. We know that God protected us.
On Memorial Day, the same day the tornado hit Hugo, Minnesota, we also had to go to our storm shelter. We now have storm sirens in our town and they were blown for the first time. Just before going to our shelter looking out of our south window I could see two cloud lowerings that might have been twin tornadoes. I could not see any rotation but weather reports were saying that there was rotation in the cloud. Others in our area later reported that they could clearly see the rotation. We were in our shelter praying when the siren was sounded and I am sure that many others were praying too. Those twin funnels went to the west missing us completely.
The next day I took Jeanie and a group of kids to a children’s camp for the week. By the time we arrived it was obvious that there was a bad storm to the southwest of the camp. The storm appeared to be headed straight for the camp. Of course, everyone was praying about this and when I arrived back home and checked the radar the storm was severe but it appeared to be stalled out. Over the next hour or so the storm began to turn away from the camp and to dissipate. Again, I believe this was an answer to many prayers.
Over the years of living in tornado alley in Oklahoma I remember many times of crying out to God to save me in the midst of storms. I have watched many newscasts of survivors of tornadoes testifying of their faith and of their prayers to God in the midst of the terror.
On Saturday evening, June 13, 1998 it was with a grim fascination that I watched as tornadoes again made their way across our state. Through the advance in technology the tornadoes were watched live. The tornadoes were filmed through cameras on helicopters, spotter vehicles and live cams stationed around the state. As the tornadoes invaded Oklahoma City they skipped seemingly on a random basis from place to place. I watched with fascination as a thin tornado twisted and turned and made a direct hit on a thin sliver of a radio tower. There were only a few minor injuries during this outbreak of twisters.
In the state of Oklahoma at that time there were only two 24-hour contemporary Christian radio stations. One in Tulsa and one in Elk City. There had been three, one in Oklahoma City also, until a week before the storm when a decision was made to drop the station’s Christian format. Was it just a coincidence that one week later a tornado happened to make a direct hit on their radio tower? Could it be that they not only dropped their format but their prayers as well?
One thing is for sure and that is if you are in a storm ask for help from the One who can help you. Whatever kind of storm you may be in whether it is a natural phenomenon or storms that are financial, or emotional, or marital, or substance abuse, or some other traumatic thing - when the storm comes ask the Lord to protect you. That’s what the disciples did and that’s what we need to do too.
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. - John 10:27-28.
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life." - John 8:12.
Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it." - Luke 9:23-24.
With the huge popularity of satellite navigational systems have come a few problems. The problems result from some of the imperfections in the systems including some minor details. Apparently, one of those minor details is knowing the difference between a highway and a river! Most of us would consider that to be an important thing to know. I think at least one taxi driver in England would certainly agree with that. The taxi driver was closely following the directions of the sat nav system and when directed to turn into the River Nar followed those instructions. Thankfully, it is a small river, and they were able to easily rescue the driver and a local farmer using a tractor pulled the vehicle out of the river the next day.
Early in my adult life I had a lot of problems. I was very selfish, lazy, easily became angered, kept making the wrong decisions which created tensions in my marriage and there were other problems…. The biggest problem that I had was that I was spiritually lost. My spiritual navigational system was still uninstalled and inoperable. Because of that I kept running into rivers full of problems, and at times it looked as though my life would never find the right way.
Everything in my life began to change from the moment that I prayed to receive Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. All my problems did not immediately disappear; however, course corrections were being made. It took a year and a half and great trauma in my marriage before I began to pray regularly, faithfully every day. It took almost eight years before we were in church on a regular basis. It took ten years before I was reading and studying the Bible as I should. Along the way my problems began to disappear from my life. Along the way I found that my problems were being replaced with joy, peace, love, and meaning in life.
If your life is out of whack, out of synch, and you have all kinds of problems there is only One who can lead you out of the mess. Only by following Jesus can you find the right way for your life. Some of you have known Jesus for many years but your life is still a mess. If that is your situation, and you are sitting in the middle of a river of problems you need to brush the dust off of your Bible and recheck the instructions. God has the directions that you need for your life. So, what do you need to do? Here’s what Jesus says, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me."
But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen! - 2 Timothy 4:17.
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. - Isaiah 41:10.
So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” - Hebrews 13:6.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7.
On June 8, 2004, Anne Hjelle came very close to dying when a mountain lion attacked her. Earlier, on the same day, the same lion had killed another biker near to where Anne was attacked. Debi Nichols riding with Anne tried to help her friend during the attack. Debi threw her bike at the lion and then grabbed hold of Anne’s leg trying to hold onto her while the lion was trying to drag Anne away. Three more bikers arrived and they threw rocks at the lion driving it away.
Anne suffered 40 bites and wounds which included severe trauma to the left side of her face. Six surgeries have repaired some things but one side of her face is still disfigured. In spite of this terrible thing Anne continues on and her faith is very strong. A week after the attack with 200 stitches and staples holding her together she hiked back to where the attack occurred with family and friends. Today she continues to ride her bike in the same area and even has a painting of a mountain lion hanging in her bedroom. She speaks often about her attack and her faith which has sustained her and continues to sustain her because she knows that the Lord is beside her still as He was on that day in 2004 when the lion attacked.
The apostle Peter tells us to “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).” Our enemy, the devil, delights in seeing our fear. That old devil wants us to become so fearful that we will become paralyzed with fear and unable to do or say anything for the Lord. It is a stark contrast between the enemy seeking to bring fear into our lives and that of the Lord who “…has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
God would have His children to be confident warriors marching forward to enlarge His kingdom. What can man or even a lion do to you? The apostle Paul knew that the very worst that could happen to him here on this earth was death. He had no fear of death because he knew that if he were to die he would then be in the presence of the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). There is no need for you to live in fear because the Lord will “uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Jesus says, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows (Matthew 10:28-30).”
A New Name
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. - 2 Corinthians 5:17.
He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it. - Revelation 2:17.
For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? - 1 John 5:4-5.
If you were to pick out a new name what would you choose? Steve Kreuscher wants his new name to be “In God We Trust.” I am not sure if he will keep his last name and be “In God We Trust Kreuscher” or if he is abandoning all of his current name. Steve, who is now 57-years-old, is apparently serious about his name change and has filed a petition for the change with the Lake County Court. He says that the new name will symbolize how God has helped him to make it through the tough times in his life. Steve, or should I say “In God We Trust”, works as a school bus driver and is an amateur artist living in a Chicago suburb.
How about you? Have you ever wanted a new name? Maybe you have wanted a new start and wanted to completely reinvent yourself as someone else. Actually you can have that done and you will not even have to go to court. My reinvention as a person began when I was still 19-years-old. I invited Jesus Christ to come into my life asking that He forgive me of my sins and be my Lord and my Savior. At that moment I was not just reinvented, I was born again (John 3:3) and became a “new creation”. In addition, someday I will sit down with my Lord and have a meal of “new manna” and He will give me a “white stone” which will have written upon it my “new name”.
Steve has somewhat of the right idea about changing his name because to have a real change of name, a real change of life you must trust in God. The apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians, “…that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise (Ephesians 1:12-13).
Have you trusted in Christ Jesus as your personal Savior? If not why not do so right now? The benefits of trusting in Him are eternally out of this world - you will be “born again” becoming a “new creation” and will be given a “new name”. And, it is all free because Jesus has already paid the price. The apostle Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-10, “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.”
The Wonderful Testimony of Holly Smith
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. - Matthew 11:28-30.
Holly Smith shares her testimony of how God brought her out of severe depression and into the abundant life:
I was diagnosed with postpartum depression about two years ago. All I knew was that I didn't feel like my normal self, and I wasn't sure why. I think everyone around me noticed something was wrong, but I really didn’t want to bother anyone with my problem. So I didn’t say anything about how I was feeling. I held it in inside like a deep dark secret, and it only made things worse.
Now thinking back I wish I had said something, and I would have been able to get the help I needed sooner. I lost interest in the things I used to enjoy doing…I didn't want to talk to anyone or really even associate with the world at all…or anyone in it. It was as if a dark cloud had surrounded me, and I felt there wasn’t a light at the end of the tunnel. When I became pregnant with my 4th child, Sarah, I was able to start taking some anti-depressants during my pregnancy, and I was starting to feel somewhat better until she was born. Then I decided to stop taking my meds cold turkey and that’s when things started to go downhill. I really didn’t have an emotional attachment to Sarah. I saw a doctor once again and then got back on meds and started going to counseling as well. Both the counseling and the meds together helped me to get back in to the swing of things.
I once again felt like myself again, and I felt like going outside and playing with my kids. I felt like I was able to be the mom that they needed me to be and be the wife my husband needed. I can’t tell you how many times before that I wished I felt like going outside and being a part of the world, but I just couldn’t bring myself out of the darkness. I am hoping that by sharing my experience with postpartum depression, it will give courage to someone also suffering with postpartum to decide to ask for help or be able to help a loved one. I will tell you my journey up until this point was definitely not an easy one.
I solely thank Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior for giving me the strength to make it through the struggle, and that I am still here today. I am now able to reach out and let others know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. If you have faith that GOD can heal you it will happen. I was never much of a believer in miracles until one happened to me. I know that I didn't go through this experience without some good coming out of it. I feel like my job now is to help others who suffer from the same thing I did. I am now free of taking any medications for depression and anxiety and the glory goes to God. He was my rock to lean on because I was incapable of healing myself. I feel like climbing to the highest mountain and shouting to the world Jesus is so awesome!!!!! I am very passionate about my relationship with Christ now. I still have daily struggles as I think we all do but knowing I have a Father in Heaven who loves me so much, and that He gave His life for mine gives me all the peace in the world. It is an amazing, indescribable feeling!
Depression can ruin lives, families, and relationships if it is left untreated. Since sometimes you can’t tell someone is suffering from depression in a physical sense it goes without being diagnosed. I think one of the best things that helped me was just being able to talk about it. There were times when I felt like I was the only one in the world going through the struggle with depression, but there are so many millions of people who have all been through the same thing you just don’t realize it until you are on the road to recovery!! I pray that by sharing my testimony it will give someone the courage to seek help for themselves or maybe a loved one going through depression.
(You can contact Holly at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Treasure in Heaven
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. - Matthew 6:19-21.
For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money. After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them. - Matthew 25:14-19.
You would think that if you put some money in a bank’s safe deposit box that it would be safe. After all that is why you use those boxes so you can have some peace of mind and know that your valuables are being kept safe. Apparently that is not true; at least it is not true in the state of Bihar in India. Dwarika Prasad has found that out the hard way.
Dwarika rented a safe deposit box at a branch of the Central Bank of India which is owned by the government. Into his safe deposit box he put $16,000 dollars worth of rupees and investment papers along with some silver and gold jewelry. After about two and a half years he opened up his box and discovered that the money and investment papers had been devoured by termites! Even the jewelry had some damage. The bank says it is not liable for the damage because it posted a warning notice about termites back in May of 2007. Dwarika says, “I'm shattered. I do not know what to do as I had kept the money for my old age.”
Of course, we do want to protect the material resources that we have in our possession whatever those resources/possessions may be. The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25 gives us the perspective that we are to have toward those material possessions and resources. All that we have actually belongs to God and He has entrusted those possessions and resources into our stewardship. We are responsible to God for how we use or do not use all that He has given to us and there will be a day when the Master requires us to account for what we have done with His possessions and resources.
Not only should we take care and not lose what God has given to us but we should also put those possessions and resources to work in ways that will benefit the Kingdom of God. In the Parable of the Talents, the man who was given only one talent hid his talent in the ground. The Master said to this servant, “You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed. So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest. So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:26-30).”
There is a balance in life toward material things that we must try to keep. We want to use the resources that we have to glorify and serve our Lord but at the same time we must also provide for our families. Whatever possessions or resources that we use in serving the Lord are stored up in a very safe place where termites and earthly decay will never touch them. Heaven is the ultimate safe deposit box! So, whenever you can, put a little more away for your eternal retirement.
Come now, you who say, " Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that." But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. - James 4:13-16.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. - Jeremiah 29:11.
The Lord will perfect that which concerns me; your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; do not forsake the works of Your hands. - Psalm 138:8. (The New Living Translation renders the verse in this way: "The Lord will work out his plans for my life - for your faithful love, O Lord, endures forever. Don’t abandon me, for you made me.")
Jake Merfeld had a plan to burglarize Derdre Rodriguez’s home in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Jake thought he was doing well as he had gathered up a video game, cell phones, and some jewelry and was making his getaway running across the yard. What Jake had not planned on was Derdre coming home and hearing him jump out the back window. She chased him down and used an ice scraper to work him over until he gave up.
Amber and Brandon Herbert had a plan to cover up their burglary of horse saddles and other items from the rural Oregon home of Robert Salisbury. They had posted a bogus notice on Craigslist that Salisbury was moving, and that he was giving away everything instead of moving it. However, law enforcement was able to trace the posting on Craigslist back to the Herbert’s and they have been arrested.
In Waterloo, Iowa, Cash Burch had a plan to steal a Ford Explorer. He was able to break into the vehicle but while trying to start it the battery ran down and an anti-theft system locked the doors trapping Cash inside. The owner finding the man still inside of the vehicle called police who arrested Cash.
In Detroit, Michigan a robber had a plan to rob a bank but left behind an address and a photo ID, and she was soon arrested.
We have our plans and if they were not so sad and pitiful I’m sure God would be laughing continuously. Instead, I think that the Lord may often grieve as He did over Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37), "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!" If we were wise we would cry out as did the Psalmist, "Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge (Psalm 57:1)."
The problem with our human plans is a lack of information, and wisdom. As James points out we do not even know what will happen tomorrow much less next week or next year. Our lives are very fragile things like a "vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away." There are so many variables involved with a plan. A farmer makes his plan for a good crop preparing the ground with fertilizer and planting the seed. However, the farmer cannot control the weather and even though forecasting has improved, long range weather forecasting still has limits. A businessman makes his plans for a new business arranging for a line of credit for the necessary supplies. However, someone else may be planning the same type of business and open a larger, better supplied store a few blocks away. There are so many variables; so many things that can or may not happen when those things are needed to happen that can make our plans fail.
The good news for you is that God has a plan for your life and His plan is to "give you a future and a hope." God does have all the information and all of the wisdom necessary to bring success to His plan for your life. Will you let Him?
In the Right Place
After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. - John 21:1-3.
Can you imagine being an elementary student on a school bus and after a turn the driver falls out of her seat and hits her head? The school bus is then driverless and out of control! Every kid on the bus was probably screaming. It happened on a school bus in California and could have been very tragic if not for a 15-year-old girl who would not normally have been on the bus. Amanda Rouse, the 15-year-old, jumped into the driver’s seat and hit the brakes stopping the bus. The bus did hit a couple of parked cars but thankfully no one was injured other than the driver who had hit her head. Amanda had been feeling sick and asked the driver to take her home. Since she had not received the proper permission to leave school Amanda was rewarded with detention on Saturday. Amanda’s grandmother said about the situation, “I can’t help but believe that she (Amanda) was where God wanted her to be.”
It is a wonderful thing when you know that you are in the right place at the right time. Amanda, in spite of receiving detention for her heroics, knows that she at least at that one moment in time was exactly where she was meant to be.
Sadly, Peter and six other disciples were not in the right place at the right time. Peter had apparently decided that it was over, Jesus was dead, and he might as well go back to his old career of being a fisherman. Six other disciples followed Peter. Jesus did not call them to catch fish as He said to four of them in Matthew 4:19, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus had called them to win souls for the Kingdom of God and He had not changed His mind. The result of they’re being in the wrong place at the wrong time was that they caught no fish.
Peter and his friends had begun to look back to the good old days of when they were fishermen. Those days were not complicated and the only uncertainty was whether you would have a good catch or a bad catch of fish. Sometimes the weather would be good and sometimes the weather would be bad. However, you did not have to worry about Roman soldiers crucifying you for fishing!
In John 21:4 the next morning the risen Lord Jesus comes to find them and reissues His call upon their lives. Jesus addresses some questions that were apparently on the heart of Peter and his friends. They are questions that often loom in the hearts of those serving the Lord. One of those questions is about what reward is there in that service. After demonstrating that He is Lord and the disciples haul in a huge catch of fish; Jesus says to Peter, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?” Jesus was speaking of the fish that had just been caught and that they had eaten for breakfast. It is a decision that must be made in following Jesus. Do we love Him or do we love the world?
Peter had one more question that often is a question that hinders servants of the Lord. “Then Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, who also had leaned on His breast at the supper, and said, “Lord, who is the one who betrays You?” Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, “But Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If I will that he remain till I come, what is that to you? You follow Me (John 21:20-22).” You must not compare yourself to others or worry about how God is working in the lives of others in comparison to how He is working in your life. Jesus had a plan for Peter and He had a plan for John. Peter and John followed the Lord. He has a plan for your life too. Will you follow Him?
You can be in the right place at the right time by fearlessly following your Lord, putting Him first in your life above the treasures of this world, and by praising God for how He works in the lives of others instead of being jealous.
Biting the Hand that Feeds You
The foolishness of a man twists his way, and his heart frets against the Lord. - Proverbs 19:3.
Danielle Herndon and her mother were on their way home to Indianapolis on Interstate 70 when Rex Shannon suddenly passed them off the road on the grass. Shannon then crossed the highway in front of them before his car flipped and crashed. Danielle did what most people would do - she called 911 and ran over to the car to try to help.
I once saw a car flip several times in front of me while driving in Missouri after a wheel came off of a truck and the driver tried to dodge it. Another man who had stopped to help went down to the car with me which was laying on its top but the driver was okay and he crawled out of the window about the time we arrived. However, sometimes when a vehicle is involved in a violent crash the fuel tank may be ruptured or a fuel line may come loose causing a fire or explosion and that was on my mind that day in Missouri. I think that what Danielle did was a very courageous thing to do.
Approaching the crashed car Danielle says, “I thought he was dead.” She says, “I leaned down and asked him ’Are you okay?’ I didn’t see any blood or anything. ‘Are you okay? Is everything okay?’ and he started cussing me.” It was a complete shock when Shannon suddenly ran toward Danielle’s mother and when Danielle got in the way he began hitting and biting her. He was still biting her when police officers arrived responding to the 911 call. Danielle has a broken finger and her nose may be broken in addition to the bite injuries. After officers arrived Shannon kicked and spit on them. Shannon has been charged with five felonies.
Biting the hand that feeds you is a term that I think is from the distant past. You can feed a snake but it may bite you even though you just fed it. The same thing may happen with a bear, or a lion, or even a sometimes a horse. To our human minds it seems completely illogical that after we help an animal or a fellow human being that they would turn around and bite us! This is the kind of thing that Solomon is referring to in Proverbs 19:3. The New International Version makes this easier to understand as the verse is translated as: “A man's own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the LORD.” The New Living Translation makes it even clearer: “People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord.” In other words they bite the hand that feeds them!
Sadly, there are a whole multitude of people just like Rex Shannon. They may not be drunk like he was and they may not be attacking another human being but they are still biting the hand that feeds them. I’ve seen or read about a huge number of people who have messed up their lives through substance abuse, or selfishness, or greed, or promiscuity, or dishonesty, or by something else. You would think that they would be reverent and respectful toward God and call out to Him for help. However, many of them shake their fist at God and curse Him, blaming Him for their problems instead of themselves.
In 1 Peter 5:7 Peter says that God, “cares for you.” That’s right, God cares about you and He loves you. Peter also says that we can place all of our anxiety, all of our cares, all of our concerns upon God. So, instead of cursing God when bad things happen, instead of biting the hand that feeds you, why not ask Him for some help because He is the One who can help you. He “cares for you.”
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 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. - Ephesians 2:1-10.
Zack Dunlap is feeling “pretty good,” which is really good for someone who the doctors pronounced dead on November 19, 2007! He was involved in accident with an all-terrain vehicle two days earlier which gave him severe head injuries. His father says that prior to his son being pronounced dead that there was no activity or blood flow indicated on the brain scan. However, while family members were gathered to say their goodbyes Zack was able to move his foot and hand. Perhaps it was in response to hearing doctors say he was dead and that soon his organs would be taken for transplant into others. Zack is 21-years-old and is still recovering but he is far from being dead. (Zack appeared on NBC’s Today show yesterday. The story has also been reported by the AP and has appeared in a multitude of Internet websites.)
Zack’s story is frightening and it is horrifying! You have to wonder if anything like that has happened to anyone else but not with the same outcome? In a spiritual sense, however, we have all been pronounced dead. What you say? Yes, we are as the apostle Paul says in Ephesians 2 “dead in trespasses and sins.”
Zack’s family says that they feel blessed to have him alive and back with them. This indicates that there was a spiritual component to the change of condition from death to life. Indeed they are blessed. Blessed that for unknown reasons God intervened and brought this young man back to life.
There is only one way that our spiritual condition can change from that of deadness to that of life. It is only through the intervention of God that we can be brought to life. The apostle Paul speaking to those who are alive says, “And you He made alive….” Who made them alive? “God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us…made us alive together with Christ…made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” God through Jesus made them alive. Why did God do that? “…because of His great love with which He loved us…that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
What did it cost for Zack to be brought to life? Nothing. It was simply an act of God. What does it cost us to be brought from being “dead in trespasses and sins” to being “alive together with Christ?” What do we have to do to have life? “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.” Does the recipient of a gift have to pay anything for it? No, a gift is free of cost to the recipient or it would not be a gift.
What do we have to do to receive the gift of life? Jesus says in John 5:24, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” Jesus says in John 3:16, “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.” To pass “from death into life” we must believe upon Jesus Christ - believe that He has paid the price for the gift of eternal life which He freely gives to us. What was the price? The price was His blood which He shed on the cross for our sins.
When do you pass “from death to life?” You pass “from death to life” when you believe. Have you believed upon Jesus Christ receiving Him as your Savior? He has paid the price you just have to receive the gift. Will you take it?
Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” - John 11:20-27.
The long debate about whether or not Jesus was resurrected from the dead is over...if you choose to believe Richard Swinburne. Richard Swinburne is a noted theologian and Oxford University professor, who claims to have mathematically proven the resurrection of Jesus Christ with a 97% certainty. Swinburne’s calculations in support of the resurrection were made on the following assumptions:
“The probably of God's existence is one in two. That is, God either exists or doesn't.”
“The probability that God became incarnate, that is embodied in human form, is also one in two.”
“The evidence for God's existence is an argument for the resurrection.”
“The chance of Christ's resurrection not being reported by the gospels has a probability of one in 10.”
“Considering all these factors together, there is a one in 1,000 chance that the resurrection is not true.”
You can read Professor Swinburne’s book, “The Resurrection of God Incarnate” if you would like more information about these calculations.
Some bright shining day faith will no longer be required in order to believe in Jesus Christ. Until that day, even with the best mathematical calculations we must still as the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:7 “walk by faith, not by sight.” The changed lives of those who encountered Jesus are a testimony to the truth of His resurrection power and to His resurrection. The changed lives of those still encountering Jesus today are a continuing testimony to the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
An often missed point about the resurrection is that Jesus does not say that He has resurrection power. Jesus also does not say that He gives resurrection power. He says He is “the resurrection and the life.”
Lazarus knew what that meant. He knew what resurrection living was all about. Jesus who is the “resurrection and the life” cried out at the tomb of Lazarus, “Lazarus, come forth!” And Lazarus came out of the tomb wrapped in his grave clothes. Lazarus was literally living the resurrected life.
In Acts 3 the lame man knew about resurrection living. The lame man wanted a hand out but instead got a changed life. For the first time in his life he could walk and the Bible says he was “walking, and leaping and praising God.”
Think about Saul who became the apostle Paul. He was persecuting the church. Most likely he was responsible for the deaths of many Christians. But Saul had an encounter with the risen Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus. Saul became Paul absolutely fearless in his service to the Lord. Stone him to death and after they pray for him he rises again. Paul was shipwrecked, bitten by a snake, whipped, imprisoned, and put in stocks but he just continues on - nothing can stop him.
Why? What happened to Lazarus, what happened to the lame man, what happened to Paul? What happened to the disciples? The Jewish priests, elders, and scribes summed it all up in Acts 4:13: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.”
Why? Because they had been with Jesus. Do you want to do some resurrection living? Then you need to be with Jesus.
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. - Romans 5:3-5.
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. - 1 Corinthians 15:58.
For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. - Hebrews 12:3.
You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. - Isaiah 26:3.
We have had the bricks replaced on our church that were blown off by the tornado last year on May 5th. The brick work was finally finished only about a week ago. I have noticed that there are some imperfections in the brick work; not many, but there are some. In addition, the steeple that we had repaired and that is now back up on top of our church building is not perfect either. I told everyone then when the steeple was reinstalled and I think the same is true with the brick work - we need to remember that the building has been through a tornado. Our building has taken some hits but it is still standing. The imperfections have in a way given the building greater character and are a reminder of how close it came to total destruction on that night back in May. It is a reminder too of God’s protection because many lives could have been lost in our community but none were.
In our church and community we have had some unexpected tragedies affecting us over the last few weeks. You could say that we have taken some hits during these weeks. There is nothing easy about going through the unexpected death of a loved one or of a friend. Most Christians if they have been Christians for very long know what I am talking about. You've taken some hits too but hopefully you're still standing.
The apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans indicates that those hits that we sometimes take can be used by God to develop our character. Life has a way of hitting us hard at times. When we are unexpectedly dealt a harsh blow in life what should be our response? How do we keep on going when bad things are happening? Paul tells us that we need to “stand firm” and that we should “let nothing move you.” What does that mean? Paul is saying that no matter what bad, tragic thing may happen to you - do not let it reduce your fervor for the Lord. Paul goes on to say, “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord.” The apostle Paul knew whereof he was talking about because he had taken more than his share of hits too, but he was still standing firm for the Lord and we need to do the same.
There is one very important thing or should I say person that will help us make it through the difficult times. Isaiah tells us that God will keep you in perfect peace if your “mind is stayed” on Him “because” you “trust in” Him. The writer of Hebrews makes this even more clear as he says, “consider Him (Jesus) who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.” We must focus in upon our Lord Jesus Christ. We must take our minds and hearts off of the bad thing or things that have happened or is happening and instead think about Jesus. Reading the Bible, memorizing Scripture verses, meditating upon Scripture, praying, attending church, and serving the Lord with your life will all help you to focus in upon Jesus. When you do that you will find that you have “perfect peace” and that you are still standing, “standing firm” in your faith.
Under His Hand
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 gives 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. - 1 Peter 5:5-6.
Jeanie and I had been married for three years and our oldest son was only a few weeks old in 1973 when we moved our mobile home from the Oklahoma City area to my parent’s farm in western Oklahoma. I had graduated from college at midterm and had found a sales job with an automotive parts distributorship. All went well until the oil shortage. On October 16, 1973 OPEC cut production of oil and placed an embargo on shipments of oil to the west. Gas rationing began, gas prices went up - as cars were driven less, fewer parts wore out. I was laid off in December 1973 a week before Christmas. In a few weeks I went to work for another parts company but this lasted for only a couple of months. Jeanie went back to work and I was home taking care of our one-year-old son.
It was a very frustrating time of being without work. I began to read through the New Testament and for the first time read completely through it. I decided I would go back to Oklahoma City. Go back to college. Live with my sister until I could afford to move my family back. The night before I was leaving my father-in-law called to offer me a job at the cotton gin where he was the manager. This would not be a white collar job. It would be a minimum wage hard work kind of job. I didn’t want to do it. After all I had a college degree. But then I had been reading God’s Word and God spoke to me about my pride. God spoke to me and I knew what He wanted me to do. So very often doing the right thing and the best thing is the hardest thing to do.
I went to work for my father-in-law, Leon Pruet. It was one of the best decisions that I have made in my life. We tore out old machinery and installed new machinery through the summer. In the fall, I stayed on for the ginning season and worked on the press where the cotton is compressed into bails. I gained a different kind of education and gained a deep respect for the godly life my father-in-law led. Pride almost robbed me of one of the greatest experiences of my life.
Through that step of humility I gained character, strength, determination, wisdom, and a life path that has led me to greater service for the Lord. Through what was one of the hardest decisions and most humbling decisions of my life I gained a life. Don’t let pride rob you of life! Place yourself, place your life under His hand and He will lift you up when the time is right.
Surprise! You are Corrupt
As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. - 2 Peter 1:3-4.
To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled (corrupted - NIV) and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled (corrupted - NIV). They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work. - Titus 1: 15-16.
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. - Matthew 5:13.
Somewhere in Massachusetts a police department received three very nice award plaques with an estimated cost of as much as $200 for each one. Each plaque had the name of an officer engraved and reportedly said, "Congratulations! You’re corrupt." Of course, this was not well received by the police department involved. In response, they have dusted the plaques for fingerprints and reported the offensive plaques to the Postal Inspector. Federal charges are possible for using the Postal Service to "threaten, intimidate, or harass." Just a thought, maybe we can have the postal service take over the Internet email system and lock up all of the harassing spammers. But then they would probably want to charge us forty-two cents for every email.
If God were to judge your life right now what would He see? Would He say, "Well done good and faithful servant", or would He say, "You’re corrupt!” If we could see our lives as God sees them would we be surprised?
What is corruption? Here is my definition: corruption is decay meaning whatever state something is in that it becomes worse. Jesus says that we are to be the "salt of the earth." Salt is a preservative and prevents corruption from taking place. Jesus also says that if salt loses its preservative ability it is of no value.
Christians are the mainstay, the preventative of moral perversion further corrupting the hearts and minds of those living in this world. Sadly, many of us Christians i.e. believers could be given a "Congratulations! You’re Corrupt" plaque too. How could this happen? It happens because the world is a corrupting influence that is constantly seeking to erode the moral stance of every child of God. The more contact we have with the world the more contact we need to have with God and the things of God to maintain our saltiness. We cannot constantly be exposed to immoral movies, immoral television programming, immoral books, immoral magazines, immoral friends, and immoral co-workers without there being corruption.
There is, however, a whole other category of individuals that might receive a "Congratulations! You’re Corrupt" plaque. Those in this category are those that the apostle Paul is referring to in Titus 1:16 when he says, "They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work." There are many who claim to be Christians, believers - but they have never known Jesus as their Savior.
If you are losing your saltiness, and you are in danger of receiving a "Congratulations! You’re Corrupt" award it is time to repent and turn again to God. If you claim to be a believer but your life says that is a lie then throw yourself upon the mercy of the Lord Jesus before it is everlastingly too late.
The Path of Blessing
Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." - Luke 18: 9-14.
The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate. - Proverbs 8:13.
In the United Arab Emirates, a license plate has been sold at a charity auction for what is said to be a record fourteen million dollars. What is so special about this license plate? This license plate contains only one numeral, the number "1". Saeed Khouri explains why he paid so much for the number one plate: "I bought it because it’s the best number. I bought it because I want to be the best in the world." The money from the auction is going to a good cause to help a rehabilitation center for accident victims.
Pride is a very self-deceiving and dangerous thing as we see with the Pharisee in Luke 18. From the life experience of the Pharisee he knew that he did the things that were expected of him. He fasted, he tithed, he prayed, and he did not extort money from others. The Pharisee also knew that many tax collectors made their living off of extortion. What the Pharisee did not know was that God does not just look at the outward things that we do. No, God also looks at the heart, the inward condition of a person . The Pharisee’s heart was filled with pride that he was the best, that he was so much better than that scum of the earth sinful tax collector. Meanwhile, the tax collector’s heart was filled with repentance, a desire to turn away from his sin recognizing his unworthiness before God.
What does pride do? It robs us of joy because we can never be satisfied with what we have - we will always want more. It robs us of peace because we will always be concerned that someone else will be better, or have more than us. Pride also robs us of the blessings of God. The apostle Peter shares with us an additional problem with pride in 1 Peter 5:5-7, "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 gives 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." Living with a prideful attitude results in God resisting you, opposing you in all that you do. What a terrible way to live!
You should always strive to live with humility before God and others by your actions and with your heart. Because if you will live your life with humility God will not oppose you, He will not resist you; instead He will exalt you, and lift you up in due time. Living with humility will result in God taking care of you - and you will be given joy, peace, and untold blessings from the hand of God.
The Consequences for Behaving Badly
For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)— then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries. - 2 Peter 2: 4-10.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. - Proverbs 1:7.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 6:23.
In Rochester, Pennsylvania it must have been almost an unbelievable scene. A female bartender did the responsible thing refusing to serve an intoxicated woman who was seven months pregnant another drink and she also told the pregnant woman that she shouldn’t be drinking alcohol. Someone needed to say it and the bartender did. Keisharra Abercrombie who is thirty years old did not take it well. She attacked and broke a glass over the bartender’s head which tore her ear. It took nearly 30 stitches and a couple of staples for the top portion of the ear to be reattached. Keisharra ended up in jail with a $25,000 bail charged with aggravated assault, simple assault, harassment and reckless endangerment.
With the behavior of Keisharra we can see some immediate consequences for her behavior. She has lost her freedom and may have to give up that freedom for a few years if she is sentenced to prison. There will be longer term consequences as she may not be able to have custody of her child and knowing of Keisharra’s abuse of alcohol leads to concern for the health of the child she is carrying. Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a real possibility for the child which will affect the child for all of its life. It will also be a burden upon the heart of the mother for the rest of her life. There are very real consequences for irresponsible behavior. A moment of rage can cause a lifetime of problems.
There are also spiritual consequences for behaving badly. If a person is actively and knowingly involved in sinful activities there are consequences. God will not bless that person’s life. God will allow the natural consequences of those sinful actions to occur.
If you are in a downward spiral, and you want to stop, how do you turn around? Solomon tells us in Proverbs that the beginning of wisdom is "fear of the Lord." Irreverence is epidemic across the United States and much of that irreverence is directed toward God. Many movies, television shows, comics, and others market themselves by claiming proudly to be "irreverent." You can begin to stop the downward spiral by getting rid of the irreverence. Instead of being disrespectful toward God, begin to give Him respect, honor, and glory. Acknowledge that you have knowingly acted in ways that He did not approve. Ask Him to help you to change and to move your life in the opposite direction of where it has been headed. Ask Him to bless your life as you begin to live for Him.
The great news is that God loves you and wants to bless your life. Jesus came that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly (John 10:10). Allow God to bless you and give you life. Instead of fighting against Him become His friend. Imagine how much better your life will be when God is blessing instead of opposing all that you do.
Overcoming Obstacles to the Abundant Life
Now Jericho was securely shut up because of the children of Israel; none went out, and none came in. And the LORD said to Joshua: “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him.” - Joshua 6:1-5.
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. - Acts 2:42.
One of the great stories of the Old Testament is that of the conquering of the fortress city of Jericho. The children of Israel had wandered in the desert for 40 years and had miraculously crossed the Jordan River at flood stage. Now they were confronted with an even greater challenge. That challenge was the powerful, seemingly, impenetrable city of Jericho. How would God have them to defeat this city? Would God send a tornado to knock down the walls? Would He send an earthquake to make the walls fall down? What awe-inspiring thing would God do to give them victory? The children of Israel must have been confounded by the instructions God gave to Joshua and Joshua gave to them. They were simply to march around the city every day for six days and on the seventh day march around the city for seven times. Then, they were to blow the trumpets and the people were instructed to shout. What kind of battle plan was this? “Joshua did you really hear God tell you to have us do this?”
We know what happened. The people marched every day. The trumpets were blown, the people shouted, and the walls came tumbling down. Amazing! “Joshua, what a brilliant plan!”
Most of us have some challenge, some fortress, standing between us and the abundant life (John 10:10) that Jesus came to give us. It may be any of a number of different things: financial problems, employment problems, marital problems, legal problems, lust, anger, laziness, loneliness…. God has a plan for us too. The same principle that the children of Israel employed can work for us too. It is the same principle that was used in the early church. “… they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine (the Word of God) and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” What did they do? “They continued steadfastly….” What did the children of Israel do? They obeyed and did the same thing every day until the walls fell down. God has a similar plan for you.
You see there is great power in doing what we know we ought to do as Christians and doing it every day, day in and day out. We too need to continue steadfastly in prayer, reading God’s Word, assembling with other believers, and serving others in the Name of the Lord. We may not see anything happening but we must leave that up to God. As the children of Israel marched around and around the city of Jericho they could not see anything happening either. If we persist, if we continue to follow God’s plan we will eventually see the fortress of opposition in our lives fall. “So the people shouted when the priests blew the trumpets. And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat. Then the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city (Joshua 6:20).”
First Things First
“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. - Matthew 6:25-34.
Tina Williams of St. Augustine, Florida has her priorities. On Super Bowl Sunday Tina bought a case of beer and carefully strapped a seat belt around it. However, in the backseat was a baby girl which was not restrained. The woman told the arresting officer that she had had a few drinks and she staggered when she stepped out of the vehicle. She was arrested for Driving Under the Influence along with charges of child endangerment, driving without a license, running a red light, and no child restraint.
Tina had her priorities which was apparently making sure her beer made it home safely. Thankfully, an officer was able to stop Tina before her ride home became a very tragic event. Being arrested is never pleasant but the alternative in this case would have been so much worse. We have to wonder how Tina’s priorities became so upside down?
Abraham Maslow presented in a paper in 1943, “A Theory of Human Motivation” his “Hierarchy of Needs.” I remember studying this in psychology classes and it is presented in a diagram of a pyramid with the most basic primal needs at the bottom. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is in this order: physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self actualization.
I find it interesting and spiritually profound that God’s hierarchy of needs is the opposite of Maslow’s. God says that man’s first need is spiritual not physical. Our greatest need in this life is the opposite of what man in his greatest wisdom says that we need. If we will put God first in our lives then everything else will have the hand of God upon it. We honor God with our lives and He promises to provide for our physical needs.
How can we put God first? We do so by making time for Him in our lives. Begin our days by committing through prayer each day to Him. Spend time each day in His Word, and always be aware of His presence. Put service to Him above the rewards of this world. Assemble with other believers to worship together if not providentially hindered as often as possible. As I remember one preacher putting it, “You don’t have to do this. You, get to do this.” You don’t have to live your life like some wild animal. Instead you can live your life to the glory of God making an eternal difference in the lives of those you encounter along the way. You can live like a pauper or you can live as a child of the King it just depends upon your priorities.
Stand in the Ways
Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? No! They were not at all ashamed; Nor did they know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time I punish them, they shall be cast down,” says the LORD. Thus says the LORD: “Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ - Jeremiah 6:15-16.
What is wrong with our world? I believe the immorality that we are seeing that is so abundant everywhere is a result of being on the wrong path. Somewhere along the way, we have gotten off course. When I was growing up, I was in a nominally Christian family. However, I have learned I have ancestors who were very devoted to the Lord.
Somewhere along the way the children of the devout have gotten off course and it has affected their children and their children’s children and on and on. It will continue to have a negative impact upon our lives, unless, we do what? Unless we “Stand in the ways.” Stop going down the wrong path. “Ask for the old paths.” Ask the Lord to help us to find the right path for our lives and to give us the power to live godly lives as many of our ancestors once did.
In our local newspapers, they usually have a report of those who have been arrested for various offenses. Sadly, I now see many familiar names not just of former clients but even more sad is the names of their children. Talking to law enforcement, they tell me the same thing that it is now the children and grandchildren of those they used to arrest that are now in trouble.
Just because your father or grandfather walked down the wrong path with their lives does not mean that you have to do the same. A godly heritage can begin with your life. You can be the one that stands in the ways of the Lord, living your life for Him. You can be the one who establishes a new family tradition, a tradition of uprightness, a tradition that will bring countless blessings upon you and your descendants. Blaze a trail for your children, grandchildren and all your descendants to follow. Mark that trail well with your actions, along with your verbal and written testimony. It will make an eternal difference for those who follow the trail you have blazed. Stand in the ways!
Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. - 2 Corinthians 4:1-6.
One of the many groups on facebook that serve no purpose except for fun (or maybe to sell t-shirts) is the group, “When I was your age, Pluto was a planet.” There are currently over 1,200,000 members of the group. Pluto was recognized as being a planet from February 18, 1930 to August 24, 2006. We were all taught that Pluto was a planet and I still have difficulty thinking that it is not a planet. However, Pluto never was a planet and we believed what was only an illusion. The reality is that Pluto never was a planet.
I have been thinking about this for several days and have realized that there have been many illusions that I believed as being real in the past. One of those was the Iron Curtain. In my mind, it was “iron” and was so established that it could never be removed. The Iron Curtain was able to maintain the illusion from the end of World War II until 1989. I know that I often prayed for the end, the removal of that Iron Curtain but I am not sure whether I really believed it would someday cease to exist. The permanency of that curtain was only an illusion.
We in the United States have believed for many years another illusion. That illusion was that we were safe from terrorism inside of our country. That illusion was shattered permanently on September 11, 2001.
Another illusion that I once had was that because I was a member of a church and had been baptized that I was a Christian. That illusion was shattered when confronted by the testimony of my wife and God’s Word. Being a Christian, a believer is not about church membership, or baptism, or any work that we can do ourselves (Ephesians 2:8-10) - being a Christian is about beginning a relationship with Jesus Christ by believing upon what He has done for us on the cross and receiving Him as our Savior.
An illusion that billions of people have across this world is that they have salvation through some false religion like Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, or something else. It may appear real but that does not make it true. Please do not be deceived by an illusion because your eternal soul is at stake.
For those of us who know the truth we must not rest until the blinding illusions of the enemy have been revealed for what they are and all peoples turn to the Lord. We must continue to pray for those illusions to be removed. We must continue to “preach Christ Jesus the Lord.” “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
The Sport of Evil
To do evil is like sport to a fool, but a man of understanding has wisdom. The fear of the wicked will come upon him, and the desire of the righteous will be granted. When the whirlwind passes by, the wicked is no more, but the righteous has an everlasting foundation. - Proverbs 10:23.
In Russellville, Arkansas, a man received ten months in jail for contempt of court after mooning a judge. Robert White was serving as his own attorney in a municipal court on a disorderly conduct charge. White stated the hearing was a “kangaroo court” and began using foul language. Then He mooned the judge. Judges do tend to view such things as contempt of court. While I was a probation and parole officer, a man I was supervising attacked his girlfriend injuring her and he attacked his own parents. He received only minor punishment for the attacks but he had violated his probation. In a hearing to revoke his probation, the judge was very kind and allowed him three days to take care of things prior to going to prison. Just after the judge left the courtroom, the man began using foul language cursing the judge. The judge was told and he reentered the courtroom calling the court back into session. The man was then ordered immediately to prison.
To so flagrantly flaunt authority is beyond foolishness and yet many do so. Why? It has become their way of life. Doing evil is how they live. Doing evil things is a sport and they enjoy it. They have a lust for evil, for wickedness, for things that are wrong. In Proverbs 11 the Bible says about them, “the unfaithful will be caught by their lust,” “the perversity of the unfaithful will destroy them,” “the wicked will fall by his own wickedness,” “when a wicked man dies, his expectation will perish, and the hope of the unjust perishes.”
How much better for those who do good instead of evil. In Proverbs 11:19, “As righteousness leads to life, so he who pursues evil pursues it to his own death.” And when the righteous die they are “delivered from trouble, and it comes to the wicked instead (Proverbs 11:8).” The life of righteousness is far better than the sport of evil. “...the righteous has an everlasting foundation (Proverbs 10:25).” That everlasting foundation can only be found in Jesus Christ. “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11).”
One of the primary reasons many pursue evil with their lives is that they do not have that everlasting foundation that is only found in Jesus Christ. If you have been engaged in the sport of evil I urge you, before it is eternally too late, to turn to Jesus Christ asking for His mercy, and His forgiveness.
Who are You Listening to?
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the door keeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers. - John 10:1-5.
Following the wrong voice can cause you much trouble and pain. A little boy found that out one day in Auburn, California. The little boy had gone to a dental complex with his two teen-age sisters and they left him in a play area for children. While they were gone, the little boy’s name was called and he followed. They put him into a dental chair, injected him with Novocain, X-rayed him and removed two front teeth. It was the wrong boy! There were two other boys with the same name in the play area. The family filed a lawsuit in Placer County Superior Court.
Adam and Eve had a somewhat similar experience listening to the voice of a snake with legs. Looks like there would have been a clue there somewhere? Much pain and heartache has followed for all of us because of their choosing to follow the wrong voice. Jesus made the right choice in Matthew chapter four when he rejected the voice of the devil and all of his temptations. But the voice of the stranger is often very attractive. The fruit of the tree appeared good to eat to Adam and Eve. The devil offered Jesus the kingdoms of the world. I wonder whether the little boy was tempted with a small toy that some dentists have in their office?
During one Christmas season, I heard there was a garbage strike that affected an affluent neighborhood. Bags of garbage were piling up in the alleys and along the curbs. It was becoming ugly with the smell of it all but one man found a way to have his garbage removed. He wrapped his garbage up in Christmas wrapping paper and left it on his front porch at night. In the morning, thieves would always have it removed. The voice of the stranger wraps his words in the most tempting things. However, if you look closely you will see what the stranger is offering is still just garbage.
Whose voice have you been following and where has that voice led you? Maybe it is time to find that Bible, open it up, ask God to speak to you, and begin to read.
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. - Romans 13:1-5.
In Hempstead, New York a strange thing occurred. When police officers tried to stop a car for committing a traffic violation the driver tried to out run the officers. Now, that is not that unusual but read on. The man did stop though after having an accident and then he tried to out run officers on foot. The man even left his two-year-old son in the car but thankfully, the boy was not injured. Here is the strange thing, the man was not in possession of any alcohol or illegal substances and did not have a criminal record. Police are puzzled by the actions of this individual.
Can you imagine being afraid, so afraid of being stopped for even a minor traffic offense that you have to try to run away leaving your two-year-old child behind? What a sad way to live! Herein we find the benefit of living in accordance with the dictates of the government of the country where we reside. The apostle Paul writes, “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.” Living an upright life according to the laws of the land pays great benefits. The benefits include a lack of fear when a police vehicle or an officer comes near, and a sense of peace knowing you have not committed some criminal act that would subject you to sudden arrest and imprisonment.
The Roman Empire during the time of Christ and of the early church was at times very brutal. However, it was an institution that God allowed to exist as it brought stability to the known world. That stability provided for a relative ease of travel and communication. The ease of travel and communication facilitated the spread of the Gospel through the known world and beyond. The governments of our time can also work to our benefit and benefit the spread of the Gospel by preventing chaos and uncertainty thereby providing stability.
Fear is a terrible thing, which strikes at the very heart of a person. But we do not have to live in fear of our governmental officials. We can live upright lives obeying the laws of the land (So long as those laws are not in clear contradiction with the Word of God.) and by doing so eliminate that source of fear from our lives.
Surviving the Fall
Do not lie in wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; do not plunder his resting place; for a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity. Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; lest the LORD see it, and it displease Him, and He turn away His wrath from him. Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the wicked; for there will be no prospect for the evil man; the lamp of the wicked will be put out. - Proverbs 24:15-20.
“His head was down, his feet were up, and he came whizzing by screaming.” Chris Hoyle had looked out her window just in time to see Ken Larsen on the way down from the top of a five-story building. Larsen survived the fall with no broken bones and was only bruised and scraped.
Ken Larsen’s frightening fall seems to be a picture of many of our lives, which for a variety of reasons may go out of control. Many of the prayer requests we receive are from those whose lives appear to be rapidly heading for a crash landing. Some have financial problems, health problems, marital problems, job problems, sin problems or a combination of problems. So what do you do when you find your life coming apart and you are falling?
Ken Larsen was on top of the building laying telecommunications cable. He was walking backward pulling on the cable and his co-worker was holding the spool feeding it out. When Ken stepped off the roof, he still had the cable in his hands. He held on gripping tighter and tighter which broke his fall. He landed on his feet even though much of the fall was headfirst. Meanwhile back on the roof his co-worker leaned against the spool of cable trying to slow the rate the cable fed out.
The only thing that will slow our fall is to hang onto God. In 1 Corinthians 15:58 we are told, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord....” To have a safe landing we must be steadfast, immovable in our confidence in God. It also helps as it did for Ken Larsen for others to be trying to slow our fall as well. It does make a difference when we do as the apostle exhorted us “that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men...” (1 Timothy 2:1).
When you find yourself falling, coming apart at the seams - do what you know you ought to do. Live, as God would have you to live. Read the Bible, pray, go to church, and serve the Lord. When you are in a free fall that is not the time to turn away from what you know you ought to do. No, it is time to read your Bible more, pray more, go to church more, serve the Lord more, and strive with all your heart to live as you know that God would want you to live. At the very least, you will find peace, love, and joy in the midst of the pain and uncertainties of your life. Most likely, though, you will also find God picking up the pieces of your life and slowly putting everything back together.
Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord. Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch. - Acts 11:19-26.
Arthur Cheney, a 64-year-old man, was arrested close to Marysville, California where he was seen driving a car that was used in a bank robbery. Apparently Arthur did not think that he would be caught any time soon because he left a hand written sticky note on the console of the car. A police officer stated that on the note was written, “Robbery 100s and 50s only.” The officer then stated, “We call that a clue.”
There appears to be some confusion among many calling themselves Christians as to what a Christian actually is and how to become a Christian. Thankfully, God has left us with some clues. In fact, He has left us with a big book full of clues, which we call the Bible. Thought I might mention that because I suspect that some who say they are Christians have never read the book.
Here is one of my favorite clues: “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).” Examining this clue, we find the way to have eternal life. It appears that we can have eternal life by simply believing on the “Son” of God who we know to be Christ Jesus. It is from Christ that the word, Christian, is derived. You might use this clue to examine your own life. Have you believed upon Jesus the Son of God and by believing become a Christian possessing eternal life?
A clue about how we are to live as Christians is found in Acts 11 where we are told about Barnabas who is a Christian that, “he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.” Barnabas was a “good man.” From the word “good” I think that it is obvious that Barnabas was not involved in anything bad, as in evil. You can use this clue to examine your life and determine whether you have one of the characteristics of a Christian. Are you involved in anything of an evil nature?
A clue about the kind of attitude we will have as Christians is that Barnabas was “full of…faith.” One dictionary defines faith as “great trust or confidence in something or someone.” The early Christians as seen in Acts 11 were scattered by persecution but they did not stop preaching, witnessing and sharing their faith. As a result, Christianity spread throughout the known world. Do you have that kind of faith? Does your faith cause you to share Jesus with those around you?
How could the early Christians continue to have faith and live good lives in the face of the severe persecution that they were experiencing? We see with Barnabas that their power came from the Holy Spirit. Barnabas was “full of the Holy Spirit.” Are you full of the Holy Spirit? In Ephesians 5:18 we are told, “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit.” When someone is drunk on alcohol or high on some other substance, they are under the control of that substance. Instead, we are to be controlled, under the influence of the Spirit of God. Is your life controlled by the Spirit of God?
There are countless other clues to be found in the Bible about how to be a Christian and how a Christian is to live. So, if you are not sure about how to be a Christian or how to live as a Christian, pick up your Bible and…get a clue.
Whenever You Fall...Just Get Back Up
Today’s devotional and poem was written by Merissa Lee Kelley. She has written many great poems and if you are a member of the facebook Burning Bush group you can read more of them there on the discussion board.
Merissa shares: Writing this poem was a "pep talk" to myself. It's very important to remember that when you fall...there is a difference in the way God "deals" with you about it and the way the enemy "attacks" you about it. God sent the Holy Spirit to counsel and comfort us. But He also convicts us when we are behaving wrong. The convicting power of the Holy Spirit is not negative or condemning. It is a sense of urgency...a "quickening" in your spirit that is placed there to get your attention. Sort of like a "red flag" waving..."GET OFF THE TRACK...DANGER AHEAD...A TRAIN IS HEADED YOUR WAY"
We are so blessed that the Holy Spirit hears the "train whistle" long before we do...and consistently urges us to mend our ways. It's crucial to heed the wisdom that the Holy Spirit is trying to impart...it will keep us balanced. It's when we tune Him out that our balance gets shaky and we're more apt to fall. However the tactic the enemy uses is completely opposite. His weapons are condemnation, regrets and guilt...and he can wield them like a sledgehammer. His purpose is to get you so mired down in feeling like a failure when you fall...that you will not have the strength to get back up. He can literally try to place a "spirit of heaviness" on you that weights you down. He delights when people "throw in the towel" so to speak...so he can gloat...mission accomplished.
We need to be as determined to succeed in our mission...as he is trying to get us to fail. Feelings are fickle...subject to change, based on the emotional state you are in at the moment. They aren't based on fact and "feeling" like a failure doesn't mean you ARE a failure. Remember, we are more than conquerors through Christ Jesus! Put on the "garment of praise" that drives away the "spirit of heaviness" and keep on stepping!
Sometimes I feel like such a failure...cause I fall down everyday I start each morning with good intentions...then get lost along the way And then the guilt comes pressing in...to add its dismal view Shining a spotlight on what I've done or what I didn't do
Repent and get back on my feet is the only way to go But it really seems in that regard...I'm moving awfully slow Heart and mind in separate corners and neither wants to bend My "flesh" is pushing retaliation...while my spirit seeks to mend
Two steps forward and three steps back...what kind of dance is that? It feels more like a boxing round and I'm thrown to the mat So here I am...at odds with me...which gives my head a spin Cause a double-minded team of one...is a team that will not win
Condemnation rears it's head and although I'm well aware That it's a weapon formed against me...I still feel such despair And here I go again, dear Lord, falling on my face Counting all my numerous flaws...instead of seeking grace
This position is not strategic...it's a bitter, wretched cup No matter how many times you fall...you've got to get back up Staying down is not an option, if you do...the race is lost Giving up before you finish...just isn't worth the cost
Day by day...step by step...He journeys by your side Everyday His mercy is new, to strengthen and to guide You're not a failure when you fall...you fail when you believe The lies the enemy conjures up...for his goal is to deceive
The depth of God's love perfectly matches each step you'll ever take So don't get negative towards yourself...if you happen to make a mistake Just get back up and keep your focus on the plan God has for you His hand is always reaching down to help you start anew.
Merissa Lee Kelley
January 10, 2008
"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." Romans 8:37.
The Burning Bush Devotional
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For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. - Hebrews 5:12-14.
Tragically, many of us do not grow to maturity as Christians. Others grow slower than some. I know exactly why I did not grow, as I should have after receiving Christ as my Savior. It was because I was not praying, as I should have. I was not reading God’s Word, as I should have. I was not attending church as I should have, and I was not serving God, as I should have. Whenever I began to do those things, I began to grow as a Christian. Sadly, my lack of growth caused all kinds of problems and only when I began to grow did those problems begin to go away. I could have saved myself and those close to me so much pain if I had immediately started praying, attending church, reading the Bible and actively serving the Lord.
To grow as children of God our spiritual nature must be fed. The apostle Paul is speaking of that in Romans 8:5-6, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” In Romans 13:14 Paul tells us, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” We are to clothe ourselves with Jesus and instead of thinking about how to gratify the flesh, we should be thinking about how to feed our spiritual nature.
Paul gives us some things to feed the spiritual nature with in Philippians 4:8-9, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.” We know Paul said to follow him because he was walking in the steps of Jesus. We know that Paul was preaching the Word of God. We know that he was a man of prayer. We know that he was very, very busy in the service of His Lord.
On a scale of one to ten, where are you at as a Christian? Have you grown in maturity since salvation or do you still need to be taught the basic “...principles of the oracles of God?” The good news is that we can grow if we want to grow (If you have no desire to grow as a Christian you need to examine whether you actually have a relationship with Jesus.). Ask God to help you to grow as His child and become more and more like Jesus.
The Burning Bush Devotional
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Courage for the New Year
Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. - Joshua 1:6-9.
Joshua had just taken over the reins of power from Moses. However, this is not necessarily a promotion that Joshua wanted or desired to have. This was not going to be a cakewalk. There were so many people and they had proven in the past to be a rebellious people. At least their parents were. Joshua knew he had to protect these people and at the same time conquer a land filled with strong cities and people. For many it would have been an impossible task and God knew Joshua would need courage. We need courage too.
The last several years have been difficult for my family and me with our parents growing older with more and more health problems. However, last year provided perhaps the greatest challenges for us. The year started out with my Dad having another stroke being hospitalized and from there being placed in the same nursing home with my Mother. He passed away on May 24th. We also had the tornado, which hit our community damaging our church on May 5th. During this time, I was trying to take care of my parent’s affairs and cleaning out their home so someone could move in and live there. During the summer, we cared for foster children who are children of friends. The boy, Malachi, had a relapse of his cancer and his care was a great challenge for us (He is doing much better; please continue to pray for him.). My mother-in-law had a heart attack and my Mother passed away Dec 3rd.
We realize that we have been fortunate in many ways by only having minor health problems ourselves. We also realize that the courage and strength necessary to go through the last year did not come from within.
Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary defines courage as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”
The Wordsmyth English Dictionary-Thesaurus defines courage as “the quality of will that enables a person to confront fear or danger regardless of the consequences; bravery.”
The Wiktionary defines fear as “A strong, uncontrollable, unpleasant emotion caused by actual or perceived danger or threat.”
Fear is an emotion; however, courage is an attitude that will enable us to take action. Fear immobilizes you. Courage activates you. Everyone will experience the emotion of fear but not all will have the attitude of courage when they encounter fearful circumstances.
Courage can be valor demonstrated as the soldier or others face death. Courage, however, can and must be demonstrated to live the Christian life. John F. Kennedy once said, “Without belittling the courage with which men have died we should not forget those acts of courage with which . . . men have lived.”
Much of what God calls on us to do, as His child requires courage. It requires courage for us to take seriously the Great Commission. It requires courage for us to live out the Sermon on the Mount. It certainly requires courage to follow in the steps of Jesus. Sometimes, however, we are called on to face what may seem to be an impossible task. We may face our own Jericho, as did Joshua. Will we have the courage? Can it be done?
Where did Joshua’s courage come from? His courage flowed from the Word of God as God commanded him, “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.” Joshua was to speak the Word, meditate on the Word, and He was to do all the Word of God commanded. If we want courage, we must do the same.
Whatever courage I have had or have now I know flows directly from the Word of God. Whenever I neglect the Word, I have a lack of courage. If I want to have the courage necessary to face the challenges of this New Year, I know that I can only have that courage through the Word of God. For the Christian our courage flows directly from His Word. Make this New Year be a year that you live courageously by reading, studying, meditating on, memorizing, and living the Word of God.
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Deterioration of the Heart
Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. - Matthew 12:33-37.
About thirty years ago when I was working in the oilfield I had started going to church and wanted to invite the men working on my crew to attend church with me. There was a revival at my church and so I invited them. Their response was a surprising one. They said that whenever I stopped cursing they would come to church and laughed. Well it was true I did have a problem, whenever things would go wrong or I would hit my finger or whatever, one or two words would just seem to come out of my mouth. However, we made a deal if I could stop for a week; they would come to church. It took me six weeks before I made it through a whole week without a curse word coming out of my mouth. Only one of them ever came to my church but I have never had a problem since with cursing.
According to a Parent’s Television Council report in the year 2000 sex, violence and foul language on television had increased by three-fold since 1989. Specifically, for those eleven years foul language had increased five and one-half times. References to previously unmentionable things had also increased many times. I do not have any statistics but I would suspect that the language of people as a whole who watch television programming had deteriorated on a similar proportionate basis. Since the year 2000 especially during the last few years it seems to me that the deterioration has accelerated even more.
Luke 6:45 (and Matthew 12:35) gives us some direction for controlling our speech and actions. According to Luke 6:45 if we store evil things up in our hearts then evil things come out in our lives. However, if we store good things up in our lives good things come out. Romans 13:14 in the KJV tells us not to make provision for sin and another translation tells us not to even think about how to gratify our sinful desires. Philippians 4:8 tells us what we should think about instead.
As I found out with my language problem, once you have the sin problem it is much harder to rid yourself of it. The best thing to do is to guard your heart, keep your heart (Proverbs 4:23) so that evil things are not coming into your heart. If you only have good things stored up in your heart it is much more likely that only good things will come out. What have you been putting into your heart?
It is the beginning of a New Year and for those of you with a language problem perhaps this is the time to begin to change. I would never have stopped if I had not tried to stop. Make a commitment and keep that commitment. You will probably fail a few times but do not let that deter you from continuing because through the power of God you can overcome your language problem. (And, if you do not have the problem please pass this on to someone that does because it sounds as though more and more people do have a problem.)
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Learning To Drive - A Refresher Course
(Updated from January 2003)
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 2003 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 have received Christ as your Savior, you have 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 (2 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, steps, or procedures 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 year 2008 stretches before you and as you drive through this year please remember the procedures that we as Christians need to continually implement to move forward in this life. I hope and pray you have a wonderful New Year!!
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The Christmas Story
A Christmas tradition that we have had in our family is the reading of the Biblical account of the birth of Jesus Christ. When I was a child, we did not have a tradition like that in our family or even of prayer during the Christmas season. However, with my own family and the urging of my wife we began the tradition when our children were young. If you have not had such a tradition why not begin this year with Christmas in the year 2007?
“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.”
“Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’”
“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ’Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’”
“So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.’ And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds (Luke 2:1-18).”
May you have a most blessed Christmas and New Year!!
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The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand. - Psalm 37:23-24.
I have thought at times that it would be nice if God could literally take my hand and lead through the day. Some days it is difficult to know exactly what to do and what not to do. Most people have days like that at one time or another.
Usually when I think of God’s ordering of our steps I think in general and broad terms. I think of God’s plan for my life. I think of the general direction that He would have me to go in the different areas of my life. Is the career I have chosen His choice? Is this the house He wants us to buy? Should I accept the call to another church?
The following story happened around eight years ago. While I was at the Falls Creek youth camp that summer God demonstrated to me once again that He is able to literally order my steps. The youth camp is spread out over a fairly large area and each church (or in our situation several smaller churches) stays in a different cabin. The youth group from the church, which I had been pastor of previously, was also at the camp. I visited at their cabin twice during the week and was able to talk with all of the young people except for one girl, Elizabeth. While I was at their church Elizabeth and her mother had been in a serious vehicle accident. Elizabeth had experienced a compound fracture of her leg and was in the hospital for quite a while. I wanted to see how she was doing physically and if she had recovered from the emotional trauma of the accident.
Since I had missed Elizabeth twice, I had thought I would not be able to see her at the camp but God had something else in mind. Each evening I was serving in the counseling rooms as a pastor/advisor for those who responded to the invitation. With over five thousand attending the services, there was a large response to the invitation each night and especially on the last night. The last night during the invitation, I went to the chapel where I had been serving. Since there was an unusual response to the invitation to respond to special service (vocational ministry), I was asked along with three other pastors to go to that area.
As I approached the special service area, I saw Elizabeth in the group of about 40 people waiting to enter. Since there was urgency, I was only able to say hello to her. I visited with one young man who felt called to youth ministry and after we had prayed together, I went to find the next person I was to talk to. Elizabeth was that next person! Only God could do that!
God is able to literally order our steps and those of others to bring about His will in our lives. There is nothing, which is beyond the reach or capability of God in my life or in yours. He can literally take you by the hand and guide you through the day, any day, if you will let Him.
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And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. Then they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.” And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.” And the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. - Exodus 14:10-16.
Pharaoh had allowed the Israelites to leave after the final plague of death upon the first-born sons of Egypt. Then Pharaoh had a change of heart and decided he would reclaim his slaves. He has them trapped between his chariots and the Red Sea and soon he will either have them as his slaves or will destroy them all. For Moses and the Israelites, it is a time of urgency and Moses knows their deliverance lies in the strong arm of the Lord. Moses has been trained by God and given the instrument needed to bring about their deliverance. God in effect says to Moses, “Don’t waste time talking to me when you know what to do. Use the rod I have given you.” Some situations are so urgent that we must pray as we go. In some situations, we do not have time for a week of fasting and praying. Instead, we must depend upon the instruction in righteousness that we have been given and the leadership of the Holy Spirit as we move forward in action.
John Eliot (1604-1690) is called the “Apostle to the native Americans.” His translation of the Bible into Algonquin was the first Bible printed in the United States. He visited Native American tribes throughout New England. He preached, taught, and baptized. John Eliot once said, “We must not sit still and look for miracles; up and be doing, and the Lord will be with thee. Prayer and pains, through faith in Christ Jesus will do anything.”
Dwight L. Moody was another man of action. Once when he was discussing and idea for outreach with a church leader he asked the man, “What do you think?” “We’ve been aimin’ to do it for two years,” the church leader replied. “Well now,” says Moody, “don’t you think it’s time to fire?”
When we read God’s Word and when we pray there are two questions that we should always be listening for God to answer. We should be listening to hear if there is something that God wants us to know. Then, we should be listening for what God wants us to do.
Has God been speaking to you about something He wants you to do? Maybe it is time to do something!
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Your Will or God’s Will?
So Balaam rose in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab. Then God’s anger was aroused because he went, and the Angel of the Lord took His stand in the way as an adversary against him. And he was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. Now the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand, and the donkey turned aside out of the way and went into the field. So Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back onto the road. - Numbers 22:21-24 (Read all of chapter 22 for entire context.)
Discerning God’s will for our lives can at times be difficult. It can be especially difficult when we want something that is not God’s will. God’s Word allows us to know much about what to do and not to do in accordance with God’s will. When we are trying to determine God’s will for doing one thing or another we should seek to use the principles revealed about God in His Word and His clearly stated commands. Some things can very quickly be revealed as being against God’s will. If what we want to do involves stealing, sex outside of marriage, abuse of our bodies which is the temple of the Holy Spirit, lying, deceiving, lashing out in anger, evil in any form - then this is not something God would have us to do. Balaam struggled with doing what he wanted instead of what he knew God wanted. I think many of us often have the same kind of struggle in our lives.
Numbers 22 is one of the more interesting passages in the Bible. Where else can you find a talking donkey? “Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, ‘What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?’” (v. 28) Balaam was a prophet who wanted to make some money out of his prophesying. Balak wanted Balaam to bless Moab and curse Israel. God would have none of that. God did give Balaam permission to go with the men from Moab. Balaam, when he received permission from God, planned in his heart to go and say what he wanted to say. The Angel of the Lord blocks the way and makes it clear to Balaam that he is only to speak what God wants him to say.
There is insight to be found in this passage in regard to God’s will for our lives and spiritual warfare. Sad to say, but sometimes we are so far from where God wants us to be we do not recognize when God says, “No!” God had said “No!” to Balaam but Balaam did not want to hear it. Balaam was blocked and he fought against it. He hit his donkey each time he was blocked to try to go on. To gain Balaam’s attention God finally opened the donkey’s mouth so she could talk. With that, Balaam’s eyes were opened and he could finally see the Angel of the Lord blocking his way.
When our way is blocked repeatedly are we being blocked by the enemy or are we being blocked by the Lord? Are we so determined to obtain what we want that we have left God out of the equation? Sometimes those are tough questions, which will only be answered when we spend time with our Lord in prayer and His Word. Sometimes we need to include fasting as well. Of course, if we decide to continue on there is always the talking donkey!
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The Mountain of Life
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. - Romans 5:3-5.
I have heard of the New York City Marathon and the Boston Marathon where the course is 26.2 miles and I am always incredibly impressed by the endurance of those who can even finish such a race. However, I have recently learned of an even more difficult race. It is a 100-mile endurance race and one of those races is run in Vermont. Their website says, “The Vermont 100 Endurance Race is one of the original 100 mile runs in the USA and a part of the Grand Slam series of Ultrarunning. Each year, 300 runners attempt to finish this hilly race over beautiful Vermont back roads and trails under the 30 hour cutoff point, and a well-trained few finish in under 24 hours. The current course record is 14:53:09.” Now that really is incredible and you have to have endurance to finish that race!
Endurance is defined as (1 ability to bear prolonged hardship: the ability or power to bear prolonged exertion, pain, or hardship; (2 toleration of hardship: toleration of prolonged suffering or hardship; (3 persistence over time: the survival or persistence of something despite the ravages of time. When I was in college the last time, I considered entering a doctoral program. One professor shared with me some of his experiences in obtaining his doctorate and graduate school in general. He summed it up by saying it was just an “endurance contest.” He said there were many people who were intelligent enough, and even more intelligent than he was, but they did not endure long enough to receive their degree.
According to the apostle Paul, the problems, trials, and tribulations of life require “perseverance,” or as the KJV puts it, “patience.” It sounds like Paul is saying there are some things in life that require endurance. To live the Christian life requires that we endure the temptations of this world, the flesh, and the devil. To live a Christian life we must persevere in the face of harsh and critical words from those around us. We must persevere with kindness in return for the hateful things, which are sometimes done to us. We must persevere in the face of temptation; resisting for one more day.
As we persevere day by day, over time we will see that Paul was right. Over time, we will see that the perseverance develops character, and this godly character produces hope. In many ways, life is like a climb to the top of Mt. Everest. Stacy Allison, the first American woman to climb to the summit of Everest said this, “The end of the ridge and end of the world... then nothing but that clear, empty air. There was nowhere else to climb. I was standing on the top of the world.” Let us keep on climbing to new heights with Jesus because some bright shining day we too will stand on the top of our mountain, a mountain called, “Life.”
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Running from 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. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,” even the night shall be light about me; indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You. - Psalm 139:7-12.
For more than a year, we have been trying to tame a feral cat and we have made progress. I can now pick up the cat for short periods of time although I do have a scar across the back of my right hand from one of my early attempts. Recently, I read about a woman in Tennessee and her experience trying to help a cat there. Tabitha Cain had been feeding the cat for several years. Somehow, the cat got its head stuck inside of a peanut butter jar. Tabitha’s mother says, “We tried to get her, but being the type of cat you can’t catch, she kept running and hiding.” Tabitha said, “I thought she was going to die with that jar on her head.”
The Cain family would see the cat from time to time with the jar on its head but they were unable to catch it. The cat lived that way for 19 days until finally, the cat was so thin and weak they were able to capture it and remove the jar. The cat is now eating again and appears to be doing fine.
Sadly, we human beings often act like wild cats. Even though we may be in terrible shape physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually we refuse to receive help from the only One who can really help us. We run and we run trying to find our own way with the world’s suffocating jar around us, choking the life out of us. It does not have to be that way!
God loves you and He wants to help you. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).” “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).” While we were still the enemy of God, Christ Jesus suffered and died on the cross for us. While we were still like a cat scratching Him, He died for us. Those scars on the hands of Jesus are from us. We inflicted those scars upon Him but He still loved us, He still died for us, He still calls to us and longs to wrap His arms around us and give us peace. Jesus calls out to you and says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).”
Isn’t it time to stop running from God, to stop running from the One who really has the power to help you? Allow Him to take the world’s jar off of you and give you life, abundant life. Where do you start? Just talk to Him. Tell Him that you are tired of running and need His help and He will pick you up in His loving arms.
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Walk in His Ways
Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths. - Isaiah 2:3.
Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day. - Psalm 25:4-5.
You shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess. - Deuteronomy 5:33.
Have you ever wanted to lose weight and get into shape? We can read about losing weight. We can read all of the many diet books but what happens if we never put any of that information into practice? What happens is nothing! Well that may not be true because we may be headed in the wrong direction putting on weight.
I have had some health problems over the past several years and at the first of this year, I was told in the words of one doctor that my sugar level was “a wee bit high.” I finally stopped eating sugar and I am losing weight and feeling better. I have already been able to stop taking one blood pressure medication and reduced another. I stopped reading about it and applied it to my life and something is now happening that I have wanted to happen for a long time. Only when I began to put into practice what I knew I needed to do did it finally happen.
To stop reading or talking about doing something and to start actually doing it requires what? It requires a decision, a commitment to actually do it. The doctor told me at the first of the year that I needed to stop the sugar but it took me until September to put it into practice. Why did I start doing what I should have done months before? It happened on an afternoon in September when it suddenly came to me that I needed to do this and I was able to begin doing what I knew I should do. Why? As I told Jeanie, I think it was because someone prayed for me. I wanted to change, I wanted to stop eating the wrong things but something happened which can only be explained by prayer. Someone prayed. Maybe it was you? I don’t know but I am thankful.
The application in the spiritual is that if we are to actually grow to be more like our Lord and Savior we need to do more than to read His Word. We must go beyond reading and studying about His ways to actually practicing His ways applying His Word to our lives. James tells us in James 1:22-24, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.”
What will it take for you to commit yourself to actually applying God’s Word to your life so that you can walk in His ways? What will take to go beyond being a “hearer” to being a “doer”? If you would like prayer, send me an email. Someone prayed for me and I will be glad to pray for you.
Copyright © 1998 - 2008. Ed Wrather. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for use of this material on a non-profit basis with source noted.