JANUARY - FEBRUARY 2006 BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONALS

The Burning Bush Devotional
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02.21.06

The Jerk

Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. - Romans 12:17-21.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…. - Matthew 5:43-45a.

A manager of a British company became a little upset after he had gotten some discarded chewing gum on his slacks. He became so upset that he at first planned to give all of the 80 employees a DNA test to determine whose chewing gum it had been. Employee reaction was so poor to that idea that he then threatened lie detector tests for them all.

There is a word that describes the manager of the company that became upset with his employees after finding the gum on his slacks. I looked up the definition of the word “jerk” as it applies to a person in several dictionaries and here are some of the definitions:

“Contemptibly foolish person.”

“Deal with dishonestly or unfairly.”

“An annoyingly stupid or foolish person.”

“A contemptibly naive, fatuous, foolish, or inconsequential person.”

“A foolish, rude, or contemptible person.”

“A useless or idiotic person.”

Here’s my own definition of a “jerk”: “A prideful, self-seeking, uncaring, and mean-spirited person who sees, at least in the case above, his employees as being little more than slaves.”

What do you do when you have a supervisor who is a jerk? What do you do when others you encounter in life are jerks? Do you strike back? Do you have a work slowdown, or a strike? Do you quit your job as soon as possible?

It will usually be tempting to try to return evil for evil. However, that is not what we as Christians are to do. It is not our place to exact vengeance. It is the Lord’s place to do the avenging and He promises to do it. That gives us the freedom to live in emotional peace even in the worst circumstances. Knowing our Lord will repay we can ourselves repay evil with kindness. We are to maintain a Christian witness by our actions in the face of someone who acts toward us like a jerk. As you determine in your heart to do so the Lord will give you the power necessary just as he did for the apostle Paul who said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).”

Actions alone, however, are not enough when you have to interact and associate with a jerk. You will find much comfort and peace in praying for them. Make them a priority in your prayer life and make their family a priority in your prayer life. It may be that God will change their hearts and the jerk will be transformed into a servant of God. It has happened before and the apostle Paul is an example of such dramatic change.

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02.01.06

Stealing the Church

Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted. And do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. - 1 Corinthians 10:6-12.

Pastor Randall Radic, or should I say, former pastor, is going to prison for 18 months for…stealing the church and…the parsonage! Radic is 53-years-old and had been the pastor of a church in Ripon, California for almost ten years prior to this major misstep in his ministry career. How much did he get for the church? $525,000, which it is believed he used in part to buy a BMW. The parsonage was not sold but he did forge documents so that he could obtain loans with the house as collateral. Radic was facing nine years in prison on 10 counts but he was given a plea bargain, which he is taking.

Not knowing anything about former pastor Radic you would have to assume since he had pastored the same church for nearly ten years that he had performed well for some period of time. What caused him to change? What caused him you could say to go off the deep end? We could ask the same thing about an Oklahoma pastor who was arrested recently. He was a leader in his denomination. But it is not just men, the young, or the middle aged that cross the line from God’s side to the other side. A 65-year-old church secretary has confessed in Arkansas to setting several fires that burned her church. The woman had worked at the church for a number of years and her pastor was completely surprised that she would do such a thing.

My point, and I believe the point the apostle Paul is making too is that we will never become so perfect as to be immune from temptation, or the deceptions of the enemy and the world. At least not while we are walking around down here on Planet Earth. Paul gives a rendition of the failures of the children of Israel and says that these are examples for us. Examples of what? Examples of what not to do. It is a warning that we are all capable of such things and sums it up by saying, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”

The Apostle does give us some hope in the next verse that we can do better, that we do not have to succumb to these temptations and snares. In 1 Corinthians 10:13 he says, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

You see we do not really have to sell the church, or mortgage the parsonage, or burn the church, or engage in unlawful immoral acts. There would have been a way out for those who have done these things and there is a way out for those of us who are tempted. God will provide a way. He will provide the strength (Philippians 4:13).

Let us pray for those who have succumbed to temptation and let it be an example to us that we “take heed lest (we) fall.”

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01.30.06

State of the Union

Examine me, O LORD, and prove me; try my mind and my heart. - Psalm 26:2.

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? - 2 Corinthians 13:5.

For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. - Galatians 6:3-4.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. - James 3:13.

But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. - James 3:17-18.

Tomorrow night the President of the United States will give the annual State of the Union address to both houses of Congress and the American people. In this annual speech, the President will report on the status of the country and lay out a plan for the future, which usually includes legislative initiatives. The annual address is required by the constitution (Although no specific date or frequency is set.) which states: "The President shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient (Article II, Section 3)." Citizens of the United States likely have their own opinions as to the State of the Union, however, only the President is authorized to give the speech by the constitution.

If you were to give your own State of the Union address, not about the country, but about your own life - what would you say? What is the condition of your life? What kind of shape are you in spiritually? Are you bogged down in sin? Have you been winning spiritual victories? Perhaps the most important part of the speech would be about where you are going from this point. What are your plans? What is your vision? Has God given you any directions about the immediate future and beyond?

We have not been authorized by the constitution to give an annual State of the Union speech about our lives. However, we are authorized and commanded to conduct an examination of our lives by the Word of God. In this review of our lives, we should begin as the Psalmist does by asking God to examine our lives. In addition, we should as the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves,” “Test yourselves.”

After the inward examination by God and yourself has been completed, there is another examination, which should be done. Paul says, “...let each one examine his own work.” Are you faithfully serving the Lord in humility? Is your work furthering the Kingdom of God or has it hindered the Kingdom of God?

Once the examination of our lives and our work has been completed, we should consider where we are to go from here. What is ahead in our lives? What does God want from us at this point? How can we wisely sow righteousness around us? How can we further the Kingdom of God?

Are you ready to give your State of the Union address? God is always ready to listen and He may even have some helpful ideas and suggestions for you.

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01.27.06

Acts of God

So Moses and Aaron went in to Pharaoh, and they did so, just as the LORD commanded. And Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh and before his servants, and it became a serpent. But Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers; so the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. For every man threw down his rod, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s rod swallowed up their rods. And Pharaoh’s heart grew hard, and he did not heed them, as the LORD had said. - Exodus 7:10-13.

Let brotherly love continue. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels (entertained angels unawares - KJV). - Hebrews 13:1-2.

There have been many miraculous reports of people being saved from the 2004 tsunami. One of those reports is about a group of fishermen. They reported that just prior to the tsunami hitting that a group of dolphins pushed their boat out into deeper water and out of harm’s way. There have been consistent reports of other saved by dolphins through the centuries especially from shark attacks.

When something like the fishermen being saved occurred what do we think? Do we think, “Oh, those marvelously intelligent, kind, wonderful dolphins?” Or, do we think, “Praise, God for delivering those fishermen from danger!” When the miraculous occurs, do we recognize that it has occurred and give credit, praise, glory where it is due?

The majority of people across this world are just like the Egyptian Pharaoh. Pharaoh saw a mighty miracle performed but dismissed it as a magic trick. How many miracles would it take for Pharaoh to believe that the God of the Hebrews was greater than his magicians and his false gods? Even after the ten plagues Pharaoh still had his doubts and chased after the Hebrews to bring them back into Egypt. The plagues were obvious miraculous interventions by the One true God and yet Pharaoh could not comprehend, could not understand the miraculous that was happening before his eyes. He chose not to believe or you could say as the Bible does that, he “hardened his heart.”

You may be thinking that if something as miraculous as being saved by dolphins from a tsunami happened to you that you would know God did it and praise Him. I would hope you would and I would hope I would too. But what about all of the smaller miraculous interventions that occur virtually every day in our lives? You are on your way to work, ready to step out the door and the phone rings. You take a moment to talk to your friend, even though you may be late. On your way to work you pass an accident and realize it could have been you if you had been a few moments ahead of where you were. Or, you encounter an old friend at a store during the day that you had not seen for years. Little miracles, easily passed off as just life happening - it is in the ordinary, day-to-day things that we should be looking for God.

God is at work constantly in our lives, in your life. Do you see Him?

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01.24.06

Don’t Be Evil

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. - Romans 12:9-12.

Google has been in the news recently with its refusal to provide the government with the record of searches performed by those using the Google search engine. Google as I have learned does have an admirable motto which is, “Don’t be evil.” The story has been told of a July 19, 2001 meeting held to try to find a way to fulfill the directive to communicate Google’s core values. There have always been informal rules in every organization such as “treat everyone with respect,” “be on time for meetings,” and etc. Paul Buchheit, an engineer at the meeting said as this was being brainstormed, that all of these things can be covered with “Don’t be evil.” The motto stuck. Of course, now Google must decide whom they want to please in the course of not doing evil. Whose definition of “evil” will they adopt?

A question for us as Christians is whether not being evil is enough? Of course, we should not be involved in actively participating in or initiating anything that is “evil.” That should be obvious to all of us. Then, again, we get down to the questions of whether something is or is not evil. The Bible is the defining word for us on what is evil and what is not. The apostle Paul says we should not just avoid being evil but that we should “abhor what is evil.”

Is it therefore, enough to “abhor what is evil?” No, there are some very practical things that we as Christians should and should not do. We are to “Repay no one evil for evil.” We are “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” We are not to, “avenge yourselves” because, “’Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” However, we are to go beyond this and Paul put it this way, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Finally, we are told, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

The Christian’s role in the world is not to be a passive one. We are not to just not be evil - we are to go beyond this to action. To remain passive would by itself be an act of evil by failing to do the good that you are able to do. We have a higher role than simply not being evil. We are to overcome evil with good and that takes action. What are you doing to overcome the evil of this world?

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01.23.06

Falling Short

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

Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. - James 4:17.

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

But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:7-9.

The headline from London today is that “Rescuers fall short in saving errant whale.” I watched yesterday on the news, as efforts were underway to rescue the bottlenose whale that had gotten lost and swam up the Thames River. The whale was large being 18 feet long with a weight of about four tons although that may not be so large for a whale. The whale may have gotten off course because of being ill. Attempts were made to turn the whale around but they all failed. Finally, it was decided to put the whale on a barge to take it back to the sea. Sadly, the stress on the whale’s internal organs caused it to die before making it back into the water. Silvia Mazzola who watched as the rescue was attempted said, "Yesterday, it was a carnival mood, but today it was a bit sad. It felt like a funeral on the river."

The effort of the rescuers to save the whale and the ultimate failure is a picture of humanity’s efforts to save themselves spiritually. Sadly, it cannot be done although many have tried. Man thinks if I can keep the Law perfectly then I will be safe. If I can avoid all sin, I will be saved. If I can do more good things than bad things then I will be saved. James points out how impossible this is by saying, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” He also says, “…to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

I have had it explained to me that it is like an archer shooting arrows at a target. Each arrow falls a little short. The arrows almost make it but almost does not a bullseye make. Unless the target is hit, it is a failure and the arrows have fallen short. The rescue attempts of the whale all fell short. It was a good try, many good tries, but the whale still died. It is the same spiritually for us. We may make many good tries, our arrows may come close to hitting the mark but they still fall short. Tell one little white lie. Fail to do one good thing that we know we should have done. It just takes one little tiny sin to fall short.

Of course, some people try to deceive themselves and say, “Oh, I am perfect and I have never, ever committed any kind of sin.” What does the Bible have to say about that person? “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” If we could have saved ourselves, there would have been no need for Jesus to die on the cross for our sins. If there had been any other way Jesus would not have come down from the glories of Heaven to suffer and die for us. Jesus is the only way (John 14:6). He is the only One who has ever lived a perfect life, tempted at all points yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15) so that He could be the perfect sacrifice. As Peter tells us, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18).”

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01.20.06

When the Worst Happens

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. - Romans 8:26-28.

Joyce Urch who is 74-years-old had been blind for over 25 years until she had a heart attack and went into a coma. She was not expected to live but when Joyce woke up she shouted to her doctors and her husband, "I can see, I can see, I can see." It was thought that she had lost her sight in 1979 because of glaucoma. Joyce who lives in England says, "I love going out now. I can look around and see the trees and squirrels and pigeons. The first time you look in the mirror you look at yourself and think, "Is that really me? I never used to be like that."

How wonderful! Out of such a terrible thing as a heart attack has come healing and sight neither of which was expected. You could say that Joyce has a new lease on life. Good from the bad wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was always something good that came from the bad things that happen to us? The amazing thing is that this is exactly what God promises to those who love and follow Him. Now I know what you are thinking. You’re thinking, “I’ve never had anything like that happen to me and besides lots of bad things have happened to me - so where is all of the good?”

Recognizing the good that comes from the bad in life comes about as we mature spiritually. As we grow up in Christ from a baby to maturity, we develop spiritual insight. God constantly is at work and will use everything in your life for good if you will cooperate with Him in this process.

When something bad happens, be alert for God to make a spiritual opportunity available. Last Sunday morning we had one of our lowest numbers in attendance that we have ever had. I said to myself, “God is going to do something special this morning.” Last Sunday a woman that had been saved several years ago but had never followed the Lord in baptism came forward during the invitation. She is to be baptized this next Sunday. What a joy! However, I could have been disappointed, depressed, and even angry about the poor attendance and in the beginning of my ministry, that was my response at times. I have learned that when it looks the worst, be alert, watch out, for God may be ready to move. It has happened exactly that way over, and over, and over.

Think about Moses. He thought his life was over at 40 when he disappeared into the backside of the desert to become a shepherd. By the time he reached the age of 80 he probably had the place picked out where he wanted to be buried and thought it would be soon. Out of all of the bad, and the long years, long nights came what in the life of Moses? What a surprise when God showed up in the form of a burning bush and said in effect guess what Moses, you have just received your graduate degree in desert survival. It was not until Moses had spent 40 years in the desert that he had gained the skills necessary to lead a few million people out of Egypt. God used everything that happened in the life of Moses to bring about good. God has the same kind of thing in mind for you and me.

The next time something bad happens, look around, to see the amazing thing that God is going to do with it. You may be ready to give up but this may very well be when God is going to put everything together using you more than He ever has before to bring about something wonderfully good.

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01.19.06

Making Choices

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

Have you noticed how some people continually have a difficult time making good choices in life? Two men in Reseda, California made an especially bad choice when they were picking out a car to carjack. The car they chose was occupied by two FBI agents on a stakeout. One of the carjackers was killed and the other wounded. Then there were the four men who robbed a bank in Georgia. After they made it outside with the money, they hurried to a U-Haul moving van to make their escape. That was another poor choice on top of the terrible choice of robbing a bank! They were quickly caught and arrested.

The examples above are extreme but why do people make poor choices. Two men that I went to school with, one the same age as me and one a year older have both been in prison for robbery. One man robbed a bank and the other has robbed several convenience stores. They appeared to be as normal as everyone else when they were younger. Perhaps a better question is why I still make the poor choices that I do and why you sometimes do the same.

We can look at the life of the apostle Paul, after his encounter with the Lord on the road to Damascus, and see an example of a life of good choices. Paul tells the governor Felix that, “I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.” I think here we see why Paul continually made good choices and we see how we can too.

The apostle Paul did not make a single good choice in his life but a string of good choices. His encounter with Jesus Christ was the beginning of right decisions and from that choice flowed more. Paul says he “always” strived to keep his conscience in good condition. He did this and we can do this only step by step as we walk with our Lord. Each decision builds upon previous decisions whether they were good or bad. If we have a continual chain of wise decisions, it is much more likely that our next decision will be wiser still. If we have a continual chain of poor decisions, it is very likely that our next choice will be even worse than the one before.

I think we can expand this to say that with each wise choice it becomes easier to make more wise choices. I think it is also clear that with each poor choice it becomes easier to make more poor choices. Whether we make a little decision or a big decision, it is vitally important to the maintenance of our conscience and our right relationship with God.

What do you do if you have been making a string of bad choices, bad decisions? You cannot go back and change what you have done but you can begin to strive as the apostle Paul did to make each decision a good one. If you are a Christian 1 John 1:9 is always a good starting point. If you are not a Christian, you need to have a Damascus Road encounter like that of Paul coming to know Jesus as your personal Savior. Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me (Revelation 3:20).” Ask Jesus to come into your life, to forgive you of your sins, the bad decisions you have made, and be your Savior and Lord.

Let us go forth today and strive to make good choices.

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01.18.06

Can’t Win for Losing

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”; and again, “The LORD knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” - 1 Corinthians 3:18-20.

Kevin Reeves can’t seem to win for losing. He had a friend, Christine Ryder who was depressed and wanted to die. So she agreed to pay her friend Kevin £20,000 to find a hitman to kill her. The money was to cover Kevin’s fee plus that of the killer. Kevin did make a wise choice when he failed to actually hire a hitman to kill Christine. However, Kevin is now serving a 15-month sentence for deception. The judge in the case told Kevin at the sentencing, "While it is clear you had no intention of arranging for someone to kill Mrs. Ryder and didn’t propose to yourself, you deceived her into believing it would happen."

The wisdom of the world will always get you into trouble. Kevin apparently has the attitude that much of the non-Christian world has in thinking that if you can get away with something then it is okay. If you can, also, make money while getting away with something that would be even better at least in the eyes of some worldly people.

The world makes up its rules as it goes and those rules may change at the whim of those to whom the change would be beneficial. Trusting in the wisdom of the world is like building your house on sand. It may be fine for a while but you never know when the wind will blow too hard or the water rise too high and damage the house.

The apostle Paul was actually giving a warning to the Corinthian church about trusting in their own worldly traditions or making up their own extra-Biblical rules. It is a warning still needed by the church today. We are often tempted to incorporate into our church life ideas from the business world. However, the business world operates on a black and white basis - what you see is what you get. If someone has the best resume and sounds good in an interview, you hire the person. If you have the money for a project and it looks like it will make money then you do it. The church is to operate on faith. Often the person God would want a church to call as their pastor is not the one with the best credentials and may not do the best in an interview or may not even be the best preacher. The determining factor must be prayer and faith. Is this the will of God? Whether the church does a project or not should not be based on whether the church has the money or does not have the money. Again, it should be based on prayer and faith. Is God in it or not. Is it God’s will? If God is in it then it will succeed. If not the project will fail.

If it seems like you can’t win for losing then perhaps you need to examine whether you are seeking to live life by the changing rules of the world or by the unchangeable wisdom of God. “If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.” The world of today would call most of the great men and women of the Bible fools. The world laughed at Noah. The people of Jericho must have laughed at those crazy Israelites as they marched around Jericho. Potiphar’s wife probably laughed at Joseph for rejecting her advances as he was hauled off to prison. The people of the court must have thought that Esther was crazy for risking her life - “For such a time as this.”

The people of the world may laugh at you and call you a fool but no one is foolish who is obedient to the will and wisdom of the Lord.

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01.17.06

The Pretender

Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly. And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 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. - Matthew 6:1-6.

Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much. Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans. So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury.” - Matthew 12:41-43.

A high school in Minnesota thought that a person of English nobility had visited them. Supposedly, this was the Fifth Duke of Cleveland, Caspian James Crichton-Stuart IV, 27th in line for the British throne. “Caspian” talked with a British accent and he requested that those addressing him call him, “Your Grace.” He also had some great stories about celebrities he knew and how the Queen herself had told him to clean up his room. However, he was actually 22-year-old Joshua Garner, a s_x offender on probation pretending to be 17 years of age. Reporters for the school newspaper, thankfully, uncovered the truth about this pretender.

In the days, that Jesus walked upon this earth in the flesh there were some great religious pretenders. They were the important religious people of the day made up of Pharisees and Sadducees - and likely others who had great wealth. Jesus called them “hypocrites.” Why? Because they acted like they were holier than others when they actually were not. In other words, they were pretending to be something that they were not. Some made a show of giving their money and likely it did appear to be much money to the man on the street. However, as Jesus pointed out it did not cost them anything to give what they gave because it just came out of the excess of their wealth. Others loved to pray loud and long loving the attention that they received from those who were watching. They had their reward.

In the religious world today, we still have our pretenders. There are still those who make a big show of giving when actually it costs them very little. While others who have very little make great sacrifices to give monetarily very little. Jesus makes it clear which are really giving. There, also, are still those in the religious world who make a great show of how holy they are when they pray. But they are not the only religious pretenders are they? There are many others.

Too many have a tendency after being a Christian for a few years to begin to think that they are better than others that are not yet Christians. We have a tendency to forget from whence we have come. Where did we come from? Paul says we are all sinners (Romans 3:23). Let us not pretend that we were ever perfect or even near perfect because only our Lord Jesus ever lived a perfect life upon this earth.

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01.16.06

When You Can’t Take It Anymore

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. - James 1:19-20.

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like…. - Galatians 5:19-21a.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. - Galatians 5:22-23a.

Have you ever had someone push all of your buttons, emotional buttons that is and it result in your saying something or doing something you later regretted? It has happened to many of us including recently a 30-year-old woman in Northam, Australia. Her boyfriend insisted on playing the Elvis Presley song, “Burning Love,” over and over again. The woman attacked him, stabbing him repeatedly in the back, shoulder and thigh with a pair of scissors. According to police the injuries, thankfully, were described as “non-life threatening.” The woman is facing charges in court from the attack.

Will Rogers once said "people who fly into a rage seldom make a good landing." I think we can see that the Australian woman made a poor landing. What do you do when someone is pushing all of your buttons? What do you do when someone is driving you up the wall and over? Do you lash out in anger when you can‘t take it anymore?

If you wait to deal with your lack of patience and anger issues until it confronts you it is so much harder to hold back from doing the wrong thing. However, there are some things you can do. You can immediately in your mind, go to the Lord in prayer. “Lord help me!” is always a good one. Another thing you can do is to repeat a verse of Scripture repeatedly until you are calm and the crisis has passed. A good verse is Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Other times you may be able to do something yourself like walking away from the situation, refusing to respond verbally, or redirecting the conversation, or activity. Turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:39) is still in the Bible along with going the extra mile (Matthew 5:41).

The very best way to handle frustrating, anger provoking situations is to be prepared for them far in advance. How do you do that? By walking with God on a daily basis, reading His Word, praying, going to church, and serving Him. Memorize those verses of Scripture dealing with anger and imbed them in your heart. As you walk with God, you will give Him an opportunity to develop in you the fruit of the Spirit, which are, “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” If any of the fruit of the Spirit is within you, it will be very hard for anyone to provoke you into an “outburst of wrath.”

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01.13.06

A Spider in Your Ear

Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes. And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones. When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped Him. And he cried out with a loud voice and said, “What have I to do with You, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God that You do not torment me.” For He said to him, “Come out of the man, unclean spirit!” Then He asked him, “What is your name?” And he answered, saying, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” Also he begged Him earnestly that He would not send them out of the country. - Mark 5:1-10.

Just in time for Friday the 13th is a story about a woman in Sweden who had an unwelcome visitor for a month. The visitor crept into their home and made itself welcome in an ear. Yes, it was a black spider the size of a thumbnail that a woman eventually washed out of her ear and watched as it crawled away. She had experienced some hearing loss in the ear and thought there might be wax building up. However, after that she could hear scratching sounds in her ear - how scary is that! That is when she went to a pharmacy and bought some cleanser to wash out her ear. The woman did remember seeing a spider on her bed 27 days before she was able to wash out the spider.

To have a spider in your ear or even to think that you have a spider in your ear is a frightening thought for most of us. But an even more terrifying thing would be to have an infestation of demons living in you. How terrible would that be? The man Jesus encountered in Gadara did not just have one demon but a legion of demons; thousands of demons were living inside of him.

Even though the man was possessed by demons, he did the right thing. He recognized the One who could help him. He ran and worshipped Jesus. However, when he spoke it was the words of the demons that are recorded. On one hand the man wanted to worship God, however, at the same time he had these demons that were causing him to do things he did not want to do.

Let us learn a lesson from the demon possessed man of Gadara. Whether it is a problem with an infestation of demons in our life or some other problem the thing to do, the first thing to do is to run to Jesus.

Have you asked Jesus to help you?

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01.10.06

Stuck

Hear and give ear: do not be proud, for the LORD has spoken. Give glory to the LORD your God before He causes darkness, and before your feet stumble on the dark mountains, and while you are looking for light, He turns it into the shadow of death and makes it dense darkness. But if you will not hear it, my soul will weep in secret for your pride; my eyes will weep bitterly and run down with tears, because the LORD's flock has been taken captive. Say to the king and to the queen mother, "Humble yourselves; sit down, for your rule shall collapse, the crown of your glory." - Jeremiah 13:15-18.

A man in Australia, Robin Toom, was playing hide and seek with his kids when he became stuck. He was trying to hide in their washing machine when his foot became wedged in such a way as to keep him from escaping. He was inside the machine with his knees up against his chest for an hour before being rescued by the fire squad. Dave Dillon a member of the fire quad reached into the washing machine and freed Robin's foot. Not surprisingly, Robin said he was going to change his family's rules for playing hide and seek. Robin shared about his ordeal, "I just hopped in there and couldn't even get the lid down and the kids came in and said, 'Ha, ha! We found you."'

What would have happened to Robin if he had refused to call for help? What if he had been determined by whatever means to free himself without any outside help? Robin and his family had to admit that they had messed up and needed help from someone outside of the family. It would have been a ridiculous thing not to ask for help. It would have been crazy not to do what they knew to do to escape from this ordeal.

In Jeremiah 13:15 God is warning the people of Judah through His prophet not to stay stuck in their ways. God, as He had done for many years, was still pleading with the people to turn to Him before it was too late. The prophet Jeremiah was warning the people to turn to God before God turned out the lights. He was warning them to ask for help from the One who could help them before it was too late.

We know the people and the king along with his mother refused to listen. In 597 B.C. King Jehoiachin along with his mother and ten thousand of the most prominent of the people were taken captive by the Babylonians. When was the last moment that they could have changed their ways? When was the last moment that their cries for help would have been heard by God? When did they cross the line? When did they go too far?

Is God not still warning us today to turn back from our sin? Is He not still pleading with us through the prophet Jeremiah to stop, to humble ourselves and ask for help from the One who can help us? If we were stuck in a washing machine, would we not call for help? Of course, we would! Before it is too late call out to God in the Name of Jesus and ask Him to help you change your life. "Hear and give ear: do not be proud, for the LORD has spoken. Give glory to the LORD your God before He causes darkness, and before your feet stumble on the dark mountains, and while you are looking for light, He turns it into the shadow of death and makes it dense darkness."

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01.09.06

Why They Run

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? - Matthew 7:1-3.

Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. “Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” - Luke 6:36-38.

We have had a ten-year-old girl, Morgan, staying with us while her brother is receiving cancer treatment in California. During the Christmas break, she was able to go and spend some time with her family in San Francisco. In order for her to have a direct flight to San Francisco, we took her to Dallas. We arrived early and did explore some since we had only once been through the DFW terminal ten years ago on a connecting flight.

It seemed somewhat strange to me that so many people always appeared to be late because they were hurrying and running. I was glad that we had arrived a couple of hours early and we knew that Morgan’s flight was leaving from gate A33. Not wanting to hurry we arrived at the gate about an hour ahead of time. The flight was to leave at 6:33 p.m. Around 6 p.m. Jeanie wanted to make sure all was set for Morgan. When she talked to them, we found out the flight was now leaving from gate C22. We ended up hurrying ourselves to get to the right gate. We did make it in time but while we were at C22, they changed the departure gates on several other flights, which meant that many others would be hurrying as well.

From the outside looking into the lives of other people, we usually do not really understand all that is going on. We may think we do as in my thinking people had just arrived late for their flights causing them to hurry; however, I was wrong, as I have been about a lot of things. Have you ever been wrong about what is going on in someone’s life? I know I have been wrong about that too many times. The experiences of our lives simply do not match up with the experiences of others. What we have gone through may have been difficult but what they have gone through may have been horrendous with many different variations. Not having walked (or run) a mile in their shoes it is impossible for us to understand why they have done the things they have done.

It really is easy to judge what others are doing or have done. It is easy to condemn them for their missteps. However, it is a whole other thing to judge ourselves, condemn ourselves, and to recognize and then pull the “plank” out of our own eyes.

We can be thankful in this New Year that we have a God who loves us and is always ready to forgive us when we turn to Him. Let us follow His example through this New Year.

Copyright © 1998 - 2006. Ed Wrather. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for use of this material on a non-profit basis with source noted.


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