JULY 2007 - NOVEMBER 2007
BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONALS

The Burning Bush Devotional
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11.29.07

Who’s Running Your Life?

By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life. - Proverbs 22:4.

It is obvious that there are many who have no fear of the Lord or humility before the Lord - at least by their actions it would appear that way. For example:

Angelita Sanchez was mad because her boyfriend who was a deputy sheriff had broken up with her. In response she did what most God fearing people would not do - Angelita stole her ex-boyfriend’s sheriff’s patrol vehicle. Now she faces charges of grand larceny of an automobile and this may be a surprise…driving under the influence.

Then there is the head of Rome’s traffic and parking police enforcement Giovanni Catanzaro who likes to park his Alfa Romeo Brera wherever he likes. Possibly, he acted that way because he has no fear of God or man. He apparently prefers no parking zones where he displays a handicapped parking permit. As a result, Giovanni is no longer head of traffic and parking enforcement because the mayor has removed him from that position.

There appears to be many who have no fear of God or of man. However, there are as we can see consequences for that kind of behavior.

Are you on the throne of your life or is the Lord? Who is in control, who is running your life? Every time I have tried to ignore what God wants and have done what I wanted I have had problems. God’s way may not be easy but it will be a thousand times better than the alternative. What would have happened to some of the great servants of God in the Bible if they had tried to run their own lives?

Consider Abraham - God called him to go forth to a land that he had never seen before and promised to make him a great nation. Abraham was living comfortably in the civilized city of Ur; but he gave it all up. What would have been the consequence if Abraham had just settled in there in Ur? Maybe he had a nice three-bed condo. To follow God he would need to live in a tent the rest of his life. If Abraham had not followed God what would have happened? Most likely God would have chosen someone else and Abraham would have missed out on one of the greatest adventures imaginable. He would also have missed out on countless blessings.

Noah - God called him to build a huge ship not even close to an ocean, if there were oceans. Through his obedience, he and his family were saved. The consequence of his not obeying would have been drastic. The result would have been that Noah and his family would have lost their lives because God could have easily started all over.

Joseph - it was not of his free will that he was thrown into a pit, sold into slavery, and carried to Egypt. Joseph was a prideful person when he was a boy but through these experiences, he learned humility. It was Joseph’s decision to resist the advances of Potiphar’s wife. It was Joseph’s decision to interpret the dream for Pharaoh and give all the glory to God. That decision resulted in his becoming the second most powerful person in the known world. The consequences if Joseph had given into temptation, or of refusing to interpret the dream, or to have taken the glory for himself would have been catastrophic. Joseph would have missed out on saving his people and the people of Egypt. God may or may not have raised up someone else to take his place.

Before we pass up what God wants in our lives let us consider the consequences of disobedience. We cannot see what is ahead but God can. He wants the very best for each of us and He can do a much better job of running our lives than we can. So, who is running your life?

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11.28.07

Grace to the Humble

Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from Him the right way for us and our little ones and all our possessions. For I was ashamed to request of the king an escort of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy on the road, because we had spoken to the king, saying, “The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him.” So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer. - Ezra 8:21-23.

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 5:5-7.

In 1996, we had only been at a church for about a year when we realized that our son, who has Down Syndrome and is mentally handicapped, was severely depressed. We were not sure what to do but felt that we would have to move to another church and another place so that Nick would be able to receive the help that he needed. We began to pray wanting to hear from God about this. I sent out some resumes and we continued to pray. It was then that my wife and I both felt that we should go to the Southern Baptist national convention that was at New Orleans.

Arriving there, we found that Dr. Ronnie Floyd the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Springdale, Arkansas would be preaching a couple of the sermons. Both of the sermons were about prayer and fasting. Dr. Floyd shared how his entire church had been fasting and praying for many weeks for the sermons, he would be preaching. One sermon that was preached just before noon one day had a tremendous impact upon us. We left for lunch and I found myself driving in heavy traffic, which usually would have made me a little tense in an unfamiliar city. However, all I had was peace. Peace that was beyond anything that I had experienced since the time that I was saved. Through that sermon, the Holy Spirit touched our lives in a supernatural way.

We committed ourselves to fast and pray for a week about where God wanted us to go. On the seventh day of fasting on a Sunday afternoon, a search committee called and in a few weeks, I accepted the call to Trinity Baptist Church in Weatherford, Oklahoma. In Weatherford, my son Nick found the help that he needed and recovered from his depression.

On Friday, June 13, 1997, God did an amazing thing in my life. A couple of weeks before at a family gathering I heard my Uncle say that my great grandfather, George Richard Marical had been involved with a Pentecostal Holiness Church. Now I knew when I moved to Weatherford that my great grandfather had lived there and had owned a grocery store. I knew that he had died in 1929 but that was about all that I knew. I decided to dig into this a little deeper. We went to the county courthouse and found my great grandfather’s will and estate papers.

From the papers that we found we were able to locate where my great grandfather had lived. It was only about four blocks from where we were living. According to the papers we had found, my great grandfather had been a trustee of the Pentecostal Holiness church and when he died the estate paid off the remaining amount owed on the church building and land. I was intrigued to know where the church had been located. With the lot numbers and legal description in hand, I went to city hall to look at the plat of the city. The lots of the church were located at...! The church where my great grandfather had been a trustee and had attended was located at the very same location as the church that I then pastored!

I have told that story so that you will understand how powerful a tool fasting can be in your life. I will never make another major life changing decision without fasting and praying. Whatever the problem you should at least try fasting and praying. Because fasting is a way of humbling yourself before God and God “gives grace to the humble.”

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11.27.07

Out of the Darkness

“For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, and all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,” says the Lord of hosts, “That will leave them neither root nor branch. But to you who fear My name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves.” - MalachI 4:1-2.

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

Out of the darkness can come what? Good. If, if we love God, and are the called according to His purpose. Out of the darkness of the flood came the Rainbow. In the darkness, Joseph was sold into slavery, falsely accused and thrown into prison. But out of the darkness came God’s provision to save his family and the lives of countless others. Out of the darkness of fear imposed isolation in the backside of the desert came an eighty-year-old Moses raised up to lead a nation out of bondage. Out of the darkness of a whale’s belly came repentance for Jonah and salvation for hundreds of thousands of Ninevites. Out of the darkness of religious intolerance and persecution came the apostle Paul to spread the light of the Gospel to the Gentiles.

Out of the darkness of John Newton’s life as a slave trader came a preacher, a hymn writer, and a relentless crusade to end the slave trade. Out of the darkness we hear, “Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me! I once was lost, but now am found, was blind, but now I see.”

Out of the physical darkness of Fanny J. Crosby’s life came such great hymns as, “Jesus keep me near the cross.” “Near the cross, a trembling soul, Love and mercy found me; there the Bright and Morning Star shed His beams around me.”

Are you living in darkness? Is the burden of life overwhelming? In recent days, I have had contact with some who have had thoughts about ending their lives. Life can be very difficult. Life can be crushing. Life can be devastating. What if Joseph falsely accused and in prison had turned away from God? I am sure that God could have used someone else to save His people. However, I am also sure that Joseph would have missed out on that deliverance. Moses could have turned away from God’s call at the burning bush and remained in obscurity but what a glorious adventure he and his family would have missed out on. Jonah could have refused to repent and died in the belly of the great fish. He could have but he did not. Instead, Jonah did what was incredibly difficult for him and he turned back to walk in obedience to God becoming the greatest evangelist of ancient history. These people of faith walked forward with God during incredible difficulty and found the greatest chapters of their lives being written and lived out.

Out of the darkness of the crucifixion of our Lord came “He is not here: for he has risen (Matthew 28:6).” Out of the darkness of death came the resurrection. Out of death came life! Out of the darkness comes what? Out of the darkness comes life. Out of the darkness comes the dawn for those who love God and are the called according to His purpose. For the “Sun of Righteousness will arise with healing in His wings” for those who fear the Lord.

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11.26.07

Got an Attitude?

Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved. I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life. Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. 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. 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. - Philippians 4:1-9.

When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us. - Helen Keller.

The greatest part of our happiness depends on our dispositions, not our circumstances. - Martha Washington.

Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. -Winston Churchill.

I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower where I thought a flower would grow. - Abraham Lincoln.

I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else. - Winston Churchill.

Things turn out best for the people who make the best out of the way things turn out. - Art Linkletter.

When fate hands you a lemon, make lemonade. - Dale Carnegie.

Sometimes we are forced to do what we do not want to do. Sometimes life gives us no other way than the hard way. In one of my early jobs in my third year of marriage, I was a salesman but I was not a very good salesman. For one thing, I was shy and found talking to people, I had never met before to be difficult. My boss sent me to a Dale Carnegie class, which was even more difficult. Going through the even more difficult embarrassing things that were sometimes necessary in that class made it easier for me to talk to people. John Ortberg in one of his books tells about when he first started preaching he had a problem with fainting. He would be five or ten minutes into a sermon and then pass out! Attendance increased but I’m not sure the deacons were very impressed. He eventually overcame that problem as he persisted in doing what God had called him to do. John Ortberg had an attitude. His attitude was that he was going to continue on doing what God had called him to do no matter what.

The apostle Paul had an attitude too. His attitude was one of rejoicing no matter what. When the letter to Philippi was written Paul was under house arrest in Rome knowing that he could be executed for his faith. In addition, there were those who were trying to add to Paul’s troubles. But Paul was able to rejoice in spite of his circumstances. How? With each difficulty Paul was able to see good coming out of them (Philippians 1:13-18).

Paul could also have joy in spite of people. There were people in the church at Philippi that were causing trouble. There was a false teacher (Philippians 3:1-3) and a division in the church (Philippians 4:1-3). Paul could have joy because he followed the example of Jesus (2:5). Paul said to have an humble spirit (2:3), think about the other person’s situation (Walk a mile in their shoes - 2:4), do not murmur and complain (2:14).

Paul had joy too in spite of the lack of the things of this world. Before Paul was a Christian, he had “arrived” in the Jewish world. He was the “Hebrew of Hebrews” (Philippians 3:4-8). Those things were actually robbing Paul of true joy. Jesus says in Luke 12:15, “... for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”

Worry was another problem that could have kept Paul from having joy. In Philippians 4:6-9, Paul tells us how to cope with worry. We cope with worry by praying right (4:6-7). We cope with worry by thinking right (4:8). We not only need to pray right and think right but we also need to live right to be free of worry (4:9).

Got an attitude? I hope it is an attitude like Paul’s!

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11.20.07

Two-Timers

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. - James 4:7-8.

My grandfather, Ed Taliaferro, homesteaded in New Mexico in 1911 south of Tucumcari. On our recent trip to New Mexico, we drove south of Tucumcari for about 20 miles and then west for another 20 or so miles to arrive at the location of what used to be Ruth, New Mexico until it was abandoned in 1917. It is isolated to say the least. We met one vehicle driving a 60-mile loop.

My grandfather’s homestead was five miles south of Ruth located on the county line. He once told me why he sold out to some ranchers who wanted the water rights. About half of the year, he lived in Tucumcari and the other half he was on his homestead “proving it.” He had gone back to Tucumcari and was visiting the barber when the barber told him the bad news about his girlfriend, “She’s two-timing you, Ed.” That is when he made the decision to sell out and move back to Oklahoma.

We used to know what a two-timer was but to refresh our memories the American Heritage Dictionary defines a two-timer in this way: “To be unfaithful to (a spouse or lover). To deceive; double-cross.” The Bible uses another hyphenated word, “double-minded” to refer to a spiritual two-timer.

We human beings become more than a little agitated when our spouse, or our girlfriend, or boyfriend cheats on us. In fact, people have been known to do far more radical things than selling out and moving away. There has been many a song written about the cheating heart of the two-timer.

What about God? Is God jealous of our faithfulness? In the Old Testament, it is clear that God is jealous. In Deuteronomy 4:24 we are told, “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” In Exodus 34:14 we read, “For you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” The apostle Paul dealing with the issue of false apostles says to the Corinthians, “I hope you will put up with a little of my foolishness; but you are already doing that. I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ (2 Corinthians 11:1-3).” Paul says that he has a “godly Jealousy.” He was concerned about those in the church at Corinth becoming double-minded spiritual two-timers.

Double-mindedness is a growing issue for Christians today because we are exposed to more and more temptations. We are constantly bombarded with worldliness through continual access to some form of media. We have television, Internet, satellite radio, cell phones with Internet access, Ipods and countless other music/video capable devices.

If you are spending more time with the world than you are with your God it may be that you are a two-timer. If so, James gives us the formula for change. We need to humble ourselves before God by submitting ourselves, our will, and our time to His will. We need to resist the devil and the world by turning off, and turning down some of the ungodly messages being beamed at us. Then we need to cleanse our hearts and purify our hands. We must repent. Turn from the world and turn back to God. Turn from being a two-timing cheater and become a fully committed lover of our Lord. If we will confess our sins, agree with God that our two-timing is wrong then He will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). Now, is the time to begin anew living in righteous obedience to Him. Will you make that commitment?

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11.19.07

Change Your Life

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.

In prison, Rev. Dr. Hristo Kulichev of Bulgaria says he had no right to read the Bible. His watch and pen were confiscated along with every tiny bit of paper. The only thing they could not take away from him was prayer. He says, “In prison I realized how cunningly Satan works in our lives when we have freedom, keeping us busy with all kinds of things that give us less time to pray.” (From “What I learned in prison about prayer” - Light, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, 901 Commerce, #550, Nashville, TN 37203-3696)

How true Dr. Kulichev’s observation is! Prayer does not just happen. There must be a conscious effort on the individual’s part to pray. Usually, in order to pray something else must be given up to make time for prayer. For us to have a “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” as the hymn describes prayer, what would we have to give up? What would be necessary in our lives for us to have an hour of prayer? What priorities would need to be rearranged?

I read a story in Reader’s Digest (I think the year was around 1984.) written by a woman who began to pray for an hour a day. She had to begin her day an hour earlier to spend the hour in prayer. Her testimony was that it had completely changed her life and the life of her family for the better.

What would it take for you to make a radical decision and commitment to spend an hour a day in prayer? Prison? Some terrible calamity? Dr. Kulichev says, “In prison I realized that we have the mightiest weapon given to us by God. Prayer.”

Want to change your life? Want to improve your life? Want help for your family? Need to overcome a problem, or addiction? If you will begin to pray regularly, over a sustained period of time you will find God will do, “...exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think (imagine), according to the power that works in us.”

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11.09.07

Overcoming Pride

Now when Jesus had crossed over again by boat to the other side, a great multitude gathered to Him; and He was by the sea. And behold, one of the rulers of the synagogue came, Jairus by name. And when he saw Him, he fell at His feet and begged Him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter lies at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, that she may be healed, and she will live.” So Jesus went with him, and a great multitude followed Him and thronged Him. - Mark 5:21-24.

While He was still speaking, some came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.” And He permitted no one to follow Him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James. Then He came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and saw a tumult and those who wept and wailed loudly. When He came in, He said to them, “Why make this commotion and weep? The child is not dead, but sleeping.” And they ridiculed Him. But when He had put them all outside, He took the father and the mother of the child, and those who were with Him, and entered where the child was lying. Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, “Talitha, cumi,” which is translated, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age. And they were overcome with great amazement. - Mark 5:35-42.

In Mark chapter 5, the Bible tells us the story of Jairus and his daughter. Jairus was a ruler of the synagogue, an important man, a respected man, a wealthy and powerful man. Yet the Bible tells us (Mark 5:22) that Jairus fell at the feet of Jesus and pleaded with Jesus to come and heal his young daughter who was deathly ill. The daughter died before Jesus reached her but he spoke words of life “Talitha cumi” (little lamb, wake up) and the girl came back to life.

Jairus had to lose something before the hand of God moved in healing power. Jairus got rid of his dignity, his pride. Our dignity, our pride, keeps us many times from receiving the blessing of God.

Consider Naaman in 2 Kings chapter 5. Naaman was the captain of the host of the king of Syria. In order for Naaman to be healed of leprosy, Elisha the prophet said he needed to dip himself seven times in the River Jordan. Naaman was angry at first saying there were better rivers in Syria. But his servant said to him, “My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?” Naaman dipped himself seven times in the river Jordan and was healed of his leprosy.

Pride is keeping many from being in a right relationship with God. Why is it that people are not flooding down the aisles when the invitation is given? Perhaps it is a matter of hardness of heart and perhaps it is a matter of pride, of being too good to humble themselves admitting that they need help in any area of their lives. Are you too good, too prideful to admit that you need God’s help with life? What if the attitude of Jarius had been like that? Naaman almost missed out on being healed because of his pride. What about you? What are you missing out on because of your pride?

Is there something that God wants you to do but your pride; your dignity has gotten in the way?

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11.07.07

Building Your Life

Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall. - Matthew 7:24-27.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa has been famous for centuries, however, it is no longer the most leaning or tilted tower in the world. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the tower with the most lean in the world is to be found at Suurhusen, Germany. The new world record holding tower of lean is a church steeple that is 25.7 meters in height with a tilt angle of 5.07 degrees. The Tower of Pisa tilt angle is only 3.97 degrees. However, the Tower of Pisa is more than twice as tall as the steeple and in the opinion of many is more beautiful than the steeple but it no longer holds the record. At least it is scheduled to lose that status with the publishing of the 2009 edition of the Guinness book.

This story was especially interesting me since the tornado we had induced a severe lean to our church steeple (It is only 26 feet tall.). It knocked the steeple completely over and it was barely hanging on by a twisted bolt immediately after the tornado. Our steeple has now been repaired and reinstalled. On the day that it was reinstalled the crew working on the projected kept adjusting the steeple so that it would be straight. Depending on what direction you are looking from the steeple does appear to be straight although from one direction I am not sure. I have told everyone to just remember that our steeple has gone through a tornado. It just has a little more character than it had in the past.

The reason for the leaning of the Tower of Pisa is the result of a poorly laid foundation on soil that allowed the foundation to sink causing the entire tower to lean. The faulty foundation was the cause of the entire problem. There has been a large amount of money spent in the last century and this century to try to stabilize the structure and they hope those efforts will succeed.

In a very real spiritual sense, our lives are buildings. Each day we build our lives a little more. The success of all of this building effort is dependent upon the foundation. What is it that we are building our lives upon? Matthew 7:24-27 is the ending of the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus. If we want the right kind of foundation for our lives, we will build as Jesus describes beginning in Matthew chapter 5. If we have that kind of foundation for our lives when the tornado comes it may knock us down but we will rise up and continue on with even more character than before. However, without the right kind of foundation we will not just lean or fall but we will be washed away when the storms of life come our way.

You can work hard all your life and have billions of dollars in your bank account but without the right foundation, your life will not stand when judgment comes. We need Jesus as the foundation of our lives or everything we do in life will have been wasted.

What is the foundation of your life? Who is the foundation of your life?

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11.06.07

I Don’t Believe This!

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” - Matthew 19:23-26.

What would you think if a 600 or so pound cow suddenly dropped on the hood of your vehicle? It happened to Charles and Linda Everson while they were on a trip to celebrate their first wedding anniversary at Manson, Washington. The cow fell some 200 feet off of a cliff. It does seem strange because unlike sheep cows usually have more brains than that. The cow as you would expect suffered severe injuries, along with the Everson’s minivan. The Eversons somehow escaped having any injuries. One official said that they had escaped being killed by only inches. Charles Everson kept saying, “I don’t believe this. I don’t believe this.” Most of us would find it hard to believe too - I know I would.

Jesus told in Matthew 19 of how hard it is for a rich person to be saved. It was hard then and it is still hard today for someone who has a great amount of wealth to be saved. Because those with great wealth tend to trust in their wealth instead of God. However, as Jesus pointed out with God it is not impossible. It may be unexpected but not impossible. We often hear about how God is in the business of making the impossible possible. He is also in the business of making the expected turn into the unexpected - so much so that we walk away saying, “I don’t believe this. I don’t believe this.”

Now, I do not believe God caused the cow to fall off the cliff onto the Eversons minivan but it is very likely that He had something to do with their miraculous escape from injury - that escape from injury would be completely unexpected. I am not a good enough mathematician to calculate the odds of a cow falling from a 200-foot cliff onto a minivan traveling at x number of mph/kph not killing the occupants of the vehicle. My guess would be that the odds would be astronomical for such a thing to happen. I have never even heard of a cow falling off of a cliff onto a moving vehicle before, have you? Totally unexpected.

What did the sailors expect would happen when they threw Jonah overboard? The great fish swallowing Jonah was very unexpected. What did all of David’s family, the Israelites and the Philistines expect to happen when the shepherd boy walked out to face the giant Goliath? They expected David to be slaughtered and for the Philistines to overcome the Israelites. The impossible became possible and the expected disappeared, as the unexpected became reality. All through the Bible, what people expected was swallowed up in the unexpected becoming reality.

What are you facing in your life? What is going on in your life? Your expectations could very well be swallowed up by the unexpected of God’s hand upon your life. Are your expectations the same as that of God? Why not ask Him? You may be surprised to find the unexpected taking place in your life.

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11.05.07

Every Day, Every Week, or Never?

But when His brothers had gone up, then He also went up to the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret. Then the Jews sought Him at the feast, and said, “Where is He?” And there was much complaining among the people concerning Him. Some said, “He is good”; others said, “No, on the contrary, He deceives the people.” However, no one spoke openly of Him for fear of the Jews. - John 7:10-13.

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? - Romans 10:14.

“I believe that if an angel were to wing his way from earth up to Heaven, and were to say that there was one poor, ragged boy, without father or mother, with no one to care for him and teach him the way of life; and if God were to ask who among them were willing to come down to this earth and live here for fifty years and lead that one to Jesus Christ, every angel in Heaven would volunteer to go. Even Gabriel, who stands in the presence of the Almighty, would say, ‘Let me leave my high and lofty position, and let me have the luxury of leading one soul to Jesus Christ.’ There is no greater honor than to be the instrument in God's hands of leading one person out of the kingdom of Satan into the glorious light of Heaven.” - Dwight L. Moody (Great evangelist of the last half of the 19th Century.)

What is it that keeps us from sharing our faith with others? The Jews that believed in Jesus were kept from talking with others openly about Jesus because of their fear. Are we afraid that we might be killed if we witness, share our faith with someone? Possibly, in some parts of the world but not in most. Is it that we are simply too lazy to share our faith? Is it that we are embarrassed of our faith? Is it because no one has held us accountable for sharing our faith?

Dwight L. Moody had a commitment to witnessing. His commitment was that he was going to personally witness to someone every day. At a local missions conference a missionary from Mozambique shared at our church last night. David Hooten shared that he trains new Christians to be trainers themselves. Every week those new Christians meet with David and the first question they are asked is this: “Who did you witness to this week?” They are then expected to share and to share the results of their witnessing effort. Everyone in the group is confronted with this question and must share about who they witnessed to and what happened.

What would happen in our churches if we were to hold every one who made up those churches accountable? What would happen if you knew when you went to church you would be expected to report on your witnessing activities for the past week? If we were to implement this in our churches in the United States, I believe at first there would be a dramatic reduction in church attendance. However, I believe that after all those insincere, lazy people had left, the church would then begin to grow at an exponential rate.

Let me ask you a question. Do you witness to someone every day, every week, or never? If you are in the never category but you do have a desire to witness, to share your faith, there are some things that you can do. Begin by writing down on paper what happened when you came to know Jesus as your personal Savior. Describe what your life was like before you made that decision and then describe how your life changed after the decision. That is your testimony. Next practice verbally telling that testimony. Practice telling the testimony to a friend or a family member. Next, begin to pray for opportunities to share your testimony. Look for opportunities to share your testimony, and make opportunities to share your testimony. God will use you if you do.

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11.01.07

Something is Wrong

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. - 1 Timothy 6:6-11.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. - Galatians 6:2-3.

In Las Vegas, there is a new deal in town. No, it is not in a casino instead this unique for life deal is to be found at a tire showroom. Dunlop Tires is offering a lifetime deal or is it a deal of a lifetime? You decide. Dunlop Tires is offering four free new tires and all you have to do is sell your soul. Well, it is not quite that bad - you just have to let them tattoo your body with either the Dunlop logo or the tire tread pattern. No word about where the tattoo is to be placed on the body. You would think that the tattoo would have to be in a visible location as in on your forehead, on your neck, or arms - but I am just guessing. Officials for the company say the line starts at 8am and they expect to tattoo 20 people a day, which is all their tattoo artists can handle at the present time.

Something is wrong with this and I have been trying to understand what it is that is wrong. Is it wrong for someone to do what is necessary so that their family will have transportation to and from work and school? I have worked at some jobs that were far from pleasant and were in fact dangerous because I had to provide for my family. Would I have gotten a tattoo on my neck or my arm or my forehead to take better care of my family? It would have depended upon how desperate the situation. Many people have teeth pulled when if there had been enough money they could have had crowns put on them, or had a root canal and saved them. Many people do not go to a doctor and receive the medical care that they so very much need because the family comes first.

It may be that what is wrong here is not so much that someone is willing to have a tattoo put on their body for some tires but instead it is a warped sense of corporate responsibility. The corporation, Dunlop Tires, in this situation sees the instant media attention that is possible through this stunt. Are they considering the individuals that are receiving the tattoos? No, they could care less. The corporation it appears just wants some free advertising dollars or cheap advertising dollars because they are giving away some tires. Greed and a lack of concern for people, is the problem here. A lack of compassion. A lack of decency. A lack of caring about what anyone may think.

It is sad that it has come to this point in this society because the corporation could have still had their cheap advertising dollars without resorting to this type of grandstanding, this type of devaluing of human dignity. Instead of all of this they could have given away, twenty sets of tires for a week or two weeks to families in need. Perhaps even better would have been a donation of the approximate value of the advertising that they would receive, a donation to a homeless shelter, or to others that are hurting and in great need. Maybe they could have given some jobs to people that are qualified but have great needs like a single mother with five children who is handicapped. Maybe they could have done something like that. The current state of corporate responsibility, at least for one corporation that I know of, appears to be…sickening.

In the words of the apostle Paul, “But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.”

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10.31.07

Works of Darkness

The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. - Romans 13:12.

Halloween was a holiday, which I as a young boy was allowed to participate in and I remember trick or treating around my grandparent's house since they lived in town. The very first time that I remember going trick or treating on Halloween was when we were visiting relatives in San Francisco. When my sons were old enough I took them trick or treating. However, as I have grown as a Christian and learned more, my thoughts about Halloween have changed.

I have come to realize that at the very best Halloween is a pagan holiday and at the very worst it is the devil's holiday. I have read testimonies of people who claim because of Halloween experiences they were launched on the wrong course for a major portion of their lives. Halloween does seem to say that bad is good. It does seem to say that fear is good for you. It does seem to say that the devil's just a good old boy and not all that bad. But that is in direct contradiction of the Word of God.

The more we are exposed to evil the less we are sensitive to the evil of it. We should avoid those things that we know are evil and we should shield our children from them as well. Mature video games that feature graphic murder, torture, and worse should be avoided like the plague. The evil of pornography also destroys our spiritual sensitivities. The more evil we participate in, and expose ourselves to the less of God and the spiritual side of things we will have.

The more fear is put into us the more it seems good to put fear into others. The more bad is presented to us as being good the more likely we are to do bad things. The evil fearful things open up a doorway for the enemy to enter into our lives and at the very least, we should keep that doorway bolted shut in the lives of our children.

If we are honest with ourselves, Halloween is a holiday of darkness, of evil. We are very familiar with the armor of Ephesians but there is another element of armor that we need to have. In a day of evil and darkness, surely we need the armor of light. “...let us put on the armor of light.”

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10.30.07

Stormy Seas

Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.” - Matthew 14:22-33.

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. - Revelation 21:1.

I was listening to a song by the Christian group Selah yesterday about walking on stormy waters. I don't believe that I had ever comprehended what they were saying before. Here are a few of the lyrics:

You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up: To more than I can be.
(To read more of the lyrics or to find out more about Selah - go to Selahonline.com.)

Many of us have been struggling in the stormy seas for a long time. We are not walking on the waters instead; we are struggling to keep our heads above water. The stormy seas we sail are not the Atlantic or the Pacific but instead are the seas of health issues, relational problems, financial needs and more.

John Ortberg’s book “If You Want to Walk on Water You have to get out of the Boat” is a classic. For the apostle Peter to walk on water he had to get out of the boat. What faith that must have taken! How did He do it? He did it by faith. He did it by having his eyes on Jesus. What happened that made Peter begin to sink into the sea? It was when Peter took his eyes, his focus off of Jesus and began to look at the waves tossed about by the wind that he stopped walking and started sinking.

We have our own seas to walk upon, or for many of us, not walking but just trying to keep our heads above the waves. The wind is blowing us this way and that way. There are problems to the right and there are problems to the left. There seems to be no end with another phone call, an email, or the next day’s mail that brings an increase in the velocity of the storm.

How can we do more than keep our heads above the waves, above the water? We have to put those stormy seas into their proper perspective. They should not be the focus of our lives. We know that they are there and they have to be dealt with but it does not have to consume us. There is still life, real life to be lived. We walk on top of those stormy seas and live life by keep our focus upon our Lord Jesus Christ. We maintain that focus through prayer, reading the Bible, being active in church, and serving Him no matter how high the waves around us may be. At times, we may begin to sink like Peter. When that happens, do what Peter did. Cry out to Jesus and He will lift you up to walk on those stormy seas once again.

As the Bible closes out in the last pages of the book of Revelation, we have a great promise that some great wonderful day there will be “no more sea.” Someday the stormy waters of life will be gone, there will be a new Heaven, and a new Earth filled only with joy.

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10.29.07

Jump In

And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch. And this is how you shall make it….” - Genesis 6:13-15a.

And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark—you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you. - Genesis 6:17-18.

Then the Lord said to Noah, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation.” - Genesis 7:1.

And they went into the ark to Noah, two by two, of all flesh in which is the breath of life. So those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him; and the Lord shut him in. - Genesis 7:15-16.

Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive. And the waters prevailed on the earth one hundred and fifty days. - Genesis 7:23c-24.

This morning on CNN, I watched as Dr. Roger Bielasz stood looking at the old swimming pool that had saved him and his wife from the inferno of fire that had engulfed the area, destroyed their home and killed their neighbors. Roger and Dena huddled in the cold water under a rocky overhang for what Roger described as “an eternity and a half” which was actually about three hours. The rocky overhang and the water protected them from the firestorm and the burning embers falling down all around them. They jumped into the old pool that they had at one time planned to fill in and they survived. One scrap of a page from an old book of Dr. Bielasz’ mother survived with the words, “no will but God’s” on that surviving scrap of paper.

What a horrific experience! To barely escape from your house and then watch as your house burns down wondering all the while whether or not you will survive. If only their neighbors had been able to make it to the pool, they would have survived as well. However, it may be that had no warning and without any warning it was just too late to escape that terrible fate.

This all reminded me of the disaster that came upon the people of Noah’s age. Noah had some warning, decades of time, as he built the huge ship that would carry the animals and his family to safety. The people of that time could not have ignored the building of the gigantic ship on dry land. If only they had turned to God before it was too late, they too could have been saved. However, it was only the animals and the family of Noah that were onboard the Ark when the hand of God shut them in.

There is a spiritual firestorm raging around us today and countless millions have already succumbed to the deadly rampage having gone out into eternity bound for a devil’s hell. It does not have to be this way! God has provided an Ark, a place of safety for us - if only we would turn and jump into it. The Ark of this time is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Ark! He is the swimming pool of safety. He took our punishment upon Himself suffering and dying for us so that we might have a Savior. That we might have an Ark of safety.

Through the mercy of God, we have been warned. Before it is eternally too late let us jump into the Ark, the Ark of Jesus Christ and be saved.

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10.26.07

Prayer Changes Things - Part II

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.

Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know. - Jeremiah 33:3.

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

John Thornton shares this story that recently occurred at his church: Recently at Community Reformed Church in Sioux Falls, SD they loaned their church building for a week to Resurrection Church for a conference. In church on the following Sunday, CRC’s Pastor, Clyde Teel shared that he had a group of people from the other church, Resurrection, come on Thursday morning to say that there was a person in their church that needed prayer. They were unsure, as they did not know the congregation, but they said that they needed to pray for someone named Heather. Clyde explained that a lady in Community was named Heather and she was expecting a baby, but Clyde did not know of any difficulties. So the prayer people from Resurrection prayed for Heather. She had no idea that these people were praying for her.

Saturday Heather sent an email to Pastor Clyde. It reads, "Jaron, Mickila, Baby and I just had to share the praise that we need to give God for our family. On Thursday afternoon I was feeling light-headed and short of breath so my doctor asked me to go to the hospital for testing. They quickly told us that the baby was doing great and everything was fine with her. They decided to keep me overnight to figure out what was wrong so Jaron stayed with me and Mickila stayed at my Dad and Patty's house. They also did a lot of tests on me to rule out blood clots in my lungs, pneumonia, etc. They tested my blood gases and discovered that my oxygen was low (later they figured out that was probably from a really mild case of bronchitis) but also noticed that my Carbon Monoxide was a little high. Our doctor suggested that we have our house and where I work tested. Work was fine, but our house had very dangerous levels of Carbon Monoxide. We were feeling pretty fortunate but really didn't understand how amazing it was that God sent us to the hospital (and kept my brother who lives with us working on a project at school until early in the morning). Both the man from the gas company and the furnace technician said that we are very lucky to be alive. We just really had to share how God took care of our little family."

So Clyde was about to ask Heather about the timing of her visit to the medical people when told it was at the same exact time that the prayer group from Resurrection was praying for “someone named Heather.” So that Sunday Clyde shared about how the Spirit led one group of people to pray for someone that they did not know, but a miracle happened as Heather was protected from harm.

As Heather now tells people, “So buy good Carbon Monoxide detectors and trust in God to take care of you!”

Also, I might add that you should pray for God’s protection and ask others to pray for you because prayer really does change things.

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10.25.07

Prayer Changes Things

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.

Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know. - Jeremiah 33:3.

Early in my adult life, I often found myself hurrying through life without including God or even having any thoughts about God. God, however, is thinking about us and He is concerned about everything in our lives even the seemingly insignificant details. God also has a plan even for those little details.

Many years ago now when we were moving to another city we had difficulty finding a house to rent. We had a certain amount of money that we could pay toward rent and we also knew the kind of house that we wanted. Jeanie and her mother had already made a trip looking for a house (While I was in training.) and had not found anything. We were down to the last weekend before we needed to move. It was crunch time and we had to find some place live that weekend.

This last time before we ran out of time, I went with Jeanie and again it looked as if we would find nothing. But we found an ad for a house that had not been there the weekend before.

When we drove up to this house the property owner was there showing the house to other prospective renters. But he didn’t rent it to them. We definitely wanted to rent the house and it was at the price that we could afford. The property owner agreed to rent us the house and said that he would take twenty-five dollars off the rent because we were Christians. We had not told him that we were Christians but the frame that held our car tag said, “Prayer Changes Things.” Prayer had definitely changed things for the better that day!

What are some things that you are concerned about, or worried about, or going crazy about? God has some thoughts about that. Actually, God has more than just thoughts about what is going on in your life God has a plan for that.

We may think that God is too busy to care about the intimate personal details of our lives. That, however, is not true because the Holy Spirit is living inside of every true believer. How can God have enough time to answer the prayers of all of the people that are praying? He can do that because He is God. God can do what He wants in the way that He wants and He has chosen to answer our prayers. God has made the decision before the foundation of the world that He loves you and cares about you and therefore He is concerned about every detail of your life.

Maybe you ought to ask God what the plan is for every little thing in your life. Why? Because God says, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”

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10.24.07

Get Out!

The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran. He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there. - Genesis 12:1-5.

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

The last count that I have heard is that around 900,000 people have been forced to evacuate to find safety from the raging fires. None of them wanted to leave and some wanted to less then others. Authorities were forced to force people to leave their homes to keep them safe. As I heard in one report, an officer shouted at a family, “Get Out! I told you to get out! Get out now!” It is so very sad to see these people suffering. “Fear, shock, loss,” said a news anchor to sum up the situation for so many of those affected by the fires.

It is always difficult to face a change in circumstances and it is exponentially more difficult to face a sudden totally unwanted change as they are facing in California. Sometimes we must stand our ground, persevere, rebuild and keep on going. Sometimes we must get out of the way of what could be very harmful to us, to our family, or perhaps to future generations. Sometimes we need to be open to change, and sometimes that change that is required may be drastic.

Abraham was comfortable living in relative comfort and civilized surroundings until at the age of seventy he had a sudden change of circumstances. At the age of seventy God called Abraham to leave his comfortable surroundings and begin what would become a great adventure. Not only did Abraham have to move but also his entire family. It changed his life and life of his descendants forever. Was this change easy? No. Was this change wanted? Unlikely. Was the living of life after leaving their home easy? No. At times, it was very difficult. Was it God’s will? Yes.

We may be forced to change the way we live our lives. It may come about by a raging fire, a tornado, or a hurricane. At other times, the change may come about through a sudden job loss or a downturn in the economic activity of an entire industry or nation. I once was laid off from three jobs in one year and survival becomes the driving force of your decision making. Or, as in the case of Abraham, it may be the voice of God that directs your making a change. Whatever the cause we should be constantly in prayer during those times of change seeking what God wants in our lives.

Even in the worst disasters good can come. Yes, it is terrible, and always will be a terrible thing but if we are willing, God can bring some good out of it in our lives. Are you willing to trust God? Are you willing to follow His plan for your life?

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10.23.07

Nothing Left

Now it happened, when David and his men came to Ziklag, on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the South and Ziklag, attacked Ziklag and burned it with fire, and had taken captive the women and those who were there, from small to great; they did not kill anyone, but carried them away and went their way. So David and his men came to the city, and there it was, burned with fire; and their wives, their sons, and their daughters had been taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep. And David’s two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite, had been taken captive. Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the LORD his God. - 1 Samuel 30:1-6.

The fires are still burning in California and we need to pray for God to intervene and help all those affected. I watched and heard so many heart breaking stories yesterday on the news - sadly there are many more today. Many have been injured, and two have died in the fires. I received an email today to pray for a family of nine that had lost everything except for the clothes they are wearing.

Yesterday, one family told of how they were able to load up their cars and barely evacuate in time before the fires burned it to the ground. They thought they were safe when they stopped their cars but the wife’s car caught on fire and burned up with everything in it that they had tried to save. Ten minutes late the husband’s car also burned up leaving them thankful just to be alive and together.

Of course, we need to remember that the rain falls upon the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45). It appears that the fires in California are doing the same - burning down the homes of those living for God and those who are not living for God. Why? Because bad things have happened on Planet Earth ever since Adam and Eve sinned. God loves us so much that He has a plan to correct everything but that plan required Jesus Christ to suffer and die on the cross for our sins. Someday, everything again will be perfect like it was in the Garden of Eden for those who know Jesus as their Savior. No matter what may happen to us here on this Earth we must always remember that God cares and He has proven that by what was done on the cross.

What do you do when you lose everything? David had lost everything. He had lost his possessions, his home, and his family. He had nothing left. How could he recover from such a loss? The Amalekites had taken everything but God was just using them to bring David back to Him. David had lost his focus. We can understand. He had been the hero of the nation but had become a hunted man. David had begun to listen to his own voice instead of to the Voice of the Lord. As a consequence, David was living among the enemies of his people, the Philistines. Fighting in some ways against his own people, the people of God.

We see people doing the same kind of thing today. Things get a little tough, they become discouraged and instead of moving closer to the Lord, they move further away. They blame the Lord for their problems. They stop praying, they stop coming to church, they stop reading God’s Word, and they stop doing anything for the Lord. Some actively oppose the work of God’s people. But for many it becomes even worse. So many times people turn to alcohol, or drugs or they gamble, or they become angry and bitter and they too end up losing everything.

David had a similar situation. He had lost everything. What would he do? Give up? Take some sleeping pills? Drink some wine? No! David did what we need to do if we have lost it all. David we are told in 1 Samuel 30:6, “...encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” This was while the people were talking about stoning him!! David turned to God and asked God what to do. God gave him a plan and as a result, in verse 19 we read, “...David recovered all!”

If you have lost it all, why not turn to God? Ask God what His plan is for your life at this point in time. Ask God how you too can recover. He’s waiting.

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10.22.07

Strangers in the House

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. - John 10:10a.

Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. - James 1:12-15.

Kim Ledford went on a lengthy vacation and finally returned to her home. Shock would be a mild term for what Kim experienced when she arrived at her home. She walked into her house and found that a woman was wearing her clothes and an unknown man was in her bed. Another man confronted her and asked why Kim was in his house! The police were able to find the truth and arrested the strangers for burglary. Now these strange people have a new home called a jail.

Can you imagine the shock that Kim Ledford must have felt to have all of those strange people inside her home? What would have been even stranger would have been if Kim had invited them to stay and live there with her. Of course, Kim did not do that she immediately called the police. However, many of us are not as smart. Let me explain.

When we are saved, the Holy Spirit comes to live within our hearts and lives. Our physical body becomes the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Our body is the Holy Spirit’s house. That house has been swept out and made clean (2 Corinthians 5:17). What happens to that house when the strangers show up? Let me rephrase, what happens to that house, your house when sin knocks on your door? Do you call out to the Lord for help? Or, do you invite these strangers of sin to come on in and stay a little while?

It sounds very strange because we as Christians know that sin is deadly. We know that sin is as bad as giving a baby a rattlesnake to play with (Romans 6:23a) - but too many times we tolerate sin. We tolerate certain levels of sin. We know that sometimes those shows on TV and the movies we watch are inappropriate but we watch them anyway. We know some of those books that we read contain things that Christians should not read but we read them anyway. We tell our little white lies because we don’t want to hurt anyone. Some of us drink and smoke and may even do some dope sometimes but nobody is getting hurt are they? Some of us flirt and say things that are inappropriate but it’s all in fun, right? Some of us _____ (just fill in the blank).

The sad truth is that when we invite the strangers of sin in to live with us we are just asking for trouble. If we allow them to stay around it will result in a downward slide growing more and more apart from where God would want us to be. If we allow those strangers to stay, the thief will have stolen our lives away and we will never experience the abundant life that our Lord wants us to have. Ask the Lord to give you the strength to throw those strangers of sin out of the house.

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10.18.07

Problems

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation (difficulties - the Message; trials and sorrows - NLT; to suffer - CEV; trouble - NIRV); but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world. - John 16:33.

Robert Gillespie had been drinking a little and he was sending a text message, which would have been okay except that he was driving. At 2:00am on a Tuesday morning, Robert drove his car into the side of a freight train. His injuries were not life threatening but he was trapped in his car until rescuers were able to free him. Robert has a few more problems now. He has wrecked his car and he was at fault. Hmm…possibly increased insurance rates, money to pay for the deductible, have to take time off work to handle all of this. Then there is the additional headache of his legal problems of driving while intoxicated and a careless driving charge. The police spokeswoman, Kerry Delf said: “There are all kinds of ways to get distracted these days. We don’t recommend any of them while you’re driving.”

In this world, Jesus says that we will have “tribulation.” In other words (as has been translated) we will have to suffer, have trouble, have difficulties, and have trials and sorrows. It sounds pretty bad for those of us living on Planet Earth!

Why do we have problems? Where do they come from? We could ask any of a multitude of questions but are they really necessary? The spiritual fact of life is that if we are alive on this Earth we will have problems. Some people have problems and then some people cause problems. Robert Gillespie caused himself some problems by doing what he knew he should not do. Robert not only caused himself some problems but he caused the employees of the train some problems, along with the train company some problems now having to repair the damage, and he caused emergency personnel problems by their having to respond to what could have been life threatening not only to Robert but also to the first responders. From Robert we learn that we can save ourselves and many others a whole lot of problems by not causing problems by doing things we know not to do. Of course, you knew that already didn’t you?

There are, however, other problems that come upon you unexpectedly, without warning that you did nothing to cause and apparently, no one else at least in the recent past did either. Nadege Brunacci discovered one of those unexpected problems while she was washing her hands in her bathroom. She looked over at the toilet stool and there was a seven-foot long python looking at her. She screamed, of course, and then slammed the lid shut on the toilet and put a heavy box on top of the lid. The Fire Department along with the property owner came to her rescue and they were able to capture the snake. Nadege will never be able to forget the close encounter and whenever she is brushing her teeth, she has an eye out for any kind of unwanted pest that might have wandered into her bathroom.

There are some problems that we are simply unable to prevent - we are stuck with them. To be alive on this planet means that we will encounter problems, difficulties - to put it very plainly, bad things do happen to good and bad people here on this Earth. What does Jesus say about this? “…but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” He also says, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.” How do we keep on going when the bad things happen? We put on Jesus. In Romans 13:14 we are told, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”

When your world is crumbling around you do not give in to your fleshly human wisdom that says that God is to blame. No, you must put on Jesus because only in Him will you have peace from the storms of this life. A final word and I know this one comes from Jesus as it is translated in some versions, “Cheer up!”

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10.16.07

Teachable or Unteachable

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.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. - Psalm 32:8.

Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, SUBMITTING TO ONE ANOTHER in the fear of God. - Ephesians 5:17-21.

Are you teachable? If someone wants to do something in a new or different way, are you the one who is always in the opposition?

If God were to speak to you about reaching out to a neighbor or a stranger would you automatically think, “I don’t do that.”

If you are caught, gossiping by the one you are gossiping about are you willing to ask their forgiveness or are you just going to be angry that you were caught? Because of your anger, do you then oppose everything the person you were gossiping about may want to do whether it is a good idea or a bad idea?

The unteachable have closed minds. For example for hundreds of years it was thought that the world was flat and when it was suggested that the world was round there were hundreds of thousands of closed minds to that idea. Copernicus and Galileo persisted and eventually the current structure of the round world and solar system was accepted. Now we know through modern space flight, telescopes, and other scientific instruments how very true Copernicus and Galileo were and how wrong were the hundreds of thousands of people, including the established church, that believed in a flat earth.

It is almost unbelievable in this modern world that there is a “Flat Earth Society” made up of people who continue to believe that the earth is flat. But there is such a society and their existence is representative of the mindset of the unteachable. To them it does not matter what scientific proof you have, what evidence you may present, what rational arguments you may make, no, they are going to continue to believe what they believe and nothing will change their minds. They are unteachable.

God has so much that He wants for you His children. He wants to teach you and train you to become more and more like Jesus. He wants to give you life more abundantly. He wants to give you peace, which is beyond human understanding. He wants to give you unspeakable joy. We can only have these wondrous gifts by being teachable, sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes that leading may be through other Christians who are filled with the Holy Spirit, which would require that we surrender our own desires and submit ourselves to “one another.”

Of course, there is another reason for being teachable. That reason is “submitting to one another in the FEAR of God.” Because God is God, we should be teachable, reachable, and moldable. If we know the Lord Jesus as our personal Savior, we ought to have enough love, respect, reverence, and fear of God to be obedient to Him.

Which group do you belong to? Are you teachable or do you belong to the spiritual Flat Earth Society?

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10.15.07

Long Life

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you. - Exodus 20:12.

Now this is the commandment, and these are the statutes and judgments which the Lord your God has commanded to teach you, that you may observe them in the land which you are crossing over to possess, that you may fear the Lord your God, to keep all His statutes and His commandments which I command you, you and your son and your grandson, all the days of your life, and that your days may be prolonged. Therefore hear, O Israel, and be careful to observe it, that it may be well with you, and that you may multiply greatly as the Lord God of your fathers has promised you—a land flowing with milk and honey. - Deuteronomy 6:1-2.

My son, do not forget my law, but let your heart keep my commands; For length of days and long life and peace they will add to you. Let not mercy and truth forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, and so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man. - Proverbs 1-4.

The fear of the Lord prolongs days, but the years of the wicked will be shortened. - Proverbs 10:27.

He who would love life and see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. - 1 Peter 3:10.

As righteousness leads to life, So he who pursues evil pursues it to his own death. - Proverbs 11:19.

The verses above give some of the reasons why people may live short lives and also why some live long lives. If you honor your father and your mother, the fifth commandment (or the first commandment with promise) promises long life. However, if you do not honor your mother and your father it would appear that the opposite may be the result.

Keeping the commandments of God in general and living a life of reverence before Him also appears to be helpful in living a long life. Not living such an obedient and reverent life would appear to be a cause for some to live short lives.

The oldest person in the world may be, Edna Parker at the age of 114 who lives in Shelbyville, Indiana. The previous oldest person in the world was Yone Minagawa of Japan who died in August 2007 at the age of 114. The oldest person before Minagawa was Emma Faust Tillman who had also reached the age of 114 before passing away. People do appear to be living longer. I have personally met a man who was more than 100 years old and today had a funeral service for a woman who had lived 97 years. Of course, these are nowhere near the ages of some people in the Bible (Genesis 5) such as Methuselah who lived for 969 years.

The cold hard fact of life is that some day our life will come to an end; we will die a physical death. We may live a very long life or a very short life or somewhere in between but we will die a physical death. For those of us still alive who know that this is ahead in our future there is an important question that we need to answer. How are we going to live those days, months, and years until we pass from this world to the next? What is it that God wants of your life now? How does He want you to live now?

Each of us has a limited time upon this earth and we will leave behind us a heritage of some kind - good or bad. What kind of heritage have you been leaving? What kind of heritage should you be leaving?

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10.11.07

Going Crazy

A fool’s wrath is known at once, but a prudent man covers shame. - Proverbs 12:16.

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good. - Proverbs 15:1-3.

A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays contention. - Proverbs 15:18.

He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. - Proverbs 16:32.

The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression. - Proverbs 19:11.

Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. - Ephesians 4:31-32.

Jeff Goza unintentionally cut off a driver of a Volvo and according to Jeff, it was clear that the Volvo driver was upset. The driver of the Volvo, Steven Stankovitch, followed Jeff and tried to cut him off too. However, Steven lost control; hit a curb causing the Volvo to flip four times. He then climbed out of the vehicle which was now on its’ roof and tried to start a fight with Jeff who just tried to let Steven take out his frustrations. Steven now has some legal problems.

Maybe it was the high price of gas that drove Patricia Sasser crazy on a Tuesday morning. She and another woman arrived at the gas pump at about the same time. However, the other woman already had the nozzle in her hands. So what do you do? Patricia grabbed the gas pump nozzle and both women fell to the ground. Patricia then swung the metal nozzle at the other woman hitting her. Patricia now has some legal problems too.

A teacher’s aide to a fourth grade teacher somehow became upset with a student. The student had picked up a post-it note from the floor and stuck it to her forehead. The aide threatened to staple the note to the girl if she did not remove it. The student ignored the order and the aide pushed the stapler against her forehead leaving two puncture marks. The teacher’s aide now has to look for another job.

I could list story after story about people becoming upset and over reacting. It has become a national pastime with collateral damage everywhere that we look. From children to the elderly overreaction has become almost the norm.

What was the old adage? Before you do something stupid count to ten? That may not have been it but still it might be helpful. Before you go crazy and ruin your life and probably the lives of everyone in your family - take a moment to meditate on the consequences. Better yet, memorize some of these verses about anger and meditate on them. Yes, the Lord will forgive you. “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins….” However, the consequences for those sins are still going to occur.

All the school shootings, the work place shootings, the road rage, and on and on and on - we cannot stop it all by ourselves but we can stop ourselves from contributing to the problem. We can try to train up our children so that they will not contribute to the problem. It is not always possible but we can try. We can try to be a godly and kind influence on the lives around us. We can do that and maybe, just maybe there will be a ripple of kindness that flows out from this devotional to your life to another life to another life, which will bring peace instead of craziness. As the apostle Paul put it, “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 (Romans 12:17-18).”

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10.10.07

Sleep Walking and Sleep Driving

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. - Romans 13:11-14.

Pedro Brito of St. Louis Park, Minnesota was just driving down the street at 3:30am on a Sunday morning minding his own business when a police officer stopped him. It is a good thing that it was early and that the streets were deserted because Pedro was…asleep. The police had received a call about a sleeping driver and when officers arrived Pedro was still asleep, still driving and he had crossed the centerline before an officer was able to reach inside and put the vehicle in neutral. 26-year-old Pedro was sound asleep and officers had to shake him and yell at him to wake him up. It appears that Brito was not only asleep but he may have also been intoxicated since the field sobriety test revealed that (surprise!) his balance was not very good.

We may think that we are awake - but are we really? Are we awake to the reality of life or are we just going through the motions letting the vehicle of our life idle through day after day?

Do you remember Jonah of Old Testament fame? He fled from the call of God upon his life and ended up on a ship going in the opposite direction from where he should have gone. Jonah went to sleep there on the ship even though it was not a restful sleep. Jonah was probably doing what many people do - trying to block out the reality of their sin by going to sleep. Some people learn this trick so well that they walk around (some drive around) in their sleep. It is not a real sleep; however, it is a sleep that is unconscious to the sin in their lives and the will of God for their lives.

Do you remember Samson, the man with superhero strength in the book of Judges? Delilah kept trying to find the secret to his strength so the Philistines could kill him. Samson slept peacefully always believing that He would awake as he had before with superhuman strength. He always had, and so when he told Delilah the real secret to his strength (Never having cut his hair.) he thought he would awaken as before. Samson came to believe that he was the source of his strength and that he no longer needed God. Since he no longer needed God, it didn’t matter whether he told Delilah the supposed secret about his hair. Samson was living a life of deception - he had deceived himself.

Do you remember how God woke up Jonah? A great fish swallowed him after he was thrown overboard and Jonah was wide awake after spending three days and night in the belly of that fish.

Do you remember how God woke up Samson? Samson found out that God had been the source of his strength after Delilah had cut his hair and the Philistines took him captive and put out his eyes.

After Jonah and Samson woke up to the reality of their lives and the reality that there is a God they both fulfilled their mission.

What about you? Time is running out. Each of us only has so much time. If we are ever going to start living life like God wants us to - isn’t it time to start? Wake up! It is time to live as we ought to live before it is eternally too late.

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10.09.07

Be a Ruth

But Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me.” - Ruth 1:16-17.

Ruth, if you remember, had lost her husband and was facing a very uncertain future. However, she made a commitment that the God of her mother-in-law Naomi was going to be her God. Ruth made a commitment and lived out that commitment becoming the great grandmother of King David. Ruth could have gone back to her own people but she chose an unknown and possibly difficult future. By choosing that course for her life, she had a godly influence upon countless descendants and is still impacting the lives of people even today.

One of the people that have had a great influence upon my life was my step-grandmother, Ruth. After her first marriage ended she married my grandfather, and they had about seven or eight good years together until my grandfather's health deteriorated.

My grandfather was unable to work, essentially bound to the house, had a leg amputated with health sliding downwards. Ruth continued to work and faithfully care for my grandfather during those years. Even then, when I was young I marveled at her strength of character and commitment. She eventually remarried after my grandfather died but this only lasted for a short time. Ruth lived into her nineties before she passed away. She had a tough life but, oh, what an example she has been to me, and to many, many others. She has been an example of faith in spite of the bad, in spite of the storms of life, a faith that just kept on shining through and even now is an encouragement for me to live with godly character.

For years, I did not know Ruth's real first name. When she went to school in the first grade, she didn't like her name and told every one that she was “Ruth.” How fitting!

Life on Planet Earth can be very difficult at times, bad things do happen, and bad things happen to good people all the time. However, we have a promise in Romans 8:28 that if we love the Lord and are seeking His will in our lives that He will bring good even out of the very worst of what life brings our way: “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.”

Most likely, if life is tough for you there are those who are watching, and hopefully marveling at your faith. Your life I hope is molding the lives of those around you just as the life of my step-grandmother has molded mine.

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10.08.07

Futility

This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the FUTILITY of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. - Ephesians 4:17-24.

Ralph Whittington is known as the “King of Porn.” He is now 57 years old and he retired in 2000 from being the main reading room curator for the Library of Congress. He received the title “King of Porn” because of his private collection of 500 boxes of pornography that he sold recently to the Museum of Sex in New York City. Ralph lives with just his mother after his wife left him. It could be that she left because there was no longer room for her. A buyer from the museum said that the house was “packed to the rafters,” and that you “had to walk sideways to get through the rooms.” According to Whittington’s mother, Ralph worked day and night after his retirement indexing and cross-referencing. He apparently spent almost all of his free time prior to retirement in the gathering of his collection.

Think of how much time Ralph Whittington spent in his pursuit of nothing. Hours and hours of time spent in useless activity, which accomplished, nothing. The apostle Paul says in Ephesians, “This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the FUTILITY of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.” Futility describes Ralph activities in life. Futility is defined as “The quality of having no useful result; uselessness,” and, “Lack of importance or purpose; frivolousness.”

The example that the life of Ralph Whittington gives us is a mild one. The futility of sexual immorality is one of unimaginable waste. Hours and hours and hours of wasted life. What could Ralph have become, what could he still become if not for this addiction? Ralph may not be an alcoholic or doing drugs but his addiction has just as surely resulted in a life of futility.

You may not be wasting your life viewing porn or cataloging all of the pornographic materials that you have, however, you may still be living a life of futility. Are you investing the extra time that you have to the glory of God? Once you know the Lord as your Savior, you should no longer live as the unbelievers live. You are now children of Light (Ephesians 5:8-10) and no longer have to live in darkness. Cast away the useless wasting of your life in pursuit of the pleasures of this world and instead invest in the eternity that is ahead for all those who love the Lord.

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10.04.07

The Wicked have Fear

He who walks with integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will become known. - Proverbs 10:9.

The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it. 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. - Proverbs 10:22-24.

Pornography is to some extent a secret sin, however, every sin has consequences and even though it may be in secret it still has consequences. Sometimes those consequences are severe and sometimes they are delayed but there are consequences.

Here are a couple of examples: A woman in Chicago found her boyfriend’s CDs, which contained porn. Jeanette became very upset. She became so upset that she shot her boyfriend to death and she has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

Just a few days ago, State Representative Matthew Barrett was doing what for everyone involved appeared to be a good thing. He was giving a lecture to a high school class explaining how legislation becomes law. Using a school computer he inserted his own memory card and, and…an image of a partially nude woman was projected onto the screen. Rep. Barrett says that he has no idea where the images came from that are on the memory card. According to Barrett, he received the card as a gift from a legislative liaison with Ohio’s state library.

Sadly, in both of the above instances the sin has affected not only the one directly involved but others as well. The extreme example is the girlfriend now facing murder charges. In the second, we hope that Rep. Barrett is innocent, and he probably is, however, he has been tainted by whoever put the images on the memory device.

Pornography is a sin that those involved do secretly and they keep it secret because they fear discovery. They fear the discovery of their secret sin because usually that will bring with it adverse consequences as we can see from the two examples and we may know of some examples of our own.

The writer of Proverbs says, “The fear of the wicked will come upon him….” Those involved in pornography have the fear of discovery and all of the bad things that could happen because of it. However, they are not the only ones. Many are involved in sinful activities from illegal substance abuse to embezzlement and countless other things not necessarily illegal but definitely immoral. Most of those involved in those activities have some degree of fear. They have fear that something bad will come of their actions. They fear it, and fear it, and fear it until finally it does, just as promised by God’s Word, come upon them. What a miserable way to live!

You can compare the fear of the wicked with the blessing of those who are living according to God’s will. Solomon says in Proverbs 10:9, “He who walks with integrity walks securely….” The most wonderful blessing of all is that instead of continually expecting something bad to happen to you the Bible tells us, “…the desire of the righteous will be granted.” What a wonderful way to live!

Which way of living have you chosen? If you have chosen the way of the wicked, throw yourself at the feet of the Lord and ask for His mercy, and His help to find the right way for your life.

If you have chosen the right way, rejoice! Because your desires in accordance with the will of the Lord will be granted! (Psalm 37:4; 1 John 5:14-15)

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10.03.07

The Calling of God

For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. - Romans 11:29.

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.

How does someone become a pastor? First, I would say that God must call that person to ministry. But beyond that, I often ponder how God was able to transform my life into what it is now. Looking back thirty-nine years ago, it is beyond my wildest dreams or imaginations that I am a pastor now and thirty-nine years ago I would have been shocked at the suggestion.

Others have also found it strange that I would be preaching God's Word. A high school classmate's mother once told Jeanie (my wife) that of the people in her son's class, she thought that I would have been the least likely one to become a preacher. I grew up on a farm, but in high school I became a lead guitarist in a rock group and continued until I was married. My goals in life at one point were very simple, I wanted to be a great guitar player and make a lot of money. Even after I was no longer in a rock group, my primary goals in life were still materialistic.

Several weeks after I was married something happened that changed my life. I had an encounter with the living God; He saved my soul and began the process of transforming my life. This transformation process did not happen overnight, and is still far from complete. But I know that the hand of God has been upon my life and He has changed me. My goals are now very, very different than they were 39 years ago. Now I want to serve God and see the lives of others touched in the way He has touched me. Where will God lead from here? I do not know, but I do know that being in the center of His will is the very best place to be. Even if the center of God's will for my life is to be a preacher.

What about you? Have you ever had an encounter with the living God? If not you can have! I know that God has a great and wonderful plan for your life. Why not let Him give you a life and an eternity beyond your wildest dreams? Jesus said, “I am come that they (you) might have life, and that they (you) might have it more abundantly (John 10:10).”

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10.02.07

Turn Back

And the Lord said, “Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me (when you have turned back - NIV), strengthen your brethren.” But he said to Him, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” Then He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me.” - Luke 22:31-34.

Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them. - John 17:24-26.

In 1975, I began working in the oilfield in pipe inspection. The money was good but it was the most miserable job that I had ever had. I was still praying every day and before long, I was asking God to give me a different job because I hated the one that I had. It was as though God was not listening. He knew exactly what I was asking and thinking and doing and feeling but He was not answering because sin had entered into my life.

The oilfield for the most part was filled with many forms of evil. Alcohol and drug abuse was rampant along with other forms of immorality. The hard work seemed to be used as an excuse to go out and live like the devil. Party all night and work hard all day. Every month or so we would have a job out of the area and would have to spend a week or two living out of a motel. Of course, this only increased the availability of all of the above that I mentioned. After work, we would go eat and before going back to the motel, we would all go to the bar. It was the expected and accepted thing to do in that environment.

Now I knew that what I was doing was wrong and every night I would ask God to forgive me and to give me another job. But I kept on doing what I wanted to do and kept on missing out on what God had for my life. God surprised me with His amazing grace and demonstrated that He knew right where I was and what I was doing and that He still cared enough about me to warn me.

One night when we were working out of town and having to stay in a motel, I called my wife. Jeanie told me that I had gotten a letter. I had a small mail order business and apparently, the woman that wrote me the letter had seen my ad. It was an anonymous letter and began, “Dear People.” the woman that wrote the letter obviously had some mental problems but God was able to use her anyway.

The letter was some seven or eight pages long, Jeanie read every word, and with every word the conviction of my sin grew. The letter told about how sin had destroyed this woman’s life and it was a warning to others to flee from sin. By the time Jeanie had finished reading the letter I knew that this was not a letter from some mentally deranged person, this was a message STRAIGHT FROM THE HAND OF GOD TO ME.

I had a choice at that point I could listen to God or continue my rebellion even in the face of His warnings and love for me. It was enough for me to immediately fall to my knees and begin crying out for my Lord’s forgiveness. The next day I left my driver’s license at the motel and after work as usual we ate and then I tried to get them to take me back to the motel room but they wouldn’t do it. They took me with them and tried to force me to go in the bar with them, the same one we had been in the night before. However, they would not let me in because I looked so young and didn’t have an ID. So, I sat out in the truck for several hours until they finally decided to go back to the motel, and that is what I continued to do the rest of the time we were away from home.

I believe that God wants to bless us and I have experienced God’s blessings upon my life when I do what He wants me to do. Two weeks later after my encounter with God through the letter, I suddenly had a job like paradise compared to the one that I had before. (An excerpt from “Journey to Fruitfulness” my online testimony and you can read the whole story at the Burning Bush website.)

Isn’t it time for you to turn back to God? He’s waiting. He’s prayed for you just as He prayed for Peter and He has a life better than you ever believed possible waiting for you.

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10.01.07

Priorities

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

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. - Matthew 6:33.

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. - John 10:10.

In August, investigators for the Pentagon found that some things that appeared to be priority-shipping items were only scams. A business in South Carolina shipped a couple of metal washers, which cost 19 cents a piece to a military base located in Texas. The shipping costs for those two metal washers were truly astronomical. It cost $999,798 to ship those two little washers! But it does not stop there because the business scammed a total of $20.5 million from the Defense Department in fraudulent shipping charges!! This scam was made possible by the Defense Department having a “priority” shipping policy. When invoices for shipping were labeled “priority”, the policy was to pay the invoice without question or investigation.

What may appear to be a priority or is said to be a priority in your life may not actually be either - they may actually just be scams depriving you of life. One of those supposed priorities is to have money to buy things. It is called, materialism. We are continually bombarded with advertising in all forms of media to buy this, to buy that, to have something, or to own something. Almost from the time that we are born, we have this constant input of the materialistic world implanted into our hearts and minds.

Why is materialism a scam robbing you of life? Because your focus, your energies are placed toward obtaining those material things. But once you have all those material things that you have worked so hard to have - do you have more life? No. I would submit to you that after you have all of the material world that any human being could possibly want that you still would not have any more life. Actually, you will have less life because all of your focus and energies that you have placed upon the material could have been used to gain more life by putting first the Kingdom of God.

Money and things can never buy love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23) which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit and what God wants each of His children to have. What is it that you have been trying to buy with your life? Maybe it is time to place your focus, your energies, in a new direction that will bring you far greater returns. Stop being scammed by the world, the flesh, and the devil. Put the Lord first in your life and He will reward you with life, real life beyond anything this world can give.

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09.24.07

Wake Up!

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. - Ephesians 5:1-4.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” - Ephesians 5:8-14.

An 18-year-old young man in Melbourne, Australia almost burned to death because he was too tired to wake up. His mattress caught fire from a lamp that fell and his feet were in the fire but he did not wake up! The young man was going the extra mile studying and had fallen asleep. Thankfully, a smoke alarm went off and the parents found the burning bed and the dangerous situation for their son. They rescued their son and dragged the burning mattress outside. The young man had minor burns on his feet and his mother had minor burns to one hand.

Can you imagine being so sleepy that you did not wake up even when your bed was on fire? It was a slow burning fire but still when there was enough heat to cause some burns to your feet you would think that it would wake you up. I wonder if the smoke alarm woke him up or if it was only after his parents rushed into the room and pulled him out of danger that he woke up?

This is a picture of a lost world. Billions of people across this world are asleep, spiritually blinded (2 Corinthians 4:4) to their spiritual need and the danger of hellfire that they will soon face. The lights have been turned out in their lives and they are adrift in a world of evil from “fornication“: to all types of “filthiness.” The world is rushing toward judgment with the end times upon us. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, president of Iran, appears to a candidate for being the anti-christ. The growth of Islam and Islamic nations provide us with an idea of how a one-world religion could come into being. The proliferation of nuclear weapons and with Pakistan on the verge of becoming a radical Islamic nation with nuclear weapons along with Iran give us an idea of what may be ahead.

We are running out of time to reach a lost and blinded world. If you knew that the Lord Jesus Christ was coming in the clouds tomorrow who would you share the gospel message with today? Who would you rush to and tell them it is time to “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” There is nothing to keep Christ from coming in the clouds tomorrow. He could come tomorrow and so what will you do today?

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08.22.07

False Claims

This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. - 1 John 1:5-6.

Having a Medal of Honor winner speak to your church or to your church group could be seen as a great thing to do. Some of the groups that Terry J. Powell spoke at while wearing a Medal of Honor probably felt privileged to have him at their meetings. However, that will no longer be the case for those who know the truth that Powell’s claims regarding the Medal of Honor were false. Investigators believe that Powell’s stories about winning the medal, which vary, did not occur. The investigators also believe that certificates that he has for his medals (Powell has medals in addition to the Medal of Honor.) were altered. Powell is now facing a charge of unlawfully wearing the Medal of Honor in public. The penalty for this crime is up to a $100,000 fine and one year in prison. Terry J. Powell, however, is still adamant that he is a winner of the Medal and says that he will take a lie detector test to prove his claim.

Do you claim to be a Christian? Do you live like it? The little letter of First John is a good place to go if you want to really examine your walk with the Lord. John says, “God is light and in Him is no darkness at all.” This means that there is no evil in God, only good, only light can be found in God. Then, the comparison is with our lives. “If we say,” meaning if we say we are Christians but “walk in darkness” meaning walk or live with evil in our lives than “we lie.” Seems simple enough does it not?

It is easy for us to condemn the false claims of someone like Terry J. Powell but it is a whole other thing to look at the possibility that we are guilty of making false claims. Do we present ourselves to the world around us as being perfect, as never sinning, as never being involved in anything of any evil nature? First John can be a painful little letter to prayerfully use to examine where you are in your Christian walk. Of course, we are not perfect. Of course, we are not completely free of evil in and of ourselves.

John addresses this issue of sin and our imperfection in 1 John 1:8 where he says very bluntly, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” The apostle Paul says much the same thing in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Most of us will readily admit that we are not perfect and that we have sinned. Most of us will also readily admit that we are an ongoing work of our Lord and that sometimes we still “fall short” of the perfection of God. The problem here is that so many of us present ourselves to the outside world as being perfect always walking in the light. The result is that the church is then seen as being filled with people who make false claims. Why would anyone want to be a part of a group people who lie? Not many.

When we talk with non-believers and those outside of the church, we should always be honest about our imperfections. We can then share what we do with those imperfections as the apostle John tells us in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Just to make sure we understand John says it one more time in 1 John 1:10, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.” He says it one more time because we need to remember it and that the world is watching not just what we say but what we do.

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08.21.07

Curiosity Killed the Cat

Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” - Genesis 2:15-17.

Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” - Genesis 3:1-5.

The phrase “curiosity killed the cat” began, as “care will kill a cat, up-tails all” in British playwright Ben Jonson’s 1598 play “Every Man in His Humour.” Cats are by nature inquisitive and so it is easy to understand how the phrase evolved to the current “curiosity killed the cat.” The earliest known printed reference to the phrase occurred in 1916 in the Washington Post. A cat had tried to crawl up a chimney where it had gotten stuck and no one was able to save the cat. The cat’s owner had contacted the Police Department, the Fire Department, the Health Department, the Building Department, and the Washington Heights Court. The cat eventually tried to climb higher but fell and broke its’ back.

People are perhaps even more inquisitive than cats as the saying goes, “inquiring minds want to know.” When I was five years old and conducted a cotton burning experiment to see if cotton would burn, I found out the answer. Cotton will burn but if someone had not come along to save my cousin and me from the burning cotton trailer, it would have been a very costly truth to learn.

Adam and Eve learned a very costly truth that the serpent was partially correct they did not die immediately after eating the forbidden fruit and they did gain knowledge. Sadly, Adam and Eve may have wished they were dead after failing this test and being banned from the Garden of Eden. No, they did not immediately die but they would eventually die a physical death along with all of their descendents - all of the human race. The immediate consequences for their new knowledge were severe. It was no longer the life of favor instead; it was exchanged for a life of pain. Their knowledge came with a very high cost indeed.

Curiosity will still kill the cat and our inquiring minds will still lead us into experiencing great difficulties. There are some things in life that we just do not need to know anything about and we should avoid having any knowledge of those things. The testimony of one of our deacons who has gone on to be with the Lord was that he had never had even a taste of alcohol. What a wonderful testimony! Would an alcoholic who has to deal with the cravings and the destruction of his addiction tell you to avoid the road he has gone down? Most likely. Would a drug addict who has wasted their life and caused pain to all of those in their family tell you to avoid that first taste? Most would. Would someone addicted to pornography tell you to never start? Yes! Would someone who has been involved in adultery and tasted the consequences of their actions tell you to avoid what they have done? Most would. Would the young person who has contracted a sexually transmitted disease after their first experience tell you that it was not worth it? Of course!

There are some things in this life that we do not need to know and we should flee from the knowledge of such things. God warned Adam and Eve and He warns us through the Bible today to avoid those things that He knows will be harmful to us. Remember curiosity killed the cat and it can kill us too.

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08.20.07

Masquerade

But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works. - 2 Corinthians 11:12-15.

…that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ. - Ephesians 4:14-15.

A woman in Israel has been arrested for pretending to be an officer in the army for the last five years. She went to the war last summer in Lebanon and the 24-year-old managed to make it onto bases around Israel in uniform with a replica assault rifle. During the fighting last year, she was able to attach herself to an artillery battery near the border working with the soldiers there. According to media reports, the woman’s reason for her masquerade was that it “made me feel good.”

Satan is a great masquerader who can transform “himself into an angel of light.” Not only can Satan do this but also his demons can do the same and his human servants masquerade as “apostles of Christ.” There are people out there who are very good at pretending as we see with the woman in Israel who for five years was able to keep up her masquerade. Of course, if they have demonic help those servants of Satan may be able to do even better in keeping up their masquerade.

There are “deceitful workers” who will deceive you if they can. Those “deceitful workers” are actively plotting how to deceive you and they will try to trick you into believing their lies.

The apostle Paul says that we should no longer be children instead we are to grow up in Christ. Sadly, there is another game of deception being played in the church. There are those who play at being Christians. They pretend to be serious believers, pretend to be students of the Word of God, and pretend to be prayer warriors. While actually they are only children “being tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men.” They masquerade as mature believers while being only baby Christians who will easily fall for the tricks and deceits of the enemy. Their masquerade causes problems for the entire church.

The solution to both kinds of masquerades is for believers to leave behind their babyhood in Christ and grow up in Christ. If you think that you can become a mature Christian by never attending church - you are just masquerading as a sincere believer. If you think that you can become a mature Christian by never praying - you are just masquerading as a sincere believer. If you think that you can become a mature Christian and never read, study, or memorize God’s Word - you are just masquerading as a sincere believer. Your masquerade will lead other baby Christians to think that you are right and that they too can coast along into Christian maturity. Your masquerade becomes a tool of the enemy to stifle the growth of other believers.

Watch out for the tricks and deceits of the enemy so that you are not, “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine.” Instead, give it all that you have, work with your whole heart to “grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ.”

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08.17.07

When God Speaks - Part V
He Provides the Courage

For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him. - Luke 5:9-11.

Simon Peter was at times fearless and at times very fearful. Peter was fearless when he stepped out of the boat and walked on water (Matthew 14:30). Peter was fearful when he saw the wind and the waves and began to sink. Peter was fearful when he denied Christ three times but he was fearless on the day of Pentecost. Jesus told Peter at the time that He called him, “Do not be afraid.” At the time, Peter and his friends were frightened because they knew that only God could do what had been done with the great catch of fish. Christ had more in mind though than that as He said, “From now on you will catch men.” “Do not be afraid….” “…you will catch men.”

To some extent everything that is done spiritually requires that fear must be overcome. Being basically a shy person ministry, which requires continual interaction with others, was not something that I could do without supernatural empowerment. Over the years, the interaction has become more natural for me. Standing up before others and preaching was difficult at first - at times, it still can be very difficult. However, God has always been faithful to enable me to do what is needed. It can be embarrassing to lose your voice as I did one Easter morning in the middle of the sermon. It can also be difficult to think that at any time during the sermon my voice may suddenly stop working as it has a few times. Only through His power, His courage can I continue. There have been times when I have been physically ill and thought that I would be unable to speak when it was time for me to preach. But when it was time and I began to stand up God gave me the strength to stand and to speak.

Witnessing is often difficult and it is actually easier for me to share with a stranger than it is a friend or relative. It takes courage, supernatural courage for me to do this. Starting a new class, or a new program, or having a special event in our church is not always easy. Why? Because of fear. Fear of failure. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of humiliation. It takes courage to do these things and God is faithful and has always been faithful to provide that courage. To begin writing this devotional was difficult and to continue to write can be difficult when some are offended, and some criticize. God, however, has always provided the empowerment, the courage, and along with it feedback from others that have been touched by the devotional.

If you remember Joshua, facing the great city of Jericho God gave him the courage and the plan to overthrow that city. If you remember Nehemiah there were some who criticized, threatened, and mocked but he continued on to successfully build the wall around Jerusalem. The strength and the courage for Nehemiah came directly from God.

When God speaks to call you to serve Him remember He will provide the courage. God will say to you, “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).”

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08.16.07

When God Speaks - Part IV

He Provides the Work

For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him. - Luke 5:9-11.

When God speaks and calls someone into His service, He has something for them to do. Jesus told Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” On the day of Pentecost, Simon who became Peter preached and caught 3,000 men. That was just the beginning of what God had called Peter to do.

Jonah had a great work to do even though he did not want to do it. God spoke and called Jonah to be an evangelist to the people of Nineveh. God spoke and the work was provided. Jonah walked through the streets and countryside of Nineveh preaching, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown (Jonah 3:4c)!” The Bible records what happened, “So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them (Jonah 3:5).” The people turned from their evil and 120,000 people were saved from destruction.

We are to follow the example of our Lord who was working as His Father was working. In answer to those who criticized His healing on the Sabbath Jesus said, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working (John 5:17).” Jesus then told them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does… (John 5:19-20a).” If you know Jesus as your Savior, the Father loves you as well and He has work for you to do. When in doubt about what work to do, look to see where God is at work and join Him in that work. The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:9a, “For we are God’s fellow workers….”

Although it took eleven additional years from when I first heard God’s call clearly, to when I began to preach the time was not wasted. God used those eleven years to develop the character and give the experience necessary for serving Him. As I sought to grow closer to Him to understand what I was to do with my life, I studied His Word, memorized His Word and meditated upon His Word. I became involved in every aspect of service in the church that I could be as a layman. I prayed and prayed searching to know His will for my life and in His time, He answered. It was at a time that He had prepared for me. God has direction for the preparation necessary for the work He has for you to do. As the apostle Paul tells Timothy, I believe the Lord would instruct all of His fellow workers, “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).”

God has a great work for every believer to do. Ask God to tell you, to show you what He would have you to do to serve Him and join Him in the work. There is nothing wrong with the harvest - the Lord just needs more workers (Matthew 9:36-27).

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08.15.07

When God Speaks - Part III
He Provides the Way (the Resources)

For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him. - Luke 5:9-11.

It is known that Simon was married and now that he would no longer be a fisherman how would he provide for his family? The most immediate needs were probably provided for by the huge catch of fish. It may have been the equivalent to what they would normally catch in an entire month. After the month was over though what would they live on then? My wife suggested that Simon’s wife took over the role as fisherman and provider. Which is a possibility. It could also be that other relatives may have taken over the fishing business for a time. We do know one thing and that is that God provided for Simon’s family somehow.

The question of surviving financially while engaging in ministry has been a bothersome question for most of the people that God has called. For me it was one reason that I was reluctant at first to answer God’s call. I had a good job but without any savings with a young family - how would I be able to afford to go to seminary? With 20/20 hindsight, I know that within a year’s time we would have had the resources for me to go to seminary and to support my family. A year later, it was too late to take that course of action. Eleven years after first clearly hearing God’s call at the age of 40 it was still a difficult question. How would we survive financially with our oldest son ready to go to college?

God gave us direction for the financial decisions that we needed to make once we were committed to obeying His will for our lives. We sold our house and downsized. At one point, our income was not enough to pay all of our bills each month. However, God was faithful to provide from one source or another the funds necessary to pay what was due. We went to many a garage sale. Once when I needed a new suit God provided a Christian Dior suit in my size for five dollars. We are told in Philippians 4:19, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” God will not call you to do what He will not provide the resources, the way to do it. If God calls you, He will be faithful to provide in one way or another for what is needed to sustain you along the way.

Of course, you have to do your part. The apostle Paul was a tentmaker during his entire ministry except while he was in chains. I was a substitute schoolteacher for a while and my wife has worked during most of the time that we have been in the ministry. We did not have those bargains handed to us at garage sales we had to get out there early and try to find them. I think that Matthew 7:7-8 is applicable, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” God will provide but you need to do your part. You are a co-laborer with Him.

When God speaks calling you to be His servant in ministry, He will provide what you need to do it. You can count on it.

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08.14.07

When God Speaks - Part II

For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him. - Luke 5:9-11.

When we know what God wants with our lives, when He has spoken and we know it we have two choices. One choice is the way of Jonah. Jonah did not want to do what God wanted him to do. We know the story and we know that eventually Jonah did what God wanted him to do. Jonah preached his one sentence sermon to the wicked Ninevites, they repented, and just as Jonah feared, God spared their lives.

The other choice is the way of the Samuel. Samuel grew up serving in the Temple under the direction of the priest Eli. God called Samuel in an audible voice and Samuel thought at first that it was Eli calling him. Eli told Samuel to answer the Lord when He called. 1 Samuel 3:10-11 tells us what happened; “Now the LORD came and stood and called as at other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel answered, ‘Speak, for Your servant hears.’ Then the LORD said to Samuel….” Samuel obeyed and the result was that “Samuel grew, and the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel had been established as a prophet of the LORD (1 Samuel 3:19-20).”

From these two examples, we can see something else that is very important. Which servant of God had the most peace, joy, and meaning in their life? It was not Jonah. Jonah was unhappy about every aspect of God’s call. Jonah had to go through what could only be described as hell before he decided to obey God. Spending a few days and nights in the belly of a great fish could probably make anyone change their mind. However, Jonah still was not happy about it and even after the Ninevites repented because of hearing his preaching it just made him mad and depressed.

God’s voice in these days may not be audible but it can be almost as easily heard. When I first heard God’s call, I responded only to soon afterwards turn away. I was miserable and depressed. I had no joy. I had no happiness. I had no peace. I had no meaning in my life. I knew that I had made the wrong choice and it took eleven long years before God gave me another chance.

Which is the easiest way? It certainly is not the way of Jonah. I have heard people talk about their fear of responding to God’s call. They speak of the fear that God will have them become a missionary to some far away country. However, when you speak to those who have become missionaries and spent their lives on the mission field you can sense that they have lived lives of fulfillment, lives of meaning and purpose.

Would it not be better to just skip the Jonah part and go straight for the response of Samuel? Leave the fear behind placing your life into the hand of God, the One who knows more about your life than you do. Place your life into His hand because He wants better for your life than you can possibly imagine. The next time God calls let us say with Samuel, “Speak, for Your servant hears.”

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08.13.07

When God Speaks

For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him. - Luke 5:9-11.

This scene came about after Jesus had finished speaking to a large gathering of people. They had all been gathered on the shore and Jesus had gotten into Simon’s fishing boat asking that they push out a ways from the shore. There from the boat Jesus had talked to the people. After he was finished he asked Simon to do what He knew Simon would think was an absurd thing to do. He asked Simon to “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch (Luke 5:4b).” Simon responded with what could only have been frustration and tiredness as he said this to Jesus, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net (Luke 5:5).”

Simon Peter and his friends had worked all night and had not caught a thing but now they try again. What happens is that they catch so many fish that both of their boats begin to sink from the weight of the fish. It had never happened before and they knew, that they knew that only God Himself could make something like that happen. The Bible says that when Simon Peter saw this happen, “he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!’”

It could only be through Simon recognizing that Jesus was God Himself that he could make the decision that he made to leave his career in fishing and begin to follow Jesus. Can you imagine the conversation that he must have had with his wife? “Honey, I’m going to stop fishing and begin following this Rabbi Jesus around for three or four years.” The Bible does not record that conversation and I think we know why. I just read this last week that when pastor’s wives were asked what the most devastating thing was that had happened to their marriage that half said that it was when their husbands entered the ministry.

Leaving all and following Jesus is not an easy decision but it is the only decision to make when you come to the realization that the Lord Himself is calling you and that He knows more about you than you know yourself. I can still remember sitting at our dining room table having my quiet time one morning when the truth of God’s call upon my life was staring me in the face through His Word. God spoke in His still small voice and I heard.

When you know that you know that the Lord wants you to do something with your life how do you turn away? However, the sad fact is that so many of God’s children try to keep Him at arm’s length so that they are never faced with that decision. They don’t pray, at least not enough. They don’t read the Bible, at least not more than a token amount. They don’t go to church more than on Sunday mornings. So how would they ever hear? How will you ever hear if you never talk with your Lord, you never seek His will for your life as you study the Scriptures, if you never seek to hear His voice as you worship Him and listen to the messages that the preacher preaches?

Sometimes lightning does strike and God imparts a vision or in some other way communicates with a person to gain their attention for what His will is for their lives. But it is very, very rare. God is still speaking today and He wants to speak to you. You have to let him in as James says in James 4:7b, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” God has something for you to do with your life - let Him tell you.

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08.09.07

Put on Love

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. - Colossians 3:12-17.

The apostle Paul says in Colossians 3:14, “But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” Now the love that Paul is talking about is Christian love, which is defined in the 1 Corinthians 13. We know that we are to love but who is it that we are to love? Who do you love?

Jesus tells us in John 13:35, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” So we know that a distinctive mark of a true disciple of Christ will be that we will love other Christians. But who else should we love? I believe that you can look at John 3:16 and see who God loved. “For God so loved the WORLD that He gave His only begotten Son....” Every person living upon this planet Earth is someone for whom Christ died.

As we demonstrate our concern for the non-Christians by serving them, ministering to them, caring about them, and loving them, we become Christ’s hands and feet to demonstrate His great love.

Do you love everyone? If we really get right with God, we will. We will even love our enemies. Because we want to follow our Lord’s example and our Lord died for us while we were still sinners, still the enemies of God.

If you do a Google search for forgiveness and murderer, you will receive 1.8 million hits. Even if someone murders your loved one you are as a child of God called to forgive and you can forgive through the power of God. We know this but we hope and pray that we are never faced with having to do it. However, we are continually faced with smaller offenses things like not receiving a promotion that you thought you deserved; receiving an unkind word from a friend, or a boss; not receiving recognition you thought you deserved, and on and on. There are so many little things that others can do that are irritating. Do you overlook them? Do you forgive them? Do you return kindness for their evil?

Who is it that you can share the love of Christ with today?

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07.30.07

Naïve

Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple (naïve people - NIV). For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. - Romans 16:17-19.

John Meister began dating a co-worker, Kimberly Norris, in 2006. Just a month later John proposed to Kimberly and she accepted his marriage proposal. In August 2006, John and Kimberly were married on the Honeymoon Island in Florida. After the wedding, Kimberly continued to live in Tampa with five of her six children and also with her husband of ten years. John continued to live in Oldsmar, Florida. What!?!? Apparently, Kimberly had lied on her marriage application that she had made in July in which she stated she was divorced.

Kimberly told John that she did not want to move her children immediately to a new school and that renovations needed to be made to John’s condo. John was not immediately discouraged by this turn of events and paid for his new wife to have cosmetic surgery. He also bought her a new motorcycle, a new car, a diamond ring and gave her money. Kimberly received a total of $160,000 in property and money from John after their marriage. However, Kimberly is a bigamist having been married to another man when she married John. Meanwhile John has had to file for bankruptcy but still does not want Kimberly to serve time. As John puts it, “Part of my heart is still in love with her.”

One word describes John Meister: naïve. A simple definition of naïve is, “Lacking experience, wisdom, or judgment.” John is a very naïve person and as a result, he was taken advantage of by Kimberly Norris. Hopefully, the legal system will make it more difficult for Kimberly to take advantage of additional naïve men in the future.

Are you naïve? Most likely, you are not naïve about women or about men in the way that John Meister was naïve. Sadly, though many are naïve about spiritual things. Jesus gives us some advice about how to identify those who would lead us astray or would cause trouble in our churches in Matthew 7:15-20 where He says, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”

You will know them “by their fruits.” Do they cause division by their words and actions? Do they cause offenses? Meaning are they hypocritical, quick to hurt or condemn those who happen to get in their way? Are they selfish? Are they serving themselves or the Lord? Do they give the glory to God or do they try to claim the glory for themselves?

Through the Word of God, we are given much wisdom. We do not have to be and should not be spiritually naïve. Study the Word of God so that you will not be deceived.

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07.27.07

Mistaken Identity

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.

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.

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance…. - Ephesians 1:11a.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. - Ephesians 1:3.

Having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will. - Ephesians 1:5.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. - Ephesians 1:7.

Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God. - Ephesians 2:19.

In Elk City, Oklahoma, a 21-year-old man had been drinking and was walking back to his hotel when he stumbled into the path of a car. The man was knocked unconscious and sustained other injuries. He was mediflighted to Oklahoma City about 110 miles away. He did not have any identification other than his shirt, which on the back in large letters said “INMATE.” Thinking the man was on the loose from the Department of Corrections of some state the effort was begun to contact Corrections’ officials. However, no one had any information related to this individual and when he finally woke up he told them he had bought the shirt at a convenience store.

This 21-year-old man can be thankful that he survived his injuries and that when he woke up he didn’t wake up in a prison medical facility. Lessons learned: Drinking can be harmful to your health and wearing a shirt with “inmate” on the back might not be in your best interest. Oh, and you might want to carry some identification with you.

Some of us who are Christians have a mistaken idea about our own identity. Some of us prayed to receive Christ as our Savior and then went back to living just as we had before. When you receive Jesus as your Savior your identity is changed, transformed and you are no longer a stranger and foreigner to God - you are no longer an enemy of God. No, things have changed and they will never be what they were before. Why? Because you are a “new creation” and “old things have passed away” with “all things become new.” Why? Because you have become a child of God. You have been adopted into the family of God through Jesus Christ. You have “obtained an inheritance” and been blessed with “every spiritual blessing.” No, you are no longer, what you were; instead, you are “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”

Maybe you have been confused about your true identity. If you know Christ Jesus as your Savior, you may have been involved in all kinds of evil sinful things in the past. But those things have passed away and it is now time to begin to live your new, true identity. You are you see a child of God. You are part of the royal family of the King of kings. Let us live like it!

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07.24.07

Freefall

The righteousness of the blameless will direct his way aright, But the wicked will fall by his own wickedness. - Proverbs 11:5.

Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety. - Proverbs 11:14.

He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like foliage. - Proverbs 11:28.

Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.- Proverbs 16:18.

For a righteous man may fall seven times And rise again, But the wicked shall fall by calamity. - Proverbs 24:16.

Lindsay Lohan appears to have moved out of the downward spiral and into a freefall. She was arrested early this morning in Santa Monica, California for driving under the influence of alcohol and possession of cocaine. Lohan was chasing another SUV at a high rate of speed just prior to her arrest. She also was driving with a suspended license.

Lindsay made the news in 2005 with three vehicle accidents and she had her fourth accident this year in May. She was arrested for driving under the influence as a result of the fourth accident and officers also found a “usable” amount of cocaine in that incident. She entered a rehab following the accident. Apparently, the rehab was of little help in view of this morning’s arrest.

Some may think that I am picking on Lohan; however, it is my hope that those who have admired her might see the danger of the course that Lindsay has taken. Also, maybe someone will someday give her a copy of this devotional and it might be of help to her.

The fact is that we all have messed up at some point in our lives and if we haven’t we will. Because Romans 3:23 is true and we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s standard of perfection. However, there is a difference between a misstep and a continual, habitual, intentional indifference to God’s standards and of the laws of a country that most of us try to abide by.

There are principles at work here, which are being demonstrated in Lohan’s life. The principles are laid out by the writer of Proverbs by statements like these:
“…the wicked will fall by his own wickedness.”
“…He who trusts in his riches will fall.”
“…Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
“Where there is no counsel, the people fall.”

Most of these statements have obvious applications to Lohan’s life. Lohan is wicked not in that she is any worse than anyone else is necessarily but in that; she is disregarding the Lord’s will for her life. She does appear to believe that because she is rich that the laws that apply to others do not apply to her. She also apparently is a prideful person believing herself to be above others (As seen by her actions). Sadly, she is not receiving wise counsel from those around her and possibly her own mother is giving her a poor example through her own reported substance abuse.

The good news is that Lohan does not have to continue her freefall. The good news for all who may be in a similar situation is that you do not have to continue your freefall either. No, you can change directions. You cannot do it by yourself but the Lord God has the power to help you to change. As the writer of Proverbs says, “For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again.” Place your life in the hands of God through belief in Jesus Christ (John 3:16) and He will raise you up. Trust God with your life and He will stop your freefall as He lifts you up to a place of service in His Kingdom.

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07.12.07

Evil Schemes

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. - Ephesians 6:10-11.

In the news again on Wednesday was the pizza deliveryman who was killed by a bomb collar around his neck in 2003. Federal prosecutors now are saying that the deliveryman was involved to some extent but no information or evidence was provided to substantiate this claim. We do know of two people who were involved and would have benefited from the bank robbery. Marjorie Diehl Armstrong is in prison for the murder of her boyfriend, James Roden. It is alleged that she killed Roden to prevent him from revealing the details of the bank robbery plot. Armstrong asked Kenneth Barnes to help with the plot so that she would have the money needed to have her father killed. Barnes is currently in prison for a drug conviction. What a twisted evil scheme!

Only the devil could come up with something so twisted and evil but he is constantly scheming and planning to tear apart the lives of everyone that he can. Ephesians 6:11 says, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” Some other translations render “wiles of the devil” as:

NIV: “devil's schemes.”
New Living Translation: “strategies of the devil.”
Amplified Bible: “strategies and the deceits of the devil.”
Contemporary English Version: “devil's tricks.”
Holman Christian Standard Bible: “tactics of the Devil.”
New Life Version: “traps of the devil.”
Wycliffe New Testament: “ambushings of the devil.”

I originally memorized the verse in the New International Version many years ago. For years, I would recite the verse from memory as I went through my verses and instead of “devil’s schemes” I would say, “devil’s evil schemes.” Reading through Ephesians one day I paused to ponder the verse and discovered I had been adding a word all these years. However, after thinking about it I decided to leave in the “evil” because all of the devil’s schemes are evil.

The devil has so many evil schemes, which include things like the whole range of addictive behavior from substance abuse to pornography. Then there are the twisted things like Marjorie Armstrong came up with that ended so badly. The spiritual fact is that the devil is constantly seeking to draw you into one of his evil schemes in whatever way that he can.

How can we avoid being a victim of the devil’s scheming? “Put on the whole armor of God” and make your stand. Gird your “waist with truth…having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints (Ephesians 6:14-18).”

We should also “…be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.” Because He has the resources that we need to make our stand. In Psalm 32:8 in the New Living Translation, there it is made more clear about how being strong in the Lord applies to defeating the evil schemes of the devil. We are told, “The Lord says, ‘I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.’” We seek the Lord and He will guide us and advise us and watch over us. When we are filled up with the wisdom of the Lord, advised by the Lord, watched over by the Lord, and on the pathway of the Lord it will be very hard for the devil to trick us into falling for one of his evil schemes.

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07.10.07

After the Crash

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah. - Psalm 46:1-3.

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The LORD of hosts is with us; The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. - Psalm 46:10-11.

Yesterday, there were a few crashes in Meadville, Pennsylvania when a three foot wide, 1,500-pound wrecking ball somehow came loose from a crane and rolled downhill. At least a dozen vehicles were damaged, and three people injured by the runaway ball. The monster ball finally stopped with one final horrendous crash into the back of a car stopped at an intersection.

Crash, as in a wrecking ball crash is defined as: “to break violently and noisily.” A wrecking ball crash is definitely bad news when it is a runaway wrecking ball. Crash as in a computer crash is also bad news as defined by one dictionary: “to suffer a sudden major failure usually with attendant loss of data.” Crashes are nearly always bad news whether it is a wrecking ball, a car crash, a computer crash or even worse a personal crash. Some of us know what it is like to have our world come crashing in on us.

How do you recover from a crash? When a car has been crashed, it is usually taken to an auto body shop for repairs. When a computer has crashed, we take it to a computer technician to be repaired. But what do we do when our lives come crashing down?

Often the tendency for many is to turn away from God during the bad times. They think, “God has forgotten about me, so I’m forgetting about Him.” This is a mistake because those are the times when you need God more than ever. It may appear at times that God has left the building never to return but He is ever present.

What happens if we turn away from God when our world comes crashing in upon us? Of course, you compound the situation if you turn away from God because He will allow the natural consequences of your actions to occur. He will withdraw His protection, withdraw His wisdom, and withdraw His wisdom from your life. You will begin that downward spiral with things in your life tending to fall apart everywhere you turn, everywhere you look. If you turn away from God everything good in your life will begin to be replaced with all things bad - with everything deteriorating. That is what happens when you leave God out of your life - nothing good.

Job of the Old Testament could have given up on God, and most would have given the terrible circumstances of his life. Job, however, remained faithful to God. Job’s life had come crashing down to the lowest of lows. Job remained faithful and God raised Him up. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship the golden image and King Nebuchadnezzar had them thrown into the burning fiery furnace. Just before they were thrown into the furnace, they said this to the king: “…our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up (Daniel 3:17-18).” The Son of God walked in the midst of the furnace with them and saved them from certain death.

The response of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is the response that we need to have when our world comes crashing in upon us. That response is that we will serve God, seek God, worship God, and be faithful to God no matter what may happen in our lives. Where do you take your life when it crashes? You take it to the Master, the Creator - you take your life to God and place yourself in His hands. Remember that God is still God no matter what may happen in your life and He is your “refuge and strength.”

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07.03.07

First Things First

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. - Matthew 6:24.

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. - Matthew 6:33.

Have you ever paid $305 for an empty can of dog food? Perhaps you frequently pay $51 for empty Coke cans? Or, do you pay $152.50 to buy a used envelope? In a recent eBay auction, those were the prices actually paid for those items. It is almost incomprehensible until you connect those items to the name of…Paris Hilton. Yes, all those items once passed through the hands of Paris or at least that is what is claimed by hollywoodstartrash dot com. There are people actually willing to pay extreme amounts for the trash of the famous.

Our society in this country is obviously focused on…I guess you could say the trashy and the trash of the trashy. On eBay, a search for Paris Hilton turned up 1103 hits while Billy Graham had 200 and his son Franklin only had 26. Using the Google search engine it was even more disproportionate with Paris receiving 67 million search items and Billy just getting not quite two million. Thankfully, God still has the most search returns on eBay with 8,407 and He beats even Paris on Google with 341 million.

If someone were to ask you what the focus of your life is on - what would you say? Would you say God is first? Most Christians would automatically put God at the first of the list because we know that is what we ought to say. However, there are other ways of determining your life focus. Time can be used to help in determining our focus. How much time do you spend with God every week? Church, prayer, Bible reading, singing praises, serving…? Then, how much time do you spend on things like soap operas or romance novels? For us men it could be golf, football, hunting, or just watching the news. What is your focus in life? Where are you spending your time? Is it where God would have you to be? How are you spending your time? Is it how God would want you to be spending your time?

Another method of determining the focus of our lives is to consider how we spend money. Do we use it to buy Paris Hilton’s empty can of dog food for $305 or do we use it to provide the food for 38 children for a month (Feed the Children). Do we pay $51 for an empty Coke can that was once in the hand of Paris or do we take that $51 and place it in the hand of our Lord to spread the Gospel?

Most of us can do better. I know I can. Let us commit ourselves to putting first things first as in the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Instead of seeking pleasure from the world, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).”

Copyright © 1998 - 2007. 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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