God’s Recruiting Slogan
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the "stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.' Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus. And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. - Acts 4:8-14.
Have you ever wanted to be a better person? Have you ever wanted to learn new skills and obtain new abilities? Most people at one time or another in their lives have those kinds of desires. The US Army has a very successful advertising campaign and it is based on the slogan “Be All That You Can Be”. Whenever I hear that slogan, it makes me want to join up because who wouldn’t want to be all that they can be? We all do. We want to be the best that we are capable of being.
If God were to put together a recruiting theme, He might use a very similar slogan. God’s slogan might be “Be More Than You Can Be.” What a deal! Where do I sign up? Who wouldn’t want to be more than it is possible for them to be? How is that possible to be more than you can be? Let’s look at some of the evidence.
Soon after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, the disciples are preaching and witnessing in Jerusalem with great boldness and effectiveness. In the Name of Jesus, the lame man was made to walk. Peter and John did not have any silver or gold but they did have the power of God. How did this happen?
Everyone knew that Peter and John were just fishermen. They had never had the advantage of any kind of formal education. They had never been to grade school, junior high or high school much less to college or to a seminary. The thing these men had was that they had followed a teacher named Jesus for three years. We are told in Acts 4:13, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” Peter and John had been raised up to be more than they could be and the One who raised them up was Jesus.
Jesus is still recruiting followers today and He is still offering the same deal. If you will follow Him - He will raise you up to be more than you could ever be without Him. Signing up is very simple to do: just open up the door of your heart and invite Jesus to come in (Revelation 3:20).
Today’s devotional is from an article written by my son, Clark Wrather, for his church newsletter. Clark is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. The title and Scripture were added for the devotional. Clark’s email is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives." - Hebrews 12:5-6.
If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. - Hebrews 12:7-11.
If you know me at all, you know that I am a talker. I just love to talk to people. My wife gets on to me sometimes for chatting away with complete strangers when we are out of town.
I love to talk and evidently this can be passed down as a genetic heritage to your children. My oldest son, Madison, loves to talk. Make the mistake of asking him a question about something and he is going to tell you everything he knows and everything he can possibly guess at concerning the subject. He can go into excruciating detail about the video games he likes or about a cartoon. He’s pretty excited about a new one coming out called, “Super Force Hyper Team Monkey Go”. Just from watching the commercials he has picked out a favorite. Imagine my experience in a fifteen minute conversation about which monkey is probably the best in the new show based on the commercials. As I said, he can talk at length about anything.
He has managed to make it through the first few weeks of school this year without a personal visit from the, “board of education (a paddling)”. During his first couple of years, he had a visit from the “board” within the first week of the school year. The only trouble he has gotten into so far this year is for talking.
He has told me several times that everyone in his class has been in trouble for talking on certain days. I know he may be exaggerating, but his class does seem to have a lot of chatterboxes in it. After a while, he was moved to a new area. I asked him who was sitting around him in the new place and he named all sorts of girls. It sounded like a good plan by his teacher to tone the talking down until he named the last girl. She is a talker and a good friend of Madison’s from his class last year and T-ball last summer.
He got in trouble numerous times for talking after that and I don’t even want to imagine how much of class he wasted away chatting with his good friend. Last week, there was a new development. He came home and told us that he had been moved to a new place. I thought this was a wise move on his Teacher’s part and I asked him who was seated around him. He got quiet for a moment, gave a might sigh and lamented, “Just a machine! I just sit next to a machine”. I am not altogether sure what the machine is, but I doubt it’s the conversationalist his friend was at the old location.
In life, don’t be too surprised if God moves you to a different place. Don’t be surprised when he moves you out of your comfort zone. Don’t be surprised when he moves to change your behavior. Like a wise teacher, God will make changes in your life to help you do better. He might make changes in your health, finances, job, relationships or something else. Usually, we like these changes as much as Madison likes sitting next to a machine, but those changes are for our own good.
Your War Zone
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded 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 6:10-18.
Today is a date that has been etched into our memories and hearts never to be forgotten. On September 11, 2001, we experienced a devastating attack in the United States. In the days following the 9/11 attack, we who are a peaceful people went to war, and we are still in a war. In fact, we are living in a war zone knowing the enemy may very well attack inside our country once again. Many people, however, are living in a state of denial, pretending that we are at peace and that life should go on as it did before 9/11.
Just because, someone wants to deny the reality of the state of war in which we live, does not change the fact that we are still at war. We may not have a suicide bomber blow up the convenience store down at the corner or the local bar; and there may not be a car bomb explode outside of our school, but we are still at war. Why? Because when the terrorists attacked our country, they attacked us who are a part of this country. We will continue to be at war until all Americans are again safe from terrorist attacks.
There is another war that is also going on at the same time. It is the war that is the underlying cause of the terror attacks and the war in Iraq. What you may ask is this war? Why haven’t we heard anything about this? The war I speak of is a spiritual war between the forces of good, and the forces of evil. This war rages all around you wherever you live. Life may seem peaceful, but the reality is that we are living in a spiritual war zone, and the enemy is constantly looking for an opening through which to attack us.
Just as many would like to deny the terror war in which we live, and go on living as they did before 9/11; there are many who want to deny the existence of a spiritual war, and go on living as they always have. However, just because you do not want to believe there is a war, does not mean that it does not exist and that it will affect your life. Just because, you want to hide your head in the sand, does not mean that the war is not raging all around you, and casualties are being taken.
From the time I wake up in the morning, until my head hits the pillow late at night, I am engaged in combat; in a war hard fought, and not easily won. It is a war, in which the casualty count can include every person I come in contact with day in, day out. And it is the same for you. You live in a war zone. Your life is a battlefield. Every moment throughout the day, there are things happening around you that cannot be seen with the natural eye, but are, still, all too real. I'm not talking about a make believe world. No, I am talking about what the apostle Paul describes, which is spiritual warfare.
To the extent that we are faithful in waging our own little spiritual war, it impacts the physical reality around us positively, and across the world. We may not be able to fight in Afghanistan or Iraq, or in some other war the enemy is waging across this world. But we will hinder the enemy, whenever we wage spiritual war where we live.
It is time for the army of God to put on the armor of God, and make a stand. Are you in God’s army? Are you a child of God? Then, it is time to raise the Sword of the Spirit, and fight the enemy of our souls. How you fight your battle, will make a difference in the lives of all of us. How I fight my battle, will make a difference as well. Let us rise up, resist, and overcome our enemy. "You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4)."
Hit the Right Target
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. - Colossians 3:1-2.
Matthew Emmons began target shooting when he was 14-years-old and going into the Olympics in Athens he was thought to be the favorite to win a gold medal. However, something happened to Matthew that had never happened to him before in his six years of international shooting. What happened was that he shot at the wrong target! All he had to do to win the gold was to hit his target and he would win the medal. If Emmons would have only looked through his scope at the number above the target he would have realized he was aiming at another shooter’s target. Because of his error, he dropped from first to eighth with no chance of even winning a bronze medal. Emmons said about his mistake, "I didn't look at the number above the target before the last shot. I usually always look at the number first and then drop down to the target. I was just working on calming myself down and getting a good shot off. I should have looked."
Matthew Emmons will hopefully come back to try again at the next Olympics to win the gold. It is of course a horrendous thing to be that close to your goal and to make a mistake losing all that you have worked so hard to obtain. Matthew failed to win because he was focused on the wrong target. He hit what he aimed at which was the target belonging to someone else. If he had only aimed at the right target, he would have hit it.
The living of the Christian life has much to do with our focus. Is our focus on the wrong thing? The wrong target? If we are focused on the things of this world and how we can gratify ourselves with those things most likely we will be living our lives in the gutter. If we are only concerned with what is best for ourselves and constantly try to do, what is best for ourselves without any concern for those around us or of all what our Lord wants we will find the Christian life to be very hard to live. If we are focused on the opposite of what Christ wants in our lives, we will find life to be very difficult with things becoming progressively worse for us.
How can we live the Christian life in a way that is pleasing to our Lord? The apostle Paul makes this very clear for us. We must put our focus on the right target. We must focus in on the things of God, of what is good and right, of what brings glory to our Lord. Paul says, “Set your mind on things above….” In other words, get your mind and life out of the gutter. Paul also tells us not to even think about the evil things of this world (Romans 13:14). He also tells us some things that we ought to think about instead, “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 (Philippians 4:8).”
What target are you aiming at? Are you aiming at what the world, the flesh, and the devil wants? Or, are you aiming, focusing, and setting your mind upon “things above”?
Remember, you will hit the target you are aiming to hit.
A Taste Of Heaven
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:6-7.
A painting by the father of impressionism, Edvard Munch, has been stolen from the Munch Museum in Oslo, Norway. “The Scream” along with another painting by Munch were stolen by masked robbers while people were touring the museum. “The Scream” is a very well known and valuable painting worth millions of dollars. “The Scream” has an almost expressionless face with the mouth open wide and with the nose and eyes barely visible. The eyes appear to be staring and the hands in the painting are held up beside the head in what appears to be a position of terror.
Looking at a photo of this painting, it occurred to me that the intention of the artist was to convey the almost exact opposite of “peace”. If you were to trying to convey the meaning of “peace” in a painting how would you do it? There is a story about a king who wanted such a painting and so he offered to give a prize to the artist if he chose their painting. Many artists tried to paint a picture of “peace”. However, the king finally decided that he would choose between just two paintings.
The first painting was in a beautiful setting with a lake that was so calm it was like a mirror reflecting the beauty of the mountains surrounding the lake. Above in the sky were white fluffy clouds that added to the peaceful scene.
The second painting also had mountains, water, and clouds. However, the mountains were dark and brooding. The clouds were storm clouds and the water was a roaring waterfall. What did this have to do with “peace”? According to the story, the artist included a small bush that had somehow grown out of the waterfall. In the bush there was a bird’s nest and a mother bird calmly setting on her eggs even though the waterfall was raging and storm clouds were approaching. This was the painting that won the king’s prize. It is also a painting that perhaps comes as closely as possible to portraying the promise of Philippians 4:7 of a “peace” that “surpasses all understanding”.
You and I may not be able to paint such a scene but we know peace when we experience it. I still remember the day I received Christ Jesus as my Savior. It was the day a peace treaty was in effect established between God and me. It was made possible through the blood of Jesus Christ, which was shed for you and me on the cross. At the moment I received Jesus as my Savior I experienced a peace that I had never known before. My sins were washed away and put as far as the east is from the west.
We also can experience this kind of peace when everything is going wrong in our lives or tragedy has struck. We can experience “peace” that “surpasses all understanding” when we follow the instructions given in Philippians 4. Even when the storm is raging we will find that God is true to His promise and He will give us peace which beyond our comprehension, which beyond our understanding, and beyond anything of this world. I believe that “peace” that God gives us during those times is just a tiny little taste of what Heaven will be like.
So, the next time the storm is raging in your life; allow God to give you a little taste of Heaven - pour out to God your needs, and the hurt, and the anxiety, and the impossible situation you have found yourself to be in. It may be impossible to our minds but it is far from impossible for our God. Allow Him to sustain you through His “peace” which “surpasses all understanding”.
Why Should You Attend Church?
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. - Hebrews 10:24-25.
Why do you go to church? James Kelley is part of a small group that is very faithful in their church attendance. James is a former lawyer who lives in Washington, D.C. Kelley says about his church attendance and his group, "We all love the incense, the stained glass windows, the organ music, the vestments, and all of that. It's drama. It's aesthetics. It's the ritual. That's neat stuff.”
If you go to church, and that is a big if since many do not attend regularly, why do you attend? Do you attend for the ritual, drama and aesthetics like James Kelley? Do you attend because your friends do? Do you attend because of the business contacts you can make? Do you attend because you like the social activities? Do you attend because you don’t have anything better to do? Do you attend because your parents make you? Do you attend because your wife or your husband insists that you do so?
Would you keep on attending church even if you were not a Christian? Apparently, some people do and they actually know that they are not Christians! Hard to believe isn’t it? Why would someone do that? Possibly for any of the reasons above (I’ve heard all of them.) or many others. James Kelley is among those non-believers who continue to attend church. James says about his church attendance, “I don't want to give all that up just because I don't believe in God.”
The number one reason we should want to attend church if we are a Christian is: We are commanded to do so. Hebrews 10:24-25 is not a suggestion it is a command. To forsake the assembling together with other believers is a sinful act. There is simply no way around this if we believe the Bible to be true. We are not to pick and choose parts of the Bible that we happen to like to be obedient to - the Bible does not come in optional sections.
Here is another reason for attending church if we are believers: Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Do you remember the two disciples on the road to Emmaus that were unexpectedly joined on their journey by the risen Lord Jesus? What did they say later about Jesus being present with them? "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us (Luke 24:32)?” We cannot experience church setting at home in front of a television. We can watch the service but if we are honest, we know that it is not the same.
Increased effectiveness in prayer is another reason for attending church as we are told in Matthew 18:19, "Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.”
An opportunity to praise God is an excellent reason to gather together with other believers and we are told in Psalm 22:3, “But You are holy, enthroned (inhabitest - KJV) in the praises of Israel.”
Increased faith is also a good reason to attend as Romans 10:17 indicates, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” In every Bible believing church the Word of God is opened, read, and expounded whenever the local body of believers assembles.
Of course, the reason indicated in Hebrews 10:24 is of vital importance. We are to “stir up” or as it is sometimes translated, “provoke” unto love and good works. We are much like a tire with a slow leak or a car that must be refueled after being driven so many miles. Over the course of a week we deflate, we run out of gas. Meeting together, we encourage one another and are spiritually refueled/inflated for another week.
You may have other reasons believers should assemble together. Regardless of the spiritual reason, I think we can agree that church attendance is something that we cannot afford to skip.
God In The Box
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” - Isaiah 55:8-9.
Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but to Your name give glory, because of Your mercy, because of Your truth. Why should the Gentiles say, “So where is their God?” But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases. - Psalm 115:1-3.
For I know that the LORD is great, and our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases He does, in heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deep places. - Psalm 135:5-6.
Over a period of time, many become complacent about God. Now, we may still come to church, pray, read our Bibles, witness, serve. However, there comes to be something that is missing. I have heard many people talk about how some try to use God like a genie in a bottle who when they have a need for him - rub the bottle, the genie appears and they tell him their wishes. I think what we do is also what many of the heroes of the faith in times past have done and is instead like the old jack-in-the-box. You remember the toy, you turn the crank winding it up and the lid opens and out pops the clown or jester. What we do is that we tend to put God into a box - it may be unspoken and it may be even unthought. However, we tend to believe that God can do just this much and no more. If what we need or want is something we believe our God in the box can handle then we turn the crank (pray) and we wait for Him to pop up to take care of it all.
You remember the problem that Moses had when He encountered the Burning Bush. Now I am sure that if you were to ask Moses if he believed in God at that point in his life he would have told you that he did. However, the God Moses believed in was in this little box, He didn’t appear in burning bushes that didn’t burn up, and He didn’t actually talk and ask people to do impossible things. God had to get Moses to think outside of the box before he could free the Israelites from Egypt and lead them to the Promised Land.
Jonah had much the same problem. He hated the Ninevites and could not believe that the God he believed in that was in his little box, could possibly care about wicked people like the Ninevites. We know that God used a very drastic measure to help Jonah to think outside of the box. It was the big fish tool. I don’t know if God has ever used that tool with anyone else but I wouldn’t rule it out.
Then there’s Gideon. He was a peaceful non-confrontive person who had no desire to make waves. The angel appears and tells him that he has to tear down his father’s altar to the false God Baal (Judges 6). Gideon doesn’t want any part of it. The part about God thinking he was a “mighty man of valor” was definitely outside of the box. However, God did use Gideon as a mighty man of valor to defeat the Midianites and Amalekites. Not with a vast army but with only a small number of men. The army of Israel was finally reduced from 10,000 to only 300 men. What faith those 300 men must have had - They were surely thinking outside of the box to believe that they alone could defeat an army of thousands.
To think outside of the box we need a greater understanding of the nature of God. To think outside of the box we must continuously refocus upon God. The writer of Hebrews tells us that in Hebrews 12:3 where he says, “Consider Him who endured such opposition from man that you may not grow weary and lose heart.” Losing our focus on God. Placing limits on God. This results in a weakening of our faith and a growing weariness with the things of God and of the Kingdom of God. That is how God ends up in small box limited in our minds as to what He can do. To escape this trap of a limited and weak God we must consciously live life in the presence of God seeking to grasp hold of the true nature of Him.
For us to understand and comprehend that we have and worship a God capable of more than we can comprehend we need to see that God is God and He can do whatever He pleases.
Here’s A Clue
In Sweden, there has been a sensational murder trial, which has finally concluded. Helge Fossmo a minister in Knuby was found to be guilty of inciting Sara Svensson to kill his next-door neighbor, Daniel Linde and also Fossmo’s second wife, Alexandra. Fossmo sent cell phone text messages to his lover (also the family nanny), Sara Svensson, telling her to kill. Fossmo wanted Sara to think and Sara thought that God was sending her these messages. Fossmo wanted Linde killed because he was also having an affair with Linde’s wife. The verdict of the court states, "Helge Fossmo ruthlessly made use of Sara Svensson's love for him and her dependency on him as a religious leader." Helge was sentenced to life in prison and Sara was sent to a psychiatric institution.
The tragic misuse of authority by some ministers is vividly seen in this situation. Some people do not have even a clue when it comes to determining the will of God. The people of God must always be alert to the abuse of authority and there are some ways to identify this when it happens. Sara Svensson appears to have had psychiatric problems but even she could perhaps have avoided this terrible thing if she had been more aware of how to determine God’s will. Helge was in effect saying, “God says you are to kill these people.”
There are some things that God will never have you to do or tell you to do through any person even a minister. If someone tells you that God wants you to do one of these things you should immediately separate yourself from that person and find safety. What are these things? God will never tell you to do something that He has told you not to do in His Word (the Bible).
The Bible says in Exodus 20:13, “You shall not murder.” It is one of the Ten Commandments. In the New Testament we are told in Romans 13:9-10, “For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” Just in these verses, you can clearly see there are some things that God will never tell you to do and a minister of God should never tell you to do. God will never tell you to: murder, steal, lie, or participate in sexual activity outside of marriage.
We are also given a general rule to apply when in doubt, “…all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” If you are told to do something that will harm someone else that you would not want done to yourself this is most likely a violation of the rule of love.
Sadly, we do live in a world where some try to manipulate and abuse others for their own personal benefit. Knowing the Word of God will give you a clue as to whether or not what you are doing or someone wants you to do is really the will of God. To protect yourself, you should and every child of God should read and study the Bible. Then, when someone tries to manipulate you into doing something in violation of God’s Word, you can tell them that they ought to “get a clue” and read the Bible sometime.
"So I say to you, 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. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!" - Luke 11:9-13.
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.
Have you ever wanted something so bad that you could almost taste it? Have you thought it was your heart’s desire (Psalm 37:4) and that God would surely give it to you? Hasn’t God promised to give you what you ask for and what you desire? The answer is that God will not give you something that will be harmful to you. Just as an earthly father will not give a poisonous snake to a child even though he asks for it - your Heavenly Father will not give you something that is ultimately bad for you either.
It has been said that God always answers prayer and that He answers those prayers with a “yes“, “later“, or a “no“. Most of us have heard Garth Brooks’ song “Thank God for Unanswered Prayers”. However, I do believe that God always answers the prayers of His children and that He has an unlimited number of ways in which He can answer. He will answer prayers with a “yes“, “later“, or with a “no“. He is able to answer “yes” in varying degrees; “later”, in varying degrees; and, “no” in varying degrees. God is also able to answer in whatever other way He pleases because after all He is God.
I once had an overwhelming desire to be the pastor of a certain church and I was sure that this was my heart’s desire. I still remember the moment when I went to God in prayer and asked Him to send me to that church. What was God’s answer? His answer was immediate. He spoke in His still small voice, which at the time sounded almost audible and said to me, “I have something better for you.” It wasn’t what I wanted to hear in fact it made me angry with God and it has taken years for me to be able to see that God was right and I was wrong. For me to have become the pastor of the church I so much wanted to be the pastor of would have been like God giving a poisonous snake to a little child. With hindsight, I am convinced that it would have destroyed me.
Now I know that God indeed had something better for me than what I was asking for at the time. Yes, in a way, He said “no” to my prayer but He said much more than “no”. He said, “I have something better for you.” Over the years, I have treasured His promise to me that day being convinced that it would come about and it has been fulfilled many times over. Maybe God has something better for you too?
Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right
The house of the wicked will be overthrown, but the tent of the upright will flourish. There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. - Proverbs 14:11-12.
The chase began when Sheriff’s Deputy John Hedrick of Winfield, West Virginia spotted a speeding vehicle. His radar showed it was traveling 60 mph in a 35 mph zone. Hedrick proceeded to try to stop the speeder as he headed toward the county buildings where the sheriff’s office was located. The vehicle came to a screeching halt outside the sheriff’s office and a man jumped out and began running toward the court facility. Hedrick was able to catch him - but he let him go temporarily. Hedrick explains, "He was late for a court hearing.” Daniel Clark who Hedrick had been chasing was to be arraigned on the charge of wanton endangerment. Deputy Sheriff Hedrick tells how it all ended, "I thought it was kind of a weird situation, but it kind of worked out all right. He got to court, then he got the ticket." After his arraignment, Clark received tickets for speeding and driving with a suspended license.
We can sympathize to some extent with Clark in that he was trying to do the right thing about not missing his court date. However, he surely went about it in the wrong way! Clark’s situation is not the classic way that many try to make a wrong right with another wrong but it is close. If woman becomes pregnant out of wedlock that is a wrong that many try to right with another wrong by having an abortion. If a person is having financial problems because of gambling debts some have tried to right this wrong by embezzlement at work or by other illegal means of obtaining money. In an extreme case, that I am personally aware of a woman was having an affair and her husband was upset with her, which is of course to be expected. She hired someone to rough up her husband to make him back off and leave her alone. The result was that one of the men died from knife wounds received in the fight.
In all of these instances and you can probably think of others; a second wrong does not make a right. Actually, the second wrong only succeeds in making things worse. It is human nature to want to avoid the unpleasant consequences of our actions. At the time, it may seem to be the right thing to do. However, doing something wrong to cover up or try to make right another wrong only leads to death. Death is not necessarily physical death or spiritual death although it can lead to that if the downward spiral of sin and deception is not halted. With each sin, each wrongful thing that we do there is more deadness that comes into our lives and into the lives of those around us. The only way to end the progression downward is to do what? Stop the wrongful actions.
To turn these bad situations around you must first of all confess your failures to your Lord (1 John 1:9). Then you must deal with the human side of the mess. You may think that it is the end of the world for you when there will be consequences, which could include prison or disappointing those who have trusted and respected you. To be honest and upfront with everyone is the first step to getting your life back. I know people who have committed suicide rather than face such things. You don’t have to do that because if you turn it over to God, no matter how bad it is - He will carry you through it and give you peace in the midst of the storm (Philippians 4:6-7). You must place your trust no longer in yourself or human plans or what you think might cover it over. Instead your trust must be placed in God who is the One who can bring good out of the bad (Romans 8:28).
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 2:11-15.
Michael Schwartz has been arrested for running a con game down in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Schwartz is a master safecracker and also has a criminal record dating back to 1930 (Schwartz in 93 years old). The con game Schwartz has been running is called “Razzle Dazzle” and is also known as “Cajun Bingo”. Razzle Dazzle is a board game and players try to roll marbles into numbered holes. If they are able to roll the marbles correctly, they win a $1,000 jackpot. However, winning is virtually impossible the way the board is set up. It is described it as a board game where players roll marbles into numbered holes in hopes of winning a $1,000 jackpot. The board is set up in such as way that winning is virtually impossible. Assistant U.S. Attorney Al Winters said about this, "But if you even come close to winning, these guys talk fast, miscount numbers and everything else. It's a gambling game and it's also a scam."
The devil aka satan also has a “Razzle Dazzle” game going and he has many assistants to help him. Paul says there are, “false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.” Sadly, there are many who are busy trying to win people not to Christ but to false religion. At least one false religion claiming to be Christian has their own Bible with many words changed and deleted. This goes beyond translation to deliberate deception. They are busy drawing the naïve and gullible into “Bible studies” of their perverted version of the Bible. How can they find the truth when the truth has been altered? It is not possible and many have and are being deceived by this “Razzle Dazzle” game of the devil’s henchmen.
There is a call across the United States to join together with other denominations and religions in unity. How can we join with them when they are against everything that we love? The apostle Paul makes it clear who we are fighting against when he says, “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….” It is a travesty for non-Christian chaplains to be permitted to minister to those in the armed forces of the United States. How can someone who is a devil worshipper be made a chaplain?
There are a lot of “Razzle Dazzle” games being run in the world in which we live. Before you join a Bible study, you might want to ask if your Bible is okay to use. If they insist that you have to use their special Bible - run don’t walk to the nearest exit. If Jesus to them is just a god among many gods - flee before it is too late. If they have predicted again and again the exact date of the end of the world (So far we know they haven‘t been right) - the Bible calls that being a false prophet because their prophecy did not happen. If someone tells you that you can become a god like Jesus ask them where in the Bible it says that and hand them your Bible.
The devil’s “Razzle Dazzle” games are just like Michael Schwartz’ games; you can never win and in the devil’s game the stakes are your eternal soul.
The Sting Of A Viper - Part 2
Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine, those who go in search of mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart will utter perverse things. - Proverbs 23:29-33.
I’ve heard of drunken airline passengers, drunk airline pilots, and just drunk pilots. However, they had something new on a flight from Moscow to the Siberian city of Nizhnevartovsk. The airline attendants were drunk and beat up a passenger who complained. Another passenger reported that half the food the attendants served ended up on the floor. There is an investigation being conducted into their behavior and it is doubtful they will be serving food and beating up anymore passengers anytime soon.
While I was a parole officer I supervised a murderer who once warned me that if he ever started drinking to stay away from him because he was a “mean drunk”. He was drunk when he committed his offense so I did take his warning seriously. Thankfully, he never relapsed into drinking while he was under my supervision.
Recently when I was at the drive-thru window of a McDonalds (My son loves their hamburgers.) I was shocked by the overwhelming smell of alcohol when I put my window down. I did not complain about the intoxicated young man who handed us our order. However, someone must have because I have not seen him since.
Alcohol abuse is a serious problem for businesses, which is not only costly in monetary terms; it is even more costly in the devastation it wrecks to those who abuse alcohol and their families. Many are simply unable to stay employed because of their problem. As a result, they and their families experience poverty and stress in every area of their lives.
Job loss and financial hardship is terrible for those who are going through it. Those things, however, are of minor consequence compared to those who are the “mean drunks” committing violent offenses while under the influence from beatings to murder. There are also those who while not necessarily “mean drunks” have their judgment impaired and get behind the wheel of their cars. The result has been countless innocent lives lost in the wake of an addiction out of control.
If you have a problem with alcohol abuse I urge you to find help before some terrible thing happens in your life. It will happen if you do not stop! If you are a Christian, you know this is wrong. Why? “…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 (Ephesians 5:17-18).” When you are drunk, you are not controlled by the Holy Spirit. No, you are controlled by alcohol, which will only bring about woe, sorrows, contentions, complaints, wounds, and you find that you have been stung by the viper. If you have an alcohol problem, you know it is only too true. Now is the time to seek the Lord with all your heart and being for He is the only One that can truly help you.
When Blessings Don’t Act Like Blessings - Part 2
An excellent wife (Literally: A wife of valor) is the crown of her husband…. - Proverbs 12:4a.
House and riches are the inheritance of fathers: and a prudent (other translations: sensible, understanding) wife is from the LORD. - Proverbs 19:14.
Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts her; so he will have no lack of gain. She does him good and not evil all the days of her life. - Proverbs 31:10-12.
For eleven years, Margaret Thatcher was one of the most powerful persons on earth. Perhaps it was the war over the Falkland Islands in which she gained the nickname of “The Iron Lady”. Her determination to regain the Falklands whatever the cost was courageous leadership and the result of her “iron” will.
I have been blessed to have an excellent wife, a wife of valor, a prudent, sensible, understanding, virtuous, and trustworthy wife. Jeanie is all of those things and more. She also has been an instrument of God in my life to shape and mold me. She is a descendant of Roger Williams (Her nine great-grandfather) who among many other things: founded the first Baptist Church in America; obtained a royal charter for Rhode Island in 1644; and was a champion of religious freedom. I have come to believe that Jeanie was divinely designed to intervene in my life because (at least in part) of prayers from the past. When I think of the character of my wife, I think of the verse in Proverbs, which says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend (Proverbs 27:17).”
My wife has been at times an “iron lady” when it comes to what is right and what is wrong. I know that she is a blessing from God but at times, I have not enjoyed running into an iron wall. God has used her to direct me unerringly in the direction of His will. He has used her to turn me away from sin and back to Him as often as has been needed. At times I did not feel that she was a blessing but instead an unbending “iron lady”. Looking back at my life, I know that God gave me a wonderful blessing when He gave me Jeanie as my wife. Without her testimony, I might never have come to know the Lord as my personal Savior. Without her, I would never have begun attending church on a regular, faithful basis. Without her, I would not be preaching today and instead may have destroyed my life and the lives of others.
In our marriages, there will be times when the best of wives and the best of husbands may not appear to be blessings. That doesn’t mean that they aren’t! In the moments when they least appear to be a blessing from God they may be doing the most important divinely inspired work that they will ever do (This will never be anything sinful.). If you are unhappy with your marriage, I would encourage you to take a fresh look at your wife or your husband. It may be that you are both made of supernatural iron that God is using to shape your lives. If your husband is on the wrong path, God would use you as a divine instrument to change his path. If your wife is on the wrong path, God would use you as a divine instrument to change her path. Sometimes blessings don’t appear to be acting like blessings. When that happens it may be that you need to take another look through the eyes of God and praise Him for what you see!
When Blessings Don’t Act Like Blessings
Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. So he said to them, "Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf." And his brothers said to him, "Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?" So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, "Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me." So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, "What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?" - Genesis 37:5-10.
While walking to my car this morning in a store’s parking lot God reminded me of an important truth. In the parking lot I observed a mother with three children trying to calm down a six or seven year old girl who wasn’t getting her way. The girl was crying and screaming at the top of her voice. Later my wife shared she had viewed a young mother with several children that were out of control. The mother would tell the children to stay still in one spot and it was as if they had not heard anything at all. Even though the mother said it several times the children were still running wild! Sometimes blessings don’t act like blessings.
Without any doubt, Joseph was a tremendous blessing, which came straight from the hand of God. However, Joseph appeared to be a spoiled young man with delusions of grandeur. His father was shocked and his brothers were angered by this dream that Joseph supposedly had. What hope could there be for a child like this? How could such a child be a blessing? Israel did have a small glimmer of the truth as the Bible records, “And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind (Genesis 37:11).”
Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and ended up in Potiphar’s house in Egypt. In Joseph’s life, we also see some blessings that did not appear to be blessings: How could being thrown into a pit be a blessing? How could being sold into slavery be a blessing? How could being falsely accused of rape be a blessing? How could being imprisoned unjustly be a blessing? How could correctly predicting the death of a man be a blessing?
At the very end of the Book of Genesis, we see why these things, which do not appear to be blessings, were indeed wonderful blessings from God. Joseph in Genesis 50:20 says to his brothers who fear him after the death of their father, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”
Even disobedient, prideful, spoiled children are blessings from God. Of course, we are responsible before God to properly discipline them and train them in the admonition of the Lord. Through seeking the Lord’s strength and wisdom for the proper discipline and training of our children we will find that, God is also training and blessing us (Ephesians 6:4; 7-8).
Even some of the most terrible things that can happen to a person in life may actually be blessings as the life of Joseph gives testimony. The next time some bad thing happens to you, don’t be so quick to assume that it is a bad thing. It could actually be a tremendous blessing from God because, “…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).”
So these governors and satraps thronged before the king, and said thus to him: "King Darius, live forever! All the governors of the kingdom, the administrators and satraps, the counselors and advisors, have consulted together to establish a royal statute and to make a firm decree, that whoever petitions any god or man for thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions. - Daniel 6:6-7.
Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days. Then these men assembled and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God. And they went before the king, and spoke concerning the king's decree: "Have you not signed a decree that every man who petitions any god or man within thirty days, except you, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions?" The king answered and said, "The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which does not alter." - Daniel 6:10-12.
In the little Orange County, California school district of Westminister an unusual thing happen during the spring. What was that strange thing? Westminister was the only school district out of 1,056 in California to reject and fail to apply a law. The law would allow students and the staff to define whether they are male or female. Three trustees of five on the Westminister school board voted that this law violates their Christian principles. If the law were to be placed into effect, the trustees are concerned it would lead to cross-dressing, and also problems with who would be permitted in which bathroom. The trustees say that this would promote a transsexual agenda. (Researching this story, I was unable to find the current status of the situation.)
The trustees of Westminister risked loosing a large amount of state funding by holding to their decision. What courage they have had in standing firm to their view of what God would have them to do. Such courage is certainly rare in the age in which we live. How long before such laws are forced upon school districts across all of the United States? It will happen if more godly principled people do not stand up for what is right.
Their stand for what is right reminded me of Daniel who risked more than money to do the right thing. The law was passed making it illegal to pray to any god or man except the king for 30 days. The penalty for failure to obey the law was to be placed into a lion’s den, which meant that for all practical purposes it would be a death sentence. Daniel knew this and still he went home and prayed like he always did. He left his window open so his enemies could see he was praying to his God as he always did. As a result, Daniel was thrown into a lion’s den. However, God intervened and sent an angel to close the mouths of the lions. It must have been a shock to the enemies of Daniel when he rose alive out of the den!
We too must stand for what is right or we will be overrun by the evil of this world. It will be risky and even dangerous at times to do so as many across this world know so very well. The apostle Paul gives us the battle cry for Christians in the 21st Century, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”
Follow The Instructions
And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, "Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean." But Naaman became furious, and went away and said, "Indeed, I said to myself, "He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.' Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?" So he turned and went away in a rage. And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, "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'?" So he went down and dipped seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean. - 2 Kings 5:10-14.
“…the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” - Romans 6:23b.
What would you do to be healed of leprosy or some other terrible disease? Climb the highest mountain? Crawl on your knees up a thousand steps? Give fifty percent of your income for the rest of your life? Become the slave for the rest of your life to the doctor who has the wisdom to make you well?
Naaman was a great man in Syria as the commander of the armed forces of the entire nation. He was a man of great courage. Naaman was facing something he had never faced before. He was facing an enemy more powerful and more dangerous than any he had fought before. Naaman had leprosy and he knew very well the horribleness of the disease. There was no way for Naaman to win this battle. So, when he heard of the great prophet Elisha and of his God he was willing to try it.
It was shocking to this great and mighty man that the prophet Elisha did not come himself and only sent a messenger to tell him how to be made well. Even more shocking and insulting was that he was told to dip himself in the River Jordan seven times and he would be well. Naaman’s response was predictable. He threw a fit and refused to do it turning to go back to Syria. His servants reasoned with him so that he could see that if Elisha had asked him to fight one hundred men single handedly or some other impossible thing he would have done it. Why not do this simple thing of dipping in the river seven times? Naaman obeyed and he was healed.
We are much like Naaman when it comes to our salvation. We feel like we have to earn it in some way. Maybe if we were to climb a huge mountain, feed the starving for years, give all we have to the poor or some other wonderful and great thing then maybe, just maybe we might be able to go to heaven when we die. What if God told us in order to have eternal life we had to go dip in the River Jordan seven times? Would we do it? Of course? God has, however, told us something much more difficult for us to accept in order for us to have eternal life. What is that? He has told us that we do not have to do anything! He will give us salvation for free we just have to accept/receive the gift.
What is this gift from God that we must receive? The gift is Jesus Christ. Jesus has done all the work for us. He has paid the ultimate price so that we might live forever with Him. Have you received the gift? “…the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23b).” It is very simple, so simple that even a child can understand - just follow the instructions.
Stinking To High Heaven
And when the layer of dew lifted, there, on the surface of the wilderness, was a small round substance, as fine as frost on the ground. And Moses said to them, "This is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat. This is the thing which the LORD has commanded: "Let every man gather it according to each one's need, one omer for each person, according to the number of persons; let every man take for those who are in his tent."' Then the children of Israel did so and gathered, some more, some less. So when they measured it by omers, he who gathered much had nothing left over, and he who gathered little had no lack. Every man had gathered according to each one's need. And Moses said, "Let no one leave any of it till morning." Notwithstanding they did not heed Moses. But some of them left part of it until morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. - Exodus 16:14; 15c-20.
Ray Bolanos had been on a fishing trip in Alaska and had caught enough halibut to fill up two ice chests. Ray carefully tied rope around the chests and checked them with his luggage when he took the flight home from Anchorage to Seattle. However, something happened on the flight home to the fish. One of the ice chests no longer had the rope tied around it and much of the halibut was missing. Of course, Ray was upset and it appeared that the fish had been stolen. That is the way it appeared until something began to smell. Workers noticed an ugly smell coming from near a conveyor belt. Further investigation resulted in finding the missing fish, which by this time was rotting and smelling horribly.
We can feel sorry for the airport workers who had to clean up the stinking fish. The good thing about that was that the workers were not personally responsible for the smell. The Israelites had a different and bigger problem. God miraculously provided food for the Israelites after they left Egypt. No one knows for sure what the heavenly food “manna” looked or tasted like. It must have been tasty because people tried to keep the leftovers even though they were told not to do so. A terrible thing happened when the “manna” leftovers were kept too long; it began to smell and there were worms in it. The Bible says that this leftover manna “stank”. You would think that there were a large number of people who did not heed the command of God given by Moses not to keep the manna that was not eaten. Moses could smell it; perhaps there was a stench that covered the whole camp. The people woke up the next morning to the terrible smell of wormy manna stinking up the place.
Moses was angry with those who had disobeyed and if Moses was angry it was likely that God was not too happy either. It may have smelled so bad that the smell even reached Heaven! Could that be where the term “stinking to high Heaven” originated?
To bring this forward in time to us we see that the Israelites had a clear and simple command about what to do with the manna. They were to gather it six days a week and promptly dispose of all they did not consume. When they failed to do so, they stunk the place up. Here is something to think about; when we fail to do what we clearly know that we ought to do is there a spiritual stench about our lives? Do we “stink to high heaven”? Do Christians around us have to figuratively hold their noses when they are around us? It must have been an ugly smell when Demas forsook the apostle Paul for the things of this world (2 Timothy 4:12). Surely it was an ugly stench when John Mark left the work and the mission effort to go back home (Acts 15:37-38).
What if God could smell it every time we do good and every time we do wrong? Would there always be a stench around our lives of the rotting sinfulness that stinks to high heaven or a sweet-smelling aroma coming from our obedience that is “well pleasing to God (Philippians 4:18)?”
Rejoice In The Truth
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. - 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.
There are some who rejoice in iniquity. Indeed, they prefer evil to goodness and lying to truth. Maurice Williams who is 24 years old is an example. Williams was brought before a judge in Indiana and to the judge he claimed that his name was not Williams. However, the name “Williams” is tattooed on his back. Williams told the judge in response that, "I can't see what's on my back. If there's some tattoos on my back, somebody's been bothering me when I'm asleep." The judge apparently felt the young man was lying because he charged him with perjury.
In everyday life, we encounter so many people who will tell you a lie even if the truth is tattooed on their body. How can a person so hardened to what is right and good ever come to know the Lord Jesus as their Savior? Only through the grace of God. However, it must be much harder for a person who has such a dim view of the truth to be saved. Why? Because Jesus is the embodiment of Truth. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). To some extent, telling a lie is a denial of Truth and Truth’s name is Jesus Christ. 1 John 2:22 says, “Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.”
We tend to put sins in a hierarchy with sins like murder and robbery being the highest and lying being one of the lowest. We speak of “little white lies” and of lying to avoid confrontations or hurting others. I grew up lying and after I was married, I would lie to avoid having arguments. However, Jeanie would always confront me when she found that I had told her a lie. Soon it became apparent that lying had some very unpleasant consequences. After becoming a Christian the frequency of my lies have slowly decreased because not only did I have to answer to my wife but also to my Lord. The Holy Spirit living inside of me reminds me when I lie that I have sinned. It was very hard living with myself after lying until I confessed my sin to the Lord seeking His forgiveness.
Lying to many of us is such a little thing that the lies slip off our tongue with hardly a thought about it being a sin. James points out, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all (James 2:10).” Lying may feel like and seem to be of little consequence, however, the truth is that lying, whether a “little white lie” or a “whopper” that would win a liar’s contest, is still sin.
If you have a problem with lying, it is a problem and it is a sin. To stop you must admit/confess to yourself and to the Lord that you are a liar. Then, you will be able to receive the mercy of God and abide in Truth. The Lord will cleanse you of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9) and remember your lies (sins)(Jeremiah 31:34) no more.
We can rejoice that Truth has a Name and His Name is Jesus Christ. If we have Jesus in our heart as Savior and Lord we will always rejoice in Truth (1 Corinthians 13:6).
Too Much Church
When you come to appear before Me, who has required this from your hand, to trample My courts? Bring no more futile sacrifices; incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies - I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; they are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. “Come now, and let us reason together," says the LORD, "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool. - Isaiah 1:12:18.
Over the past fifty years or so, there apparently has been a trend toward less and less church. Fifty years ago, churches were having two-week revivals with Bible school for children and in some cases for adults too during the daytime. Not long after I was married I was shocked to learn from my wife that revivals were scheduled from Sunday to Sunday and that people actually went to church on a Saturday night. It was hard for me to comprehend at the time! Now we have Sunday through Wednesday revivals and sometimes they begin on Sunday night instead of Sunday morning. Some churches offer drive thru communion. Other churches provide drive thru prayer and in Las Vegas; you can have a drive thru wedding. It appears that people are growing tired of church with the idea that less church is better.
How about you? Have you ever been tired of too much church? Some have provided their own solution to the problem by skipping any and every service offered on Sunday or Wednesday nights. Some have gone beyond this to only attend on Sunday mornings one or two times a month and some have cut church down even more to just the Christmas and Easter services. Are you tired of church?
Surprisingly God is tired of church too; at least He is tired of some kinds of church services. God says through the Prophet Isaiah, “Bring no more futile sacrifices; incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies - I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; they are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them.” God is tired of people coming to church when they are really not there to worship Him. God is tired too of those who come to church on Sunday but live like the devil the rest of the week.
If you are tired of church, what can you do to bring back the joy and at the same time please God? What happens when we are involved in sin? Usually the first thing that happens is that we begin to back off of our Christian commitments and we find ourselves attending fewer and fewer church services. Integrity will help to bring back the joy of being in church. How do you get integrity if you don’t have it? God says, “Come now, and let us reason together. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Turning back to the Lord through repentance will bring you joy not only when you attend church but also it will refresh your entire life. Do the reasonable thing and commit yourself afresh to God. Then you will find that there is no such thing as too much church.
Running With The Bulls
Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn away from it and pass on. For they do not sleep unless they have done evil; and their sleep is taken away unless they make someone fall. For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence. But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble. My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you. Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil. - Proverbs 4:14-27.
The Navarra governmental website states that, “Hospitals attended nine people after the third bull run, four of them with injuries caused by bulls' horns.” This is the region in northern Spain where the world famous festival of the Running of the Bulls is held at Pamplona each year. The Pamplona fiesta in honor of St. Fermin has been held for centuries and thousands of people attend with many participating in the dangerous running of the bulls. Since 1910, fifteen people have been killed and many many more injured.
I have often wondered what motivates a person to intentionally place themselves into dangerous situations like the Running of the Bulls. Maybe it is the hope of being able to go home and say that they had ran with the bulls using this as a source of future bragging rights. For others maybe it is just the lust for danger that they have. In a film directed by Frank Coppola a young man asks another what he wants to do and he answers, “Nothing legal, that’s for sure!” It is the same kind of attitude that some have which throws them into the midst of bulls risking their lives for a little excitement.
Solomon warns of the great risks we are taking when we knowingly place ourselves into the path of sin. Sin is like a bull, which is impossible to control. The path of the running of the bulls is well marked and the path of sin is also well marked. The warning of Solomon still rings out accurately today, “Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn away from it and pass on.” Why? Because the bulls of sin, “…do not sleep unless they have done evil; and their sleep is taken away unless they make someone fall. For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence.” The path of sin is clearly a most dangerous way to travel.
The fact is that we do not have to run with the bulls. No, we can take another path. Solomon says of this path, “But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.” Which path are you on?
The Sting of a Viper
Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine, those who go in search of mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart will utter perverse things. - Proverbs 23:29-33.
While we were on our recent trip, we ate dinner one evening at a restaurant in Columbia, Missouri. Columbia is the home of two or three colleges and it appeared to be college aged young people sitting two booths down from us. One woman and three men were in the booth. One of the men was intoxicated and it appeared the other three were embarrassed by his behavior but had to tolerate it for some reason.
The young man that was intoxicated talked so loudly and rudely that finally the family in the booth between us and the drunk; left the restaurant before finishing their meal. The drunk noticed that and announced loudly and proudly that he had caused them to leave. The woman sitting next to him tried to quiet him, as did the waitresses but to no avail. The drunk appeared to be thinking that he was impressing everyone by the way that he was acting, however, he was simply being a fool and everyone knew it. The three friends convinced him it was time to leave and they did try to leave but finally the manager had to make the drunk exit the building.
This was not the first intoxicated person that I have encountered and probably will not be the last. I have had them show up at church intoxicated and come to our home in the same condition. When it happens, I do try to communicate the love of Christ as do others in our congregation and we see it as a call to pray for them and to befriend them. I have prayed and continue to pray for young man who was at the restaurant in Columbia.
Some of my most unpleasant moments have been spent trying to talk people who were drunk or high on drugs not to hurt someone. They were all under my supervision while I was a parole officer and the vast majority of those who were on my caseload had the underlying problem of substance abuse. Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Who has been bitten by alcohol and drugs like the bite of a viper? I think I know, I think you know, and I think they know the answer to those questions.
How do you and I befriend a person who has no desire to be helped in the way we would like to help them? You do what you know to do. You pray for them and enlist others to pray for them. You look for those opportunities and make opportunities to extend kindness toward them in the Name of Jesus. Rarely is someone brought out of substance abuse overnight - it is a long-term effort and should be understood to be that way at the very first of your effort. It should also be understood that even when a substance abuser wants to stop it is still a very difficult thing. There will be ups and downs and there will be relapses for most.
How does the substances abuser stop abusing those substances? Only through the power of God! Of course, when first coming out from the fog of addiction a good rehab program based on the word of God will go a long ways toward their having success. Support from others who have overcome their addictions is also a real asset. Jesus is sufficient even for the overcoming of addictions. The resources of God available through Jesus, if used, can defeat the addiction. If you have an addiction and want to stop - you can. Immerse yourself in the things of God by reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on God’s Word. Find a Bible believing church and attend every time there is a service. Be honest with the pastor and other members of the church that you have a problem. Let them know you want their help and ask them to pray for you on a continuing basis. Spend much time yourself in prayer seeking the strength of the Lord who is your only hope. God does have the power to help you (Philippians 4:13)!
(The devotional contained at least one glaring error when it was sent. It is Columbia, Missouri and not Columbus. My apologies to all who live there!)
The nations have sunk down in the pit which they made; in the net which they hid, their own foot is caught. The LORD is known by the judgment He executes; the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. - Psalm 9:15-16.
For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD, and He ponders all his paths. His own iniquities entrap the wicked man, and he is caught in the cords of his sin. He shall die for lack of instruction, and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray. - Proverbs 5:21-23.
Technology it appears is quite literally catching up with some people. In an effort to gain more revenues cities are resorting to an automated system of photographing vehicles, which run through red lights. This system has caught many traffic offenders and recently something new. In Southern California, a vehicle was photographed running through a red light and a ticket for $341 was sent to the registered owner of the car. However, the owner of the car is challenging the ticket because the photograph shows that he was not driving. His wife’s secret lover was driving the vehicle and she was caught undeniably on the film with the other man. The husband is now getting a divorce.
You have to wonder how long the affair had been going on and whether the woman had intentions of telling her husband and divorcing him? You have to wonder if the husband had any clue as to what was happening or if the photograph of his wife with another man was a complete surprise? You have to wonder if the red light photograph was an act of judgment on the part of the Lord? As the Psalmist says, “The LORD is known by the judgment He executes; the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands.“ The situation does, however, serve as a warning that what we think is secret and will never be known may be uncovered. It serves as a warning that we can be caught up in our sin to the extent that the damage cannot be repaired.
With these verses from Psalms and Proverbs, we see that sin is not an inactive player. Sin is a hunter like a wild animal. Sin is always lurking, looking for an opportunity to pounce and destroy another life. As the Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it (Genesis 4:6-7)." Sin has a desire for you.
There are actually two hunters seeking to catch you. The one we want to blame most often is the devil and he is described as a wild beast by the apostle Peter who says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8).” We also know from the Lord in John 10:10a that the devil’s intentions are always the worst. The devil desires to steal life from you, destroy life you have, and if there is any life left, he wants to kill it. The second hunter is more insidious than even the devil. James describes this hunter in James 1:14-15, “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.” Your own flesh, your own desires is the second hunter seeking to catch and devour you.
We know we are being hunted so how can we escape being caught? Peter says about the devil, “Resist him, steadfast in the faith… (1 Peter 5:9a).” In Proverbs we are told, “Do not be afraid of sudden terror, nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes; for the LORD will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught (Proverbs 3:25-26).” We must be “steadfast in the faith” and we must allow the Lord to be our “confidence”. This means we must avail ourselves of the resources of God available through Jesus (Romans 8:32; Philippians 4:19). Put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14), take up the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18), and “fight the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12).”
Now Is The Time
Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. - 2 Corinthians 6:1c.
Dwight L. Moody was perhaps the greatest evangelist of the latter part of the 19th Century. On October 8, 1871, Moody was preaching in Chicago a message entitled, “What will you do with Jesus?” He ended his sermon by stating, “I wish you would seriously consider this subject, for next Sunday we’ll speak about the cross. Then I’ll ask you, ‘What will you do with Jesus?’” The service was ended with a hymn; however, before the completion of the hymn the roar of fire engines could be heard. The terrible 1871 Chicago fire swept through the city that night and nearly destroyed the city. Moody’s sermon on the cross was never preached at least not to those who were present on the day of the fire. Moody would often say in the years to follow, “I have never since dared to give an audience a week to think of their salvation.” Moody often thought of those who were present during the October 8 service who may have died in the fire and never had another opportunity for salvation.
The fact is that when the Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts about a decision we need to make - that is the time, that is the moment we should say, “Yes”. If you know that God is speaking to you about receiving Christ as your Savior; now, today is the time to receive Him. If you know that God is speaking to you about recommitting your life to Him; now, today is the time for recommitment. If you know that God is speaking to you, calling you to preach His Word, or to special service, or full time Christian vocational service; now, today is the time to respond to His call.
People do wait too long and do go out into eternity without Christ. We think that we have years of time to make these spiritual decisions but we do not even know if we have the rest of today. You may know that God wants you to serve Him in some way and you think, “What is the harm in waiting until next week, or until I finish college, or until I’m more financially secure, or you can fill in the blank.” The harm and the problem with this is that the more and longer you resist the Holy Spirit’s call; the dimmer, the less audible that call becomes. Finally, you can no longer hear that call and you no longer have a desire to respond to the call. One of my great-uncles always thought that He had missed God’s call to preach. I believe he probably did.
Not only can people fail to respond to the Holy Spirit’s call to salvation but also we can fail to go and share Christ with those who are lost. How many have gone out into eternity without Christ because someone did not respond to the still, small voice of God? How many have I been responsible for? How many have you been responsible for?
I would urge you even now if God has spoken to you that you would respond today!
And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were loosed. - Acts 16:23-26.
Gary McIntyre, forestry worker in the Laketon, New Brunswick area had a close encounter with a bear. It was not that surprising since Gary has had some problems with them in the past. This time, however, was different and much more frightening. The bear chased Gary up a tree and the bear came up the tree after him. He had to jump to another tree to escape and there he was trapped for over eight hours. Finally, the mother bear’s cub came down out of a nearby tree and the bears left. Gary said that he spent most of his time praying and thinking about his job and family.
The situation for the apostle Paul and Silas was at the least very uncomfortable having been beaten and placed in stocks. Also, they had no way of knowing whether they would be punished further or even executed. Their crime was that they had in the name of Jesus cast a demon out of a slave girl who had been following them around. The girl had been following them for many days crying out about them, "These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation (Acts 16:17b)." The owners of the slave were angered that the girl no longer had the spirit of divination because they made much money from her. Because of this, they grabbed Paul and Silas and took them to the local authorities saying, "These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe (Acts 16:20b-21)."
It was a desperate situation for Paul and Silas. It was also a desperate situation that Gary McIntyre found himself to be in with the bear. These men all did the right thing at the right time, they prayed! Paul and Silas not only prayed but they sang hymns praising God as well.
I have found that I’ve done some of my best praying in desperate situations. My prayers were not filled with many words; no, my prayers in those situations were filled with my heart. In those times of desperation there was no holding back, there was no trying to keep anything from God. At that point, I did not care what anyone else might think or want - all I wanted was to have God touch my life.
David in Psalm 141 and other psalms communicates well the desperation and the cry of help from the depths of his heart. Here we can see the prayer of a desperate man: “Lord, I cry out to You; make haste to me! Give ear to my voice when I cry out to You. Let my prayer be set before You as incense… (Psalm 141:1-2a).” “But my eyes are upon You, O God the Lord; in You I take refuge; do not leave my soul destitute (Psalm 141:8).”
What if we were to pray in such a way every time we prayed? What if every prayer we prayed came from the depths of our hearts? Would not mountains be moved? “…for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you (Matthew 17:20).” I think that Paul, Silas, David and Gary would all agree.
Keep The Door Locked
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 Versailles, Illinois Gordon Bryant ran into a problem gaining access to a bank. The Farmers State Bank now has a system to remotely control and open their door to allow customers in after a previous robbery. Gordon had a problem because bank employees were a little suspicious of the stocking, which he had pulled over his head. Brown County Sheriff Jerry Kempf said, “When you’re going into a bank, you usually don’t wear those in there. It’s not Halloween.” Bryant did get away but a Sheriff’s deputy caught up with him and was able to arrest the man. Bryant had served time in prison for bank robbery in the past.
The employees of the Farmers State Bank did what many people do not do spiritually. If a man looks like a robber than he may be a robber and you ought to take precautions. I was once at a convenience store during the summer and saw two men sitting in a vehicle next to me pull ski masks down over their heads. I didn’t wait for them to get out of their car - I left as fast as I could and called the police from a phone booth nearby. Spiritually we know that we have spiritual enemies and that they only want to destroy us. These spiritual enemies want to kill, steal, and destroy.
When we see those spiritual enemies knocking at our door - we do not have to open the door. Some of those enemies are obvious such as substance abuse and, sexual immorality. The apostle Paul warns us to “…walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy (Romans 13:14).”
Instead of opening up the door and letting in these obvious enemies of all that is good what should we do? Paul tells us to, “…cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light (Romans 13:12b).” Paul also says we should, “…put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts (Romans 13:14).” Another translation says to “clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus.”
So we see what we need to do when the devil comes knocking at our door. We need to keep that door closed and call for help. Put on the armor of light and clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ. When the thief comes to the door go to the Lord in prayer and ask for His help to overcome the evil that is before you. Instead of thinking about how you can gratify your flesh instead think about how you can please your Lord by walking “properly”. Instead of opening the door to death, turn to the Lord who will give you life “more abundantly.”
The Abuse of Freedom
All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. - 1 Corinthians 6:12.
The unanimous Declaration of Independence by the Thirteen Colonies in Congress, July 4, 1776:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Recently we took a trip and as we did we passed across several state lines. We were never stopped or harassed by police authorities. We did not have to obtain a permit. We traveled during the daytime and at night. We stayed at the hotel of our choosing and ate where we wanted. Our itinerary changed at times and we did not have to ask permission to alter it. Freedom is a wonderful thing!
We have freedom in this country, as do many other countries in the 21st Century. However, the founding fathers of the United States would never have dreamed of what some people would do with that freedom.
Many use their freedom to use alcohol in excess and their freedom allows them easy access to illegal substances which are harmful to them. There is freedom to access pornography on the Internet and for years it has been available on cable television. Not only do people watch this on their computers and their television but also many go to clubs where there are live performances. Adult merchandising of everything from lingerie to videos is a booming business.
Of course, there are other abuses of freedom such as those who manipulate their companies’ accounting practices to enable themselves to become rich at the expense of others. In Oklahoma, an attorney made a will for a woman four days after she was ruled incompetent giving himself and his family a substantial amount of the estate. When reported to the state bar association the attorney claimed he did not know it was against the rules to make a will for someone in which he or his family benefited. The state bar association declined to reprimand this man!
As Christians, we have great freedom and our Lord’s mercy is never ending to those who have received Him as their Savior. The apostle Paul understood this as he said, “All things are lawful for me…” Paul may not have read 1 John 1:9 but he understood it. However, the apostle also knew that, “…all things are not helpful.” Paul then goes on to warn against sexual immorality saying, “…Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. …Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body (1 Corinthians 6:13c;18).”
Yes, we have freedom through Christ but that freedom came at a great cost - we are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:20).
Take It Back
See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. - James 3:5b-6.
A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. - Luke 6:45.
Do you remember when you were a child? Sometimes you said some things that another boy or girl didn’t like and what did they say? Often it was “Take it back!” Meaning you didn’t really mean it when you said those mean words. There are so many words that I wish I could take back.
The first time I received corporal punishment (licks) at school had to do with the words I said. A boy named Troy Potts on my bus was fighting with a friend and because I was setting right next to them I was drawn into it all and called Troy a name.
I was in the fifth grade at the time. Soon after we arrived at school, we were called into the superintendent’s office. This was a frightening thing because I had never even been into the high school before much less the superintendent’s office. Troy told the superintendent that the other boy hit him and that I had called him a name. It was all true and the punishment was rapidly administered. According to the superintendent, the name-calling was just as bad as the hitting and I was the beneficiary of three hard licks from a wooden paddle with holes drilled in it.
I really don’t know what caused me to say the words and I did apologize to Troy but there was no way to undo the damage and take back what I had said. Not only was the name calling just as bad as the hitting but over the years I have come to think that it may have actually been worse (Troy, if you happen to read this once again I would like to say that I am truly sorry for saying what I did.). Once those words were said, there was no way to ever take them back.
Words that have been said to me in anger, hate, or just meanness have been remembered much longer and in more detail than any physical pain I‘ve experienced. In fact just thinking about some of those words and situations can once again bring pain. Of course, when it happens I take them to the Lord and ask Him to take captive those thoughts (2 Corinthians 10:5) which relieves the pain and brings peace (Philippians 4:6-7.).
The tongue is a burning fire and piercing sword (Proverbs 12:18) at times and it will never be completely controlled. However, we can control what we put into our hearts. Instead of anger, violence, and evil we can instead put into our lives the list given to us by the apostle Paul in Philippians 4:8, “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.” Store up these things into your heart and out of the overflow of your heart will flow these same things in your speech. Try it - it works!
Then he waited seven days, according to the time set by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him. So Saul said, "Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me." And he offered the burnt offering. Now it happened, as soon as he had finished presenting the burnt offering, that Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might greet him. And Samuel said, "What have you done?" - 1 Samuel 13:8-11a.
And Samuel said to Saul, "You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you. For now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought for Himself a man after His own heart…. - 1 Samuel 13:13-14a.
Recently in South Texas, there was a train derailment, which caused the deaths of three people and large amount of property damage. The cause of this derailment is under investigation. There has also been a train derailed recently in Bangladesh in the Chandpur district. There was no loss of life or major property damage but it was a major inconvenience to those using the train. The cause of this derailment is known. Assistant Station Master Abdul Kashem said that the situation occurred “due to the poor condition of the railway track.” Staying on the rails is a priority for trains because trains are meant to be on rails and not on highways.
Israel was at war with the Philistines in the account of 1 Samuel 13. The Philistines mobilized their army and prepared for a massive confrontation with the Israelites. The Israelites too knew that the battle was coming. Saul knew the battle was coming. It was just a matter of time until the Philistines grew tired of waiting and simply attacked. The army of Israel appears to have been scattering. How much longer could Saul wait? Saul knew he had to wait until the offering was given by the prophet Samuel. What was he to do? Saul waited, and waited, finally deciding that he would give the offering. Saul knew what God wanted but he failed. If only he had waited, just a short amount of time more and the prophet would have come. As a result of Saul’s failure the Kingdom was wrenched away from him and his descendants and given to David. Saul’s life had been derailed.
What caused this derailment of Saul? Most likely, it was a failure to properly maintain the tracks. It appears that there was a lack of faith on the part of Saul. He lacked the faith to believe that if he waited as commanded that the prophet would come and that the Philistine threat would be met. Saul looked at his scattering army and believed that soon it would be too weak to have any success against the Philistines. Saul’s faith was not in God but in his army, in his war machine. Saul apparently was not in constant communication with the Lord God as David the Psalmist would be at a later time.
You can look at the lives of those Christians whose lives have been derailed and you will find something in common. What is that something? There was a failure to properly maintain the tracks.
Are you as a Christian maintaining the tracks? Are continuing to assemble with other believers?* Are you continuing to have a quiet time every day?* Are you continuing to serve your Lord?* These disciplines of the faith are necessary for the maintenance of faith which is necessary to keep your life on the tracks. Please do not wait for your life to be derailed! Do what you must now to keep the tracks in the proper condition for living the life of faith.
(For a great testimony about how church, prayer, and the Bible can help a derailed life to have the faith to get back onto the tracks read Charlyn’s testimony, “Jesus is the Way” at:http://www.theburningbush.org/13.html )
Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. - Isaiah 55:1.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. - Revelation 3:20.
"I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star." And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely. - Revelation 22:16-17.
Today was a sad day for me. My mother has been hospitalized for three weeks to reduce the amount of medication she is taking. Her mental condition had become very delusional and at times she was violent. Since she has been in the hospital, her mental and physical condition has improved but she still has a long way to go. I had visited or tried to visit with my mother for only a few minutes today when she told me to "go away". With my mother, it was not that shocking but still I never thought I would hear my mother tell me to "go away". Hopefully, she will be better tomorrow.
The wonderful thing about our God is that as long as we have breath He will never tell us to "go away". Throughout the Bible, you will find God inviting people to come to Him from the Old Testament to the very last chapter of the New Testament. God is not only inviting us - He is out looking for us knocking on the door of our heart and waiting to be invited into our lives.
God does not invite us to a life of deadness. No! He invites us to the abundant life, to real life. Jesus says, "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly (John 10:10)." God is inviting us to continually come closer to Him. If you have never experienced Him (Jesus) as your Lord and Savior then He is inviting you to do exactly that. Once you know Jesus as your Savior He is continually inviting you to come closer to Him, to wade out further into the waters of eternal life, to experience Him in deeper and deeper ways. As long as we have breath, the invitation to that abundant life and the more and more abundant life will never end.
It is hard for me to understand but some people will never ever accept God's invitation. How can they reject Jesus who suffered and died in their place? How can they ignore Him when He is so patiently and continually knocking at the door of their heart?
God is patient; however, there is a limit to His patience and to His invitation. God's invitation has an expiration date which is at the exact time that we die physically (However it can come sooner if a person hardens their heart to the point they can no longer hear God's Voice which comes about by continually rejecting the Holy Spirit's invitation.*). Those who find that they have let God's invitation expire will hear God tell them to "go away". The Bible tells us about this terrible day in Revelation 20:11-15, "Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire."
Those who throughout their lives tell God to "go away" will one day hear God tell them to "go away" into everlasting punishment.
(*For more insight on a hardened heart read these devotionals:
"What Would It Take?" http://www.theburningbush.org/devmaraug01
"Hearts of Clay"
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. - Hebrews 4:14-16.
My parents have had a little Chihuahua for years - he may be 14 years old. The dog's name is Pal. That dog is really happy every time I come to visit. But he has yet to let me pick him up and pet him. I think he wants to but he shivers and shakes when I start to and runs away. He'll let me play ball with him. I'll throw the ball and he will bring it back to me. He's okay just as long as I don't try to touch him. When I leave, he barks and throws a fit that I'm leaving. I've never seen a dog like that before.
Now compare Pal with their cat, Speedy. Speedy has never met a stranger and is the complete opposite of Pal. Speedy thinks that he is entitled to your attention and that everyone wants to pet him and most people do. Sometimes it is hard to walk because Speedy is lying on top of your shoes or rubbing against your legs. He demands your attention.
Many go from one extreme to the other in their approach to God. They may be like Pal at times and at other times, they are like Speedy. We may shake and shiver like Pal with an attitude that says, "God will never listen to me. He doesn't want me here. What if I say the wrong thing and He zaps me with lightning or something?" At other times some act like Speedy sauntering into the presence of God with a list of demands and an attitude that says, "God, You should be so thankful that I'm on your side."
Both of these attitudes are inappropriate and comes from the idea that somehow we can approach God on the basis of how good we are, of how worthy we are. The spiritual fact is that we can never approach God through our own holiness or goodness. We can never be good enough; we can never be righteous enough to come to God on the basis of how pure we are. Our righteousness even at our very best point is like dirty rags to the absolutely holy, pure and righteous almighty God.
How then can we approach God with boldness and confidence (Ephesians 3:11-12)? Only through the goodness, holiness of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is never about our goodness or the good works we have done. It is about the faithfulness of our Lord who was tempted at all points without sin. Only through the blood of Jesus Christ can we approach the throne of God. The apostle Paul puts it well in Galatians 2:20 when he writes, "I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."
Let us go boldly into the presence of God through the faithfulness of our Lord.
Furthermore King David said to all the assembly: "My son Solomon, whom alone God has chosen, is young and inexperienced; and the work is great, because the temple is not for man but for the LORD God. Now for the house of my God I have prepared with all my might: gold for things to be made of gold, silver for things of silver, bronze for things of bronze, iron for things of iron, wood for things of wood, onyx stones, stones to be set, glistening stones of various colors, all kinds of precious stones, and marble slabs in abundance. Moreover, because I have set my affection on the house of my God, I have given to the house of my God, over and above all that I have prepared for the holy house, my own special treasure of gold and silver: three thousand talents of gold, of the gold of Ophir, and seven thousand talents of refined silver, to overlay the walls of the houses; the gold for things of gold and the silver for things of silver, and for all kinds of work to be done by the hands of craftsmen. Who then is willing to consecrate himself this day to the LORD?" - 1 Chronicles 29:1-5.
It is a sad story I read about that occurred in Multan, Pakistan. There was a dispute between two families and as a result three brothers were hung after they murdered two brothers of another family. The three brothers that were executed were convicted after stabbing to death the two men over an argument about a $2.69 payment for a tape recorder. What a terrible thing for both families!
King David says that he had, "set my affection on the house of my God." It is clear what the murderous brothers in Pakistan had their affection, the desires of their hearts set upon. They had their hearts set upon the things of this world and if the payment missed had only been five cents they would probably have still murdered those other men. Because they had money on the brain and they were so infuriated at the missed payment they committed murder.
What is it that we have our affection set upon? Is our affection set upon the things of this world? If it is, let the story about the brothers in Pakistan be a warning. We may not be at the point of committing murder but that is where such desire will take us. What is it that you are passionate about? What is the desire of your heart? What do you really care about? If what you are passionate about, and what you have your affection set upon is not the Lord and the things of God - surely God is speaking to you about the need of a course correction. Is it not time to consecrate yourself afresh this day to the Lord? As David said, "Who then is willing"?
Watching the solemn occasion of the death of former President Reagan, the thousands passing by his casket in California, and the mourning of so many has reminded me of another death and funeral. The one I am reminded of was not televised but surely changed the lives of many for eternity.
Then his servants said to him, "What is this that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive, but when the child died, you arose and ate food." And he said, "While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." - 2 Samuel 12:21-23.
This was the text used at a funeral I attended one afternoon in October of 1999. I will never forget it. Pastor Gerald Biswell preached the message at his own 18 year old son's funeral. Josh Biswell was returning home from seeing friends when he was in a traffic accident. Pastor Biswell recounted how his son at the age of eight had prayed to receive Christ as his Savior. He told of how on the way to the hospital he had pleaded with God, as did David for his son, to spare his son's life. But as with David the son was taken to be with the Lord.
David knew his baby son was not coming back to be with him. But David knew something else as well that made life bearable. David knew that some day he would go to be with his son. Pastor Biswell knows that too. Josh is in a place so wonderful that it is beyond human description and even if Josh could come back he wouldn't want to. The pastor extended an invitation to those attending to receive Christ as their Savior so that some day they too could be reunited with Josh and their loved ones.
During the invitation many young men came forward to make public their decision to receive Christ. One young man I talked to said, "This has changed my life!" Just looking at his face you could see that it had. Has Jesus ever changed your life?
Thus Hezekiah did throughout all Judah, and he did what was good and right and true before the LORD his God. And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, in the law and in the commandment, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart. So he prospered. - 2 Chronicles 31:20-21.
In the United States, we observed Memorial Day yesterday. Along with the observance, there has been much talk about the greatest generation, which is the title of a book written by Tom Brokaw a few years ago. Americans born in the 1920s who came of age during the Great Depression, fought in World War II, and went on to build America are those Brokaw refers to as being a part of the greatest generation in his book. Facing great adversity the greatest generation never gave up but continued on. They continued on through the Great Depression, WWII, the Korean War, the Cold War, and they are still a great influence in this country.
The Greatest Generation had a great work ethic, which I believed was instilled through the background of faith in which they grew up. America during those years was a Christian nation. As Hezekiah did what was good and right and true before the Lord his God so did much of the greatest generation. According to my uncle, my grandfather used to always tell him "if something is worth doing; it is worth doing your best. If you can't do your best don't do it." I think most of those who make up the Greatest Generation and Hezekiah would agree with that.
Hezekiah did his best, "he did it with all his heart." With all your heart. I think this means that you give it everything you've got. Not holding anything back. You do your very best. So how does this apply? It applies first to work done in spiritual matters. Hezekiah "did what was good and right and true before the Lord his God" and "he did it with all his heart." What was it that Hezekiah did? From chapter 29 through chapter 31 is recorded the most extended account of any revival in Biblical history. What did Hezekiah do? 2 Chronicles 29:2, "he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done." Hezikiah "opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them (v. 3)." He "brought in the priests and the Levites" and restored the worship at the Temple. Chapter 30 tells of Hezekiah keeping the Passover, which apparently had not been done in some time. Through the leadership of Hezekiah, the entire nation again observed the Passover. In chapter 31, we see that Hezekiah makes provision for the Priests and Levites so that they would be provided for on an ongoing basis. Looking at the spiritual work of Hezekiah, we see he gave it all that he had.
We can apply this to the spiritual work that God would have us to do. We should be ever mindful that what we do - especially in spiritual work we do all as unto the Lord. "And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality (Colossians 3:23-25)." If we are a teacher, does it matter if we just prepare enough to get by or if we give it all that we've got, that we do our best? Of course, it matters because even more than the words we say they will follow our example. If the example you present is one of barely doing enough to get by, of being undependable, unpredictable then that is what you are teaching more than anything you may say. I have been picking on our teachers and leaders but spiritually it applies to every child of God and I think that we used to know and understand that. And if we do our best with all our heart, we will certainly prosper spiritually as did Hezekiah while he was obedient to the Lord.
As a child of God, you have a basic understanding of salvation and of the Kingdom of God. When you are saved that does not mean all the spiritual work is over. It has just begun. You've joined the Army of God and your Commander has work for you to do for each day of your life upon planet earth. And when the day comes that He no longer has a purpose for your being here then you will be in Heaven. If you haven't done so already, I would encourage you to report for duty and if you have gone AWOL, it is time to return to fulfill your commitment.
Copyright © 2004. Ed Wrather. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for use of this material on a non-profit basis with source noted.