Leaving It All Behind
Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels. - Luke 9:23-26.
My recent hospitalization began suddenly as the onset of my illness was unexpected. Arriving at the emergency room, we were unprepared for a long stay but that was the least of our concerns. When I was transported to a larger hospital in Oklahoma City, my wife hurriedly packed a few things to take with us. During my stay in the hospital, I came to appreciate some of the things I had left behind. When I was finally able to brush my teeth, I did so with a toothbrush the hospital furnished and it was very flimsy and I was always thinking that it was going to break. The first day I was allowed to take a shower there was no shampoo but the shower was still wonderful. Of course, there were so many things that were suddenly left behind. Things like the concerns of the pastorate, Internet ministry, so many friends, and unfinished projects. When I arrived finally back home and was able to walk through the house without all the wires and tubes it was a special joy.
In order for us to be a true disciple of Jesus, it is necessary for us to leave some things behind. We must deny ourselves our previous sinful way of life. This may include friends who would drag us down into sin again. It may include places that we know would bring temptation into our lives that would be hard to resist. It may include access to the Internet if we are unable to resist the temptations that are available online. It will include those things that enabled us to sin in the past like drugs, alcohol, memberships, telephone numbers, and a multitude of other things. It is important to leave behind those things that would lead to future sinful behavior (Romans 13:14). Deny yourself and leave them behind.
In order to deny ourselves we must take up our cross. The cross is an instrument of execution and we must put our selfish, sinful desires to death. When we have died to self, we will be able to deny ourselves and follow our Lord. To do this we must lose our lives and take on the life of Christ.
Someday we will all face death. Death may come suddenly for some and slowly for others but it will come at some point. It is important for us to face the reality of this fact. By doing so we can be prepared and our loved ones can be prepared. Someday we will have to leave behind every material thing that we have accumulated over a lifetime. We will also have to leave behind our family and friends at least temporarily. There will be no returning to the physical life we know now at that point.
When we contemplate the leaving of everything here on earth behind for eternity, the words of Jesus have much greater meaning. Jesus says, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?” Yes, we may gain great wealth and material possessions but of what value are such things when we depart from this life to the next leaving everything behind?
How To Have Life
Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom. - Genesis 13:12.
…delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds). - 2 Peter 2:7-8.
“Escape for your life! Do Not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed (The angels said to Lot - Ed.).” Then Lot said to them, “Please, no my lords! Indeed now, your servant has found favor in your sight, and you have increased your mercy which you have shown me by saving my life; but I cannot escape to the mountains, lest some evil overtake me and I die. See now, this city is near enough to flee to, and it is a little one; please let me escape there (is it not a little one?) and my soul shall live.” - Genesis 19:17b- 20.
I grew up on a farm about five miles south of a little town of 500 people but only 12 miles away was Elk City. Elk City was much larger with a population of about 8,000 people at that time. When I was older, I spent most of my free time in Elk City and most of my friends lived there. My goal in life was to someday live in Elk City. A friend of mine and I had a shocking conversation one day - at least it was for me. She shared with me that all she wanted to do was to leave Elk City and go far away to another place. Debbie had her dreams and I had mine. Talking with Debbie’s dad (Bob Harness) a few weeks ago while he was in the hospital it seems she has seen her dreams come true. According to her dad, she is living in California on top of a hill overlooking a beautiful valley in a huge house with five bedrooms and five baths. I also achieved my dream of living in Elk City where we stayed for 16 years (With one interruption of a year in a place called Enid.). I sometimes wonder if Debbie has found out as I did that there is more to life than where you live or the kind of dwelling you live in? (If you ever read this Debbie, please send me an email.)
Lot was the nephew of Abraham and they at one time lived close to each other herding their flocks. However, their herdsmen could not get along and Lot moved further away and eventually was living in Sodom. Sodom was an evil place filled with people doing evil things. It appears that only Lot and his family were not participating in the evil. The Bible tells us that Lot “ tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds.” In fact, God promised Abraham that He would not destroy Sodom if there were even ten righteous people who lived there. However, we know that it was destroyed.
After Lot had been delivered from the destruction of Sodom the angels told him to “escape to the mountains” but Lot pleaded with them to let him live in one of the little cities. Even though Lot ended up in the mountains living in a cave because of his fear - he had still wanted to live in a city. I wonder if Lot ever found out that there was more to life than where you live and what you live in?
It may be that God will call you to a certain place as He has me. However, I have found since I received Christ as my Savior that I have life wherever I am at because the Lord is with me. Jesus is my life. Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die…."
What is your life? Is your life a place, or a house, or land, or money, or family, or a job - what is your life? The only way to have real life wherever you are is to have Jesus because Jesus is life.
But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. - 2 Peter 3:7-9.
Today is the 18th day that I have been home from the hospital. I have treasured each one of the days I have been blessed to be at home. In the sense of the passing of time in my mind just one day in the hospital was longer than all my 18 days at home. Have you noticed how when unpleasant things are happening in our lives that time begins to slow down to a crawl? Instead of thinking about what will happen next week, next month or next year we begin to think about the next few minutes or possibly the next day. When you are not having fun, time seems to crawl by. When you are not having fun but just enduring another minute, another hour, another day it is a painful way to live your life. It is hard to wait out those times of pain. It is hard to have patience that someday there will be a change.
Wait or waiting is a popular word in the Bible with 147 occurrences. Here are some encouraging verses with waiting as their theme:
Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD! - Psalm 27:14.
I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. - Psalm 40:1.
Perhaps the most encouraging verse about waiting in the Bible is Isaiah 40:31: “But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
How can we have the patience to wait? Only through the power of God. Patience (or longsuffering) is in the list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. Therefore, supernatural patience to wait comes by the power of God. I’ve always hesitated to pray for patience because of fear of the learning process. However, when we are in the waiting mode and the minutes have become days, and the hours weeks it most likely is a good time to pray for God to give you this fruit of the Spirit called “patience.” If we wait, God will “renew” our “strength.”
God’s time is usually not the same as our time. Our days are micro microseconds to the eternal God. We pray for God to move, to do something to make this waiting come to an end. God knows where we are. He knows what we are going through. But His timing is the best. If we will wait for Him then not only will the crawling of time come to an end but we will find our strength renewed and “mount up with wings like eagles.“ We “shall run and not be weary.” We “shall walk and not faint.”
Whatever the situation let us remember with the Psalmist, “This is the day the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it (Psalm 118:24).”
Love and Cherish
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. 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. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away. When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. - 1 Corinthians 13.
One wedding ceremony that I use often has the vow, “You must promise to love, to honor and cherish….” After the vows I state, “Then, you are each given to the other. In times of happiness and in times of sorrow; in times of plenty and in times of poverty; in times of sickness and in times of well being; to love and enjoy till death shall separate you.” Some couples say those vows and listen to the words with great reverence. Others you can tell they only seem to be words to them. When I said my wedding vows, I meant them and Jeanie meant them. The preacher who married us later said that he had two sets of vows and had us say them both because we looked so young (We were both 19 years old.). I think he was right we needed both sets of vows. While I was in the hospital, I was blessed to see my wife live out those vows. Certainly, she demonstrated many times over that she loved and cherished me even in a time of sickness. I marveled at whom this woman was that was always there no matter what day after day and night after night. Since we have been home we have found out that she has Graves Disease which is an over active thyroid. It causes many different problems including fatigue. Even though she was not feeling well herself she was there with me day and night. I now have a much better understanding of loving and cherishing.
Love. Christian, agape love, was a concept not often practiced in the world of the early church especially outside of the Christian community. Paul gives us the definition of Christian love in 1 Corinthians 13. This kind of love is not just an emotional or physical love it soars far beyond that. To love someone with Christian love is a love the world finds hard to understand. When this kind of love is practiced, it points those who see it to Christ. Why? Because it is only through the power of God that we can love in that way. I always include in the marriage ceremony the importance of keeping Christ in the center of their lives because then they will have more love for each other. It is a concept that is true whether in a marriage, in the church, or in the community. If we have Christ in the center of our lives, directing, controlling, and empowering it will be so much easier to love, as Christ would have us to love.
Is there someone close to you that is hard to love? You just need more Jesus in the middle of your life. They just need more Jesus in the middle of their life and if you demonstrate Christian love by the way you live it may be that they will see Jesus is what they need.
Husbands love your wives and cherish them. Wives love your husbands and cherish them. The more you keep Christ in the center of your lives the more love you will have for each other.
The Marvelous Human Body
Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. - 1 Corinthians 3:16-17.
Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods, but God will destroy both it and them. Now the body is not for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. - 1 Corinthians 6 :13.
And God both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For "the two," He says, "shall become one flesh." But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's. - 1Corinthians 6:14-20.
We have a recliner that is 28 years old and it has received a lot of wear and tear. The chair has seen two boys grow up playing on it and it has been through the family moving nine times. There has been many a nap taken in that chair by a lot of people. However, the chair is beginning to look its age with the fabric being worn especially on the arms. The chair leans slightly to the right and the footrest leans substantially to the right. It has been a good chair but without massive reconstruction, it will soon be in a trash pit. How different is the human body than a material object such as a chair? Our bodies were wondrously designed and constructed. Just considering the movement of the thumb has led some to come to understand that there must be a Master Designer, i.e., God. The cells of our bodies are constantly reconstructing and renewing. Yes, over a lifetime we may begin to lean to the right as well but we will have gone through multiplied times of wear and tear as compared with a chair.
Our bodies were designed not just for us but also for the Lord. Our bodies were designed as a dwelling place on earth for the Holy Spirit - a Temple of God. You have been given the custodial possession of this Temple but make no mistake it still belongs to God. You were “bought at a price”, the very high price of the crucifixion of Christ. God expects you to take care of His Temple. This includes the physical upkeep and the avoiding of abuse through extremely dangerous activities, foods, and drinks which will damage the operation of the body. It primarily includes the avoidance of what will defile the body spiritually. Sexual immorality appears to be at the top of the list but any sin committed with the body or to the body is a defilement. Remember you were not made primarily for the enjoyment of food or other earthly pleasures but “for the Lord.”
The Psalmist says, “I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well (Psalm 139:14).” Before we defile the dwelling place and Temple of our Lord let us consider again how, “fearfully and wonderfully made” that we are. There is a God and if we know Jesus as our Savior He does not live far away in another galaxy. No, He lives right there inside of you and He knows more about what you do and say and think and are than even you know. Are you making the Lord rejoice with the way you are living or are you making Him cry?
Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia: that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded in the riches of their liberality. For I bear witness that according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability, they were freely willing, imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift and the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And not only as we had hoped, but they first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God. So we urged Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also complete this grace in you as well. But as you abound in everything--in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us--see that you abound in this grace also. - 2 Corinthians 8:1-7.
While we were at the hospital in Oklahoma City, we had a great view of the helicopter landing pad, watched several helicopters bring in those ill, and injured. One of the options we had in going from Elk City to Oklahoma City was a mediflight or helicopter ambulance service. However, the doctor decided I was not in that bad of shape. By ground ambulance, it took a couple of hours, which seem like forever for us to arrive at the hospital in Oklahoma City. Jeanie said later that they were driving 80 mph or more and leaving her behind in a heavy rain. Inside the ambulance, it seemed their biggest concern was finding a radio station and about what time the OU football game came on. By the time, I had arrived at the hospital I was wishing I had been sent in a helicopter. I was in a hurry to get to a place where I could get better. I was in a hurry to get to a place where I knew there was a doctor that had hopefully seen some cases like mine. I was in a hurry to get well.
Not only should we be in a hurry to get well and stay well but also we should be in a hurry to do God’s will. To be obedient to Him. You see this happening with the Christians in Macedonia. Those people were poverty stricken but they were in a hurry to give to help other Christians as Paul puts it, “imploring us with much urgency that we would receive the gift….” As soon as they heard of the need, of other Christians suffering they wanted to help.
We should follow the example of the Macedonians and always be in a hurry to be obedient to our Lord whether it is about giving or any other area of life. We should be in a hurry to obey our Lord even when we do not fully understand. We should be in a hurry to obey our Lord even when the consequences seem unpleasant. We should be in a hurry to obey our Lord even when we may not appear in the best light as a result. We should be in a hurry to obey our Lord even when everyone else does not agree.
Think about Joshua and Caleb bringing the minority report after the spies had gone into the Promised Land. Of the 12 spies only Joshua and Caleb believed God that the giants of the land could be conquered (Numbers 13). Think about Nehemiah, cupbearer to the king in Babylon. To give up even temporarily his position meant a loss in prestige, power, and comfort. He would also face an arduous journey along with difficult living conditions once arriving in Jerusalem and many potential dangers. However, once Nehemiah understood God’s call he was ready to go ( Nehemiah 1 & 2).
Have you heard God speak to your heart? Do you know God wants you to do something? Do it now! Hurry to be obedient because it is the very best thing for you.
Pulling It All Out
For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He also has rejected you from being king. - 1 Samuel 15 :23.
As I described previously I was all tied down with wires and tubes. A surgeon had come and installed an IV portal in my chest and all seemed to be going well until about 11:00 P.M. when I woke up or semi woke up needing to go to the bathroom. Thinking I was at home, I got out of bed (With my wife telling me not to.) and headed for where I thought the bathroom was located. I never made it because of all the wires and tubes and pulled out my portal. As a result, it took another couple of hours to get everything cleaned up and I no longer had a portal. So, they brought in some people from the lab to try to find a vein but seemed to have great problems finding one. It was probably 3:00 A.M. before things calmed down. Dr. Zuerker said the next day that I had made an “F” in Portal Management. My wife thought that it was the sleep medication along with the pain medication that brought it all about. Maybe it was just that I was in a strange place and very sick.
The next day about noon, the surgeon came back and reinstalled the portal on the opposite side of my chest. This time she put in some extra stitches and went deeper. I paid for that when they took the stitches and the portal out on the last day of my hospitalization. Because of my “F” in Portal Management, it was over 12 hours before they could resume the IV s at the same level as previous. It most likely caused an additional 12 hours of hospitalization and as I already mentioned more pain.
That is exactly what happens to us when we rebel against our God. Our rebellion causes us pain and causes a delay in God’s blessings and in God’s will being brought about in our lives. It has been said that, “sin will keep you longer than you want to stay, sin, will take farther than you want to go and it will cost you more than you want to pay.”
King Saul was disobedient in doing what God wanted him to do. He was to wait for the prophet Samuel to come and make an offering before taking on the enemy. But Saul got tired of waiting and made the offering himself. It was a very costly mistake, which resulted in the kingdom, being wrenched away from Saul and given to David. This rebellious act caused much pain to Saul, his family, and those loyal to him. It also caused a delay in the kingdom being brought about in its ultimate manifestation.
We have choices and have been given a free will. We can choose as Adam and Eve and King Saul chose to do in doing what we know God does not want us to do. We have that choice. We can pull it all out. But it will cost us. If we rebel against God by doing what we want to do instead of what God wants us to do it will increase the misery quotient of our lives. Our rebellion will make the night longer. Our rebellion will hurt other people besides ourselves usually those we love the most.
Before you pull it all out in rebellion against God, it might be a good idea to count the cost.< /B>
All Tied Down
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. - The 23rd Psalm.
While hospitalized I found myself facing a new situation. The last time I had been in the hospital it had been 43 years ago when I was ten years old and had my appendix taken out. It was a different world then with sheets between the beds and one bathroom at the end of this large ward of beds. I do remember though that I enjoyed the food with fruit juices and my uncle brought me a comic book. They now have these six sticky things they stick on your chest and hookup wires to them like having a continual EKG. Those wires all flowed off to the right, as did the tubes for the blood pressure cuff and the oxygen level placed on my right finger or taped on as it sometimes was done. On my left side was a portal where IV fluids were dripped into my blood. There was about three feet of leeway for me to stand and move on my left side, which was enough to make it to a potty chair. My options for movement were more limited then they had ever been in my life.
The words of the 23rd Psalm flow with words of comfort and peace which we will never outgrow the need of hearing. I have always loved verse two, “He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.” “He makes me lie down….” The shepherd would bring his sheep into a place of good pasture and would make them stay in that good place. The making of the sheep to stay where there was good food to eat and still waters to drink was for their benefit. However, as I have been told many times, sheep are not very intelligent. If the shepherd did not make them stay in the place where they had protection, food, and water the sheep would have wandered off. It was for their benefit. Most likely it was hard for the sheep to understand.
It was hard for me to comprehend the inability to move but it was for my benefit. It benefited me in that life-giving medicines flowed into my body and that the condition of my body could be constantly monitored. If it had been up to me, I would have just unplugged everything and walked out but I was too weak and I knew it would only delay my healing. Like the sheep, I was made to lie down in a place of “green pasture” and “still waters.” Like the shepherd of sheep, the Great Shepherd was constantly watching and present the entire time. I think I had been sick for more than a year and had not realized it. It was slowly growing worse until I had an acute attack. It could have been much worse. I am thankful for a time of “green pastures” and “still waters” that have helped to bring healing and renewed life to my body.
Are you all tied down? You may not be tied down physically with wires and tubes as I was - it may be something else. I will leave that to you to consider in your own life but if you are tied down, it may be for your benefit. The Great Shepherd may have reached down and given you “green pastures” and “still waters” even though you did not want them. But it is for your benefit. It is because He loves you and is caring for you. There may come a time when He leads you on to new pastures and new waters - until then remember you do have a Shepherd and He loves you. Can you feel your soul being restored? I can feel mine.
Judgment Is Coming
And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment. - Hebrews 9:27.
Ben Rogozensky had a court date and didn’t know it. He was trying to escape crawling through a ceiling crawl space when he fell through the ceiling. It happened in the DeKalb County courthouse, which is close to Atlanta, Georgia. Rogozensky must have felt the hand of God when after hitting the floor he looked up to see the judge. A computer technician was working on State Judge J. Antonio DelCampo’s computer in the judges’ chambers when the man fell from the ceiling. He tried to escape but was soon recaptured. He tried to escape from his day of judgment but was unable. He must have thought he had it made when he found a stool in the bathroom and used it to climb into the crawl space. But he was wrong! Judgment is rapidly approaching for this man and apparently, there is no escape.
Judgment is rapidly approaching for mankind as well. You catch a glimpse in this passage of the great wrath and power of God. There was a great earthquake. The life-giving rays of the sun turned to black and the moon turned to blood. The stars of heaven fell to earth like the late figs of a fig tree shaken by a great wind. You have to wonder if this is the dreaded time many scientists have feared when asteroids will actually collide with the earth? The power of this event is such that every island and mountain was moved out of its place. Where can man go when judgment comes? There is nowhere to run. For it will be too late.
As we consider those around us that we come into contact with on a frequent basis - there are some that we know are lost. How much time do they have? Unless they turn to God, judgment is rapidly approaching and when judgment comes, there will be nowhere to run. Do you have any compassion for the lost? Do you really care that the lost are perishing?
Do you have any personal responsibility for their fate? The Book of Ezekiel seems to indicate that we have some responsibility. Ezekiel 3:16-19, “Now it came to pass at the end of seven days that the word of the LORD came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: When I say to the wicked, "You shall surely die,” and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.’”
Now I am somewhat like a preacher I once heard who said when asked about this passage in Ezekiel whether he understood it or not said that he had never fully understood it. But he said, “I understand enough that it scares me.” We should never be unconcerned about the lost. Yes, judgment is coming but it is in our own best interest to run a rescue rowboat to within an inch of hell to rescue the lost before it is too late. Yes, I think that when we stand at the Judgment Seat of Christ (Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10) we will be glad we had compassion for the lost.
Making It Through The Night
My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips. When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches. Because You have been my help, therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice. - Psalm 63:5-7.
My stay in the hospital has severely disrupted the sleep process in my life. I found myself while in the hospital dreading the ending of the day. I dreaded several things about that including the lack of interaction with others. Many fewer people came into my room at night and when they did they stayed for a briefer period of time. The noise from the IV machine seemed louder and the automatic blood pressure every hour seemed more intrusive. During the night hours sometimes bad things would happen and when they did it was magnified by the quietness of everything else. It seemed that it was always at night that they came to draw blood for the continual tests that were necessary. My wife was asleep beside my bed and so it would have been somewhat rude to watch TV while she was trying to sleep. Although for the first days I had no interest in watching television or reading - those things do seem to pass the time away when you are well enough to tolerate them.
Strangely I found it hard to pray while I was hospitalized. I did run some Bible verses through my mind but found that difficult as well possibly because of some of the medications. When the chaplain came Sunday we prayed for God’s presence because that was very precious to me. The entire time I was hospitalized I was aware of God’s presence. He was not speaking to me most of the time although He did about two days before my release. Maybe I was like Jonah and He had to get me to a point where I could hear Him. He has been speaking and giving me all kinds of ideas since I have left the hospital. I shared with our congregation Sunday that I pray every day for inspiration, for ideas for sermons and devotionals. I have about ten ideas for devotionals and sermons which are flowing out of my hospital stay. One thing I do know about all of this is that out of the bad always comes good if we love the Lord and are the called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28).
As with the Psalmist what got me through the night was meditating on the presence of the Lord there with me in my room. Even though the praise was not coming through my lips I was praising Him with my heart the entire time - night and day. Are you in the midst of your own night that seems to never end and go on and on and on? The Lord is the One who can sustain you through the night. You have to arrive at a point where you realize there is nothing you can do and place it all into the arms of the Lord. There was absolutely nothing for me to do while I was laying on my bed with wires and tubes coming out everywhere. But I could be aware of His presence and His concern. I praised Him with my heart during those long nights and that is what you must do as well. Remember the times of His help and comfort through your life. Remember and rejoice that He loves you so much that His One and only Son died for you. Remember that He has not forgotten about you and that you are still in the shadow of His wings.
What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his life from the power of the grave? - Psalm 89:48.
Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, " Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died." Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. And He said, "Where have you laid him?" They said to Him, "Lord, come and see." Jesus wept. - John 11:32-35.
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It happened the last night of my stay in the hospital about 1:00 am. CODE BLUE ROOM ### The person in the room across the hall was dead. They tried to revive him but it was too late and death had come. Jeanie had spoken with the family a few times and enjoyed visiting with them. I had never met them because I was all tied down in my bed and unable to even make it to the doorway without help. But I had heard the family visiting across the hall. I had heard them laughing and enjoying each other’s company. They sounded much like my own family when we all are able to get together. Now the laughter was replaced by tears, sobs. Those sobs seemed to go on forever. I wanted to get up and extend some comfort. I wondered where the chaplain was. All I could do was pray - and so I prayed, and prayed, and prayed until finally about 3:30am the sobbing finally stopped. My nurse shared with me a few minutes later that the chaplain was delayed by more bad news somewhere else before arriving at our hospital. After arriving home, I read of another person who had also died that same day in that same hospital. Most likely, there were others who died as well.
Do you remember the death and resurrection of Lazarus? Lazarus too came from a good family. It was a family that enjoyed getting together with some friends and having a good time laughing and talking with each other. But in spite of the goodness of the family - death had still visited them.
As the Psalmist asks, “What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his life from the power of the grave?” The fact is that unless the Lord comes in the clouds soon we will all see death. Is there any person, in all the world that can deliver themselves from death, from the power of the grave?
I searched to find how old the oldest person was when they died but could not find the record for sure. I did see several people lived into their 120s. We know people are living longer these days and I’ve personally known of some people who lived beyond 100 years of age. In fact there is apparently a couple that was actually married 100 years before the husband died. I’ve never heard of anyone living into their 140s in modern times. We do know that life can to some extent be extended by good diets, and miraculous medicines. We also know that in the Bible in the book of Genesis there were several people who lived long lives. Methuselah was the longest lived person of all. The Bible says, “So all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred and sixty-nine years; and he died.” What happened to all these long-lived people? They died.
We need to remember that we need a Savior. We cannot save ourselves. We need to remember that unless the rapture occurs we shall all die. But the Good News is that we have a Savior who is supernaturally able to give us eternal life. As Jesus said to Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die (John 11:25-26).” Jesus then asks Martha the key question for her and for you, “Do you believe this?” I’ll ask you, “Do you believe this?”
The apostle Paul writes of the mechanics of salvation in Romans 10 where he says beginning in verse nine, “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (verses 9-10). For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved (verse 13).”
Friends, none of us will make it out of this world without our physical bodies dying. How long before our family hears something similar to what I heard just a few short days ago? CODE BLUE ROOM ### CODE BLUE ROOM ### Isn’t it time to call on the name of the Lord?
Doctors And Nurses
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. - Romans 12:1-2.
We are fortunate in the USA to have so many dedicated self-sacrificing health professionals. Whenever I am around them, I marvel at their dedication and the number of hours that they work each week. Every day while I was hospitalized the doctor made it back by to see how his patient was doing even on the weekend and even on a holiday. Most days his nurse practitioner would be by as well to keep up with my progress. One evening we had waited until 10pm and the doctor had not yet come by. My wife decided she would go to the waiting room down the hall and find something to eat. Dr. Zuerker saw her leaving and joked, “You gave up on me didn’t you?”
We talked with two older nurses that shared they had been working as nurses for forty years. After having experienced their care and level of expertise, I could only be amazed that they were still working and not talking of retirement. A much younger nurse said at the mention of the older nurses having forty years of service, “forty years?” “Forty years?” “I can’t do this for forty years, it’s too hard.” I know I couldn’t do it for forty years either because it seemed to be an extremely difficult way to make a living.
What made the difference between the older nurses and the younger nurses? They did not say but reading between the lines it appears to be a sense of calling along with a desire to serve - a sense of self-sacrifice. The two older nurses had an understanding of sacrifice because to still be working in such a difficult profession they would have needed to make many sacrifices.
This sacrifice of our lives is what the apostle Paul was speaking of in Romans 12:1. Of course, we will face periods of discouragement even when we love our career or profession. Paul was using it in terms of living our lives as children of God. I like that the apostle uses the term “reasonable.” It is only reasonable that we experience some sacrifices in living the Christian life because - we have the example of our Lord giving the greatest sacrifice of all.
Whenever we feel discouraged in our careers or professions I believe it would help us to remember that our entire lives should be lived out in sacrifice to our Lord. Our lives should be “ living,” “holy,” and “acceptable” - uncomformed (Romans 12:2a) to this world. Our lives should be a living sacrifice to the extent that it causes others looking at our lives to pause and marvel at our level of dedication and service. In the marveling there should be something that will indicate that we belong to God and this is the reason for our sacrifice bringing glory to Him (Matthew 5:16).
I do not know whether the two older nurses were Christians but I pray that they are - they appeared to be Christians in the way they were living their lives. If they had mentioned their faith in Christ, I would have readily understood their sacrifice. Let us always be willing not only to live our faith out through our sacrifices but also through our verbal testimony whenever and wherever we may have the opportunity (I am preaching to myself again!). The apostle also wrote in the book of Romans, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek (Romans 1:16).”
How To Be Happy
You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. - Psalm 16:11.
Richard Easterlin who is an economist at the University of California is promoting a new approach to finding happiness. This approach combines two theories in psychology and economics. The economist correctly argues that more money does not necessarily result in greater or lasting happiness. Easterlin sums up his views by saying, “Hence, a reallocation of time in favor of family life and health would, on average, increase individual happiness.”
It has been said that when the scientists and researchers finally arrive at the summit of the mountain where they find meaning of life and the source of life that they will find that the theologians have already been there for many centuries. The theologians are already there because God has already given us this great wisdom and it is all written down in black and white. Most of us know this wisdom is contained in a book called the Bible.
Our scientists and researchers could certainly increase the speed of their research and save great sum of money by taking a little time to read, study, and listen to God speak to them through the written wisdom of the Bible. Since most of us are not scientists and researchers, we do not have to waste years of time discovering whether “a reallocation of time in favor of family life and health would, on average, increase individual happiness.” Why? Because we have already read the Book (as in the Bible) and know this to be true.
Happiness will never be found solely in the pursuit of money, material possessions, and fleshly pleasures. Research does not have to be done to do this although King Solomon did in fact do the experiential research and arrived at those same conclusions (Read Ecclesiastes for the findings of King Solomon).
Where will we find joy, happiness, joy, and the ultimate in satisfaction with life? “In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Allow God to show you the path of true life.
And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling ( Another translation indicates that Paul felt inadequate and was scared to death at what he was facing.). And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. - 1 Corinthians 2:1-5.
The feeling of inadequacy affects every person to some degree at some times. Being inadequate for a task or tasks is a common human trait. It is also a common human trait to bluff, fake, and appear that we are not inadequate for whatever task or event is facing us. How many of you have started a new job and acted as though you knew much more than you really did? Or, have you been in an advanced class, which was beyond your abilities and tried to appear to be at the same level as everyone else? Have you ever had to give a speech or present a program before a group of people and been uncomfortable at the thought of having to do such a thing? Have you had to learn something new like operating a computer or even learning to drive a car and felt inadequate and even fearful that you might not be able to learn what you needed to learn successfully? If you are or were in any of the above groups - you fit in well with nearly everyone else of the human race including the apostle Paul.
Even though inadequacy is a common condition of mankind it is however the causal factor for countless negative effects upon our lives. Inadequacy can lead to our trying to compensate by lying, deceiving, developing addictions, overworking, and materialism (I am sure there are many others.). Inadequacy also leads to psychological problems and can aggravate existing problems. In its worst manifestations, psychologically there is the fear of public speaking or even being around people much less trying to talk to anyone. Many have become so fearful that they are even afraid to leave their homes. Inadequacy can be and is for many people a devastating condition.
The apostle Paul in facing his own fear and his own human inadequacy gives us an example of how to overcome this problem. Paul did not come to the Corinthians depending upon his own human wisdom and excellency of speech even though he was an extremely well educated person. No, Paul came to them and faced his inadequacy by trusting in not his power but in the power of God. He did not try to impress them with his great learning and skills of oratory but instead he laid his fears (1 Peter 5:7) upon Jesus and through the power of God communicated the Gospel with great effectiveness.
How many times have I thought moments before standing to speak that I am inadequate for what needs to be said? How many times have I felt so physically ill just before I must stand to speak that I thought I should simply dismiss the service or ask someone else to speak? How many times have I felt fearful of sharing my testimony with someone or visiting someone or talking with someone who I know can be very difficult? Too many times for me to possibly remember and I have yet come to a point that I do not continually feel inadequate for what I need to do and be as a Christian, as a father, as a husband, grandparent and especially as a pastor and in the fulfillment of God’s call upon my life.
How can we face and overcome our inadequacies? Only as Paul did. Only through the power of God standing on the power of our Lord (Philippians 4:13). That is how we will make it through another hour, another day, another week, another year. That is how we will be steadfast (1 Corinthians 15:58) and know that our labor no matter how inadequate we may believe it is will never be in vain and will through the power of God accomplish its eternal purposes.
Then one of the crowd answered and said, "Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not." He answered him and said, "O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me." - Mark 9:17-19.
In our world of modern conveniences from cell phones to cars to washing machines, a power failure like the one we had last week can be catastrophic. We are so used to picking up our cell phone, which we carry with us all the time and simply calling for help if we need help. But millions of people did exactly that last week and nothing happened. Some people were in areas where they could get into their cars and drive but when they were low on gas they found that the gas pumps also powered by electricity would not work. Many used to obtaining money through ATMs found that they were without access to their money, which they needed to buy food or pay for transportation if any was available. For these people catastrophic was an understatement! However, after a truly catastrophic event which happened on 9/11 most understood and appeared to see it all in the proper perspective.
The disciples of Jesus experienced a catastrophic power failure as well. They were unable to cast out a demon that had been inhabiting the body of a boy for some time. Actually, the disciples were powerful individuals and God’s instruments but they were underpowered to face the spiritual being they came against. After Jesus had cast out the demon the disciples asked him privately why they had been unable to do so. Here is what Jesus said, "This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29)."
The disciples were used to being able to see people healed and demons dispatched by simply speaking the word in the Name of Jesus. However, it did not happen this time because of the power of the one they had encountered. What was needed was more power and that additional power would only come through additional prayer and by fasting.
Have you had a catastrophic spiritual power failure? You pray, you read your Bible, you go to church, you fellowship with other believers, you serve God; you seek His leadership and guidance - so why will the spiritual mountain you have encountered not move? As Jesus says to the father of the demon possessed child, "If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes ( Mark 9:23)." There are two possibilities. One is that it is not God’s will. The second is that you have had a power failure or that you are underpowered spiritually for the task at hand.
Let us consider the possibility of the lack of power. If this is the situation Jesus has given direction. You will have to spend a substantial amount of time in prayer and you will need to fast. It may also be necessary to gather a group of prayer warriors that will also give themselves to prayer and fasting for a period of time so that this spiritual mountain you are facing may be overcome.
Do you want the power? It is available but there is the cost of prayer and fasting that is attached. It seems there are few willing to pay the price. But if you are and it is God’s will - that mountain you are facing will move.
Getting Rid Of The Rubbish
But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. - Philippians 3:7-11.
Today seems to be the day of the VIRUS or maybe it would be better stated VIRUSES. Out of a couple of hundred emails I received to begin the day all but about 50 were infected with a virus thankfully deleted by Norton Anti-virus. Have you noticed how some days are like the incoming viruses we have faced today? So many days seem filled with small meaningless and worthless tasks and events, which keep us from doing anything eternally worthwhile. Just when we think, we can do something or say something of eternal value the phone rings or someone knocks on the door. The flood of the urgent meaningless things continues to flood into our lives unabated.
What can we do about the flood of urgent virtually meaningless things, which can at times dominate our lives? What do you do with infected email viruses? Delete them! Avoid them! Block them! As Paul says, “count them as loss.” “Count them as rubbish.” We must be aggressive in our pursuit of those things of eternal value. If we just sit and wait for the labor of God to come to us we will be covered up with the meaningless, worthless, “rubbish”, and as with Paul, we must not let that happen.
To overcome the “rubbish” we must rise up and move forward. It may be that we will have to move around, over, or through the “rubbish” but above all we must not stand still being bogged down, and covered up until we are at a standstill. Rise up! Get up! Move forward! Do something! That we may “know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings….” Let us count all things loss of this world. Let us be looking for those things, and working for those things as co-laborers with Him that will have eternal value. Let us look for where He is at work and join Him in that labor. Please don’t let all the “rubbish” of this world keep you from the eternally vital work at hand.
Call For Help!
There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your anger, nor any health in my bones because of my sin. For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds are foul and festering because of my foolishness. I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. For my loins are full of inflammation, and there is no soundness in my flesh. I am feeble and severely broken; I groan because of the turmoil of my heart. Lord, all my desire is before You; and my sighing is not hidden from You. My heart pants, my strength fails me; as for the light of my eyes, it also has gone from me. My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague, and my relatives stand afar off. Those also who seek my life lay snares for me; those who seek my hurt speak of destruction, and plan deception all the day long. - Psalm 38:3-12.
A family’s vacation was suddenly interrupted as they were sailing off the east coast of Australia. A 30-foot 10-ton humpback whale jumped into their boat and along the way pulled the mast and rigging down as it crashed into the boat. Trevor Johnson who was on the boat with his wife, two sons and a son’s girlfriend said, “I was below deck when there was a hell of a crash from port as it leapt out of nowhere. It is amazing that no one was hurt or killed, but it was a terrifying experience.” The small ship was ten miles away from the coast and their radio equipment had also been knocked out. But they were eventually able to call for help using a cell phone and were towed to safety.
King David knew what it was like to have a terrible burden crashing down on his head. In David’s situation, it was his iniquities and he confessed they were so bad because of his foolishness. David listed the symptoms of the great weight upon him. He was bowed down, mourning, ill, brokenhearted, and his strength was failing him. David was much like the people in the ship with a whale crashing down upon it. David was in many ways just like them - helpless. There was nothing David could do of himself to solve his problem. David was sinking and going down for the third time.
Maybe you have been there or you are there now. Your sin or sins have pushed you down and pushed you down and your destruction is at hand? Or, it may not be quite that bad but the handwriting is on the wall and you can feel the pressure that continues to mount? What do you do? The people in the sailboat called for help. David called for help and in both situations; they called for help from the right people because help arrived.
David called out to God because he knew God was the only One who could possibly help him to have relief from the terrible situation he was in. Here is what David cried out to God, “For in You, O LORD, I hope; You will hear, O Lord my God. For I said, ‘Hear me, lest they rejoice over me, lest, when my foot slips, they exalt themselves against me.’ For I am ready to fall, and my sorrow is continually before me. For I will declare my iniquity; I will be in anguish over my sin. But my enemies are vigorous, and they are strong; and those who hate me wrongfully have multiplied. Those also who render evil for good, They are my adversaries, because I follow what is good. Do not forsake me, O LORD; O my God, be not far from me! Make haste to help me, O Lord, my salvation (Psalm 38:15-22)!
If the weight of your sin of your iniquities are sinking your ship, don’t wait any longer. Call out to the Lord your God in the Name of Jesus and ask Him to help you. Now’s the time ask for help from the One who can help you.
But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus said to him, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." - Matthew 22:34-40.
Yesterday a huge electrical blackout occurred in the northeastern United States and parts of Canada. This was the largest power outage in history in terms of area and people affected. Huge numbers of people were left to their own devices to somehow find a way home without subways and other forms of transportation immediately available. People simply began walking home or catching rides as that was possible. It was of course feared that there would be lawlessness with looting and vandalism. In New York City 250 police cadets were put into action directing traffic and given other duties as needed. In New Jersey 350 state troopers were placed into action along with a mobilization of 700 National Guard troops just in case they were needed.
Governor James McGreevey reported that in New Jersey alone there were one million utility customers without power. By this morning that was down to 15,000. The Governor commented on the good spirit that the people had. He said that people pitched in giving people rides and sometimes driving from county to county late into the night to get people to their homes. There were many acts of kindnesses in the midst of this disruption of their lives. It was wonderful that no one panicked and there was a spirit of calmness.
Isn’t it wonderful to hear of people getting along with each other and helping each other? So often, it is only the hurting, the death and the destruction that we hear on the news. It has been refreshing to see such neighborliness, friendliness and sense of community. It is wonderful to hear of people helping each other instead of hurting each other. It is great to see everyone pitch in and do their part in bringing about the safe conclusion of the power outage with very few injuries if any as a result.
Wouldn’t it be great if people could live at peace with each other all the time? Wouldn’t it be great if we would all pitch in to do our part in making this world a better and safer place? If each of us pitch in to help maybe someone will see our example and pitch in themselves, maybe someone will see them and pitch in, and someone will see them and pitch in….
How would God have you to pitch in and live out the second greatest commandment of God today: “ You shall love your neighbor as yourself?“
And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, "So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time." And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, "It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!" - 1 Kings 19:1-4.
There is a book called, “It’s Not too Late to Run Away and Join the Circus.” When circuses were more numerous and other forms of entertainment and options were fewer - many people fantasized about escaping their problems by disappearing with a traveling circus. I am not sure what the modern alternative would be? Maybe moving to some isolated South Sea island or disappearing into the mass of population in a large metropolitan area would be another alternative?
Elijah had just won through the power of God the great contest on Mount Carmel with the prophets of Baal. Fire from Heaven fell and devoured the offering, which Elijah made even though it was soaked with water. As a result the people realized that the God of Elijah was for real and the god of the false prophets was powerless and therefore a false god. Hundreds of the false prophets of Baal were executed.
Queen Jezebel whom the false prophets served was more than a little upset that her prophets had been killed. So, the queen vowed to kill Elijah. It seems strange that after being at such spiritual heights in the contest at Mount Carmel that Elijah would react the way he did. It appears that at this point, the contest had drained him spiritually and he could not face another confrontation. He knew how evil Jezebel was and no doubt understood that his death would not come easy if he were captured. So, Elijah just wanted to run away from this newest problem and that is what he tried to do. He ran away and told God that he wanted to die.
One important point from this story for all of us would be circus performers is that even after Elijah ran away God knew exactly to where he had fled. God not only knew where Elijah was at - He was present and at work to intervene in Elijah’s life to bring about renewal and restoration. We may be able to temporarily remove ourselves from having to face some problems but we will never be able to run away from God. Most likely if we are running away from problems we will discover that we have a new set of problems when we finally stop running that are just as bad if not worse.
The Bible has some great advice for us when we are facing difficulties. In Ephesians 6:10-14a we are told, “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….” In 1 Corinthians 15:58 we are told, “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.”
If Elijah had simply stood his ground, the outcome in a contest with Queen Jezebel would have been the same as it were for her false prophets. Instead of running away from our problems, let us be steadfast and make a stand trusting that God has the power to take us through whatever may come against us. We may end up in the fiery furnace like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego ( Daniel 3) but if we are faithful, we will find as they did that the Lord Jesus is there in the midst of the fire with us and He will sustain us.
Don’t Be A Fool
Then David said to Joab and to all the people who were with him, "Tear your clothes, gird yourselves with sackcloth, and mourn for Abner." And King David followed the coffin. So they buried Abner in Hebron; and the king lifted up his voice and wept at the grave of Abner, and all the people wept. And the king sang a lament over Abner and said: "Should Abner die as a fool dies? Your hands were not bound nor your feet put into fetters; as a man falls before wicked men, so you fell." Then all the people wept over him again. - 2 Samuel 3:34-35.
In the Old Testament, we read how God had established cities of refuge where people could flee and they would be safe from those who sought to harm them. If a man with an axe made a swing at the tree to cut it and the axe head flew off striking a fellow worker that would be an accident. In that time, it would have been legal for a relative of the man killed to take the life of the man who had been using the axe. However, this would have been an accident and to prevent the taking of lives in situations like this cities of refuge had been established (Deuteronomy 19). The man could run to the city of refuge and be safe from those who would take his life. But if a man had intentionally slain someone, the elders of the city could deliver him over to his pursuers to be executed.
Abner had killed the brother of Joab during battle when Asahel had refused to stop pursuing Abner. Abner warned Asahel to stop pursuing him twice but Asahel continued on. Abner struck him with the blunt end of his spear which went through him resulting in his death (2 Samuel 2:23). At this point Abner makes a wise decision and makes a covenant or peace treaty with King David going over to his side (2 Samuel 3:12-13). But Joab is not aware of this covenant being made and would have been furious about it which he was later on (2 Samuel 3:24-25).
Joab did finally find Abner and he killed him (2 Samuel 3:27). But why did Abner die as a fool? Because Abner had returned to Hebron and was standing at the gate when Joab took him aside and killed him. Hebron was a city of refuge and all Abner had to do in order to live was to take a step through the gate to find refuge. Abner died a fool because he could have lived by stepping through the gate and into refuge.
Abner is a picture of the lost people in this world today. Hebron, the city of refuge, is a picture of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The lost of this world are only one step away from eternal safety. To escape eternal punishment in hell they only need to receive Jesus as their Savior turning from their sin and accepting the salvation that God has provided at such great cost (John 3:16; John 1:12; Romans 10:9-13).
Are you lost and without a Savior? Have you never received Christ as your personal city of refuge? Don’t die a fool like Abner and go out into eternal punishment. Instead receive the free gift of eternal life from God (Romans 6:23). Step through the gate, go through the door of Jesus Christ and live. Jesus says in John 10:7-9, "Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved….”
Don’t die a fool! Step through the door of Jesus Christ and into eternal life.
Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. - 1 Thessalonians 5: 21-22.
You most likely know what a game of tug-of-war is but for those who don’t here is my own definition, “the game of two teams on opposite sides of a line pulling on the same rope until one team pulls the other across the line.” Did you know that tug-of-war is an international sport? There is an International Tug-of-War Federation with rules for the sport and many member organizations. Everything is defined and detailed from footwear, to gloves, to size and type of rope. Until this morning when I played tug-of-war with the children in church, it had been years since I had even thought of the game - sorry! Sport. But it did remind me that you have to get a good grip, dig in with your feet and give it all that you’ve got or an equally matched team will pull you across the line.
The apostle Paul tells us to “hold fast what is good.” “Hold fast” basically means what the team members playing tug-of-war do. To “hold fast” spiritually is to grab hold, dig in, and give it all you’ve got to hang on to what is good.
So, what is it that we are to “hold fast” to? Obviously, “what is good.” Some things immediately come to mind like, God’s Word, Church, Prayer, and Fellowship with Spirit filled believers. But are there other things that are good that we are allowed to “hold fast” too? Yes! And Paul give us a list 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.”
Okay, each one of the things in Paul’s list is subject to interpretation. At the very top of the list are those in my family, my wife, my children, daughter-in-law, and my grandchildren. Some other things come to mind like taking a walk outside and admiring the beautiful world that God has created. Picking up a Christian book and being inspired to go beyond where I have been before with my Lord.
Are you holding fast to the good and beautiful or to what you know is evil? Whose team in this spiritual tug of war are you on? Isn’t it time to decide once and for all?
And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. - John 14:13-14.
The greater works that Jesus promised we would do in verse 12 will be accomplished through the praying in verses 13 and 14. The book of Acts is filled with prayer meetings. Every move forward the early church took was immersed and brought about through prayer. They were following the example of their Lord Jesus.
If Jesus could say and do only what He heard and saw the Father do, then He had to spend much time listening and seeing. There was a pattern to the life of Jesus. He would withdraw to pray and then go out to minister. We see this pattern in the life of Jesus being repeated over and over.
If this is the pattern of Jesus to pray spending time with the Father and then going forth to minister should we follow this example too? Of course! Without prayer, any ministry effort is doomed to ultimate failure. Without prayer, there will be no eternal accomplishments. Without prayer, we are trying to do it in our own strength, which we know is insufficient to accomplish what requires a supernatural effort. Without prayer, we are just having church for the sake of having church and nothing everlasting is ever going to happen.
Usually prayer is not thought of as being part of the works that God would have His church to perform. When we think of works, we usually think of witnessing, serving, ministering to others in some way. But Jesus indicates in John 14:12-14 that the “greater works” will be brought about through prayer. Prayer is not just a request to God to help us do the work. Prayer is the work itself. Prayer was not intended to be a labor saving program. Real prayer is real work, which will bring about the “greater works” of souls being brought into the Kingdom of God.
Have you done any real work lately?
Did the Devil do it?
Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. - James 1:13-15.
Route 666 in New Mexico, also known by local residents as the "Highway to Hell" or "Satan’s Highway", has been renamed Route 491 (In 2003). The highway has had a very high rate of fatalities in comparison to other highways in New Mexico. Governor Bill Richardson said at the dedication, "After 77 years of concern and discontent we have finally removed any reference to the devil from this highway." After news of the renaming had been released, most of the Highway 666 signs were stolen. Even though it was the Devil’s highway, authorities are not blaming the devil, but are looking for thieves who wanted souvenirs.
We do have a tendency to blame others for our sin. Some even blame God. James, makes this clear, in that God does not ever tempt anyone to do evil. God will try us, but He does not tempt us to do evil. Of course, many blame the devil. Flip Wilson made the statement "the devil made me do it" famous, although it had been in use for hundreds of years. We always want to blame someone or something besides ourselves for our sin.
What is it that causes us to sin? It is something in us, our own desires, lusts that bring about our sin. 1 John 2:16 further define those desires, "For all that is in the world-the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-is not of the Father but is of the world." It is our own lust, which draws us into sin. It is what feels, looks and sounds good - the lust of the flesh. It is the wanting of material things - the lust of the eyes. It is the pride of life, which leads to being easily offended and rebellion.
Lust brings about the opposite of life, it brings about death. It usually does not happen quickly, but death does come. "When desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death."
It is helpful, when fighting temptation, to recognize that our own desires must be changed. As we grow closer to our Lord, we will have more and more of a desire for what will bring life instead of death. The more that we resist the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, the more life we will have. The closer we become to our Lord, the more we will be able to resist those evil desires.
Make it a goal of every day, to grow a little closer to the Lord, than you were the day before.
Why Not Ask?
Now they came to Jericho. As He went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called. Then they called the blind man, saying to him, "Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you." And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus. So Jesus answered and said to him, "What do you want Me to do for you?" The blind man said to Him, "Rabboni, that I may receive my sight." Then Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your faith has made you well." And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road. - Mark 10:46-52.
Why not ask God for what you need? It seems that many Christians have the attitude toward asking God for something that many of us men have about asking for directions. If after our 30th attempt to find our way we have had no success we may finally bring ourselves to ask someone for directions.
There has been a movement over the years to bring chastisement and make little of those “less spiritual” people who have the nerve to pray selfishly asking God to do something for them. I would suggest to you that those who suggest that praying for something that will benefit yourself is not spiritual are out on an unscriptural limb. If the formerly blind Bartimaeus were here to share he would tell you that you ought to go ahead and ask for what is needed in your life. After all that is exactly what Bartimaeus did. He asked for the whole thing. He didn’t ask for Jesus to give him a little bit of money, or food, or some clothes. No, he asked for what he really needed which was to see. He asked for the impossible.
It took faith for Bartimaeus to ask because everyone around him was telling him to be quite and not to bother Jesus with his insane plea. For us to ask, for you to ask for something personal - for what you really need that will actually solve problems takes faith. The very act of asking is an act of faith and Jesus as we see with Bartimaeus rewards faith. Because he asked, Jesus said to Bartimaeus, "Go your way; your faith has made you well." Immediately the world of Bartimaeus was drastically, radically, wondrously changed - he could see!! As a result Bartimaeus followed Jesus.
Do you have enough faith to ask? What if Bartimaeus had never asked? What a tragedy that would have been for him and for us! Please, defy those who would keep you on the sideline, on the side of the road, and…ask!!
Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. - Matthew 13:22.
In our Sunday morning services (In 2003), a toddler choked on a piece of candy during the special music. Our music director is an EMT, but he was singing and didn't notice what was happening. I was watching him sing, and the first thing I saw was the grandmother pounding on the back of the little girl; and then jump up and run out of the sanctuary with her. Thankfully, she is okay, but it was a scary moment.
In Nevada, a couple's toddler (15 months old when the problem was resolved) had problems, persistent coughing, and respiratory infections over a four month period. They made many trips to the doctor, but finally a physician's assistant, Cameron Byers, ordered a chest x-ray. The x-ray clearly showed a penny lodged in her throat, and it was successfully removed. Since then, the health problems have disappeared, and the couple has a happy little girl once again.
Choking is a terrible thing to experience physically. My sister once saved me from choking to death when I was about 10 years old by leaning me over, and pounding on my back. But sadly, there are many people who are being choked spiritually. Their symptoms grow and grow, and at times may become debilitating. What are they choking on? A variety of things which can lead to not only spiritual, but also physical problems.
The world is a spiritual choker. The seed of God's word planted into a person can be decimated by the cares of this world. They are much like Peter while walking on the water; seeing the wind and the high waves, he begins to sink beneath the sea (Mathew 14:30). Sin can choke us and sink us. Worry/anxiety can choke us and sink us. Whatever is choking us, sinking us, the solution is the same as it was for Peter. When Peter cried out, "Lord save Me!" "Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him (Matthew 14:31a)."
Have you been choked and sunk, and are going under for the third time? The only real solution is Jesus Christ. Call out to Him. Ask Him to save you, ask Him to help you, and He will.
Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank You that I am not like other men - extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.' And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, "God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. - Luke 18:9-14.
Mirriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines jerk in relation to a person as: “an annoyingly stupid or foolish person.” My own personal definition of “a jerk” is someone who believes they are better than everyone else and is purposely cruel, mean, or selfish resulting in inconvenience at the least or harm in the worst manifestation of jerkiness to those who encounter them. A jerk most likely sees himself or herself as being the center of the universe. When the jerk encounters anything they do not like in their universe they take it out on anyone or thing that happens to be nearby.
The Pharisee is in prime form as a jerk believing he is far better than any anyone else. Most likely we would like to have him in our churches. After all he does not engage in public sinfulness (other than pridefulness) and he tithes. However, it is the tax collector who exhibits the humility that God loves and blesses.
Anyone who has any form of power or authority has the ability to be a jerk. Thankfully most do not succumb to the temptation. But for those who do here is the warning Jesus sends: “I tell you, this man (the tax collector) went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” In other words you may think you are something in your own eyes but what does God see?
The apostle Peter tells us how not to be a jerk: “Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time (I Peter 5:5b-6).”
If you know someone who is a jerk pass this devotional along to them, PLEASEEE!!!
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. - James 4:7-8.
On the border of Rhode Island and Connecticut some residents are living in uncertainty. With new mapping technology which revealed the boundary should be further east at some points by as much as 70 feet. The result of the new boundary would move 12 residences along with 22 acres of land from Rhode Island to Connecticut. This is not a new situation because over the years there have been many attempts to move the border. Those living in the borderland tell of an annual ritual by state highway workers of both states moving the state line marker. Workers from one state move the marker only to have workers from the other state move the marker back. Iva Crider who lives in this borderland sums it up by saying, “The whole thing is ridiculous. I’ve lived in this house 60 years as a Rhode Islander, and now they’re saying I’m in Connecticut? How can you make a change in someone’s life like that?”
For the borderland residents it is a difficult situation with Connecticut having sent them tax bills. If the new boundary actually places them in Connecticut it will mean a longer distance to schools and also a greater distance for ambulances to reach them. But their problems are small compared to those who are living in a spiritual borderland. It is a land inhabited by sinners and the double-minded. The double-minded are being swept from one domain to another, back and forth, this way and that. It is more than a tax bill that they must pay for the “wages of sin is death.”
To be double-minded spiritually is to miss out on the continual blessings of God. Yes, when they are walking in the land of the living the promises of God are in full effect and beneficial to them. However, when their mind turns from Heaven and toward the lusts of this world and the flesh they begin to reap those wages of sin. In the land of death continued sin only results in a further downward spiral with every area of their lives experiencing additional decay.
Oh, to move from the borderland to the realm of the Kingdom of God never to return to the pits of hell. To do so you must resist the enemy. You must take up the Word of God which is the “sword of the Spirit.” You must always pray and not faint or give up or give in (Luke 18:1). You must love what your Lord Jesus loves which is the church and not forsake the assembling with other believers (Hebrews 10:24-25). But the gate through which to leave the prison of the borderland is 1 John 1:9. You must “confess your sins” and He will “forgive you” and “cleanse you from all unrighteousness.”
Isn’t it time to take care of the boundary problem? End your misery and move into the land of the living leaving the death and decay behind. Run don’t walk to the nearest exit which is your Lord Jesus.
Today’s devotional was written by my son, Clark Wrather, who is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Clark may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Scripture and title have been added.
The Burning Bush Devotional
And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was NO ROOM for them in the inn. - Luke 2:7.
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. - Matthew 6:33.
Thankfully, most of you guys have never seen my garage. Let me confess, I am not one of those people who keeps their garage in perfect order with their tools lined up on the wall in alphabetical order. I just order my things into haphazard piles of stuff and more stuff.
Libby calls me a pack-rat because I never throw anything away. I call her a memory-trasher because she throws everything away. I guess opposites really do attract….
I have noticed something interesting about myself. The things that I value the highest and are most important to me get to stay in the garage. The things that are not so important get lodged in the storage building in my backyard.
From time to time I have to make adjustments in the junk in my garage to fit something new or more important inside. Over a year ago God blessed me with a boat and I had to clean out one side of the garage to accommodate it. I had to make some hard painful decisions about moving some of my things to the garage and even…*gasp*…throwing some of them away.
Eventually, the boat was able to fit, but in just a few months, the Lord blessed me with a motorcycle. I felt that it rated the garage (I don’t think my wife agreed with me on that… you know opposites attract) and I went through another round of organizing my junk.
Now, just a few weeks ago, we bought a Nerd-Wagon (mini-van). It would not fit in the garage under the current arrangement so I had to organize it once again. Eventually, the motorcycle went in the boat’s place and the boat got a shady spot in the backyard.
It’s interesting how we make room for things that are important to us. This is true in our garage, our day planner, and our heart. If you put your life under the microscope for the last several weeks, what would it show was the most important thing to you? Would God have that nice spot in the garage or would He be out in the storage building?
Make room for those important things in life by remembering God is the most important thing.
But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things. - II Corinthians 6:4-10.
Rejoice Always. I Thessalonians 5:16.
(This may all sound very negative but please bear with me because there is a devotional thought here.) The summer of 2003 has so far been a difficult summer for us. My father-in-law, who was like a father to me, passed away at the first of June after being bedfast for many weeks requiring more and more care. My mother has had a hip replacement surgery (She was already homebound.) and stayed in a hospital in Oklahoma City for a week and a half before being moved to a nursing home about an hour away from where I live. She will have been there for about two and a half weeks this Friday. She has not participated with even 30 minutes of physical therapy twice a day and because of this will not be eligible for rehab, which requires over three hours per day of therapy. My father is 81 years old and appears to be in increasingly fragile health. Other factors and people are also complicating the situation. Raymond was injured by a cow and has a broken pelvis and his wife, Imogene, has had several strokes which has made her homebound (Raymond is also homebound for a least 30 days.)
On July 3rd I went to my doctor for a regular checkup and renewal of prescriptions. When I arrived at the pharmacy I realized I did not have one of the prescriptions I needed but the pharmacy said they would call the doctor’s office. I called Jeanie and asked her to pick up my prescription later and left for home about 30 miles away. Jeanie called a couple of hours later and the pharmacy had advised her that they could not get through to the doctor’s office. I called the doctor’s office and they assured me they would contact the pharmacy. When Jeanie arrived at the pharmacy at a little after 5:00 pm she was told that a truck had hit a pole knocking out electricity for that part of the city and all the workers had been sent home. As a result I didn’t have one of my blood pressure medications but thought I could make it a day by taking more of another (The pharmacy was closed the next day on Independence Day, July 4th.). I was wrong. Even though I was able to start taking the medication again on Saturday I developed a severe headache. During a wedding that afternoon (Saturday) I stumbled over some of the words. Sunday morning my headache was severe and I was unable to preach. I did preach Sunday night but had difficulty with it. It was Tuesday before I was feeling better and only today back almost to normal.
To be honest I have been unhappy, sorrowful, and miserable about some of these difficulties. But with Paul I can say that even though I may be sorrowful I am also always rejoicing. Joy is not the same as happiness. Happiness is based on our circumstances. If I won the lottery I would be happy and if I lost I would be unhappy (Although since I have never bought a lottery ticket it will probably be difficult for me to win.). If I were promoted on a job I would be happy but if I were passed over for that promotion I would be unhappy. Joy, however, is not based on circumstances but on our faith in the eternal faithfulness of our God and His promises.
I truly believe that Romans 8:28 (One of God’s promises.) is always operative no matter how bad the situation. I had the opportunity to preach the message at my father-in-law’s funeral. As a result I was able to present to some family members and friends the plan of salvation and encourage others who had wandered away from the Lord. Even though I spent almost a week and a half with my mother in the hospital I was blessed to have that time with her, my father, and my uncle who visited us while we were there. When I returned home I discovered that I was a stronger person because I had gone through that difficult time. Because I was unable to preach Sunday morning our youth minister, Ryan Baker, preached only his second sermon on short notice. As a result two decisions were made during the invitation time and one of those decisions had been long awaited.
Yes, I have been unhappy about my difficulties but at the same time I have been rejoicing because of what God is doing in my life and in the lives of others as a result. I know that many who read this devotional have had much greater difficulties than me. I pray that in the midst of your difficulties and what may very well be misery that you will find the joy inexpressible (I Peter 1:8). Let us be “always rejoicing” because we know that we can rejoice and give thanks to God no matter what may occur (I Thessalonians 5:17). When those bad things happen remember that God knows - He wasn’t surprised and He will walk with you through whatever you must go through if you are His child. Not only that He will bring good out of it all just as He has promised!
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. - II Thessalonians 3:18.
Jessica Parks received her high school diploma from a high school in Oakland County, Michigan. She had very good grades, received a varsity letter in cheerleading, and accomplished much more during her years of high school. Those are achievements that are typical of many young high achievers. However, the incredible thing about Jessica is that she was born without arms. She does it all with her legs and toes including driving her car. She drives with one foot on the gas and one on the steering wheel. She also puts her contact lenses into her eyes with her toes. Jessica Parks is INCREDIBLE!!
Do you know what else is incredible? The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is INCREDIBLE!! I like the way the Message translates II Thessalonians 3:18, “The INCREDIBLE grace of our Master, Jesus Christ, be with all of you!” I John 3:1 in the Amplified version gives us another usage of incredible: “See what an INCREDIBLE quality of love the Father has given (shown, bestowed on) us, that we should [be permitted to] be named and called and counted the children of God! And so we are!” When we realize that God has spoken to us and we are in His presence this too is INCREDIBLE, “Jacob woke up from his sleep. He said, "GOD is in this place--truly. And I didn't even know it!" He was terrified. He whispered in awe, "INCREDIBLE. Wonderful. Holy. This is God's House. This is the Gate of Heaven (Genesis 28:16-17)."
God’s grace, love, and presence are INCREDIBLE!! But than everything about God is INCREDIBLE!! To be God is to be able to be INCREDIBLE!! In Acts 26 the apostle Paul asks King Agrippa and others present, “Why is it thought INCREDIBLE by any of you that God raises the dead (Acts 26:8)?” If God is God would not He be able to raise the dead and bring about any other miracle the human mind is able to conceive? Of course! But what is even more INCREDIBLE is that God is “Holy (Revelation 4:8)”, “good (II Thessalonians 1:11)”, “righteous (Revelation 16:5)”, and still even though we have “sinned” (Romans 3:23; Romans 5:8) He still “cares” for us (I Peter 5:7)!
Our God is simply INCREDIBLE!! Let us give Him all honor, glory, and praise.
A Little Wrong Turn
For the scepter of wickedness shall not rest on the land allotted to the righteous, lest the righteous reach out their hands to iniquity. Do good, O LORD, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts. As for such as turn aside to their crooked ways, The LORD shall lead them away with the workers of iniquity. - Psalm 125:1-3.
A British racing pigeon named, Billie, began a 375-mile race to Liverpool, England. But he ended up a little off the path after he took a little wrong turn on the other side of the Atlantic on Staten Island. Even for a racing pigeon it was a feat of great endurance (unless he caught a ride on a ship). If the race had been to Staten Island 3,300 miles away Billie would have won but since the race had a definite destination, Billie lost even though he flew the farthest.
How many have started out with the right destination in mind but ended up far from where they originally planned to go? There are many Christians, in fact if you are a Christian at least at the moment of your salvation you intended to run the race well and arrive to hear your Savior say, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” But for many of us the race has been run with stops and starts and side excursions that would make Billie’s look like a short cut.
It may be that you have gone a long, long way in your life. It may be that many admire the accomplishments in your life. But does the distance and the accomplishments really matter in the eternal scheme of things if it was in the wrong direction that you have traveled with your life and the wrong things that have been accomplished?
What do you do if you have taken a whopper of a wrong turn and are even farther off course than Billie? What is the solution? The only solution is to turn around and go back to where you got off course. Then take the right path, which you missed originally. “Show me Your ways, O LORD; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day (Psalm 25:4-5).” “Good and upright is the LORD; therefore He teaches sinners in the way. The humble He guides in justice, and the humble He teaches His way. All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth, to such as keep His covenant and His testimonies (Psalm 25:8-10).”
Allow the Lord to guide your paths.
Today’s devotional was written by Walker Moore who is president of AweStar Ministries in Tulsa, P. O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147. You may contact Walker at email@example.com. Visit their website at www.awestar.org. (Permission given by Walker Moore for use of the devotional.)
Behold this; we have investigated it, and so it is. Hear it, and know for yourself. - Job 5:27.
Years ago I heard a song, “You Can't Find Jesus In the Yellow Pages,” written by a singer stranded in San Francisco who was trying to find help in the yellow pages. He realized that you can find just about anything you want in the yellow pages… except Jesus. For some reason that song has stuck in my mind, and every time I see a copy of the yellow pages, I think, “You cannot find Jesus in there.”
Needless to say, I have developed a fascination with reading the yellow pages. (I know what you are thinking: this guy has way too much time on his hands.) But, as I travel across America I have access to copies from virtually every region, and I have found some fascinating stuff in there. Grab your copy, I will show you what I mean.
If you look at the top of each page, you will notice category headings. If the page includes more than one category, the beginning and ending categories will be listed separated by a hyphen.
This week I was looking for a plumber in the Tulsa, Okla. yellow pages. I noticed that the top of the page read, “Plumbing-Police.” What a great idea to have “Plumbing Police.” They could have a number similar to 911. When there was a plumbing emergency, all you had to do was dial one number, like “777,” and the nearest plumbing police officer patrolling your neighborhood would be dispatched.
As I flipped through I found these other actual headings in the Tulsa yellow pages. “Popcorn-Prescriptions.” I always knew popcorn should be listed as a health food. My theory is the more you eat, the healthier you are. How about this one: “Food-Forklift,” being a church going man familiar with church-wide potluck dinners, no explanation needed. What is the deal with the heading “Hair-Hardware?” Being of the masculine persuasion, I can only imagine what that is. And even in my imagination it gives me the wooly willies. Here are some religious ones: “Christmas-Churches” is listed on the left-hand page, but on the right is “Churches-Cigar.” I know what Christmas churches are, but what about “Churches-Cigar?” Does it have anything to do with deacons standing outside the church sending up burnt offerings? The list goes on: “Pest-Pet,” “Motel-Motorcycles,” “Garage-Garbage,” “Fishing-Fitness,” “Airlines-Alcoholism,” “Abrasive-Accountant”…watch out.
The last word combination in my yellow pages is “Youth-Zoo.” Sound familiar? It is probably the best two words that describe many family’s homes. You would rather live in a zoo than spend another day with your child. Pray that your family will find peace and that harmony will fill your home. One thing I know for sure. You cannot find peace and harmony in the yellow pages because…Jesus is not there!
Right answers can only be found in the right places.
The God Factor
If they say, "Come with us, let us lie in wait to shed blood; let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause; let us swallow them alive like Sheol, and whole, like those who go down to the Pit; we shall find all kinds of precious possessions, we shall fill our houses with spoil; cast in your lot among us, let us all have one purse"- My son, do not walk in the way with them, keep your foot from their path; for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood. Surely, in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird; but they lie in wait for their own blood, they lurk secretly for their own lives. So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; it takes away the life of its owners.
In San Antonio, Texas, Frank Spencer robbed a branch of Guaranty Bank and got away with $5,000. Making his getaway he tried to hail a taxi but apparently remembered he had not yet had lunch. So, Frank stopped in at the B & B Smokehouse close by and ordered the lunch special. He was enjoying his lunch when the police officers arrived to arrest him.
A man in a city near where I live murdered his wife buried the body and threw away her purse in a creek where he thought know one would ever notice. There was one flaw in the plan - the “God factor.” A man stopped at the creek to have his lunch and spend some time with God when he noticed the papers, and other things gathered them up and took them to the sheriff’s office. The police department in the murderer’s city contacted him trying to locate the owner of the material that had been found. It seems the owner, the man’s wife, was missing as of the day before. During interrogation the man confessed and led the authorities to his wife’s body.
Most criminals and even law enforcement do not include the “God Factor” in their calculations. The fact is that no matter what we do or how secretly we try to do it there is a witness. In II Chronicles 16:9 the Bible says, “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.” There are television shows and Internet webpages devoted to the exploits of stupid criminals. The truth is that many of those criminals were not so stupid they just encountered the “God Factor.”
How about you? Have you encountered the “God Factor?”
Today’s devotional was written by my son, Clark Wrather, who is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Clark may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Scripture and title have been added.
Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace, be still!" And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. - Mark 4:29.
A few weeks ago I was back in my hometown. While there, one evening I had to run to Wal-Mart to get a few things. I had been on the road all day and I was really tired by 9:00 pm when I pulled into the parking lot.
I ran in and did my shopping as fast as possible, but when you’re a man and don’t know where things are, it’s not all that fast. Eventually, I had everything I needed, checked out and headed for my car in the parking lot.
When I got to the car, I put my key in the door, but it wouldn’t turn. This made me a little worried. On the way down, I had stopped at Crossroads Mall in OKC. When I came back to my car, I couldn’t get my key to work right then either. It wouldn’t turn over the ignition until I had jiggled it around for about 10 minutes.
I thought that my key must be damaged or something. The same key not only starts the car, but also opens the doors. Anyway, I stared jiggling the key all around. I would shake it this way and that way. I would twist it back and forth and back and forth. After 10 minutes of this, I was about to lose it. After 15 minutes, I did. I dropped my sacks and used both hands to move that key around. I even started having a conversation with my Explorer about what a good for nothing car it had been. I may have even been yelling.
During this tirade, I was shaking my head back and forth and one time when I did, I noticed another forest green explorer just a few spaces down. I thought to myself, no way…. I gathered up my sacks and went to try the other Explorer. Of course, my key slid right in and opened that door right up.
Before I could get in, I had to look over to the people that had been in the parking lot who had seen me verbally abuse this other car and then walk over to a different one. I just raised my voice a bit and said, hey, both of them were forest green!
In life there are often times when we are tempted to “lose it.” Usually, if we’ll just take a deep breath and a good look around the whole situation, we’ll save ourselves a great deal of embarrassment.
The Immovable Principle
Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. - Matthew 5:17-19.
Matthew Layman had a little problem with the Law, as in the 10 Commandments. He was driving while intoxicated and rammed his car into a monument to the 10 Commandments in Fremont, Nebraska. He received a jail sentence of 60 days in jail, a fine of $400.00, and his driver’s license was suspended for six months.
Even though, we are under grace (Romans 6:14; Hebrews 8:6) and not the Law, the Law cannot be ignored. Salvation is not found through obedience to the Law ("Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law." - Hebrews 8:6). Yes, we can be forgiven when we sin and violate one of the Ten Commandments, or other admonitions of morality contained in the Bible (1 John 1:9). However, there will still be consequences for our actions, because the "wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)." Ignoring God’s commandments are like driving your car into a stone monument - it is going to hurt! If we lie, steal, or commit adultery we will eventually encounter problems, and those problems will be painful.
Obedience to God’s moral principles will not bring salvation (Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 3:5), but it will spare us from many problems. Obedience to God’s moral principles will not necessarily bring His blessings, but will make our lives better, and in many cases easier.
Have you been having problem after problem? It could be that you have been crashing into an immovable object - God’s Laws. God’s moral principles are still in effect, and to ignore them is to invite disaster.
But Ruth said: "Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, if anything but death parts you and me." - Ruth 1:16-17.
Even the world expects loyalty. Rick Bronson who was a driver at a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Southern California was dismissed from his employment for drinking a Pepsi. Although, the Teamsters Local 848 says Bronson was fired for being a union activist. However, most would agree if you are selling one product it would be bad advertisement and a lack of loyalty to use a competing product.
Ruth presents us with a true example of loyalty. She not only says what she will do, but then lives it out. The Dictionary defines a loyal person as one who is faithful to those persons, ideals, etc. that one is under obligation to defend, support, or be loyal to. It defines loyalty as the quality, state, or instance of being loyal; faithfulness or faithful adherence to a person, government, cause, duty, and etc.
If the world expects loyalty and faithfulness, how much more should God expect loyalty and faithfulness from those who follow Him? Would God describe you as being a loyal follower? Or would God describe you as someone who is disloyal by your actions of supporting the enemies of God?
Loyalty. Ruth made a statement of loyalty and lived out her life by that statement. She meant what she said and lived like she meant it. How about you?
Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart. - Luke 18:1.
There are a surprising number of boats and ships that capsize and many times it is not because of crew incompetence. For the Taki Tooo it was the second unexpected wave, which rolled over the boat and resulted in nine confirmed deaths and two still missing. Eight people did survive the capsizing of their craft. Six of the survivors were beneath the deck when the wave hit. For about five minutes they stood on the ceiling and lifejackets were passed out while the cabin filled with water. They were trapped!
One of the survivors, a Hamlett, spoke this morning on a news program describing what they were doing during those five minutes. He shared they were putting on their life jackets and trying to find a way out but they were trapped. He also shared they were praying. It was then that the boat rolled several more times “like a blender” as one survivor put it. It was a terrible thing to go through but it resulted in the windows breaking providing them with a way out of the doomed vessel.
When facing impossible situations for the Christian the most important thing to remember is that God is not surprised and has not panicked because of it. We should follow the example of our Lord and instead of panicking, losing heart, giving up or fainting we should do what? PRAY!! With the survivors of the Taki Tooo we see they did the most important things. They did what they could to survive. They put on the lifejackets; they searched for a way out and found none. And they prayed. As a result when the windows of the boat broke they knew the only way out was through those windows. They didn’t waste time they did what had to be done in order to survive.
The same principles apply in every difficult situation whether it is urgent or something that has developed and lasts over many years. Matthew 7:7-8 is also applicable here, “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.” Search for the solution, way out, through, or around whatever the problem is and that will require seeking, knocking and asking. Then when the hand of God moves you will be familiar enough with all the options available to recognize what needs to be done. As Ron Dunn used to say, “Don’t just stand there! Pray something!”
Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him. And He said to them, "What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?" Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, "Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?" - Luke 24:13-18.
Have you ever said “hello” to someone thinking they were a certain person but they were not? It creates one of those embarrassing moments! Some people are so kind that they never say a word and only later you suddenly remember that they were not the person you thought they were. However, mistaken identity can be a quite serious matter. Nona Cason found out exactly how serious when she was mistaken for a fugitive from France (Nadine Tretiakoff) who had kidnapped her children from their father. Not only was Nona misidentified but the children were also misidentified as being the children of Pierre Fourcade. Pierre stood only three feet from Nona in court and swore that she was Nadine Tretiakoff.
Even though Nona had birth certificates, passports, and other records to prove she and her children were not fugitives she was still held in jail for six nights. The children were placed in state custody during the ordeal. She was finally released, along with her children, after DNA tests revealed that the children were not related to Fourcade. Cason said as to the reason for the misidentification, “Apparently, I look like this other woman.”
On the road to Emmaus two disciples of Jesus make a misidentification. They assume the man that has joined them in their travel is a stranger from another area. The disciples almost miss out completely on this resurrection appearance of Jesus. But finally when, “He sat at the table with them…took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight (Luke 24:30-31).” It was then that they remembered, “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)?”
If Jesus were to knock on your door - would you recognize Him? While you are in church assembled with other believers would you recognize His Voice if He were to speak to your heart? The disciples on the road to Emmaus were not expecting Jesus to join them in their travel. But He did. How many times do we spend time in prayer alone and with others not really expecting to hear God speak? How many times do we sit singing in church and never really expect God to speak? How many times do we daydream through sermons not expecting God to have anything to say to us? How many times do we sit through invitations hoping all those other people will respond because we think, “God wasn’t speaking to me?”
Could it be that we have misidentified that still, small voice as being our conscience, or a bad memory, or just heartburn when really Jesus has decided to travel with us for a while along our way? What blessings have we missed out on because we have assumed that God would never speak to us? The next time that Voice in your heart speaks remember it could very well be the Voice of God.
And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. - Ephesians 6:4.
He who spares his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him promptly. - Proverbs 13:22.
Parenting is surely not an exact science and even those with the very best parenting skills sometimes end up with having rotten children who grow into even worse adults. Ultimately the individual is responsible before God for their actions. However, parents do have major responsibility as seen in Ephesians 6:4 and Proverbs 13:22. Parenting is somewhat of a balancing act between the use of the “rod” (which may or may not be of a physical nature) and the “provoke(ing) your children to wrath.” Certainly all discipline and parenting should be done in love with the goal of the children becoming stable responsible loving servants of God at some point in their lives.
Canadian theorist Dr. David Lykken has looked at the statistics on juvenile crime and concludes, “only a few children with antisocial tendencies were born with such a predisposition.” He also believes from his studies that “most antisocial behaviors in children are caused by poor parenting.”
A case study in how not to raise children was done by Mikal Gilmore the younger brother of Gary Gilmore who murdered two young men in cold blood and was executed in Utah in 1977. Mikal did an extensive search of their family history to try to find where things went wrong. Of four brothers Gary was the only one who was outwardly violent. As a result of the study Mikal found extreme emotional neglect, religious rigidity, and physical abuse, which began with the grandparents of the Gilmore brothers. The parents of the Gilmore brothers had both been rejected by their parents.
The use or non-use of physical discipline does not appear to be necessary for the development of godly character. Certainly discipline (the “rod”) must be applied in some form. I was never physically spanked while I was growing up as a child but my parents did use other reasonable forms of discipline. My own style of discipline with my children has been a combination of reasonable non-abusive physical punishment in extreme circumstances and reasonable non-abusive non-physical punishment in other circumstances.
From the Gilmore, other studies, and my background as a probation and parole officer conducting pre-sentence investigations it is clear that unreasonable, cruel or the complete lack of any discipline will create psychopathic tendencies. Here are some guidelines, which I believe to be helpful:
1. All discipline should be done with love and not while obviously enraged.
2. All discipline should be reasonable in accordance with accepted norms and laws.
3. Discipline that is shocking or unusual does “provoke your children to wrath” and should be avoided.
4. Destroying toys or other items important to a child is very dangerous emotionally and may lead them to destructive behavior in the future.
5. Physical abuse is clearly related by most studies to the children growing up to be physically abusive themselves.
6. A lack of parental attention and love will result in children doing whatever it takes to gain that attention even through misbehavior.
There are always exceptions to whatever rules of child development that may be established. But if you believe something is extreme it probably is and should be avoided. When in doubt take time to pray and ask the Lord what He would do.
Today’s devotional was written by Walker Moore who is president of AweStar Ministries in Tulsa, P. O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147. You may contact Walker at email@example.com. Visit their website at www.awestar.org. (Permission given by Walker Moore for use of the devotional.)
And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. - II Corinthians 11:14.
It looked terrible. But as a college student getting married in a couple of months, it was the only place I could afford. On the front someone had spray painted in large letters: LOVE, SEX, PEACE. And that was not the worst of it. The house sat on the Mississippi bay and had been flooded so many times its center was sunk 10 inches. So every step you took was either going uphill or downhill. But even that was not the worst of it. When it rained the water would collect in the ceiling causing it to bow down. I finally took an ice pick and punched a hole in the ceiling so the rainwater would drain into the toilet. But still that was not the worst of it. The house sat alongside railroad tracks 50 yards from an intersection. You could always tell when the train was coming. The house began to vibrate slightly, and as the train got closer it turned into a full-scale earthquake. Even that was not the worst part. Our house was the marker for the conductor to blow the train whistle. Whistle does not even begin to describe that sound. Full-blown air horn is more like it. And that was the worst part. About three times during the night the house would begin to vibrate. At the height of the earthquake the train whistle would blare as the train came closer to our front door.
Every once in a while my wife and I would have company stay the night. I do not ever remember someone spending more than a single night at our house. Having forgotten to warn our guests about the trains, they would come stumbling out like they had not slept a wink, while we would awaken rested. The first thing they would blurt out was, “Did you hear those trains?” Of course not. We had become accustomed to them. As obnoxious as they were, they did not bother us anymore.
It is surprising how many “trains” we get used to. Maybe your “train” is the TV shows you allow into your home without recognizing how harmful they are. Or the language you use in your home. Maybe no one even raises an eyebrow when an obscene, sarcastic, disrespectful or negative word is used. Maybe it is the music you allow your children to listen to. The danger comes when you get so used to these “trains” that you do not recognize how harmful they are to the health and well being of your children. Sin always begins with the least offensive version and increases as your senses become desensitized to its offense. Let me warn you. Do not let your children play anywhere near the “tracks.”
As soon as we moved out of our house it was condemned. The Mississippi River flooded and it was washed down the river. Now it is no longer there. Maybe that is what you need to do…condemn and wash away. I know just the One who can wash it away, only Jesus Christ.
Our Mansion in Heaven
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. - Psalm 23:6.
In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. - John 14:2.
For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. - 2 Corinthians 5:1.
According to the apostle Paul, while we are upon this earth we live in tents, and this human body that now contains us is only a temporary dwelling place. Some day if we know Jesus as our Savior, we will no longer live in a tent, but in a house. The house we will live in after leaving behind our "tent", will be a permanent residence that will never be "destroyed."
The NKJV and the old KJV of the Bible, speak of the place the Lord has prepared for us in Heaven as being a "mansion." More modern translations have put this as being "rooms", or "dwelling places", or "abodes." However, I believe the old KJV of "mansion" may actually be more accurate. If you had lived all your life in an undeveloped country where you had no running water in your home, or electricity, or any modern convenience; with only a thatch roof, and a dirt floor, you would be shocked to arrive in a place that had all of those things. Any home that had modern conveniences would seem like a mansion compared to one without those things. The "place" that our Lord has prepared for us in Heaven, will be multiplied times better than the difference between the living conditions in an undeveloped, and a developed country.
The apostle John attempts to describe his vision of Heaven in the book of Revelation: "and he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: they need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever (Revelation 22:1-5)."
The greatest and most important feature of our mansion in Heaven will be that God Himself will be the light of all of Heaven. We will continually be in the presence of the Lord God forever and ever. Some bright shining day we will fold up our "tent" and trade it in for a mansion. What a wonderful day that will be!
Copyright © 2003. Ed Wrather. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for use of this material on a non-profit basis with source noted.