When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, “Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?” So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house.” Now He did not do many mighty works (miracles - NIV) there because of their unbelief. - Matthew 13:54-58.
Carolyn Holt had a heart attack while driving and crashed into a guardrail near St. Louis, Missouri. This could have very well been the end of her life except that an automated external defibrillator sales representative was passing by at the time and there were also two nurses that stopped to help. The defibrillator salesman, Steve Earle, said, “When I saw what was happening, I jumped out and instinctively grabbed the AED, just in case.” He was able to use the device to bring the heart to a normal rhythm. The two nurses performed CPR until the AED was successfully used. Mary Blome, one of the nurses said, “Two RNs, a man that was able to get her out of the vehicle, the man with the AED - that just doesn't happen.” Carolyn is in a hospital recovering from her heart attack and accident.
No, it was no accident that as Mary Blome said there were immediately on the scene, “Two RNs, a man that was able to get her out of the vehicle, the man with the AED.” Let’s call it what it was, a miracle. It was a miracle! It was an amazing, wonderful miracle! Praise God! Praise Him for His intervention in this situation. Only God could have brought about what happened, it was a miracle. We can be thankful too for the courage of the four people who rushed to the aid of the trapped victim. It takes courage to go to the aid of someone trapped in a vehicle or even to go up to a vehicle that has just been involved in an accident. In this situation, you have to believe that they all knew they were in the right place at the right time for a very good reason and that it was no accident. It was a miracle!
There is no question that in this instance that what happened was a miracle. Perhaps a better question is why there are not more miracles? We know that sometimes it is not God’s will (1 John 5:14-15). However, it appears that God is ready to move and wants to move in many situations and yet nothing happens. Why? Perhaps it is the same reason that Jesus could not perform “many mighty works” or “miracles” as the NIV puts it, in His hometown. The reason given for there not being many miracles was because of their “unbelief.” It may be that this is the same reason there are not more miracles today. Because so many people do not believe and even when there is an obvious miracle, they try to explain it away and give the credit to coincidence or to something else.
What about in your life? Have there been any miracles? If not it could be because it is not His will and God has said “No” or He has said to “Wait.” However, it could be a lack of belief. It may be that you do not believe God can perform a miracle in your life. Yes, you may believe He can perform miracles in the lives of other people but just not in your life. If that is the situation, I urge you to repent of your unbelief and believe. Believe that God can perform miracles not only in the lives of other people but in your life as well. Remember, it was no accident - it was a miracle!
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. - Revelation 20:11-15.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. - John 3:16-18.
CareerBuilder.com has recently conducted a survey about workers being late to work. Thirteen percent of workers surveyed said they were late once a week. Twenty-five percent of the workers they surveyed said that they were late to work at least once a month. Twenty percent of those who said they were late to work also said that they make up excuses and lie to their supervisor if necessary to justify their being late. A quarter of the late workers blamed traffic conditions but many said they had just overslept. Here are some of the excuses workers surveyed said that they had used are:
Ran over a goat.
Dreamed that they had been fired and so they just stayed in bed.
Made it to the office and then realized still in pajamas and went home to change clothes into something more appropriate.
Stopped for a sandwich and while there the store was robbed. Police officers made them stay for questioning.
A bee flew in the car window and attacked them. They then had to stop the car.
Realized that the tie they were wearing was inappropriate and had to wait for stores to open to buy a different tie.
According to the survey, many of the supervisors accepted excuses offered for being late without question.
Our Heavenly Father is unlike human supervisors. He is through Jesus Christ a God of great mercy and the invitation is to all to receive Christ as their Savior. “For God so loved the world….” He did not just love part of the world but all those who have lived, are living, and will be living on this planet. He loved us so much that His only Son suffered and died on the cross for our sins. The Bible has many statements or invitations from God to accept His mercy. The Bible closes out in Revelation 22 with one last invitation, “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely (Revelation 22:17).”
God has done everything that can be done to provide mercy for humanity. He has done everything except to make up your mind for you. He will not force you to accept Jesus as your Savior. He loves you and died for you through Jesus but it is up to you to determine your eternal destiny. He cannot do it for you. Sadly, some day the opportunity for salvation and eternal life will come to an end. Jesus makes it clear in the Gospel of John chapter 3 and verses 17 and 18 that it is not God that will condemn those who have not accepted His great invitation. No, it is those who decide by their not accepting His great invitation that condemn themselves. As Jesus says, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
There will come a day when all who have rejected Christ by their failure to chose Him will have to stand before the great white throne. It will be a day when no excuses will be allowed. The Book of Life will be searched for the person’s name and when it is not found they will be “cast into the lake of fire.” There will be no excuses allowed on that day.
If you have not received Christ Jesus as your personal Savior - I plead with you to do so before it is everlastingly too late. Remember, some day it will be too late for excuses and it will all depend on what you have done with the precious Son of God. Have you believed or not?
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. - 2 Peter 1:2-4.
A problem that occasionally occurred on the farm was a dog that discovered he had a taste for eggs. How do you ever break a dog of sucking eggs? An egg-sucking dog is a very serious problem if you are selling eggs or depending upon eggs for your livelihood or for food. I think I remember my Mother and Dad talking about it very negatively i.e. as in, once a dog starts sucking eggs you can never break him of it. However, as I’ve researched this today I have discovered it is sometimes possible to stop a dog from sucking eggs but it may take ingenious and even drastic measures to do so. According to my parents, the only cure was to get rid of the dog. Pretty drastic! An ingenious method I read about today was to put pepper in an egg and leave it where the dog can find it easily. Supposedly, having experienced the severe burning taste the dog will then leave eggs alone in the future. Another drastic measure some have recommended is to hang a dead chicken around the neck of the dog leading the dog to develop an aversion to all things related to chickens including eggs.
Some would tell us that if you have an addiction that it is impossible to break you of sucking eggs. I would suggest that there are better solutions than just putting you out of your misery. However, to break you from your addiction i.e. sucking eggs - it may be necessary to use ingenious and even drastic measures. Because if you have tried over and over to break your addiction without success it is time to try some other way. This is not to suggest that there is a surefire cure that will work every time for every person since every person is unique. So, if you have been hitting your head against the wall to get rid of your headache and it just makes it worse…stop!!
Jesus did suggest some radical measures for the elimination of addictions. He said in Matthew 5:29-30, “If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.” Now you have to agree that is pretty radical and very drastic. However, I do not believe that Jesus meant it in a literal sense because there are no records of any church in history having an eye plucking or hand cutting off service. I do believe that Jesus was making it very clear how serious sin and therefore addictions are in the eyes of God. In other words if you are sucking eggs you have a problem that must be dealt with - you cannot just ignore it and hope it will go away. Why? Because it will not go away without ingenious or even drastic measures being taken.
You should be aware that God does have the power and resources necessary to break you of your addiction. The apostle Peter makes this clear when he says, “…His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness….” There is a sufficiency in Christ meaning that God has given us through Christ all that is needed to live lives that will be pleasing to God.
Here are a couple of suggestions for how you can break an addiction.
1. Fasting and prayer - Remember if nothing has broken you of your addiction to this point that you must approach this in the most serious way that you are capable of doing.
Ronnie Floyd the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Springdale, Arkansas says that fasting is the gateway to supernatural power. Charles Stanley writes in one of his books of a man with a sexual addiction who followed Stanley’s recommendation of fasting for three days and of his being freed from that addiction.
It may take more than three days to break your addiction. It may take more than one fast to break your addiction. It is a powerful supernatural tool, which will result in God moving to help you with whatever your problem may be.
2. Immersion in the resources of God - As much as possible cut yourself off from the world for a period of time and immerse yourself in the reading, memorizing, and meditating upon the Word of God. Spend much time in prayer and spend time with sincere mature Christians. Spend extended times just praising God. Immersion in the resources of God will change your life.
Only God has the power to break you from sucking eggs. He can do it, but only if you want his help and are serious enough to risk the life that you are now living being changed into the life He wants for you.
Have No Fear
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. - Romans 3:23.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 6:23.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5:8.
I have for almost forty years had somewhat of an aversion to the use of chewing gum. I used to enjoy it but I find no joy in chewing gum now. It has probably come about from an incident experienced in high school. A teacher had a rule that there should be no chewing of gum in his class. One day I had forgotten about the rule until the class was already underway. I was sitting almost on the front row and knew that the teacher would see me if I took the gum out of my mouth. So, I tried not to move the gum around and succeeded for some minutes. However, the teacher did finally notice the rule breaker in his class and justice was administered very quickly. He told me to come with him and he administered three licks with a wooden paddle that had holes drilled in it to make it sting more. The punishment was effective for the teacher’s purposes because it did strike fear into the hearts of all prospective gum chewers in his class including me.
Surprisingly, I read this morning that a man in Turkey was arrested because he was chewing gum when he laid a wreath at the monument to Kemal Ataturk who was the country’s founder. Chewing of gum, according to the law, is disrespectful - at least in this instance. His excuse was that he was trying to cover up his garlic breath. It is unknown what penalty he will face for this breach of his country’s rules.
You may never have broken a rule of a teacher or of a country by chewing gum but you are still a rule breaker. Why do I say that? Because we have all come short of the absolute holiness of God. The Bible tells us that we have all sinned. You have sinned and I have sinned. We have all come short of the holiness of God. It may have only been what in our eyes was a little lie. But we failed at that point to live perfectly. We were tempted at all points and we failed.
If it were possible for us to live perfectly by never breaking any of God’s rules, if that were possible - then, it would not have been necessary for Jesus to come down from the glories of Heaven and suffer and die on the cross for our sins. Jesus has done what we could not do. He lived a perfect life and became the perfect sacrificial lamb dying in our place. In Hebrews 4:14-16 are told, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
Unlike many human enforcers of human rules and laws, God does have mercy, and He has demonstrated the love from which that mercy flows. We may have a fear of chewing gum or other things but we should never be afraid of approaching God in the Name of Jesus. In verse 17 of Hebrews chapter four this is made very clear when we are told, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
Have no fear of approaching God for mercy when you come in the Name of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ.
And Moses said: “By this you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these works, for I have not done them of my own will. If these men die naturally like all men, or if they are visited by the common fate of all men, then the LORD has not sent me. But if the LORD creates a new thing, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the pit, then you will understand that these men have rejected the LORD.” Now it came to pass, as he finished speaking all these words, that the ground split apart under them, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all their goods. So they and all those with them went down alive into the pit; the earth closed over them, and they perished from among the assembly. Then all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up also!” - Numbers 16:28-35.
Imagine the headline, “Earth Swallows Man!” Of course, we think, things like that just happen back in the days of the Old Testament. Sadly, a twenty-seven-year-old man northeast of Sacramento, California has been swallowed by the earth. A sinkhole suddenly opened up around 9:30pm near the kitchen of his home and he fell ten feet into the hole. Rubble covered up the man and he was killed. Thankfully, his wife who was also in the home at the time was not injured. She called 911 but there was not anything anyone could do to save her husband. A Placer County Sheriff’s Department spokesperson, Dena Erwin, says, “It’s unbelievable. From the front of the house, it’s absolutely normal. Then, in the middle of the house, is this enormous hole.” The hole is now 30 feet wide by 20 feet in depth and is still growing. The home has been condemned.
Why was Korah and many others swallowed up by the earth? Korah and the 250 other leaders who joined him, sinned by challenging the authority of Moses. Moses was God’s chosen leader. They were also trying to usurp God’s chosen leadership of the Levitical priesthood. It was a warning then and it is now to be very careful when challenging the authority of those who have been placed in leadership positions by God.
Was the man in California who was swallowed up by the sinkhole guilty of challenging God’s chosen leadership? I doubt it. Was he guilty of some other sin? I do not know. However, it is a powerful reminder that we are not guaranteed the living of life to a ripe old age. We are not necessarily safe from disaster even in our homes.
Life is very fragile and we should always be aware that it could end very suddenly. In the book of James we are told, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit‘; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that (James 4:13-15).’”
Knowing that our lives are so fragile and that sudden disaster can come upon us we should be careful to make the best use of the time we have been given. “Carpe diem” the Latin words for “seize the day” is an excellent motto for Christians. Seize this day and every day not for yourself but for the Lord. Then, you will not be worried about the earth swallowing you up. Instead, you have the peace of a life well lived in the will of God.
The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher; “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.” What profit has a man from all his labor in which he toils under the sun? - Ecclesiastes 1:1-3.
The NIV translates verse 2 as: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.”
For 2½ years Miyoko Kawahara made a lot of noise and she became nationally known in Japan as “Mrs. Noisy.” Kawahara is a surprising 59-years-old, I say surprising, because usually we think of younger people as being the violators of the sound waves with unwanted noise. Kawahara became “Mrs. Noisy” by blaring music from her balcony, and screaming insults to those who passed by. She also enjoyed beating her bedding as loudly as possible out on her balcony. A neighbor developed insomnia and headaches from the noise of “Mrs. Noisy.” The long arm of the law has finally caught up with Miyoko and she has been given a sentence of a year in jail for her unwanted noise. She will probably be released from jail after serving just three months of the sentence and neighbors are already worried.
In a way, we can think of a meaningless life as a life of just making noise. It may be that Mrs. Kawahara has been in her own way trying to find some meaning for her life. Sadly, she ended up just making a whole lot of noise and irritating everyone who passed by along with all of her neighbors. To some extent, her noise irritated the entire country and time in jail is the price she is having to pay.
What about your life? What about my life? Are we just making noise? Or, are we making music with a life of meaning? Solomon was confronted with this very question thousands of years ago. Here was a man who had everything the world says should make a person have a meaningful life. Solomon had it all. He had power, he had riches, and he had fame. Solomon looked out at his vast domain as he searched for meaning, for life…and he saw nothing but noise. “Meaningless! Meaningless!” he cried. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” Everything that he had, and he had it all, seemed to be just a lot of noise.
Solomon is said to have been the wisest man who ever lived. Although at some points of his life, he did not use the great wisdom God had blessed him with. The example, the good example Solomon has given us is that he finally did understand how to make music with his life and not just noise. Hear the great wisdom and experience of Solomon as he concludes the book of Ecclesiastes by saying, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).”
We can search the world and try everything but there is ultimately only one place to go to find meaning in life. Actually, it is not a place it is a person. We must go to God, give our lives to Him and then we will find that our lives are no longer just making noise. The apostle Peter put it another way, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).”
Allow the Master, the Creator to have control of your life and you will discover the noise is gone but in its place will be composition that all who encounter will describe as being a masterpiece. Allow the Master to bring the music of meaning forth from your heart.
My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called? If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. - James 2:1-9.
I missed the article in USA Today last Friday “CEOs vouch for Waiter Rule: Watch how people treat staff,” but I did read a short response to it by Johnnie C. Godwin in USA Today this day. Godwin says, “My truck-driver dad taught and instilled in me, a future corporate officer, to treat the janitor as well as the president.” Godwin went on to say that, “Dad’s school for life instilled in me the essential message of USA Today’s splendid cover story on the Waiter Rule, which holds that how a person treats a waiter is like a magical window into his or her soul.” Bill Swanson, Raytheon’s CEO in a booklet he wrote about leadership said, “A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter, or to others, is not a nice person.”
It is refreshing to hear those in leadership positions express words of kindness and impartiality. Certainly this is the Biblical intention for followers of our Lord to be treated well and kind - not just those who may have money or power but those who have little money or power.
In our society in the United States it is a sad truth that the nicer you are dressed and the better you look physically the better treatment you will usually receive in your interactions with others. Perhaps this is a result of a constant bombardment through the media of the images of beautiful and on the surface flawless people. James reminds us that, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well.” James also records a strong warning against callous insensitivity and partiality from those to have much when he writes, “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have murdered the just (James 5:1-3; 5-6).”
We should always remember that every person is important in the eyes of God. Because God demonstrated this importance by dying on the cross for all, not just some. Salvation is for all who will come, all who will receive God’s provision for sin through Christ Jesus. Sadly, many reject Christ but this does not lessen God’s demonstration of love for them nor our need to treat them with the same love and respect.
Have You Hugged Your Toilet Lately?
Today’s devotional was written by Dr. Walker Moore who is president of AweStar Ministries in Tulsa, P. O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147. You may contact Walker at email@example.com or 800.293.7827. Visit their website at www.awestar.org.
God’s Word: “...the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” - Matthew 26:41.
Reflection: I consider myself somewhat of a handyman. Growing up around a farm I had to do some carpentry work and mechanical repairs. I am familiar with the rules of using a saw and a few wrenches, so when our toilet began to have a few problems I told my wife, “No problem! I will take care of it.” The flapper inside the tank had worn out, causing the toilet to run in short bursts to keep the tanked filled with water. Now, this little problem did not bother me, as much it did my wife, so repairing it was not a priority. But after a number of hints from my wife, I realized that if I wanted a warm meal and a bed to sleep in... I had better get to work.
At the hardware store I was informed that the style of toilet flapper on our toilet was no longer available, so I would have to install a replacement kit. To install that I had to take the entire tank off the back of the toilet. The only way you can do that is by hugging the toilet. Lying on my back, I slid underneath to undo two nuts that held the tank to the seat. This was not easy since the nuts have been corroded since the beginning of time, and the rust kept falling into my eyes. Now working only with the sense of touch, I loosened one of the nuts and the water that was left in the tank came gushing out. (At least it washed the rust out of my eyes.) Finally, I got the tank off, installed the new kit, and bolted it back on.
I stood there for a few minutes admiring my handiwork as though I have just given birth. Then I turned the water on and much to my surprise a leak had sprung where the tank fitted on the seat. I went back to the hardware store and told them my problem. It turned out that in order to replace the piece that I had just replaced, another piece needed to be replaced to make the new piece work properly. They had failed to mention that during my first visit. A little bit frustrated, I went back home with the other part, and started the whole process again. A few hours later, I turned the water on for the second time and …it was worse. The more I worked on it the worse it got, so after three tries I swallowed my pride and called a plumber. As he worked on the toilet I asked him what I had done wrong. His exact quote was this: “Like my daddy told me, everyone has something in life that they are NOT supposed to do. And sir, yours is plumbing!”
My prayer for today is that God will help me do what I am supposed to do and leave the rest...up to the plumbers!
Insight: When it comes to parenting you cannot do everything. That is why God created the extended family.
Prayer: Dear Father, please help to understand my limitations. I cannot be everything in my child’s life. Help me to do what I do best, then surround my children with other godly people. Provide for them a network of instructors that will help them “increase in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Amen.
Quotes for Easter
For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. - 1 Corinthians 15:3-8.
The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 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. - 1 Corinthians 15:56-58.
“If we were holding a trial to determine the facts concerning the resurrection, and if we were to call to the witness stand every witness who personally encountered the resurrected Jesus and we cross-examined them for only 15 minutes, and if we went around the clock without a break…we would be listening to first-hand testimony for more than 128 hours…that’s over 5 days worth of testimony…who could possibly walk away unconvinced?” - Lee Strobel (According to Wikipedia, “Lee is a former legal editor for the Chicago Tribune, is a Christian apologist and former teaching pastor of Willow Creek Community Church.”).
“Over 500 people having the same hallucination would be more of a miracle than resurrection itself!” - An Unknown Psychologist.
"I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times, and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God hath given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead." - Professor Thomas Arnold (Author of the famous, History of Rome, and appointed to the chair of modern history at Oxford.).
“In first century Judaism, women had low social status and no legal right to serve as witnesses. If the empty tomb were an invented legend, its inventors surely would not have had it discovered by women, whose testimony was considered worthless. If, on the other hand, the writers were simply reporting what they saw, they would have to tell the truth, however socially and legally inconvenient.” - Peter Kreeft (Boston College professor of literature.).
“There really is no story about the Resurrection in the New Testament. Except in the most fragmentary way, it is not described at all. There is no poetry about it. Instead, it is simply proclaimed as a fact. Christ is risen! In fact, the very existence of the New Testament itself proclaims it. Unless something very real indeed took place on that strange, confused morning, there would be no New Testament, no Church, no Christianity.” -Frederick Buechner (From his book, The Magnificent Defeat.).
“I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.” - Napoleon Bonaparte.
“As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene....No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.” - Albert Einstein.
“The stone was rolled away from the door, not to permit Christ to come out, but to enable the disciples to go in.” - Peter Marshall.
May your heart be touched by the power of His love this Easter.
Praying for you,
Greed, Deceit, and Failure
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. - Proverbs 1:18-19.
For “he who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.” - 1 Peter 3:10-11.
Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. - 1 Peter 2:1-3.
In Missouri, Kris and Sarah Everson went to elaborate lengths to perpetrate a hoax in the hopes of obtaining money. The deceit involved was the claim of having six newborn babies. The couple had fake sonograms and a nursery had been prepared in their home along with photos of an apparently pregnant Sarah. The couple now says, “We’re sorry for everything we did. We didn’t mean to hurt anybody, we did it out of financial reasons.”
Then there is Heather Faria in Massachusetts who told her fellow teachers in 2003 that she had stomach cancer but could not afford to pay for treatment. Thirty thousand dollars was raised in donations to help pay for treatment for Heather. However, it was not true. She resigned from teaching last year and has pleaded guilty to several charges including “gross fraud.”
Heather and the Eversons fell into the trap that so many have fallen into with no way out. They were faced with a difficult financial situation and came up with plans that by deceitful means would solve their financial difficulties. At least that was the plan. From their greed came a wrong decision to pursue the deceitful means. What has been the result? The result has been failure, massive failure and it will take them years to recover, if ever. The Eversons have not yet been charged with violations of law but that is surely coming soon. Heather Faria has been charged and convicted. It is unlikely that she will ever be able to teach again with a felony conviction. Greed as the writer of Proverbs points out, “…takes away the life of its owners.”
Even though it is difficult to face some of the financial and personal problems that we as human beings are able to get ourselves into - to choose the way of evil, the way of deceit is never the right way. Even those who may succeed in perpetrating their deceit still have to live with what they have done. They must continue their deceit - and cover up and cover over continually. It never ends.
Peter reminds us that “he who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.” Living life the right way must be pursued. It does not just happen. When tempted by greed to be deceitful instead pursue life because your life indeed is at stake.
This is NOT True
When I woke up this morning, I was surprised to find that Iran and the United States are no longer rattling their sabers. Peace appears to have broken out across the world and there are no longer any wars. Nuclear arsenals have been destroyed. Guns and other weapons have been melted down to use as more useful things such as plows. The immigration issue no longer is an issue because it is no longer necessary to have national boundaries. Everyone appears to be happy to have people of different races and cultures living next to them.
Everything has been such a surprise this morning that I decided to go out and look around. I walked right through a wall and out onto the street, which I had, no idea was there. The street is so beautiful! It is a gleaming yellow, goldish color. I bent down to touch the paving stones and it appears that they are not just goldish in color but…and I’m not an expert but they appear to be actually…gold! It is then that I notice that there is not a cloud in the sky and what a beautiful sky! Lifting my gaze I find myself transfixed to find that there is now a beautiful body of water ahead. The color of this water is hard to describe it looks so clear that you might describe it as being like crystal!
What is going on! I went to bed last night and everything was normal. Nations were trying to find reasons to go to war, and people were killing, and fighting, and stealing, and robbing and just being people…but now? I must be dreaming! This cannot be where I live. This cannot be real. But I hope that it is… how wonderful! Someone calls my name. I turn and how can this be? It is my grandparents! As I hug them, I finally realize I must have died last night and woke up in…Heaven!!! With my grandparents are my great-grandparents and their parents. I have only seen photos but I know it is them and there are a lot of others with them and they are all trying to talk at the same time and somehow I understand.
That’s when the family circle celebration is joined by someone I have only read about but I have known for most of my life. It is the Lord!! “Welcome home!” He says. What wonderful words, words of life that fall from His lips. What a wonderful day! I want to just kneel there and praise Him forever!! But there is so much more to see and so much more that He has for me to do. And, and…it is just the first hour of eternity, days of joy beyond comprehension extending forever and ever in the house of the Lord.
It is not true, YET. It will be true some bright shining wonderful day! As King David said in the 23rd Psalm, “And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.” The apostle John describes it in his vision of New Jerusalem in Revelation 21 and 22: “Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ …And He said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts. He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.’”
Take the time to read Revelation chapters 21 and 22 and be encouraged because all of the terrible, ugly, evil things of this earth will someday be gone and replaced with all that is good and wonderful. That my friends is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see. Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. - Luke 24:23-27.
Being slow in life does have its penalties. During an Easter Egg hunt Sunday, some of the younger children did not find as many eggs as the older children because they were slower (We had extra eggs to give to those children.). Not only are the very young penalized for being too slow but also those who are older as an 82-year-old woman in California found out. The light turned green and Mayvis Coyle began walking across the street with her cane. However, she was too slow and a motorcycle officer gave her a ticket for obstructing traffic. Mayvis commenting on her situation says, “I think it's completely outrageous. He treated me like a 6-year-old, like I don't know what I'm doing.” One woman who uses an electric cart was also unable to cross the street in the 20 seconds allowed even though her speed was much faster. She was still too slow.
Spiritually there are times when we can be too slow. The followers of Jesus had been with Jesus for some time and He had made it clear as to what was going to happen to Him. However, they were slow to believe and Jesus makes this clear to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” Even though Christ knew it would happen He must have still marveled at how long it took them to understand and believe. They had been so slow to believe!
What about you? Do you believe that Jesus Christ the Son of God came down from the glories of Heaven walking upon this earth being fully God and fully man and suffered in your place on the cross? If not, why not? You can be eternally too late in placing your trust and faith in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. Some of the saddest words that I have heard people speak are the words, “I’m not ready yet.” Meaning they were not yet ready to receive Christ as their Savior. Sadly I believe some of those people that I shared Christ with on a personal basis have gone out into eternity without Christ. They were too slow, eternally too slow to believe in Jesus.
Sometimes the slowness is because we, the Christians, have been too slow to share our faith with others. I personally have been too slow to share my faith on a personal basis with some that are now no longer walking upon this earth. Sadly, I have heard others speak of their own regret at being too slow in sharing their faith as well.
If you have never received Christ as your Savior, please know that you can be too slow, too late, and regret that slowness forever. If you know Jesus as your Savior, are you sharing your faith with others on a personal basis? If not, please do not wait too long - because you can be too slow and what an eternal tragedy that would be.
The Rule of Love
In the United States, we have finally gotten around to dealing with the immigration issue. Five hundred thousand people demonstrated in Dallas, Texas today along with thousands more across the country. It will be very hard for the issue to be ignored after these demonstrations and an expectation of even larger ones coming.
How can this situation be addressed in a way that would be pleasing to our Lord? There is a rule that has been given to us that appears to address the many different facets that are involved. What is that rule? It is the rule of love. As you read these thoughts please remember that according to 1 Corinthians 13, love does not behave rudely, love does not seek its own, love is not provoked, love is kind and love suffers long.
How can we apply the rule of love to the immigration issue? There are many different issues within the immigration debate such as a need for workers, separation of families, the burden on social services, and the security issue. It is obvious that even if it were made a felony to be in this country illegally that it would be a virtual impossibility to deport eleven million people or even a few million, or even more of a strain to try to incarcerate them. (Note: Please don’t forget that love does not behave rudely, love does not seek its own, love is not provoked, love is kind and love suffers long.)
From the view of those here illegally there is much stress about their future in this country. However, there is also much stress upon the citizens of the country as to their security. Using the rule of love as a guide, we should not arbitrarily destroy the lives of those who have become contributing members of this society. However, using the rule of love it is reasonable to provide protection to those who are currently citizens of this country from terrorist attack, which means securing the borders of the country. (Note: Please don’t forget that love does not behave rudely, love does not seek its own, love is not provoked, love is kind and love suffers long.)
My point of all of this is that by using the rule of love overly harsh words and actions can be and should be avoided. Certainly, the rule of love would indicate there should be no violence as some threaten. My fear is that without the use of the rule of love which is given to us in 1 Corinthians 13 we will have an ever escalating, stressful, and dangerous problem for everyone involved. Perhaps there can be much good to come out of all of this if we would all strive to live our lives according to this rule of love. Remember love does not behave rudely, love does not seek its own, love is not provoked, love is kind and love suffers long.
One final point recommending the rule of love is that, “Love never fails.” Isn’t that great? Love even comes with a guarantee!
Out of the Haze
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. - James 4:13-14.
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.
If you woke up one morning and suddenly remembered, you had a court date what would you do? Let’s say the court date was in regard to your stealing a car and attacking someone. Now you remember you are supposed to be in court but you do not have a car or any available transportation. How would you handle the situation? Thomas Mink was faced with this very type of thing and he handled it by stealing a Mercedes. Mink did make it to court on time; however, unknown to him the stolen vehicle had a GPS locator. As a result, police officers blocked his exit from the courthouse. Mink now has an additional charge of grand theft auto. He has also been charged with aggravated assault for when he tried to run down two officers along with charges of fleeing and eluding.
It could be that Thomas Mink’s reasoning ability was somewhat impaired the morning he made it to court in a stolen Mercedes. You see Mink had been in a crack house that morning and as he tells it, “I'm still halfway cracked up when I got here.” Meaning he was still under the influence of the crack when he arrived at the courthouse. It all happened in Miami, Florida.
How would you ever recover from something like that? Only through the power of God. God could salvage this situation to the point of Thomas Mink still having an opportunity to live a productive and meaningful life after he is released from prison. He does not have to continue down the path he has embarked upon. No, he can turn to God and ask for help. Will Mink do that? I have my doubts but I pray that He will.
What about you? Just because you are not driving around in a stolen Mercedes in a crack haze does not necessarily mean that you are in God’s will. Are you headed down the path of life that God wants you to go down? If you are not sure - ask Him. If you are headed down the wrong path, will you turn around? Will you turn to the path that God wants for your life?
Sadly, for too many people the will of God is a vast and mysterious thing. It is vast and mysterious because there is so much distortion and interference between God and them. We can only know God’s will and do God’s will by presenting ourselves to God as living sacrifices. I sacrifice my will to God’s will. No longer will I do what the world wants, I will not be conformed any longer to the world but will be conformed to what God wants. How do we know what God wants? Through His Word and prayer. Come out of the haze of the world and into His will.
Walk by Faith
But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.” - Matthew 14:24-33.
For we walk by faith, not by sight. - 2 Corinthians 5:7.
Just in time for Easter is another attempt to explain away one of the miracles of Jesus. Professor Doron Nof, who is an oceanographer at Florida State University says, “If you ask me if I believe someone walked on water, no, I don't. I believe something natural was there that explains it.” Professor Nof’s explanation is that there may have been a freak cold spell forming patches of ice known as “springs ice” which would have been able to support a man’s weight. Professor Nof writes, “Because of the size of the springs ice, a person standing or walking on it would appear to a distant observer to be 'walking on water.“ According to Nof’s research there was a colder than normal weather pattern in northern Israel 1,500 to 2,600 years ago.
People have been trying to explain away the miracles of the Bible almost from the time that they occurred. Do you believe that God exists or that He does not exist (Hebrews 11:6)? If you believe that God does not exist you would naturally try to explain away every miraculous event. However, if you believe that God does exist than it is very easy for you to accept that Jesus, who was fully God, while being fully man, was able to walk on water. After all since God created everything He should be able to suspend the laws of nature if He decides to do so.
To believe the Bible to be true and the miracles of the Bible to be true is a matter of faith. To believe upon Jesus for salvation is a matter of faith. If we do not believe Jesus could walk on water how can we possibly believe that He died on the cross as the perfect sacrifice thereby providing a Savior to all who will receive Him?
Everything about Christianity requires faith. Here is a definition of faith from the Encarta Online Dictionary which is close to our need for defining faith on a spiritual basis: “belief in, devotion to, or trust in somebody or something, especially without logical proof.” It takes faith to believe and receive Jesus as your Savior. It takes faith to pray. It takes faith to tithe. It takes faith to witness. It takes faith to serve. It takes faith to go to church. It takes faith to live a moral life instead of a self-gratifying life.
As for me I choose to believe by faith (i.e. “Without logical proof.”) that Jesus literally walked upon water and that Peter did too until he saw the wind. Not only that but also that Jesus the Son of God made the wind stop blowing when He arrived at the boat. How about you? Do you believe? Choose to walk by faith. It is not just about the great miracles of the Bible - it is about everyday living, believing that God is real and that He makes a difference in your life. Walk by faith. Live a life of faith.
For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them. - Matthew 18:20.
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. - Hebrews 10:23-25.
There is a new study that has appeared today that is religious in nature. The study claims that attending church can extend a person’s life by two or three years. There was a down play in the possibility of the spiritual side of church causing the extended life span. The study leader, Daniel Hall, a surgeon at Pittsburgh Medical Center, thinks the extended life benefit is from the social relationships of those attending church. Hall says, “There is something about being knit into the type of community that religious communities embody that has a way of mediating a positive health effect.”
There has been and continues to be an attack on the church. Some claim that the church era is over and there is no need to attend church any longer. I strongly disagree because the “body” of Christ, all who have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them, is still present upon this earth. Christ died for the church and during the Easter season, we should surely remember this fact. Now we have a study during this Holy season of the year slamming the benefits of church except as there might be some social benefit as in other words there would be in any other organization a person were to participate in. It is an outrage! Of course, we have grown used to outrages because almost every week a new one comes our way.
Now that you have heard my rant about the blasphemers, here are some reasons that you should attend church:
1. We have a command to do so, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.” Hebrews 10 is still part of the canon of Scripture.
2. It is an act of worship and faith every time you assemble with other believers. When you exercise your faith in that way, our Lord says that He is going to be there with you.
3. Being in the presence of other Spirit filled believers makes the Spirit within you leap for joy. You cannot receive; experience that except in the presence of other believers.
4. Through the church, you can multiply the strength of your personal ministry many times by working with other like-minded believers.
5. Church has a preserving effect upon your marriage.
6. Church has a powerful effect upon children, and teens that is greatly beneficial to them and their parents.
7. Through the church, you will find support during difficult times.
8. Every time you attend church, you will be blessed, and every time you miss church, you miss a blessing.
I will agree that sometimes it has been difficult to attend church. It has at times been difficult to get everyone ready to be in church. It would also have been much easier to have just stayed at home many times. However, I still attend church. I also do not regret a single time that I made the effort to attend church. My only regret about church is that I did not attend more frequently and faithfully at an earlier age. Why? Because faithful church attendance, earlier in my life, and earlier in my marriage would have changed everything for the better in my life and that of my family.
If you want to change your life for the better, attend Church! Make a commitment to be in a Bible believing church every time there is a service and you are not working or providentially hindered. You will never ever regret it!! Also, you might even live longer!
The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble. - Proverbs 4:19.
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. - Galatians 5:19-21.
In Naples, Florida a man was driving somewhat erratically and then crashed his vehicle into some barricades. Was he drunk? Was he talking on his cell phone? Was he reading the paper? Studying for an exam? Putting on his makeup? No, his problem was somewhat new and original. His pet snake attacked him. Witnesses report that Courtland Page Johnson got out of his vehicle, wrestled with his snake, and then got back into the vehicle - and drove off. When officers arrived at Johnson’s home, they found him to have cuts and blood on his body. Johnson admitted that it all happened when his snake bit him and he may have panicked. I’m just wondering what happened to the snake?
I have had several pets during my lifetime (None at present.), especially while I was a boy living on a farm. Some of the pets that I have had are dogs, cats, a jackrabbit, crows, a ground squirrel, a de-scented skunk, and an owl. My mother had a small snake, a racer of some type for a pet for a while that she kept in a cage but I never thought I would want one as a pet. My personal opinion about snakes is that the only good snake is a dead snake. Living in a rural area, I dislike having snakes hanging around because I might step on it and they try to get into the house, which would be an even bigger problem. There was a story about a man in Oklahoma last year who let several varieties of rattlesnakes slither around his property. It was fine until he tripped and fell and three of the snakes bit him. I think he lived but he probably has a new respect for the snakes.
Probably most of you like me do not have a pet snake. However, you may have something that can be just as deadly as having a pet rattlesnake or a pet cobra. What could that be? You may have a pet sin and the “wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23a).” What is your most favorite pet sin? The apostle Paul gives us quite a list in Galatians 5, “…adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries….” This is not a complete list and knowing that Paul adds, “and the like.”
Have you ever thought about your favorite sin as being similar to having a pet rattlesnake wrapped around your neck? Not a whole lot of difference. The rattlesnake can kill you very quickly whereas your pet sin may take a while longer. It may take longer but it still kills. Sin starts out killing on the edges of life - circling in for the final destruction. Sin kills the joy. Sin kills the love. Sin kills the fun. Sin kills the good. Sin kills the life. Sound familiar? It may be time to find a new pet. As Paul says, “…do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God (Romans 6:12-13).”
Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. - 1 John 5:14-15.
Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. - Romans 8:26-27.
So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” - Matthew 21:21-22.
And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. - Matthew 14:13-14.
There has been another study conducted as to the effectiveness of prayer in healing. The headline of this study is: “Study fails to show healing power of prayer.” We do not know all of the details of the study but we do know some of them. It was a study consisting of 1,800 heart bypass surgery patients. People were organized to pray for these patients. These prayers were said by two Catholic groups and one Protestant group. These groups were given written prayers and the first name and initial of the patients they were to pray for. Conclusions from the study were stated as follows: “Intercessory prayer itself had no effect on whether complications occurred (and) patients who were certain that intercessors would pray for them had a higher rate of complications than patients who were uncertain but did receive intercessory prayer.”
The spiritual fact of the matter is that some people are more effective in prayer than others are. Even the disciples of Jesus after being with Him for some time asked that He would teach them how to pray. We do not know what the written prayer was that was said for each of the patients in this recent study of the effectiveness of prayer. We do not know anything about the spiritual condition of the people who were doing the actual praying. Prayer is a vital aspect of our faith and attempts to measure the effectiveness of prayer or non-effectiveness of prayer by secular, non-Christian methods are doomed to failure.
What are some factors necessary for effective prayer?
Factor # 1: “according to His will.” - The prayer will be answered according to God’s will. If we want to have an effective prayer we should try to pray in accordance with what we believe God’s will to be. We should have so much confidence in this that we believe what Romans 8:26-27 says and that the Spirit actually translates our prayers into the prayers that should be said according to God’s will.
Factor # 2: Matthew 21:22, “believing” - Whoever is praying must “believe.” Believe what? First of all, they must believe that there is a God and then they must believe that God will answer their prayer in accordance with His will. It is a matter of the heart, a matter of faith (Hebrews 11:6; Romans 4:20-21).
Factor # 3 - The Name of Jesus, “My Name” - There is more to this than just ending a prayer by saying you are asking in the Name of Jesus. Who is it that would be praying in “My Name?” Jesus was speaking to His followers, believers in Him. Yes, we should pray in His Name but such a prayer would be meaningless unless we were truly His followers, believers in Him.
It is easy to be discouraged in prayer. I hope that no matter what some study may say that you will continue to talk to God. Because He wants to talk to you. Don’t worry about whether you are praying the right way or the wrong way. The most important way is simply to pray. Jesus says you ought to always pray and the apostle Paul writes that you should pray continuously, pray without ceasing. Please continue to pray!!
Stealing the Crocodile
You shall not steal. - Exodus 20:15.
The Rockhampton Zoo in Queensland, Australia is missing a crocodile. If you happen to see a crocodile, 1.2 meters in length, weighing approximately 40 kilograms, and meaner than a barnyard dog - it may be the missing croc. Call the zoo; do not try to attempt a rescue yourself! The croc did not make the escape by itself but apparently had some help from three or four from the Homo Sapiens species. The thieves attempted to steal a koala but gave up after it proved to be even meaner than a croc. The zookeeper, Wil Kemp, said about the thieves, "I don't know what makes someone go, ‘Oh we tried to steal a koala and that didn't work so let’s go and steal a croc.’” It is thought by authorities that the croc nappers originally planned to trade the koala for drugs but settled for the freshwater crocodile.
As it has been said, “The best laid plans of mice and men….” Of course, these plans do not appear to have been very well thought out. What does make someone decide, or in this case possibly four some ones, decide to risk life, limb, and prison time to steal a koala, and then go for a croc? Most likely, the course of events that these four individuals have launched out upon were decided in a few moments of time. We can imagine the setting of a few too many beers, and possibly a joint or two. “I’ve got an idea,” one bloke says. “What?” “You know that zoo over in Queensland?” “So?” “They’ve got koalas there and I’ve heard they’re worth a lot.” They all look at each other and in unison say, “Great idea!” As they head off into infamy.
We all know what it says in Exodus 20:15, after all it is one of the Ten Commandments, “You shall not steal.” Very simple and to the point. No, ifs, ands, or buts. Of course, if you wanted to rationalize…it is somewhat down on the list of “shalt nots” being at number eight. But it did still make the list. So, we can assume that God did not make a mistake since it was written in stone. Actually, it was written in stone twice, since the first stone tablets were broken.
If I were to ask everyone reading this to hold up their hand if they have ever stolen anything even a paper clip - most of us would be honest enough to hold up our hands. Now that we (at least some of us) have admitted that we are thieves and that we have broken God’s eighth Commandment…have any of you stolen a crocodile? I doubt it. What is it that makes someone progress from stealing paper clips to stealing crocodiles? Now, both are sins (Romans 3:23) but in the realm of human relationships and authorities one is more serious as to the consequences. Not only are the consequences more serious but it also points to a more serious flaw in character, moral character.
James points out the progression of sin in James 1:13-15, “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.” Sadly, for too many of us we know that progression very well, we have been down that road more than once. That is the road to ruin of a person’s character, giving in to temptation, not once but again, and again, and again - until there is no longer any resistance to evil. We give in until…if someone suggests stealing a koala from a zoo, or a crocodile we are more than ready to do it.
The good news is that we do not have to continue down that road. We can change, we can turn back. The very first step is to get back on track with God. You know you have sinned. Tell Him, confess it to Him. As we are told in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Then, ask Him for His help to change and to be what He would have you to be. What do you do after that? It is a continual making of right choices, choosing what God wants instead of what the flesh wants. Romans 8:5-6 describes the process, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded (“the mind of sinful man” - NIV) is death, but to be spiritually minded (“but the mind controlled by the Spirit” - NIV) is life and peace.”
Through the power of God you can see your destiny changed from one headed for death and destruction to a destiny filled with life, actually an eternity of life. Why not begin right now?
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. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. - 2 Corinthians 5:1-8.
Imagine going to a friend’s funeral and then later in the day receiving a phone call from the friend! Can you imagine the shock of just seeing the friend’s number come up on your caller ID? It would be one thing if your friend said, “I’m in this really dark place and need help getting out.” But then it would be completely different if the friend said, “Just thought I would let you know that Heaven is great, and hope to see you soon!” Either way it would be a shocker!!
There is a new phenomenon that is making its way across the globe. People are being buried with their cell phones. In South Africa, it was reported that a funeral home will actually include several batteries just in case one runs down. In some places it would appear the desire is for the recently departed to be able to actually make use of the phone if possible. In other places, it is simply the placing of something meaningful in their life to be with them. I have seen many different personal items placed in a casket with a loved one and it can be a very touching thing to see. However, if the body is to be cremated make sure you remove the battery from the phone because they will explode when heated.
As much as we would like to be able to communicate with our loved ones who have crossed from this world to the next it is not possible. King David knew the reality of this when he said of his baby that had died, “Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me (2 Samuel 12:23b).” As the apostle Paul puts it are bodies are now our “earthly tents” and if these “tents” are “destroyed” we will then live in a “building from God” that is “eternal in the heavens.” Notice that our bodies are “tents” meaning a temporary residence but our place of dwelling after death is a “building” that will be “eternal.” While we live upon this earth we are “absent from the Lord” but when death comes and we leave our physical bodies and we will then be “present with the Lord.”
It would be wonderful to be able to talk with someone who knew exactly what was going to happen after death. To talk to someone who had been through it and returned to share about everything that happened. That would be wonderful wouldn’t it? The wonderful thing is that there is a person who has been there and done that. His name is Jesus. Jesus tells us in Revelation 1:18, “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death.” He who has died and rose again 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 (John 11:25-26).”
Make no mistake, God knows exactly where you are and what is going on in your life. God also knows when His children will die and pass from this world to the next to their “eternal dwelling.” God knows and as the Psalmist says, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints (Psalm 116:15).”
The Devil’s Toy Machine
Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. - Matthew 18:15-17.
In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. - Corinthians 5:4-5.
Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh. - Jude 1:22-23.
In Austin, Minnesota, a three-year-old boy became trapped inside of a Toy Chest claw machine at the Godfather’s Pizza place. Devin crawled into the machine through a discharge chute. The space crawled through was about seven by nine inches in size. Firefighters who responded to the emergency had to pry the machine open to get to the boy. However, Devin being surrounded by stuffed animals had no desire to leave. The Fire Chief, Dan Wilson, stated, “When we got it open, he didn't want to come out. One of my firefighters had to reach inside and get him. He was happy in there.”
Some people are like a three-year-old in a toy machine - they do not want to leave. They want their sins and they do not want to give them up. That is the condition of many people before salvation and it sadly is the condition that some find themselves in even after they know the Lord.
What should our response be to the lost who appear to be perfectly happy being lost? What should be our response to those who know the Lord but who appear to be perfectly happy living like the devil? Some will say and think things like, “Live and let live”, “That’s their choice” and, “It’s not hurting me.” Is that what we are to do? Nothing?
No, the example and instructions of the Bible are clear. We are not to leave them alone. We are to be proactive and do all we can to shock them and to drag them kicking and screaming if necessary out of the Devil’s toy machine. Someone who has an addiction is usually not able to think clearly. Someone who has become involved in adultery or sexual sins is probably not thinking clearly. Someone who is involved in sin most likely has a flaw in their thinking processes and we should as Christians try to intervene to the extent possible.
How should we intervene? We should confront them with the spiritual truth of their situation just as the prophet Nathan confronted David with the truth about his adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah (2 Samuel 12). In Matthew 18 we are given instructions about how to proceed. If they will listen to you like David listened to Nathan fine. If not, take one or two more with you and continue to confront them. A practice of the church at that time was to take such a person to the church and if they would not then change - fellowship with the church was withdrawn. That is what Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians. This was done for two reasons. First, to protect the church. Second, to try to bring the person to their senses so that they would return to God.
How should we intervene in the life of a lost person? We have the instructions of Jude 1, “snatch others from the fire….” We should actively work in the lives of the lost even if they appear to be happy in their toy machine. We should pray for them, visit them, witness to them, invite them to church, send them tracts, give them tracts, send them emails, write them letters, etc. We must not give up on them!
The spiritual fact is that many are happy in the Devil’s toy machine but to leave them there would be like leaving a three-year-old trapped inside of a claw machine with the stuffed animals.
Father of Lies
There is currently an assault on truth being engaged in by the devil and his children. Prime examples are Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code” and Michael Baigent’s “Jesus Papers.” The “Da Vinci Code” purports to be fiction but historically accurate. Among the book’s claims is that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and that there were descendants from that marriage. The “Jesus Papers” claim that the crucifixion never happened and it was just a hoax perpetrated by Jesus and Pilate. The purpose of both books appears to be an assault on the reliability of the Christian canon of Scripture and therefore, an attack on the Christian faith.
Here are two statements from the “Da Vinci Code” which are stated as being fact:
“The marriage of Jesus and Mary Magdalene is part of the historical record (p. 245).”
“The royal bloodline of Jesus Christ has been chronicled in exhaustive detail by scores of historians (p. 253).”
In the February 2004 issue of Bible Review (Jots and Tittles, p. 10) it is stated that, “None of the Gospels, canonical or non-canonical, ever refer to Mary Magdalene as Jesus’ wife, or say that Jesus was married.” (Thanks to Scott Weber of the Christian Church of Estes Park, Colorado for the Da Vinci Code and Bible Review information above and for his very informative sermon series on the Da Vinci Code posted at SermonCentral.com. You should be able to access Pastor Weber‘s sermons by clicking on this link or by pasting it in your browser: http://www.sermoncentral.com/contributor_profile.asp?ContributorID=5881)
What historical evidence is there for the marriage of Jesus or for His having descendants? There is none. The canon of Scripture that we have is a vast treasure trove of historical evidence for the life of Jesus, the Son of God, who walked upon this earth being fully God, and fully man. He was tempted at all points without sin and is today at the right hand of the Father in Heaven. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus is also resident in every true believer. In addition, Josephus who was a Jewish historian and contemporary of Jesus did not ever write of the marriage of Jesus or of any descendants of Jesus. There was no grand conspiracy between Pilate and Jesus, or between Pilate and the followers of Jesus.
What we as believers must understand is that the devil and his children are liars. We as Christians have a conscience and the presence of the Holy Spirit within us restraining us, inhibiting us from knowingly communicating falsehoods. We may lie but we know better and we know it was wrong to do so. The devil and his children have no such inhibitions, or restraints. They feel free to make up things out of thin air that happen to suit their objectives at the time.
We have guidance from the Scriptures and examples from Scripture as to how to proceed when confronted with the possibility of deception and falsehood. The apostle Paul gives us the example of the Bereans in Acts 17:10-11, “Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” We too must search the Scriptures daily and always check to see if what the devil and his children are trying to sell is in conformance with the Word of God. Because as we are told in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. - 1 Peter 5:5-6.
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. - Philippians 2:3-4.
If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. - 2 Chronicles 7:14.
In a poll conducted by the Washington Post it was found that most people who live in the United States think they are above average in many areas of their lives. In the area of honesty - 94% thought they were “above average.” In common sense - 89% thought they were “above average.” In actual intelligence - 86% thought they were “above average.” In physical looks/beauty - 79% thought they were “above average.” Of course, now we know something else about these people. What do you think that might be? According to the results of the Washington Post poll you could probably argue that of the people in the United States only 6 to 21% of them have that quality called, humility. Of course, those lacking in that quality appear to be making up for it in thinking well of themselves.
Psychologists will tell you that a good self-image is important to maintaining good mental health. It now appears that the self-image of many may have been over-developed. A proper self-image is vital for many reasons. Thinking rightly about yourself is important in making life decisions. A false view of yourself could lead you to take actions that you should not take or fail to take actions that you should.
One of those actions that a faulty self-image will prevent you from taking is prayer. If you are self-made, self-important, above average in every area of life - why would you need the help of anyone, even the help of God? However, humility, and a lower than average self-image appears to be what God is looking for in His most special servants. In Micah 6:8 we are told, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Then, in 1 Peter we have this, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
In that great verse in 2 Chronicles 7:14 we have what are traditionally thought of to be the requirements for revival. The very first requirement is that God’s people, “humble themselves.” The second requirement is that God’s people, “pray.” The second and third requirements are to seek God, and to turn from their wicked ways. Perhaps this is why we are in such great need of revival? Because of our above average self-image, we see no need to humble ourselves, certainly not before God, and therefore we see no need to pray. If that is the condition of our hearts how likely is it that we would have a desire to seek God or to turn from our “wicked ways?” Not very!
A key to living in harmony with other men and women and with God is very simple but its practice has grown increasingly rare. Humility, a rare quality that is growing even rarer. Do you have it?
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.' “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” - Luke 10:29-37.
A story that appeared on one of the news channels briefly yesterday was of a 63-year-old woman walking down a street dressed in just a hospital gown and slippers. I saw the video but did not immediately realize the tragedy that I was viewing. The patient was dumped on skid row in Los Angeles in front of the Union Rescue Mission where a camera recorded the incident. The Kaiser Permanente’s Bellflower Hospital has apologized for dumping the woman. The even sadder news is that the Los Angeles’ hospital is only one of a large number of hospitals that are dumping patients. A watchdog group discovered that 527 hospitals have violated a federal law prohibiting the dumping of patients. This amounts to one in five hospitals in the United States that have broken this law. For more information go to www.citizen.org
The parable of the “Good Samaritan” is almost synonymous with the modern meaning of hospital. I did a search on Google for “Good Samaritan Hospital” and there were 863,000 results. However, the true meaning of “Good Samaritan” appears to have been lost.
What was it that the “Good Samaritan” of the Bible had that the “Good Samaritan” hospitals of today do not have? It is a quality, a character trait that many people, and not just hospitals, are missing. The word for this is “compassion” and the definition found in the Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary comes close to what the “Good Samaritan” of old demonstrated. The definition states that “compassion” is, “sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it.” Yet, if “compassion” is just that it, still does not adequately describe what a “Good Samaritan” does. I think the apostle John tells us what is needed in 1 John 3:18 where he says, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”
What is missing from the definition of “compassion” and from the hospitals and from many people is the “deed”. The right actions lived out as the “Good Samaritan” lived it out is missing. Something is missing from our hearts if we are able to send a sick, disoriented, lonely woman out into the cold with no guarantee that anyone else is going to help either.
How can this be changed? It can be changed by each of us living our lives as true “Good Samaritans” and teaching our children and others to do the same by our examples. As St. Francis of Assisi is ascribed as having said by his writings or teachings, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” This is what the “Good Samaritan” demonstrated and it is what we are commanded to do by the apostle John.
It’s About Time!
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment. - James 2:8-13.
The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission should be commended! They have discovered an excellent place to find people who are in violation of the public intoxication statute. The Commission has started sending their agents into bars and so far, in 36 bars they have arrested 30 individuals for public intoxication. The Commission’s spokesperson, Carolyn Beck stated, “Being in a bar does not exempt one from the state laws against public drunkenness.” Beck also said, “We feel that the only way we're going to get at the drunk driving problem and the problem of people hurting each other while drunk is by crackdowns like this. There are a lot of dangerous and stupid things people do when they're intoxicated, other than get behind the wheel of a car. People walk out into traffic and get run over, people jump off of balconies trying to reach a swimming pool and miss.”
I have wondered for years if we were really serious about preventing drunk driving why there wasn’t a roadblock outside of every bar to check the alcohol level of those leaving. If society really wanted to do something about the problem of alcohol related crime and violence it could be done. Who would have thought that a city would actually ban smoking in every public place but it has happened. Problems created by the abuse of alcohol are at a much more immediate and dangerous threat level than cigarette smoke.
Of course, it could be about time that we address our own problems. It is easy to point our finger and say look at those people and the terrible things they are doing. We might want to remember the old saying about pointing a finger meaning that there are three fingers pointing back to us. As James points out whether it is murder or adultery it is still sin and the whole law has been violated by those sins if you commit one or the other. The same reasoning would lead you to believe that whether you have told a little white lie, or had one too many drinks, or you smoked in a public place where it is against the law that you have done the same. In other words, we have all sinned just as the apostle Paul wrote in Romans 3:23 and we all deserve the spiritual death penalty as he states in Romans 6:23a. But thankfully, there is a “but”. “For the wages of sin is death, BUT the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The spiritual fact is that we all need a Savior, we have all sinned, and we will all sin again at some point or another in our lives. Thankfully, we have been provided a Savior, Jesus Christ. At the moment of salvation we were forgiven for our sins: past, present, and future. He, however, is not only our Savior He is also our advocate, our intercessor. When we fail, we can go to our Lord and confess, agree with Him about our failures. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).” It may be about time for us to do that - “confess”.
Gaining the World
Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. - Matthew 16:24-27.
Here is a quote from Jim Carrey that is a quote I think everyone should read or hear and take to heart. Jim says, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and (get) everything they ever dreamed of, so they can see that it's not the answer. You get famous and say, 'Well, if I do just one more thing that's really successful,' then one more thing after that, and then you just start getting tired of being disappointed in the outcome as far as your emotions go. 'That was a fantastic hit, but what now?' ‘Thank God I learned that lesson. Only a moment with my daughter will make me happy, or having dinner with people I love.’” Talking about one famous and indicted CEO, Carrey says, “I think there's a giant God-shaped hole in him that can't be filled, and he's trying to fill it with money.”
Solomon in Ecclesiastes tells us much the same: “He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; nor he who loves abundance, with increase. This also is vanity. When goods increase, they increase who eat them; so what profit have the owners except to see them with their eyes? The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eats little or much; but the abundance of the rich will not permit him to sleep. There is a severe evil which I have seen under the sun: Riches kept for their owner to his hurt. But those riches perish through misfortune; when he begets a son, there is nothing in his hand. As he came from his mother’s womb, naked shall he return, to go as he came; and he shall take nothing from his labor which he may carry away in his hand. And this also is a severe evil - just exactly as he came, so shall he go. And what profit has he who has labored for the wind? All his days he also eats in darkness, and he has much sorrow and sickness and anger (Ecclesiastes 5:10-17).”
Money, possessions and fame is not the ultimate happiness maker. Arriving on Success Boulevard does not guarantee happiness and satisfaction in life. For some it has produced exactly the opposite as is seen with so many suicides among the rich and famous (i.e. Jimi Hendrix, Marilyn Monroe, Kurt Cobain, Ernest Hemingway, etc. For a surprisingly long and sad list, you can go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_famous_suicides ). The US government website for suicide prevention can be found here: http://www.mentalhealth.samhsa.gov/suicideprevention/
What will bring you happiness, satisfaction, and joy? Jesus tells us this, “Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? ‘Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble (Matthew 6:30-34).”
Gaining the whole world and everything in it along with great fame will not give you happiness, satisfaction and joy. Seeking first the Kingdom of God is the only way to fill up that God shaped hole in your life. You were designed for God and only in Him will you find life, the abundant life. That is why Jesus came, to save all of us lost and hurting people and in the process to give us life, real life. “…for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).” “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly (John 10:10b).”
Princes persecute me without a cause, but my heart stands in awe of Your word. I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure. I hate and abhor lying, but I love Your law. - Psalm 119:161-162.
This morning on “Good Morning America”, I watched a story about Baptist students from Armstrong Atlantic State University in Georgia on spring break. The unusual part of the story was that they were spending their break cleaning up houses that had been flooded by the hurricane. The very unusual part of this story was that one of the girls had found $30,000 in a closet when a vent came apart. Trista Wright, the 19-year-old college student who found the money said, "I started raking it out of the air conditioner vent. I thought it was garbage and I was going to shovel it up, but I bent down to pick it up, and it was a stack of $100 bills, and then more and more kept coming.” The money was in good condition and the owner who was out in the yard had no idea the money was there. The owner was needless to say very thrilled, “speechless” according to Wright, and the money is definitely needed to help restore the home. Since the home has been in the family for generations it is thought that the money was hidden by the current owner’s father. Since her father had gone through the depression he had a distrust of banks. (Thanks to Bruce Andis for sending me the link to the story!!)
Can you imagine having thousands of dollars unknown to you lying hidden in your home? If you had not personally hidden the money, it would surely be a great shock for it to be discovered! Just think about it - hidden treasure in your home, unknown, and undiscovered for years and years. In the case of the woman whose home was damaged by the hurricane it must be an even more special find because of her great need and that it was found in her own home. We can only marvel and praise God for having moved to help this woman in her hour of need.
Actually, there may be hidden treasure in your home. Where? You may think and how would you know? Because for many families across the world they have the very same type of treasure but are not making use of it. The treasure is just laying there waiting for someone to pick it up. What is this treasure? It is the Bible. The words of God are a priceless treasure. The Psalmist says it well when he says, “I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure.” For surely to have access to the very words of God, the Creator of everything, is a fantastic treasure!
Did you know that there may be another hidden treasure in your home? What you may be thinking could that possibly be? That second hidden treasure is found in being obedient to the words of the first treasure. As Isaiah put it in Isaiah 33:6, “Wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times, and the strength of salvation; the fear of the LORD is His treasure.”
There is one final treasure that you may not have realized that you possess. It is not inside your home unless you are inside your home because this treasure is inside of you. As the apostle Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 4:7-11, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” If you know Jesus as your personal Savior then through the Holy Spirit you have the life of Jesus being “manifested” in your body.
It may be that some of us need to go and find our treasure! What a wonderful treasure trove we have been given!
And they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. - Acts 7:58-60.
Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread. - Acts 12:1-3.
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. - Revelation 12:11.
Abdul Rahman became a Christian 16 years ago. He had previously been an Islamic believer. Abdul has been arrested in Afghanistan and charged with a potentially capital offense. The crime is that he has converted from Islam to another religion. The judge in the case stated, “We are not against any particular religion in the world. But in Afghanistan, this sort of thing is against the law. It is an attack on Islam.”
In spite of the judge’s statement it does appear that Islam is against every other religion in the world and in particular, Christianity. If you execute those who switch to another religion then it is a very loud and violent statement of opposition to other religions. It is also a loud and violent statement that there is not religious freedom in Afghanistan and if there is not religious freedom how can you say that the people there are free? It does appear that the people of Afghanistan are still in bondage and have yet to gain their freedom.
Persecution of Christians for their faith is alive and well in the 21st Century with some 200 million being persecuted every year. Here is a webpage that is eye opening about the persecution that is ongoing across the world: http://www.wwcmagazine.org/2005/novdec057.html
I have no doubt that most of those reading this devotional have not experienced severe persecution for their faith although a few may have. Persecution of Christians, however, has been in existence from the very beginning of the faith. Stephen was executed after confronting the people with the truth of their guilt in the crucifixion of Jesus. It also appeared that Saul soon to become the apostle Paul was in charge of that execution. Herod thought that he did so well with the execution of James the brother of John that he decided he would execute Peter too. But we know that God intervened in Peter’s situation.
Knowing that there are Christians still dying for their faith across the world should be a warning to the rest of us. Persecution can happen to us as well. We must not forget about the rest of the brothers and sisters across the world that are hurting. To know the truth about the persecution should be a strong encouragement to at the very least pray for the rest of the body of Christ that is hurting. It should also spur us to do what we can to support directly those who are being persecuted in every way that we can. It should remind us too that we should take our faith seriously and live our lives for our Lord.
Out-of-Control - Part II
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. - Galatians 5:22-26.
It is not good to eat much honey; so to seek one’s own glory is not glory. Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls. - Proverbs 25:27-29.
In the previous devotional, the story was told of an out-of-control car, which was not caused by the driver. Sometimes our lives, like that of Ruth or Daniel, may be out-of-control but not because of anything that we have done or have not done. Circumstances, life and the decisions of others have brought it about. Here is another story about a car crash. It has many interesting facets and I would encourage you to look it up on the Internet.
On February 21, 2006 at 6:08am, a Ferrari Enzo, which was one of only 400 built, and is a million dollar car, crashed. It was literally sliced into by a power pole when it hit the pole traveling at an estimated 162 mph. It happened in Malibu, California near Decker Canyon on the Pacific Coast Highway. Obviously, the vehicle was going at an excessive speed far in excess of the speed limit. At such a high rate of speed, even a small rock in the road could cause problems. Something happened which made the vehicle go out-of-control. Could have been that the driver was drunk although the owner claims that he was not driving (The owner’s alcohol level was more than the permissible level.), and that it was some German driving. He just knew the man’s first name and claims the man took off. If there was such a person, he has not been found yet. The owner claimed something about a Mercedes SLR racing them and also about working for Homeland Security. A witness saw the Ferrari go airborne shortly before it was sliced in two when it hit the power pole.
The wreck of the Ferrari was directly related to the actions of the person driving the vehicle. It was a preventable accident. It did not have to happen. In the same way, there are so many lives that are picking up speed - going faster and faster heading for a crash. The resulting crash will not have been caused by circumstances, bad luck, or any specific situation. No, it will have been cause by a lack of self-control. This kind of crash caused by an out-of-control life is preventable. It does not have to happen!
The writer of Proverbs put it well when he portrays an out-of-control life as being like “a city broken down, without walls.” Such a life is unprotected and open to attack by any enemy or predator. It is a dangerous way to live and a life lived persistently in that way will not have a happy ending.
The good news is that it does not have to be that way. The driver of the Ferrari could have taken his foot off the accelerator and prevented his crash. You can do the same. You can take your foot off the accelerator that is causing your life to go spinning faster and faster out-of-control. How do you do it? It is really quite simple and at the same time very hard. You have to surrender control of your life, completely, totally, for all time to the Lord God. Let Him drive for a while. Tell Him you are more than a little tired of messing your life up and that you really need His help. Through the Holy Spirit He will begin to take control and bring your speeding life down to a safe and survivable speed.
Out-of-Control - Part I
Now it came to pass, in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem, Judah, went to dwell in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech, the name of his wife was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion—Ephrathites of Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to the country of Moab and remained there. Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left, and her two sons. Now they took wives of the women of Moab: the name of the one was Orpah, and the name of the other Ruth. And they dwelt there about ten years. Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died; so the woman survived her two sons and her husband. - Ruth 1:1-5.
Kevin Nicolle (25-years-old), who lives in England, had a very frightening experience but thankfully lived to tell about it. What happened? The accelerator on his BMW stuck and for 60 miles, he thought he was going to die. Kevin called the emergency number and said exactly that, “I’m going to die!” He at first used his brakes to keep the car’s speed down to about 70 mph. But as the brakes burned out the speed increased to 100 mph and eventually a top speed of 140 mph before the car crashed. The car flipped ending up on its top, trapping Kevin but they were able to cut him out and he was able to walk away with only bruises. Speaking of his 30-minute ordeal Kevin said, “I felt like I had been strapped on to a rocket. I was absolutely terrified. I was missing cars by inches.”
Kevin’s life was temporarily out-of-control but it really was not his fault. It just happened and he was suddenly on the ride of his life. It was a terrifying experience that he will try for the rest of his life to avoid having again.
There are at least two types of out-of-control lives and I will write about the other type tomorrow. Kevin’s ordeal portrays well the first type. It is the type that was experienced by Naomi, and her daughters-in-laws, Ruth and Orpah. They were in the midst of a severe famine and first Naomi’s husband died and then the two sons. There was nothing to do to prevent the disaster. It was also experienced by Daniel and his friends who were taken captive by the Babylonians. Daniel and his friends had done nothing to personally provoke the Babylonians yet they were still taken captive and carried off to a foreign country. Sometimes our lives become like a speeding car with the accelerator stuck. It happens simply because it happens - there is nothing that we could have done to prevent the rapidly approaching crash.
Kevin did the right things in the midst of his out-of-control terror filled ride. He did call for help and the police did try to clear his way and when he crashed they were immediately there to help cut him out of the vehicle. Naomi and Ruth did the right thing too. Naomi was returning to her home but more importantly to her God. Ruth was not to be discouraged from also following Naomi. We see the sincerity of Ruth as she cries to her mother-in-law, “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).”
The commitment of Naomi and Ruth to God allowed God to work in their lives to put things back together. They not only lived but they thrived. Naomi became the great-great-grandmother (not by blood but in effect*), and Ruth the great-grandmother of King David.
Daniel also experienced God picking up the pieces and putting them back together. Because of his faithfulness, Daniel and his friends rose to positions of power in the country of their captivity.
You may be in the midst of a terrifying out-of-control ride in your life. If so, cry out to God, because He is the One who can help you. You may still have a crash but He can help you pick up the pieces and help you to go on with living life to the fullest extent possible.
* “Then Naomi took the child and laid him on her bosom, and became a nurse to him. Also the neighbor women gave him a name, saying, ‘There is a son born to Naomi.’ And they called his name Obed. He is the father of Jesse, the father of David (Ruth 4:16-17).”
Smelling of Smoke
For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. - 1 Corinthians 3:9-15.
In the Texas panhandle over the last few days there have been wildfires burning at last count nearly 900,000 acres. Eleven people have lost their lives because of the fire and many more injured. Huge numbers of livestock and wildlife have been lost. There is reportedly one major fire still burning in the area but more are expected with the high winds today. Sunday afternoon the closest report of fire to us, just over the state line in Oklahoma, was a little over 20 miles away at Wheeler, Texas. However, by late in the afternoon we could see and smell the smoke. By the time, we gathered for our evening service our sanctuary had smoke inside of it. You might have thought we were in a smoke filled bar! As you would imagine we started our service that night with a season of prayer.
The apostle Paul reveals the result of a Christian living a life focused on worldly things instead of putting first the Kingdom of God. The result is going to be that their work “is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” They will make it into Heaven but you will probably be able to smell the smoke on them.
According to the Gallop Organization’s research 8 in 10 of those living in the United States claim to be Christians. 59% of Americans say that religion is very important to them while 34% say they attend church every week. Another Gallop poll asked these questions: I give my time to help and serve others in my community 34%; My first priority in spending money is to support God’s work 31%; I keep my composure even when circumstances or people irritate me 20%; and I am known for not raising my voice 19%. 47% said they believed it was important to share their faith with others, 52% said they pray for non-Christians to accept Christ as their Savior, and 54% said that they speak words of kindness to those in need.
The poll numbers point to the fact that large numbers of Christians, almost half or more may be in the making it to Heaven smelling of smoke group. Large numbers of Christians or at least those who claim to be Christians are not actually practicing their faith. One particularly troubling answer was that only 28% regularly study the Bible to find direction for their lives.
Life is very fragile and very precious - it is a gift. Eternal life is also a gift. Serving God and living our lives for Him is a gift. It is a wondrous thing that we are allowed the privilege to be “fellow workers” with God.
What is your life building in terms of eternity? Will what you have built with your life still be standing when you enter into Heaven? Or, will it all just be a smoky ruin?
The Eternally Right Way
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints. - Psalm 116:15.
And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. - Hebrews 9:27-28.
And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life. - Philippians 4:3.
I spoke at a funeral service this morning for Justin Davis, a 17-year-old young man who was killed when his friend drove off a dead end and hit a tree. It was tragic but it could have been even more tragic.
When I was 17-years-old I also drove off a dead end with a friend. We were out in the country at one or two in the morning and I was driving. I was going too fast and there was gravel on the roadway so that when I hit the brakes it was like being on ice. There was nothing to do. We did have our lap belts on (They did not have shoulder belts in 1967.). Without the seatbelts we would have went through the windshield and most likely would have been killed. We still hit our heads and then had to walk a few miles in the winter cold to find help.
The night of my accident, our parents did not know where we were and we were not where we should have been. We were not doing what we should have been doing. We both lived but it could have been even more tragic.
The fact is that if I had died that night I would not have gone to Heaven but to that other place. I was a member of a church and I had been baptized. But I did not know Jesus as my personal Savior and Lord. I had never prayed to receive Christ Jesus as my Savior. If I had died that night, it would have been eternally tragic because I would have been forever separated from God.
What did happen to Justin is tragic, terrible, awful, horrific - there are not really words to describe what has happened adequately. However, it could have been even more tragic. Justin could have been in the same shape spiritually that I was in when I was 17-years-old. I was lost and did not know Jesus as my Savior.
Justin was at his great-grandparent’s home on June 14, 2004 and while he was there his great-grandmother, Clara Davis, talked to Justin about his need for salvation. Justin prayed that day to receive Jesus as his Savior and Lord. Of course, Clara is so glad that she talked to Justin about this and she had written it down on her calendar. Something else happened on June 14, 2004. The angels rejoiced in heaven (Luke 15:7). The sins of Justin were wiped away by the blood of Jesus and will be remembered no more (Hebrews 8:12) and, God also wrote down Justin’s name - He wrote his name in the Book of Life (Philippians 4:3).
Justin’s family and friends can rejoice and take comfort in knowing that some day, some day if they too know Jesus as their Savior - they will see Justin again in Heaven. Justin was killed in a terribly, tragic accident but it could have been eternally tragic.
If you have never prayed to receive Christ Jesus as your personal Savior and Lord I want to encourage you to do so even now - this day pray to be saved. Ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins, the bad things you have done. Don’t put it off because none of us know what will happen tomorrow and life is so very fragile and precious. Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Justin chose the eternally right way for his life. I pray that you will too.
1st Last Cry of Jesus from the Cross
There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death. And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” - Luke 23:32-24.
For hundreds, if not thousands, of years prisoners who were to be executed have been allowed the right to utter verbally their last words. Raymond Vasvari, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, in defending this right said, “Under the First Amendment, a prisoner has the right to utter his or her last words. We discovered in our research that this is one of the oldest free-speech rights in the Anglo-American tradition. This right predates basic free press rights by four centuries.” Apparently, Ohio wanted to limit the right of inmates to only written last words. However, the ACLU of Ohio did successfully challenge and the prisoners are allowed to utter their last words verbally. Actually, the condemned have been verbally uttering their last words for almost 2,000 years (and no doubt many, many years before that) as we can see from the statement of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of Luke.
If you look at the last words of famous people, some of those words are serious, some are humorous, and some are just crazy (many lists are available on the Internet). However, you would think that if you were condemned to die a horrific death via crucifixion that your last words would be of a serious nature. You would also think that if those words were the last words of the Son of God that they would be of great importance. I believe those words of Jesus are of vital importance to us all.
The 1st of the seven last cries of Jesus from the cross is, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” First, this prayer of Jesus reveals His nature, His character. It is His nature to forgive. He came to seek and to save that which was lost. He came to provide a way for the lost to be reconciled to a holy and righteous God. This was not, however, a one time prayer. Jesus was continually forgiving because this was His nature.
Second, we see that Jesus knows that we are sinners and that we need a Savior. We may not recognize our own condition or our need but He does. We may not recognize the extent of our wickedness but He does. We may realize that we have sinned but do we realize that it was not only the people shouting, “Crucify” that were responsible for the death of Jesus, but us as well. We did not live 2,000 years ago but we are still sinners and Jesus died for our sins just as surely as He did for the people back then. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity (sins) of us all (Isaiah 53:6).”
Third, we see that this cry of Jesus from the cross requires our decision. When Jesus prayed for forgiveness, did that automatically include everyone? No. If you look back to the prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, we see that it would not include everyone. The prayer on the cross was a continuation of the same prayer of the Garden where Jesus prayed, “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours (John 17:9).” “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word (John 17:20).” In the prayer of the Garden it is clear that not all will have their sins forgiven but only those who believe in Him. Our salvation is not automatic - we must “believe” in Him.
The prayer of Jesus on the cross is an example for us to follow. We are to seek those who are lost - not just some but all that will believe whoever they may be. We too should be willing to extend forgiveness to all. It should be our nature to also be forgiving. Let us follow Him.
For Your Good
When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him.” So they sent messengers to Joseph, saying, “Before your father died he commanded, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph: “I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you.”’ Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, “Behold, we are your servants.” Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. - Genesis 50:15-21.
Donald Batsch (54-years-old) is the owner of the Chester Lane Market in Bakersfield, California. The store was robbed last month (February 2006) and Donald was shot twice. He was shot in the arm and in his abdomen. Instead of being upset about the attack Batsch says, “It was like an act of God that he shot me.” He also said, “I’m not mad at him (The robber).” Of course, we wonder how could that be an act of God? Why would Mr. Batsch say such a thing? Because while they were in surgery for the abdomen wound they found a tumor. The tumor could have gone undetected for a long period of time making successful treatment unlikely. Now Donald will receive treatment and will have a better chance of recovery. Donald says because of the tumor being found that the robber “did me a favor.”
Genesis 50:20 is known as the Romans 8:28 of the Old Testament. Joseph tells his brothers, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” It is an incredible statement considering all that Joseph had been through because of his brothers and certainly none of his brothers would have ever said or thought anything like that. The brothers of Joseph thought that Joseph would now take his revenge upon them after the restraining influence of their father was gone. Why wouldn’t Joseph want revenge? After all, except for one brother they all wanted him dead and would have killed him. They still sold him into slavery where because of refusing to dishonor his God he ended up in prison for many years. For Joseph, however, hindsight is 20/20. He knows that God protected him, cared for him, and raised him to a position of power so that he could do the same for his family during the seven years of famine. They meant it for evil but God used it for much good.
I can look at every bad thing that has happened in my life and see that God has used and is using it for good. That does not mean that I enjoyed or necessarily wanted those things to happen but I understand that through God’s power it has been for my benefit.
Here are a few of those things and situations:
Our youngest son is mentally handicapped - God has used this to allow me to hear His voice more clearly and to be more sensitive and compassionate. God has used Nick in the lives of countless others to do the same.
Struggling financially over a period of years - God taught me to trust that He could provide even when it appeared humanly impossible. I have a greater understanding now of what those with financial problems are going through, a greater compassion, and greater wisdom to help others.
Illness and being hospitalized - Gave me a greater understanding and compassion for those who have to go through something like that. I am a much better pastor now than I was before.
My Mother and Father being unable to care for themselves and others taking advantage of them - Opened my eyes to what so many are going through and have gone through with their parents. Again, I have been allowed to see that God can provide and He has led me through what seemed at one time to be impossible.
I know that many of you have gone through much more difficult things and situations than I have. I pray that you will realize as Joseph did that God can use whatever bad thing or situation that happens for your ultimate good. Remember too that whatever happens, happens in the shadow of the cross, and we can always have the assurance that God loves us.
Life in Reverse
Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. - Jonah 1:1-3.
In Australia, a 23-year-old man has gotten into some trouble because he drove his car in reverse 48 kilometers before he was stopped by police officers. The man had planned to drive an additional 90 kilometers to his home but was prevented from doing so by the officers. He will be charged with “reversing a vehicle further than necessary” along with some other unnamed charges. According to the officers, the man was traveling in reverse gear because it was the only gear that was working in the car. The transmission was almost gone except for the one gear.
Jonah should have been charged with “reversing his life further than necessary.” We can understand why Jonah did not want to evangelize those wicked Ninevites. They were evil people who struck fear into all who encountered or heard about them. The Ninevites would do horrible things like skinning people alive and putting them up on stakes outside of the cities they captured. We would not have wanted to go to Nineveh either. I would not have wanted to go because of the “fear” factor. I would have been a little concerned that they might do the same thing to me. Jonah, however, never indicates that he is afraid of the Ninevites. He instead is just concerned that God will spare His wrath if the people of Nineveh are warned. When this was what God actually did Jonah had this to say to God, “But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the LORD, and said, ‘Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm (Jonah 4:1-2).’”
The good thing that we can say about Jonah is that he did finally get his life out of reverse. Of course, he had to be thrown overboard in a raging storm, be swallowed by a “great fish”, and spend “three days and three nights” in the “belly of the fish” - before he shifted gears. Jonah after his attitude adjustment at the hand of God prayed, “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; and my prayer went up to You, into Your holy temple. Those who regard worthless idols forsake their own Mercy. But I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD (Jonah 2:7-9).”
Jonah is not the only one in the Bible to have lived life in reverse. We have some great examples and some very sad examples. King Saul started well but shifted into reverse and got stuck. King David started out well but did shift into reverse with his adultery and the murder of Bathsheba’s husband Uriah. However, David when confronted with his sin by Nathan the prophet did change gears and we have his great prayer of repentance in Psalm 51. David gives a wonderful example of how to change gears from reverse to forward when he prays, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me (Psalm 51:1-3).“ “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me (Psalm 51:7-10).”
If you have been living your life in reverse you may want to make David’s prayer your prayer. Remember God is still God and He is still capable of giving an attitude adjustment (Hebrews 12:5-11) to His children if it is necessary.
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. - 2 Timothy 4:6-8.
Elke den Ouden has written a thesis at the Technical University of Eindhoven in the Netherlands. In a study, she found that one-half of all products that were returned because of not working actually do work. The problem is that the customer did not know how to operate the product. There is a constant flow of new electronic devices and gadgets being brought into the marketplace from MP3 players to thin screen televisions. It was found that the average person who purchases one of these in the United States would only try for 20 minutes to make it work before they give up. However, even some of the managers of one electronics company when asked to operate their own products were frustrated in trying to make them work properly.
I for one understand the frustration since I am an owner of a MP3 player that I have never been able to operate. I, however, have tried not just for 20 minutes but for several hours to make it work. There is another simpler to operate device called a sledgehammer that I am thinking I may try on my MP3 player. Maybe it will relieve some of my frustration.
We live in an age of instant gratification. We have microwaves for quickly zapping our food. We have televisions with remotes to provide immediate access to entertainment, news and weather. If the television channels do not provide the information we want quickly enough we can use our computers through the Internet to find whatever we want. If it is too cold, we adjust the thermostat. If it is too hot, we adjust the thermostat. Immediate gratification is what we get and what we expect, and the list goes on and on.
This age of instant gratification has invaded our faith. There have even been drive through church services and communion offered by some. We pray and we want the answer right then, not tomorrow, or next week, or next month, or next year. However, we cannot speed up the will of God. We attend church a few times and we instantly want all of our problems to disappear but it does not work that way.
God does not work like an electronic device even when you can operate the device. God has His own timing and His own plans for our lives and often that timing and those plans do not mesh with ours. From the time, that I first heard clearly God’s call for me to preach His Word to the time that I actually began to do so took some eleven years. During those eleven years, I knew what God wanted but there were barriers preventing it from being brought about. I realize now it was a matter of God’s timing and His preparing, training me, for what was to come.
The apostle Paul says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Paul is not talking about an instant faith. The Christian life is a continuing process, which requires our faithfulness, and steadfastness. The Christian life does not happen and will not happen just by attending a 60-minute church service once a week. The Christian life is not an electronic device. It is a labor of love that never ends.
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. - Matthew 6:33.
And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit. - 1 Peter 3:13-18.
Colleen was entrusted with the charity and building maintenance funds of her church in Pennsylvania. Colleen who is 34-years-old apparently had herself in mind as a charity case when thinking of how the funds should be used. She used $325,000 to buy a second house on the beach and to do some maintenance on her body by having breast implants. The good news is that with the help of relatives she was able to make full restitution of the money she embezzled. Colleen now says, “I have been humiliated and very humbled. I wish I could turn back the clock. What I thought was important in life, wasn't.” She told the judge, “I was very dishonest and selfish.” At her sentencing, she asked for forgiveness from the church members present. She was sentenced to two years of house arrest followed by two years of probation along with 750 hours of community service.
Colleen must now suffer for doing evil. As Peter writes it is so much better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. Why did Colleen do what she did? Her attorney claims it was because she has an obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, I know personally people with these disorders and have never known any of them to do anything like this. It does appear that Colleen simply had the wrong priorities in her life. Her primary concern was not for her brothers and sisters in Christ or for their missionary efforts. Instead, as she indicates, she was very selfish and concerned only about herself. A church elder indicated that Colleen’s primary home was in very good shape and that it was a “large, well-kept stone home” as compared to the church facility, which was in need of much repair.
Colleen’s situation is a very sad and extreme example of the result of misplaced priorities. However, she made the choice at some point to begin traveling down the path that led to her ultimately embezzling from her church and to her disgrace. You have to think that at first she was a person who was trusted by the church to have been given control of such a large fund.
Putting the Kingdom of God first in your life is not a one-time thing. No, it is not even a weekly thing. It should be an every day, every hour, every minute, every moment thing that consumes our lives. You may be thinking isn’t that a bit radical? To avoid traveling the wrong paths with our lives does take some radical living. Colleen would most likely tell you that she wishes she had been more radical in her living for the Lord.
Why not take a moment right now to consider the priorities in your life? Are they the priorities that the Lord would want you to have? If not, why not change them now, and get on the right path with your life before it is too late?
Now the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; for he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters. And he called the name of the first Jemimah, the name of the second Keziah, and the name of the third Keren-Happuch. In all the land were found no women so beautiful as the daughters of Job; and their father gave them an inheritance among their brothers. After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children and grandchildren for four generations. So Job died, old and full of days. - Job 42:12-17.
Terry Dresdow who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin was a crime victim, his car was stolen. The 1989 Chevrolet Caprice, Terry owns, was bought used for about $1200 and he used it primarily for transportation to and from work. The car was stolen from Terry’s driveway even though he was using “the club” on the steering wheel. There is, however, a surprising end to this story. The car has been recovered in better shape than it was when it was stolen. It may actually be worth three, or four times more than when it was stolen. The detective that recovered the car, John Davis, said, “Actually, Mr. Dresdow kinda made out on the deal. He got a car back that's probably worth three times what it was when it was stolen.” The car now has a top of the line stereo system with a powerful 1600-watt amplifier, chrome wheels, low profile tires, new paint job, and a keyless entry!
It would be great if all crime victims could be compensated by the perpetrators in a similar way. I once had a pickup stolen, it was eventually recovered but the equipment in the pickup was essential to the oilfield business I had at the time. As a result, several thousand dollars was lost in business during the period the pickup was missing. However, there are much worse things that can happen to you than losing a pickup or a vehicle of any kind.
Wouldn’t it be nice, wonderful, if that whatever bad thing happens to us in life that somehow it would turn out for our good? Wouldn’t it be great if somehow, someway, someday, we would be compensated, or rewarded so that we would rarely even think about the bad things that have happened to us? That may be exactly what God has planned.
Job experienced the ultimate nightmare with the death of his children and the loss of most of his possessions. That devastation was followed by a terrible disease with sores covering his body. However, the ultimate outcome was that Job recovered and to some extent was restored from this nightmare. Job was blessed with additional children, riches, and a long, long life.
I believe we can look at the experience of Job as being figurative. We too have a terrible disease, the disease of sin (Romans 3:23: Romans 6:23). Because of the disease of sin, bad things can and do happen to us while we walk upon this earth. However, someday there will come a time of restoration and that restoration, that healing; will be far beyond anything this present world can offer. That glorious day will come when we arrive in the presence of Jesus in Heaven. “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away (Revelation 21:4).” Then we will fully understand the truth of Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
A Forest Burner
These six things the LORD hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: a proud look, a LYING tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who SPEAKS LIES, and one who sows discord among brethren. - Proverbs 6:16-19.
Do not LIE to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him. - Colossians 3:9-10.
SEE HOW GREAT A FOREST A LITTLE FIRE KINDLES! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. - James 3:5b-6.
According to a survey conducted by CareerBuilder.com nineteen percent of employees, admit to lying on the job at least once a week. Twenty-four percent of supervisors say they have fired someone for lying and, fifteen percent of the employees surveyed said they had been caught in a lie while at work.
Some of the top reasons given for lying were:
To appease a customer;
To cover up a failed project, mistake or missed deadline; To explain an unexcused absence or late arrival;
to protect another employee; and,
To get another employee in trouble or look better in front of a supervisor.
Here are some of the top lies that employees use:
I don’t know how that happened;
I have another call to take or I’ll call you right back;
I’ve been out of town or out sick;
I like your outfit or you look great; and,
I didn’t get your email, voicemail or fax.
Rosemary Haefner, Vice President of Human Resources at CareerBuilder.com sums it up by saying, “It may seem cliché, but honesty is the best policy. Even if you are motivated by the best of intentions, being deceitful can seriously compromise your credibility with colleagues and negatively impact your career progress. The vast majority of hiring managers – 85 percent – say they are less likely to promote an employee who has lied to them or other members of the organization.” (CareerBuilder.com is the nation’s largest online job site with more than 20 million unique visitors and over 1 million jobs.)
It has also been reported recently about the large number of people who lie or deceive on their resumes. David Edmondson, former Radio Shack CEO is perhaps one of the most glaring examples having stated on his resume that he had two college degrees when he had none. Edmondson confesses, “I clearly misstated my academic record, and the responsibility for these misstatements is mine alone.” What a public humiliation that must have been! A mistake that will now always follow him in his life.
In the movie “Liar Liar”, Fletcher Reede, (played by Jim Carrey), is suddenly unable to tell a lie. As a result, his life as he knows it falls apart, however, in the end he learns to be a better father and that he really does not have to lie. I have wondered what would happen if no one could lie to someone else? What would happen to you at work if you were no longer able to lie about anything even little white lies? What would happen in your marriage and in every relationship you have if you were unable lie?
As the apostle Paul relates in the letter to the Colossians we are to put off our old way of living. That old way of living includes lying. We are instead to live in the “image of Him who created” us. Paul states in Romans 8:29, “For whom He foreknew (All those who have received or will receive Christ Jesus as their Savior.), He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” The next time you are tempted to tell a lie or deceive think about the image of Christ Jesus. There is no room for lies or deception in that image and you are called to be conformed to that image. You are to be like Him, predestined to be like Him. Isn’t it time to start acting like it?
We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you (We are bringing you GOOD NEWS - NIV) that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them. - Acts 14:15.
And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching (proclaiming the GOOD NEWS - NIV) Jesus as the Christ. - Acts 5:42.
How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things! (who bring GOOD NEWS! - NIV)” - Romans 10:14-15.
We all want to have good, nice, positive things to be said about us but would we be willing to pay for it? Last year the Newark City Council decided they would be willing to pay for positive things to be said about their city. The council awarded a $100,000 contract to the Newark Weekly News to publish positive news about their city. The paper will work with Newark’s public information officer to develop stories to spread the good news about the city. Of course, some are critical of using tax dollars in this way. John O’Brien who is the executive director of the New Jersey Press Association said, “The press role is supposed to be that of a watchdog.”
We would all like to hear some good news, however, the bad news keeps pouring in upon us. The news for just today is bad enough: Consulate attacked in Pakistan with four dead, Latest violence in Iraq kills 36, Fires in Oklahoma and arson suspected, Serial killers kill more in the US, Meth may be involved in killing of a girl, and on and on. It is like that every day, day in and day out we are saturated with the bad news, the terrible news, the horrific news.
Even though life and the news may appear bleak at times, there is GOOD NEWS! The GOOD NEWS is that God loved us so much (John 3:16) that He came down from the glories of Heaven and suffered and died a horrific death so that all those who receive Him as their Savior might have eternal life. The GOOD NEWS is that some bright and shining day if we know Jesus as our Savior we will wake up in Heaven and find that the bad news has finally come to an end.
How do we make it through day after day of bad news here on Planet Earth where bad things occur so frequently and often happen to us personally? We make it by focusing in on the GOOD NEWS of Jesus. That is what the writer of the book of Hebrews tells us to do in Hebrews 12:2-3, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.”
We MUST Pray
Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: “There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’ And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, ‘Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.’” Then the Lord said, “Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. - Luke 18:1-8a.
Have you ever talked to your car? I have to confess that I have talked to a car before when it didn’t do what I thought it ought to do. Such as when the car wouldn’t start or it left me stranded on the side of the road. Maybe my car would have performed better if I had given words of encouragement and lavished praise on my car as nearly half (47%) of those in Britain are reported to do. At the beginning of a trip, those car owners that speak to their vehicles are said to give verbal encouragement to their cars and when they are at the end of their trip, they give the vehicle praise. A survey has reported that 40 per cent of car owners in Britain believe their car has a personality and 19 per cent were even concerned about the feelings of their car. Maybe they have watched “Herbie, the Love Bug” too many times?
I do have a suggestion for what to do instead of giving encouragement to a vehicle before started on a trip and what to do upon ending a trip. Instead of talking to your car, talk to God. Ask God for your vehicle to perform well and for protection during the trip and the day. Upon ending the trip, give praise not to the car but to God. In “Experiencing God” Henry Blackaby tells of how with a car in poor condition he drove hundreds of miles to mission churches. He says that the car was prayed there and back each time.
Of course, prayer should be at the forefront of things to do every day. The apostle Paul did say in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 that we should “pray continually (NIV)” (“pray without ceasing” - KJV and NKJV). In Luke 18:1 the phrase “ought to pray” does not quite communicate the emphasis that should be on prayer. “Ought to” should be translated as “must” and then the phrase would be rendered, as “they must always pray.”
The parable in Luke 18 that Jesus relates is an encouragement to never give up on prayer. We have been in a drought in the area where I live and we are praying for rain. The rain needed to break the drought has not yet come. However, you must not give up in praying whether for rain or for other areas of life because even Elijah had to pray seven times before a cloud the size of a man’s fist was seen (1 Kings 18:42-45).
We have been given a great privilege to enter into the presence of the thrice holy (Revelation 4:8) and One true God (Hebrews 4:15-17) when we pray in the Name of Jesus (John 16:23). Remember we not only “ought to pray” but we “must” pray. Also, the next time you watch “Herbie the Love Bug” remember it is… just a movie.
Copyright © 1998 - 2006. Ed Wrather. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for use of this material on a non-profit basis with source noted.
Copyright © 1998 - 2006. Ed Wrather. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for use of this material on a non-profit basis with source noted.