Running Over Yourself
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 12:2.
Martin Loechmeyer (36 years old) of Graz, Austria had a little problem on his way to the highway. His car ran over him. Of course the car had a little help. Martin started his car but then remembered he had forgotten his cell phone and went back into the house for it. When he came back outside he was shocked to see his car rolling down the driveway toward the busy highway. Martin thinking quickly ran in front of the rolling car and threw himself onto the hood. But he slid under the car and the car broke three of his ribs and caused some leg injuries. The car? It eventually crashed into a tree a few hundred feet from the driveway.
There probably was some humor after reflection on the thought of trying to actually stop a rolling car weighing some two thousand pounds or so. Maybe Martin will be able to laugh about this in a year or so after he gets well (or maybe not!). When we ignore God’s warnings it is just like throwing ourselves in front of a moving car to be run over. It will hurt! It will cause damage! It is completely avoidable!
God makes it clear over and over that to live in a way that the “world” would have us to live is just asking for trouble. As the apostle Paul writes we should “not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world.” Instead we should allow our lives to be transformed by the Word of God and the resources of God. Then we will see the good and perfect will of God be fulfilled in our lives.
It really is a clear choice, not an easy choice but a clear choice that we have. We can do what the world and the flesh wants and get run over or we can do what God wants and see His amazing, wondrous, marvelous will be brought about in our lives. Before you throw yourself in front of any more cars it just might be the time to think about the choice that you have and the consequences of what you choose.
In His Name
No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. - John 15:15.
Then the King will say to those on His right hand, "Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.' - Matthew 25:34-36.
For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward. - Mark 9:41.
In 1998 we visited Capitola, California where I preached one Sunday at a church there. While there we were encouraged to visit Santa Cruz just north of Capitola and to visit the campus of the University of California at Santa Cruz. From the campus of UC at Santa Cruz there is beautiful view and we did enjoy it. However, getting there was another story. The traffic is horrendous for someone not used to much traffic and having never driven in that area before. I am not sure how I managed to do it even now but I broke three or four traffic laws in the space of about five seconds. Even though the traffic had been terrible there was not a car around in any direction when I managed to become mass traffic law violator. However there was a California Highway Patrol Motorcycle Officer present and watching.
The Officer did immediately stop us and his first statement after looking at my license was “you must be either confused or lost.” I immediately confessed that I was lost and was trying to find the University. He paused for a moment and said, “My very best friend in the whole world is from Oklahoma.” He warned me about being more cautious driving and about what the fines for my violations would have cost and then sent us on our way without even a warning ticket. Because he said “My very best friend in the whole world is from Oklahoma.” I wish I knew the officer’s name so I could thank him again but maybe he will read this devotional sometime. I have been thinking about this incident for several years and knew that there was a message from God in it somewhere (In addition to being more careful driving which it has surely caused me to be.). It finally came to me yesterday.
If we know Jesus as our Savior we are His friends and He in reality is our very best friend of all. Every good and positive thing that we do here on Earth should be done in the Name of our very best friend, Jesus. So, the next time you do that good deed you might mention that your very best friend in the whole world is the reason for your actions. And be sure to tell them the Name of your friend.
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. - Romans 12:9-21.
We’ve all heard the old saying “like a bull in a china shop.” It actually happened in Lancaster, England! The bull escaped from a livestock auction next door to an antique shop. It injured a woman on its rampage from the auction to the shop (She was not seriously injured.). In the shop the bull was eventually trapped among some large furnishings and he was shot. A police spokesman said, “After speaking with the bull’s owner it was decided the bull posed a risk to public safety and it was unwise for attempts to be made to capture the animal. A decision was made that the bull should be destroyed.” Unfortunately the bull destroyed much antique china before it was put to death.
I may be wrong but I think the origin of the word “bully” must have come from observing the characteristics of a bull. Having grown up on a farm I can tell you that it is unwise to antagonize a bull. It is also unwise to try to “bully” a bull. Usually when you harass, antagonize, or try to force a bull to do something (unless it has been pampered and hand fed since it was a calf) it only makes the behavior of the bull worse. That’s what the people in the Lancaster antique shop observed at the very end of the bull’s rampage. Obviously the bull was upset about being taken out of its pastoral environment being pushed and prodded and this bull was not used to being pushed around. The more they chased the bull the more he ran until cornered in the shop.
People who are “bullies” sometimes (but not always) act in a similar fashion. In fact I think that some bullies enjoy it when someone antagonizes them so that they have an excuse to go on a rampage. Of course some bullies don’t need an excuse they are just always looking for someone to pick on. Some bulls are like that too and that’s why unless you know the nature of the bull you don’t enter the pasture or lot where one is located because he may have just been looking for some fun.
How do you handle the ugly downright mean bullies? You can’t handle them, you can’t change them by fighting back because that’s what they live and breathe - that’s what they are hoping to find around every corner. No, you need a different approach and in fact it is a Biblical approach. Try some love, kindness, tenderness, and goodness. That bull might have come peacefully if everyone had backed off a little and someone had fed him his favorite tasty treat. It works the same way with some of the mean ole’ human bullies.
The apostle Paul has the formula for taming the meanest and most ornery bully. He sums it all up by saying, “overcome evil with good.” The next time that mean ole’ bully goes on a rampage - try it!
The Heavy Pile
Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. - I Peter 5:7.
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. - Matthew 11:28-30.
I do love books but maybe not as much as a teacher in Croatia. DK is a 60-year-old math teacher living in Zagreb. DK’s wife had been in the hospital and she became concerned that he had not been to visit her in three days. She called their neighbors who then heard “muffled groans” coming from the apartment. The police found DK trapped under a pile of books in his bedroom. Which makes one wonder how many books it took to trap him?
Most likely you are not trapped under a pile of books and never will be but it may be that something else has you trapped. Are you trapped under a pile of problems? Worries? Concerns? Anxieties? Pain? Heartache? Have your burdens slowed your life to a standstill? Are you having more and more difficulty just taking care of the normal daily routines of life? It may be that you have been trapped under a pile of life’s burdens.
Notice when Jesus says for those who are heavy ladened to come to Him that he does not condemn them. He also does not offer a lecture about how foolish it was for them to become so burdened. What Jesus does is offer relief. He offers to lighten your load and it is free! There are no strings except that of having Jesus as a traveling companion along life’s road. Without Jesus there can be no relief but with Him the burden is transferred to Him. Why would Jesus be willing to do this? Because as the apostle Peter notes “He cares for you.” You may have never cared for God but He still “cares for you.”
Is the pile of worries and problems growing larger and larger and more and more likely to fall? Has the pile of worries and problems fallen on you and the weight is pressing you further and further down? Call to Jesus and ask Him to lighten your load. Cast your cares and burdens upon Him and He will give you rest.
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me." In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes. - I Corinthians 11:23-26.
Today in the United States is Memorial Day. Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day when the nation’s war dead were remembered and graves were decorated with flowers. Even before the end of the Civil War the graves of those who died in the south were being decorated and remembered. Memorial Day was first officially observed on May 30, 1868 when flowers were placed on the graves of Confederate and Union soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The day is celebrated in almost every state now on the last Monday in May. Instead of flowers there are now flags being placed on the graves of those who served the U.S. Military. However, even with a national Memorial Day many believe that there are a vast number in the United States who do not know and understand about the traditions of this day or even why it is observed. On Memorial Day we mourn the loss of loved ones, remember their lives, and are thankful for their sacrifice.
As Christians we have a most important event to remember - the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus on the cross almost 2,000 years ago. Our Lord prior to His crucifixion instituted one of the ordinances of the church in order that we might not forget. The Lord’s Supper or Communion is observed in all Christian denominations as commanded by Jesus. It is a vivid picture and reminder of the cost of the sacrifice of Jesus. As we observe the Lord’s Supper we should morn the loss, the great cost of God’s Son dying in our place, we should remember how Jesus lived His life, and rejoice in the salvation given to all those who believe in Jesus as their personal Savior.
Why did Jesus have to die? Because as Romans 3:23 says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and the wages for those sins is death (Romans 6:23a). What should have happened to us because of our sins is death, eternal death. But Jesus came to give us life providing a way for us to escape this eternal death sentence as Paul writes in Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
As we observe the Lord’s Supper we should remember that the crucifixion of Jesus was undeserved in that Jesus lived a perfect life. The writer of Hebrews says, “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 (Hebrews 4:15).”
Finally as we observe the Lord’s Supper we should rejoice in this great salvation given to us at such great cost. “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (I Corinthians 15:57).”
The Lord’s Supper/Communion is observed at varying frequencies by different denominations and churches. However, as ransomed saints of God we should always have upon our hearts and minds the great sacrifice and salvation given freely to us by our God through Jesus. We should never let a day go by without remembering and thanking Him for what He has done. For the Christian every day should be a Memorial Day.
He Gave His Life
This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you. - John 15:12-16.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5:8.
Jennette Smith has a friend to thank for saving her life. Jennette was hiking with three other friends about 15 miles southeast of Salt Lake City in Big Cottonwood Canyon where Seth Buhr, 22, heroically saved her life. The group was taking a break beside a waterfall when two of Jennette and Buhr’s friends noticed a shift in the rocks. They yelled to warn them and in response Seth pushed Smith out of the way and into a pool saving her life. But Seth gave his own life as the boulder crashed into him crushing him. His friends were unable to move the boulder and a rescue crew had to use ropes and pulleys to lift the boulder before Buhr’s body could be removed. One of the hiker’s Peggy Faulkner said, “She’d have been killed. He saved her life. Just a freaky accident. Nobody was above the rock. It’s scary stuff, nature.”
How would you react if you were Jennette Smith? A friend has died, taking your place and there is no doubt that you would have died if not for his heroic actions. Most likely you would have undying gratitude and love for the friend who has given you life at the expense of his own. There would be no way to ever repay this act of love except perhaps to live your life in such a way as to bring honor to your friend. Surely you would not want to waste your life, which you are now living at the cost of another’s. Now, you would know how valuable your life is and you would want your life to mean something and to bring good into this world. How could you ever forget the price that has been paid for you to have life? You would never forget and would always remember being grateful and thankful forever.
The substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross is incomprehensible to the mind of man because He did not give His life for a friend but for His enemies. As the Bible says in Romans 5:8 Jesus gave His life while “we were still sinners.” If sinners, then we were opposed to the holiness of God and if opposed to the absolute holiness of God we were His enemies. Who would die for their enemy? Even though incomprehensible to our minds it is still true and we accept it by faith.
Knowing at what great cost we have been given eternal life how much more should we want to honor the memory of the One who has given His life for us. We can never repay this act of heroism, this act of sacrifice but certainly we should want to live our lives in such a way as to bring honor to His Name. Is this how you have been living your life?
Kick Him Out!
These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. - I Corinthians 2:13-14.
Caroll Spinney is Big Bird or at least he is the man inside Big Bird. Caroll says, “I’ll have people meet me on the street with their 3-year-old and they’ll say, ‘Do you know who this is? There’s a man inside Big Bird and this is the man.’ This is bad news to a child.” Spinney has been the man inside Big Bird for 30 years.
I’m sure it is shocking to a little child to suddenly realize there is not actually a “Big Bird” i.e. a species of big bird; but it is only a man made thing. When I was four years old I saw a talking tree on TV and I was convinced for months that some trees could talk even though my mother and sister tried to change my mind.
There is an amazing spiritual fact that at first I found hard to believe. Every person has another person inside of them. There is the “natural man” and there is the Holy Spirit. Now the “natural man” is not an actual spiritual person as is the Holy Spirit but represents the fleshly worldly nature that controls us before we have salvation through Jesus. As the apostle says in I Corinthians, “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him.”
Compare the “natural man” to the person of the Holy Spirit which indwells/abides within all true believers. Paul says of the Holy Spirit, “But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God (I Corinthians 2:10-12).”
If you find it hard to understand the truths of the Kingdom of God it may be that you are still groping in darkness and that the “natural man” is still in charge. Even after salvation we have a choice to make as to whether we will allow our natural nature to control us or whether we will seek the things of the Spirit (Romans 8:5-6). Is the “natural man” making your life miserable? If so kick him out! Invite the Holy Spirit in through Jesus and live in “accordance with the Spirit” and you will have “life and peace.” Then you will be able to see and understand clearly the “things that have been freely given to us by God.”
And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything. - Luke 15:13-16.
A German medical worker while assisting patients on an ambulance was found to be robbing helpless patients on their way to the hospital. Several patients did report items being stolen and all of the thefts occurred on one 21-year-old man’s shift. A trap was set for the man and he was caught and arrested. The man did confess to stealing from six patients and according to a Munich Police spokesperson, “He said that he was short of money.”
How did the ambulance robber and the prodigal son arrive at their pathetic situations? It was a gradual process. It may have been one key event that triggered the downward spiral but once triggered the spiral was more and more down into the morass of rebellion against God.
Several words are used to describe the word “pathetic” in the dictionary: affecting, distressing, emotional, emotive, heartbreaking, heart-rending, lamentable, moving, piteous, pitiable, pitiful, plaintive, poignant, sad, stirring, touching, tragic. The words that best describe for me the ambulance robber and the prodigal son are “pitiful, sad, and tragic.” Their situation is pitiful, sad, and tragic because it didn’t have to be that way. Instead of being in a downward spiral they could have been in an upward spiral. We know the prodigal son eventually came to his senses and returned home to his father with an humble spirit. I pray the ambulance robber may someday come to his senses as well.
Are you in a pathetic condition or situation? God is the answer to whatever that condition or situation may be. Will you come to your senses and realize that you need God? Will you come to your senses and take advantage of the resources of God? So many people whine that God did this or did that to them or that God won’t do this or that. However, so many times those people are the ones who hardly ever go to church, or open up the Bible to read and study it, or spend more than a very few moments in prayer. If we will return to our Father, spend time with Him, and serve Him we will find that instead of a downward spiral we are in an upward spiral.
For You have been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, A refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat; for the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall. - Isaiah 25:4.
Here in Sweetwater, Oklahoma some of us feel like we have under attack with two tornadoes in a month’s time. One tornado did the most damage at the school and the second tornado destroyed houses and barns in a large swath sweeping west to east and then north. When hearing a weatherman warning of an approaching storm we all pay much closer attention then we would have only a few weeks ago. Our memories of past storms seem to dim with time and our response to the storm warnings slow along with our memories. But we in tornado alley are not the only ones needing an occasional reminder of the power of the storm.
We are thankful for advanced technology and the diligence and bravery of many storm spotters who provide us with an earlier warning than was possible in the past. Most likely there would have been deaths and serious injuries in Sweetwater if not for the warning system now available to us.
The most deadly tornado (F5 on the Fujita Scale) to hit Oklahoma came on April 9, 1947 in Woodward. The tornado began near Canadian, Texas and while moving toward the northeast stayed on the ground for about 100 miles ending up west of Alva, Oklahoma. It was a huge tornado 1.8 miles in width moving at about 50 miles per hour. Glazier and Higgins, Texas were first devastated by the storm with 69 deaths in Texas before reaching Oklahoma. While missing many towns on the way to Woodward the tornado did strike and destroy buildings on 60 ranches and farms with 8 people being killed and 42 injured. In Woodward over 1000 homes and businesses were destroyed and 107 people died and there were about 1000 other injuries.
In part because of the Woodward tornado and also because of other storms the Weather Bureau in 1953 instituted a tornado watch and warning program. In five decades we have gone from having very little storm detection and warning to having weathermen on TV with some of the most advanced radar available. We can also look at different radar sites on the Internet when information is not available on TV or radio.
With advance warning and advanced knowledge of the dangers of tornadoes most people do try to find shelter in storm shelter, basement, safe room or an inner room or hallway. But strangely enough some even when warned still ignore the storm believing they are somehow invincible or that the odds are that they will not be hit. In the past I have heard people speak contemptuously of those who go to a storm shelter as going to their “fraidy hole.” Personally, when I know a storm possibly containing a tornado is headed for me I’m going to the cellar if there is one for me to go to! God may very well protect me but why tempt God (Matthew 4:7)?
There is another storm, which is sweeping across this world. It is a spiritual storm of sin and destruction. We have advance warning and we have advanced knowledge about the devastating effects of sin. We can ignore those warnings and see how close we can get to the storm of sin. If we do there may very well come a time when the storm we are admiring will destroy us just like the Woodward tornado destroyed so many. It does not have to be that way. There is a place of refuge from the storm. God, through Jesus Christ is that refuge. He is the only refuge. Please don’t ignore the storm warnings!!
Then Peter opened his mouth and said: "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ - He is Lord of all. - Acts 10:34-36.
…but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God. - Romans 2:10-11.
But from those who seemed to be something - whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man - for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me. - Galatians 2:6.
A study has been released which was conducted at the University of Oslo indicating there is partiality with sentencing of criminals. The apparent partiality is based on a person’s appearance but in this study those surveyed did not actually see a photo but read the words “handsome” and “pretty” describing the person to be sentenced. The five hundred university students surveyed were harsher in their sentences for individuals when the words “handsome” and “pretty” were not used in descriptions of those to be sentenced. Criminals with an appearance that was described as “handsome” or “pretty” would have received sentences 20% lighter if they were actually sentenced by the students. In more severe crimes like murder the more attractive had a 10% advantage. Per Schioldborg who is a psychology professor at the University said, “We put in a simple word and found that the attractiveness stereotype was activated.”
It is a fact of life in most societies that the attractive individual has many advantages including advantages in regard to employment, educational placement, social life, and more. We as human beings have a natural inclination to be partial in our relationships and interactions with others over a broad spectrum. Most of us have been on the receiving end of one form or another of partiality by others. Usually such partiality when experienced in the negative is not very pleasant and sometimes affects people for life.
The good news is that God is not a respecter of persons or that has partiality based on certain qualities that a person may or not have. Luke records this in the Book of Acts and Paul observes that this is true of God in his letters to the Romans and Ephesians. But there is even more good news in that God can supernaturally remove our prejudice or discriminatory partiality from us. We see this happening with Peter who Luke records has his heart changed about the Gospel being for Gentiles (those not Jewish) as well as for the Jew. The Scriptures record only one relapse for Peter (Galatians 2:12) but he was confronted about this by Paul and it appears God once again convicted Peter about this issue.
Do you have partiality toward some individuals over others? Do you harbor prejudice in your heart toward those who may be different from you? Allow God to change your heart!
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. - Romans 8:28.
Before I was old enough to have a driver’s license my parents had bought by grandfather’s car for me to have when I turned sixteen years old. On my first trip by myself after receiving my driver’s license I had a shocking experience. While driving at 40 to 50 miles per hour on a two lane unmarked country road with no shoulders I decided I would light a cigarette. I pushed in the cigarette lighter and while reaching for a pack of cigarettes swerved off the road into the ditch nearly turning over and then swerved back on to the roadway. No damage was done to my car but a message had been communicated to me which I believe now came from God. As a result of that incident I never again tried to light up a cigarette in a car and it was the beginning of the end of my smoking.
Almost having a severe accident is a frightening thing but out of the almost accident that I had God has brought much good. Some of those things are obvious and some are not so obvious. The most obvious was that I never again tried to smoke a cigarette in a car. Also, as a result of the connection of cigarettes to the almost accident in my mind I rarely smoked after that time and stopped completely after I graduated from high school. Some not so obvious good things that resulted are that I moved from being risk taker to being a more cautious person. Also the crowd of individuals that I associated with began to change from those who were risk takers to those who were more cautious. Most likely my life has been extended by many years as a result of my almost accident which God allowed me to have those many years ago.
Before we become depressed or angry with God about things or circumstances, which occur in our lives there are some things as Christians, we should consider. We should consider the spiritual ramifications of those incidents and circumstances. Is it possible that in the long term there will be personal spiritual benefits as a result of the incident or circumstance? Is it possible that in the long term there will be spiritual benefits for others as a result of the incident or circumstance? If those benefits are not immediately discernable ask God to reveal how He may bring good from the incident or circumstance.
Once we have identified the possible spiritual benefits from the bad things or circumstances that occur in our lives we will then be much better prepared to walk with God through those things. Always remember that God loves you and wants the very best for your life and that no matter how bad something may be God can bring good from it. The key to His bringing about the good is our loving Him and seeking His will and purpose to be brought about in our lives.
No Longer Two
And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate." - Matthew 19:4-6.
Again, do you think that we excuse ourselves to you? We speak before God in Christ. But we do all things, beloved, for your edification. For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults; lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced. - 2 Corinthians 12:19-21.
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.
In Britain, a very upset man made what he thought was an emergency call to the police. He dialed “999” furiously and demanded urgent help, because his wife was too busy decorating to cook dinner! The man actually told the emergency operator, “My wife's left me with two salmon sandwiches which was left over from last night, and I'm sat in the chair here, and she's out there decorating. She won't put any food on or anything for anybody.” The man was told that it really wasn’t an emergency because his wife wouldn’t cook dinner.
It may be, that this was not the first time that the man in Britain had demanded his dinner. We have to wonder if he is always demanding something from his wife, and the point has finally been reached where she no longer responds to his demands. It is difficult enough for marriages to survive, even when both the husband and the wife are working to make it succeed. But when one spouse, the husband or the wife, is not making any effort, it spells disaster for the relationship. Of course, some marriages continue on in name only like the one in Britain appears to be, while others are officially dissolved in divorce court.
The apostle Paul is talking to Christians in general in the church at Cornith, but he could have been talking to married couples. What he says is just as necessary in the marriage relationship. For a marriage to survive and thrive, the "contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults” must be overcome and put aside. The husband and the wife are to become one. When a spouse is contentious, jealous, wrathful, selfish, backbiting etc. toward the other, it is simply hurting themselves. It is like stabbing yourself in the back to be hateful and hurtful toward your spouse.
For the marriage to thrive, there must be this ability to overlook little slights and hurts. Instead of repaying pain for pain, hurt for hurt, we must instead give love (1 Corinthians 13). Love has a way of overcoming the problems, the difficulties, and the frustrations that arise in a relationship. Without that kind of love, an overcoming love that loves no matter what, the relationship is doomed to failure.
If your marriage has devolved, into something similar to the one in Britain or worse, it is time for a time out. Ask your pastor or a marriage counselor to referee while the issues that have accumulated over the years can be addressed. Remember your spouse is not the enemy. He or she is you, because you both, are one in the eyes of God. It is in the best interests of both the husband and the wife to sort things out, renew their love, and move forward with life.
A Radical Choice
You have heard that it was said to those of old, "You shall not commit adultery. But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 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. - Matthew 5:27-30.
Aron Ralston is a mountain climber who has faced adversity in the past. Just a few months before his latest test from nature he survived an avalanche that buried him and two friends on a Colorado mountain. Aron on a Saturday went hiking into Blue John Canyon in Shadowlands National Park in Utah. As Aron was descending into the canyon an 800 to 1000 pound boulder fell crushing his arm and pinning him. By Tuesday he had run out of water and on Thursday he decided the only way to escape was to amputate his own arm. Aron cut off his arm below the elbow with a pocketknife. He than rappelled down a cliff and walked a few miles before flagging down a vacationing Dutch couple who called for help. Aron is expected to recover from his ordeal. Sgt Mitch Vetere of the Emery County Sheriff’s Office in Green River, Utah said, “He’s pretty darn tough. He wanted to live. He saved himself.”
Jesus talks of cutting off your hand or plucking out your eye if they cause you to succumb to temptation. Most commentators do not believe Jesus was speaking in literal terms. Most Christians and churches have not interpreted this as being literal either because we do not have eye plucking services or right hand removal services. But Jesus in these vivid statements relates very powerfully the need to protect ourselves from the ravages of sin even when there is great personal cost involved.
Aron Ralston did save his life but it was at a great cost. However, it was the only choice Aron could see that he had if he wanted to continue living. If you are addicted to the use of illegal substances it may be that to save your life you will have to make a radical choice. You may need to ask someone to help you and then enter a treatment program for a substantial length of time. To do such a thing may be like cutting off your arm but if you want to have life it must be done. If you have other addictions the only way to be free of them will be through a radical change in your life. It just depends on whether or not you want to really have life or just go through the motions of living.
If you decide that you are going to make that radical change in your life you will not be alone. Jesus will be with you and will empower you to make the right choices that are needed. As the apostle Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).” Through the power of God you will be able to make the radical decisions and changes necessary to be free of your addiction. Aron Ralston wanted to live - do you?
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. - I John 5:14-15.
In recognition of today being the National Day of Prayer in the United States I want to share with you a story about prayer from the beginnings of this country. My wife’s three great grandfather Samuel Robinson Evans wrote a nine-page narrative of his father’s (James Evans) service during the Revolutionary War. One particular story speaks powerfully of the value of prayer and God’s ability in accordance with His will to protect His children. Here is the story as it was written:
“In the biography of General Lincoln you will find an account of the attempt to hang a soldier by the name of Ficklin and his miraculous escape. Father was one of the guards on duty that occasion….”
“On the morning that Ficklin was to be hung he told the guards that his savior came to him in the night and told him he should not be hung. They took him out to a stooping tree and the rope was tied to the limb or tree. Then two men raised up Ficklin, and the officer put the rope around his neck. At a signal the men let loose and Ficklin fell on his feet unhurt. He says the rope untwisted. The cry for mercy was very great but the adjutant who had control ordered him to be a second time haltered. Ficklin was a second time haltered and again the rope broke without hurting him in the least.”
“Here Father says he never saw such a sudden flash of mutiny with any preconsent. The thing as he expressed it was terrible. Muskets and bayonets rattled, the guard gathered the adjutant with their guns presented at him and swore that if Ficklin was not pardoned instantly there should not be a commanding officer in one hour. The Adjutant begged time to gallop to headquarters as he had it not in his power to pardon him. He was permitted to do so by promising to bring his pardon which he did.”
“After I moved to Georgia, I became acquainted with John Neilly…He stated he was present and likewise corroborated Father’s tale most minutely and gave me further particulars respecting the affair…. Mr. Neilly says Ficklin was a very religious young man and had been several days on the sick list and had retired some little distance from the camp to pray when he found some wild greens…. He would retire every day to the same place to pray and to gather some greens. A soldier who had been watching him accused him of attempting to desert to the British camp then only two miles apart on the opposite side of the river. The order was struck.”
“Mr. Neilly also states that two weeks after the transaction (the attempted hanging) the same man who had sworn against Ficklin was accused and found to be guilty of being a British spy and he says he saw him hung and heard him confess he had sworn Ficklins life away wrongfully. Ficklins was again suffered to join the army and continued in it till the end of the war; and in the year 1840 was still living in the state of Georgia.”
“I have lengthened the record on this case you may think to an unreasonably long one, but you will excuse me when I inform you it was done with a view to call to your mind the great miraculous power of divine providence, and that you may rank this as one of the most striking interpositions of providence perhaps you will ever become acquainted with. You see the substance of what I write as I said before in the biography of General Lincoln which I request you all to read and meditate on the infinite goodness of God for although he seldom shows such miracles, he is always able to protect us.”
Run For Your Life!
Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. - I Corinthians 10:8-13.
In West Virginia a 19-year-old young woman tried to be safe by parking on the side of the road to make a cell-phone call. However, where she parked was on a railroad track and as a result a train struck her car. Her car was shoved off of that track and onto another track where she was hit by another train. Thankfully, she did survive this ordeal.
Life has a way of giving us some twists and turns along the way. We may believe we are perfectly safe when suddenly disaster strikes just as suddenly as it did for the young woman in West Virginia. Spiritually we must always be on guard because temptations abound and take many forms. We must not believe that we have ever arrived at a point where we are above the reach of every type and form of temptation. Paul tells us to remember those who have fallen in the past so that we will not make the same mistakes.
Whatever the temptation that comes our way there has always been some form of it around in the past. What we are facing with the technology of the 21st century are different forms of the same temptations. The temptations of today can be overcome in the same way they were overcome in the past. To overcome these temptations we must find the way of escape. God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear and with the temptation there will be a way out. It is unlikely that we will ever be spiritual enough to withstand some temptations but we can escape. If there is a way of escape be sure that God would have you escape and not to sin. There is no dishonor in running from sin. There is no dishonor in fleeing temptation. If you are being tempted and there is a way of escape take it before it is too late. Don’t sit on the side of the road and wait for the train to hit you. Run for your life!
The Physical Body
For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. - I Timothy 4:8.
Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. - I Corinthians 3:16-17.
Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. I Corinthians 6:19-20.
After her husband died Maggie Smith and her two children (both adults) filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Dr. Franklin Price. Mrs. Smith and her children did not believe that Dr. Price had done enough to try to help Lawrence Smith to avoid serious health problems. Mr. Smith was only 54 years old when he died from a heart attack. Mr. Smith was a long-time smoker, overweight, had a poor diet, did very little to exercise, had diabetes, high cholesterol and was under substantial stress at his place of employment. The Smith family won a $1.2 million judgment against Dr. Price. This was in spite of the poor health condition of Mr. Smith and his bad habits and in spite of the fact that Dr. Price had repeatedly admonished Mr. Smith about his need for better health habits.
As Christians we tend to concentrate on the spiritual and our responsibilities in that realm. However, if we are to be good stewards of all that God has entrusted to our care we must also be concerned with our physical bodies. The condition of our physical body impacts every other aspect of our life including the spiritual.
There are several reasons why as Christians we should take care of our physical bodies. We should properly care for our physical bodies because without that care our physical lives will end prematurely before our time. If our lives end prematurely we will not be able to do all that we should do here on earth before going to be with our Lord. A good example is Lawrence Smith who died at the age of 54 well below the average life span. Of course the number of days of your life may be more or less depending upon God’s will and plan for you personally.
We should properly care for our bodies so that we will have the mental capacity to do all that God would have us to do with our lives. According to “American Health” after working out three times a week for six months a research group was able to perform 70% better on a test of complex decision making. Knowing we can make better decisions if we are in good physical condition requires us to take care of our physical bodies if we are to be good stewards.
We should properly care for our bodies so that we will have the energy to do all that God would have us to do with our lives. Research has shown that exercise increases energy and reduces fatigue. At the same time exercise reduces the stress level enabling us to do more.
We should properly care for our bodies because of the financial impact our health has on our lives. The better our health the less money we will spend on doctors, medicines, and all forms of health care. With better health we will be able to have more of the financial resources necessary to further the Kingdom of God.
Did you know that 87% of Americans own running shoes but don’t run? Maybe it’s time to get those running shoes out of the closet and do some running or at least some walking. Because unless you exercise you will not be able to be the good steward God wants you to be. If you have bad habits, and a bad diet that are ruining your health God would have you to change your habits and your diet. God does want what is best for you and there is some profit in taking care of your body as the apostle Paul points out to Timothy. If you don’t believe me why don’t you ask God because I think He will tell you the same thing.
Do Not Be Deceived
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. - Galatians 6:7-10.
Investigators in Athens, Alabama raided a mobile home and found two small bags of marijuana in the home of Jesus Santana. Among pot smokers, there has developed a custom for some to use the pages of a Bible to roll their joints. This apparently was why Santana said when arrested, "I guess God got y’all to get me." At least Santana was convinced that was the reason he was caught. Sheriff Mike Blakely said, "When we found his marijuana, he admitted he’d been smoking marijuana, and that he’d been tearing pages out of the Bible, rolling it."
You would think that if your first name was Jesus, that you would occasionally think about God, and what He desires in your life. Apparently, Santana had been doing some thinking along those lines, and arrived at the conclusion that God was not going to let him get by with what he had been doing. We have a longsuffering God, and that is how God is often portrayed in the Bible. We are told in Lamentations; it is only because of the mercies of God that we are not destroyed and that His mercies are new every morning. Jesus said that the Father sends rain upon the just and unjust. Why is God so merciful and longsuffering? God tells us why along with a warning in the book of Romans, "…do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance (Romans 2:4)?" "It is not God’s will that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9)."
God reached a point with the church at Cornith, where he had the apostle Paul confront them with the truth of their sins. Through that confrontation, with the truth came repentance. Paul writes, "Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death (2 Corinthians 7:2-10)." Many like Jesus Santana may not have someone like the apostle Paul to confront them with the truth. However, God will use whatever is available to bring a person to repentance. In the case of Santana, God used some undercover officers conducting an investigation into illegal drug possession and use, which resulted in the arrest and interruption of the normal routine of life of this man. It allowed Santana to have an opportunity to reflect upon what was going on in his life, and whether or not God was pleased with his life.
Don’t be deceived, just because you have gotten by with doing certain things, or not doing certain things for a length of time; does not mean that God approves of what you are doing. God is longsuffering. But He is not mocked, and there will come a day of reckoning whether in this life or the next.
You Can Have Life
And in this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all people a feast of choice pieces, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of well-refined wines on the lees. And He will destroy on this mountain the surface of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; for the LORD has spoken. - Isaiah 25:6-8.
There is a strange thing that I’ve noticed that ESPN now has on its channels. It had been several years since I had watched ESPN (sports channels) and I was surprised that they now show reruns. They rebroadcast reruns of football and basketball games. I actually watched a game for almost a half before I realized that I was watching a game played several years before.
Just like some people like to listen to good music like the golden oldies over and over again - some people like to watch great football and basketball games over and over again. Why? Of course for players and coaches there are many lessons, which they can learn from those games but why do the thousands of other people watch them? I think it is because the games turn out the way they want them to. They know how the game ends and even though there may be some difficult moments for their team they know it all works out in the end. As they watch the game over and over every play is a celebration and they enjoy the thrill of victory over and over again.
The way some watch reruns of favorite games because they know how it turns out in the end we can enjoy life in the same way. We don’t have to worry about whether God will take care of us and whether He will make everything turn out for our good. We don’t have to worry about how life will turn out because we know what will happen in the end. Since we know the ultimate end we can enjoy the trip. Since Jesus overcame death we can overcome life. Just as Isaiah speaks of a great feast of celebration every day can be a feast of celebration for us even on those difficult days. Because as the apostle Paul puts it, “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37-39).”
Jesus came to give us life and to give us life abundantly (John 10:10). He came to throw off the covering, the veil (or the shroud as it is sometimes translated) of death. He can throw off the shroud of death that covers all areas of your life whether it is your marriage, or your finances, or your habits, or your career, or your relationship with your family, or your spiritual life. Jesus can give you life because He has overcome death and won the victory for eternity. As Isaiah says He has “swallow(ed) up death forever.”
Stop allowing the enemy to rule over you! You know the victory has been won and you know how life will turn out in the end. Allow Jesus to remove the shroud of death from off your life and give you life, abundant life, life pressed down and overflowing. This Easter I hope you will grab hold of the wondrous truth and life that Jesus through such great cost has provided for you. And that life begins the moment we receive Jesus as our Savior. You see it really does turn out well for us in the end and right now too.
May you all have a wonderful and meaningful Easter!!
My son, let them not depart from your eyes--keep sound wisdom and discretion; so they will be life to your soul and grace to your neck. Then you will walk safely in your way, and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden terror, nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes; For the LORD will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught. - Proverbs 3:21-16.
Police radios echoed with a strange alert in Espelkamp, Germany one afternoon, "Be on the lookout for a wild boar wanted in connection with a breaking and entering and felonious assault." "The boar is of medium stature and build." An older German couple had their afternoon nap rudely and suddenly interrupted by a wild boar, which crashed into their apartment building through a glass door, and then rammed its way into the couple’s apartment. The boar, left a trail of blood behind while exploring the apartment, before finally jumping into bed with the couple. The boar bit the man, and then fled the scene of the crime. Ute Bort, spokeswoman for the police department said, "The boar expended considerable criminal energy in committing this act." Thankfully, the man was not seriously injured by the attack.
Many things good and bad occur suddenly in our lives. The couple in Germany were certainly shocked to find a wild boar in bed with them as would any of us. We were shocked yesterday (2003) to have a small tornado hit the school in our community. Thankfully, only one person in a mobile home near the school was injured, and he has been released from the hospital. Tornadoes have a tendency to follow a similar path, and I have been told many times about a tornado that hit the school in the past. The tornado, which hit the school years ago, struck as the superintendent was taking a shower, and it blew the roof off his house. It must have been a shock!
Good things also happen suddenly and often unexpectedly. When God speaks and tells you about His call upon your life, for example. When it happens, how you respond, will define the rest of your life. It was a great shock for Moses, at 80 years of age, to encounter a bush that did not burn. It must have been a shock for Noah, to learn that there would be a great flood and that he would be the one to build a boat to save the remnant of mankind. Abraham must have been shocked, when he heard the voice of God call him to leave his civilized country, and go to a place he had never been. Jonah was not only shocked, but offended, when God called him to that wicked country of Nineveh. The disciples of Jesus, must have been shocked at their call, but they all followed.
God, through the writer of Proverbs, tells how to handle sudden changes; whether they are good or bad. "Keep sound wisdom and discretion." He is talking about the wisdom and discretion that can only come from God. If we are walking closely with God, reading His Word, praying daily in a meaningful way, assembling regularly with other believers, and seeking to serve God as He directs; then we will be ready to respond rightly.
The response we make to sudden changes in our lives will define the remainder of our lives. If we are walking with God, we will not be afraid, but will have His "confidence" as we move forward in the assurance of His power. We will then have "life" no matter what life brings our way.
Therefore say to them, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Return to Me," says the LORD of hosts, "and I will return to you," says the LORD of hosts. - Zechariah 1:3. I love the story about Larry Walters. I’ve read it in several forms, but all basically have the same elements. Larry always dreamed about flying, but was unable to do that because of his poor eyesight, so he had become a truck driver. It seems that Larry was semi-retired sitting in his backyard day after day, and he would see fighter jets crossing the skies above him. One day Larry got tired of sitting around, so he bought a tank of helium and forty something weather balloons at the military surplus store. In his backyard, he attached the balloons to his lawn chair and inflated the balloons with helium. He packed up some sandwiches and drinks and a pellet gun. Larry had planned just to float up a few hundred feet and then shoot out some of the balloons, and float back to earth; but it didn’t quite happen the way he had planned. When Larry cut the anchoring line he shot up and kept on climbing until he leveled off at about 16,000 feet! He was afraid then of shooting any of the balloons, because it appeared the load would become unbalanced and really cause problems. He eventually drifted lower and into the approach path for the Los Angeles International Airport. A pilot contacted the tower about a guy in a lawn chair floating along with a gun in his lap. Toward the end of the day, Larry began drifting out to sea, and the Navy dispatched a helicopter to rescue him. Back on the ground, a reporter asked Larry why he had done it. Larry said, "A man can’t just sit around." There are many of us who are just sitting around. We’ve wandered away from God just as Isaiah says, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way…(Isaiah 53:6)." Many of us have become double-minded, knowing what we should be doing and what God wants us to do and be, but instead we are busy doing and being other things. In the midst of our sitting there, we question the love of God, which should tell us that we have turned away from Him like the people during the time of the prophet Malachi (Malachi 1:2; John 3:16). We despise the Name of God, by our lack of reverence (Malachi 1:6). We weary God, with our lip service (Malachi 2:17). We rob God, by not giving Him the proper tithes and offerings (Malachi 3:8); and we speak against Him by walking in the way of man instead of in the way of God (Malachi 3:13). As James puts it, we have become "double-minded." There is a solution. We don’t have to just sit there. Zechariah tells us the answer we just need to return to God. James tells us the same thing that if we will come near to God (return) then God will come near to us. The prodigal son (Luke 15) is all about those of us who have wandered away. When the prodigal finally decided to return home He found the Father waiting and joyous at his return. Don’t just sit there! Return to your God! Draw near to Him! Here is a prayer you might want to pray to begin your return: "Dear Heavenly Father I ask your forgiveness for my double-mindedness and for how I have offended you by my actions and inactions. I want to return to You. I want to draw near to You. I’m so tired of just sitting here in a spiritual quagmire please help me to be what You want me to be. In Jesus’ precious Name I ask. Amen." (If you do pray the prayer above let me know so I can be praying for you.)
“So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them. And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: ‘Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD! Hosanna in the highest!’ And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, ‘Who is this?’ So the multitudes said, ‘This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.’” - Matthew 21:6-11.
This week we have seen the joy of many in Iraq as they welcomed the American and British troops riding into their cities in Abrams tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles. The troops were welcomed with cheers, flowers, and the destruction of one statue of Saddam after another. The troops brought with them liberation from the cruel oppression of the Iraqi dictator who has held the country hostage for over two decades. There is still looting but there is also great jubilation over the freedom that they apparently now enjoy.
A week before the crucifixion of Jesus he was welcomed as the Messiah, as the One who would bring freedom to His people. The people rejoiced at the presence of this Jesus who performed miracles and could even feed the multitudes with only a few pieces of bread and fish. The people laid their clothes and palm branches before Jesus so He would not have to walk upon the bare ground. There were people everywhere and they were pushing and shoving - hoping to obtain a glimpse of Jesus, or perhaps even to touch Him as He rode by. The noise would have been incredible with the people shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD! Hosanna in the highest!”
Jesus is a different kind of Savior than that experienced by the Iraqi people. But the liberators that Iraq is experiencing are the type of liberators that those in Jerusalem wanted. They wanted a leader like the judges of old or perhaps like King David who would lead them in triumphant battle against the Romans winning their independence. But Jesus came not to establish a physical kingdom on earth but a spiritual kingdom in the hearts of all peoples. That spiritual kingdom is still the one we need most of all whether we live in the United States or in Iraq. We need the spiritual liberation that only Jesus can give to us.
Have you welcomed Jesus into your heart and life? If not I would encourage you to do so now. Allow Jesus to come into your heart and life and establish His kingdom and reign.
Free At Last!
“Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, ‘If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.’ They answered Him, ‘We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, "You will be made free“?’ Jesus answered them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.’” - John 8:31-36.
Today the hearts of the Iraqi people are flowing with the truth of Martin Luther King’s famous speech. The people of much of Iraq are clearly jubilant with the obvious shout of their heart being, “free at last!” “free at last!” “free at last!” In the center of Baghdad the people are hard at work to bring down a huge statue of Saddam Hussein. There is a noose around the neck of Saddam’s statue and people are chipping away at the base of the statue. Thousands of jubilant people are in the streets of Baghdad. Some are looting but with a feeling that they are taking back what has been taken from them. There are more battles to be fought but the people of Iraq finally are experiencing what freedom is all about - and they love it!!
So many of us are in a spiritual bondage; it is unseen but nevertheless very real. We can look around our lives and see some of the symbols of that bondage. It may be the beer cans in our refrigerator or out on our front lawn that speaks of that bondage. It may be the stash of illegal substances we have hidden in the toilet, or above a ceiling tile, or under a floorboard that speaks of our slavery. It may be the disc of obscene images that we have hidden or the pack of cigarettes in our pocket or purse that speaks of the harsh rule of the enemy over us. Recognition of the truth of that bondage is the beginning of the end of the enemies’ reign. The Iraqi people recognizing the truth about the brutal regime that has oppressed them are now destroying the symbols of that reign.
As we recognize the truth about our spiritual enemy in our own lives we too need to begin to cleanse our lives of the symbols of the enemies’ power and reign over us. The “truth” should empower you to take the action necessary to take back what is rightfully yours. Take back the land! Take back your freedom! Throw off the oppressor! Cleanse your life of the symbols and tools of the enemy! If you are “free” then you should begin to act like you are free and demonstrate your freedom to the enemy. As you begin to live and move in your freedom the enemy will grow weaker and weaker until eventually he disappears altogether and you will be finally - “free at last!”
Hiding From God
“O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high, I cannot attain it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall fall on me,’ even the night shall be light about me; indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; the darkness and the light are both alike to You.” - Psalm 139:1-12.
A new fashion trend has struck Hong Kong in the wake of the fear of SARS (The pneumonia-like disease that has spread from China to several countries.). Wearing surgical masks will hopefully prevent the spread of the disease and most of the seven million people in Hong Kong are now wearing them. Masks are now being marketed with bold colors and designs because the fashion conscious want their masks to match their total ensemble. There are even masks with cartoon characters, psychedelic colors and polka dots but the plain white or black off-the-shelf mask is still available. There is also concern about which masks are able to offer the greatest protection from SARS. Jane Chan, a marketing executive wears a plain off-the-shelf mask but said, “I like wearing masks because they can hide my pimples and make me look mysterious. I think people in Hong Kong are looking better now that they’re wearing masks.”
Some people are not trying to hide from a disease but from God. They think that they are smarter than God because they seem to have avoided any major consequences. God apparently doesn’t know where they are - at least that may be what they think in the deepest part of their heart. It could be that one day they will be left behind by God in a very literal sense.
We were taking a group of children skating one evening and we thought we had every one loaded into the van and other vehicles. However, we were surprised when the parents of one child arrived at the skating rink and asked where their son was. We looked everywhere but he wasn’t there! We called and asked some people to go and look for the boy at the church. He was still there! What had happened? We had seen him there with the other children and all of the children appeared to be inside the vehicles ready to go before we left the church. I had gone back into the church looking around and calling out that we were leaving. What could have happened? The parents shared that their son had been making a game of hiding whenever they were ready to go somewhere. Apparently he had done so again at church but this time he was left behind and missed out on a fun evening of skating.
Make no mistake; God knows exactly where you are. Even if you are doing your very best to hide, God still knows where you are and the only thing your hiding will accomplish will be to harm yourself. God makes it clear in Psalm 139 that distance cannot hide us, darkness cannot hide us, and even death cannot hide us from Him. Please don’t miss out on all the great and wonderful things that God has in store for you in this life and beyond by trying to hide from Him.
Today’s devotional was written by my son, Clark Wrather, who is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Clark may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Scripture and title have been added.
”For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs--heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” - Romans 8:15-17.
Madison, my oldest son is finally old enough to play T-ball this summer. During his short life, he has learned how to catch a football and I assumed that catching a T-ball would not cause him any problems. One of these days, I’ll stop making assumptions.
For the last couple of months, I’ve played catch with Madison. I’ve tried and tried to get him to use his glove when catching the ball. At first, I had to break him of trapping the ball against his chest, like a football. After this was corrected, the only time he would catch the ball in his glove was when I happened to be able to throw it right in there.
I admire people who work with small children. If I wasn’t losing so much of my hair, I would have pulled some of it out over the last few weeks. I’ve asked several people for advice on how to teach him to catch with his glove. Nothing seemed to work.
I would throw Madison the ball and he would intently watch it fall to the ground right in front of him or beside him. His glove would never move. This has happened hundreds of times.
Finally, last night we were playing catch and amazingly, he moved his glove over and caught the ball three different times! The first time he did it, I was amazed and even surprised that he actually did it. By the third time, I was just plain proud of my boy.
The whole experience gave me insight into our heavenly Father. He constantly tries to teach us things and like small children, we refuse to learn most of the lessons. Its not that we are incapable of learning, but because we don’t care. I bet He gets very frustrated with most of us. I’m sure He has with me over the years.
When we finally learn that lesson He’s been trying to teach us for years, He’s not surprised. Unlike me as a father, the Lord knows we can do the things He tries to teach us. We just have to care about learning them. When we do, He is very proud of His children.
Salvation Then Works
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” - Ephesians 2:8-10.
Marine Lance Cpl. Jose A. Gutierrez of Lomita, California was a “green card soldier” who had volunteered to fight for his adopted country. Sadly, Cpl. Gutierrez died during the first three days of the war. The United States has now granted posthumous citizenship to Cpl. Gutierrez who was from Guatemala where he was orphaned as a young boy. He entered the U.S. illegally in 1997. Why would someone not even a citizen join the Marines? According to Gutierrez’ foster brother, Gutierrez joined the Marines “to pay back a little of what he’d gotten from the United States.” There are now 37,000 non-citizens serving in the armed forces of the U. S.
The Bible makes it clear that you cannot be good enough or do enough good things to make you worthy for Heaven. Why? The Bible says in effect that if we could do that then we would all be boasting about all the good things we had done when we arrived in Heaven - “it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Why then would anyone want to do good works as a Christian if it does not save you or work to facilitate your entrance into Heaven? It much like the story of Lance Cpl. Jose A. Gutierrez. Gutierrez was not serving in the United States Marines because he was compelled or because of a legal obligation. Gutierrez was serving in the Marine Corps because of his great gratitude for what the United States had done for him - “to pay back a little of what he’d gotten from the United States.”
After receiving freely the gift of eternal life from our God through Jesus and being adopted into the family of God with all of the privileges of belonging to the royal family of the King of Kings we feel great gratitude. As a result of that great gratitude of the unmerited favor we have been granted - good works begin to flow out of our lives. We have a new nature (I Corinthians 5:17) that desires to please our Lord. It is not forced labor. Instead it is a labor of great love and gratitude for the sacrifice of our Lord that resulted in our salvation.
Have you been trying to work your way to Heaven? It will never happen. Have you been trying to do more good things than bad things so the scales will tilt in your favor bringing you salvation? You have been deceived. Turn to the Lord Jesus and receive the free gift of salvation and then do your good works out of the great gratitude for His wondrous mercy toward you.
“Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” - 1 Corinthians 5:6-8.
A word we are becoming more and more familiar with is: “attrited.” The military apparently is in love with the word as they speak of the enemies’ ability to fight being “attrited.” Attrited comes from the Latin word “attero” which means, “to wear away by rubbing.” In battle the enemy is not being rubbed away but is being bombed and shelled reducing their capability to fight by reducing their equipment and numbers of soldiers. To be “attrited” by an opposing force in war means you are being destroyed. We are seeing it happen in Iraq with the destruction of tank after tank, artillery piece after artillery piece, and the terrible cost of the loss of human lives being destroyed one by one. Winning of a war takes place step-by-step and inch-by-inch until the enemy can no longer fight.
Spiritually we are in a continual war, which never ends while we are upon this earth. The enemy never stops attacking. He pounds away at us day by day and night by night rubbing away at our relationship with our Lord. In his novel The First Circle, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn quotes a Russian proverb: "It’s not the sea that will drown you, it’s the puddle." In our spiritual warfare it is not the eventual sinful act that destroys a person. It is much like Lot living in Sodom being constantly exposed to the sinful acts of those around him that wears us down. The Bible says that Lot’s righteous soul was “vexed” by living in the midst of such evil.
Our modern society is in many respects a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah. All the evil present in Sodom and Gomorrah is present in our world today. The more exposure we have to that evil the more “vexed” our soul will be. After being constantly exposed to all that evil we may give in at a point of temptation. The enemy will take advantage of that breach of defenses and attempt to exploit this weakness by making the one time failure a continual and eventually a habitual failure. Eventually when the failure has become habitual we will have developed a “besetting sin.” At this point we have become “attrited.” The “leaven of sin” Paul speaks of in 1 Corinthians 5 can be equated with the process of being “attrited.” Just a small amount of “leaven” can cause great problems over a period of time just as it did for the Corinthians.
When we have become “attrited” or “leavened” how can we ever reverse what has happened? Of course we need to truly repent - turn from our sin. We need to confess this sin to our Lord (I John 1:9) and He will forgive us. Then we must fight back. We must use the spiritual resources that God has given us to use to step by step defeat the enemy, attrit the enemy, until we have gained victory. James tells us that we must “resist the enemy” and when we do “he will flee from you (James 4:7).”
James says we are to “draw near to God (James 4:8).” What do you think would bring you closer to God? Would faithful attendance in church every time there is an opportunity bring you closer to God? Would reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on the Word of God take you closer to God? Would spending substantial amounts of time each day talking with your Lord bring a greater closeness to Him in your life? Would serving God by ministering and witnessing to those around you allow you to be closer to your Lord? Most likely you know the answer to every one of those questions. So, if you have been attrited you already know what you need to do. The question really is will you do what you know you need to do, you know you ought to do, and you know God wants you to do? It really is up to you. Will you fight? Or, will you let the enemy control your life?
The Burning Bush Devotional
Hope And Vision
“Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope.” - I Timothy 1:1.
"Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.” - Acts 26:18-20.
Retired military officers and planners have been stating over and over again that “hope is not a plan.” They say this in regard to the hope that large numbers of enemy forces would surrender, mutiny, or fade away into the desert. They also say the same thing about the “hope” that Iraqi civilians will rise up against the current Iraqi regime making an assault in the streets of Baghdad, and Basra unnecessary. The phrase “hope is not a plan” is apparently a favorite saying of military planners along with “Imagination is not a strategy.”
The apostle Paul prior to his encounter with the risen Christ was a rising star among the Pharisees. He was “circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless (Philippians 3:5-6).” Paul had the very best of training that was available as he says, "I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers' law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women (Acts 22:3-4).”
The Pharisees had a plan for ridding their world of the plague of Christianity. Their plan was to use their best man, Saul, to lead the attack against those of the “Way.” They would begin in Jerusalem and follow the tentacles of this belief wherever it might lead. Their strategy was to use their political power as cover for their ruthless and brutal attack, which would include putting even women and children into prison and executions of those who opposed them.
The plan and strategy of the Pharisees was working well. The Christians who were vocal in their beliefs had been dispersed from Jerusalem and had spread even to Damascus. Saul in carrying out the next step of the plan for eradication of Christianity proceeded with following the believers to Damascus. He fully intended to continue the Pharisee’s strategy of brutality to destroy all who believed in this Jesus called the Christ. There was only one thing wrong with their plan and strategy. The more they persecuted the Christians the further those of “the Way“ spread.
For the Christian, “hope” is more than a plan - it is a way of life and “vision” is more than a strategy - it is a driving force. Saul who became the apostle Paul traded in his zeal of persecution and brutalization for hope and vision. Paul through his personal encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus came to have “hope.” With Paul’s encounter of Jesus came the realization and understanding that this world is not all that there is and that Jesus represented the entire eternal world beyond the physical. Hope of what was to come became Paul’s way of life as he lived his life in view of what were the eternal realities. The “heavenly vision” became the driving force changing not only his life but the lives of countless others as Paul preached, taught, and lived the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In order to truly live the Christian life we too must have “hope.” We must have our own encounter with the risen Christ (Romans 10:13; John 1:12; Revelation 3:20; John 5:24; John 14:6) and when we do we will understand with Paul that there is an eternal dimension to life. We will then understand that there is so much more to life than what we can see with our eyes. Our own “heavenly vision” will drive us forward in love and service to our Lord.
The Land Of Somewhere
Today’s devotional was written by Walker Moore who is president of AweStar Ministries in Tulsa, P. O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147. You may contact Walker at email@example.com or 800.293.7827. Visit their website at www.awestar.org. (Permission given by Walker Moore for use of the devotional.)
“How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” - Psalm 119:9-11.
One of the most vivid memories I have of my childhood is our many family vacations. Now you notice I didn’t say “fond” memories, but “vivid.”
My parents judged how good a vacation was based upon the “roughing it” factor. For instance, the farther we got away from civilization, the higher it was ranked on the “roughing it” scale. If you woke up in the morning and your water bucket was frozen, that gave you extra points. You always got extra points for bears and life threatening animals crawling around outside your tent. And if you spent the night holding your tent down during a class five hurricane, that vacation was an automatic winner.
Then the rest of the year, my dad reminded us how great our last vacation was. “Remember that night we had a torrential downpour?” (How could I ever forget? I thought the four horses of the apocalypse had come, and the only thing separating me between life and death was a piece of canvas bought on sale at Sears and Roebuck.)
Then, dad mumbled something about the “good old days.” Yet, each year we headed out trying to see if we could out do the year before and once more stand face-to-face with death and come home to brag about it.
We took a lot of pictures of our vacations, and on the back of the pictures, my parents wrote “Somewhere in Colorado” or “Somewhere in Wyoming” or sometimes just “somewhere.” Since our family was lost most of the time, (and being lost also gave you extra points on the “roughing it” scale) we couldn’t give you many details about where we had been, except we do know it was “somewhere.”
As an adult, I tried to remember where in the world we went on vacation. So when I asked my parents, the answer always began with “somewhere in…,” and they named one of the 50 states or a major city in that state.
But “somewhere” in our family wasn’t limited to vacations. “Somewhere” also had to do with Bible references. “Somewhere in the Bible, it tells us” they would say, “you shouldn’t hit your little brother” “Where in the Bible?” I asked. “Somewhere in John!” Growing up there were lots of “somewhere” in the Gospel of John. (Most of the “somewheres” were in the New Testament. I don’t ever remember my parents saying that something was found “somewhere” in Zephaniah.)
“Somewhere in the Bible, it also says to clean your plate and make your bed and wash behind your ears.” Now, I’m not sure where, but it says it somewhere.
As a child, you just accept the “somewhere.” As you get older, you begin to question the “somewhere,” and begin to know that “somewhere” is not good enough for you. You don’t want your eternity based on “somewhere,” but upon the reality and knowledge of the Scriptures. Maybe that is why the Bible says “somewhere” in the Psalms that “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I may not sin against God.” (The “somewhere” is Psalm 119:11)
Not that I have thy word “somewhere.” God says I am to have it in my heart. As parents, we need to give our children a place where they can go to verify the truth. “Somewhere” might make a nice vacation place, but the problem with “somewhere” is you can’t ever find your way back. Give your child a place where they can return to, whether it be a vacation or the Word of God.
Fighting The Good Fight
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” - II Corinthians 10:3-5.
Matthew Green with Reuters writes, “The U.S. Marine’s rifle was pointing straight at my chest. ‘I was just about to shoot you,’ whispered the figure, suddenly realizing I was a reporter, and not an Iraqi soldier, stumbling out of the shadows of the moonlit desert. For both, it was a nerve-racking moment.” The war in Iraq has seen attacks by Iraqi forces dressed in civilian clothing and even in American and British uniforms. Allied soldiers have suffered casualties when those surrendering suddenly attack. Very little trust remains of the possibility of the enemy observing the norms of civilized warfare. The U. S. Marines have an operating maxim, which says, “Be professional, be polite, but have a plan to kill everyone you meet.”
As Christians we too are in a war. In this spiritual war the enemy does not fight according to our rules but every dirty, evil, lowdown trick is in the enemies’ constantly evolving war plan. However, we are not to use the weapons of the physical world to prosecute this spiritual war. It is tempting for us to have the same operating maxim as the U.S. Marines especially when we have experienced personally some the tricks of the agents of the enemy. The enemy will sometimes appear to be our friend, or even one of us as the apostle Paul writes in II Corinthians 11:13-15, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.”
So how are we as children of God to respond to this insidious and totally evil enemy? We must have the proper attitude and weapons. To prepare for our continual, daily, and nightly warfare we must begin by putting on Christ. We must be clothed with the attitude, and perspective of our Lord Jesus. We should “…put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14a).” We are also to put on the full armor of God as the Bible states with some detail, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:11-12).”
The armor of God includes truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. As we move forward in battle we are to be in constant prayer as Paul says, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit (Ephesians 6:18a).” As we conduct the battle we are to remember to, “…walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy (Romans 13:13).” Because the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Spirit (Romans 5:5) we must remember that, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (I Corinthians 13:4-7).” We are to crucify the flesh and its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24) and allow the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control - Galatians 5:22-23a) to show forth in our lives through our speech and actions.
The war in which we are called upon to fight is most difficult and as a final exhortation remember the words of the apostle Paul who says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21),” and let us, ”Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses (I Timothy 6:12).” In the words of President Bush “let us stay on the path mile by mile…all the way to victory!”
Facing Fear - With Fear
“A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, on Shigionoth. O LORD, I have heard Your speech and was afraid; O LORD, revive Your work in the midst of the years!” - Habakkuk 3:1-2a.
“When I heard, my body trembled; my lips quivered at the voice; rottenness entered my bones; and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble. When he comes up to the people, He will invade them with his troops.” - Habakkuk 3:16.
How would you react if you were a believer living in a country that would soon be attacked by a powerful force knowing there would be no escape? Habakkuk responded with fear when he understood the Lord’s message. The force attacking Judah to deliver God’s judgment would be the Chaldeans. It was difficult for Habakkuk to understand why God would use the Chaldeans because they were a wicked and cruel people. Habakkuk’s fear was understandable in such a circumstance.
Habakkuk pleaded with God to “remember mercy (Habakkuk 3:2b).” He then reminds himself and God of the mighty acts of rescue that God has performed in the past for His people (Habakkuk 3). God is the mighty Deliverer. In chapter 2 Habakkuk states what holds him together through his fear, “Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith (Habakkuk 2:4).” Yes, Habakkuk is fearful of what the Chaldeans will do to Judah but his fear, his respect, his reverence; his faith in his God is much greater.
What are we to do when faced with fearful, alarming circumstances? We should first remind ourselves of Whom really has the ultimate power. The One with the ultimate power and capability is not a physical enemy that we may face on this earth. The One with the ultimate power and capability is God Himself. To God alone will someday every knee bow and tongue confess (Philippians 2:10-11). Our faith in the One with the ultimate power gives us strength to move forward through whatever may come our way. Habakkuk is just one of countless millions who can testify to this spiritual fact.
What fear, what danger, and what threat are you facing? Is it greater than your God? Strengthen yourself in the Lord your God. Live by your faith in the One who is greater than all others. Your reverence for Him will empower you to face whatever may come in your life.
Life Goes On
“But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Then they said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping?’ She said to them, ‘Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.’ Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there….” - John 20:11-14a.
“Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her.” - John 20:18.
USA Today reports that “Life Goes On In The USA.” Apparently life also goes on in Iraq. Ordinary people still go about their lives coping with the normal challenges of living life each day. Even in the midst of war people are still people. Some on both sides fear for the safety of loved ones who will be fighting in the battle. Some on both sides wonder how they will go on if something does happen to their loved ones. But life will continue to go on.
This is a war unlike any other in our ability to see live photos. From those photos, and videos we see vehicles moving across the desert. We can also see that vehicles are moving around in Baghdad and even see people walking on the roadways. The people in Baghdad have fear from the possibility of bombs and missiles raining down upon them from above. But still they must continue to live life. In the USA there is a fear of terrorism and the possibility of bombings, chemical, biological or even some form of nuclear attack. But still we must continue to live life because life goes on.
Even when terrible things are happening or have the potential of happening life requires for the most part taking care of some things. Except for some unusual periods we must continue to eat and drink. We must at some point continue to sleep at least for some period of time. There are the mundane requirements of making a living and the necessity of a job or someway to have an income. The income is necessary for most of us to be able to pay the bills and have the at least the necessities for life. Life goes on.
After the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ life was still going on. Funeral arrangements had to be made along with preparation of the body for burial. Some of the disciples returned to making a living being the fishermen that they had been most of their lives before being called by Jesus to follow Him. How did the followers of Jesus break out of the depression and defeat they were experiencing to really live life? Life was going on for them but they were just going through the motions they were not really living life. The difference came when they realized and truly comprehended that life did not just go on in the physical existence that they could see and feel in this world. The difference came when they realized that life really did go on - life would go on eternally. When Jesus appeared to them after the resurrection their lives changed forever.
The words of Jesus now had new meaning as they remembered and realized the truth of what He had said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him, who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment but has passed from death into life (John 5:24).” It is time for us too to hear, really hear the words of Jesus. Life does go on. Let us realize and comprehend that life goes on eternally and that life begins and should be lived starting here on this earth no matter what may be happening around us.
Facing Fear - Absolute Faith
“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” - Isaiah 41:10.
Today there is another reason for fear in addition to the approach of war and the increased likelihood of terrorism. Health experts suspect there is a new disease stalking humanity. It is now known only as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). At least ten people have died from the illness and many more are ill with symptoms of SARS. With the rapidity of world travel diseases can spread at frightening speed and SARS has struck with deadliness in mainland China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Canada. Some are ill with the disease in Singapore and there are suspected cases in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom. The disease is similar to pneumonia beginning with a high fever and dry cough, which may lead to breathing difficulties.
Does God care when we experience fear? Yes! Reassurances from God are plentiful throughout the Scriptures. Peter writes, “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 (I Peter 5:6-7).” But the greatest statement of God’s concern and care for you is found in the sacrifice of His Son on the cross for your sins (John 3:16). You should never doubt that God loves you and cares for you. His direction to you in the midst of fearful and terrifying circumstances will always be, “Fear not.” Why? Because God answers, “I am with you.”
I read just this morning about a missionary who was wounded in Yemen and his three fellow missionaries who were killed. The wounded missionary spoke of the moment he knew he could not escape from the gunman. He knew he would be shot but he spoke of the peace that surrounded him as he faced the possibility of death. That peace stayed with him even after being shot twice and he was still facing the possibility of death. David knew what it was like to stare death in the face as King Saul hunted him like an animal. David writes, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil (Psalm 23:4a).” Why does David not fear death? Why does he not fear evil and all that could happen to him? “For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me (Psalm 23:4b).”
I cannot imagine what it would be like to be living in Iraq at this moment knowing that a massive assault will soon begin just as it did during 1991. Knowing also that it is being said the bombardment will be more ferocious than it was before. The only thing I have to relate to something like that is being in the path of a tornado. Hearing the tornado sirens go off and seeing on the radar that a tornado is headed for you but having nowhere to hide but in a closet has given me great fear. It is a fearful thing and only God can bring you peace and assurance during such times. Only God provides the possibility of your being spared destruction.
When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship the golden image set up by king Nebuchadnezzar they faced death in a fiery furnace. The answer of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is the answer that we need to give and believe whenever we face fear “our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up (Daniel 3:17-18)." They had an absolute faith that no matter what happened, life or death, they would still trust in their God. That is the faith we must have as we face the fearful things of the 21st Century.
“Wealth gained by dishonesty will be diminished, but he who gathers by labor will increase.” - Proverbs 13:11.
When I was about five or six years old I was on a rare shopping trip with my mother. We were in a clothing store (Anthony’s) when I saw a $20.00 bill on the floor. I bent down to pick it up and just as my fingers touched the bill a woman stomped on it with her shoe. She jerked it out of my hand waved it briefly in the air saying, “did anyone lose this,” and then she hurriedly left the store before anyone could respond.
Unlike the woman I remember from my childhood there are some really honest people in North Dakota. In Fargo, North Dakota an ATM machine delivered some extra cash to the ATM customers. The cold weather caused the machine’s door to open for some customers and not to open for others. Some customers received no money but those following them received the money they wanted plus the money intended for the previous customer. Marietta Rasmussen a bank supervisor said, “It was like being in Las Vegas without all the lights and whistles.“ All three customers who received extra money reported the error and returned the money.
Many of us operate not according to honesty but according to the principle of “what we can get away with.” Even if those good-hearted people in North Dakota had decided to keep the extra money it is unlikely that they would have been able to keep it. Why? Because nearly every ATM has a security camera and those films would have been reviewed until the source of the loss of funds was found.
But there is another group of people who go by the principle of “I‘m stronger than you.” If they are stronger and more forceful than you they will take whatever they can get. My son was the victim of this on the night before his wedding when he was robbed at gunpoint at an ATM in Dallas (many years ago now). The fact is that there are many, many more people willing to steal, deceive, cheat, lie, and rob than there are who as the apostle Paul, “…always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men (Acts 24:16).”
As I was preparing this devotional I discovered that I belong to the “neglected or forgotten to take care of something” group. Since I have been reminded of this responsibility I must either take care of it or I will quickly slide into the “what I can get away with group.” I don’t know which group you fall into but God does and it may be that He has reminded you, as He did me, through this devotional.
Let us strive to be obedient to our Lord in all things and keep our consciences clear before God and men.
Just A Little Fire
“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. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.” - James 3:5b-11.
A 12-year-old boy in Bavaria wanted to have some fun and wanted his paper airplane to have a light. His way of doing that was to set his airplane on fire and then to throw it. The airplane first set a hedge on fire, which was next to pool house, and summer home. The fire spread from the hedge to the pool house and on to the summer home. The summer home and the pool house were burned out and two garages were charred slightly. A police spokesman for the town of Oberasbach said, “The boy wasn’t looking to start a fire. He just wanted to light his plane.”
The tongue is such a wondrous thing that can bring forth so much good and blessing. However, as James points out sometimes the tongue brings forth cursing as if it were words from the pit of hell itself. Like a wildfire the words seem to spread from person to person becoming completely out of control and developing into something that takes on a life of its own. The words we speak may be added to or subtracted from metamorphosing into something completely different from what we originally intended. Once those words have gone out from our mouths and have been heard by others there is no way to take them back and our control over them has been relinquished.
James has some very good advice in regard to the tongue, “my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God (James 1:19-20).” If we do not guard our speech we will find that a tiny part of our body has become as a rudder of a ship directing our lives this way and that. James says, “Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires (James 3:4). Abraham Lincoln once said, "It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt." Another American President, Calvin Coolidge also had some words of wisdom about our speech. Coolidge said, "I have never been hurt by anything I did not say." The writer of Proverbs had some similar advice, “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise (Proverbs 10:19).” “Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles (Proverbs 21:23).”
Your words may be just a little fire but they may consume a forest before dying out. So, before you open your mouth the next time to speak remember how important it is to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) because what you say or do not say will determine to a great extent your success or failure in life.
When Things Go “Bump” In The Night
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” - II Timothy 1:7.
Some folks living around Langley, Virginia become a little nervous when they hear strange or unexpected noises. Maybe it is because they have an unusual neighbor. Their neighbor? The Central Intelligence Agency. The neighbors were a little concerned when a helicopter hovered over the top of a building on the CIA grounds for an unusually long time. They were installing a new air conditioning unit. Or, the strange noise that emanated from the facility during a recent snowstorm. It was just some rented heat blowers to melt the snow.
A spokesperson for the CIA Bill Harlow said, “There are lots of houses that are adjacent to our fence line or close to it. Sometimes they see and hear things that gets them nervous.” So, the agency has hand-delivered postcards to the homes surrounding their facility. The cards asked residents to report “anything unusual or suspicious.” The card was signed by “Marie.” The CIA says that “If they see something or hear something which disturbs them, they need to know who to contact.” That way the neighbors can be assured that it’s just a new heating unit or they were just melting some snow. I wonder what they will say during the summer? And who is “Marie?”
We live in an increasingly violent and uncertain time with threats of war and terrorism on many horizons. How do we face life during such a time? How do we continue to move forward living life and serving God during such times? It is one thing to profess our faith but a much greater challenge to actually live out that faith. How can we live in a way that will bring light to the darkness that constantly presses upon us?
The enemy uses fear to keep us in our place. He uses fear to keep us from spreading faith, hope, and love to others around us. Often our enemy uses verbal threats from others like Nehemiah faced (Nehemiah 6). Other times it is a fear based in reality like Moses faced when responding to God’s call. Moses knew how powerful the Egyptians were and how cruel they could be. In both situations what happened? Nehemiah and the people completed the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem in spite of the threats. Moses led his people to freedom in spite of the power and cruelty of the Egyptians of that era. In both situations God provided the strength and resources needed. Nehemiah prayed, “Now therefore, O God, strengthen my hands (Nehemiah 6:9b).” Moses was assured as God addressed each of his excuses. Moses was to remember that it was God who sent him and to share that with the Egyptians and his people (Exodus 3:13-14). Moses became great in prayer speaking with God as a person would speak to another.
Moses and Nehemiah were both commissioned by God. Timothy and Paul were commissioned by God. You and I if we know the Lord as our Savior have been commissioned by God. So, when the world says get back into your foxhole; when they say stop living and talking like a Christian what do you do? Remember that you have been commissioned, sent by God to live out your faith in this world. Your commander is not your neighbor. Your commander is the Creator of the Universe. If you need strength and courage ask Him for it just as Nehemiah did and He will provide it. Because, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.” I John 2:19.
“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” - Acts 2:42.
U. S. Representative Frank Lucas has again been injured working some cattle at his ranch near Cheyenne, Oklahoma. Lucas was putting identification tags in the ears of some of his cattle when a 250-pound heifer butted his head. As a result he received a small cut on his lip and lost a tooth and it was necessary for him to have an emergency root canal. Spokesperson Jim Luetkemeyer said, “He was trying to tag the heifer and the heifer tagged him back.” This is not the first time Lucas has been injured on his ranch by cattle. In 1996 a cow rammed into a swinging gate and the gate hit is face breaking his nose. Why does Lucas continue to risk injury being around cattle on his ranch? Because he loves the life of a rancher and everything about it Lucas continues working and taking care of his own cattle.
It is easy to keep on doing something when you love it. You can keep on doing something that is dangerous, low paying, and difficult if you have a love for it. The early Christians continued steadfastly because they had a love for their Lord that would not quit. Those early disciples were in stark contrast to those John wrote about. Some of those who came later did not continue on and the lack of their love for the Lord Jesus was evident by their leaving. John indicates that those who left never really had a love for the Lord.
But there is a third category, which includes those who at one time loved their Lord but have left their first love. They were continuing to go through the motions of what was expected of them as Christians but there was little love left. Jesus tells them in Revelation 2:2-4, "I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary. Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”
How could those who at one time had such a zealous love for their Lord Jesus grow cold? Maybe it was because they didn’t, “continue(d) steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.” If you have lost your love for the God and for the things of God what can you do? Jesus says to the Ephesians, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works (Revelation 2:5a).”
Have you been continuing to read study, meditate, and memorize the Word of God which is the “apostles’ doctrine?” Have you continued to assemble on a regular basis with other believers (Hebrews 10:24-25) which is “fellowship” and “breaking of bread?” Have you continued to talk (“prayers”) to the best friend you will ever have - your Lord Jesus? If not most likely you as did the Ephesians need to return to the first things. And if you still have a great love for your Lord be sure to keep that love in good condition by continuing in those first things.
A Grenade Proof Faith
“For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.” - II Timothy 1:12.
BMW has a new offering for those who may believe their security is threatened. This vehicle can stand up to fire from an M16 rifle but that is only one aspect of this amazing car. It can also withstand the explosion of two grenades and having its tires flattened and still travel at 50 mph. You can purchase one for yourself for only a few hundred thousand dollars. Or perhaps you would prefer a Land Rover for $263,100 or a Mercedes of comparable security for a couple of hundred thousand more? For most of us that simply isn’t an option and we will just have to face life without our armored vehicle.
I’ve known several people over the years who were at one time faithful servants of God but something happened and they stopped serving God. In fact they became bitter and angry people. What happened? In one person’s life it was a combination of things ending with the loss of a business. In another person’s life it was when a Christian he looked up to failed. In another’s it was when a loved one died. In another it was the devastating illness of a loved one. Those events in the life of some Christians appear to be even more catastrophic than the explosion of a grenade under their feet.
How about your faith? How strong and tough is your faith? If your faith took a hit, would you continue to love and serve your God? What would happen if you suffered a debilitating disease and you asked God several times to heal you and He said “No?” In addition you were thrown into prison a few times, beaten with rods three separate times, whipped five different times, you were stoned, shipwrecked, went hungry, didn’t have enough clothes to keep you warm and were bitten by a poisonous snake? If that happened to you would you do as Job’s wife suggested and just, “Curse God and die (Job 2:9b)!” Those things didn’t happen to Job but they did happen to the apostle Paul who just kept on serving and loving God more and more and more (II Corinthians 11:22-28; II Corinthians 12:7-9; Acts 28:1-6).
Paul instructs Timothy in how he can have a grenade proof faith. He tells Timothy to “be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus (II Timothy 2:1)”, and to “hold fast to the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus (II Timothy 1:13).” Paul continues to instruct Timothy and tells him, “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier (II Timothy 2:3).” Paul says that he can, “endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory (II Timothy 2:10).” Paul warns Timothy and others to, “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition…(II Timothy 2:22-25a).” Paul also relates the great value of the Word of God (II Timothy 3:10-17).
The apostle Paul sums it all up by saying, “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen (II Timothy 4:17-18)!” God will do the same for you and me if we will follow the instructions and example, which has been so faithfully given to us.
The High Cost Of Rage
“A wise man fears and departs from evil, but a fool rages and is self-confident.” - Proverbs 14:16.
”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.
”And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.” - Ephesians 4:30-31.
Justin Lundin tailgated the car on a two-lane road near Weatherford, Texas but apparently the driver that was tailgated showed some visible sign of his irritation. 20-year-old Lundin then stopped his car in the middle of the road blocking the driver he had tailgated. In a rage Lundin attacked the driver behind him but then he was struck and killed accidentally by another car attempting to go around the two cars. Another example of the high cost of rage occurred a decade ago in Palm Springs, California. A retired doctor went into an uncontrollable rage at the party guests parking in front of his home to attend a neighbor’s party. The eventual result was that police officers were forced to shoot and kill the doctor who was attacking the guests.
As the King Solomon points out in Proverbs the fool rages and is confident that he can do whatever he wants without any consequences. Or at least he does not care if there are any consequences. In the two examples above we see that there was no worry about any consequences. The rage had taken over. However, a wise person “fears and departs evil.” What that means is that the wise person does think about the consequences. The wise person does look beyond the immediate to the long-term results. The wise person considers the possibilities of what could happen and avoids the evil.
“Outbursts of wrath” have long been a problem for mankind. How many murders, how many tragedies, how many broken homes could have been prevented if only there had not been an “outburst of wrath” or a fit of rage?
If you have a problem with rage I urge you to think about the consequences of your giving in to this evil. Before you do some terrible thing - stop and ask God if that is what He wants you to do? Before you do some terrible thing - stop and ask yourself whether you are being wise or foolish if you do it? Before you do some terrible thing - stop and ask yourself if a few moments of self-gratification is really worth ruining the rest of your life? And before you get to the point of having to consider whether to give in to rage I would urge you to find help. Talk to God. Talk to your pastor. Talk to a godly friend. Send me an email and I will send you some material that will be of help.
Before you have a fit - be sure to count the very high cost of rage.
“My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” - I John 2:1.
“When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’" - Acts 7:54-56.
“And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’" - Acts 7:59.
In December 2002 after the time for appeals had ran out; Texas murder defendant Leonard Rojas was executed. Although Rojas was a convicted murderer he was in a way a victim. He was a victim of inadequate representation. Three justices of the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals sixty-eight days after the execution concluded that the court appointed attorney for Rojas had been “woefully incompetent”. The attorney for Rojas did have a lack of experience since he had never handled a case involving the possibility of the death penalty. The attorney failed to investigate the case, missed several filing deadlines including the one, which prevented Rojas from making a federal appeal, his license to practice law was suspended three times by the Texas Bar including once during the time he was representing Rojas, and he rarely met with his client.
The Good News for us spiritually is that we have adequate representation. We have an advocate who is constantly available to us and concerned about us. We have an advocate who knows all the ugly little secrets in our lives and in spite of that He will be there for us no matter what may come. Our advocate has the experience of millions of cases and He’s never lost a case assigned to Him. We have an advocate Who is passionate about His work and who loves us so much that He died in our place that we might be spared the ultimate death penalty.
As Stephen was dying as a martyr the Bible pictures Jesus as standing at the right hand of the Father. This is significant. In Hebrews 8:1 we are told, “We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.“ Normally Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father but with the death of Stephen He rises as an attorney rises to defend a client. We who are sinful and deserve death (Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23a) have in Jesus the atoning sacrifice for our sinfulness. Jesus is our ongoing, continuing advocate with our Heavenly Father and through our advocate we have acceptance with the Father.
Have you stumbled? Have you failed? Have you sinned? Remember you have a supernatural advocate who loves you so much that He died for you and your advocate says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Copyright © 2003. Ed Wrather. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for use of this material on a non-profit basis with source noted.
Copyright © 2002 - 2003. Ed Wrather. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for use of this material on a non-profit basis with source noted.