MAY - SEPTEMBER 2006
BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONALS

The Burning Bush Devotional
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09.26.06

Low Tech

(Originally sent 04.23.01 - Rewritten for today.)

So Saul clothed David with his armor, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail. David fastened his sword to his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. And David said to Saul, “I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them: So David took them off. Then he took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine. 1 Samuel 17:38-40.

In April 2001 there was a rescue effort underway because another doctor had a life threatening condition at the South Pole. Weather conditions would continue to deteriorate through the harsh winter with temperatures that could reach minus-103 degrees. At first it was planned to use the giant LC-130 “Hercules” airplane. However, this huge plane has a hydraulic system used for raising and lowering the landing gear and this hydraulic system would be susceptible to the freezing temperatures. The fuel system on the Hercules is also only usable for temperatures down to minus-67 degrees. The rescue planners have opted for two smaller planes, Twin Otters. The Twin Otters are propeller driven eight-seaters with a fixed landing gear and no hydraulic system. These planes with their low-tech systems are able to operate in temperatures as low as minus-107 degrees.

The shepherd boy, David, understood the value of low tech. David opted for five smooth stones and his sling over all the king’s armor and sword. Goliah, with all of his hugeness did not have a chance against one shepherd boy and a sling. The Bible says, “But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and things which are not, to bring to nothing things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence (1 Corinthians 1:27-28).”

What impossible situation are you facing? In the hands of God, little can be better. In the hands of God, less can be more. It may be that you are the David that God has prepared to defeat the Goliath that your community, or your school, or your church, or your family, or (You can fill in the blank) is facing. Look around and see if God has also prepared some ammunition like He prepared five smooth stones for David. Your ammunition may appear, may look different from that of David’s but placed in the hands of God it will be no less effective. Be sure to give glory to God before and after the battle because surely the battle is the Lord’s.

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09.22.06

Sinking in the Mud

(Originally sent 04.24.01 - Rewritten for today.)

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. - James 1:13-15.

The creek waters were only a foot deep where the two large earthmovers were making emergency repairs to the Haikey Creek Bridge in Tulsa. But then the track came off one of the machines and it began to sink in the mud. They tried to pull the sinking earthmover out with the other machine but it too began to sink. Daryl Maxville, a maintenance supervisor said, “They were pretty well buried. The only thing you could see was the cab.” Workers built a temporary dam and were finally able to rescue their equipment. One of the operators said that “working in the creek wasn’t a big problem until the mud worked its way through the creek bed.”

For Christians there is a lot of mud out there that we must avoid and it all begins with just a little mud. There is so much mud around us on TV, and on the Internet. It is easy to grow used to having the mud around us. Stepping in some mud here and stepping in some there. We become so used to the mud that before long we are wading in it up to our waists and before we know what has happened it has sucked us under.

It has been said that if you “sow a thought you will reap an act. Sow an act; reap a habit. Sow a habit; reap a character. Sow a character, reap a destiny.” Romans 13:14 says, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” Another translation says, “Rather clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” That is where the mud starts with the thoughts and the dwelling and contemplating upon those sinful desires.

A literal translation of James 1:15 would be, “Desire, having conceived, continually gives birth to sin, and sin, when it reaches maturity, continually gives birth to death.” As you can see, it goes quickly from bad to worse. Before you throw a track and start sinking in the mud of sin put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Instead of thinking about all of the mud start thinking about the good things as the apostle Paul suggests in Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever, things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things.” There is nothing better to think about than our Lord Jesus and His Word.

What have you been thinking about lately? What have you been watching and listening to lately? Remember it does not take very much mud at all to begin to cause all kinds of problems. Before you take that next step - watch out for the mud!

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09.21.06

Frivolous

(Originally sent 5.03.01 - Rewritten for today.)

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. - Hebrews 12:1-2.

A frequent problem for the criminal justice system is the filing of frivolous lawsuits by inmates. According to a legal encyclopedia a “frivolous suit is one without any legal merit. In some cases, such an action might be brought in bad faith for the purpose of harassing the defendant.” The dictionary gives this as a definition for the word, frivolous, “not having any serious purpose or value.”

One frivolous lawsuit came from an inmate in the Michigan corrections system. Chad DeKoven in his lawsuit sought recognition of himself as “Messiah-God” and wanted the state to provide him with a full pardon, and full-time personal attendants. DeKoven also demanded peace in the Middle East. Judge David M. Lawson dismissed the lawsuit and called it frivolous.

We can agree that DeKoven’s demands were a little frivolous, ridiculous, crazy, and even incredible. But what about our demands? We who are living the Christian life sometimes insist on hanging onto our sins and the pursuing of the attractions of this world. Sometimes we also insist on hanging onto our anger, unforgiveness, bitterness, hatred, bigotry and so many other things.

The writer of Hebrews encourages us to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us....” These weights and sins are just frivolous things when compared to “Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame....” When we insist on hanging onto our weights and sins that “great cloud of witnesses” must think it is so frivolous, ridiculous, crazy, and even incredible that we persist in acting the way we do.

Kirstie Alley tells about her aspirations in life by saying, “I've always aspired for things like mopeds and vacations and pastries and anything frivolous.” In the great panorama of life, death, and eternity that really does sound frivolous doesn‘t it? What are your aspirations in life? What is the goal of your life? Are your aspirations frivolous? Is the goal of your life frivolous?

What frivolous things do you need to lay aside so that you can “run with endurance the race that is set before” you?

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09.20.06

Tall Tales

You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. - Leviticus 19:11.

These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: a proud look, a lying tongue…. - Proverbs 6:16-17a.

Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. - Ephesians 4:25.

Unknown to a Subway restaurant in North Platte, Nebraska they had a CIA operative working for them undercover. At least that is what Joshua Shores their 34-year-old employee told them after he was seen on a surveillance video putting $502.00 into his pocket. He should have been putting the money into the store’s safe. He advised the police and a judge that there was no cause for worry because of his CIA status the agency would reimburse the money. He also said the reason he was working for Subway was that he had lost his CIA badge and was waiting for a new one to be sent from the agency.

At least Joshua had a somewhat original tale to tell even though it was rather tall. I have not heard what kind of trouble Joshua is in - probably the charge was “theft by employee” which would likely be a felony. Hopefully, Joshua will learn that telling tall tales will not get you out of legal trouble. He would have been much better served by having simply told the truth that he had stolen the money and by giving back what he had left of it with a sincere “I’m sorry” along with a promise of repaying the rest.

We tend in this modern world with all of the violence, sexual immorality and the rest to look at lying as a minor offense. However, it is in God’s top seven of things that He hates which would appear to indicate that it is not a minor issue. Lying after all is still sin and God hates sin. God hates sin because He is holy and sin is evil. God is righteous and sin is a demonstration of unrighteousness.

It is sad but I know some people who are liars. They are liars because they continually lie. If they had a choice between telling the truth and telling a lie even when it made no difference they would still tell a lie. They have told lies for so long that they no longer remember what the truth is about the past. It is hard for me to be around them because I am always wondering whether what they are saying is true or whether it is just another lie. I would like to believe them but because of their continual lying, I have reached a point where I find it hard to believe anything they say.

The will of God is clear about this issue of lying. In Romans 12:19 we are told, “Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.” We must hate what God hates and love what God loves. We too must hate lying and love the truth. Jesus is the manifestation of truth. He is “the way, the TRUTH, and the life (John 14:6)….”

The desire of our hearts in regard to lying and deceiving should be the same as that of the apostle Paul. Paul says in Acts 24:16, “…I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.” Or as another translation puts it, “So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man.” It might sound more exciting to say that you are an undercover CIA operative who has lost his badge but do you really think anyone is going to believe you? We too should always strive to keep a clear conscience before God and man by being truthful in all of interactions with others.

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09.19.06

Used Cars

Today’s devotional was written by Dr. Walker Moore who is president of AweStar Ministries in Tulsa, P. O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147. You may contact Walker at walker@awestar.org or 800.293.7827. Visit their website at www.awestar.org.

God’s Word: For bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. - 1 Timothy 4:8.

Reflection: I am not one of those guys that must have a brand-new car. To me, a new car is one that has less than 100,000 miles on it. Cars have become so expensive and now they have found a way to install everything but the kitchen sink (I’ll bet some even have that.) I rode this morning in a friend’s car and I thought I was having hot flashes. The part of my body that I sit on began to get hot, very hot. Finally I mentioned it, and the owner informed me that the car had built in seat warmers. Was I ever relieved.

Both of my sons have talked with me about trading in their cars and getting a newer model. Personally, I think they both still have about 100,000 miles left before that needs to happen. I gave my sons some fatherly advice about when they need to trade their cars in for another one. 1) If you are sitting at a stoplight and people keep running up to you asking if anyone was hurt, then you might need a new car. 2) If thieves repeatedly break into your car just to steal the Club, you might need to consider buying a new car. 3) If your speedometer is written with Roman numerals then it might be time to get a new vehicle. 4) If you lose the stoplight challenge to a 14-year old on a moped, maybe you need a new mode of transportation. 5) If your car’s air bag is a whoopee cushion taped to your steering wheel, then it is probably time to get another car.

I am not bragging, but my grandfather bought a brand new Chevrolet pickup in 1951 and 49 years later our family still drives it. This goes to show that if you keep a car maintained it should last you a long time.

Like your car, your relationship with your child also benefits from regular maintenance. After 3,000 miles you have to replace the “I love you” oil. You cannot fill it up once and expect it to last forever. You also need to make sure their self-esteem is adequately inflated. Two things that can ruin your child are over inflation or under inflation. Make that a regular check, because you do not want your children to have a blow out on the highway of life.

Take a look under the heart and see how their spiritual engine is running. This is such a delicate part of their lives and sometimes bad fuel can cause it to sputter or even to stall. There is nothing worse than a car sitting in your driveway that will not run. But even worse is to have a child that is sitting, going nowhere. So take care of your child—then both will last a lifetime.

Insight: Watch for your child’s check engine light and respond appropriately.

Prayer: Dear Father, help me be a responsible parent. You have put a delicate and complicated being in my home. Help me realize when something in my child is not running right. Then give me the wisdom to know how to fix it. Amen.

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09.18.06

Ripped Off

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. - Matthew 5:13-16.

I know it happens all the time and that thousands of people have had it happen to them; however, it had never happened to me. So, I was still surprised when I saw an unauthorized charge on my credit card for $3464.40. I thought it just had to be some kind of mistake that someone had put in the wrong numbers into the computer and charged the wrong account. Wrong! Someone called a Home Depot store in Oklahoma City claiming to work for Ideal Homes and ordered $3464.40 in Lithium Ion tools. The woman I talked to had personally taken the order and had talked to two different people who had all of my credit card info including the security code on the card.

Hopefully, the credit card company will live up to its fraud guarantee and the charge will be erased from my account. I think now that when we last stayed at a hotel in Oklahoma City that the security code was taken from my card at that time. The hotel is very close to the Home Depot where the tools were ordered. It was so easy for them I wonder why it is not happening more frequently. There is very little to stop someone from gathering huge amounts of credit card information and then calling store after store ordering merchandise. My question is why is it not happening more often?

Several things are preventing more people from engaging in this type of activity. One, there are criminal and civil penalties if you are caught. Two, there is the restraining power of God among His people. Three, there is the presence of God’s people scattered like salt across the world to preserve the good and maintain morality. God’s people are also shining “light” into the dark crevices of the minds of people who would do evil things. It is a restraining force holding back evil.

Have you ever wondered whether you as a Christian are making any kind of difference in the lives of others? The answer is that to the extent that you live out a Christian life of good before others you are a vital part of that restraining power of God. Your life is “salt” preserving the world from slipping further into the depths of immorality. Your life is “light” helping those around you see how life can and should be lived.

Keep on being salty and keep on letting your light shine because it really does make a difference!

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09.15.06

Waiting for the Click

(In Remembrance of 9/11. Originally sent October 9, 2001.)

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come. - 2 Timothy 3:1.

A woman who was a child during the Vietnam War remembered after the September 11 attack what it was like for her during those dangerous times. She remembers her mother telling her to listen for the “click.” The noise her mother called the “click” was soon followed by jets screaming across the sky dropping bombs and the bone shaking explosions. If you heard the “click” you knew what was going to happen and you ran for whatever cover you could find.

We do not know what is going to happen next and there is great uncertainty and anxiety not only in the United States but also across the world. We do not know what is going to happen but we suspect that it will not be good. How do we go on with life, what are we to do during such uncertain times? The apostle Paul gives Timothy some advice, which is very much applicable to our lives today. There are at least four things that we need to apply to our lives as we move into the future listening for the “click.”

First, we need to continue on with the work of God putting the supernatural gifts we have been blessed with to work. The apostle says in 2 Timothy 1:6, “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God....” Now is not the time to huddle in our foxholes. Now is the time to move forward for the Kingdom of God. There have always been wars upon planet earth and peace is the exception instead of the rule. Now is the time to step forward in service to our Lord.

Second, we must not let our fears disable us from living the Christian life. Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Fear has already had a huge negative impact on the economy of the world. In the United States hundreds of thousands of people have joined the ranks of the jobless since September 11. The travel industry has been devastated and the effects will eventually be felt throughout the economy. Another translation of 2 Timothy 1:7 says in part, “For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice....” It will take courage for us to live during these perilous times but God will provide the power, love, and sound mind that we need to be courageous in the face of the effect of evil.

Third, we must be willing to suffer for those who need our help. Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:8, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God.” During these difficult times we must take up our cross, deny ourselves and follow our Lord (Luke 9:23). The Christian life is not just about the blessings that God gives to us, or the wonderful way that we feel when we worship Him, or the fellowship we have with other Christians. Sometimes we are called upon to go beyond the skin deep Christianity and share in the sufferings for the gospel in order to help those who so desperately need our help.

Fourth, we need to trust God for what will happen next. Paul shares with Timothy, “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 (2 Timothy 1:12).” He is “able” and as we move into the future listening for the “click” let us remember to continue serving, continue living, take up our crosses and trust God for what comes next.

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09.14.06

No More

(In Remembrance of 9/11. Originally sent October 1, 2001.)

And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away. - Revelation 21:4.

It is clear from this verse that there will be death, sorrow, crying, and pain even for Christians while on this earth. There is more than enough to go around. New York City, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania and Afghanistan are the most recent names, which symbolize the pain of human agony. (Since 2001, many additional names of locations have been added. Names like Iraq, England, Spain, Indonesia, Lebanon, Israel, Syria…and there are so many more.)

It has been said there are no atheists in a foxhole. I have not heard any atheists testify to their unbelief since this tragedy and how their unbelief helped them make it through it. But I have heard survivor after survivor tell of how they prayed and how God protected them and helped them. Yes, some Christians died, some Christians were injured, and some Christians lost material possessions. But as Christians we have a peace which is beyond understanding, a joy that is unspeakable, and a hope that good will come from the bad.

The unbeliever only has more of the same and worse to look forward to after death. The Christian has hope, the unbeliever has nothing. For the Christian, death will bring a New World. In this New World the “former things” will “have passed away.” God will wipe away our tears and “there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain.”

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09.13.06

Trust and Obey

(In Remembrance of 9/11. Originally sent September 17, 2001.)

Look, I go forward, but He is not there, And backward, but I cannot perceive Him; When He works on the left hand, I cannot behold Him; When He turns to the right hand, I cannot see Him. But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and not turned aside. I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth More than my necessary food. - Job 23:8-12.

If anyone had a reason to be depressed it was Job. If anyone ever had a reason to be upset with God it was Job. Job had lost everything except his wife and he probably wished she had gone with the rest. Because Job’s wife told him why didn’t he just curse God and die.

Job not only lost his family and material possessions but he also lost his health. Job suffered miserably from his physical condition. His friends were against him. His wife was against him. But Job continued on.

In the face of all of that, Job continued. Job did not understand why all this had happened but he continued to trust. Job did not know where God was during all of this but Job continued to trust. Job did not know why but Job knew that God knew the why. So, Job continued. Job continued to trust God, to obey God, and even to praise God.

So, many have been hurt by the terrorist destruction in New York, at the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania. Across this country family members, friends and fellow Americans are grieving. But life goes on and we see God is giving strength to go on, to rise up out of the devastation. He is giving us strength to continue to live life.

Before we give up. Before we throw in the towel. Let us take our eyes off of our problems and put them on God. He can give us the strength, and the courage to face whatever life may throw our way. Let us trust Him. Let us look up! Let us say with the Psalmist, “My voice You shall hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning I will direct it to You, and I WILL LOOK UP (Psalm 5:3).”

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09.11.06

Be a Hero

(Originally sent on the one year anniversary of 9/11)

But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, that she caught him by his garment, saying, ‘Lie with me.’ but he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside. - Genesis 39:12-13.

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. - 1 Corinthians 10:13.

Joseph gives us a vivid example of the urgency that is needed in regard to fleeing from sin. The Bible tells us in Romans 6:23 that the “wages of sin is death.” We should search desperately, diligently, urgently for the way of escape from sin because sin brings about death and destruction in our lives. Those escaping from the death and destruction of 9/11 also give us a very vivid picture of fleeing from what will bring death into our lives.

One of the heroes of 9/11 was Welles Crowther. Welles was only 24 years old and worked as an equities trader for Sandler O’Neil on the 104th floor. But Welles was also a volunteer firefighter in his hometown of Nyack, New York. Just after the second plane slammed into the south tower Ling Young was lying facedown on the 78th floor of the elevator lobby when she regained consciousness. When she looked up there was her hero, Welles Crowther. He told her, “I found the stairs. Follow me, and help the ones that can be helped.”

Crowther helped Ling Young and some others down a dozen flights of stairs to where he thought it was safe and then turned and said, “I’m going back upstairs to help.” In the elevator lobby of the 78th floor were close to 200 people who were injured, dying or dead and that was where Young had been and that was where Crowther was heading. There was smoke and fire everywhere but he still was going back. Crowther found Judy Wein and Gigi Singer and led them to safety staying with them for 15 floors and then he again went back up planning to make a third trip.

As the ambulance left with Judy Wein and Gigi Singer the south building collapsed. It collapsed with all those people still trying to make it out including Welles Crowther. But because of the heroism of Welles Crowther and many others - hundreds of people did find the way of escape and made it to safety. Their heroism will never be forgotten by those that they rescued.

As we are fleeing from the temptations of this world and as we are finding the way of escape from the attractions of sin let us take some people with us. We too can be and need to be heroes in the lives of those around us who have lost their way. We have the tools, the resources that we need. We have the Word of God, we have the privilege of prayer, and we have a wondrous Savior - we have what we need to be heroes.

As you are fleeing from sin, temptations, and the world, be a hero and take some people with you.

(The entire sermon that the devotional is based on may be read at: http://www.theburningbush.org/newestsermons.html#THE%20BUILDING)

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09.11.06

The Building is Safe
(Originally sent on the one year anniversary of 9/11)

But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was the fall of it. - Matthew 7:26-27.

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. - Hebrews 10:31.

It has been five years since the terrible tragedy of 9/11, which claimed the lives of 2,803 people at the World Trade Center alone. The north tower was struck by the first hijacked airliner at 8:46 a.m. It was only 16½ minutes later when United Airlines Flight 175 slammed into the south tower. During those 16½ minutes the people in the upper floors of the south tower made life and death decisions which resulted in their escaping with their lives or resulted in their deaths. Many saw the flames of the north tower and the horrified looks on the faces of those who were jumping to their deaths to escape burning to death. To see that was enough for many to flee for their lives.

Some 1400 people fled to safety from the upper floors of the south tower even though the emergency speaker system was blaring that “the building is safe!” “The building is secure!” This was followed by a statement that it was safe to return to work in their offices. Some believed this was an order while others believed it was an option to return to their work areas.

With only 16½ minutes every action was vitally important to their survival. Some immediately fled from the building. Others gathered up personal belongings or finished up some things they were working on. Others made phone calls delaying their exit. Some lost their lives while courageously trying to warn and save others. Steve Miller who worked on the 80th floor and survived said, “The conclusion that I’ve come to is: I think I acted smart, and I think it had almost no bearing on the fact that I survived. If you ran away, you survived. Everybody who ran away survived.”

In the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24) Jesus warns of the need to flee when “you see the abomination of desolation.” Jesus says that at that point “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the filed not go back to get his clothes (Matthew 24:15-17).” In terms of symbolism the “abomination of desolation” is the opposite of godliness and everything good. It is the ultimate in worldliness, sin, fleshly desire and evil.

The world is shouting in every way possible that “the building is safe and secure” and that there is no need for God and the things of God. However, those who have built their lives on the shifting sands of worldliness, and fleshly desire will find that their lives are far from secure and that it is a terrible thing to “fall into the hands of the living God.” Surely we should flee from the shifting sands of the worldliness, and fleshly desire. We should run to the mountain. We should run to God, to “His holy mountain. Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth (Psalm 48:1b-2a).” Let us flee from the things of the world before it is to late and run to the Mountain!
(The entire sermon that the devotional is based on may be read at: http://www.theburningbush.org/newestsermons.html#THE%20BUILDING)

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09.04.06

Rescue Mission

But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. - Jude 1:20-23.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences. - 2 Corinthians 5:10-11.

Two Boy Scouts, Christian Nanson (11-years-old) and John Fitzgerald (9-years-old) were on a camping trip at the Two Rivers State Recreation Area west of Omaha, Nebraska when they saved a girl’s life. Christian spotted something floating in the Platte River - that something turned out to be an 18-month-old girl floating face down. Apparently, the child had somehow gotten away from her mother upstream. The two boys were able to reach the girl and bring her out of the river to shore. It is amazing but the girl, Stephanie Pacheco, was still alive! After being treated for hypothermia she was released a couple of days later. What a joyous reunion it must have been for the mother and child!

If you had been at the Platte River and seen the 18-month-old girl floating by would you have tried to save her? Of course, you would! It was a very desperate situation for the young girl and only the quick action of the two scouts saved her.

It is very obvious that an 18-month-old toddler floating by face down in a river is in danger of drowning. However, when we look at the lives of people floating on the streams of life that pass us by every day it is not as easy to see those at risk of spiritual death. Their situations are even more desperate than that of little Stephanie because if they are not rescued they will go out into eternity to suffer not just physical death but spiritual death. You, as a Christian are called to be ever vigilant and ever ready, to engage in rescue missions for those lost souls floating by.

Jesus makes it clear that there is nothing wrong with the harvest in Matthew 9:37 when He says, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” There are plenty of lost, desperate, doomed souls floating by you on the streams of life. There is no shortage of people that need to be rescued. They are all around you. What there is, is a shortage of rescuers. Why? Perhaps it is because we lack a reverence of, a fear of, a respect for the Lord. Do we not realize that one day at the Judgment Seat of Christ we will have to give an account for those times we have failed to reach out to those lost souls who are floating by us? The apostle Paul says, “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.”

C. T. Studd was a missionary to China, India, and Africa. His most famous saying was, “Some wish to live within the sound of Church or Chapel bell; I want to run a Rescue Shop within a yard of hell.” His life motto was not quite as well known which was, “If Jesus Christ is God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.” We need to ask ourselves the same thing. If Jesus Christ is God and died for me is there a sacrifice too great for me to make for Him? Then, we need to launch our lifeboat and save some of those lost souls floating by us.

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08.23.06

A Survivor Story

Today’s devotional was written by Dr. Walker Moore who is president of AweStar Ministries in Tulsa, P. O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147. You may contact Walker at walker@awestar.org or 800.293.7827. Visit their website at www.awestar.org.

God’s Word: He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. - Revelation 21:7.

Reflection: Family experts say there is a common denominator among happy families: they all go camping. Wanting to be a good father, I took my wife and teenage sons camping. If the Lord tarries another thousand years, I will never do it again.

We started our little outing in Minnesota and finished up at the Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. This was the time for our family to spend alone with one another and Mother Nature. It did not take long for us to become the laughing stock of the campground. Their tents had patches; ours had price tags. They had the Wilderness Experts badge from the Boy Scouts; we were holding the instructions and reading them aloud. They had backpacks that were named after mountain ranges; ours were named after landfills. Who would have ever thought that in the middle of the summer it would get near freezing in Minnesota? Our cheap $5 sleeping bags did absolutely nothing to protect us from the elements. There we were, four bodies huddled together, shivering trying to conserve heat. We were not hard to find, just look for the shaky tent. Not wanting anymore of this Minnesota fun, we headed south.

But camping in the woods at the Lake of the Ozarks was no picnic either. Now we were camping in the midst of a heat wave, and our tents had become a portable sauna. My family would lie there at night gasping for air while the sweat poured. (At least our new sleeping bags made great sponges.) When it finally cooled off in the middle of the night, our sleep was interrupted by the loud serenading of locusts. Whoever said the country was quiet has never spent the night in it.

Our family did survive, and learned that one camping experience would last us a lifetime. So for you parents who have not yet taken your family on the camping adventure, let me give you some survivor tips. 1) Lint from your navel makes a handy fire starter. (Warning: Remove lint from navel before applying the match.) 2) When camping, always wear a long-sleeved shirt. It gives you something to wipe your nose on. 3) A two-man pup tent does not include two men nor a pup. 4) The sight of a bald eagle has thrilled campers for years. The sight of a bald man however, does absolutely nothing for the eagle. 5) The guitar of the noisy teenager next to your campsite makes excellent kindling for your campfire.

The experts are right: camping does make a family happy. And my family will be happy as long as we never do it again.

Insight: Difficult experiences can be used to draw your family closer together.

Prayer: Dear Father, I know that there are going to be difficult days in our family. The enemy wants to divide and conquer. But as our Great Shepherd please draw our family close around you. During these seemingly impossible days unite our hearts and spirits with the hope that is You. Amen.

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08.22.06

Breaking Into Prison

Have you not brought this on yourself, in that you have forsaken the LORD your God when He led you in the way? And now why take the road to Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor? Or why take the road to Assyria, to drink the waters of the River? Your own wickedness will correct you, and your backslidings will rebuke you. Know therefore and see that it is an evil and bitter thing that you have forsaken the LORD your God, and the fear of Me is not in you,” says the Lord GOD of hosts. - Jeremiah 2:17-19.

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God. - 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.

A strange thing has happened in Vienna, Austria. A 23-year-old man, Detlef Federsohn, was arrested for trying to break into jail. Detlef had served two years in the Josefstadt Prison for theft prior to his release and rearrest. Police officers found Detlef on the roof of the prison trying to break in, trying to get back into prison. Federsohn said this in response to questions about his strange behavior, “Life is so much easier on the inside. They feed you, do your washing and let you watch TV, which I can tell you is a lot more than my mum does. So I thought if I could sneak back in I would blend in with the others and the (guards) wouldn't notice.”

Backsliding is a word not used much anymore but it does not mean that backsliding among Christians has stopped occurring. Backsliding is for the Christian very similar to what Detlef Federsohn was trying to do. Detlef wanted to return to his familiar surroundings in prison with all of his prison friends, and prison food. Christians sometimes try to do the same thing. They try to go back down to Egypt, they try to go back to being fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, and extortioners. However, once you have been born again (John 3:3) you cannot become unborn. Once you have eternal life (John 3:16) it cannot become uneternal life or it would not have been eternal life to begin with.

What happens when a Christian begins to backslide is misery begins to set in. Lot is an example of what it is like to live in the midst of wickedness. While Lot may not have participated, he was certainly in the midst of it living in Sodom and Gomorrah. The apostle Peter writes of this situation by saying, “…and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds) (2 Peter 2:7-8).” Just being around the wickedness was enough to torment the soul of Lot. How much worse it would have been if Lot had actually been participating in the evil? It is so much worse for the Christian who tries to go back to the evil lifestyle that God brought them out of through their believing in Jesus Christ.

The backslidden Christian will never have peace, and will always have a tormented soul. In addition, their backsliding opens them up to the discipline of the Lord (Hebrews12). So, if you’ve gone down to Egypt and are trying to find a way back into your former prison of sin…the chains have been broken. Stop trying to wrap them back around yourself! Stop trying to make yourself miserable! How do you stop? You turn back to the Lord! You ask Him for help. As the apostle Peter says just after talking about Lot’s tormented soul, “…the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations (2 Peter 2:9a)….” God knows what you need, He has what you need, and He is able to deliver you. Let Him!!

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08.16.06

Are You Ready?

But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left. Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. - Matthew 24:36-44.

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. - 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18.

But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. - 1 Thessalonians 5:1-4.

Richard Kyle, a Christian historian, states well the dilemma believers through the centuries have faced, “Through two thousand years of Western history millions of…sincere, devout, and knowledgeable people have seen the end as (about to happen in their own lifetimes)…but they have all been wrong.”

Here are a very few of the many who have been wrong:

110 A.D. - Ignatius: “The last days are upon us. Weigh carefully the times. Look for him who is above all time, eternal and invisible.”

236 A.D. - Hippolytus: Predicted Christ would return by 500 A.D.

1500s - Martin Luther: “We have reached the time of the white horse of the Apocalypse. This world will not last any longer… than another hundred years.”

1600s - Christopher Columbus: He was sure the world would end by 1656.

1800s - William Miller: “I am fully convinced that somewhere between March 21st, 1843 and March 21st, 1844 Christ will come.”

1900s - Edgar Whisenant: He was a NASA engineer who wrote the book, “88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Take Place in 1988.” Whisenant wrote a second book after the 1988 failure predicting the Rapture in 1989 based upon a correction of his mathematical calculations.

From Wikipedia additional failed predictions:

1992 - Korean group "Mission for the Coming Days” predicted October 28, 1992 as the date for the rapture.

1994 - Pastor John Hinkle of Christ Church in Los Angeles predicted June 9, 1994.

1997 - Stan Johnson of the Prophecy Club predicted September 12, 1997.

1998 - Marilyn Agee, in The End of the Age, predicted May 31, 1998.

Yet to be proved true or false are predictions by:

Jerry Falwell - Predicted in 1999 that the Second Coming would probably be within 10 years.

Jack Van Impe - Has said that he believes Christ will come back sometime between 2008 and 2013.

An interesting site with much information and links about the rapture is www.raptureready.com, which includes the “Rapture Index.” The “Rapture Index” states that it is the “The prophetic speedometer of end-time activity.” Since 2001, the “Rapture Index” has been in the “Fasten your seatbelts” mode.

It is easy to look at the failed predictions of the past and laugh (as many do) at those who were so wrong. However, it is clear that for those of us who believe that Scripture is true and that all Biblical prophecies will be fulfilled that we are drawing ever nearer to the fulfillment of those prophecies. We must remember that during the days of Noah that the people of that time must have been laughing at Noah and his family for building a huge ship on dry ground (Genesis 6-9). They were no longer laughing when they were swimming for their lives and the rain was still falling.

Remember Jesus tells us, “And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed (Luke 17:26-30).” “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect (Matthew 24:44).”

Are you ready?

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08.15.06

What if?

When Gog attacks the land of Israel, my hot anger will be aroused, declares the Sovereign LORD. In my zeal and fiery wrath I declare that at that time there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel. The fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the beasts of the field, every creature that moves along the ground, and all the people on the face of the earth will tremble at my presence. The mountains will be overturned, the cliffs will crumble and every wall will fall to the ground. I will summon a sword against Gog on all my mountains, declares the Sovereign LORD. Every man's sword will be against his brother. I will execute judgment upon him with plague and bloodshed; I will pour down torrents of rain, hailstones and burning sulfur on him and on his troops and on the many nations with him. And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know that I am the LORD.' - Ezekiel 38:18b-23.

This passage in Ezekiel refers to what is known as Ezekiel’s War or the Battle of Gog and Magog. It describes an attack upon Israel and the intervention of God to protect Israel. Although the nations primarily affected by the destruction will be those attacking Israel, it appears that there will be some worldwide effects. There will be a “great earthquake.” Every creature and all the people on earth will “tremble” as a result of that earthquake. In addition, mountains will be “overturned,” cliffs will “crumble,” and every wall “will fall.”

The question for us and for Bible scholars of the ages is and has been when will this event of Ezekiel’s War occur? Many scholars simply ignore the issue; however, with Israel being reborn as a nation in 1948 and the continued events of the Middle East the timing of this event is very important to us.

Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins in their “Left Behind” series present the Battle of Gog and Magog as taking place three and one-half years prior to the beginning of the seven years of Tribulation. Joel Rosenberg, author of “Ezekiel’s Option,” also presents this battle as taking place prior to the Tribulation period. LaHaye, Jenkins, and Rosenberg also present the prophetic timeline as having the Battle of Gog and Magog precede the Rapture of the Church. According to this timeline, we who are Christians will still be around to see the intervention of God and the destruction of the attacking enemies of Israel. According to this timeline, we will also be present to experience the effects of an earthquake that make the entire world “tremble.”

I am not an expert on prophecy but what if? What if Rosenberg, LaHaye, and Jenkins are right? What if we wake up in the middle of the night to the shaking of our houses and when we turn on the television we see right there on CNN (or Fox, or MSNBC) fire and brimstone, giant hailstones raining destruction on the armies attacking Israel? Shocking? That would be a great understatement, wouldn’t it? Terrifying, might be a better word.

Now since we have considered that scenario how about this one? Perhaps this is not some event that will take place far in the future but instead it is rapidly approaching. No one knows for sure - but what if? What if this event were to occur during your lifetime? How would you cope with it? How would your family cope with it? Would you survive it? If you did survive it, what would you do next?

Considering that this supernatural intervention of God and fulfillment of prophecy would take place before the entire world it would then present a great opportunity for evangelization of those around us. It could be that there will be a great spiritual awakening prior to the Rapture. What if…?

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07.28.06

The Shock of Your Life

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; - 2 Peter 3:10-14.

Just last week a man received possibly the shock of his life when a 110-pound Saint Bernard suddenly landed on top of him. The dog was thrown out of a second story apartment window by the intoxicated owner. A police spokesperson, Grezegorz Wierzbicki said, “The dog had a soft landing because it fell on a man and the dog escaped with just a few scratches. The man was also more in a psychological state of shock than physically hurt.” He is bruised but physically okay otherwise. Oskar, the dog, has been placed in an animal shelter and the police are investigating possible animal abuse.

Having a dog suddenly land on top of you would be a shock! I once wrote a devotional that included the story of a cow falling through the roof of a coffeehouse in Turkey and landing on top of a man. They both survived. There have been instances of meteorites slamming through the roofs of houses. I have lost track of how many times cars and trucks have plowed into and sometimes through houses usually in the middle of the night. Small planes have crashed into the roofs of houses. Countless items have fallen from planes onto houses, vehicles and even people. All of these incidents have at least one thing in common and that is that it would have been a shock to the person or persons that it happened to. You probably remember a shockingly unexpected thing or two that has happened in your life.

When I have had a shockingly unexpected thing occur in my life it has at the very least made me stop and think. Since I have been a Christian when something like that occurs it has made me consider if there is something spiritual of which I should be aware. Is God trying to tell me something?

If you look at what is going on in the Middle East at this time we can probably agree that it occurred suddenly and was a shock for most of us - especially those living in the affected countries. Is there something going on here spiritually of which we should be aware?

Consider that Israel had ceased to exist for 1900 years until 1948 when it again became a country. It is a fulfillment of a prophecy by Ezekiel, “Then say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land… (Ezekiel 37:21-22a).’” The nation of Israel is a miracle of history that the nations of the world have observed and know that it is true. The point being that this prophecy is not the only prophecy of God that has come true and will come true.

The Lord has had great patience but the end will eventually arrive. The Day of the Lord will come as the apostle Peter says and “the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” Knowing what you know of the rapidly approaching fulfillment of prophecy I will leave you with the same question the apostle Peter asked, “…what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God.”

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07.27.06

Not My Problem

Now as they went out of Jericho, a great multitude followed Him. And behold, two blind men sitting by the road, when they heard that Jesus was passing by, cried out, saying, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!” Then the multitude warned them that they should be quiet; but they cried out all the more, saying, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!” So Jesus stood still and called them, and said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, “Lord, that our eyes may be opened.” So Jesus had compassion and touched their eyes. And immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed Him. - Matthew 20:29-34.

Near West Milford, West Virginia at a dam, a dead cow became caught on a tree branch. The dead cow did what dead cows do, it began to decay and it did so for several weeks. Five governmental organizations or jurisdictions refused the many requests from those who lived nearby for something to be done. The West Virginia Department of Natural Resources could have done something but alas, they only have the authority to act in the case of wild animals. The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection checked out the situation and determined there was no apparent ecological threat. The Agriculture Department declared the issue to be local in nature. A Water Board also felt that it should be handled by local authorities. Thankfully, some local volunteer firefighters and some Highway Department workers decided to take care of the problem.

On a day long ago, Jesus was walking out of the city of Jericho when two blind men began shouting at Him. Jesus asked them what they wanted and they responded that they wanted their eyes to be healed. The Bible records that Jesus had compassion on them and healed them. However, Jesus was not required to give compassion. He could have looked at them while he continued walking and simply said, “That’s not my problem.” He could have but He didn’t.

There does seem to be something in us as human beings that wants to avoid complications of any kind. The incident with the dead cow is typical of many when confronted with avoidable problems. The typical response is “That’s not my problem.” Our desire to avoid such complications has required many states to enact laws requiring that motorists involved in accidents to stop and render aid. It was necessary because many people would simply drive off to avoid a ticket or other complications from an accident.

Of course, all of this brings to mind the story of the Good Samaritan. If you remember, the story (Luke 10) robbers attacked a man leaving him to die along the road. A couple of religious people passed by that would have been expected to stop and render aid. The priest and the Levite must have both said, “That’s not my problem” as they passed by. The Samaritan was the only one who stopped and demonstrated compassion. As a result of rendering aid, the Samaritan experienced some complications. Rendering aid resulted in the Samaritan exposing himself to possible danger from the same robbers who had left the man half-dead; it caused a major loss of time, and the expenditure of funds to assure the care of the wounded man.

There are so many situations when encountered in life that we are tempted to say, “That’s not my problem.” However, as Christians who know the example of Jesus we are called upon to render compassion even when it may result in complications. We should always remember that Jesus saw us in trouble in our sins and He did not say, “That’s not my problem.” No, He took time out from the glories of Heaven to come down here to Earth for some thirty years to live a perfect life in a difficult time, becoming the perfect sacrifice while dying on the cross on our behalf. Talk about complications!

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07.26.06

Foolishness and Arrogance

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, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. - 2 Timothy 2:23-26.

There is a fact of life and that is that people sometimes will do foolish even stupid things. Here are a few examples:

Two men had an argument in Syracuse, New York over who it was that drank the last beer. One of the men ended the argument by robbing the other. He stole his cell phone, cash and then hit his drinking buddy over the head with a gun. Ronald Zimmerman is now facing several charges including first-degree robbery.

Carriel Louah is suing her parents. She showed up unexpectedly a couple of years ago at her parent’s home to surprise her mother on her birthday. Sounds like a nice thing to do doesn’t it? But the next morning Carriel fell on her parent’s icy driveway and broke two ankles. She is now suing her parents for $75,000 for their failure to properly maintain their drainage system.

In Jenks, Oklahoma, sadly, a 17-year-old boy has been killed during a paintball fight between two groups of young men in two vehicles. The fight does not appear to have been malicious in intent, which occurred after they left a paintball adventure park - just very tragic. Oklahoma Highway Patrol Lt. Pete Norwood said about the accident, “I have seen a lot of horseplay over the past years, but I think this is the first time I have ever seen somebody playing paintball at 75 mph. The highway is no place to play.”

Some things are obviously foolish in nature and other things may not appear to be foolish until we look at the eternal consequences. So many problems between people and within a church arise over little things and often simply because of miscommunication or misunderstanding. Those problems escalate until the real business of the church is placed on hold.

Sadly, some arguments, disputes, strife in the church and between people outside of the church occur not because of foolishness but because of arrogance. When we are involved in an argument or disagreement, we must be careful to consider our own position. Are you a person that has to always have your way? Are you always right and everyone else always wrong? Do you think that everyone else should always have the same view of things and opinion of things as you do? Do you think that everyone else would do well to live exactly as you live? If so, it may be that you have a problem with arrogance.

Arrogance is defined as, “an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions.” Another definition defines someone who is arrogant as being, “unpleasantly proud and behaving as if you are more important than, or know more than, other people.” According to those definitions Proverbs 28:25 is talking about an arrogant person when it says, “He who is of a proud heart stirs up strife.” Proverbs 13:10 also indicates that arrogance causes strife when we are told, “By pride comes nothing but strife.” The apostle Paul gives a word of wisdom and warning about arrogance when he writes, “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 (Romans 12:16).”

A fool is defined as “a person who behaves in a silly way without thinking.” Sometimes there are fools in the church who unintentionally cause disruption or strife but it is not something that they planned to do. However, someone who is arrogant is someone who thinks, considers, contemplates, plans, and causes disruption and strife through their faulty reasoning. I say faulty because they think they know better than everyone else, including God, about everything.

What are the solutions for foolishness and arrogance and therefore a solution for much of the strife that we encounter in life and in church? Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit your works to the Lord, and your thoughts will be established.” Proverb 19:23a says, “The fear of the Lord leads to life, and he who has it will abide in satisfaction.” We are told in Proverbs 19:20-21, “Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days. There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand.” What is the solution for foolishness and for arrogance? It is found in a life committed to the Lord, a life that is continually listening for and seeking the wisdom that only comes from God.

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07.25.06

The Law of Pain

For the wages of sin is death. - Romans 6:23a.

Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, “Because I bore him in pain.” And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested. - 1 Chronicles 4:9-10.

There are many natural laws including the Law of Gravity. Gravity is defined as “a fundamental physical force that is responsible for interactions which occur because of mass between particles, between aggregations of matter (as stars and planets), and between particles (as photons) and aggregations of matter….” A practical definition for us who live on Planet Earth could be, “What goes up must come down.” If you throw something up in the air here on Earth, it is going to come back down. Even a bullet shot into the air is going to come down somewhere. Step off a roof or a cliff and it will hurt when you hit the ground because gravity forces you to go down and not up. We may not like the law of gravity but gravity does not operate in accord with our personal preferences.

There is a spiritual law which operates whether we like it or not and that is the Law of Pain. Whenever we sin whether in our eyes, it is large or small, it results in pain. Sometimes the pain is very obvious and immediate. Other times the pain is not so obvious and may be delayed or spread out over time. The Bible is clear that sin results in death (Romans 6:23a). Jabez was aware of this Law and prayed, “…and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!”

When Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3), it caused great pain for them and all of us. God described the pain that was to come upon them and us to Adam and Eve in this way: (To the woman He said) “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Then to Adam He said) “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.”

When Cain killed his brother Abel it caused immediate pain for Abel and delayed, but continuing life long pain for Cain. God said to Cain, “So now you are cursed from the earth, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you till the ground, it shall no longer yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a vagabond you shall be on the earth (Genesis 4:11-12).”

Throughout the Bible when someone sinned, committed an evil act, it caused pain for them and for others. Yes, we can be forgiven. David was forgiven but there were long-term consequences and pain that resulted from his sin with Bathsheba and the killing of her husband. In the New Testament Ananias and his wife, Sapphira, lied about their gift (Acts 5). The immediate pain that resulted was their both being struck dead by God.

We can rejoice that we have forgiveness for our sins through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23b; 1 John 1:9). However, we should always remember and take into consideration that when we sin we will cause pain. That pain will affect us personally and it will affect those around us. We should make the prayer of Jabez the cry of our heart for every day, “…that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!”

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07.12.06

The Search

These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. - 1 John 5:13.

Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? - 1 Corinthians 3:16.

There is a search underway in McLean County, Illinois and the searchers are very determined. They are using modern technological tools including heat-seeking devices and infrared devices to find their quarry. They are setting up traps and gathering more evidence. What or who are they searching for? They are searching for the legendary Sasquatch aka Bigfoot. There has been a sighting in the area of a couple of the creatures, a mother and a baby. There have also been sightings of the legendary creatures across the world in many countries and so the search continues.

There is another search that those who say they are Christians might want to conduct. What kind of search would that be? It would be a search of the heart to determine whether or not we Holy Spirit is residing within. In the last chapter of 1 John the apostle John sums up his reason for writing the letter by saying in 1 John 5:13, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.”

This search of the heart is going to involve a tool much different from those being used to search for Bigfoot. The tool we need to use to determine whether we have the Holy Spirit within and therefore have eternal life is prayer. John says that we can have absolute confidence in this tool as he says in 1 John 5:14-15, “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.”

The apostle John along with tool of prayer gives us some things to prayerfully consider in our search. Here are some of them:

1. 1 John 2:3-4: “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” If we know Jesus as our Savior, we will have a desire to be obedient to Him. Thankfully, John also tells us, “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. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world (1 John 2:1-2 - also see 1 John 1:9).” John does make it clear that it is possible that we may sin after coming to know Jesus as our Savior but we should have a desire to live in obedience to Him. When we sin, we should run to our Lord to find His forgiveness and restore our fellowship with Him.

2. 1 John 2:5b-6: “By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” If we have eternal life and the Holy Spirit is living within us, we should be living our lives as Jesus would live. Are you trying to live your life as Jesus would live it?

3. 1 John 2:9-10: “He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.” If the love of God abides within us and we abide in Him than we will love as He has loved us. There should be no room for prejudice in the heart of a believer.

4. 1 John 2:15-16: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.” Is our love for our Lord greater than our love of the world? It should be if we belong to Him.

I pray that your search will be successful because it is God’s will that you know whether or not you have eternal life. The apostle John makes it clear that you can know for sure whether you have been saved and have the Holy Spirit living within you and are in possession of eternal life. Once you have eternal life by definition it can never be taken away because eternal life means it is forever, everlasting, never ending life.

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07.06.06

Limited Vision

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

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. - Ephesians 3:20-21.

When I was in Junior High and High School, I would sometimes think about whom I might marry. There were a couple of girls that I had hopes for but neither of them was really interested in me in that way. I have often wondered what would have happened if I had asked God who He wanted me to marry. Would He have told me? Possibly.

I grew up on a farm four and a half miles south of I-40 in western Oklahoma. Looking west from there, I could see for about seven miles to where a ridge blocked my view. My wife (Jeanie) grew up on a farm five miles south of I-40 in western Oklahoma. Fourteen miles west of where I grew up was where my future wife lived. If I had gone to the dirt road south of my house and driven 14 miles west, I would have arrived at her home. I could see seven miles but it was not far enough to see my future wife.

I had limited vision when I was a teenager and I still have limited vision. My physical and mental vision does not allow me to see very far. Now, I can reasonably plan for today, tomorrow, the next few weeks and even months. But that does not mean that I know for certain that my plan will actually be workable. Because I cannot see into the future with a certainty. We make our plans, and we should - but only God knows what tomorrow holds.

When I was a teenager, I did not know Jesus as my personal Savior. I was spiritually lost. What a difference it would have made in my life at that point if I had known Christ as my Savior. I could have talked to Him during the difficult times and He could have led me in the right way through so many times that I know now I made bad decisions. My vision was very limited but His was and is infinite.

God says to you and me, “Call to me.” In other words, “Talk to me.” If we will simply ask God, talk to Him, He promises what? He promises to, “answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” We may not think that God can help us or reveal to us anything that we ourselves cannot do or see. However, the apostle Paul says about God that He is “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think….” God is able to go beyond our limited physical, human abilities. He can go beyond anything that we are capable of thinking, or dreaming, or conceiving in our minds. He is above us in His capabilities. His vision is not limited. He knows what will happen tomorrow with a certainty. He knows what will happen next year, and the year after with a certainty.

Do you have a vision problem? Do you have some other kind of problem? Why deny yourself the wisdom, vision, and help of God? He pleads with you to “Call to Me.” Perhaps now is a very good time to do exactly that.

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07.05.06

Be a Patriot

Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people He has chosen as His own inheritance. - Psalm 33:12.

With the launch of the Space Shuttle Discovery, we saw a vivid exhibition of bravery and patriotism. Everyone knows since the disasters of the failed Challenger launch and the failed reentry of Columbia that the launch or the reentry of a space shuttle is not a sure thing. Watching the astronauts, we know that it could be the last moments of their lives. They also know very well that their lives could be extinguished in only a few short minutes or in a few short days with a failed reentry. It is a necessary bravery since the space shuttle program must continue for several more years. It is vital for the space exploration program and for national security.

What is a patriot? The American Heritage Dictionary defines a patriot as “One who loves, supports, and defends one’s country.” It is obvious that the American shuttle astronauts love their country and demonstrated their patriotism in a very vivid way. Are you a patriot? Are you a person who loves, supports, and defends your country? If so, how do you do it? The Psalmist points out a vital aspect of being patriotic. The Psalmist says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD.”

In the United States, we like to think of our country as the greatest, richest, and most powerful country in all of history. However, we are a young nation compared to the Roman Empire and Chinese dynasties. We do live in a great and powerful country but at the same time, it is a very fragile and vulnerable country. We know that it is true don’t we? Two airliners captured and flown into the World Trade Center not only killed 3,000 people - the attack also drastically injured the economy of this country. We can only shudder to think of the consequences if Flight 93 had actually succeeded in hitting the Capitol building. We know the enemies of this country are hard at work trying to find a way to hit us again and to hit us harder the next time. Our ports are vulnerable and even one major port shut down for an extended period could cripple our economy. North Korea has gone nuclear and may have a missile capable of even hitting the middle of this country. Iran will soon have a nuclear bomb and they have long been sharing information with North Korea about missile technology.

Beyond the political and terrorist enemies of this country, there are other concerns as well. Hurricane Katrina last year should have been a wake up call about the fragility of our country. It is already hurricane season again and New Orleans is probably not much safer than it was last year. But it is not just hurricanes is it? Fires have become an increasing problem. Tornadoes appear to be increasing their range into many other states. Earthquake scientists still believe a big one could occur at anytime in San Francisco or Los Angeles or anywhere along the major fault lines.

Some of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded did not occur in California. The New Madrid Seismic zone lies within the central Mississippi Valley, extending from northeast Arkansas, through southeast Missouri, western Tennessee, western Kentucky to southern Illinois. Between 1811 and 1812, four catastrophic earthquakes, with magnitude estimates greater than 7.0, occurred during a three-month period. The earthquakes may have been of a magnitude eight or greater. New Madrid, Missouri was the epicenter. Survivors reported that the earthquakes caused cracks to open in the earth's surface, the ground to roll in visible waves, and large areas of land to sink or rise. Damage was reported as far away as Charleston, South Carolina, and Washington, D.C. What are the chances of that happening again? Scientists give it a 90% probability by the year 2040.

Do you understand, comprehend, how fragile our country really is? If you do, it ought to make a difference in how you live your life because we really do need the blessing and protection of God upon this country. Only through God can we find safety and protection. In light of our need of God, here are some ways you can be a true patriot and demonstrate in active ways your love of God and love of country:

Every time you come to church it is not only an act of obedience to your God, it is also an act of patriotism.

Every time you pray it is not only an act of obedience to your God, it is also an act of patriotism.

Every time you read your Bible it is not only an act of obedience to your God, it is also an act of patriotism.

Every time you witness to someone it is not only an act of obedience to your God, it is also an act of patriotism.

Every time you are kind to someone it is not only an act of obedience to your God, it is also an act of patriotism.

Every time you tithe it is not only an act of obedience to your God, it is also an act of patriotism.

Every time you say “NO” to evil and “YES” to God, it is not only an act of obedience to your God, it is also an act of patriotism.

The Psalmist says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, The people He has chosen as His own inheritance (Psalm 33:12.” Let us make God again, the God of this country by living for Him.

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06.30.06

No Heart

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up. - 1 Corinthians 13:4.

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. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. - Ephesians 4:30-32.

But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. - Luke 6:27-31.

Ronald Michalowicz, only 54 years old, developed cancer of the tongue, which was thought, would rapidly lead to his death. However, some friends in the town of Bedford Park, Illinois decided to raise the money necessary for him to receive treatment. After receiving chemotherapy, the disease is in remission and it appears that Ronald will survive.

Ronald worked as a fire inspector for Bedford Park, which has a rule against solicitation of charitable contributions. In Ronald’s situation, the rule was waived by an official of the town and the solicitation was not done by Ronald himself. Now that he has returned to work, other town officials have enforced the no-solicitation rule by firing Ronald even though he was just one year short of retirement.

Personally, I think the town ought to be ashamed! They should be ashamed in the first place for not providing sufficient insurance to meet the needs of their employees. Second, they ought to be ashamed that it was not the town but others that sought to raise the funds necessary for his treatment. The fact that they have resisted those efforts and discharged from employment a man who survived in spite of their poor treatment of him is despicable. It appears likely that the town will profit by being able to avoid the payment of Ronald’s retirement benefits.

It is a fact of life that some people are givers and some are takers. Some people are kind and some people are mean. Some people care about others and some people could care less about anyone but themselves. You could say in a figurative way that some people have a heart and some do not have a heart. Because it basically comes down to the spiritual condition of a person as to how the treat others.

What is the solution for a spiritual heart condition? The treatment requires a heart transplant. Our heart must be replaced with the heart of Jesus. His nature must be implanted into us. It is a radical treatment but it is the only way to cure a mean, cold-hearted person of their selfish uncaring nature. The good news, the great news is that the treatment can be almost instantaneous and often occurs simply by someone seeing clearly, how much their God loves them through Jesus.

I like the way that the apostle Paul describes this transformation in his letter to Titus: “For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men (Titus 3:3-8).”

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06.29.06

The Way Home

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. - Matthew 7:7-8.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. - 2 Timothy 3:16.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” - John 14:6.

Can you imagine being in a foreign city for the first time and forgetting how to return to your hotel? What would you do? You might do what an American soccer fan did in Hanover, Germany. The 25-year-old man from Boston checked into his hotel prior to the soccer match between Poland and Costa Rica. However, after the match he was unable to remember the name of the hotel he had checked into, or the address. What he did was to search for the hotel for six hours after the soccer match without success. He finally realized that he was lost and needed help. Around three in the morning, he stumbled onto a police station and asked for help. A spokesperson for the police, Holger Jureczko said, “The only thing he could remember was paying 10 euros for a taxi ride to the city center and that he went past a park and a Mercedes dealer. There are a lot of Mercedes dealers in Hanover but we were able to find the one in the vicinity of a park.” The lost man finally recognized the hotel after driving around the streets in the area for an hour just before the morning sun rose. It must have been a long, long night!

What would you do if you were in a similar situation? Being a man, I would probably do the same thing as in trying to find the hotel without asking for help. On our recent trip, I was only lost one time and I was able to buy a map and find my way back without asking for help. But it did seem to be a source of frustration for my wife!

How could the lost man in Hanover have resolved his situation more quickly? How can we? He could have immediately asked for help. Pride appears to be the primary motivation for not asking for help at least from my own experience. Asking for help is admitting that you cannot do it on your own and that you need the help, advice, etc. of someone else. It means that if you have to have help that you are not perfect and that you do not know everything, and cannot do everything on your own. That is hard for some of us to swallow but it is still the truth for every person on this earth. None of us knows everything, and none of us can do everything by ourselves. If we are honest with ourselves, we will realize that we all need help; assistance, advice sometimes - and that admitting it can actually make life easier for us.

It is the same in the spiritual realm. We cannot arrive at the correct spiritual destination without help. Where should we go for spiritual help? The very first place to go is to God. Ask Him to help you to find your way. He promises to do that in Matthew 7:7-8. The second place to go for spiritual help is to the Word of God, which is the Bible because “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” What does God say through the Bible about finding your way spiritually? Here are a few of many verses of Scripture about this eternally important subject:

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).”

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).”

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).”

“If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Romans 10:9-10).”

“For ‘whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved (Romans 10:13).’”

Jesus is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” and it is only through Him that you can find your way to your spiritual home. For more information about finding your way spiritually and being saved eternally, you can access the “How to be Saved” webpage at the Burning Bush website at this URL: http://www.theburningbush.net/articles.asp?columnid=2939

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06.12.06

Be Not Afraid

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.

Jack is not afraid. He is not even afraid of bears. To prove it he chased a black bear up a tree that wandered into his yard. Actually, Jack chased the bear up a tree, twice! Amazing! Who is this Jack? Jack is a fifteen-pound white and orange cat who resides in West Milford, New Jersey. Jack had often chased small animals out of the back yard and his owner, Donna Dickey had joked about Jack’s being on duty as in guarding the place. But she had never thought Jack would actually be able to chase a bear up a tree!

Over the past few weeks, I have been dealing with something that I never thought I would be facing as a preacher. For the past year and a half, I have had increasing difficulty with my voice. It would often fail and I could drink some water or place a cough drop in my mouth and it would come back. However, beginning with Easter Sunday my voice failed and did not immediately come back at least not soon enough to finish the sermon. I then limited the frequency of my preaching but eventually had a specialist take a look and he found a couple of polyps on my vocal cords. The polyps were removed and after two weeks of rest, I began cautiously to speak and preach again but still encountered problems. I am again resting my voice for a few weeks hoping and praying that it will be well soon. My fear, that I have been contemplating, is that I will be unable to continue preaching which would then require some major changes in our lives if it were to occur.

At the Pastor’s Conference of the Southern Baptist Convention tonight I believe that God had a message for me and possibly for many of you as well. That message was delivered by Chuck Kelley, President of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He described some of the unexpected challenges that he and others at the seminary faced as a result of the hurricane. He also described how God was sufficient to empower them to face and overcome those challenges and crises. My mind had kind of wandered away as Dr. Kelley was speaking but then his words caught my attention as it seemed God was speaking directly to me through him as he said, “Do not be afraid of what ever path or crisis God has ahead for you.”

We can learn from the example of a fifteen-pound cat named Jack. We need to do the same thing with our fears that the enemy places in our minds. We need to chase them away and replace them with the truth of God’s Word. The truth of God’s Word is that if we know Jesus as our Savior then He is with us through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence. The Spirit is speaking and He is saying, “Do not be afraid.” “Fear not.” Not only is He saying “Fear Not” - He is also saying not to be depressed, or dismayed. Why not? Because He promises to “strengthen us,” “help us,” and “uphold us” with His “righteous right hand.”

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05.24.06

In the Chimney

So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the king’s son, which was in the court of the prison, and they let Jeremiah down with ropes. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire. So Jeremiah sank in the mire. - Jeremiah 38:6.

And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. - 1 Peter 3:13-17.

Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. Of course, we would never of our own free will let ourselves down into a dungeon filled with mud like they did to Jeremiah. However, I have read countless stories of people trying to obtain access to houses by going down a chimney. It has happened again in Brawley, California. Matthew Allen, who is 27-years-old, did have an original reason for having gone down the chimney. His reason? He fell into the chimney while he was on the roof of the house looking at the stars. As always happens, Matthew became stuck. He finally took off some clothes and waved them around until motion detectors were set off. Fire Captain Manuel Sevilla had this to say, “I've read and heard of things like that before but I've never seen it. The situation, it was more funny than anything.” They rescued Matthew by using a chain ladder they let down into the chimney.

The apostle Peter makes it clear that for Christians it is always better to suffer for doing what is right than for doing what is wrong. In making that clear, Peter is also giving us a warning that sometimes bad things happen including suffering to the children of God. In the Old Testament, we see Jeremiah suffering for his faithfulness in proclaiming the prophecy that God had given him to proclaim. The king and the officials of the kingdom did not like the message so they tried to shut Jeremiah up. Out of sight and hopefully out of mind down in the mire of the dungeon. But God always knows where His servants are at. The king relented when he was confronted with the condition of the prophet by Ebed-Melech the Ethiopian. Thirty men were sent with Ebed-Melech to pull Jeremiah out of the mire. After that, the king sent for Jeremiah and this time asked to listen to the whole truth of the prophecy of God. Jeremiah suffered but through that suffering, the king came to have a desire to hear what God had to say to him.

No, there will not always be a rescue party that arrives just in time to pull us out of the dungeon or the chimney. In the roll call of the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11, we are told of many who were not rescued, “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— of whom the world was not worthy (Hebrews 11:35-37).”

What do you do if you have fallen into the chimney and it was because of those who meant evil toward you and toward your God? You remain faithful. You pray for the rescue party to come. You pray for the rope to be let down for you to climb up. You pray for God’s will to be done. However, you must have the attitude of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego who told the king just before being thrown into the fiery furnace, “If that is the case, 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).” “But if not“- they planned to remain faithful and we must too.

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05.16.06

Friends Forever

A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. - Proverbs 18:24.

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. - John 15:12-14.

They were just a couple of friends driving along when they noticed they needed some gas and stopped to fill up the tank. After filling the tank, the driver found she did not have enough money to pay for the gas she already had in the tank. So, a deal was worked out with the station attendant. Her friend would stay at the station until the driver could return with the amount owed. It all happened in Germany and a spokesperson for the police in Muenchberg explains, “She didn't have enough money to pay the bill, so her friend stayed behind as a human deposit while she went to withdraw cash. Unfortunately, the woman did not return.” The woman left as a “deposit” at the gas station was stranded, waiting two hours for her friend to come back (She never did.) and then the police arrived to interrogate her but did finally release her. The missing driver will probably be arrested for fraud.

What do you think? Do you think the two friends are going to now remain friends forever? Probably not! Solomon appears to be on to something when he tells us in Proverbs that, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly….” In other words, if you want to have friends, and want to keep those friends - you need to act like a friend. Leaving a friend in an unpleasant situation like the driver did in Germany is not being a friend. It is taking advantage of a friendship, which will result in friction and problems developing in the relationship.

Friends in life are important and provide us with much encouragement and comfort. Sometimes friends do disappoint us and do us wrong. However, as Solomon also points out there is a friend that is not like that. There is a friend that will not only show Himself friendly, but he will stick closer to us than a brother. That friend, is Jesus Christ. All may turn away and leave us stranded; however, Jesus will never do that. Jesus will always be there waiting for us to return to Him.

Is it possible for you to cause a disruption in your friendship with the Lord Jesus? Yes. Why? Because He, Jesus, has given us some commandments, some guidelines for the eternal friendship. He says, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” If we refuse to live like we know He wants us to live - there will be a breach that develops in the relationship. Who caused the breach? You did. If we want to continue on a normal basis in our friendship with the Lord then we must confess our sinfulness (1 John 1:9) and turn back to walk in the ways of righteousness with Him.

Friends are forever. Actually, there is only one friend that you can count on forever and that is Jesus Christ. He has proven His love by dying for you on the cross (Romans 5:8). There is no greater love, no greater friendship than that.

Today’s devotional was written by Dr. Walker Moore who is president of AweStar Ministries in Tulsa, P. O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147. You may contact Walker at walker@awestar.org or 800.293.7827. Visit their website at www.awestar.org.

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05.16.06

I Need An Organizer

God’s Word: Therefore, I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. - Romans 12:1.

Reflection: I read in USA Today that three out of four businessmen that travel carry a Palm Pilot A Palm Pilot is one of those little handheld computers. You have probably seen one of those ultra organized people using these little machines. They can store their entire lives in alphabetical order cross referenced by zip code. When you ask them a question they whip out, from their hidden pocket, this little personal computer and start punching away. These kinds of people get great satisfaction in seeing their life organized on a tiny little screen. Then there are people like me. I have to confess that I am not known for my organization. Oh, God has given me wonderful skills, talents and gifts, but organization has yet to be found in my life. (I have a desk that has not seen daylight since man walked on the moon.) So I need all of the help that I can get to stay organized. I married one of those organized people. I fall to me knees everyday and thank the Lord for giving me a wife who helps me keep my stuff together. She has a Palm Pilot. I do not. However, I own more organizers that the average human being, but I cannot find them. So I have been considering investing in a Palm Pilot.

The Sunday paper announced a sale and listed all the marvelous things Palm Pilots can do. The advertisement boldly announced that it could hold 12,000 addresses, 400 hundred e-mail addresses and…wait a minute! Who has 12,000 addresses? Or more appropriately, who needs 12,000 addresses? I added up my address book and I have a total of 181. And I am not really sure who some of them are. If I add my doctors' addresses that will give me a total of 183. If I add the plumber, the mechanic and the pizza delivery number that would get me up to 186. Now I need 11,814 more. My hometown does not have that many names in the entire telephone book. Maybe I could ask all of you to send me your addresses since you are a part of my extended family. But even that would not be enough. So I have to ask myself a very hard question. Is it something I need or is it something I want? Do I really need something that holds 12,000 addresses?

The Lord reminded me that most of the world does not have their needs met, let alone their wants. Our families should be grateful that the Lord has met our needs. Then our wants seem insignificant when we take it before His throne. Besides that, if I do get one of those electronic organizers it would be sitting in the bottom of the drawer with the others.

Insight: A child who does not know the difference between needs and wants will never understand the concept of sacrifice.

Prayer: Dear Father, today as I plan my life I want to thank You for already giving me what I need. Help me to teach my child not only to need You but to want You. May they have a desire to walk in holiness and to be in Your presence so they will present themselves to You as a living sacrifice. Amen.

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05.13.06

Stand Up!

The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. - 1 Corinthians 15:56-58.

John Kasich a former nine-term congressman, and television host has written a new book called: “Stand for Something - The Battle for America’s Soul.” I heard John talking about this on Fox News this morning. He thinks this is the problem with our country that few are standing for anything. But some are. On the one hand, you have people like Pat Tillman who gave up a career, fame and riches of professional football to join the Army Rangers. We know that tragically he died in Afghanistan. On the other hand you have some people in the sports world who will take steroids or other banned substances and lie about it to reach the top of their profession.

This is a battle of good versus evil. A battle of the moral versus the immoral. A battle for lives of hard honest work against instant gratification by whatever means necessary. John Kasich says we who make up this country need to stand for something or this country is going down the tubes. I think what we need to stand for is…Jesus. And that’s exactly what the apostle Paul tells us that we need to do in 1 Corinthians 15:58, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” “Stand firm.”

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day in the United States and you may not think this a Mother’s Day devotional but it is. This is a Mother’s Day devotional, a Father’s Day devotional, an Uncle and Aunt devotional, an how-to-be an American Patriot (or a patriot in your country) devotional all rolled into one. Because you cannot be a good mother, or father, or uncle, or aunt, or a Patriot, or a good son, or daughter unless you stand for something and that something you need to stand for is a person whose name is Jesus Christ.

Consider for a moment the word, “stand.” What does this mean? Here are some definitions that I found:

“to be in an upright position, or put something in an upright position.”

“to remain in a particular place without moving.”

“to resist or bear something without being harmed or damaged.”

“an opinion that somebody has or an attitude that somebody adopts.”

The way Paul uses the word “stand” could include all of those definitions. However, it is in the military sense of the word that Paul is urging us to “stand firm.” Here are two of the definitions of the military use of the word, “stand”: “a halt made, especially by a force that has been retreating, to give battle (As in Custer’s last stand.).” Also, “to fight resolutely or give battle, often after having been in retreat.”

Do you hear what Paul is saying? He is saying to the Corinthians and to us. “Stop the retreat!” “Stop giving in to what this world wants!” “Stop giving in to what the devil wants!” “Stop giving in to the instant gratification, whatever feels good do it philosophy of life!” “Stop it!” “Stand up, and fight!” “Stand up, and fight for what is right, and good!” “…because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58c).”

When you fight, when you stand up for the Lord Jesus your efforts, your witness, your sacrifices are not wasted. They are never in vain and they will be remembered for eternity.

You can make a difference with your life but to do so you are going to have stand up for Jesus. Will you?

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05.11.06

Time to Move On

The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again. - Acts 10:9-16.

Johnny Lechner is 29-years-old and he has been an undergraduate student at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater for 12 years. He had planned to graduate this May but realized that he had never studied abroad. So he withdrew his graduation application. Lechner said about this, “I realized that if I went one more year, I could study abroad. That's one thing I haven't done.” He has completed 234 credit hours of studies and now qualifies for Wisconsin’s “slacker tax” which doubles the tuition rate for students taking longer than usual to graduate. Lechner did not plan on being a career student. No, that only occurred after he realized how much fun it was in college. It has resulted in a minor celebrity status for him and appearances on some network TV shows along with articles in newspapers. An editor of the University’s student newspaper (The Royal Purple), Michelle Eigenberger, indicated that most students were tired of Lechner’s continued presence on campus and said, “It's getting old. For the sanity of the rest of the campus, we want him to get out of here.”

How do you know when it is time for a change in the way you have been doing things or in your life situation? I think we can agree that Johnny Lechner has had some hints. One, he has stayed eight years longer than most undergraduates have and must be looking a little older than everyone else. Two, he is now subject to the “slacker tax” with double tuition. Three, an editor of the school newspaper says, “…we want him to get out of here.” Four, like Lechner, you receive only angry glares from the rest of the student body.

The apostle Peter was somewhat stuck in his ways. He was a Jewish man determined to lead a Jewish life following strict Jewish teachings. However, things had changed and Peter was still stuck back in the old days. God began to give him some hints. Peter fell into a trance and all these non-Jewish things were being placed before him to eat. He kept refusing in this vision/dream. Peter was determined to continue with the way things had always been. Immediately after receiving this same vision three times a delegation from the Gentile centurion, Cornelius, arrives requesting that Peter come to Cornelius’ home. Why? Because Cornelius had had a vision of an angel telling him to contact Peter. After arriving at Cornelius’ home Peter was convinced to begin preaching Christ, however, before he could finish all the Gentiles gathered there were saved. Peter was now convinced it was time for a change and that salvation was for all people.

Sometimes it is very obvious that we need to change or move on to something else. If a burning bush begins to speak to you, or a donkey starts talking, or a blinding light from Heaven strikes you blind, or an angel shows up telling you what God wants you to do - that is pretty obvious and direct. It could be even more direct and obvious as in being thrown overboard and swallowed by a big fish. Very direct. Very obvious.

Perhaps you have been receiving some hints about the way you have been doing things or a need for a radical change in your life. What are you waiting for? Something more direct and obvious?

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05.08.06

Go Home!

Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities—Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance. - Luke 8:1-3.

Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes. And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones. - Mark 5:1-5.

There was once a cat who left home about ten years ago and his name was “Sneakers.” Sneakers did not come back home and the owners of the little cat were heartbroken. The owners searched in Seattle door-to-door, put out fliers and put ads in the newspapers in attempts to find their beloved cat, Sneakers. But Sneakers could not be found - would he ever be seen again? Although Sneakers had been just a kitten, the owners of the cat had him electronically tagged with a microchip, which included information about how to contact the owners.

Ten years later, Sneakers, a longhaired black cat was left at Sacramento, California’s animal shelter. The people leaving the cat said that they could no longer care for it. Surprisingly the microchip was found and the original owners were contacted. What a great joy and surprise to learn that their beloved cat, Sneakers, was still alive! A spokesperson for the animal shelter said about the original owner, “She was shocked. She was extremely happy and she couldn't believe it.” It did not matter what condition the cat might be in they just wanted him back home. Sneaker’s owners will soon make the 600-mile trip to Sacramento to take their cat back to his home.

Almost two thousand years ago, there were many people who had wandered away from their original owner. They had been discarded by society and it was thought that they were just worthless unredeemable trash. Mary Magadalene was one of those as was the demon possessed man of Gadara. Everyone went out of their way to avoid any contact with these discards of society. Everyone that is except for their original owner, their Creator, Jesus. Jesus found these lost and tormented people in the trash bin of the world and brought them home.

No one thought that these worthless people would ever be of any value. Jesus took them home and gave them new life along with new purpose. To the now redeemed man of Gadara, Jesus says, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you. And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled.”

It does not matter how far down life may have pushed you. It does not matter how other people may see you or think of you. The only thing that matters is the value that you hold in the eyes of your Creator, your original owner, Jesus Christ. In His eyes, you are a unique and irreplaceable treasure. Your value is so great in His eyes that He gave His life for you (Romans 5:8). Go home! He’s waiting!

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05.05.06

Shame

The LORD is righteous in her midst, He will do no unrighteousness. Every morning He brings His justice to light; He never fails, but the unjust knows no shame. - Zephaniah 3:5.

The more they increased, the more they sinned against Me; I will change their glory into shame. - Hosea 4:7.

The news reports have been streaming in today about the smokers at the University of Colorado at Boulder. There is an annual protest or party about the use of marijuana. The University has become more imaginative each year in efforts to discourage this event. Last year they turned on the in-ground sprinkler system; however, the students just stepped on the sprinklers. This year they posted warnings that participants would be photographed and that, “Trespassers may be summoned or referred to the office of judicial affairs.” The warnings were not a hoax and there are many photos now posted online of the participants with a reward being offered for identification. The University webpage is located at http://www.colorado.edu/police/420_Photo_Album/index.htm and the title is “Farrand Field 4-20-2006” with the following statements just prior to many photos: “The University is offering a reward for the identification of any of the individuals pictured below.”

Listening to the statements from some of those attending the event, I heard outrage, anger, and threats of retaliation through the ACLU. One student claimed he was not actually smoking pot but just a cigarette. The situation reminded me somewhat of when I was fourteen years old and was publicly identified as being one of three students who had been smoking cigarettes. It was after a marching band event at another city on a Saturday where afterwards we were allowed to attend a collegiate football game. We did smoke at the football game and unknown to us the Superintendent of our school was watching us smoke with his binoculars. We had a school assembly on Monday morning and the entire school was told about our smoking. It was not against school policy, at that time it was also not illegal, and our fathers were all smokers. Personally, I had not thought there was anything wrong with it until the moment at the assembly. The emotion I felt at the time I still remember very clearly. That emotion was shame.

The students involved in the event at the University of Colorado may face serious consequences for their actions. They could be expelled from college, arrested for trespassing, arrested for violation of law, and prevented from being able to receive any governmental grants or loans. For most of those involved, it was probably a fun thing to do and little thought was given to any possible consequences. Possibly because there had been very few consequences in the past. However, just because judgment has not yet come does not mean that it is not coming and will at some point arrive. If judgment comes upon them would they at that point experience, shame? Or, through the remainder of their lives will they just be angry at being caught, angry at having their actions exposed?

When we sin, are we ashamed? When we are confronted with our sin, are we just angry at being caught and at the person exposing us? When we sin, and if then we experience the emotion of shame it means that our conscience is alive and well. We should immediately turn away from that sin and turn to God through the mercies of our Lord confessing that what we have done was wrong (1 John 1:9). However, if we can sin and never experience the emotion of shame it may be because of one of two possibilities.

One possibility of not experiencing the emotion of shame when we sin is that we have never received Jesus Christ as our personal Savior and been born again. If we do not know Jesus as our personal Savior then the Holy Spirit is not residing within us and we do not have the new nature that comes through salvation (2 Corinthians 5:17). The second possibility is that we may at one point have made a decision for Christ but began to sin again, and again, and again - until our hearts have become so cold, and calloused that we feel nothing when we sin. The solution for both conditions is to turn to God through Christ asking for His mercy and forgiveness while turning away from our sin.

(Some previous devotionals written about hardness of heart include: What would it take? 07.18.01 and Hearing and Doing 03.15.01 located in the archives at http://www.theburningbush.org/devmaraug01)

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05.04.06

Overreacting

Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?” - John 18:10-11.

And while He was still speaking, behold, a multitude; and he who was called Judas, one of the twelve, went before them and drew near to Jesus to kiss Him. But Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” When those around Him saw what was going to happen, they said to Him, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus answered and said, “Permit even this.” And He touched his ear and healed him. - Luke 22:47-51.

A 19-year-old woman in Jacksonville, Florida did try to do the right thing but no one listened. There was a snake on her porch and since she was living in an apartment complex she contacted the apartment manager for help. The manager told her that snake removal was not in their job description or at least was not the responsibility of the management. Shatavia Kearney forced with doing something about the snake herself poured a flammable liquid on the snake and sit it on fire. However, the vinyl siding on the porch caught on fire causing a thousand dollars in damage. Thankfully, the fire was put out and no one was injured. But the snake did manage to escape.

The apostle Peter in the years following the arrest, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus was probably asked on occasion, about why he attacked the High Priest’s servant. Peter may have rationalized what he did by saying that the Lord had insisted that they should have swords (Luke 22:36-38) and since they had been told to have swords should they have not used them? Then Peter may have said that you know I just cut off his ear and the Lord put it back on - so what’s the big deal? I think that Peter’s intention was not to cut off the servant’s ear but to cut off his head. Peter fully intended to do that; however, using a heavy large sword takes practice. Peter was a fisherman and had never received much instruction in swordsmanship.

Dictionary.com defines overreacting as, “To react with unnecessary or inappropriate force, emotional display, or violence.” In the case of the snake, Shatavia, did use “inappropriate force” and most likely it was with an “emotional display.” I understand completely because snakes make me very uncomfortable too. We can understand Peter’s reaction as well although as it turned out it was unnecessary, inappropriate, and an emotional display. It almost cost Peter his life, and if the Lord had not healed the servant’s ear, it would have. The reaction of Shatavia also was very dangerous and could have resulted in her losing her life or even harming many more people.

The apostle Peter who had once drawn the sword to kill the servant of the High Priest with the benefit of many years of hindsight writes, “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love (2 Peter 1:5-7). Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious (1 Peter 2:1). And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed (1 Peter 3:13-14). For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil (1 Peter 3:17).”

For the apostle Peter overreaction has become self-control. Let us learn from these great words of wisdom that Peter shares. Let us too grow in the Lord and overcome the temptation to overreact.

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05.03.06

Living in Sinnerville

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. - Isaiah 53:6.

Soon there will be an opportunity to actually live in a housing addition named “Sinnerville.” It is located in Wyoming and there are some who are unhappy with the choice of the name. The chairperson of the Campbell County Commission, Marilyn Mackey says about a consideration of the subdivision‘s final plan including the name, “I expect there would be some discussion on that. However, the county really does not regulate the naming of subdivisions unless there's a conflict with another subdivision.” The name, however, is not as controversial as you might think. The subdivision’s planner is Jason Sinner. Sinner has pointed out that he is proud of his name and others in the family who have been named Sinner. George A. Sinner is well known in the northern states having served as Governor of North Dakota from 1985 to 1992.

I can identify with the name problem to some extent because my grandmother’s (father’s mother) maiden name was Siniard sometimes recorded as Sinard. They were Huguenots who came to this country from France but I have wondered if the name variation ever caused any problems for those in the family with that name. I once lived on “Roach Street” in one small city but learned that it was named after someone with the railroad that had helped to found the city. I have also learned that many families still proudly bear the name. Perhaps it is not so much the name but instead the life of the person bearing the name that should give it meaning. Just because one person with a certain name has not lived, as they should, does not necessarily mean that others with the name are not living exemplary lives.

Actually, we have all lived in a literal “Sinnerville” whether we have admitted to it or not. Because as Isaiah writes, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way….” In the New Testament, the apostle Paul also tells us in Romans 3:23 that we have all sinned and failed to measure up to the holiness of God. None of us have lived a perfect life, an absolutely holy life. Even though we may have a desire to live such a life, it is impossible to do so and God knew that it was impossible.

The great news, the wonderful news is that we do not have to remain in “Sinnerville.” We can move. We can change our address. Why? Because, “…the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” How? Receive the grace and mercy of God through Jesus Christ. Believe and receive Jesus Christ as your personal Savior. As Jesus Himself tells us in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Once you know Christ as your Savior, live like it. You are now called by His name, Christian (Acts 11:26). How you live, how I live, reflects on everyone else in the family.

Copyright © 1998 - 2006. Ed Wrather. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for use of this material on a non-profit basis with source noted.


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