So the LORD said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it." - Genesis 4:6-7.
Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. 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 1:12-15.
When I was growing up, I was warned on very cold days not to stick my tongue to the water pump handle. Apparently, that was tried by some and found to cause their tongue to be frozen to the handle. Their stories about the ordeal were enough to convince me never to try it. Recently there has been a story about a nine-year-old boy in Virginia who touched his tongue to a metal pole while waiting for a school bus. His tongue froze to the pole. The police were called and the boy’s father obtained some warm water, which he poured on his son’s tongue and the pole. The boy was freed - probably with a memory he will never forget. When the boy was asked by the police officer (while his tongue was still stuck) if he was going to do such a stupid thing again he said, “Uh-uh”.
When I asked Jeanie if she had ever done anything like that, she said she had stuck her tongue to an ice tray. I’d never thought of doing that either. One poll I saw about whether a person had given in to a similar temptation reported that 25% had done so. Total participants in the poll were over 20,000.
The painful truth of life is that we all face temptations that are much more tempting and much more damaging than sticking our tongue to a pole, if we give in to them. God tells Cain, “…sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” I believe God tells us the same thing. Temptation, which leads to sin, is constantly at our door beckoning to us. Giving in to those temptations lead to painful consequences. We cannot say we are without warning. James tells us, “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.” The result of Cain’s failure to rule over sin was the murder of his brother and a spiraling down of Cain’s life after that event. “For the wages of sin is death… (Romans 6:23a).”
Why should you not give into temptation? Because it leads to sin which brings about death. Giving in to temptation brings about death to God’s perfect will for your life. Giving in to temptation at best delays God’s plan for your life and at worst prevents it from ever being fulfilled. Giving in to temptation not only hurts you it also hurts your family and your friends. Cain killed his brother (and all of the descendants of Abel - Cain, by killing one person was a mass murderer killing generations of people.), bringing heartache to his parents, ruining his own life, and it took his own descendants down a difficult path. Your sin does not just affect you. Your sin is not just about you.
“…sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.”
A Gift from God
Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the LORD. - Proverbs 19:14.
Michael Spearman and Akima Carolina had a little argument because Michael had forgotten his Bible. Michael thought that his girlfriend, who was driving, would turn around and go back home so he could pick up that Bible. However, for whatever reason Akima refused to do it. Michael then threatened to kill Akima and her sister who was also in the vehicle with them. When Akima continued to refuse to return home, Michael grabbed and jerked the steering wheel. This caused their GMC Denali to shoot across several lanes of traffic with Akima losing control and then it rolled several times. By the time, the police had arrived Akima and Michael had both taken off leaving the sister behind who was uninjured. Michael is 31 years old and Akima is 36.
It seems incredible that something like a forgotten Bible would result in an accident that could have taken three lives or possibly even more! We have to wonder if Akima and Michael are still together? If so, what will happen next? Please pray for them.
Today is a special day for Jeanie and me. Today, we celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary and I knew when we married that Jeanie was indeed a gift from God. However, I had no idea of how truly amazing and blessed I was to receive this gift. Reading the story about Akima and Michael made me realize even more, how precious Jeanie is to me.
The writer of Proverbs says that a “prudent wife is from the Lord.” The dictionary defines “prudent” as “Wise in handling practical matters; exercising good judgment or common sense” and “Careful about one's conduct; circumspect.” Over the years, Jeanie has proven herself to be the embodiment of prudence in the best sense of the word. In some ways, she was the opposite of myself and was a restraining force upon me. Although I never did anything as stupid as Michael Spearman, I’ve had my own moments of stupidity. Through the years, I have found that Jeanie’s prudence has become a part of my own life and value system. Only God could have done such a thing.
Where did Jeanie’s ability to be a prudent wife come from? It was from her knowing the Lord as her Savior and seeking His guidance for her life.
We may not have been blessed with a “prudent” wife, or husband, or parents, or even friends, however, we have a God who would love to show us how to have this quality in our lives. As we follow the Lord God through each day of our lives He will develop, shape, and mold an inner beauty within us that will be a gift to all we encounter in our lives.
Let us begin now to be that gift of God to everyone we encounter.
Stuck in a Rut
Now they came to Jericho. As He went out of Jericho with His disciples and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Then many warned him to be quiet; but he cried out all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" So Jesus stood still and commanded him to be called. Then they called the blind man, saying to him, "Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you." And throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus. So Jesus answered and said to him, "What do you want Me to do for you?" The blind man said to Him, "Rabboni, that I may receive my sight." Then Jesus said to him, "Go your way; your faith has made you well." And immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus on the road. - Mark 10:46-52.
In order to refocus our lives and put first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33) it is very likely that we will have to do something before we can do that. What is it that we have to do? We have to get out of the rut we’ve been living in.
While I was driving a school bus after a heavy rain, taking kids home on the red clay roads where I grew up I slid off into a ditch. You might think that would have stopped me - well, the bus was leaning a little (okay, quite a bit!) but the surprising thing was I could still move forward, I just couldn’t get out of that ditch. Finally, after I had driven about a half a mile I reached a point where I was able to get the bus out of the ditch and back up on the road. I could have just stayed in the ditch but I kept trying the whole way to turn the bus until it did eventually happen. What a relief!
I recently talked to one of the guys (student then) who was on the bus when we were stuck in the ditch. Guess what? He still remembered it. Thinking about - it would probably be kind of hard to forget!
Life has a tendency to get us into a rut (or a ditch) and we think that this is the way it will always be and there is nothing we can do to change it. Because it does not appear that we can get out we don’t even try to get out. We just give up and think that this is the way it was meant to be. Certainly, Bartimaeus should have felt that way about his blindness. How could something like being blind ever be changed? It was unheard of!
Bartimaeus did exactly what was needed to get out of his rut of blindness. He sought the One who had the power to do something about His situation. Only God could change him, could heal him, and Bartimaeus knew it. Bartimaeus reached out even when those around him were telling him that it was hopeless, that it was impossible, that he should not even try. Bartimaeus cried out for Jesus to help him anyway and his entire life was changed forever.
It may be that you are in the same old rut you have been in for most of your life. You do not want to be there but you’ve stopped trying to get out because it appears impossible. But have you ever really spent the time in prayer to know whether your rut is the will of God? Have you ever fasted and prayed for a week or so asking God what His will is and if it is His will to get you out of your rut? Isn’t it time to do so? Remember Matthew 7:7-8 is still in the Bible and if we do not ask we will not receive. If we do not seek, we will never find and if we don’t knock, the door will never open.
Get out of the rut! Ask for help from the One who can do something about it.
In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.’” - Isaiah 38:1.
Recently a Presbyterian minister while preaching collapsed and died. Rev. Jack Arnold had just finished quoting the 18th century minister and founder of the Methodist Church, John Wesley, who said, "Until my work on this earth is done, I am immortal. But when my work for Christ is done … I go to be with Jesus." Rev. Arnold was in the middle of a sentence saying, "And when I go to heaven …," when he grabbed the podium and fell to the floor. Several in the congregation with medical backgrounds tried to revive him but he appeared to have died instantly according to those present. The cause of death was said to be cardiac arrest.
It must have been a great shock to Hezekiah when the prophet said, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.’” It would be a great shock to anyone. But for most people there is not a personal warning that we only have a certain amount of time to live. Perhaps Rev. Arnold knew his time was limited since he had had bypass surgery five years before his death. The minister had resigned his pastorate and had been traveling since the 1990s to Africa and the Middle East to train pastors.
What if? What if God said to you that you only have one year to live? What if you knew because of disease that you had at the most one year to live? Would you live your life any differently than you have been living it? I have no doubt that I would be a more committed and courageous person having a set time limit on life.
If we knew we only had one year to live, wouldn’t we be in deeper communication with our Lord than ever before? Wouldn’t we spend more time in prayer, reading the Bible, and be much more faithful in attending church? I believe I would be.
If we knew we only had one year to live, wouldn’t we live our lives in such a way that others would see Jesus when they looked at our lives? Wouldn’t we be better stewards of the material things that God has blessed us with? Wouldn’t we be telling others about how to have salvation?
We are at the beginning of another new year in the 21st Century - the year 2005. I want to give you an opportunity to make a “One Year to Live” kind of commitment for this year. If you agree in your heart that you want to live your life with this “One Year to Live” kind of commitment then check the statements below that you agree to do:
Give my life completely to the Lord ____
Spend more time with God ____
Read through the Bible this year ____
Attend church regularly and faithfully ____
Serve others in such a way that they might see Jesus ____
Be a better steward of the things God has blessed me with ____
To dare to share with others the Good News of Jesus Christ ____
Prayer of Commitment: “Dear Heavenly Father, please show me, reveal to me exactly how You want these commitments to be fulfilled in my heart and life. Please empower me and enable me to be obedient to you and to fulfill these commitments. In Jesus Name, I ask. Amen.”
Your Cup of Life
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 13:10-11.
The ear-cutting incident occurred when they came to arrest Jesus through the betrayal of Judas. With the actions of Peter and the words of Jesus, we can see the difference of how the world views things and how God views things. What was the “cup” for Jesus? The “cup” for Jesus was to come to this world walking as a human being for some 30 years and finally to suffer and die on a Roman cross even though He was innocent of any wrongdoing.
To some extent, we have no control over our own personal “cup” of life. Jesus, however, chose to give up the glories of Heaven coming to earth to become our Savior. We had no personal control or choice as to whether or not to be born or when to be born into this life. We had no personal control or choice as to whom our natural parents would be. We do have some control over what career or profession we will pursue but even with this, there are some limiting factors. We are limited in some career and professions by our intelligence and by our financial capability to obtain the education needed.
Some people like my son, Nick, are born with Downs Syndrome or other physical or mental handicaps. Some people during their lifetime develop physical or mental handicaps. That is their “cup” of life. What is your “cup” of life? Have you accepted your “cup” of life as did Jesus?
There is an old word often used in connection to the call of God on a person’s life - especially preachers. That word is “surrender.” The dictionary defines “surrender” as “To relinquish possession or control of to another because of demand or compulsion” or “To give up in favor of another.” It is not just preachers that need to surrender to their “cup” of life.
A failure to “surrender” to the “cup” of life God has given to us can result in many problems. Those problems coming from a lack of surrender can result in stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental ailments, and the physical problems that come with them. In addition, this is the underlying cause of the addictions that many people have developed. With nearly every addiction there is an underlying problem but even deeper there may be this lack of “surrender.” Therefore, the first place to begin in overcoming an addiction is to surrender to the “cup” of life that you have been given.
Have you surrendered to your “cup” of life? If not now is the time to do so. Surrender to all that God has for you and then you will have peace and experience a closer walk with your Lord then you have ever had before.
If you love Me, keep My commandments. - John 14:15.
He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him. - John 14:21.
If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. - John 14:23.
I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming, and he has nothing in Me. But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, so I do. Arise, let us go from here. - John 14:30-31.
The 14th chapter of the Gospel of John is a much beloved portion of Scripture that is frequently read at funerals and for comfort. However, the words can be very uncomforting for those who are not living in obedience to their Lord. A theme perhaps not often mentioned in John 14 is that of obedience. Jesus hammers away with “keep my commandments”, “He who has my commandments and keeps them”, “keep My word”.
At least one of these statements about obedience is directed at Judas, and that is very appropriate considering his betrayal of Jesus, which occurs in the near future. It may be that the repeating of the need to keep the Lord’s commandments was not just directed at Judas. Perhaps others of His disciples had failed in one way or another. How could this be? It could very easily be possible since the disciples were all human and therefore capable of sin.
Jesus, of course, would know if any of the disciples had sinned because He is God and sees clearly the condition of the heart. In 1 Samuel 16:7 we are told, “But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’" Jesus would have been looking at the heart of each of His disciples and they all knew that. You can picture Jesus teaching them and confronting them with their sin in John 14. Perhaps there are a few moments of silence between His teaching and confronting and the final phrase of the chapter. As each disciple realizes the piercing gaze of their Lord into the depths of their heart, you know that all of them except for Judas would have repented. Not a word would have needed to have been said. When the Lord knew that each had made their decision to turn from sin and turn to what the Lord wanted in their lives then the final phrase of the chapter was said. That phrase is, “Arise, let us go from here.”
Just as Jesus could look upon the hearts of His disciples, He can and does look upon our hearts. Whatever sin or sins you may have committed if you repent - you turn from sin and turn to what God wants in your life He will forgive you of your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness putting those sins as far as the east is from the west and will remember them no more. Then, I believe He says to our hearts “Arise, let us go from here.”
We cannot go back and change what we have done or not done or said or not said in the past. We can, however, receive His forgiveness and cleansing and then rise up to walk with Him from this point on. “Arise, let us go from here.”
Refocus - Church
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. - Hebrews 10:24-25.
For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them. - Matthew 18:20.
I love the testimony of a woman whose name is Shari that I have posted on my website. Shari was living with someone and using drugs when she was 17 years old. She left this man after a couple of years and started living with another man that she married after a year. She was still using drugs and she left her husband when her daughter was five months old and eventually divorced him. Three and a half years later, she married again but this time there was something different in her life. That something different was church.
Here is what Shari says in her own words, “I have been married to him now 10 years. During that time, I have constantly gone to church and looked to the Lord for guidance. It's wonderful how loving and forgiving the Lord can be when you've spit in his face for so long.”
“My husband came to know the Lord in September of 1994, was baptized, and is an active member of our church. We now have 4 daughters altogether. Our youngest is five and she knows nothing but going to church on Sunday mornings and evenings, and Wednesday nights. She even prays on Wednesday nights at prayer meetings! My oldest daughter is now 15, and thinks that people who do that kind of thing (drugs, living with someone outside of marriage) to themselves are stupid, and searching for something. I have always been honest about my past experience with my two oldest daughters, hoping that it will help them decide not to do those things. So far, it has worked.”
“It's a joy to see what the Lord can do with someone who thought they weren't worth much. I am now our Sunday School Director (4 years now), our VBS Director (this year will make 9), and the church Secretary. And I totally enjoy my life.”
You can grow as a Christian without going to church but that growth will be really slow and it will be painful. For several years after I was saved I did not attend church regularly just on a sporadic basis. I only began to really grow as a Christian when I made a commitment to be in church for every service including Sunday School, Discipleship Training, and Wednesday night.
Sometimes during those early years of church attendance the preaching wasn’t the best in fact it was simply bad. However, the Word of God was preached by the man of God and God used it in my life. Much of the time during those early years of church attendance the worship service was not even bad it was worse than that. But you see, church is not about just the preaching or the worship service. Church is a God thing. Church is God’s idea and it was created and ordained by Him. Even if Billy Graham or Charles Stanley is not preaching in your church you can still grow and will grow if you are faithful in attendance. Even if the worship style is not the style you prefer whether traditional or contemporary or a blend, you can and will grow if you are faithful in attendance. Why? Because God is in the midst of the church (Matthew 18:20) when those who make up the church assembles together. Also because those who are the church stir up each other unto love and good works.
You will never really grow as a child of God until you commit yourself to regular faithful church attendance. Not a partial commitment to part of the church program but a full commitment. Refocus your life - commit yourself today to faithful and regular church attendance.
Refocus - Prayer
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.
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. - Hebrews 4:16.
In August 1998 Michael Giovanetti (39 years old) was heading for home. Michael is married with a son and twin girls. He had been unemployed since April and was searching for work as an avionics technician. He lost control of his car on some gravel trying to get onto a turnpike. He shot across the highway, over a guard rail and his car flew into the air and finally landed 100 feet down a steep hill strewn with boulders. The accident tore the front off Giovanetti's car, which came to rest on its crushed roof. The passenger side of the car was buried in dirt and rocks. He regained consciousness upside down, his face mashed against the broken windshield. He unlatched his seat belt and fell against the steering wheel.
Michael was injured with a head wound and broken ribs but knew help was only 100 feet away from him. However, he was stuck in the twisted wreckage at the bottom of the steep hill. He had to endure four days with humid high temperatures before he was able to crawl out of the wreck and drag himself up the hill. Michael says that he PRAYED MIGHTILY when he first woke up after the wreck and gave thanks whenever a cool breeze blew through his car. Michael shared, "Everybody tells me I'm really lucky. I felt somebody else was helping me - like it was a team. Someone had a reason to let me go. I was in a bad way. Someone had to pull me out of there. I don't remember it hurting. I remember it was very hot. It was very difficult uprighting myself."
Michael spent his first day yelling and banging a piece of metal from the wreck against the body of the car. Nobody noticed. He spent the second day in a failed effort to wiggle out of the mangled wreck. On the third day, he dragged himself halfway out of the wreckage, where he rigged a rubber mat to direct rainwater into plastic water bottles. By the morning of the fourth day, Giovanetti realized no one would come for him. Weakened, he dragged himself backward, crablike, up the steep hillside, gripping rocks in his fists to protect his hands from broken glass.
When he finally made it, Giovanetti was too weak to even pull himself over the guard rail. He lay on the side of the road waving unsuccessfully at passing cars and trucks until finally some people did pull over to help. Michael said about the ordeal, "It seemed mostly like a long, bad day. I didn't know it was four days until I got to the top. I just kept trying to get out. I wanted to see my kids."
Usually we do our best praying when we are in desperate situations. However, what if we didn’t wait until it was a desperate situation? What if we prayed every day as if our lives depended upon those prayers? What if we prayed for our protection, the protection of our families, and others every day? What if we prayed for God’s will to be done in our lives every day? What if we prayed for God to deliver us from evil and temptation every day? What if we committed ourselves to pray for 30 minutes to an hour or more every day for a year? What would happen if we were to do that? Jeremiah tells us in Jeremiah 33:3. The apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 3:20-21. The fact is that prayer works, there is a God and He answers prayer if we will simply pray. Will you make that commitment? Refocus your life through prayer.
Refocus -The Word of God
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. - John 1:1-4.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. - John 1:14.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
George Mueller is remembered for many things including his care of orphans. He began caring for orphans when he moved in 1832 to pastor a church at Bristol, England. It was there at Bristol that two young children became the responsibility of the church. Mueller had very little money - only two shillings at the time he began to care for the children. During the next sixty years, God moved in a mighty way to provide for that ministry. Over seven million dollars were sent by God to help meet their needs. Mueller also began 117 schools, which provided educations for more than 120,000 children many of whom were orphans. The church he pastured had 2,000 members at the time of his death. Charles H. Spurgeon said of George Mueller, “Of flowers of speech he has none, and we hardly think he cares for them; but of the bread of Heaven he has abundance.”
From where did George Mueller’s empowerment come? It certainly was in part from his voracious reading of the Word of God. Mueller was a student of the ministry of George Whitefield who was a great evangelist during the 1700s. Mueller adopted a habit of Whitefield’s, which was the reading of the Bible while on his knees in an attitude of prayer and meditation. Mueller through his lifetime had documented in his journal reading through the Bible some 200 times. I think we can see the source of George Mueller’s empowerment.
Reading God’s Word will help you to refocus upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Word become flesh. Jesus quotes Scripture in Matthew 4:4, to resist the temptation of the devil, when He says, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." We cannot live the Christian life without a daily nurturing, filling, that comes only from the Word of God.
I recently spoke with a pastor friend who sadly shared about one of his sons for whom nothing seems to work out. Everything his son tries always ends in some degree of failure. His son knows what the problem is in that he knows he is not on the right track with his life and that he is not in God’s will. Joshua tells us how we can get on the right track with our lives and it is through the Word of God. Joshua says, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success (Joshua 1:8).”
You cannot expect to read the Bible for a few moments one night and expect your life to instantly change. You can expect that through a commitment to reading through the Bible in a year (about 3 chapters a day) that you will begin to see positive changes for the better in your life. As you follow through with that commitment to God in all areas of your life, you will see over the course of months and years dramatic changes for the better occurring, which will lead to the successful living of a good life for the glory of God.
Now’s a good time to dust off that Bible, open it up to Genesis chapter one and begin to read. I can promise you that you will never regret the time you spend in the Word. Let us refocus our lives on Jesus through the Word of God.
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. - Matthew 6:33.
For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. - Hebrews 12:3.
Julia Bauer who lives in Bochum, Germany was driving to work one morning when she lost control of her car. She smashed into a parked car and then into a lamppost causing damage of around $27,000. Julia lost control of her vehicle while she was preparing her breakfast. She was pouring milk into her cereal and the bowl slipped. Julia tried to catch the bowl while it was falling, which resulted in the crash of her car when her attention was diverted from driving.
Julia might tell you that she was multi-tasking. A police officer would tell you that Julia was inattentive to her driving. Her focus had shifted from driving to preparing breakfast and the falling bowl. The result was bad but it could have been so much worse. At least there was no loss of life.
It is now the year 2005 and with a New Year comes the opportunity to make what we used to call resolutions. Maybe we ought to call it refocusing. The dictionary defines the word “focus” as “A center of activity or interest.” With a new year we should at least take time to consider what our major focus of life is at this point. What is your focus, your primary focus right now? How does this focus line up with the focus the Bible tells us we ought to have?
Jesus tells us plainly what should be our primary focus in Matthew 6:33. It may be that your life is so busy that you are thinking how can I do that? Jesus adds, “and all these things shall be added to you.” This means that if we have the Kingdom of God, Jesus, as our primary focus everything else in our life will work out, as God would have it to. It is a matter of faith. Do we believe the Word of God to be true or not?
Hebrews 12:3 gives us some additional benefits of having the right focus “lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.” I think we know what that means. It means that when we do not have the right focus we tend to become stressed, depressed, worried, and things start to come apart in our lives instead of coming together.
Here are some suggestions for refocusing:
Read through the Bible in a year.
Spend 15 minutes or more in prayer every day.
Attend church regularly, faithfully.
Give financially and of your time to the Kingdom of God.
Remember the 10 commandments are not just suggestions.
To make a commitment to refocusing your life a good place to start is 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Because if the Kingdom of God is not our primary focus we have sinned and we are not in a right relationship with our Lord.
Resolutions and commitments are such fragile things and rarely are they kept over a long period of time. However, without a commitment of the heart, there will never be a change, and there will never be a refocus of your heart. If you will keep this commitment of refocus, you will see as you live life over a period of years that truly “all these things” have been “added to you.” You will be blessed and God’s hand will be upon your life.
Before the moment of opportunity slips away, REFOCUS!!!!
To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work. - Titus 1:15-16.
Blessed is he who considers the poor; The LORD will deliver him in time of trouble. The LORD will preserve him and keep him alive, and he will be blessed on the earth; You will not deliver him to the will of his enemies. - Psalm 41:1-2.
The LORD executes righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed. He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel. The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. - Psalm 103:6-8.
In the past week, we have seen the news from the Pacific Rim grow worse and worse. A week ago the headlines were “Tidal Wave Kills More than 13,340 - Strongest Quake in 40 Years fuels tsunamis, ramming miles of Asian coast; rescuers mobilize.” By Sunday, a week later, the headlines read, “Anguish in Asia deepens - The death toll may reach 150,000 as health risks grow more ominous.” The President of Indonesia was quoted as saying, “We mourn, we cry and our hearts weep.”
Some might say that this is evidence that there is no God. However, I believe that the response to the Tsunami is evidence there is a God. God cares for the poor and the oppressed. God cares about those who are hurting. The response from the world in response to this great disaster is an outpouring of help through the giving of funds and the providing of physical aid. It is a response that has been generated by a God embedded desire in the human nature to help those in need of help. It is evidence that God is alive and well.
Sadly, however, there is another headline that needs to be written. It is a headline directly from Titus 1 revealing that the natural conscience and God embedded human desire to help others has been corrupted in some people. It is a headline about the unaffected. You could possibly say it would be a headline about the heartless or the godless.
Some people simply ignore disasters like this and go on living as if there had never been a disaster. After all they think, it happened to someone else. I can somewhat understand that attitude from those who live in some other country far removed from the Pacific Rim region. But I was startled Friday to learn that there are still tourists flocking into the region to - not to help - but to vacation. In Phuket, Thailand, some hotels were spared destruction and at those hotels right next to death and destruction - are tourists. Many are even out on the beach, a beach of death, sunning, laying on beach towels, frolicking in the surf, riding jet skis - seemingly oblivious to the tragedy that only recently visited the place.
Now some are saying that they have paid for their hotel rooms, and their flights, and so they are going to get their money’s worth. How they can do that in the midst of so much death and destruction is beyond me to understand. Only a short distance down the beach there are still bodies washing up on the shore, and still bodies being found amidst the ruble of destroyed structures. The insensitive, oblivious, tourists of Phuket seem to have no cares and continue on with their lives just as if nothing had ever happened.
So, what does that have to do with us? I think it should be a sober reminder that in our own communities, there are similar disasters, on a much smaller scale, that occur every day. People all around us are, figuratively speaking, swept out to sea, hit by tsunamis they did not see coming. They are floundering emotionally, spiritually and financially. Their lives have been shredded to ribbons. Their relationships are coming apart at the seams. Everyday around us there are people who die and go out into eternity without Christ. It is an eternal disaster and yet what is our response even when we know we have failed them? We go on with acting and living the same way we always have ignoring the great spiritual need that we have in our own backyard. This Tsunami ought to be a wake up call for us. It ought to wake us up to the great needs all around us.
If we have a conscience, if we are children of God, we should respond to the Tsunami disaster. In addition, we should respond to the little disasters of life happening all around us. How would God have you to respond?
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins." So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us." Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS. - Matthew 1:18-15.
We human beings have visited the Planet Mars by sending robot explorers known as “rovers”. Currently there are two active rovers on Mars with the names of “Spirit” and “Opportunity”. There is an interesting phenomenon that is occurring with the rover Opportunity. When the rovers first landed on the planet, their solar cells provided 900 watt-hours of power for each robot explorer. However, Spirit’s electrical output declined to around 400 watt-hours in part because of the Martian dust covering the solar panels. At first, the electrical output of Opportunity also declined down to about 500 watt-hours. Opportunities’ output inexplicably has increased to just over 900 watt-hours of power. Rover team leader Jim Erickson at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, told New Scientist (newscientist.com) that “A process still not understood has repeatedly removed dust from the solar panels. These exciting and unexplained cleaning events have kept Opportunity in really great shape."
Apparently, something is with the Opportunity rover on the Planet Mars assisting it in the performance of the needed exploration functions. SomeOne is with us. That SomeOne is Immanuel, God with us. God did not send a robot explorer to visit our planet. Instead, God came Himself to walk among us as one of us to experience all that we experience. God came as a tiny baby born destined to suffer and die for our sins.
For those of us who know Jesus as our Savior, the Holy Spirit, God Himself has come into our lives. We have been “born again” and “sealed until the day of redemption”. God lives within us (1 Corinthians 3:16-17) and experiences all that we experience. Each step of every day God is with the Christian walking with them. No, God may not spare us from the problems and difficulties of this imperfect/corrupt world in which we live. But as with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego (Daniel 3), He will go with us through them. “All things” do “work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” If, we love God, and walk with Him according to His will and purpose for our lives.
Immanuel, God is with us! Let us rejoice!
WITHIN THE HEART OF ME
Some think He is in the Heavens
Some think He may not be...
But, everything I know of God,
Is held within the heart of me.
Oh, I think not of Him...as only afar
In some splendorous, bright abode;
Because I've felt Him walking with me
As I've traveled this life's road.
I do not question that He is...
For where I am, He is there;
His presence illuminating every space,
Surrounding me in tender care.
His gift of love warms my being...
It surges through my soul,
I live to hold, to share, this wondrous gift,
As my life on earth unfolds.
This Christmas remember the great and wondrous gift of love that you have been given.
May you have a most wondrous and blessed Christmas and New Year!!
Merry Christmas from the Wrather Family!!
Here in Sweetwater, Oklahoma we are still living in the midst of an oil and gas drilling boom. More and more drilling rigs are going up on both sides of the Oklahoma/Texas state line. Last night just looking in one direction toward the state line I could count ten rigs. As a result, traffic at times is horrendous and business is booming at both of the convenience stores.
This year we have escaped being hospitalized or having any major disaster overtake us. Our grandson, Mason, did have to have another surgery in the spring which was somewhat similar to the surgery he had two years ago. We attended the national Southern Baptist Convention in Indianapolis this past summer (Which was great!) and made a few genealogical side trips along the way to and from it.
Jeanie is still working at home some but that will accelerate after the first of the year with tax season (Jeanie is an accountant). We both wonder how she managed to drive to Elk City to work all of those years after I became a pastor. She drove to Elk City to work first from Sweetwater, then from Dill City, then from Weatherford, and finally from Sweetwater again. Of course, Jeanie stays busy serving the Lord teaching a youth Sunday School class, leading the children’s Team Kids on Sunday evenings, singing in the choir, playing the piano when needed, and whatever else the Lord brings her way.
I have been blessed to be the pastor here at Sweetwater for six years and soon to be eleven years total. I am continuing to write the Burning Bush Devotional (13,000 subscribers) and still have the Burning Bush website (Over 100,000 visitors since 1998 - www.theburningbush.org) which has had visitors from 88 countries in the past year. It is sometimes a challenge to continue with this ministry but there has been much good and joy come from it.
Clark and Libby are still in Broken Bow, Oklahoma where Clark is the pastor of the First Baptist Church. Madison is in first grade. Mason has recovered from both of his surgeries very well and Max has been able to survive having two older brothers for over a year.
We pray all is well in your lives and that you have a most blessed Christmas and New Year!!
Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work. - 2 Thessalonians 2:15-17.
Madeline Vaughn is almost a dinosaur when compared to the majority of contemporary workers. Madeline is older but her job stability is what seems so out of place in today’s world. She has been working at the same job for 60 years! Such job stability seems as strange to us as dinosaurs would be in our backyards.
When Madeline found a job with the Federal Reserve Bank in Dallas, Texas, she was only seeking a temporary job and she was just 20 years old. However, what she found was a career and when she retires on December 31, 2004 she will be the employee that has served the Federal Reserve longer than any other employee.
We are frequently told that the employees of the 21st Century will have to continually upgrade their skills and even change careers because of the rapidly changing technology. However, just because technology and skills are changing at an exponential rate does not mean that everything in life should follow suit. It is unlikely that there will be very many people who can hold a job for 60 years. It does appear that this will be increasingly rare and even more of an exception to the norm than it is now.
In the midst of a tumultuous living and work environment, we can still find stability. Even though we may have to move from one state to another or even one country to another we can still have stability in our lives. Our spiritual stability hinges upon one thing and that one thing is in the holding onto our spiritual heritage. God does not change and He is the same today as He was yesterday and as He will be tomorrow.
To have stability in the midst of change we must remember to put Christ first in our lives (Matthew 6:33).
To have stability and the accompanying peace that it brings in the midst of the storm of change we must look to God to provide what only He can give us (Philippians 4:6-7).
In my lifetime, I have had to move from one place to another 20 times and I have had 24 employers including those in my teenage years. One employer I worked for on three different occasions. The church I now pastor has been my employer twice and I have been their pastor for a total of over 10 years. In the midst of change, and uncertainty God has given me the stability of peace beyond human understanding. This does not mean that I have not experienced stress, fear, doubt, and depression. It does mean that God has walked with me and carried me through it each step of the way. He will do the same for you!
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.
How would you feel about running a marathon on a treadmill? Think about it. The scenery would never change with only the digital readout revealing how many more miles were ahead. Michael Wardian has set a world record time running a 26.2 mile marathon on a treadmill. He beat the previous world record by seven minutes. Wardian said about the 2 hours and almost 24 minutes of running on a treadmill that, "It's difficult just because you always know where you are so you can't trick yourself. You just look down and you know where you are." Christopher Farley, owner of a new running store where the record was set said, "The monotony of a treadmill - the idea that you have to stay balanced for almost two-and-a-half hours - is a lot harder. It really becomes claustrophobic."
Some of us know exactly what Wardian and Farley are talking about. Why? Because we have been running on the treadmill of life with the scenery never changing and the years passing by. The weight of the world’s demands, and the continued participation in habitual sin have us running in place never moving forward in the Christian life.
The writer of the book of Hebrews urges us to lay aside “every weight”. In training for athletic events, weights are sometimes worn to gain stamina and to warm up for an event. The writer of Hebrews is saying that this is the real thing, this is the race of your life, and it is time to put aside everything that would slow you down. Lay aside the demand of the world to buy the clothes worn by friends, or fellow employees. Lay aside the desire to own or lease a vehicle equivalent to that of your friends. Put down the idea that you have to live in the best neighborhood, send your kids to the best schools, and have the best vacations. Lay aside the idea that your husband or your wife must resemble the actors, actresses, and models, which appear in the media. You must grab hold of the fact that you must live in the real world where everything and everyone will not always be perfect.
The writer of Hebrews also encourages us to lay aside the “sin which so easily ensnares us”. These are besetting sins; habitual sins, which once they have gained a place in our lives, are difficult to overcome. These ensnaring, besetting sins include alcohol/drug addictions, and sexual sins. Here we see an important spiritual fact and that is that it is possible to lay aside even these sins or we would not be told to do so. How can we lay them aside? We must follow the instructions, which follow verse 1. We must look to Jesus who has the power to enable us to lay aside these things. The apostle Paul in Philippians 4:13 said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” You too, through Christ Jesus, can do all things the Christian life requires including the laying aside of the weight of worldly things and ensnaring sins.
Road Rage Did Not Begin Here
Today’s devotional was written by Dr. Walker Moore who is president of AweStar Ministries in Tulsa, P. O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147. You may contact Walker at email@example.com or 800.293.7827. Visit their website at www.awestar.org.
So the watchman reported, saying, "He went up to them and is not coming back; and the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi, for he drives furiously!" - 2 Kings 9:20.
Last week I was in Peru visiting some missionaries. The first thing you notice upon leaving the airport is the way the Peruvians drive. If you did not know any better you would of have thought that someone had just announced that the world was coming to an end.within the hour. In America we have stoplights, yield signs, right of way laws and so do the Peruvians. But in Peru, it does not mean a thing. If you are planning on driving overseas let me give you a tip: forget everything that you ever learned in driver's training. There seems to be two methods of driving. You can drive like an American or you can drive like the rest of the world. The rest of the world's driving consists of sitting in a vehicle that is about the size of a bathtub with five other people. (You become very familiar with your knees.) The objective in "overseas" driving is to see how fast you can go while at the same time seeing how close you can get to other vehicles. You can tell if you reached your objective if you can look over and see what radio station the other car is listening to. I must confess that I prayed more riding for 15 minutes in the backseat of a Peruvian taxicab than I did in the month of January.
I have made several observations about "overseas" driving, and if we could teach our teenagers these principles, we could prepare them to drive anywhere in the world- except America. First, is the horn principle. In a foreign country the horn is the most important item on the car. Now you might think that the brakes or good tires would be important. But you would be wrong. If your car does not have a horn you cannot drive in a foreign country. When a massive number of cars are coming to an intersection at blinding speeds, the one with the loudest horn has the right of way. With a thousand cars just inches from yours the one with the loudest horn does seem to be heard the best, and everyone lets them through. Everyone is so proud of their horns that they honk them all the time. Second, you need to know the centimeter principle. While many cars are converging upon an intersection at blinding speeds the car whose bumper has protruded into the intersection the farthest by at least a centimeter is the one who has the right of way. This is difficult for Americans because we do not know the metric system. Yet most foreigners can judge these distances while traveling at 100 kilometers per hour. And we refer to these countries as being underdeveloped. I beg to differ. The third and most important principle is the banged up principle. When negotiating space with another car, the one that has the most dents has the right of way. This car has much more experience on the road and since age is respected in these countries you need to allow it to have the right of way. The people who drive these cars seem to have no fear of you or your vehicle whatsoever. So just smile and let them have whatever they want. When your teenager gets ready to learn to drive just give them the keys and a plane ticket!
Insight: Teach your child that driving is a responsibility not a right.
Prayer: Dear Father, I must confess that I am afraid to release my child to the open road. Could You influence Congress to pass a law raising the legal driving age to 35? If not, could You help me teach my child to become a responsible driver. Help my child to understand that this freedom only comes with maturity. May Your angels never let them out of the driveway without Your wisdom and their brain. Amen.
A Little Touchy
Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails…. - 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a.
How would you handle the situation if you had a disagreement with your son over how to cook dinner? What would you do if you had an unresolved argument with someone over the correct name of Jesus Christ? Or, if you disagreed with someone about a Bible verse how would you approach that situation?
Jackie Shrader and his son actually did have a dispute over the proper way to cook skinless chicken. They tried to resolve it by having a shootout with their .22-caliber handguns. This occurred in West Virginia.
Niccolo Rossodivita who is 62 years old and Billy Cordova, 40 years old, did have an argument over the correct name of Jesus Christ. Cordova started following Rossodivita around the house and so Rossodivita shot Cordova twice in the chest. This occurred in Alaska.
Angela Morris who is 19 years old did have an argument with her boyfriend about a Bible verse, which they had been reading together. Morris was charged with assault after she poured boiling oil on her boyfriend. This occurred in Oregon.
Some people are a little touchy. I think it used to be called “having a chip on your shoulder“. The dictionary defines “touchy” this way: “Tending to take offense with slight cause; oversensitive.” Hopefully, we can agree that the people involved in the situations that I have described were “touchy”. If this upsets you, please stop reading now.
As Christians we should be able to immediately see that the way the situations described above were handled was not appropriate Christian behavior. The verses from the love chapter (1 Corinthians 13) describe the proper Christian behavior. However, knowing how you ought to behave and doing it are two different things. Christian, “agape” love is defined in 1 Corinthians 13 but how do we follow the way of love?
In the Old Testament book of Joshua the entry of the Children of Israel into the Promised Land is described (Read the first few chapters of Joshua if you have time.). There were two major barriers: the Jordan River at flood stage and the powerful fortress city of Jericho. When did the Jordan River pile up stopping the flow of water allowing the people to cross over into the Promised Land (Joshua 3:13)? When the instructions provided Joshua were provided. They began to march toward the river with the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant in the lead. The river was continuing to be at flood stage until…the feet of the priests touched the water as they through faith stepped into the river. As the priests stood in the water with the Ark of the Covenant (Representing the presence of God.), the waters began to pile up and the flow was stopped. Through faith, they also conquered the mighty fortress city of Jericho as well.
We by faith can conquer our behavior as well. We must make a stand by faith and begin to act in the way that we know we should. As we do God will begin to empower us to walk in the way of love. God is present with every Christian just as much as He was present at the crossing of the Jordan River. God Himself lives within you through the Holy Spirit, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you (1 Corinthians 3:16)?” Do you believe the children of Israel crossed the Jordan River? Do you believe the walls of Jericho fell down? If so, believe and begin to act in the way of love, as God will then carry you through the raging flood of fleshly emotions and conquer your Jericho of worldly behavior.
The Forgotten Savior
They soon forgot His works; they waited not for His counsel: but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. And He gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul. They envied Moses also in the camp, and Aaron the saint of the LORD. The earth opened and swallowed up Dathan and covered the company of Abiram. And a fire was kindled in their company; the flame burned up the wicked. They made a calf in Horeb, and worshipped the molten image. Thus they changed their glory into the similitude of an ox that eats grass. They forgot God their Savior, which had done great things in Egypt; Wondrous works in the land of Ham, and terrible things by the Red sea. Therefore He said that He would destroy them, had not Moses His chosen stood before Him in the breach, to turn away His wrath, lest He should destroy them. Then, they despised the pleasant land, they believed not His word: But murmured in their tents, and hearkened not unto the voice of the LORD. - Psalm 106:13-25.
Friday was the first shopping day after Thanksgiving and is known as “Black Friday”. I’ll confess that I did go shopping Friday in one store, a bookstore. It was crowded but I was able to buy a bargain - If you bought two reduced price books, you got a third one free. Actually, the bookstore shoppers were a little calmer than you probably found in most stores. When I checked out the clerk asked if I had a penny - I didn’t have one but the man behind me immediately offered one of his. Things were a little wilder across the country with stores opening as early as 5 a.m. and many in line for the opening long before that. Because, stores/retailers were offering some incentives and bargains for the shoppers.
By the time a Wal-Mart store in the Buffalo, N.Y. suburb of Hamburg opened at 6 a.m., one thousand people had formed a lined that reached across the entire storefront, in spite of the temperature being only 31 degrees. One of the shoppers, Ruth Pompeo, was up at 3 a.m. and in line at 4:30 a.m. with her 11-year-old niece said, "It's our tradition. I don't know what I'm here to grab, actually," she paused and then said, "Whatever I can". When Martin and Teri Clouser arrived at a Plano, Texas Best Buy store at 4 a.m., they found that there were already several hundred people in a line that reached around the store and down the block. Maybe that’s why they call it “Black Friday”!
It appears that Thanksgiving is becoming a forgotten holiday. Oh, everyone enjoys the time off - but the Christmas decorations and the shopping starts long before Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a purely Christian holiday with no pagan claims at all - it ought to be that way at Christmas but it really isn’t. What is the first thing that people think about when they think of Christmas? It would appear that they think about shopping for Christmas gifts. I would submit to you that long before Thanksgiving was becoming a forgotten holiday that the true meaning of Christmas had been forgotten.
This is exactly what had happened to the Hebrews after their miraculous escape from captivity in Egypt. We who are Christians have been miraculously delivered from captivity just as the Hebrews were. We were in slavery to the world, the flesh and the devil - the chains of sin had us bound and we were forced to work for the wages of sin which is “death (Romans 6:23a)”. What happened, what occurred to bring about the freedom of the Hebrews? What happened was that God sent a Savior, Moses, who led his people to freedom. What happened, what occurred to bring about our freedom? (Romans 6:23b) God sent us a Savior who at the cost of His own life bought and paid for our release from bondage.
The Psalmist tells us very plainly, what has happened and what is wrong at the same time. These are sad words that we find in verses 21 and 22 of Psalm 106 where the Psalmist says, “They forgot God their Savior, which had done great things in Egypt; wondrous works in the land of Ham, and terrible things by the Red sea.”
This Christmas season let us remember that the real reason for the season is still JESUS!
Today’s Devotional was written by Walker Moore of Awe Star Ministries. Visit their website at www.awestar.org.
But if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. - 1 Peter 4:16 NASB®.
I can only imagine how confusing life must be for people with common names. I do not know how people with the same name figure out who is talking to whom in a large group. “Hi, John, I would like you to meet John.” “ Good to meet you, John.” “John and John have you ever meet John?” I have an unusual name, so when it is spoken I am usually the only one who answers.
Once I looked up the names of all the ministers in my denomination and discovered that there are two other men with the same first and last name as mine. In fact, I met one Walker Moore’s wife by accident. I was standing out in the foyer at one of those religious conventions. (No one really goes to those conferences to learn, they go to meet their friends in the foyer and to get away from the deacons.)
A lady came out of the auditorium saying she did not feel well. Just as she walked by me, she fainted. Trying to be the Good Samaritan, I attempted to offer some assistance as she came to. I said, “My name is Walker Moore. How can I help you? I will be glad to call an ambulance or someone else for you.” She said, “You cannot be Walker Moore…that is my husband.” And to think about it now, it was strange that I was holding a Mrs. Walker Moore who was not my wife.
While speaking at Oklahoma Baptist University I met someone else who shared my name. A couple of students came up to me saying, “I would like to introduce you to Walker Moore.” I smiled, preparing to extend my hand. But the college student said, “No, not you. This guy’s name is Walker Moore.” I thought it was joke. You know college students. They do not have much to do but sit around eating pizza thinking up new pranks. I said, “Sure. You want me to believe that your first name is Walker and your last name is Moore?” But sure enough, there is another Walker Moore. He thanked me because people kept coming to him and telling him they enjoyed reading his books.
Standing in a room with a person who has the exact same name as me was a new experience. But, in some ways I am used to having the same name as others. The name “Christian.” 1 Peter 4:16 says we should praise God that we carry the name Christian. After all, “a good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold (Proverbs 22:1).”
So for all the Christians out there (and any other Walker Moores) carry the name with honor!
Insight: Your children need to learn what their name means and that when they accept Christ they are given a higher name.
Prayer: Dear Father, I know that you think names are very important. You asked Adam to name all of the animals. You gave us a list of Your names and even tell us that You have a name that no one knows of except You. And You are always telling us what people’s names mean. May we carry our name with honor as we reflect the name of Christ. Amen.
Words of Wisdom
Adversity pursues sinners, but the righteous will be rewarded with prosperity. A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children, and the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous. - Proverbs 13:21-22 NASB®.
…it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment. - Hebrews 9:27 NASB®.
Wisdom sometimes comes from unexpected places, however, when it does we ought to listen. Thirty-four year old rapper, Jay-z says, while considering becoming CEO Island/Def Jam Records said, "Rap is a young man's game, and I thought about that even when I was young -- it has to come to an end. Whatever job you have, be it hustling on the street or working at the mall, you gotta have a plan for when it's over."
In this lifetime we normally go through several different stages. Life can in very general terms be viewed as the stages of childhood, young adulthood, middle age, and older age followed by physical death and eternity.
In childhood preparations should be made for life as an adult. Those preparations are made in gaining the skills necessary to function as an adult such as physical skills, communication skills, and vocational skills. In addition there should especially be the development of spiritual skills as children including God‘s plan for their lives.
In young adulthood preparations must be made for middle age which includes long range planning for raising of children and providing for their needs such as college. Also in young adulthood consideration of what will be necessary for retirement should be given thought. Much prayer and thought should be given to God’s purpose, will, and plan - His call upon your life.
In middle age provision for retirement and in addition for children and grandchildren should be made. My in-laws were especially good stewards of the resources God entrusted to them. Through their wise use of those resources they always had more than enough to tithe and were able to help their children’s families. Even though my mother-in-law is in her eighties she has continued her wise stewardship and has also been able to help the families of her grandchildren. What a great blessing my mother-in-law and father-in-law have been to us and many others! What a great example!
The most important preparation of all for a person to make is for eternity. Just as jobs, careers come to an end so do our physical lives here on earth. It is only a fool that ignores this most important milestone that is fast approaching. It does seem strange that it is not thought of more frequently. Before I received Christ as my Savior I only remember one time when I gave serious thought to what would happen after I died. It was five years later before I again gave it serious thought.
If you have not made preparations for eternity I would urge to do so now. Don’t put it off! Now is the time to receive Christ Jesus as your Savior. Bow your head and ask Him to come into your heart and life. Ask Him to forgive you of your sins and be your Lord and Master. Ask Him to help you to live in a way that will be pleasing to Him. If you need help or more information please send me an email.
Today’s devotional was written by my son, Clark Wrather, who is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Broken Bow, Oklahoma.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:9 NASB®.
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. - 1 Peter 5:6-8 NASB®.
A few weeks ago, I decided to finally get rid of some of the junk that was cluttering up my house. There were several things that just needed to go and I’m not sure why I still had them.
There was an old Apple laptop from 1997, which did not work. I still had the printer that went with it, which worked occasionally, if I had a computer that could use it. There was a motorcycle helmet, that I really liked. It was a sleek, black, cruiser style, half-helmet and relatively new and unused. Yet, this helmet was just as much clutter as well. It had been unused for a few months, because I am no longer allowed to ride my motorcycle (I guess my wife is concerned about having to raise three boys on her own…?).
I had this junk, but what was I going to do with it? Should I throw it away? Should I call Swap Shop? Should I place classified ads? These were going through my mind, when I decided to be adventurous. I put all of my junk on eBay. For those who may not know, eBay is an online auction. You put digital pictures of your junk online and other people bid on it. At the end of seven days, the highest bidder wins. They pay you and after receiving payment, you send the junk to them.
All of the junk I mentioned earlier, was sold on eBay. I thought the almost new helmet would do well, but it brought in less than ten bucks. I didn’t think the ancient apple laptop, that could not be turned on, would do very well. Someone actually paid over seventy dollars for it. I was going to be surprised if anyone bought the old printer, but someone did. After everything was boxed up and dropped off at the post office, I was bemused by the whole experience.
You probably have some things cluttering up your life. You may have some things junking up your house, but what clutter do you carry around on the inside? Most of us have some. Ask God to get rid of that junk for you. Box it up and drop it off with him.
There are some things that we never realize as junk, like that motorcycle helmet of mine. These are usually goals and desires we have that are completely outside of God’s will for our lives. We fantasize about how valuable they are when in reality they are worth very little. Some things may be worth more than we could possibly imagine. These may be talents that we have and do not use. It may be something else. The point is that what we value and what God values are often two different things.
Sift through the clutter of your heart, box up all the unused talents, broken dreams, unrealistic goals, selfish desires, petty grudges, bad habits, strongholds of sin and whatever else you find and give it to God. You see, much like eBay, he is always buying. He wants the junk in your life and he will replace it with his blessing, his guidance, and his spirit. Give it a try and offer up that clutter to God. After the transaction is completed, you may find yourself quite bemused.
Changing the Rules
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. - Hebrews 13:8 NASB®.
What if you were to play a game, any game and won according to the rules that had been pronounced at the beginning of the game - nothing wrong with that and in fact that’s the way things ought to be. But what if you were then told that you had actually lost because the rules had been changed? You would of course be upset, as would anyone believing that such a thing was not right.
Keith Schott is a golfer who actually had the rules changed on him after winning the game. At least that is what Schott has claimed in a lawsuit filed against the Muscular Dystrophy Association, a Tempe, Arizona real estate firm, and two charity promoters. Schott made a hole-in-one that was apparently a winning shot according to the rules and the hole-in-one was witnessed by several people. However, the sponsors/promoters of the event refused to give Schott the one million dollar prize that had been advertised. The rules were changed requiring that the hole-in-one had to be video taped to qualify for the prize money. Schott’s attorney said, “Remarkably, the defendants changed the rules on the spot.”
What if the rules of the spiritual were changed on us at the end of our lives? What a horrible thing to contemplate. If we could not count on the rules as we know them as revealed in the Bible we would have no assurance of salvation. In fact, we would have nothing of any value at all. The Bible, if it could not be counted on to remain true would quickly become the world’s worst selling book instead of the best selling.
What assurance do we have that the Bible is true and that the rules will not be changed? We have the word of God Himself. God does not change and therefore His Word does not change. God is the same today as He was yesterday and He will be the same tomorrow as He is today. Even Balaam knew this and spoke the truth when he said, “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good (Numbers 23:19 NASB®)?” Jesus says, “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail (Luke 16:17 NASB®).”
There are so many things that are constantly changing in the fast-paced world in which we live. Our relationships with other people are bound to change over time. The rate of change of technology is exponential. We know the political situation in each individual country will change from time to time. Relationships between countries change. There is really very little that we can count on not to change and say that those things will never change. The only truly unchangeable thing in our lives is God and His Word. The closer we come to God, the more of His Word we have in our lives, then the more stable and meaningful our lives will become.
Always remember that God will never change the rules on you in the middle or even at the end of the game. God will never change and His Word will never change.
Don’t Bother Me
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:9 NASB®
Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. - Hebrews 4:16 NASB®
This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him. - 1 John 5:14-15 NASB®
Darrell Lewis is 40 years old and a bank robber. When Darrell viewed himself on TV fleeing police after a bank robbery, he thought that it was only a matter of time before he was caught. So, Darrell did what some sane people would do at that point - he turned himself in to police. However, there was a glitch in his plan. The glitch was that Darrell was told to come back the next day and turn himself in then. Apparently, they were not making arrests that day. Darrell went to another police station the next day and was able to have himself arrested and charged with bank robbery.
It is pretty sad when you want to confess to the crime and no one wants to listen. Some people think that God is that way. Some think that God is only listening at certain times and certain places. But that is not what the Bible says. God is not only listening but He is also responding whenever someone comes to Him in repentance and humility.
We can always come to God through our Lord Jesus to confess our sins. The Bible indicates that we not only have permission to do this but that we can come with confidence, with boldness into the presence of God. In the Old Testament this was not possible except for a very few. Many died by attempting to enter the holiest part of the Temple without permission or without their hearts being in the proper condition. Also only certain people were allowed to carry the Ark of the Covenant (Representing God’s presence.). Many when they tried to carry the Ark or even touch it died because they were not authorized by God to do so. However, while Jesus was on the cross the veil separating us from the Holiest of Holies was rent/torn (Luke 23:45) symbolizing our new privilege of access directly with the Father through the sacrifice of Jesus.
We have such great privilege and position through our Lord Jesus Christ. We are God’s children (John 1:12) and as His children we may always approach Him knowing that it is pleasing to Him when we do so. It is God’s desire that we bring our requests to Him and He is always ready to hear our confession of sin. Thankfully, we do not have to come back the next day because God is never too busy for His children!
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height-- to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. - Ephesians 3:14-19.
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. - Colossians 2:6-7.
For this devotional to work you must have a basic knowledge of tumbleweeds. In the dictionary, tumbleweed is defined as “Any of various densely branched annual plants, such as amaranth and Russian thistle, that break off from the roots at the end of the growing season and are rolled about by the wind.” DesertUsa.com says about tumbleweeds, “Virtually everyone recognizes mature the Russian thistle, which looks like the skeleton of a normal shrub. Plants may be as small as a soccer ball or as large as a Volkswagen beetle.”
If you have ever run into one of those tumbleweeds the size of a Volkswagen, you will know that this can be serious. This morning I drove to Amarillo, Texas on I-40 about 120 miles from my home to visit a woman having surgery. Every mile or so another tumbleweed would roll, spin, or bounce across my path. Sometimes cars or trucks would strike the weeds and once I was unable to miss a spinning weed that came into the path of my car.
What makes a tumbleweed a tumbleweed is that it has been detached from its roots. As a result, the weed has nothing to hold it in place, nothing to keep it from aimlessly rolling, and bouncing at the mercy of the wind. It is a picture of a person without Christ or of a Christian that has failed to grow in Christ and put down roots.
We can look at the lives of many people and see that their lives resemble the path of a tumbleweed. Sadly, these people are pushed this way and that by life. They spin and tumble never having anything to keep them in place or give them stability. They have no roots or their roots are very shallow. Psalm 1 describes such a person, “The ungodly are…like the chaff which the wind drives away.”
The child of God is to be “rooted and grounded in love”, and we are to be “rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith”. Psalm 1 tells us of such a person, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.”
Which kind of person are you? Which kind do you want to be? Are you “like the chaff which the wind drives away?” Or, are you “like a tree planted” by the river of living waters with your roots growing deeper and deeper?
How to Live Long and Well
"If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey the voice of his father or the voice of his mother, and who, when they have chastened him, will not heed them, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his city, to the gate of his city. And they shall say to the elders of his city, "This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious; he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton and a drunkard.' Then all the men of his city shall stone him to death with stones; so you shall put away the evil from among you, and all Israel shall hear and fear. - Deuteronomy 21:18-21.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise: "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth." - Ephesians 1:1-2.
Children, obey your parents in all things, for this is well pleasing to the Lord. - Colossians 3:20.
In the Daily Oklahoman, a small article caught my attention. The title of the article was, “Prisoners reflect on their teenage decisions”. Two men who were convicted of murder when they were 16 years old expressed their thoughts. One man Davin Douma, who is now 37 years old, said this: “Murder is a crime of passion. You act without thinking. And I definitely acted without thinking of the consequences.” Douma’s victim made homosexual advances toward him. Douma says of himself, “Mostly, I just see myself as a dumb kid who made a lot of bad decisions.” He is eligible for parole next year.
Johnathan Williams never expected to spend decades of time in prison but does know why it happened. Williams says that it happened, “’Cause I didn’t listen to my mother. I was hard-headed. When you’re young like that, you don’t realize your actions weigh on you for the rest of your life.” Williams will be eligible for parole in 2010.
One of the worst decisions that children and young people can make is to decide that they know better than their parents do. The title of the television show, “Father Knows Best”, is filled with truth. A young person who decides to rebel against their parents is only asking for trouble. They may not commit murder but it is in the realm of possibility for many. Johnathan Williams said that he never expected to end up in prison. That could be the statement of most who are incarcerated in their teenage years or even those going to prison later.
Prison, I think we can agree is something that nearly all of us want to avoid including young people. Isn’t it worth the time to consider for a moment how to avoid spending decades of your life in such a place? High on the list of the things that a young person can do to avoid incarceration is obeying their parents. By not being rebellious and instead being obedient to your parents (Unless they require you to do something that is obviously immoral.) you gain the support of God Himself. You gain the blessing of God on your life by being an obedient child. The command to obey your parents comes with a promise, "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth."
Take a good long look at the statements and lives of Williams and Douma and those like them. If only they had obeyed their parents. If only they had listened to reason. If they had, their victims would be alive and they could have been leading productive, successful, and happy lives all the years they have spent behind bars.
If you are a young person, I would encourage you to give it a try - a real try. Share your plan with God and see if things are not going better for you in only a few weeks of time. Try it. It could very well change your life and the lives of many others for all eternity.
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. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us. - Hebrews 11:36-40.
A school custodian in South New Jersey was going about his work one evening as he usually did when the unexpected happened. The Little Egg Harbor Intermediate School became the unintended target of a National Guard F-16 fighter jet, which unleashed 25 rounds of 20mm cannon fire. Thankfully, damage was minimal with only some damage to the school’s roof and the asphalt outside the school building. Of course, the school custodian is still shaking! It is now thought that the cannon fire was completely accidental and unintended but still it has to make you pause in thought if you work or have children in that school building.
Hebrews chapter 11 is the roll call of the heroes of the faith. Everyone is miraculously delivered until you reach the end of the chapter where you learn that some were not delivered from unnatural death on this earth. In fact, some suffered a horrible fate being “sawn in two”. That sounds bad to me and I would not want to experience such a thing.
Even if we do not experience the difficult things mentioned in the last of Hebrews 11 we may still not live easy lives. At times, it may seem like a fighter jet has unloaded cannon fire at random upon us. We may even feel like we have a bulls eye painted on us, which someone is using for target practice.
What am I talking about? I’m talking about life. We may wake up one morning and everything seems fine and have a terrible traffic accident on the way to work. Or, we may make it to work and find out that the company is not doing well and it has been decided there must be some cutbacks in employees. We may have our yearly physical and learn that everything is not okay. We come home from work and our wife or husband has decided to leave us. I think you get the picture. Sometimes it feels like we are being used for target practice.
How should we respond when the cannon of life is roaring and the shells are exploding around us? James gives us a hard word in James 1:2-3 where he says, “My brethren, COUNT IT ALL JOY when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” God is going to use those shells exploding around you to develop you, to change you, to make you better, to make you more like Him. Out of the bad comes the good just as we are told in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Part of that good is for us to become more and more like our Lord Jesus, “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29a).”
Let us rejoice! For our God loves us, is working in every tiny aspect of our lives, and will bring good out of the bad. Just, “count it all joy”.
The Foolish and the Wise
To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding, to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion - a wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel, to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. - Proverbs 1:2-7.
Ian Fleming (33 years old) thought he had the perfect scheme for making money. He had successfully deposited computer-generated bogus checks into his account at a Bank in Forest Hills, New York. In the trial run, Fleming had been successful in depositing two checks, one for $350 and another for $1,300. Fleming encountered problems when he moved up to higher amounts trying to deposit checks for five billion and six billion dollars. The large deposits drew the attention of bank officials resulting in the arrest of Ian Fleming.
It would appear that Mr. Fleming overdid things a little in his illegal scheme. Not only is he a thief, he is also a fool as seen in his great lack of wisdom. Fleming does have some knowledge and ability as seen in his ability to generate the bogus checks and send them through his account. However, he used his knowledge and ability without wisdom, without discretion, and without prudence.
Have you ever encountered someone who was completely unwilling to take advice or instruction from anyone? I have and it may be that Ian Fleming is that kind of person. “Fools“, Solomon tells us, “despise wisdom and instruction”.
Wisdom begins where? It begins with a respect and reverence for God. Out of that respect and reverence for God, “fear”, as the Old Testament puts it, flows wisdom and so much more. With reverence and respect for God comes wisdom, understanding, prudence, discretion, and ultimately increased learning.
If only Ian Fleming would commit his heart and life to the Lord Jesus, he would be a changed person. With Jesus, Ian would not only have knowledge and ability he would have all the other qualities would enable him to have a successful life.
What about you? Do you have a “fear” of God, a respect and reverence for Him? If not you should have and can have - it all begins with a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Once you have that relationship it must be maintained as you allow the Lord to instruct you in all wisdom and gain those great qualities with which all great people are endowed. Those qualities only come from the hand of God. Allow Him to give you wisdom.
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. - Hebrews 11:6-7.
When I was 18 years old, I was out with some friends and made a decision to do something that, I’ve regretted much of my life. The Lord has forgiven me and I have forgiven myself but it was still a bad decision and a bad thing to do. God knew that too and He tried to stop me.
After leaving my friends, I decided to drive to another town. While traveling on the interstate between the towns there was a heavy rain and I was at the tail end of a line of cars maybe a mile long going 75 to 80 mph. Halfway to my destination a highway patrol car zoomed past and when he reached the head of the line of speeding cars he turned on his lights and succeeded in pulling two cars over to the side of the road. This was a determined man because he must have jumped out of his patrol car with his slicker suit on a flashlight and began trying to flag all the cars down so he could give them a ticket too. All of us in the remaining cars including mine just moved to the outside lane and continued on. But God had tried very hard to change my course.
Looking back now, I can see that it was a warning and an attempt by God to save me from myself. I’m not sure what the change in course would have brought about but I know it would have been better.
Noah was “divinely warned” and he heeded the warning resulting in salvation from the flood for himself and his family. Noah for decades was the one God used to try to change the course of mankind. Mankind laughed at Noah and at his attempt to warn them. If only they had listened this world might be a much better place. At least it would have been a different place than it is now.
So often, when we are on the wrong course, the wrong path, headed in the wrong direction, God sends warnings into our lives. God is like a highway patrol officer speeding by us and then trying to flag us down before we destroy ourselves - warning us of the canyon we are speeding toward.
Has it ever happened to you? You knew what you were going to do or where you were headed was wrong? Not only that but God sent warnings into your life and you refused to listen? Maybe you are in that very situation right now? If you are I would encourage you to listen, and take the time to consider the consequences. God’s great love is speeding after you, pursuing you, trying to catch you, trying to get your attention. Stop, before it is too late.
(Updated from the 2000 election)
As for Saul, he was still in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling. The he waited seven days, according to the time set by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him. So Saul said, ‘Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me.’ And he offered the burnt offering. Now it happened as soon as he had finished presenting the burnt offering, that Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might greet him. And Samuel said, ‘What have you done?’ - 1 Samuel 13:7b-11a.
George W. Bush and John Kerry are waiting as are the rest of the people of the United States to find out who won the presidential election. We don’t like it but still we are waiting. Most likely it would not have been so upsetting to the founding fathers of the country because 200 years ago it was not so unusual for the counting of the vote to take some time. But it is upsetting to us because we expect everything to be immediate. We vote and we want to know within a few minutes of the polls closing who won the election. We expect it. We push a button and zap the television comes on, or the radio, or the stereo, or the DVD player, or....
Waiting is not easy now and it was not easy for King Saul. In I Samuel we are told of how Saul got in a hurry and it cost him the Kingdom. The Philistines were gathering to attack Israel. They had “thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the seashore in multitude (1 Samuel 13:5a).” The people of Israel were “distressed” by what they saw and were hiding “in caves, in thickets, in rocks, in holes, and in pits (1 Samuel 13:6b).” Saul was still in Gilgal and the people following him were trembling in fear. The pressure was on Saul but instead of waiting for Samuel he went ahead and presented the burnt offering. Saul had been told to wait but the pressure was on him. As a result Samuel tells Saul “But now your kingdom shall not continue (1 Samuel 13:14a).”
One of the greatest promises concerning waiting on the Lord is found in Isaiah 40:31: “But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Before we get in a hurry and lose our “kingdom” let us first wait to receive direction from our Lord. God’s timing is always precise. He is never too late or too early. Trust in His wisdom and wait for Him.
Copyright © 2004-2005. Ed Wrather. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for use of this material on a non-profit basis with source noted.