SEPTEMBER - NOVEMBER 2002
BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONALS

The Burning Bush Devotional
11.26.02

Being Approachable

“When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.’ Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.” - Matthew 8:1-3.

“Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’” - Matthew 19:13-14.

Listening this morning to Michael Carneal in an interview shown on the Today Show there was something that struck me as being needed by many; especially Christians. Michael Carneal was a 14-year-old student at Heath High School in West Paducah, Kentucky where one morning he shot and killed three fellow students and wounded five others. Those students were gathered praying around a flagpole. It was and is a horrendous, terrible thing that destroyed lives and changed lives in a devastating way. The words that I picked up on this morning were that Carneal said that he did not have anyone to talk to prior to the shooting including his parents. At least he did not believe that they would listen. Certainly that was not a valid reason or excuse for shooting someone but it should make all of us think.

How approachable are you? The word “approachable” is defined in the dictionary as: “easy to meet or converse or do business with” and as “capable of being approached; accessible.” Are we following the example of our Lord? Jesus was the ultimate in approachability. Lepers were to have no contact with non-lepers and were banned from even their own families. Lepers had to announce their presence by shouting as they walked “unclean,” “unclean.” No “clean” person was to touch the “unclean” or they would also become “unclean.“ Jesus not only allowed lepers to approach and talk to Him, He also touched them. The ultimate in cleanness on earth touched the unclean.

Jesus also was approachable not only by adults but also by children. Jesus also placed His hands on the children and prayed for them (Of course the children were not unclean but considered by the disciples and others as being unworthy of attention by a great teacher.). Many others considered outcasts by the Jewish society were able to approach Jesus including tax collectors, adulteresses, women of ill repute, and Samaritans. Why did Jesus allow Himself to be approached by people like these? Jesus explains in Matthew 9:10-12, “Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, ‘Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ When Jesus heard that, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.’”

How approachable are you? Would any of these “unclean” people be allowed to visit in your home? Would any of these people be able to talk with you outside of your home? Would any of these people be able to call you and talk with you by telephone? Would you even allow any of these people to communicate with you by email? Before the spiritually sick will be healed we must allow them to have contact with us. We must be approachable. Are you?

The Burning Bush Devotional
11.22.02

God’s Better Plan

“When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” - II Samuel 7:12-13.

"Your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.” - II Samuel 7:16.

Being in the midst of God's plan in my own life I don't always like His plan and I still enjoy the mountaintops much more than the valleys. If it were up to me there would only be mountaintop experiences. However, as many have pointed out without the valleys the mountaintops would not be nearly as exhilarating. If it were up to me instead of writing devotionals, which are going out to the world through electronic means, I would be going personally to share those messages. Sometimes I don’t understand why God has me where He has me and why He has sent me to certain places at certain times.

We have been studying the Life of David on Sunday nights and I have been learning some great lessons from his life. One of David's dreams was to build a magnificent Temple for God but God said No. God had a better plan. David would gather the materials and Solomon his son would build the Temple. However, God's plan for David was much greater in that Jesus would sit on the throne of David forever and God said to David, "Your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever (2 Samuel 7:16)." Jesus' Kingdom will truly last forever and the Temple that God would build would be built of living stones (I Peter 2:4-6 - all those who received Jesus as their Savior and God will live within them). There would be no end of this Kingdom. God's plan for David's life was far greater than he could possibly comprehend (Probably greater than we can comprehend as well).

So, when what we want doesn't work out and we are down because our plans have failed it may actually be a time for rejoicing because God has a better plan. We have to remember that when we think we are in the valley it may not actually be a valley but only a time of preparation that is necessary for the fulfillment of the greater plan in our lives. Our part, which is sometimes difficult, is to continue to have faith and trust that God is working and will bring us through this time in our lives. We must continue to walk with Him even when we cannot see how anything will ever change. But if we are faithfully committed to right living and serving our God there will come a day when the valley is behind and the summit is ahead.

What seems impossible for us is very easy for God. Even though we think it will never happen and that it is impossible; God can bring it about. When He does bring it about it is like being transported into another dimension. We do not know how He did it but we know that somehow He did. Will you trust God believing that He indeed has a better plan for your life?

Today’s devotional was written by my son, Clark Wrather, who is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Clark may be contacted at fbcbb@pine-net.com. The Scripture and title have been added.

The Burning Bush Devotional
11.21.02

Little Problems

“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.

A few weeks ago, the low-coolant warning light came on in my car. I took it to a shop and was assured that nothing was wrong. The light had just turned itself on for no reason. The light irritated me, but I could live with it over the next four weeks.

After picking Madison up from school one day, my car leaked all over the place after it was parked. I took it back to the shop and they examined it again and found the problem. A $12 hose had a hole in it. They fixed it for me and when I got home, I noticed the coolant warning light was no longer glowing. I was a bit alarmed. What if the warning light was on for a reason over the last four weeks? What if the car had been running hot and the temperature gage was not working?

I checked the oil and it looked funny. Back to the shop we went and found out that it had a blown head gasket. Now instead of a few dollars, that $12 hose was going to end up costing me over $600. Needless to say, I went to another mechanic.

Our sins seem to snowball on us, much like my car problems. Problems start small and when we ignore them, they get much bigger and more expensive. The alcoholic had a first drink. The drug-user had a first time use. The adulterer crossed that first line somewhere. The malicious person was mean for a first time. The thief had to first feel envy. Some of us (like me) had to eat too much for a first time.

The point here is to pay attention to those warnings when you first receive them. Then, your sins will not grow into expensive problems.

The Burning Bush Devotional
11.20.02

The Beauty of Righteousness

“Do not let your adornment be merely outward - arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel - rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” - I Peter 3:3-4.

Heidi Klum who is one of the “supermodels” appearing in tonight’s Victoria’s Secret fashion show says that it is a beautiful tasteful presentation of the woman’s body. Others (Concerned Women for America, the National Organization for Women and the Parents Television Council) are calling the fashion show a “soft-core porn infomercial.” After many protests the Federal Communications Commission did investigate but finally ruled that the show did not violate decency standards. CBS has given the fashion show a TV-14 rating which according to that system would mean it is unsuitable viewing for children age 14 and under. A small number of CBS affiliate stations have chosen not to broadcast the show during prime time.

At least two issues are seen which every Christian needs to address in their lives. One is whether the show violates God’s decency standards? It is clear that Victoria’s Secret and CBS are promoting the outward physical beauty revealing as much as possible and doing so in a lewd, and lascivious as possible manner. Lewd being defined as sexually unchaste (in appearance) or lascivious and lascivious being defined in part as lustful. The three organizations mentioned above stated in a joint letter to CBS President Leslie Moonves, “What purpose does the special serve except to overly sexualize women and use this to bolster the networks’ demographics for young men?” At the very least I think we would agree that the special if watched by men would tend to tempt them to lust. In James 1:14 we are told, “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.” In I John 2:15-16 we are told, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the Father but is of the world.”

The second issue is that of true beauty. Yes, supermodels do have a physical outward beauty but do they have an inner beauty as well? What a wonderful thing is the beauty of a gentle, quiet and godly spirit! The inner beauty of a godly woman is a beauty that will not fade because it is incorruptible and will increase in beauty as the outward body ages. As the writer of Proverbs says of the virtuous woman, “Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised (Proverbs 31:30).”

The Burning Bush Devotional
11.15.02

All Things

“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.” - II Peter 1:2-3.

King David had a son named Solomon who succeeded him to the throne. God did not allow David to build the Temple but David gathered the materials and made other preparations for it to be built. Solomon was provided with all that was necessary so that He had the potential to be a great king. God gave Solomon great wisdom and knowledge, which Solomon used well to take the Kingdom of Israel to its highest glory. Solomon was born into the right situation as the favored son of the King and as that son was given all that was needed to be the greatest King the kingdom would ever see (Except of course of Jesus).

We as the adopted children of God have be born (born again - John 3) into the right situation and have been given all things necessary to live in righteousness and bring glory to God. We have been given all that is needed to have life and to have it abundantly. There is nothing missing. We who have been born again all have the potential to live in the right way and bring glory to God. Does this mean that we will all reach our potential? No. Do all royal children rise to the level of potential fulfillment that Solomon did? No. But we have the potential; we have all that is needed. We have been given all things that pertain to life and godliness. Nothing has been left out.

We have been given in effect an instruction manual for life, which we know as the Bible. The Bible contains the very words of God. These words of God are alive and active sharp as a double-edged sword capable of piercing our hearts and changing our lives. Every word recorded in the Bible is “profitable” meaning every word is powerful and useful to give us instruction and correction. The Bible is the Sword of the Holy Spirit. The Bible has the potential to change and transform our lives but only if we immerse ourselves with the words of God contained within that Holy Book.

We have been given the divine right to talk with our Heavenly Father in the Name of Jesus. We can talk to the Creator of the Universe any time we want to. Of the people that lived during the time of King Solomon very few were actually allowed to talk directly to the King. Oh how wonderful it would have been for them if they could have shared with the King their concerns, worries, and heartaches. What a wondrous privilege we have been given but if we never take advantage of it then it means very little.

We have been born into the Family of God the Royal family of God. Every time we go to church or visit with another child of God it is as if we were in the presence of God Himself. Why? Because every child of God has a body that is the Temple of the Holy Spirit. God dwells within every person that has received Jesus Christ as their Savior. Jesus says, “For where two or three are gathered together in My name there am I in the midst of them (Matthew 18:20).” If we never go to church and never communicate with other believers in the flesh, person-to-person we are missing out on a great blessing. Without taking advantage of this blessing we will never reach our full potential.

God has given us so much more through the “glorious riches of Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).” There are “great and unreachable things we do not know (Jeremiah 33:3).” that are available to enable us to reach our potential. The fact is that we can live like we know God wants us to live in righteousness. The fact is that we can have life, real life, abundant life, life pressed down and overflowing beyond our imaginations. We can have it all but only if we take advantage, use what God has so wondrously and at great cost provided for us. Many of us our living beneath our privileges as royal family members. The royal treasury is open! Take all you want for there is a never-ending supply.

The Burning Bush Devotional
11.12.02

The Madness of Sin

"They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man's voice restrained the madness of the prophet." - II Peter 2:15-16.

It is now being reported that the young man who went on a shooting rampage in Eastern Oklahoma killing two and wounding eight had taken a large amount of over the counter cold medication. A friend (of the shooter) said that he would take as many as 30 pills of cold medication at one time. It seems incredible that anyone in their right mind would take so many pills at one time. However, people do crazy things.

In high school I once watched a fellow student dissolve around 20 aspirins in a coke and drink it. I could hardly believe that he was still alive the next day. While I was a parole officer I had a client who would break into homes and while there find and take whatever prescription medications he could find. It could only have been an act of God that he was still alive.

It could only be madness when Balaam proceeded with apparently the intent in his heart to go against God's will even after God had warned him. God could have ended Balaam's life but instead opened the mouth of a donkey to obtain his attention and understanding which restrained the madness of his sin. Why did God spare Balaam? Why does God put up with the evil in our hearts? "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (II Peter 3:9)."

I once heard a drug dealer relate that he had overdosed five times and knew that he should have died each time. He finally came to understand that the reason he had not died was only because of the mercy and the supernatural intervention of God.

Have you come close to death and survived? It may be that you are still among the living on Planet Earth only because of the "longsuffering of God." How long can you resist God's will before judgment comes? How long can you resist God's will before your heart grows too hard and it is too late to turn back?

Stop the madness!! Turn from the madness of sin and run to the open arms of your Heavenly Father!

Today’s devotional was written by my son, Clark Wrather, who is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Clark may be contacted at fbcbb@pine-net.com. The Scripture and title have been added.

The Burning Bush Devotional
11.11.02

Hearts of Clay

“Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’” - Hebrews 3:7-11.

“Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today,’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” - Hebrews 3:12-13.

No one had ever told me about the red clay around here! Last week, we had to dig a 3 ft. deep pit fit for cooking a pig (For a youth event.). The first 8 or 9 inches went by quickly, then we hit this awful red clay.

The clay would stick to your shovel. It was hard to remove. Eventually, we had to get a pickaxe and pummel the clay over and over and over again. You can probably imagine how much fun this was….

Finally, the pit was the right depth, because enough red clay had been chipped away. The hole was now ready for a big fire and a fine swine.

I know several people who have hearts that seem to be molded out of the same red clay. God has to hammer away at them. Sometimes it seems like He uses the spiritual equivalent of a pickaxe. Unlike me, God’s not wanting to roast a pig in there. He does chip away at your heart for a purpose.

You see, God wants to enlarge His home in your heart. He wants to fill you completely with His Holy Spirit. Sometimes, we are so stubborn that God has to get out his pickaxe or dynamite to knock out that “red clay” in our hearts.

It is so much easier when we ask God to fill us up and actually let Him do it. Our hearts become like sand and His Spirit flows into every aspect of our lives.

The Burning Bush Devotional
11.08.02

Pt 5 Loving God More

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment.” - Mark 12:30.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” - Romans 12:1-2.

We are very familiar with the phrase “change of lifestyle.” More and more people are being told by their doctors that in order to have good health a “change of lifestyle” will be necessary. For those of us who have experienced heart disease, cancer, and other serious illnesses we have heard over and over how a good diet, exercise and reduction of stress will improve our health. But it is necessary that we develop new healthy habits participating in our new healthy lifestyle not once every few weeks but on a continuous every day basis. (Note: For those of you participating in the 2 Peter challenge, which was extended 11.04.02, you will find a wonderful benefit of immersion into God’s Word. The benefit is the fruit of the Spirit including temperance or self-control becoming more evident in your life and resulting in you actually being able to have a healthy lifestyle.)

Because our modern society downplays the importance of faithfulness and continual love for our spouses we see this carried over into our view of the spiritual. We are conditioned to believe by the world that we can fall out of love over a period of time and that this is to be expected. However, it is just as much a falsehood in the world as it is in the spiritual. Love should not be thought of as an emotion that eventually will die down and grow cold. In order to truly love our wife or our husband requires a continual effort, a continual focus that is a lifestyle of commitment. Loving God is also a lifestyle. It involves everyday putting God first and foremost in our lives just as Jesus says in Matthew 6:33. It is a continual process of giving God the very first part, the very best part of our lives. This process as with marriage is never finished; it must be a lifestyle, which requires all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength. This lifestyle of loving God is as the apostle Paul puts it a “living sacrifice” and it is our “reasonable service” to God.

Let us not be conformed to the lifestyle of the world. Instead let us be conformed and transformed to the lifestyle of loving God. Then, we will see everything in our lives begin to fall into their proper places and we will see clearly God’s will for us.

Don’t just talk about loving God - live it!!

The Burning Bush Devotional
11.07.02

Pt 4 Loving God More

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment.” - Mark 12:30.

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” - I Corinthians 15:58.

(See also: Acts 11:23; Acts 14:22; Colossians 1:23; II Timothy 3:14.)

Shawna McCown’s world changed drastically on May 30, 2001 because that was the day doctors amputated her right leg about six inches below the knee after a motorcycle accident. Shawna was only days away from graduation and attending Morehead State on a track scholarship only about 120 miles from Louisville, Kentucky where she lived. It has now been 18 months since the accident and Shawna has endured painful physical therapy and will compete in her first track meet Saturday running a three-mile (4.8 kilometer) course. Shawna says, “It’s definitely made me a stronger person. More confident, actually, to know that I can get through something like this.” After running the three miles for the first time since her accident a week and a half ago she said, “I was just like, ‘Thank you, God, for letting me do this.’ I hurt the whole week afterwards, but it’s a good hurt….”

Jesus tells us in the Gospel of Mark that we are to love God with all of our strength. It means that we will keep on; continue on trying to live the life God calls us to live no matter what obstacle, or problems we may encounter. Shawna McCown gives us an example of continuing on in the face disaster. We see with Shawna that it has deepened her character and made her a stronger person as she has continued on with life.

There will be times when are spiritual life seems dry. There will be times when we desperately want to hear a word from God but He is silent. There will be times when we encounter great difficulty in life. Those difficulties may be physical as with Shawna or they may be spiritual as we confront temptations such as Joseph encountered in the Old Testament. In order to continue on and journey through those periods of life we need to commit ourselves afresh, reaffirm that we do love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. Shawna said, “As soon as I was able to talk, I told my family I wanted to try. I was going to run again.” It was a fresh commitment, a greater commitment than she had ever made before requiring more of her than she had ever dreamed.

When we do continue on with God through the perils of life we will find that our character is deepened and our spiritual strength is increased. So, if life has knocked you down, if you are discouraged, defeated - Rise up! And continue on with steadfastness and determination “abounding in the work of the Lord.”

The Burning Bush Devotional
11.06.02

Pt 3 Loving God More

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.” - Matthew 22:37-38.

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” - Luke 6:45.

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things.” - Philippians 4:8.

Richard, serving a 12-year prison sentence writes, “My downward spiral that has led me to where I am today began at the age of 14 when I used to read my father’s Playboy, Penthouse and other adult magazines. It progressed on to a sexual addiction that involved many one-night stands, prostitutes and affairs while married. My addiction advanced until I committed sexual abuse against a child…If anyone reading feels they are hurting no one by viewing a ‘little pornography,’ I challenge them to take a hard look at everything they are doing in their lives. Just like with alcohol, not everyone that views pornography will necessarily become addicted to it. But just like alcohol, for those that do, it can become a destructive, controlling force in their lives.” (From letter written to Rick Shatz, President and CEO of Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families www.nationalcoalition.org)

GIGO - the computer fact of garbage in garbage out is a fact in our human lives as well. When we put garbage into our lives we are going to see garbage come out. Richard in his letter above describes how his life was trashed as a result. If we put the garbage of drugs and alcohol into our lives we will also see a downward spiral into the nightmare of addiction resulting in our lives being trashed.

If we are to love God more we must control what enters into our lives. If the Lord is on the throne in your heart then allow Him to filter and control what comes into your mind and life. If you love God with all of your mind you will be careful to think about those things commended to us in Philippians 4:8. Take captive those thoughts and things that are in opposition to God in the Name of Jesus (II Corinthians 10:4-5).

To love God more we must fill our minds and lives with the good and then good will flow out of us to the world around us. Instead of spiraling down let us spiral up - closer and closer to our Lord (James 4:7-8).

The Burning Bush Devotional
11.05.02

Pt 2 Loving God More

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.” - Matthew 22:37-38.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” - Matthew 6:33.

At an evangelism conference I once heard a preacher talking about a wedding. The couple had a most elaborate wedding and reception. They looked to be so happy. Finally the time came for them to leave and the husband escorted his new bride to their car, opened the door helping her in. He then kissed his wife and said that he hoped she would have a good honeymoon and would see her again someday. Now, of course the bride was shocked and began to cry and shout about it wouldn’t be a marriage unless they lived together, and spent time together. Of course it wouldn’t be a true marriage unless they did spend time with each other.

In the traditional wedding ceremony the minister will say something like this: “you must promise to love her, to honor and cherish her, and leaving (or forsaking) all others, cleave only to her and be to her in all things the true and faithful husband so long as you both shall live. Do you so promise?” Now the correct answer is not “I’ll think about it” or “sometimes I will” or “I’ll do it if there is no one else around.” No, the correct answer is “I do.” From what I know about marriages including my own this leaving behind all others or forsaking all others except your own husband or wife is vitally important to most couples. When you give your heart to someone you are giving, pledging your loyalty. You are giving your exclusive loyalty above all other loyalties to the person you are marrying.

When you give your heart to God you should be establishing the same kind of loyalty. When you have a relationship with God you should be putting that relationship above all other things in the world that compete with that relationship. If you truly love God you will forsake those things that you know are not what God would want in your life.

Loving God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength means that you will put God first above every other thing in this world. When you do that everything else will fall into place. Grow in your love for God. Truly give God your heart by forsaking all competing things. Make a commitment and ask God to help you keep that commitment to be loyal to Him, only Him. When you do that you will find that your love for God will grow and grow and grow.

The Burning Bush Devotional
11.04.02

Loving God More

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.” - Matthew 22:37-38.

In order for any relationship to grow it must be cultivated and nurtured. Our relationship with God requires that we do the same if our love for Him is to grow. Of course, we need to talk with God which means we not only talk but also we listen to what He has to say to us. We also must learn more about God and as we know more about Him our love for Him will grow. Bible study is essential to this process of learning more about God and also to listening to what He has to say to us.

R. A. Torrey had great energy in service of His God. He was the Superintendent of the Moody Bible Institute and pastor of the Moody Memorial Church. For five years (1902 - 1906) he was an evangelist traveling the world and he was dean of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (1912 - 1924). He served as the first pastor of the Church of the Open Door. While serving in these capacities he somehow found time to write forty books. Torrey found the energy and strength for his service to the Lord by immersing himself in the Word of God.

A man once complained to Dr. Torrey that he could not get anything out of his Bible study and said the Scripture seemed to be as dry as dust. Torrey suggested that the man take a book of Scripture and read it twelve times a day for a month. The suggested book of Scripture was Second Peter. The man said later, “My wife and I read Second Peter three or four times in the morning, two or three times at noon, and two or three times at dinner. Soon I was talking Second Peter to everyone I met. It seemed as though the stars in the heavens were singing the story of Second Peter. I read Second Peter on my knees, marking passages. Teardrops mingled with the crayon colors, and I said to my wife, ’See how I have ruined this part of my Bible.’ ’Yes,’ she said, ’but as the pages have been getting black, your life has been getting white.’”

Yesterday, I challenged the people in our church to do the same thing. To take up the study of Second Peter reading it twelve times a day for a month. I also challenged them to memorize the little book since it is only 61 verses long it can be memorized in 30 1/2 weeks memorizing two verses per week. At the end of this time I plan to lead an in depth Bible study verse by verse through the book. No, this is not an easy challenge! And I want to challenge you to do the same. This is an opportunity to draw closer to God, to learn more of God, to grow in your love for God in obedience to the Great Commandment. If you will take up this challenge with me please email me letting me know of your commitment and I will be praying for you during this time. Please pray for me as well.

May we all grow in our love for our God!

The Burning Bush Devotional
10.31.02

It is High Time!

“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, and the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.” - Romans 13:11-14.

Iris Koser is a 16-year-old girl living in Nuremberg, Germany and she has invented something many parents have dreamed of for centuries. She has invented what she calls a “merciless bed” to make sure people get out of bed on time. After the alarm goes off the bed slowly raises the mattress until after five minutes the sleep lover is rolled off onto the floor. So, unless they are a really, really deep sleeper they are bound to wake up. Iris, we just want to know when we can buy one? Let us know, okay?

There are so many of us who are asleep spiritually. We know how we ought to live but we do not. We know that time is running out for us to do as God would have us to do with our lives. But we are still asleep! If only there were a bed like Iris’ to wake us up dumping us into the floor would be a small price to pay to be awake spiritually. We sleep on while the works of darkness grow around us. The darkness is growing more and more bold claiming that their evil actions are only normal. The darkness says that those who are in the light are those who are abnormal. It is time for us to awake!

Let us arise, let us wake up and cast off the bucket of evil that has covered our light (Matthew 5:16). If all Christians were to arise out of their slumber and begin to act like Christians the darkness would be pierced. If we let our lights shine the darkness would retreat in fear (I John 4:4).

Each day in some way may we everyone oppose the darkness. Each day in some way may we everyone let our light shine a little brighter. Let us put on the Lord Jesus Christ and let our lights shine bringing the light of salvation across this world.

Isn’t it time to wake up? Yes, “knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.”

The Burning Bush Devotional
10.30.02

The One and Only

“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” - James 4:7-8.

Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense, has made it official that the President is the only “Commander in Chief.” Now you may have thought that the President was always the only “Commander in Chief” but the title has been in use by others. Until the October 24 order by Rumsfeld the regional US military commanders across the world were known as “Commander in Chief” of their area of command. The regional commanders’ title has now been changed to “combatant commander.” Bryan Whitman, a senior Pentagon spokesman says, “There is only one commander in chief - the President.” Hopefully any confusion about who is the real commander in chief has been cleared up.

Who is the “commander in chief” in your life? Do you have only one chief commander or do you have several? The very real problem that many of us have is double mindedness. We want to be obedient and faithful believers serving our Lord and God. But at the same time we find ourselves heeding the call of the world by doing, saying, and watching things that we shouldn’t. Our problem is double mindedness. We want what God wants but at the same time we still desire much of what the world has to offer.

Why can we not continue on swearing allegiance to the Lord and to the devil at the same time? James points out in 1:8 that the double-minded person is unstable in all their ways. A lack of stability in our lives leads to our having problem after problem. Paul points out in Romans 8:6 that to be carnally minded results in death and to be spiritually minded results in life and peace. Why? Paul writes, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be (Romans 8:7).” To allow the carnal mind to continue in our lives is only asking for trouble because if we are carnally minded trouble and problems is what will be the result.

So how can we become single minded? James says, “submit to God,” “resist the devil,” “draw near to God,” “cleanse your hands” and “purify your hearts.” Confess your sins and your double mindedness to God (I John 1:9). God will cleanse and purify you as you turn from the world and turn to Him.

The Burning Bush Devotional
10.29.02

Jesus Knows

“…Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.” - Hebrews 2:9.

“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood. He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like his brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” - Hebrews 2:14-18.

My Dad and I were not very close when I was growing up. I think this was because my Dad was so busy trying to make a living. My Dad farmed but most of the time he was farming he worked a full-time job to support his farming. As the years have passed I have grown closer to my father because I’ve realized going through the milestones of life that he had already experienced what I was experiencing.

After I was married I found a new respect for my father because he had kept his marriage together even when it would have been easier to walk away. I began to remember that after the honeymoon was over in my marriage. When our youngest son was born with Downs Syndrome we made some difficult choices. It was then that I remembered that my father and mother had made a difficult choice after my sister was born. Before I could be born my mother had to have surgery to make my birth possible. Understanding that my father had been through many of the circumstances of life that I myself faced has created a bond and brought love to our relationship. I now understand that one of the reasons he worked so hard when I was a child was because he loved me and wanted life to be better for me than it was for him. I found that if I need help I can always count on him to help because he loves me.

As I’ve walked with my Lord Jesus I found in much the same way as I did with my father that Jesus has been there and knows exactly what I am going through. He knows what it is like to be a human being living on Planet Earth because He has been here too. Jesus knows what it is like to be sad. He knows what it is like to experience pain. He knows what it like to be tempted and to endure those temptations. Jesus knows what it is like to be persecuted and to suffer an unjust death.

Because Jesus has shared in the tribulations of being “flesh and blood” we know that He understands whatever we are going through because in some way He has been there. Knowing that Jesus went through all that He did because He loves us gives us the confidence to turn to Him when we are hurting and in need of help.

Whatever you may be going through remember that Jesus loves you and is ready, willing, and able to help you. Jesus demonstrated all of that some two thousand years ago when He came down from the glories of Heaven to walk among us.

The Burning Bush Devotional
10.25.02

The Glitz of Horror

“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” - Ephesians 5:11.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” - Ephesians 6:12.

Horror has been repackaged as Halloween with cool costumes, diabolical decorations, goblin goodies, and eerie entertainment. We are encouraged to watch the top ten scariest movies ever made so that we can have a “screamingly good time.” On the USA Today web page is the horror of snipers at the top and at the bottom is the smiley marketing face of Halloween Illuminations. Horror Historian David J. Skal writes (in his book, “Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween“), "Halloween is a holiday that refuses to play by anyone's rules." Skal also writes that Halloween is, "Unpredictable and unrepentant, Halloween also remains stubbornly unofficial and underground, and this may be the key to understanding the tumult that regularly erupts in its name."

More than two thousand years ago the Druids living in what is now Ireland, Great Britain and France had the Fire Festival which they observed to mark the Celtic new year. The Druids believed that on that night the barrier between the natural world and the supernatural was removed, and then the spirits of the dead were able to move freely among human beings. In the seventh century the Roman Catholic Church brought Christianity to the Celtic peoples. Pope Gregory IV in 835 A.D. moved the “Feast of All Saints” from spring to November 1st to replace the observance of the Fire Festival or Samhain. “All Saints Day” honored believers who had died. The night before with a sacred vigil became known as “All Hallow’s Eve,” or Halloween. However, the old practices and beliefs of the Druids refused to die and were denounced as being witchcraft. This was how Halloween became known as a witch’s holiday.

A combination of pagan and Christian elements brought about the Halloween celebration we see today. In recent years a renewed interest in the old pagan beliefs has flourished in North America and beyond with television shows like, “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer,” “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch,” and others. Of course now we have the Harry Potter books and movie adding to the popularization of the occult. The result of all of this is that Halloween is very much associated with the occult and the preoccupation with the dead. These are two things that the Bible and the church have always warned us about.

To many people Halloween appears on the surface to be an innocent way to laugh at our fears. At one time even after I became a Christian I was just as naïve about the dangers of the devil’s holiday. However, satan and his demons are a spiritual reality and we are in a war with them whether we like it or not.

Here are some reasons why we as Christians should not celebrate Halloween: Because God hates Halloween - “I hate every false way (Psalm 119:104).” Because Halloween honors satan and his demons (I Peter 5:8; II Corinthians 4:4).
Because it glorifies death and God is not the cause of death (Man is the cause of death - Romans 5:12).
Because in the name of Halloween many sin through celebrations which honor satan (I Corinthians 10:20).

This year please do not be deceived by the glitz of Horror. Instead of honoring the devil honor and praise God.

The Burning Bush Devotional
10.24.02

Abuse of Authority

“Now the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the Lord. …before they burned the fat the priest’s servant would come and say to the man who sacrificed, ‘Give meat for roasting to the priest, for he will not take boiled meat from you, but raw.’ Therefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord, for men abhorred the offering of the Lord. …Now Eli was very old; and he heard everything his sons did to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. So he said to them, ‘Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people.’” - I Samuel 2:12,17,22-23.

The General Medical Council of the United Kingdom had to deal with an almost unbelievable problem of bad conduct on the part of a surgeon. The Council said, “Dr. Mohannad Al-Fallouji’s conduct has rightly been described as bizarre.” The news media described the doctor as “a walking terror in a white coat.” The doctor once told a patient, “you have cancer, I have asthma, we all have to die some time.” He would occasionally grope female colleagues and make lewd remarks. He tried to arrange a date with an underage female patient without her parents finding out. To the credit of the General Medical Council they have barred the doctor permanently from practicing medicine.

Have you noticed how often people who are given authority or power over others abuse it? The sons of Eli were entrusted with a sacred position of authority just as many priests and pastors are today. The sons of Eli used their position to intimidate and take advantage of those who sincerely came to worship the Lord. Many priests and pastors today are doing the same. Sin is still sin and the Bible describes this sin as being “great” because they “abhorred” the offering to the Lord. Not only did they abhor the offering of the Lord they did many other evil things taking advantage of those in vulnerable positions. God was not deceived and judgment came upon them.

It is terrible that some priests and pastors take advantage of the weak but they are not the only ones. Many doctors, bosses, CEOs and those with a little bit of power have abused their privileged positions using those positions to take advantage of others. The sins of the sons of Eli were and are shocking! No less shocking were the abuses of Dr. Mohannad Al-Fallouji. But even those abuses of power, which are not shocking, are still wrong and harmful.

If you are in a position of authority to any degree and you are abusing that power be warned that God is not mocked. God knows exactly what is going on and judgment is coming. For those of us who may be on the receiving end or have knowledge of the abuse of authority what do we do? If we have within our power what is necessary to stop an abuse of authority or power and do not do so we are enabling that abuse to continue. God held Eli responsible for the abuse of authority by his sons. God warned Eli, “In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them (I Samuel 2:12-13.).”

The Burning Bush Devotional
10.22.02

Peaceful Living

“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” - I Timothy 2:1-6.

Three 16-year-old boys in Elgin, Illinois were a little bored last month so they started playing a game. The game involved splashing gasoline on their shorts, setting them on fire, and then rolling on the ground to try to put out the flames. One of the boys ended up going to the hospital after receiving second-degree burns. How sad that they felt they had to liven things up in such a dangerous way.

So many times we are like those boys in Elgin, Illinois and we do not really appreciate having quiet and peaceful lives. Many of us have been blessed with years of peace and quiet. We have been able to go to work and other events without being in fear of our lives. For many across the world that peace is being replaced with fear. Irrational violence has reared its ugly head from Washington D.C. to Australia. Organized and orchestrated violence has reached out and shattered peaceful lives from New York to Bali.

I have a new appreciation of peace. How wonderful it is when you do not have to be afraid. What a great blessing we have been given to live quiet and peaceful lives! It appears, however, that the peaceful lives many of us have known may soon disappear if it hasn’t already disappeared.

What would God have us to do at this point? If we would have peace we must pray. We must pray for all people, all leaders, all those in authority so that they would come to know and be led by the Prince of Peace.

The Burning Bush Devotional
10.16.02

Loving the World

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” - John 3:16.

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” - I John 4:7-11.

It has been said that God hates sin but loves the sinner and it is a Biblically true statement. God loved the people in the world so much that Jesus suffered and died on the cross for us. Romans 5:8 makes it clear that Jesus died while we were still in opposition to Him or still His enemies. God has provided a way through Jesus for every person on this earth to have salvation. That salvation is free and the only requirement is that we beilling to turn from our sins and receive Jesus Christ as our Savior. Amazing! It is as the hymn says Amazing Grace!

If you were God or if I were God would we really make available salvation to everyone? Would we want the Beltway Sniper or Snipers to be saved? Would we want the Son of Sam to be saved? Would we want Saddam Hussein to be saved? Now, I am not saying these people will be saved but they could be saved if they were willing to turn from their sins and receive Christ as their Savior. If I were God I don’t think I could make salvation available to those people. But I am not God and you are not God. His thoughts and ways truly are above our thoughts and ways.

As hard as it is to understand God did not say that He loved part of the people in the world, or some of the people in the world. No, He said He loved all of the world. So what does that mean for us? It means that if we want to follow in the steps of Jesus we cannot be selective in whom we share our witness. It also means that we should pray for the salvation of all people - including Saddam Hussein and the Beltway Sniper. In this context Luke 9:23 seems a very hard thing to do. We must “deny ourselves.” Deny what we want and instead chose what God wants. It is not God’s will that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

If it were up to us we probably would not have seen very much potential in the shepherd boy named David. No one else not even his only family thought David could be a king. Only God chose David. Look around. Is there someone that you have been refusing to witness too? Is there someone that you have been refusing to pray for? What would God have you to do? What must you do in order to truly follow Jesus?

The Burning Bush Devotional
10.15.02

The World Stinks

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” - I John 2:15-16.

“So they laid it up till morning, as Moses commanded; and it did not stink, nor were there any worms in it.” - Exodus 16:24.

What is the absolutely worst smell you have ever smelled? Dial Corporation’s air freshener division has actually conducted a survey to find out. Skunks were found to have the worst rating with 59.7% saying the skunk smell was the worst. I’ve never had a real close encounter with a skunk probably because of the warnings I received from my mother who did have one when she was a girl. According to my mother it took a whole week for the smell to go away. Skunks, however, are not the only things that stink. Some of the other nominees were rotten eggs, dirty diaper bins, bathroom odors, and dairy farm smells.

Spiritually there are some very smelly things too with most of them coming from the world. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life do not come from God - they come from the world. There is a stench coming from all those worldly things that adversely affects everyone and everything they come into contact with.

Another smelly problem created by the world is worldly thinking. Moses had to deal with this after leading the people out of bondage in Israel. God sent manna to gather and to eat in the mornings. In the evenings God sent quail for them to gather and eat. The Israelites were to gather what they needed for the day but they were not to keep any of it for the next. Each day they were to gather again. However, worldly wisdom told them to try to keep some of the quail and manna for the next day just in case they needed more. When they tried to carry it over to the next day worms would come and the leftover food would stink.

God gave the Israelites another rule in regard to the Sabbath. They were to gather twice as much on the sixth day and then they would not have to go out to gather on the Sabbath. The quail and manna were supernaturally preserved for the Sabbath day. However, some using their worldly wisdom went out on the Sabbath day to gather more. But, of course, they found none to gather.

The world claims to have great wisdom and knowledge and laughs at the commandments of God. However, in spite of their claims if worldly wisdom and ways are followed it will only result in creating a terrible stench in your life. It will take much longer than a week to get rid of the awful smell. Let me summarize - the world stinks!!

The Burning Bush Devotional
10.14.02

The Taste Test

“I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” - Psalm 34:4.

“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” - Psalm 34:8.

Peggy Whitson is the science officer on the International Space Station and Peggy has a problem because after 130 days in space she no longer likes shrimp. She had planned to have 40 meals made up in part of her favorite food on earth, which is shrimp. Whitson shares, “Sometimes, when you come to space, your tastes change. One of my favorite foods on the ground is shrimp, and up here I can’t stand it.” Peggy has experienced a change in tastes.

The Psalmist urges, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good….” Before we have Jesus as our Savior we have a different taste. Without God in our lives we have a taste for the things of the world and our fleshly nature craves what the world has to offer. We are used to our worldly diet and have little desire to change to anything else. But everything changes when God comes into our lives and takes up residence (II Corinthians 5:17; I Corinthians 3:16). Suddenly we have a different taste. Though we sometimes continue to crave it the world is no longer delicious. It is no longer so wonderful because when we eat of it we are left with a foul taste in our lives. It is the taste of death (Romans 6:23a).

When we taste of the things of God we discover the most amazing thing because instead death we find the glorious taste of life (John 10:10b) and redemption for our souls (Psalm 34:22). With the Heavenly diet we find deliverance from our fears (Psalm 34:4) and the angel of the Lord encamps all around us (Psalm 34:7). The more we avoid our previous tastes and instead seek God the more peace we find (Psalm 34:14).

The choice is clear and the conclusion of the taste test is clear - the world brings the foul taste of death and God brings the amazing taste of life. Taste of the Heavenly things of God and experience the joy of life for yourself. David speaks of this joy in his praise and worship of God, “I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord. The humble shall hear of it and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together. They looked to Him and were radiant…. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him! (Psalm 34:1-3, 5a, 8).”

The Burning Bush Devotional
10.11.02

The Lord is Our Strength

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked came against me to eat up my flesh, my enemies and foes, they stumbled and fell. Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war may rise against me, in this I will be confident.” - Psalm 27:1.

Some years ago my wife’s aunt Lilly was out mowing her lawn when she felt a sharp pain in her leg. Her first thought was that the lawn mower had thrown a rock, which had embedded itself in her leg. The doctor, however, found that she had been struck by a bullet. Lilly lived on the edge of a small town and it was thought that a hunter’s bullet had gone astray. In the midst of the sniper madness in the Washington D.C. area a vehicle driving down the highway had the windshield blown out. At first it appeared that it might have been the work of the sniper but birdshot was found and it was the first day of hunting season.

It is much easier for us to deal with the random unintended dangers that surround us all the time than it is to cope with person or person’s who intentionally inflict harm. However, whatever danger we may encounter or face our God is still God. He is no less able in either type of situation. David was facing the intentional threat from enemies without and at times from within his kingdom. Whatever the threat we see David doing the same thing over and over and over again. In the face of danger David turned to his God. Only in God could David find relief from the stress and strain of overwhelming fear and threat.

We live in a modern world, which is rapidly changing, and it appears as it changes it is becoming more and more dangerous. In the face of these dangers and threats it will be tempting to question God. Where were you God? Why didn’t you do something God? Why didn’t you help me God? Why did you let this happen God? In the life of King David we see a person who went through it all. He was on top with the defeat of Goliath but not long afterwards King Saul hunted David like an animal for years. Later when David was king he faced an internal threat from his own son who was finally killed and the threat was ended. In the face of all these threats and dangers we have David writing the great Psalms. We love to read the Psalms of David and to meditate on them because they were written by someone who had not only been on the mountaintop but also had experienced the very depths of despair.

As we ourselves face known and unknown dangers and threats let us follow the example of David and draw closer and closer to our Lord and Savior. May we say with David no matter what may happen, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever (Psalm 23).”

The Burning Bush Devotional
10.10.02

The Collectors

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” - Matthew 4:4.

Bob Burke an Oklahoma City attorney, historian, and collector has given his collection of over 2,000 Bibles to the University of Oklahoma. In this collection of Bibles there are over 200 languages represented and the dates of publication range from 1492 to the year 2000. The collection is thought to be the largest privately owned collection and it is estimated that it has a value of several hundred thousand dollars. However, many of the Bibles are priceless being irreplaceable. Burke related that the Bibles had just been packed into his office and that he was relieved “because they are now in safe hands and they will be used.”

The Bible is such a wonderful book it still ranks near the top each year in numbers of books sold and there have been more Bibles printed than any other book. According to the Bible every part is “inspired by 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 (II Timothy 3:16-17).” The Bible is not only “inspired by God” it is “living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of the joints and morrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).”

The Bible is inspired by God, living and powerful sharper than a human sword and it is the “sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17).” The Bible is also our spiritual food which is needed just as frequently as physical food which we eat every day (Matthew 4:4). The Bible gives us direction to the way of life (John 14:6; I Peter 1:23) and through the Bible we will find true success (Joshua 1:8). It is through the Bible that we will find strength to resist and overcome temptation (Psalm 119:9,11).

How large is your Bible collection? Within my reach are four Bibles and our family has a total of 15 or so and possibly more. I enjoy the way some of the Bibles look on the outside with nice leather covers and some have brightly colored designs, which are appealing to the eye. I like the feel of the pages, which are thin, and with gold on the edge. I like the small pocket Bible that I can carry with me concealed but ready for an emergency just in case they ask us to lift our Bibles up in the air at a pastors conference.

Does it do me any good to have all of these Bibles if I am just going to admire them? My Bible collection is only a collection and worthless spiritually if I never open up their pages and read the words of life printed on them. Even if we only have one Bible we have a priceless possession that many would even today risk their lives to read and are risking their lives to read. Most of us risk nothing if we were to open up the pages of one of our Bibles and read the living words of God. Why do we just collect them? Why do we just admire them? Why don’t we read them?

The Burning Bush Devotional
10.09.02

The Enemy’s Tools

“There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners….” - Deuteronomy 18:10-12; 14a.

“For the idols speak delusion; the diviners envision lies, and tell false dreams; they comfort in vain. Therefore the people wend their way like sheep; they are in trouble because there is no shepherd.” - Zechariah 10:2.

Law enforcement searching for the sniper that has killed several in the Washington D. C. area have found a tarot card next to a shell casing close to the school where a 13-year-old boy was critically wounded. On the tarot card were found the words: “Dear policeman, I am God.”

Tarot cards are occultic tools used in fortune telling and many using the cards believe they can help them alter their destinies. The user of the cards are encouraged to empty their minds so they may be more sensitive to the influence of outside forces. This emptying of the mind and the desiring to be influenced by some unknown outside force will make the user more susceptible to demon possession. It may be that the tarot card found in connection to the sniper is a clue as to the reason for the sniper’s horrific actions. The sniper may very well be driven by demonic forces which have become so strong in the person’s life that their personal will has become subservient to the demonic.

Many in the early church came out of the bondage to occultic practices. In Acts 19:18-20 we are told, “And many who had believed came confessing and telling their deeds. Also, many of those who had practiced magic brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted up the value of them, and it totaled fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.” It is clear that there is great danger in using tarot cards or being involved with any occultic practice. It is also clear that those who would turn away from these practices and turn to the Lord will find forgiveness, mercy and a power more powerful than all the demonic powers of the enemy. “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (I John 4:4).”

What should you do if you have tarot cards in your home or any other occultic tool such as an Ouija Board? You ought to follow the example of those in the early church who as they turned to the Lord destroyed all their occultic tools. Danny Korem, a magician in his book THE FAKERS states: "I have seen, heard, and read, however, of many negative experiences that have entrapped people who have sought knowledge with a Ouija board. If you own a Ouija board or some similar diversion, my advice is to destroy it and never encourage others to tinker with such devices."

Before it is too late and the demonic forces overwhelm your personal will, purge your life of the evil tools of the enemy and turn to the Lord. For only in the Lord will you find safety and relief from the demonic forces of hell.

The Burning Bush Devotional
10.07.02

Guard Your Heart

“You shall not murder.” - Exodus 20:13.

“The wicked in his proud countenance does not seek God; God is in none of his thoughts. He sits in the lurking places of the villages; in the secret places he murders the innocent; his eyes are secretly fixed on the helpless.” - Psalm 10:4,8.

“You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him.” - John 8:43-44.

This morning in the United States we are again shocked at an apparent random shooting of a 13-year-old boy just dropped off at school. The shooting occurred in Prince George County, Maryland. Last week five people were apparently shot randomly to death in neighboring Montgomery County, Maryland. On Thursday a sixth victim was killed in Washington, D.C. and Friday a woman was shot and wounded in Virginia. It is a horrible development but in the United States there is someone murdered in some way every minute. The fearful thing about the current rash of murders is that there seems to be no logical reason for the murders. It appears random and now the killer is even striking at children, which demonstrates the callousness of the heart of this murderer. We must pray that this murderer is caught before another innocent person becomes his victim.

The heart is really the issue here for it is out of the heart that murders and all manner of evil comes. Jesus says, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man (Mark 7:21-23).” Jesus allows us to see that before the action is taken there is the thought, the attitude of the heart that proceeds the evil. Those evil thoughts and attitudes come straight from the pit of hell (John 8:43-44).

The murderer does not think of God, he does not consider what God thinks of his actions (Psalm 10:4). In fact the murderer elevates himself in his mind to the position of God because it is God who gives and takes life. The murderer sees himself as deciding life and death for those around him. His heart has grown so cold and callous that his victims include the helpless and the innocent (Psalm 10:8).

Since murder comes from the heart it is clear that the admonition of Proverbs 4:23 is vital to our spiritual well being. We are told in Proverbs 4:23, “Keep (or guard) your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” Jesus says in Matthew 5:22, “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” Do you have hate in your heart for someone? In I John 3:14-15 we are told, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer….”

What is the attitude of your heart? What is coming out of your heart? Good things or evil? Hateful thoughts or thoughts of love? Guard your heart!

The Burning Bush Devotional
10.04.02

The Cost of Sin

“I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.” - Deuteronomy 31:19.

The West Coast port shutdown is continuing in the United States with twenty-nine ports now shutdown from Seattle to San Diego. The ships are backing up in the ports with nowhere to go with their cargo. Those ships will be unable to leave to pick up and deliver more cargo. On shore things are quickly growing into a crisis situation. Factory after factory is facing shutdown as they run out of materials needed for their products. Some companies are considering using planes to fly in materials but of course this will be much more expensive and raise the cost of goods. The economic consequences of the shutdown are spreading with the result of rising prices and shortages of goods. Employees too are being idled on a wider and wider scale as the shutdown continues resulting in substantial loss of income and further slowing the economy.

The fact is that spiritually some people do choose the path of death and cursing. That path at first does not seem so bad much like the port shutdown but as time moves along more and more negative consequences are seen. When someone begins to use illegal substances there may not be any immediate consequences. But because of the addictive nature of the substances more and more money is required to use them. That money is taken away from where it normally would be used. The person who chooses this path begins to be late in making payments and then is unable to make payments. Often jobs are lost and then material possessions are used up and many times people end up on the street.

For the substance abuser relationships begin to deteriorate as their decision-making abilities are impaired by the harmful affects of the substances and often psychological abnormalities arise. Eventually marriages break apart, children are taken away, and many end up in prison or their lives come to an end through an overdose or poor health, which resulted from their use of the illegal substances.

The same deterioration is seen with other sinful activities although it may not be as dramatic. Having an affair for example is going down the wrong path, the path of cursing and death. Every area of your life is affected and usually it is like the port shutdown with a stagnation and slowdown that result in an eventual meltdown.

We do have set before us on a continual basis two choices. We can choose life or we can choose death. With each decision we ought to ask ourselves whether the result of that decision leads to more life or if it will lead to a deadening in our life.

The real cost of sin is always more than we really want to pay. If you have been going down the path of cursing and death, turn around. Stop choosing death and begin choosing life. Begin today!

The Burning Bush Devotional
10.03.02

The Cost of Lies, Deceit and Keeping Secrets

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

“I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.” - Acts 24:16.

Maybe the biggest political liar of all time was elected in 1994 to the Court of Criminal Appeals in Texas. After his election Steve Mansfield actually admitted to several lies and exaggerations. He claimed to have vast experience in criminal law but actually his experience was in insurance and tax law. He claimed to have been born in Texas but he was actually born in Massachusetts. As a way of gaining sympathy he claimed to have been dating a woman who died but actually she was still alive at the time of the election. He also claimed to have lived in Houston when he was a child but when confronted about this during an interview admitted that was a lie.

Lies and deceit according to Mansfield are only “puffery” and “exaggerations.” But after his election to the highest criminal court in Texas, Mansfield said he would stop his pufferies and exaggerations. Judge Mansfield chose not to seek re-election in 2000 after he was arrested trying to scalp University of Texas football tickets in 1998 on the university campus. Mansfield received a deferred adjudication with a one-year probation for criminal trespass and was reprimanded by the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct.

There is whole lot of lying, cheating, and deceiving going on in the United States. According to a survey of 40,000 adults 9 out of 10 admitted that they lie on a habitual basis. This includes the 93 percent who lie at work and the 35 percent that cheat on their husbands or wives (Sometimes both the husband and wife are having extramarital affairs.). Additional research indicates that one out of every five marriages is hampered by an extramarital affair.

Do people who lie, cheat, deceive, have secret affairs get away without any consequences? It may appear to be that way at times but there are consequences. Besides the obvious pain when secrets are finally revealed there are adverse health consequences. Studies have revealed that those who are keeping secrets (Secrets are kept through lying, cheating, and deceiving.) have more problems than others with anxiety, depression, headaches, and back pain. Research also indicates that the more effort is expended in keeping those secrets the more adverse the health consequences. (Information regarding studies and research from article by Bob Condor published in Daily Oklahoma October 1, 2002.)

Before I was a Christian and for several years after I became a Christian I had a serious problem with lying. I would often lie to avoid confrontations with Jeanie (my wife) and to make myself look better in the eyes of other people. God used Jeanie in a powerful way to help me understand that it was always better in the long run to tell the truth. Telling the truth often hurts but to hide the truth and for it to be revealed later is much more painful. Even if the truth is never revealed hiding the truth still hurts you. We should be like the apostle and strive always to keep our conscience clear before God and man. Isn’t that a much better way to live?

The Burning Bush Devotional
10.01.02

Be Patient and Perfect

“But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:4.

“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door! My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and see the end intended by the Lord - that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.” - James 5:7-11.

Jeff Adams has performed an amazing feat of endurance. If you are the average person climbing even one hundred steps is more than you want to do. Adams who is a Canadian has climbed the 1,776 stairs in Toronto’s CN Tower. He is also a paralympian and climbed the stairs in a wheelchair. It took five hours but Jeff believes it was worth the effort as he was raising money for a program of the Canadian Foundation for Physically Disabled Persons. Jeff started this program when he was asked to leave a restaurant because they considered his wheelchair to be a fire hazard. Adams says, “It’s so outside the box and also something you never thought was possible in a wheelchair. We decided to respond to the negative situation in a positive way. The best part of living is standing up to a barrier.” It’s obvious that Jeff Adams has such amazing endurance because of his amazing attitude.

The reward of patience is maturity and strength. With the maturity and strength comes the ability to endure whatever barriers, hindrances, trials, and tribulations may confront us during our journey through the years on Planet Earth. The word “perfect” in James 1:4 means becoming strong, mature and having everything that we need to withstand the problems and challenges of life.

As we are living this life we must look beyond the problems and challenges to the coming of our Lord. We look beyond the present and see our goal, our reward. Jeff Adams could endure the five hours of grueling physical challenge because he had a goal and knew it was a worthy goal. We too have a goal to have our Lord say “Well done good and faithful servant (Matthew 25 - Parable of the Talents).” Our Master and Lord is coming for us and we will see Him one great and glorious day face to face.

We who know the Lord as Savior have been given unmerited mercy. In II Corinthians 4:1 the apostle Paul writes, “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart.” I believe Paul could see the adversities, the challenges of life much as Jeff Adams does. I think Paul could say, “The best part of living is standing up to a barrier.” Or, Paul might put it this way; “The best part of living is overcoming the challenges, hardships, adversities and all the rest through Christ Jesus and bringing glory to Him.” Paul did write in II Corinthians 4:16-17, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”

Today’s devotional was written by my son, Clark Wrather, who is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Clark may be contacted at fbcbb@pine-net.com. The Scripture and title have been added.

The Burning Bush Devotional
09.30.02

You’ve Got Your Orders

“And Jesus came and spoke to them saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’” - Matthew 28:18-20.

I am the only well person in a house full of sick people. Madison, the baby Mason, and Libby have all had some kind of cold during the last couple of days. All of them are sneezing and coughing and just feeling badly. I have done my best to avoid catching whatever they have.

I wash my hands after touching my boys. I have kept my distance from Libby. I pay attention to what my boys touch and try not to touch those things. I do all of these things to miss out on being sick. At least, I did all of these things until last night.

I woke up last night and heard Madison coughing. He coughed and coughed for about twenty minutes and he was getting worse. I went and got him up and out of bed. I carried him into the kitchen and along the way he coughed all over my face and I didn't even care. I set him down and made him drink water, which he didn't like at all. I wanted to give him some medicine, but I wasn't sure what I could give him. I had to go ask Libby.

Usually, Libby would have taken care of this late night emergency, but she was out of commission. I tried to wake her up for a couple of minutes and she finally responded and opened her eyes. I told her that Madison was sick and needed to take some medicine. She looked right at me and seriously replied, "bleh bleh ma re ba bleh, etc….” She continued on like this for quite a while, just babbling away.

Eventually, she became aware of me for a moment and I asked her if I could give Madison anything. She dramatically replied with one word in a hoarse whisper, "Sudafeeeeeedddd." After she said the word, her eyes closed and back to sleep she went. I gave Madison the medicine and we talked for a while, before I carried him back to bed. Around 2:30 am, he went back to sleep.

Many Christians act kind of like I do. The world and our culture have been overcome by a spiritual sickness. Most believers act like they will catch this disease. They stay away from everyone who is not a Christian. They go to church, they spend time with Christian friends, and they tend to clump together on the job. It is a fortress type of mentality. Jesus' last command to us was not to lock the door and hide out. I thought it had something to do with going and telling? Tell someone about your Savior. Those sinners will not make you sick. You're Immune. No one can take your salvation away from you.

Maybe you thought it was the preacher’s job or the deacon's job or something that only Sunday School teachers did? If you thought that, you're just plain wrong. It is usually Libby’s job to take care of Madison when he is sick, but last night she could not do it.

Preachers, deacon, and teachers tend to do the lion's share of witnessing and everything else. But sometimes, they cannot do it. This is why Jesus commanded all Christians to go and tell. Leave your fortress behind, obey Christ and start making a difference in those sick souls you already know about. If you really loved or cared about other people, you would tell them.

The Burning Bush Devotional
09.27.02

The Little Things

“And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” - Genesis 3:2-6.

In Copenhagen they had quite a scare at the European Union Asian summit. The driver for Paivi Lipponen, the Finnish prime minister’s wife, heard a strange sound coming from Paivi’s luggage. As a result a bomb alert was sent out and the area was sealed off until the source of suspicious noise could be determined. The Prime Minister’s wife said, “It was suspected that there might be a bomb in my bag. But there was no bomb.” The Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen said, “Over-zealous policemen checked our bags with bomb sniffing dogs. Instead of using their sense they used something else.” What was the source of the strange noise that caused so much trouble? It was Paivi Lipponen’s battery powered ladyshaver, which had somehow been turned on inside her luggage!

Have you ever noticed how little things can cause tremendous amounts of trouble? Adam and Eve found that out the hard way when they succumbed to the temptation of the serpent and ate a piece of fruit in the Garden of Eden. As a result all of creation was corrupted and Adam and Eve were forced to leave the beautiful and wondrous Garden. The serpent appealed to their jealous desire saying, “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:5). Cain killed his brother because Abel was observant in following the rules for making an offering to God with the sacrifice of “the firstborn of his flock.” Cain was jealous that God was pleased with Abel’s offering and not his offering of the “fruit of the ground (Genesis 4).” Jealousy again reared its ugly head when the brothers of Joseph sold their brother into slavery (Genesis 37).

Pride is a little thing that also causes tremendous trouble. The Tower of Babel in Genesis 11 was all about pride as the people said in opposition to what God wanted, “Let us make a name for ourselves.“ Pride was the source of the rebellion of Aaron and Miriam against the God given authority of Moses (Numbers 12). The Pharisee’s thought themselves better than those they considered sinners and that they were not like “other men (Luke 18:11).”

Greed is another little thing that causes all kinds of problems. Judas sold out Jesus for only 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14-16). Ananias and Sapphira didn’t give all the money they received from the sale of property to the early church because of their greed (Acts 5:1-11).

Lust is another little action of the heart that has been the source of countless evil deeds throughout all of history (Matthew 5:28; Proverbs 6:20-35). Lust caused much trouble for King David and his son, Solomon. In only the past decade there have many public figures that have destroyed their lives and the lives of others by having affairs.

Then there is the tongue, which aids and abets jealousy, pride, greed, and lust (and many other evils). James says about the tongue in James chapter 3, “Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.”

While little things cause much trouble little things can also bring about much good. Only a few fish and pieces of bread given to God can feed thousands of people. God can use those who see themselves as incapable of being used just like He used Moses and Gideon (I Corinthians 1:25-30). Bruce Bickel and Stan Jantz wrote a book called “God is in the Small Stuff and it all matters.” Even the little things are important and matter to God. So what do we do? In the Name of Jesus (another little thing but with so much power - Matthew 1:21; John 1:12; John 16:24) we must give all of those little things to God and He will empower us to live (Philippians 4:13; Romans 8:37) an overcoming life, which will bring glory to the Lord.

The Burning Bush Devotional
09.26.02

Numbered and Weighed

“And they prayed and said, ‘You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.’ And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” - Acts 1:24-26.

“For I say to you that this which is written must still be accomplished in Me: ‘And He was numbered with the transgressors.’ For the things concerning Me have an end.” - Luke 22:37.

“And this is the inscription that was written: MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN. This is the interpretation of each word. Mene: God has numbered your kingdom and finished it; Tekel: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting; Peres: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.” - Daniel 5:25-28.

We human beings are good at numbering and weighing things. Ian Jewell with his eagle eye became suspicious that the toilet paper rolls his company was buying were not as long as they ought to be. Ian began counting the sheets in the rolls. Ah hah! There were only 200 sheets and not the 320 that the supplier had claimed in the contract with the Western England Council. Ian says, “We immediately discovered the errors and realized there was a large cost implication to the council which needed to be recovered.” The council received $28,100 in compensation for the 40,000 rolls it uses in a year which were an approximate 4,800,000 sheets short. Who would have thought anyone would cheat you on toilet paper!

Nearly everything in this world is numbered and weighed in one form or another by human beings. Spiritually we shouldn’t be surprised that we and our works are numbered and weighed by God. God knows everything physically about us including the number of hairs we have or don’t have on our heads. Spiritually He knows everything as well down to the smallest detail, thought, motive and action. To number the people in the Book of Numbers meant to count the people. Spiritually it means much the same. Matthias was to be numbered with the Apostles meaning that if you were to count them you would count Matthias with them. Judas, however, is to be counted with the “transgressors.” If it were possible for us to count the transgressors you would count Judas as being among them. God not only counts but He also weighs as Belshazzar found out (Daniel 5). Belshazzar was weighed by God and found wanting and as a result his (Belshazzar’s) kingdom was finished and that very night he was killed.

If God were to number you would you be numbered among those who know and love the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior or would you be numbered among the transgressors? If God were to weigh your life would He find a full roll or would He find you wanting in many areas of your life? How long before God finishes your life and my life? We do not know. But while we have time let us commit the remainder of our lives to the Lord Jesus and make sure that our lives are counting in the lives of those around us.

The Burning Bush Devotional
09.25.02

Delivered From The Lion

“But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen!”

In South Africa, Kimberly Thomen of Sugarland, Texas ended up in the mouth of a lion. Kimberly was on a tour of South Africa and visiting the Leshoka Thabang Game Lodge in Limpopo when she was attacked. She got off a game-viewing vehicle to pet one of three young lions after being assured that it was safe. She was petting one of the lions when the lion clawed her and she screamed and then the other lions joined the attack. The tour guide began trying to pull the lions off and eventually the young lions stopped their attack. Thomen received wounds all over her body and a bite wound to her neck but Kimberly is expected to recover from her wounds.

How many times have we been told that some dangerous thing is safe? How many young people have succumbed to having sex outside of marriage believing that a condom will protect them from pregnancy and sexual disease only to find out that it was not safe at all? There is a contraceptive failure rate of 18.4 percent for girls under age 18. And among young, unmarried, minority women the annual failure rate is 36.3 percent; among unmarried Hispanic women it is as high as 44.5 percent (Statistics from lovematters.com).

Condoms provide even less protection against sexually transmitted disease. Dr. Robert Renfield, chief of retro-viral research, Walter Reed Army Institute says, “Simply put, condoms fail. And condoms fail at a rate unacceptable for me as a physician to endorse them as a strategy to be promoted as meaningful AIDS protection.” Dr. Teresa Crenshaw, member of the U.S. Presidential AIDS Commission and past president of the American Association of Sex Educators says, “Saying that the use of condoms is ‘safe sex’ is in fact playing Russian roulette. A lot of people will die in this dangerous game.”

Many have also been told that alcohol and illegally used substances are not dangerous. Here are just a few of the dangers of alcohol: nervous system depressant, affects almost every organ of the body, alters perceptions, hinders coordination, blocks memory functions, can cause stomach ailments, can cause sexual impotence, can cause heart and central nervous system damage, causes damage to the liver and other organs and can cause blackouts. Alcohol also interacts negatively with over 150 medications. Many young people die every year from alcohol poisoning and in the USA alcohol contributes to 100,000 deaths annually.

Even marijuana a relatively benign recreational drug in comparison some other illegal drugs has some severe dangers. It is thought that marijuana suppresses the immune system leaving the body more susceptible to many illnesses (including cancer and AIDS). It is also thought that marijuana is the source of many mental disorders, including “acute toxic psychosis, panic attacks (one of the very conditions it is being used experimentally to treat), flashbacks, delusions, depersonalization, hallucinations, paranoia, depression, and uncontrollable aggressiveness. Marijuana has long been known to trigger attacks of mental illness, such as bipolar (manic-depressive) psychosis and schizophrenia (http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/evidence99/marijuana/Health_1.html).”

The lions are everywhere and they are seeking to destroy us (I Peter 5:8). There is a way to keep from being devoured by the lions and if the lion has you in its mouth there is a way out. That way out is to turn to the Lord Jesus and commit our lives totally and completely to Him just as the apostle Paul did. Then we will find that the Lord will drag those lions off, and He will strengthen, and stand with us to defend us “from every evil work and preserve us (me) for His heavenly kingdom.”

The Burning Bush Devotional
09.24.02

Unseen Consequences

“Then Nabal answered David’s servants, and said, ‘who is David, and who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants nowadays who break away each one from his master. Shall I then take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers, and give it to men when I do not know where they are from?’” - I Samuel 25:10-11.

David and his men were still on the run from King Saul but meanwhile they had been protecting the flocks of Nabal since they were in the area. It was common and expected during those times to repay such kindness. When David’s men were sent to seek some modest compensation for their assistance Nabal was rude and selfish living up to the meaning of his name (Nabal means fool.). Sometimes you can be rude to the wrong people. Sometimes you can be mean and selfish at the wrong time toward the wrong people. Not that it is ever right but the consequences sometimes are swift and severe as Nabal found out.

David fully intended to destroy Nabal and his family because the rude response of the man. However, Abigail (Nabal’s wife) met him on his way to attack bringing gifts of food and pleaded with him not to do so. David heeded the plea of Abigail and soon God struck Nabal and within days he was dead. We need to remember that God says, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord (Hebrews 10:30).”

A couple of burglars in Dallas give another example of how you can pick on the wrong people at the wrong time. They broke into the home of a Dallas police officer that was home at the time of the break-in! Officer Chris Gilliam shot and arrested one of the suspects and the other suspect was arrested a short time later.

There will always be persecution, trials, and tribulations for Christians. However, the moral of the story is if we live according to the teachings of Jesus Christ than we won’t have to worry about the consequences we’ve seen in the incidents I’ve described. So before you lash out in anger, before you are rude, before you act like a selfish pig remember that you do not always know what the consequences may be. And, those consequences may be very unpleasant.

Today’s devotional was written by my son, Clark Wrather, who is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Clark may be contacted at fbcbb@pine-net.com. The Scripture and title have been added.

The Burning Bush Devotional
09.23.02

Take a Wild Ride

“For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy.” - Colossians 1:9-11.

Someone recently gave me a motorcycle! Can you believe it? It’s not just any old cycle, but a Yamaha, Maxim X, with a 5 valve 700 cc monster. If you don’t know that that means, don’t worry about it. I’m not sure if I do yet, either.

When I first tried to get it started, I couldn’t remember how to do anything with a motorcycle. Thankfully, someone was driving by and stopped to show me the finer points of the iron horse.

Eventually, when no one was around, I actually got it started and tried to take off. It surged forward a couple of times and then died. I started it again and it surged forward three times and then died. The third time, I gave it lots of gas, let off the clutch and it surged forward and took off! Of course, I was unprepared for success and it scared me to death! I was heading at warp speed towards the fence across the street from my driveway.

I swerved in the nick of time and missed the fence. I nearly fell over and kept wobbling down the street for quite a distance. All of this was happening in a matter of seconds and I could not figure out why I wasn’t slowing down. The light bulb finally came on and I realized that if I wanted to slow down, I would have to let off the throttle.

After I got it stopped, I was too afraid of the thing to ride it back to my house, so I pushed it all the way back and into my drive way. While trying to set the bike up on the kickstand, the thing fell over on me and scraped my leg up. Of course, I told Libby as little as possible about any of this!

Now, it’s almost two weeks later after that initial experience. I’m not ready to be in Easy Rider II or even take a road adventure to far away Idabel (10 miles), but I can ride that motorcycle. It’s really a blast. You feel the wind in your hair, the sun on your face, and you hear and feel the rumble of the engine. You can go fast or slow, but it takes lots of balance and coordination to shift all the gears and work the brakes when you slow down or stop. I imagine that in two months I’ll enjoy it even more (because it won’t die on me every other time I stop) and feel like I could go anywhere on it.

God’s will is a lot like my motorcycle. If you just hop on and give it the gas, you might be scared where it takes you. New Christians or believers who first become active often feel like they have jumped off the deep end and that they’re on a “wild ride.” This is why some get off and “park” and never quite get back on. After a while, you realize that there’s nothing else like the “wild ride” of being in God’s will. He’ll take you places you never thought you’d go and you’ll think it’s a blast!

It takes experience, time, and practice to be spiritually coordinated and enjoy the ride. You get these from reading the Bible coming to church, praying and applying what you learn from those things by serving God. If more Christians would do these things, their “spiritual ride” would not die every other time they try to start it!

The Burning Bush Devotional
09.20.02

Shark Jumping

“This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” - I Timothy 1:18-20.

In response to the question, “What is jumping the shark?” Jon Hein says on his website (www.jumptheshark.com): It's a moment. A defining moment when you know that your favorite television program has reached its peak. That instant that you know from now on...it's all downhill. Some call it the climax. We call it "Jumping the Shark." From that moment on, the program will simply never be the same. The term "jump the shark" was coined by my college roommate for 4 years, Sean J. Connolly, in Ann Arbor, Michigan back in 1985. The aforementioned expression refers to the telltale sign of the demise of Happy Days, our favorite example, when Fonzie actually ‘jumped the shark.’” Fonzie on Happy Days was water skiing when he jumped over a shark and it was all downhill for the TV show after that according to Jon Hein.

Hymenaeus and Alexander were obviously shark jumping with their blasphemy and shipwrecked their faith. When the first jump occurred we do not know, but probably long before the shipwreck. A well-known example of Biblical shark jumping is that of Ananias and Sapphira. At some point they conspired together that they were going to sell some property give it to the church and lie about how much of the proceeds of the sale they were giving. Peter asked Ananias, “Why has satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit…(Acts 5:1-10)? Ananias and Sapphira were both struck dead by God within a short time period of time. King Herod is another example (Acts 12). He began his shark jumping when he decided to persecute the early church killing James the brother of John with the sword (Acts 12:2). He continued his shark jumping until he had the people praising him as a god and then, “…the angel of the Lord smote him, because he did not give God the glory. And he was eaten by worms and died (Acts 12:23).

Paul charges Timothy encouraging him not to let his faith become shipwrecked and he mentions some obvious sharks that we ought to avoid and here are some of them: immodesty, violence, being given to wine, greed, quarrelsome, covetous, double-tongued, slander, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, profane and old wives’ fables, being rude to those who are older, pride, envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, and the useless wrangling of men of corrupt minds (I Timothy 2 - 6).

At the same time Paul gives Timothy encouragement and shares the things that will help him avoid those sharks. Here are some of them: supplications; prayers; intercessions, and thanksgiving for all men; quiet peaceable lives; godliness and reverence; being saved; dressing modestly; temperance; sober-mindedness; good behavior; hospitable; having a pure conscience; faithfulness; reject profane and old wives’ fables, exercise yourself toward godliness; be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity; treat others with proper respect; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness; having godliness with contentment; fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life; and guard what has been committed to your trust (I Timothy 2 - 6).

In other words don’t jump any sharks!

The Burning Bush Devotional
09.17.02

Go In Peace

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” - Matthew 5:9.

Have you ever found it hard to be a peacemaker? It is hard to bring peace to a situation when those involved have no desire for peace. A phrase we hear frequently is, “Can’t we all just get along?” The problem is that some people do not want to “get along.” In fact there are some people who delight in causing trouble and creating chaos. I was reminded of this over the past few days while trying to bring peace to a family situation.

It is obviously God’s will in most instances for us to be peacemakers. In our lives we are to go forward in peace. In Mark 5:34 Jesus said, "Daughter, your faith has made you well. GO IN PEACE, and be healed of your affliction." In Luke 7:50 Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you. GO IN PEACE." In Luke 8:48 Jesus said, "Daughter, be of good cheer; your faith has made you well. GO IN PEACE." In John 14:27 Jesus says, “PEACE I leave with you, My PEACE I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” In John 16:33 Jesus says, These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have PEACE. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."

How can you make peace when others desire the opposite? First an understanding of the word “peace” is necessary. In the Bible the concept of peace is more than an absence of strife and hostility. The word used for peace means in part “to be sound” or “to be complete.” It carries the meaning of being “whole” and “to live well.” Here we have some clues for being a peacemaker. For the Christian “to live well” it is necessary for us to live like Jesus.

When we encounter the hostility of the world let us respond as Jesus would respond. We are to “go in peace.” In other words we are to live well our lives following the example of Jesus. Jesus gives us the example and the instruction of turning the other cheek (Luke 6:29) and of whatever you want men to do to you, doing also to them (Matthew 7:12). In the midst of the strife of the world we must “seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).” When it seems impossible to be a peacemaker we remember Jesus said, “men always ought to pray and not lose heart (Luke 18:1).”

Let us “go in peace.”

Today’s devotional was written by Anita Rundell. Anita is a singer, songwriter, writer, and website designer living in the Nashville area. She can be contacted at: arundell@earthlink.net

The Burning Bush Devotional
09.12.02

The Answer

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of Adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’” - Romans 8:14-15.

Today, many people remember the fear they felt one year ago as our nation was changed forever. So, many lives...so many families...crushed. And those of us who maybe didn't experience the loss first hand...but sat back and glared at the TV those following weeks just watching in amazement at the events that had taken place...had (and still have) so many questions. So many people filled with fear.

My sister and brother-in-law and my nephews were here visiting me in Nashville during Labor Day weekend. One evening, Tammy (Trent) came over and hung out with us. After Tammy left, Amy and I got into a conversation about the loss Tammy has experienced (Her husband’s death.) and the questions that remain in our mind and the fear. If it could happen to her...why couldn't it happen to us? If it could happen to all of those people in the world trade towers - why couldn't it happen to us?

And honestly, if I dwelled on those questions long enough - it would freak me out. So, I try not to. And I know that God did not give me a spirit of fear...Romans 8:15. Faith plays such an important part in times like these...don't you think? Faith in the One that put the world into motion...and the One that has the power to make it stop. We will always have questions. We will always wonder why. We may never find the answers. So, we need to trust and have faith that God will always…no matter what…provide what we need. HE IS OUR ANSWER.

Visit Anita Rundell’s websites:
http://www.AnitaRundell.com - Anita’s Personal Website
http://www.CompleteFaithWebDesign.com - Anita’s Webpage Design Company
http://www.cafepress.com/anitarundell - Anita‘s "Just Believe" products.

Note This is the devotional that was sent the day after 9/11 last year. It seemed to me that it would be good to read it again on this day of remembrance. Let us pray for the comfort and peace of all those affected by 9/11 terrorist attacks. Let us pray that such destruction never occurs again.

The Burning Bush Devotional
09-12-01 (Originally sent 09-12-01)

Strong Towers

“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.” - Proverbs 18:10.

We are still in shock and horrified after the destruction of the terrorist attacks upon the United States yesterday. The World Trade Center had already withstood one terrorist attack in 1993. Who would have thought that those towers could have so quickly been destroyed? Yesterday, I listened to two architects who discussed the construction of the World Trade Center towers. According to them the towers were designed to withstand the crash of a Boeing 707. What the towers were not designed for was the crash a plane still loaded with most of the jet fuel. The steel had been treated to withstand fires of paper and wood but not the thousand degree prolonged fire of jet fuel. The buildings withstood the initial crashes well but could not withstand the extreme heat, which caused the steel to lose strength and collapse.

According to the architects it would be possible for a building to be built with the steel coated in such a way that would enable it to even withstand the jet fuel fires which caused so much destruction yesterday. However, even if the World Trade Center Towers were to be rebuilt to be resistant to jet fuel fires they could still be destroyed. They could be destroyed through atomic attack or even by an earthquake. The fact is that there is not a building that man can build that cannot be destroyed in some way. There is no place completely safe in this world from every kind of danger or enemy.

There is only one place of ultimate safety for the human race. That place of safety is a Strong Tower not made with human hands. That place of safety is the Strong Tower of the Lord. The only way of entry is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Let us run to the Strong Tower of our Lord.

Personal Note Concerning Events of September 11, 2001: I started watching the news this morning just in time to be shocked to see the second plane crash into the World Trade Center. That was just the first of many shocks this day has held so far as I watched with horror the events that have unfolded. Once again we have been forced to take our minds off of our little petty problems and think of the agony of life and death. We pray for those who are still alive but trapped. We pray for those who have been injured but struggling to survive. We pray for those whose loved ones have been killed or injured. Let us look to our Lord during this time. Isaiah 26:3 comes to mind. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee." - Ed Wrather 09-11-01.

The Burning Bush Devotional
09.10.02

The Terror and the Love

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men….” - II Corinthians 5:10-11.

“For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” - II Corinthians 5:14-15.

Last week I read about a man in Oklahoma City who was at a Wal-Mart store shopping. He was walking down the aisle when suddenly he collapsed and the next thing he remembers is waking up in a hospital. He collapsed when his heart went into full cardiac arrest. Nearby was a police officer that is a CPR instructor and also a woman trained in CPR. They immediately began working to save the man’s life performing CPR for 25 minutes until additional help arrived. The man is doing fine now.

My Uncle shortly before he died at 80+ years of age shared with me about several men he knew who had died suddenly. My Uncle knew he had been blessed to live a long life in relatively good health. It was also a message to me that we do not know when we will leave this world. We may have years or it may be today. Last week a godly man (47 years old) who had lived in our community in the past was suddenly removed from this world to the next. He was a passenger in a vehicle driven by his son when a tire blew out and the vehicle swerved off the road and down a steep incline hitting a tree. The man’s daughter-in-law and his granddaughter were critically injured but are now improving.

The apostle Paul knew first hand about the “terror of the Lord.” Paul had personally encountered the risen Lord on the road to Damascus (Acts 9) where Paul intended to continue persecuting the church. Being struck blind by God tends to get a person’s attention and Paul knew what it was like to be in the hands of the living God. It was a terrifying thing that Paul remembered very well. But not only had the apostle experienced the “terror” of the Lord, he also knew first hand of the “love” of the Lord. Paul the persecutor through the grace of God became the greatest apostle, evangelist, and missionary of the early church with many of his letters being recorded as the Word of God.

Let us live life soberly and with a sound mind being aware of the brevity of life. We are not here on earth to have a good time and in fact life is very difficult for some of us - it was difficult for Paul too (II Corinthians 11:25 - But God can bring good out of the bad for those who love Him and are obedient to His will - Romans 8:28). We are still here because there is work for us to do. As Paul points out we are new creations in Christ and as His new creations we are His ambassadors “as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God (II Corinthians 5:20).”

The Burning Bush Devotional
09.09.02

Be a Hero

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

“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” - I Corinthians 10:13.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Burning Bush Devotional
09.06.02

The Building is Safe

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

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

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

Some 1400 people fled to safety from the upper floors of the south tower even though the emergency speaker system was blaring that “the building is safe!” “The building is secure!” This was followed by a statement that it was safe to return to work in their offices. Some believed this was an order while others believed it was an option to return to their work areas. With only 16½ minutes every action was vitally important to their survival. Some immediately fled from the building. Others gathered up personal belongings or finished up some things they were working on. Others made phone calls delaying their exit. Some lost their lives while courageously trying to warn and save others. Steve Miller who worked on the 80th floor and survived said, “The conclusion that I’ve come to is: I think I acted smart, and I think it had almost no bearing on the fact that I survived. If you ran away, you survived. Everybody who ran away survived.”

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

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

Copyright © 2001 - 2002. Ed Wrather. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for use of this material on a non-profit basis with source noted.


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