Strength for the New Year
I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. - John 15:5.
If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples. - John 15:7-8.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. - Philippians 4:13.
We stand on the threshold of a New Year and there are some things that we can count on in this New Year: great opportunities along with great challenges will confront us. We will likely encounter disappointments and trials in one form or another and probably much more!
In 2008, many of us have faced trials, and challenges. How many people in this country and around the world expected the economic collapse that has occurred? Only a very few. Last Tuesday night I suddenly became very ill. It was a complete surprise. So sick, that for several minutes I did not even have the strength to move. However, I still had strength. I had the strength to know that God was still God, and that I was in His hands, whether I was to leave this earth or stay upon this earth. As the apostle Paul said, "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:21)." God was and is my strength, and He is your strength too for whatever you may encounter in life.
Only God knows what is ahead for us in the year 2009. Whatever we may face, we can be confident that as children of God, we have a power source that is more than adequate for whatever is needed in our lives. The Creator of the universe through the Holy Spirit dwells within every believer. When we abide in Christ we have more power available to us than our minds can comprehend.
Sadly, the opposite is true as well. When we try to accomplish things and go through things in our own strength, we always find that we have a lack of power. We fall short. We fall on our faces when we leave God out of the equation. Why? Because as Jesus says, "…without Me you can do nothing."
What is God’s plan for your life in 2009? To find out, we must "abide" in Him. If we "abide" in Him then we will find that we have the strength physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually that we need for each step of every day. Allow the Lord to empower you for the challenges of the coming New Year. Make the commitment now that your plan for the New Year will be to "abide" in Christ and to seek His strength for every area of your life.
May you have a very Happy and Blessed New Year!!
Proof of Life
There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, "Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him." Jesus answered and said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." - John 3:1-3.
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. - John 5:24.
In 1976, Lal Bihari discovered that he had a problem. He found out that he was dead! Bihari found out when he applied for a bank loan that he had been declared legally dead. In the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh when some greedy people wanted to inherit property and the relative continued to live, they bribed governmental officials to have them declared legally dead. This speeded up the process of obtaining the property. Even though Lal Bihari was very much alive it still took 18 years for him to prove it. Even though Bihari ran for office, filed lawsuits and even got himself arrested it was not enough to prove he was alive. He eventually founded the "Association of Dead People" to help himself and others to prove their existence. As a result of their efforts more than 80 officials have been punished for their role in these scams.
Are you physically dead or alive? If you are not sure let me help you out. If you are reading this you are definitely alive physically. But what about spiritually? Are you dead or alive spiritually? Have you been "born again?" Have you "passed from death into life?"
In 1 Corinthians 2:14 the apostle Paul writes, "…the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." What are some of the easily identified "things of the Spirit of God?" Here are three: the Bible; prayer; and church attendance or fellowship with other Christians. So, one way to identify whether or not you have spiritual life and are not just a "natural man" is to ask yourself this question: Does reading the Bible, praying, and attending church appear to be "foolishness" to you? If those spiritual things and those who practice those things look like foolishness to you then that is an indication that you may still be a "natural man" and have not "passed from death into life."
The apostle John gives some additional indications to consider in the determination of spiritual life. Do you have a desire to keep God’s commandments, to do what God wants you to do with your life? (Read 1 John 2:3-5.) Do you love God more than you love the things of this world, more than your job, more than your family, more than your money, and more than your possessions? (Read 1 John 2:15-16; Matthew 6:33.) Are you living your life as Jesus wants you to live? (Read 1 John 2:6.)
"Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you (2 Corinthians 13:5)?" Are you alive or are you dead?
Put Off the Old
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. - 2 Corinthians 5:17.
...if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness. - Ephesians 4:21-24.
In the United States a new President and his family will soon move into the official residence for the President, the White House. The White House has a two hundred year history but except for the outer walls, the layout of the rooms, and some furnishings inside the building; things have changed from what they were two hundred years ago.
Harry Truman while president of the United States in 1948 made a shocking discovery of the condition of the White House. When the honor guard marched him to a state dinner the crystal chandelier in his study swayed. When the butler walked in with breakfast Truman could feel the whole floor wobble. He called for engineers to examine the structure. The chief engineer reported the ceiling in the state dining room was only staying up from force of habit. Truman made a tough decision. He had the entire inside of the White House gutted. It was all torn out and rebuilt with only the shell remaining. When it was rebuilt it was with a steel framework which makes it as strong as any modern building.
There are many of us who wonder about the history that must have been lost in such a drastic reconstruction. Many were attached to the well worn floors with the smells of decades of momentous occasions. In much the same way we grow attached to our old lives, our old sins, our old circumstances, and habits. So when we are born again (John 3:3), becoming a new creature in Christ with old things passing away and all things becoming new (2 Corinthians 5:17) it is a drastic change! Our old lives have been gutted and a complete reconstruction has taken place.
We still have choices after becoming a new creature in Christ. Truman as President of the United States could have chosen not to live in the White House after the reconstruction was completed. He could have lived in a tent on the grounds but that would have been foolish. It would be foolish for us as well to live as we used to live when we don’t have to any more. Paul in verse 22 says to put off all that old stuff and to begin to live as the new person that we are. In verses 25 through 32 he gives very specific ways of putting off the old and putting on the new. Paul finishes by saying in verse 32, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
Have you been living in a tent? Why not get out of there and try out the new place!
Update from the Wrather family:
For those who have not heard, our son Nick has lost the sight in one eye because of a detached retina and will be having surgery tomorrow to stabilize it so that it will not have to be removed. Since the detachment occurred many months ago it will not be possible to restore his sight in that eye.
After we found out about this we decided that we would go ahead and take a trip to Branson, Missouri that we had planned for later. Nick is mentally handicapped with Down Syndrome and he has been a fan of the Oakridge Boys since he was a little boy (He is 30 now.). We thought it would take all of our minds off of what had happened and the surgery and I think that it did do that.
The eye surgeon told us when he said that Nick would not have sight in that eye that it was "Unfortunate." While listening to the Oakridge Boys they sang a song from their Christmas album. In the song a family has some bad things happen to them and repeatedly they say it was “Unfortunate", "Inconvenient", and then they say, "The most inconvenient Christmas ever was, Was the first one, when God came so far, To give himself to us, So when stress hits each December, How it helps me to remember God is with us most when things just can't get worse, The most inconvenient Christmas ever was… was the first."
It spoke to my heart and to Jeanie's. I think we know why we needed to take the trip as we found God touching our hearts once again at a critical time in our lives.
The devotional has been written and sent on an infrequent basis for some time. My goal for the devotional is for it to be sent five times per week and hopefully the goal will eventually be reached on a continuous basis.
Thank you for your support, understanding, and prayers!
Break the Cycle
Now these are the nations which the LORD left, that He might test Israel by them, that is, all who had not known any of the wars in Canaan (this was only so that the generations of the children of Israel might be taught to know war, at least those who had not formerly known it), namely, five lords of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites who dwelt in Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal Hermon to the entrance of Hamath. And they were left, that He might test Israel by them, to know whether they would obey the commandments of the LORD, which He had commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses. - Judges 3:1-4.
And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us. - 1 John 3:22-24.
What would you do if you had to repeat the same day over and over again? In the movie "Groundhog Day" that is what happens to Phil Connors (Bill Murray) who is sent to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to do a story on the annual Groundhog Day festivities. Phil finds himself repeating the same day over and over and over again. Things go from bad to worse until he decides to take advantage of the time instead of wasting it. Phil spent months learning the art of flicking a card into a hat perfectly each time. But Phil’s heart changes and eventually the day arrives when it is no longer Groundhog Day but tomorrow.
In the Book of Judges the Children of Israel have their own Groundhog Day. No, it is not the same day repeating over and over, but it is the same cycle of life repeating itself over and over. After the death of Joshua the Israelites had abandoned the worship of the One True God and instead served the false God of Baalim (Judges 2:10-13). When the people sinned, God would allow their enemies to defeat them. In their torment the people would cry out to God for help. Each time this happened God would send a leader, who was called a judge to deliver them. This cycle of sin, torment, repentance, and deliverance was repeated over and over again.
This painful cycle of sin, pain, repentance, and deliverance occurs in our lives as well. Until we learn the lesson and break the cycle by walking in obedience to God, we are doomed to go through that cycle over and over again. We will never fully experience the abundant life until we break out of this cycle. Phil Connors eventually learned his lesson. Will we?
But they lie in wait for their own blood, they lurk secretly for their own lives. So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; it takes away the life of its owners. - Proverbs 1:18-19.
But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. - 1 Timothy 6:9-11.
When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness (greed - NIV), which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience. - Colossians 3:4-6.
In South Korea, Han Sang-choon, was dismissed last week from his position as the deputy of Mirae Asset Investment Education Institute. He lost his job because of his statement about why so many people lost money in the recent financial crisis. Han Sang-choon on Korean television stated, "I reckon people haven't cashed in their funds because of personal greed and expectations of profits." Mirae Asset in a statement regarding the firing said, "…we decided to sack our deputy head, Han Sang-choon, who gave individual views out of line with our institute's original purpose, and caused concern to investors."
Certainly, I have experienced my own share of greed in my personal life. However, God has spared me from some very bad decisions that I could have made because of greed. In 1982, during a boom in the oilfield I had my own oilfield inspection company and business was great. I was making money and thought it would be good to make even more. To do so, I would need to buy equipment to build another inspection unit and hire another pipe inspector. I went to the bank and established a line of credit and was ready to expand. However, I wanted to make sure this was what God wanted. There was only one person at the time that I thought could be the inspector that would work well with me, and I made it a matter of prayer that if God wanted me to expand the company that this man would agree to work for the company.
In October 1982, I was ready to launch my plans and talked to this prospective employee. He rejected my offer and I knew that because of his rejection that God did not want me to go ahead with my plans for expansion. The next month I did have some jobs but was never paid for them and my income from the business was cut off like a switch had been flipped. The bust had come to the oilfield boom. I was eventually able to sell my equipment, go back to college, and change careers. However, it could have been much more devastating financially if I had not listened to what God wanted. If I had gone ahead with my plans, bankruptcy would have been my only option.
Greed can easily slip into our view of money and use of money. Caution and prayer about our use and plans for the use of money is always the wise way to proceed. We are in an uncertain time in our world today. Most believe that the financial situation will improve but only God really knows what will happen tomorrow. We must lean heavily upon His wisdom and guidance during these times.
In Difficult Times
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. - Matthew 6:19-34.
In February of 1999, on the front page of our morning newspaper was a photo of the charred remains of a couple’s dreams. Bill and Shirley Brunkhorst were building a triple deck excursion paddle boat called "The Eufaula Queen." A spark from a welder’s torch destroyed their life savings along with the four years of effort spent in building the boat. There was no insurance to cover the damage. As most would be, the Brunkhorsts were emotional traumatized by their loss.
We have to admire the Brunkhorsts for their years of effort in pursuing their dream. They designed the boat themselves even without engineering degrees. Sadly, what has happened to the dreams of the Brunkhorsts often happens to earthly dreams. Many of you have experienced traumatic material losses as well. You have lost jobs, businesses, or homes. Many of you in the space of a few weeks have lost the dreams that you had for retirement as the stock market has plunged down further and further decimating your 401ks. One thing we know about the things here on Planet Earth, these things are temporary. A welder’s spark, a wrong turn, a momentary decision, or greed of people you do not even know can destroy your worldly dreams.
While we pursue our careers, build businesses, and plan for retirement hopefully someday, let us not forget that earthly things are temporary. There is a finite amount of time for us to possess whatever we have here. Should we not be storing up treasures in Heaven as we walk along the highways of life? When we have spent 10,000 years in Heaven, these things we treasure now upon earth will have very little meaning to us.
Let us remember that whatever we may be facing that God is still God, and He is the One, who can carry us through these difficult times.
For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. - Romans 10:13.
The summer after I turned 14 years old was the only time I went to a church camp before becoming an adult. It was a great experience, and I know God was speaking to me while I was there. The camp is located in a canyon, and it is very beautiful in the summer. I remember being off by myself sitting on a picnic table one afternoon, and as I was there on the picnic table I began to think about the future. What would happen? I thought I would probably graduate from High School. I wasn’t thinking about going to college, so I thought I would probably get a job, get married and we would have children. I wanted to make a lot of money and retire early. Then, I would be old, and finally I came to the point of considering death. I could not see anything after death, it was just all dark, all black.
As I look back on my picnic table experience at church camp it is almost frightening. Why? Because it was five years later before I even seriously thought about what would happen to me after death. Then, I only thought about it after my wife (Jeanie) shared her testimony with me one night. What if she had not shared her testimony? What if no one had? What if I had not married a Christian? What if I had not thought about eternity again?
When we think about salvation many times we say the word, "saved." Or, "I got saved." In Romans 10:13, the Bible does say that if we call on the name of the Lord, we will be "saved." Being saved infers being saved from something. If someone is drowning and rescued, they are saved from death. Spiritually, being "saved" also means being saved from something and specifically it means being saved from spiritual death. I am thankful today that I know that I am "saved." I am thankful that I can look back to a moment in time when in a state of repentance, I called upon the name of the Lord and asked Him to come into my heart and life. Now when I think about death it is not all black out there. Instead I can see the blinding glory of my Lord whose sacrifice has given me eternal life. I know, as did the psalmist, that: "I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."
There used to be two signs standing on the side of the highway between where I live and Elk City, Oklahoma. The signs along the road are nearly gone now, but I remember well what they said because I passed by them many, many times. The signs said: "After death what then?" "Eternity where?" I remember on the back of one of the signs it said, "Heaven or Hell." Do you know where you will spend eternity? Please don’t wait to think about this later because later may never come. Call upon the Name of the Lord Jesus now receiving Him as your Lord and Savior. You will be eternally glad that you did.
How to Receive a Miracle
Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you." - Matthew 9:2.
…behold, a ruler came and worshiped Him, saying, "My daughter has just died, but come and lay Your hand on her and she will live." So Jesus arose and followed him…. And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment. …Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, "Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well." When Jesus came into the ruler’s house, and saw the flute players and the noisy crowd wailing, He said to them, "Make room, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping." And they ridiculed Him. …He went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. - Matthew 9:18-25.
… two blind men followed Him, crying out and saying, "Son of David, have mercy on us!" And when He had come into the house, the blind men came to Him. And Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They said to Him, "Yes, Lord." Then He touched their eyes, saying, "According to your faith let it be to you." And their eyes were opened. - Matthew 9:27-30.
If you are searching for employment you know a few of the basic things that you will need to do. You will search for employment opportunities by networking with friends, and associates. You will search the classified job listings, online job listings, call or go in person to the offices of companies that employ people with similar skills to your job skills. You will submit resumes or complete applications as needed to apply for possible employment opportunities. You will do all that you can to find and gain the employment that you need.
If you really want a job you will not just sit at home hoping that someone will call you and offer you a job. If your marriage is falling apart, and you want to save it, you will not keep on doing the same things that have led to the problems. If you are in a financial crisis, and you are drowning in debt you will attempt to reduce your spending and increase your income.
Something similar is seen with those who receive miracles in Matthew chapter nine. Those receiving the miracles did not wait for Jesus to come to them. The friends of the paralyzed man brought him to Jesus. The woman with the bleeding problem appears to have crawled through the crowd so that she could touch the hem of the garment Jesus was wearing. The ruler went to where Jesus was to ask Him to come and heal his daughter. The two blind men followed Jesus around until He healed them.
How does this apply to us when we need God to move in our lives? It means that we need to be where God is at for a greater likelihood of receiving a miracle. Do you need a relationship to be healed? Do you need a job? Do you need God to help with your financial crisis? Do you need healing? Do you need hope? Do you need help to overcome an addiction? If so, you need to be seeking God. It could be that God will intervene in your life in a supernatural way even if you are not faithfully in church, even if you are not reading your Bible, even if you are not praying, and even if you are not serving Him. However, that possibility of God's intervention will be much less than if you are actively seeking God in every way that you can. "God looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God (Psalm 53:2)."
Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” So He spoke this parable to them, saying: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance. - Luke 15:1-7.
A piece of music written by the great composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has been found. It somehow had become lost in a library in Nantes, France and the score, Credo in D major, is unknown to modern researchers. The head of research for a Mozart foundation in Austria calls the one page score, “really important.” The Credo was part of a collection donated in the 19th-century collector and according to the library had been “entirely forgotten” about. This discovery of an unknown score by Mozart is said to be, “extremely rare.” It is difficult to estimate the monetary value of a score like the Mozart Credo but its value to the music world is invaluable.
Jesus has been criticized by the religious crowd of his time for associating with those who can only be described as immoral people, or as the Pharisees and scribes say, “sinners.” Jesus responds by telling a series of three parables and the first is of the lost sheep. Even if a shepherd had ninety-nine sheep that were safe and sound but one was missing it is obvious that he would go and try to find the one that was lost. Jesus with an escalation in value describes a woman who has ten silver coins and loses one of them which was possibly part of a headdress of her wedding dowry. Of course, the woman will search every place possible and when the piece of silver is found there will be great joy. Then, the last parable in the trilogy is the one of the lost son. Even though the son had left home spending all that he had unwisely in sinful living the father welcomes his lost son home with great joy. Jesus says there is great joy in Heaven when even one of those the world would call sinners turn to Him in repentance.
You may not be part of the “religious crowd” and you may have never been inside of a church but these parables make it clear that God is concerned about you. Like the father whose lost son returned home, your Heavenly Father will welcome you home with great joy. When your Heavenly Father sees your heart turn toward him through Jesus - He will run to wrap His arms around you and there will be great rejoicing in Heaven.
Jesus says in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world….” “The world” includes you and God longs for you to become a part of His eternal family. While you were God’s enemy, while you were a sinner, Jesus died for you (Romans 5:8). God so loved you that He gave His “only begotten son”, Jesus, that you might have eternal life. Jesus says that “whoever believes in Him (Jesus) should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16c).” What better time than now to become a part of the eternal family of the King of kings and Lord of lords? The Father is waiting, and longing for you to come home.
Put On Jesus
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." They answered Him, "We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?" Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. - John 8:31-36.
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. - Romans 13:14.
When I was in the sixth grade I had been doing fine, at least I thought I was doing fine, back in the back of the classroom. All of that came to an end one day when Mr. McCall looked back at me and wanted me to answer a question he had written on the blackboard. I had no clue as to what the answer could be although it was not that I didn’t know the answer. It was just that I could not see the words he had written. Because of that I was suddenly transported to the front row for the rest of the year, and soon I was wearing those dreaded things called, eyeglasses. The law of nearsightedness had disrupted my life and learning experience.
Thank God, another law overcame the law of nearsightedness in my life. The law of corrective lenses overcame it. You would think that I would have more freedom to live life without being hindered by glasses. After all, you have to keep them clean, wear them, and it is very hard to swim in them. Actually, I am truly free to live my physical life only if I wear those eyeglasses. When I am wearing my glasses I am free to drive, to read, to see faces clearly and so many other things that would not be possible without them.
In our spiritual lives we are overcome and held captive by sin. But just as glasses are able to overcome nearsightedness so can sin be overcome. To overcome sin, we must put on the Lord Jesus Christ. When we do that we are still slaves; instead of being slaves to sin, we have become slaves of righteousness. Jesus says, "My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:30)." The yoke of Jesus cancels out and overcomes the sin in our lives. By taking on the yoke of Jesus, we can be free to live life to its utmost. As Jesus says, "Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." Only by putting on Jesus can we truly have freedom that brings real life.
Each day we have a choice. We can choose to put on the Lord Jesus Christ, or we can make provision for sin. We can choose life, or we can choose death (Romans 8:5-6). Which will you choose today, and for eternity?
So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey in extent. And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. The he cried out and said, ‘Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!’ So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them. - Jonah 3:3-4.
When I was in the eighth grade I had the unpleasant experience of attending shop class with a bully. He was a head or two taller than any of us. He had failed a couple of grades and moved to our little school from a large school in California. His name was Gene and Gene’s entertainment consisted of making life miserable for others. Each day he would pick on someone. My turn finally came when he had me down on the ground hitting me and there was absolutely nothing that I could do about it. Gene moved after that year, and I have not heard what became of him. For several years even after becoming a Christian, I could have cared less about what had happened to Gene, but I did finally forgive him.
Jonah had a problem with an even larger bully. The bully was the evil place called Nineveh and the Ninevites who lived there. We know the story. The word of the Lord came to Jonah to go and preach in that evil place. Jonah we know refused until he had a little attitude adjustment in the belly of the great fish. The word of the Lord came to Jonah again and the second time Jonah went to Nineveh and there was a great revival. Jonah only had a one-sentence sermon, but it was enough to bring the city to its knees.
What was the biggest obstacle to revival in Nineveh? Jonah was the biggest obstacle. One self-righteous person stood in the way of the greatest revival of the ancient world. The word of the Lord came to me about my bully. He has been on my prayer list for many years now. I do not know where he is but God does. Any old bullies, antagonists, Ninevehs you’re still having bad thoughts about?
I’m not sure that Jonah ever forgave the Ninevites for the evil acts that they had committed. However, if we want to have peace and be in a right relationship with our Lord; we must forgive those who do us wrong. Why? Because our Lord has forgiven us. Jesus says in Matthew 6:12 for us to pray, "And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." Jesus says in Matthew 6:14-15, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses."
Revenge, getting even, getting back at someone is always much more enjoyable than extending forgiveness. Forgiving someone is always difficult when their offense against you is serious. It is only through the power of God that we can forgive those offenses. In 1947, Corrie ten Boom came face to face with a former concentration camp guard who had been one of her and her sister’s tormentors during that difficult time in which her sister Betsie died. The former guard was now a Christian. He extended his hand toward Corrie and asked her to forgive him. Corrie knew that forgiveness was an act of the will, but still it was so very hard. She silently prayed for Jesus to help her. She lifted her hand and as she grasped his hand, she was able to verbally say that she forgave him. As she did so, tears came to her eyes, and she was able to hug him and call him her brother. Corrie said that was the most intense moment of experiencing God’s love in all of her life. Incredible!
It could be that if you have a lack of joy and a lack of peace in your life that you need to forgive someone. It will not be easy but in the act of forgiving you will experience the love of God and you may also gain an opportunity to share the love of God.
In Remembrance of the 9/11 attack of 2001
The devotional written 09.12.01
Personal Note concerning events of September 11, 2001 written that day: 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 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 still 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 of 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 and the only way of entry is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Let us run to the Strong Tower of our Lord.
Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death. - James 1:13-15.
For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. - John 3:17-18.
Have you ever been sued? I was once sued while I was a parole officer by a house arrest client. He sued claiming false arrest and was asking for $40,000 in damages. He had been sent back to prison for a violation of the rules and conditions of his release. How did he violate them? He assaulted his girlfriend giving her a severe beating. He could have been charged with an additional law violation for the assault, however, since he was being returned to prison for a lengthy period the assistant district attorney decided not to pursue those charges. He should have been happy that he would not have several additional years of prison time tacked onto his time to serve, but instead he blamed me for his problems. The state attorney general’s office handled the lawsuit, and it was eventually dismissed. However, it did hang over my head for many months with the thought that with the right jury I could be paying $40,000 to this guy.
I have lost track of the number of times that I have heard someone blaming God for something. Many of those times it was someone cursing God for one thing or another and whenever something bad would happen the curse words would spew out of their mouths. Whose fault is it that someone drinks, gets into their vehicle and drives while intoxicated resulting in an arrest or worse an accident? Is it God’s fault that this happened? Whose fault is it that someone has an affair and their spouse finds out resulting in a messy divorce? Is that God’s fault? Whose fault is it that after a s_xual encounter one of the individuals involved ends up with a STD? Is that God’s fault? On the Day of Judgment when the book is opened and your name is not found whose fault is that? Is it God’s fault that you have rejected Jesus Christ as your personal Savior?
I like the way that The Message translates James 1:14-15, "The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer." We have no one to blame but ourselves for the consequences of sin. When we reject Christ as our Savior, we condemn ourselves, we send ourselves to hell for eternity. As Paul says in Galatians 6, "... for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption…." It is a description of a spiritual law. Much like the law of gravity enables you to know what will happen if you jump off of the Empire State Building. The result is that you will be hurt and no one is to blame for the consequences except yourself.
So if you have been blaming God for everything bad that happens in your life perhaps it is time to reassess your position because God loves you so much that He "…gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16)."
You Belong to God
Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. - 1 Corinthians 6:18-20.
Listen to this news report. "Gambling, robbery, sexual immorality, and violence is prevalent. Half of all children are born out of wedlock; purity and fidelity to the marriage vow are sneered out of fashion. Corruption in politics is rampant. The world is broken." That news report was from the year 1694, but it sounds like it could have been a news report from 2008.
Immorality is not a new thing, and it has been a problem for as long as there have been human beings. We look around our world today, and we know that there are huge problems of all kinds, and sometimes it looks like the whole world is going to hell in a handbasket.
When our friends and neighbors are involved in immoral activities we may come to think that because everyone around us is doing what is wrong that it is okay for us to do those things too. We begin to slide into the gray area between black and white, and before long we are closer to the black than we are the white. Before long we are not coming to church, we stop reading out Bibles, we stop praying, we stay away from other Christians, and we may not think it - but down there in our heart of hearts we think that God is okay with it because He hasn‘t struck us dead with lightning or something else.
Let me remind you what God thinks about that kind of thinking and living. He says, "You are not your own. You were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." You as a child of God are not your own. You belong to God. Your body belongs to God. Your spirit belongs to God. You are accountable to God.
When you stop coming to church, when you don't read your Bibles, when you don't pray, when you don't live like you ought to live – you are not getting away with something. No, you are shooting yourself in the foot. Because you are accountable to God and God is not deceived. As the apostle Paul says in Galatians 6:7-8, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life."
We live in a society where no one wants to admit to their own mistakes or to their faults. We see so many politicians wanting to take credit for the good things that are done or that occur and then when something bad happens or goes wrong - they are more than ready to point their finger at someone else! We are ready to do that too, but it simply will not work with God, don’t be deceived about that because "God is not mocked." Paul says, "... for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption…."
How do we sow to our flesh? We sow to our flesh any time that we sin. We sow to our flesh by doing what we want to do instead of what God wants us to do (Things like going to church, reading the Bible, praying, witnessing, serving, etc.). When we spend money selfishly that should have been given to the Lord, we are sowing to the flesh. When we look at the wrong things, tell lies, steal, blaspheme God by the way we live our lives we are sowing to the flesh.
Instead of sowing to the flesh and reaping harvest after harvest of bad things we must instead sow more to the Spirit, to reap more of what the Spirit has for us. "You are not your own. You were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's."
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. - Ephesians 2:19-22.
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. - John 1:12.
A word that has been in frequent use in recent days in the US presidential campaign is “vetted” or “vetting”. The word comes from the world of horse racing where the health of horses are checked out by veterinarians and then the horse is referred to as having been “vetted”. The word has been taken up by the media which uses fact checkers to check the accuracy of stories and that process is referred to as “vetting”. The word is also now used in the development of software where there is “vetting” of code prior to a build being approved or passed on for further testing. In addition, we have all been exposed to the use of “vetting” or “vetted” in relation to the checking of the background of prospective candidates for political office.
While I was a probation and parole officer I would conduct pre-sentence investigations of those convicted of criminal acts but not yet sentenced. It is helpful to the judge to know as much as possible about a person’s life history prior to sentencing. Some of the things that may be checked are the criminal history, employment history, financial records if applicable, references are interviewed, employers are interviewed, family members are also interviewed if possible, and victims are interviewed. If the individual has only recently turned 18 (or if a lifetime pattern of behavior is suspected), teachers may be interviewed and school discipline records may also be checked. The more time available for the investigation, the more thorough and complete it will be with a picture of the person emerging.
As Christians we are children of God meaning that we are part of the royal family of the Lord of lords, and King of kings. What if God had a similar vetting process for all who are prospective candidates to become His children? Can you imagine how that might take place? Let us suppose an investigative angel is dispatched to do the vetting of a prospective Christian’s life. The angel will begin with the basics. “Mr. Prospective Christian (PC for brevity) I will need to ask you a few questions.” “Let’s see, how many lies have you told in your lifetime.” PC replies that he is not sure but thinks it must have been only three or four. The angel begins looking for something in a book and finally says, “Mr. PC it is recorded in God’s book that you have lied two million five hundred fifty-six thousand one hundred and two times which includes the one you just told about the number of times you have lied.” “Now let us consider another of God’s commandments, you know the one about not stealing.” The interview is brutal as each of the PC’s violations of the Ten Commandments is considered. The Angel then informs PC that Part II of the investigation will consist of interviews with family members, relatives, friends, neighbors, employers, and all those who have been encountered in their life.
The truth is that God does have a vetting process for those who want to become a part of His royal family. However, God’s vetting process is much briefer than the one described and much simpler. It consists of one question and that question is this, “Do you know my son, Jesus Christ, as your personal Savior?” Jesus makes this truth very clear in John 14:6 where He states, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
What are You Afraid of?
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:35-39.
An article in the newspaper caught my eye several years ago. The article asked the question, “Are American’s becoming scaredy cats?” (To be a “scaredy cat” is to be unduly or excessively fearful.) The article also asked if Americans had forgotten how to face a well-calculated risk and if the West were still to be won, could we roundup enough brave souls to win it? The article discussed a book by Harold W. Lewis entitled, “Technological Risk. What are the real dangers, if any, of toxic chemicals, the greenhouse effect, microwave radiation, nuclear power, air travel, automobile travel, carcinogens of all kinds, and other threats to our peace of mind.”
After I read the article I asked myself if that was the problem with the church today. Have Christians become scaredy cats? Do the multitude of dangers that surround Christians choke off their willingness to risk anything for Christ? Have Christians forgotten Jesus says, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me (Luke 9:23).”
If missionaries were to be called today to be the first to go to the innermost regions of Africa, or India, or Burma, or China, who would go? Could God find a Livingstone today? Could He find a William Carey, or a Judson, or J. Hudson Taylor? Are there any Christians, today, willing to risk all that they are and have for the sake of their Lord and Savior? Are there any Christians today, standing in the gap risking all?
Livingstone once wrote to England asking for more missionaries to come to Africa. Some months later the reply came that they had found some men willing to come. They wanted Livingstone to tell them the best roads to take to where he was. Livingstone wrote back that he needed men who would go where there were no roads. God is still looking for men, women, boys, and girls like that today.
“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord’s money.” - Matthew 25:14-18. (Read also Matthew 25:19-46)
Every day people risk their lives and their careers for the thrill of the moment. People risk their lives doing drugs, buying drugs, selling drugs, committing burglaries and robberies to have the money to get drugs. It is amazing what people have done and will do for a thrill. I have seen people bungee jump off a bridge over the Colorado River. Yesterday, someone on a motorcycle passed us on the interstate and I estimated their speed at 95mph or more. Other people enter the stock market when they do not really have the money. Some play the state lotteries even though they have a three and a half time greater chance of being struck by lightning than of winning.
Most of us, however, are not into risky behavior. We are more into safe behavior. Most of us are into the avoidance of risks and are committed to playing it safe. The older I become the more cautious I have become. Because of that the words of Jesus in this parable are a challenge. Jesus isn’t just talking about what we should do with our physical talents. Jesus is giving us a challenge, the challenge of our lives. To follow Jesus, truly follow Him is to risk everything. It is to risk everything we are, to risk everything we have or ever will be for Him. How often are we to do that, once? Twice? How often do we take that kind of risk? Our entire life is to be lived in that way, risking everything for our Lord.
The kind of life our Lord Jesus would have us to live is a life of action. A life lived as our Lord would want is a life of taking chances, a life of adventure, a life of growth, and expansion for the cause of Christ.
How long since you have risked anything for your Lord? How long since you have told someone about what Jesus did for you on the cross? Read through the rest of Matthew 25 and ask yourself, “How long?” How long since you have fed the hungry, given drink to the thirsty, gave a stranger a place to stay, clothed those in need? How long since you visited the sick and those in prison? How long since you have risked everything by putting first the Kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33).
Never Give Up!
Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, "Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. See, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you." So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, indeed a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, "Please bring me a little water in a cup, that I may drink." And as she was going to get it, he called to her and said, "Please bring me a morsel of bread in your hand." So she said, "As the LORD your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die." And Elijah said to her, "Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘The bin of flour shall not be used up, nor shall the jar of oil run dry, until the day the LORD sends rain on the earth.’" So she went away and did according to the word of Elijah; and she and he and her household ate for many days. The bin of flour was not used up, nor did the jar of oil run dry, according to the word of the LORD which He spoke by Elijah. - 1 Kings 17:8-15.
In 2005, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, the United States was responsible for the creation of 245.7 million tons of garbage. However, that is close to 1.6 million tons of garbage less than the year before and that is about 4.5 pounds of trash per person per day. The good news is that one-third of the garbage was recycled in 2005. The EPA goal for this year is 35 percent to be recycled. As you can see the United States creates a huge amount of garbage every day. We are a throw away society and disposable seems to always be better than the reusable but it wasn’t always that way. During the depression years and through much of the World War II years in the United States things were different. During those years not very much of anything was thrown away because everything was needed to survive. Everything was used down to the last drop, down to the last tiny bit.
During WW II tires were very hard to find because of use of the material in the war effort. Neighbors would sometimes share tires with each other in order to have one vehicle, they could use. If someone in the family was ill, having a vehicle that had tires became very important. Because of that, my Dad hoarded old tires for years after the war because he still remembered a time when an old tire could have meant the difference between life and death.
In these modern times, I believe we give up too easily. We give up too early. We give up before it’s down to the last drop. We give up before we are down to our last dollar. We would do well to remember Elijah and widow of Zarephath. God gave them the food they needed as long as it was needed. We should remember the example of our Lord at the feeding of the five thousand and of the four thousand. Only a few fishes and a little bread until our Lord blessed the food, and it was multiplied into a provision for the thousands with baskets of food left over.
Before we give up. Before we bail out. Let us give God an opportunity to work that miracle in our lives. Let us thank God for all that we have and are. Ask Him to sustain us. When we think we can’t make it another day, let us live one more and see what God will do. When we’ve gone our last mile, let us walk one more. As we do, we will see the hand of God upon our lives sustaining us each day as we trust Him to provide. Never, ever, give up!!
Had a Bad Day?
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. - 1 Peter 5:7.
Have you heard the one about the deacon who was run over by a hit and run driver? Upon the police officer’s arrival, he asked the man if he had gotten the tag number of the car that hit him. The man told the officer that he did not need the tag number because he would recognize his pastor’s laugh anywhere! We’ve probably never been run over by our pastor (At least not physically!) but we have had days when we have felt like a truck has run over us.
When I was working in the oilfield it seemed I had those kinds of days on a frequent basis. The oilfield is much like the army in that if there is something to be done; nothing is going to stop it. It doesn’t matter how cold, hot, wet, or muddy it gets, the work has to be done.
It was one of those days I woke up to many years ago and saw that an ice storm had come in the night. I had a job to do 250 miles away. I was driving a small semi truck and my crew was behind me in another vehicle. The highway was frozen with ice the entire way, but we drove slowly and carefully. The farther we went the thicker the ice became. We made it fine until we turned off of the main highway to go to the rig location. Then, as I was almost to the top of a hill I started sliding backwards. Backing a truck picking up speed on ice is somewhat difficult and half way down the hill the truck jackknifed coming to a stop.
We were okay, and there seemed to be little damage to the truck. We went to a farm house and called for a wrecker. With the wrecker we were able to slowly pull the truck up the hill, but it took several hours. Finally, we decided that it would be just too dangerous and difficult to go any farther. I called into to my company expecting to have to argue with them about not continuing. But to my surprise they told me they had been waiting for me to call all day because they were going to tell me just to park the truck and come back home!! From the jackknifing of the truck and falling on the ice many times, I pulled a muscle in my back which took some time to recover from. It had been a bad day.
When we have those bad days, how do we make it through them? How do we recover from them? Our Lord is the One who sustains me. I cast my cares, my worries, my problems upon Him, and He carries the burdens that would have broken me.
The Scenic Route
Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. - Matthew 7:13-14.
Have you ever taken the scenic route? Actually, it was going to be a short cut. We could cut through on this road to the south of Cripple Creek, Colorado and then over to Colorado Springs. It looked like only about 20 miles from the turn off to Cripple Creek. Probably only take us 30 minutes.
When we turned off on the scenic route we immediately noticed that it was not paved, but then it wasn’t that bad of a road. There was quite a bit of traffic too. But within a couple of miles the highway had narrowed, and it was much rougher.
I was beginning to wish that I had a four wheel drive (Knocked a muffler and tailpipe loose and finally lost it before arriving home.). It began to rain, and I began to pray that we wouldn’t slide off into one of the canyons. Four hours later we arrived in Cripple Creek, a little older and wiser. I recently talked to some people in our church who took this same scenic route on their last vacation. They too were wishing they could turn around and thought they might lose a muffler.
Before you take that beautiful scenic short cut, you just might want to check it out a little. Because you may not be able to turn around and go back the other way once you have entered in.
There are two gates with one leading to life and the other to death. There are two trees representing our lives. By inspecting the fruit from the tree of our life it is possible to determine whether we are on the path of life or the path of death. Jesus says in Matthew 7:16-20, "You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them." What kind of fruit is the tree of your life growing? Grapes and figs or thorns and thistles?
To be on the path of life growing the right fruit we need the right foundation. Jesus says, "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. 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 its fall (Matthew 7:24-27)."
So, if you are on the scenic route, your life is like a house built on sand, and you know that the output of your life, the fruit, is bad - what do you do? You cannot turn around by yourself, you need Jesus, you need the right foundation. Put your life into the hands of Jesus, trust Him and He will get you onto the right road, the road of life.
The Leading of the Spirit
Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them. - Acts 16:6-10.
So he went and did according to the word of the Lord, for he went and stayed by the Brook Cherith, which flows into the Jordan. The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening; and he drank from the brook. And it happened after a while that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land. - 1 Kings 17:5-7.
Paul received very specific instructions from the Spirit about where he was to go and where he should not go. The Spirit is still busy today leading and guiding us. Sometimes He blocks us. Sometimes He warns us. Sometimes He sends us in another direction. Sometimes He says, "come over and help."
As a pastor before I have moved to another pastorate, I have always driven to the area and looked around. We have had some interesting experiences from these trips. On one trip when we had arrived in the area we stopped at a convenience store and when Jeanie came back out she said that she had become dizzy and almost passed out. We decided to drive on to the church facility, and maybe she would feel better by then.
Jeanie was feeling better by the time we drove by the church building. But the car seemed to be having a problem. By the time we had located the parsonage and driven by it the needle on the engine heat gauge had red lined. The electric fan motor had burned out. We had the distinct impression after our excursion that God did not want us to go to that place and had warned us.
Another time when a church was interested in us, we again drove to the church facility, and as we drove into their parking lot the car died and would not start. I walked several blocks to a store and bought another battery and carried it back and installed it. The car started fine and I hoped that the problem had been solved. My mother was in the hospital in Oklahoma City after having back surgery so we then drove on to the hospital and checked on my mother.
When we left the parking garage to return home the lights began to dim on the car and by the time we were on the expressway they were out. We prayed and made it to an exit where the car coasted into the parking lot of a hotel, and we stayed the night there. The alternator had stopped working. I believe that coincidences do happen but the timing of some leaves little doubt of God’s involvement in them. We were able to have the car repaired the next day, but we also had the definite impression that God had given us a warning about that church.
Another time after prayer and fasting for seven days about where God wanted us to go to - a search committee called us on the afternoon of the seventh day. Even though we did not think it feasible for us to accept their call because of financial considerations God did confirm that this was where He wanted us and we went. We received additional confirmation of God’s call to that church as we served there.
Other times the "brook" may dry up as it did for Elijah, and we are forced to move. There are at least three ways that the "brook" may dry up for a pastor. One is for the finances to become so difficult that he is forced to move. Another is for the support of the leaders or members of the church for the pastor to dry up or come to an end. Third, is for the movement of the Spirit in terms of decisions to end i.e. no one being saved, no one rededicating or recommitting their lives, no one joining the church, attendance rapidly declining, and no growth in spiritual maturity of the believers who make up the church. This was why we moved from one church to another church at two different times.
Along with these things that may occur, there must also be the still, small voice of God (1 Kings 19:12) confirming His direction for your life. How do you know? You will know when it happens and when He speaks. However, you do have to be watching and listening, or you can miss out on what God has for you.
The Spirit still leads and guides today. What is the Spirit saying to you?
When East Looks like West
Show me Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation; on You I wait all the day. - Psalm 25:4-5.
The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward. - Psalm 19:7-11.
About ten years ago I was blessed with the opportunity to preach at a church in Capitola, California. We greatly enjoyed our visit and have many great memories of our time there. Capitola is located on the Monterey Bay with the Pacific ocean stretching out to the west as far as the eye can see - at least that‘s what I thought. But strangely enough when we were taking some photos prior to leaving, we noticed that the early morning sun was rising in the west! It had to be the west didn’t it, because the sun was rising over the Pacific Ocean which had to be in the west didn’t it?
Jeanie had her directions confused the whole time she was in Capitola but I always thought I knew which way I was going because the ocean was always in the west. Suddenly, I realized that what I had considered to be west, what I felt to be west, could not be west. It had to be east! As I have looked at a map of the Monterey Bay the land wraps around so that in the area we were at the ocean actually was to the east.
I felt like the ocean was to the west. It looked like the ocean lay out to the west. In my mind I knew that the ocean had to be in the west. But the truth was that I was wrong. Even though it felt right, it looked right and my knowledge said it was right, I was still wrong. The truth was different from what my human emotions, sight and knowledge said was right. Much of the Christian experience is similar. I may not feel like I am saved. I may not look like I have been born again and human wisdom would say that it is not possible but the Bible says in John 1:12, "But as many as received Him (Jesus), to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name."
The Christian disciplines of prayer, Bible study and church attendance seem like a waste of time to the human non-Christian mind. To the non-Christian those things do not look like they could possibly be of any value. The non-Christian does not feel anything good when they think about praying, or reading the Bible, or going to church. But for the children of God, we know the truth is, that in those resources of God we find immense value.
Even as Christians, at times we feel like we cannot go on when faced with difficult circumstances. Those circumstances look overwhelming and our mind tells us there is no way so we might as well give up. The truth as Paul would tell us is, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13)."
The next time east looks like west we need to get out our compass, the Word of God, and determine what is the real truth of the situation.
The Patience of God - Part III
Inasmuch as I know that you have been for many years a judge of this nation, I do the more cheerfully answer for myself, because you may ascertain that it is no more than twelve days since I went up to Jerusalem to worship. And they neither found me in the temple disputing with anyone nor inciting the crowd, either in the synagogues or in the city. Nor can they prove the things of which they now accuse me. But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. 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 (Paul‘s defense before Felix). - Acts 24:10-16.
If we have tested the patience of God by living outside of His will, how do we make the course correction to live as we ought to live? It can be a very difficult and costly decision, although for those who have made those decisions most are glad that they have made them. The apostle Paul says that he strives always to keep his conscience clear before God and man.
A friend of mine had been having trouble knowing for sure if he was saved. It had been a troubling thing over a period of years. He lived a very upright life and was one of the more faithful members of the church that I was the pastor of at that time. He finally arrived at the conclusion that he had been saved, that he was a child of God. However, we prayed and asked God to reveal if he had any unconfessed sin in his life. As far as he knew he didn’t. A few days later he woke up knowing that he had stolen from a former employer. This was many years ago. He had stolen, he said by using the employer’s equipment for personal use. As he came to a realization of that, he knew he had to confess this to his former employer and pay for the cost of using the equipment. It was a very hard and costly thing for him to do, but he immediately made the confession and reimbursement. It was a great relief to him, and it was as though a great burden had been lifted. His employer did contact me and gave this money that had been paid to the church anonymously.
Several years ago I heard on the news about a man that had confessed to murdering and raping a young woman 19 years earlier. What a horrendous crime. The man responsible was living far away, was married and had two children. He had started attending church and through his pastor contacted authorities and confessed to this crime. His conscience would not let him live with this unconfessed sin. Authorities say that most likely the crime would never have been solved without the confession.
A prison inmate once wrote to me and shared that he was a truck driver at one time and had also been a serial murderer. After he was saved, he knew that he could not live with keeping secret what he had done. A clear conscience is a precious thing. We as Paul should always strive to keep our conscience clear before God and man.
For most of us a course correction back toward the will of God will be much easier than the examples that I have given. Whether it is easy or hard it is still the right thing to do and the sooner we make the change, the better. Now, is always the best time to get right with God. The patience of God far exceeds our patience, but He will not indefinitely allow His children to live in sin. If we are really His children He will chasten us.
The Patience of God - Part II
And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives." If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. - Hebrews 12:5-11.
As I pointed out in part one, God has great patience with us, far more than we as humans have for each other. However, God does sometimes come to an end of allowing sinful behavior. If you are a child of God, if you really belong to Him, He will not allow you to walk in sin indefinitely. The writer of Hebrews makes it clear that God will discipline, chasten us, if we belong to Him.
God has been intervening in the affairs of human beings from the beginning of our existence to bring about correction. We are familiar with at least some of the more famous incidents - incidents such as Adam and Eve being kicked out of the Garden of Eden after they sinned. We remember hearing about Sodom and Gomorrah being utterly destroyed for their wickedness and the lack of righteousness. Of course, we remember hearing about the flood that destroyed all but Noah and his family because as we are told in Genesis 6:5-8, "Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.’ But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord."
Then there was King Belshazzar (Daniel 5) who had the vessels from the house of God brought to a great feast where the King defiled the vessels and made toasts to false gods. This was the time when the hand mysteriously appeared and wrote on the wall saying essentially that the King was finished. Daniel interpreted the writing and that same night Belshazzar was killed and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom.
In the New Testament, there is the story of the rich farmer or rich fool who had the huge crop and decided to horde his harvest by building larger barns. He was just going to keep it all for himself and kick back and take it easy for the rest of his life. In Luke 12:20-21 we are told, "But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."
I think that it is clear that we would be fools to ignore what God wants in our lives. Yes, His patience is far greater than ours as human beings; however, at times God must intervene. If you are knowingly involved in sin, I urge you to stop testing the patience of God. Because God will chasten you, correct you, at some point in time if necessary. You can spare yourself, your family, and everyone in your circle of influence much pain by living in the center of God’s will for your life. Are you living as God wants you to live? If not, now is the time to change, now is the time to make a course correction, now is the time to move back to where God wants you to be.
The Patience of God
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. - Hebrews 12:1-4.
I used Google to search for the phrase "I lost my patience" and found some 29,000 results. After I left out the word "lyrics" in my search, I still found 22,300 mentions of the phrase. I then did a search for the phrase "I’m sorry I lost my patience" and found only 14 mentions of that phrase. It appears that there is a whole lot of patience being lost but not very many people are sorry about it! Patience (NIV) or longsuffering (NKJV) is one of the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 along with temperance (NKJV) or self-control (NIV). So, as Christians, the more control that the Holy Spirit has of our lives should result in more patience and self-control. The lack of patience and self-control indicates that we are the ones on the throne in our lives and not the Lord.
Have you ever considered the patience of God? He has such great patience with us. As the hymn says He could have called 10,000 angels to destroy the world and set Him free from the cross but He didn’t. Instead Jesus "endured the cross," "endured such hostility from sinners against Himself." Not only does God have great patience with us as sinners (And His mercies through Jesus are sufficient for every repentant sinner.) but he has great patience in guiding us.
Think for a moment about Gideon in the Old Testament (Judges 6:1-7:22). God finds Gideon hiding in an abandoned winepress, threshing wheat, but fearing for his life. God calls him to be the one to lead Israel in delivering them from the Midianites. From Gideon’s actions we know that he continues to have doubts about God’s call and how the deliverance is to be brought about. Even so, God is patient! He gives Gideon six reassurances as He leads Gideon to victory over the Midianites.
God created us and He knows our frailties, our weaknesses. He knows that we need His guidance, His reassurances. When He calls us, He is not finished with the process. That’s the beginning. He is still there to guide us when we have our doubts. He is still there to reassure us, to point us again in the right direction. He loves us as His children. Because He "endured the contradiction of sinners," how much more so does He endure and have patience with us His children.
Not sure about where or what God wants in your life? Ask Him? He will not be angry. Would we be angry at our own children if they asked us what we wanted? No, of course not! God is all powerful and all knowing. I think that He can handle a question or two (or three, or four, or five....) from His children. Unlike us, God does have patience!
Going Against the Grain
But the Lord said to Gideon, "The people are still too many; bring them down to the water, and I will test them for you there. Then it will be, that of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ the same shall go with you; and of whomever I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ the same shall not go." So he brought the people down to the water. And the Lord said to Gideon, "Everyone who laps from the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set apart by himself; likewise everyone who gets down on his knees to drink." And the number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was three hundred men; but all the rest of the people got down on their knees to drink water. Then the Lord said to Gideon, "By the three hundred men who lapped I will save you, and deliver the Midianites into your hand. Let all the other people go, every man to his place." - Judges 7:4-7.
Against the grain is an interesting phrase and according to phrases.org "brings to mind the image of the grain in wood, which, if planed in the wrong direction, will tear rather than lie smoothly." It means to go "against one's inclination or natural tendency." God calls upon His people at times to do the unexpected and to go against the grain of the world‘s expectations.
Gideon went against the grain when he was obedient to God’s instructions. Gideon had 32,000 men but even this army was not enough to match the men arrayed against them. Judges 7:12 describes the opposing force as "numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the seashore in multitude." But God reduced, instead of increasing Gideon’s army. He reduced the thousands to only 300 men. Yet we know that God gave Gideon and his 300 men complete victory over the Midianite army.
Joshua went against the grain when God instructed him to attack Jericho in a strange way, and he obeyed. They were to march around the city once a day for six days but on the seventh day they were to march around Jericho seven times. The seven priests were to blow the trumpets and the people were to shout. As we know the walls came tumbling down.
Jonah was also called upon by God to do the strange and unusual - to go against the grain of the world‘s expectations. He was to go to Nineveh and preach to the hated enemy. Jonah thought that he would rather die than do that, and so he headed in the other direction. He was swallowed up by a great fish and in the belly of the fish he had a change of heart. Jonah then went to Nineveh with God’s message "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be over thrown." One of the greatest revivals in history broke out and those evil people got right with God.
Many other men and women of God have gone against the grain of the world to be obedient to their Lord. People like Noah, David, Esther, Peter, and Paul were all faithful in obeying God even though the world thought they were foolish.
The point is that when God calls it could be something the world will think is laughable. But make no mistake. If we are faithful to be obedient to God’s call, the world most likely will not be laughing at the results of our obedience. The Midianites were not laughing after the battle was over. The people of Jericho were no longer laughing at those crazy Israelites when the walls came down. And the Ninevites called a fast and sat in sackcloth and ashes when they heard the one sentence sermon of Jonah.
Is there something that God has been speaking to you about, but you have put it off because you think that you will be ridiculed? Maybe now is the time for you to move forward in faith by going against the grain of the world by following the example of the great men and women of God who have gone before you.
Take it to the Lord
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. - Matthew 11:28-30.
When life gets tough and we’re between a rock and a hard place, what do we do? What do we do when the car is repossessed and the IRS wants the rest? What do we do when the doctor tells us there is no hope? What do we do when we are arrested for a crime we didn’t commit and no one will believe us? What do we do when unexpectedly we are given the "pink slip" and told to find another job? What do we do when we have an addiction that won’t let go, and it is destroying our life?
What are we to do? Do we just "grin and bear it?" Do we "count our many blessings?" Do we "look on the bright side?" Do we put on our smiley face and tell everyone we’re fine when we’re really dying inside? Do we pop a few more pills, shoot some more dope, or go on a week long drinking binge?
When bad things happen or are happening in my life my response, since I have been a Christian has always been to pray. When bad things happen, I take it to my Lord. When our youngest son was born with Down Syndrome my Lord gave me strength to continue on and still does. When my wife left me early in our marriage my Lord intervened and changed what looked like an impossible situation. When I was in debt up to my eyeballs God provided the way out. When tornadoes have been headed for us God has protected us. When I have lacked wisdom, He has come through with the guidance that I needed. When I have been desperately ill my Lord has brought healing. When I have fallen into sin, He has given forgiveness and raised me up to serve Him. When I have been depressed and discouraged, He has given me rest, peace and encouragement. When I was lost and on my way to hell, He found me and gave me eternal life. He can do the same and more for you.
Jesus says, "Come to Me... and I will give you rest." How can Jesus give us rest? He can give us rest by taking away our burden of sin. He can give us rest by giving us "peace which surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7)." He can give us rest by giving us supernatural strength to endure our situation "through Christ (Philippians 4:13)." He can give us rest through His supernatural provision "according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19)." He gives us rest through His Spirit, through His Word, through His people.
Are you between a rock and a hard place? Are you at the end of your rope and your fingers are slipping? Jesus is the answer. His yoke is easy. His burden is light. Only Jesus can give rest to your soul.
The words to the hymn, What a Friend We have in Jesus, were written by Joseph Scriven. Here are some of the words of the hymn:
Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.
You can find out more about Joseph Scriven at Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_M._Scriven
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:31-32.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:6-7.
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. - Joshua 1:8.
And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. - Hebrews 10:24-25.
What is a disciple? Dictionary.com gives this definition: "a person who is a pupil or an adherent of the doctrines of another; follower." The term disciple is derived from a New Testament Greek word coming to English through the Latin discipulus meaning "a learner." The English word "disciple" comes from the word discipline. Merriam-Webster defines the word discipline as, "training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties or moral character; control gained by enforcing obedience or order;" and also as "orderly or prescribed conduct or pattern of behavior."
Most successful people in this world learn at some point in time that the disciplined life is the easiest life you can live and that the disciplined life is the easiest load you can carry. Who enjoys life the most? Is the one who enjoys life the most a person whose life is out of control? Or, is the one who enjoys life the most the person who has discipline? Millions of dollars are made every day by casinos, liquor stores, bars, drug dealers, and porn sellers. Those dollars are taken from those whose lives are out of control, who have little discipline in their lives. Because their lives are out of control, without discipline, they are carrying a heavy burden.
Who is going to have the abundant life that Jesus talks about in John 10:10? It is the person who will take the yoke of the Lord Jesus upon themselves. It is the person who will come under the Lord’s discipline. It will be the person for whom Jesus is Lord and not just a fire insurance policy.
To be a true disciple of Jesus, we must come under His discipline. What are some of those disciplines?
1. Prayer is one of those Christian disciplines. Who has the lightest load? People who pray, or those who don’t?
2. Bible study is a discipline. Who lives with more peace? Those who know the promises of God or those who are ignorant of God’s promises and of the power of God’s Word?
3. Going to church is a Christian discipline. The Bible says in Hebrews 10, "... not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is." When we assemble together, we know we have worshiped God and have established relationships with people of God who will be there when life’s burdens must be carried. When we assemble with other believers "love and good works" are stirred up in our lives.
Our burden is made lighter when we accept these disciplines and become true disciples of our Lord. As the apostle Paul says in Romans 12:2, "…do not be conformed to this world."
Please join me in boycotting and encouraging others to boycott the Ben Stiller movie "Tropic Thunder" which is demeaning to those who are intellectually challenged.
The Burning Bush Devotional
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Dress for Success
The night is far spent, 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 13:12-14.
Ronald Reagan was known for wearing a red power tie, and it now appears that he may have been on to something. For those athletes competing in the Olympics and who are also wearing red it may affect their scores and for those not wearing red it may affect their scores as well. A red uniform according to one study can influence a referee’s scoring decisions and can result in a scoring bias. The study was conducted by psychologists Norbert Hagemann, Bernd Strauss and Jan Lessing of the University of Muenster in Germany. According to their research when athletes are closely matched the color of uniform may tip the scale in scoring but make little difference when one athlete is far superior to the other. They summed up their research by stating, "Although there is a need for further research, including research on the effects of different colors, our results suggest a need to change the rules or support referees by providing electronic decision-making aids in those sports in which this color bias may be a problem."
Every athlete wants to be dressed in the proper attire that will result in their best performance and scoring, whether it may now be in the color red or high tech swimsuits that some are using. As a child of God we also want to be properly dressed. We want to be dressed for success and the apostle Paul tells us some things to wear and some things not to wear in his letter to the Colossians. Paul says, "Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)." Paul also says, "But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds (Colossians 3:8-9)."
To be a Christian dressed for spiritual success, Paul says we need to get rid of those old spiritual clothes. But he does not stop there as Paul says there are some new clothes we need to put on. "Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection (Colossians 3:12-14)." Of course, of utmost importance for the well dressed Christian is to "…put on the Lord Jesus Christ…."
It may be time for us to do a little house cleaning and throw out those old stinking clothes. Jesus has bought us some new ones, and they are already paid for! As Paul says in Romans 8:32, "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”
Please join me in boycotting and encouraging others to boycott the Ben Stiller movie "Tropic Thunder" which is demeaning to those who are intellectually challenged.
The Burning Bush Devotional
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Going for the Gold
Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me." - Luke 9:23.
For a bishop (literally: overseer) must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled (disciplined - NIV), holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. - Titus 1:7-9.
When I was in junior high I was having trouble with spelling tests which we had every week on Fridays. We were to spell and then write out the definition for twenty words. It all changed when I decided to actually study and memorize the spelling and definition of the words. Instead of a barely passing grade I began receiving perfect scores on the spelling tests. But there was a price to pay and it was a matter of discipline. I had to discipline myself to spend the time necessary to study and learn the material.
I am not and never was an athlete, although I was involved with TaeKwon-Do for a time. I do know that it takes much discipline to succeed in any sport and I can only marvel at the amazing athletic ability of those participating in the Olympic Games in China. What great discipline they have had to have to even reach these games! Michael Phelps for example has trained every day four hours in the water and one hour on land. Now that training is paying off with broken world speed records and gold medals.
In most areas of life we know that in order to excel we must be disciplined. Certainly an athlete must be disciplined to attain Olympic form and quality. An artist must practice their art as must a musician. Most, however, seem to resist the idea of discipline for the Christian in mastering the Christian disciplines. Jesus in Luke 9:23 is clearly stating the need for discipline to live the Christian life. He says it will not be easy when He says to take up our cross and to deny ourselves. He makes it clear, we are to be disciplined when he says to do this "daily."
It takes discipline to read the Word of God regularly, to pray frequently, and to attend church faithfully. Of course, these things alone do not make up a life wholly given to God. But they are necessary before a life can be wholly given to God. Margueritte Bro, a great prayer warrior, once said, "In almost any skill allied to science, or plain old living, it is every day that counts. Prayer grows in meaning as we grow in practice. The very regularity of our period of devotion works for us... inducing the mood and quality of devotion."
Are you disciplined in your devotional life? Maybe it is time for a renewed commitment to a daily walk with your Lord? A disciplined devotional life will bring rewards of joy, peace, inner strength, steadfastness and more here on earth and far more in eternity. Let us all go for the gold!!
Where is the Salt?
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. - Matthew 5:13-16.
Russia has invaded and is attacking the democratic nation of Georgia. Will the nations of the free world stand by and allow the destruction of Georgia? If so, which free nation will next fall to the Russians? Edmond Burke said it well when he said, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Albert Einstein said much the same, "The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing."
In a television special on June 6, 1994, observing the D-Day invasion, General Norman Schwarskopf and Dan Rather were walking through the US cemetery on the Normandy coast and General Schwarskopf reflected on the sacrifices of the soldiers buried there. He said, "We should live to make this world worth dying for." There seemed to be doubt in those words as to whether or not General Schwarskopf really thought this world was worth dying for at least at that time.
There does appear to be a moral decay in this world that is ever increasing. The level of immorality reminds me of the statement made in the last verse of the book of Judges (Judges 21:25), "In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes." The book of Judges records the result of that kind of attitude.
The only thing restraining God’s hand of Judgment upon this world is those Christians, who are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Just as salt acts as a preservative in meat and prevents decay and spoilage so do Christians. Christians sprinkled across this world act as a moral preservative preventing or slowing further decay and in some situations even bringing restoration. But sadly there seems to not be enough salt and the decay continues.
Why were Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed? It was a wicked place, yes - but also because there were not even ten righteous people in the place. Not enough salt and what salt it had, Lot, seemed to have lost its savor, its effectiveness.
Does it make any difference how you live your life? Yes, it does! You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
Does it make any difference, whether you come to church all the time or just when you happen to feel like it? Of course it makes a difference. Your neighbors know when they hear your car start up and drive by their houses on Sunday morning and when they see you come home with Bibles in hand, they know.
Does it make any difference, whether or not you pray and read your Bible? Of course it does! You don’t want to lose your savor, your effectiveness, your influence for the Lord do you?
Does it make any difference, whether or not you ever tell anyone about Jesus, give someone a tract, and invite them to church? Of course it does! How will there ever be any more salt! How will there ever be any more light! If we don’t win more people to the Lord?
It makes a difference how each one of us lives our life. We should live our lives to make this world worth dying for. You and I are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. - Galatians 6:7-10.
Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: "Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places…. And some fell among thorns…. But other fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear let him hear." - Matthew 13:3-9.
(Read also the Parable of the Sower Explained - Matthew 13:18-23.)
The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. - Matthew 13:24-25. (Read the rest of the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares - Matthew 13:26-30.)
I used to be puzzled by what would happen after I visited people. Many times the people that I have visited do not ever come to church but the next Sunday other visitors that I have not visited sometimes do attend our church services. Now I understand that it has to do with sowing spiritual seeds and the spiritual battle in which we are engaged. If you have ever lived on a farm you know about sowing seeds. When I was a boy I would sometimes be allowed to sow an area with seeds. Taking a handful at a time and throwing them out covering the entire area as thoroughly as possible. In a few days I would be rewarded as the seeds bore fruit and the ground would be covered with the crop.
Here are some sowing facts:
Sowing can be bad (Galatians 6:8; Matthew 13:24-25) when used by the enemy.
Sowing can be good (Galatians 6:8; Matthew 13:8) when used by the Lord.
We can sow good or bad into our own lives (Galatians 6:8).
We can sow good or bad into the lives of the lost (Galatians 6:10).
We can sow good or bad into the lives of the saved (Galatians 6:10).
The enemy will resist our efforts and each seed sown is an attack on the enemy (Matthew 13). The enemy will try to snatch away the seeds (Matthew 13:19). The enemy will also be busy sowing bad seeds (Matthew 13:24-25). However, the enemy does not have unlimited forces but the enemy is organized (2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 6:10-13). The more seeds that are sown, the more the forces of the enemy are stretched.
If we keep sowing and do not give up, we will reap a harvest (Galatians 6:9) and we can reap a harvest in our own lives (Don’t give up on yourself!). We can reap a harvest in the lost being saved. We can reap a harvest in the saved being moved closer to perfection and the amazing thing is that we will always reap more than we sow (Matthew 13:23).
I took a poll of those present in our church last night of the number of times that they had personally had someone witness to them. Only one person had been witnessed to more than twice. In my own life, I have only been witnessed to twice. I was witnessed to once by my wife and once in a convenience store by a stranger. While I was in school, and since as an adult I have never encountered anyone witnessing to someone else. When you plant a spiritual seed in someone’s life it is a rare occurrence, and it will be remembered. God will use it.
Why not sow some seeds today?
In the Middle
Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me." - Luke 9:23.
And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write…"I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked…As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent." - Revelation 3:14-19.
As Christians we should periodically examine our commitments. Our determination to be faithful to commitments makes up the true Christian life. Before we can become a Christian, we must commit ourselves to turn from sin (repentance) and commit ourselves to have Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Out of the continuation of those commitments flows the Christian life.
Too often after a few years of being a Christian (If not long before), we see people begin to back away from those original commitments. They begin to try to find a middle ground between the world and the Lord. We see many living exactly that way with their lives. They come to church just on Sunday morning if they come at all. They put on their happy faces and know all the Christian things to say. But through the week their Christianity has very little real value to them.
There’s an old saying that is still very true: "If you sit in the middle of the road you will be run over!" If we sit in the middle of the road with our Christianity we will be run over by life. We may try to blame the Lord for it, but we really have no one to blame but ourselves. The Bible often warns and challenges us to living completely, totally for God. Joshua said, "And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15)." Elijah said, "How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him (1 Kings 18:21)." And our Lord says to many who make up His church, "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth (Revelation 3:15-16)."
As human beings we like to think that there are no absolutes, and that we can have a little of God and little of the world. However, God thinks in terms of absolutes. You are either totally for God, or you are totally against Him. Here is how Jesus puts it, "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (Matthew 6:24)." The result of living in the middle is a lack of life. Instead of the "abundant life" that Jesus came to give (John 10:10) you will have a sorry substitute and the substitute life will give you very little peace, and very little joy. Living in the middle will result in your being like a ship without a rudder being blown this way and that because the Lord will not be guiding you and directing your steps. What happens to a ship without a rudder? Eventually, it will be blown into the rocks or capsized by the waves and destroyed.
Has life run over you? Maybe it is time to get out of the middle of the road!!
Are You a Runaway?
Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. - Jonah 1:1-3.
Have you ever run away from home? When I was five years old I left our home to visit my cousin. My mother was taking a nap and she thought that I was taking one too. My cousin lived two and a half miles south of us on a country road. I knew that I was supposed to be taking a nap and I knew that I shouldn’t leave our farm property but I left anyway. By the time I was two miles from home I was tired but still determined to make it to my cousin’s home. I was careful on my journey having been warned about strangers and whenever a car would approach I would go off the roadway and hide until they were gone.
Unknown to me by this time my parents had all of our neighbors out looking for me. They had grown even more concerned when my two dogs returned home without me. A farmer who was plowing finally spotted me and called my parents. Just as I was crawling through a fence to go to my cousin’s home my parents found me. I never knew until later the anxiety I had caused them and their friends. That was the last little trip I went on by myself for several years!
Thinking about Jonah, he knew where God wanted him to go and went in the opposite direction. Sometimes we are at least a little like Jonah. We know what God wants us to do but we don’t do it. We know what God doesn’t want us to do and we do it. From Jonah’s experience we know that God is capable of getting our attention. It may not be with a big fish but it will be something very personal to us that we understand.
Even now I would sometimes like to run away but I understand the consequences better now. I understand much better the pain I cause my Heavenly Father when I take my little excursions outside of His will. I also understand His discipline just as I understood the discipline of my parents.
How about you? Are you a runaway? Are you on the run from the will of your Father? You know that you are not where you ought to be and you just keep on going even though you are farther and farther from home. How is that going for you? Not very good is it? Why not do what Jonah finally did - turn around and head back home? The Father is waiting; His arms are outstretched longing to welcome you back. Take that first step back into His will for your life. Tell Him that you are sorry and that you want to come back. Start walking toward the Father instead of away from Him. Start living as you know He would want you to live. Soon, you will discover that wonderful peace that you can only find when you at home in the center of the Father’s will.
The Right Path
Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. - Matthew 7:13-14.
Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. - Psalm 25:4.
Good and upright is the Lord; Therefore He teaches sinners in the way. The humble He guides in justice, and the humble He teaches His way. All the paths of the Lord are mercy and truth, to such as keep His covenant and His testimonies for Your name’s sake, O Lord, pardon my iniquity, for it is great. - Psalm 25:8-11.
What way is our life headed? What path are we really traveling? Are we going the way that we want to go? This is the way that our flesh, our natural man wants to travel. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 14:12, "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death."
There is also the way that others would want us to travel. The Psalmist says in Psalm 1:1, "... the path of sinners...." There is another way, a best way, that the Lord wants us to take: "This is the way, walk in it (Isaiah 30:21)."
I remember while working in the oilfield going to a job out in the ranching country west of Canadian, Texas. If you remember the movie, Cast Away, with Tom Hanks that is where the movie ended with his returning an unopened package with angel’s wings that had washed up on the island to a home near Canadian in the Texas Panhandle (The home is a bed and breakfast now.).
My directions to the job instructed that I was to take the second fork in the road after leaving Canadian. We took the second fork in the road and drove and drove. There are many miles of unpaved roads through that ranching area. We came back to the beginning and took another possible second fork in the road and drove and drove. I enlisted a deputy sheriff to help find the rig location we were to go to. I went back to Canadian and called in for more directions - if only I had had a cell phone! We searched for most of the day and burned up a tank of gas before receiving the directions for the right way to the location.
Yes, it was the second fork in the road but the second fork turned onto a pasture trail with only tracks for the tires of vehicles. We were searching for an actual road traveled by many vehicles but the road we needed was a narrow one!
After traveling this narrow road for about a half mile, we went down into a valley where the oil rig was located. The drilling rig could not be seen from the main road which we had traveled many times by then. By the time we arrived, we were tired, frustrated, and still had a job to do.
How much simpler and easier life is when we have the right directions and follow the right path!
Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ - Acts 17:23-28.
While my oldest son, Clark, was in high school; he came close to death at a track meet. Clark was not competing but helping the coaches. Here are Clark’s recollections about what occurred: "I was in Jr. High, helping out at a high school track meet. I was at the thrower's box, with one end of the measuring tape and Bobby Price at the other. We were measuring the high school girl's discus event. Instead of rolling the discus back in from the field, Bobby decided to throw it. I did turn my head, and if I had not, it would have hit the back of my head, which the doctor said is where the cranium is weak due to it fusing together there while it was being formed. He even said that if it had hit anywhere else than where it did (the hard, thick ridge above my eye), I would have died or had serious brain damage." When I arrived at the emergency room Clark was awake and alert. The doctor sewed up the wound with several stitches and sent him home.
The frightening thing for us was that as Clark said he had just turned his head toward his friend when he was hit. If he had not turned his head at that exact moment the discus would have hit him in the back of the head and most likely ended his life.
Some time ago I attended a funeral service for the father of a member of our church. The preacher made a statement that I’ve heard many times before, but it seemed to stick in my mind that day. He said, "We are all just one heart beat away from death." In a moment of time our lives can suddenly end. As true as that is, it is also true that "... in him we live, and move, and have our being." I know that God turned the head of my son and spared his life.
As we go about our lives we should always be aware of the fragility of life. It is through the power of God that we walk through each day and each night. Each heartbeat is a heartbeat that God has given to us. With each heartbeat there is the assurance of God’s continued purpose for our lives in this world. What is the purpose, what is the reason God has given us this day? It is a question we should ask each day of our lives.
Wake them Up
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. - Romans 1:16
The Son of Man will send out His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire. There will be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear! - Matthew 13:41-43.
In Independence, Missouri 97-year-old Grace George was saved by her cat. At four o’clock in the morning Grace woke up because of her cat’s loud meowing or maybe yowling is a better word. Grace just wanted to get some more sleep, so she put the cat outside, but then she smelled smoke and knew she had to escape from the house. Grace was aggravated about being woken up but so thankful for being saved from the fire. The fire department believes that lightning caused the fire which caused about $115,000 in damage. As for the cat, Boo Boo is going to get a special treat, a can of salmon.
If your house was on fire it would not matter to you whether it was two in the afternoon or three in the morning you would be thankful if someone woke you up and warned you of the danger. If you saw someone’s house on fire of course you would do all you could to alert the family inside of the danger and call the fire department too. If you needed to you might even smash a window or knock down a door to save a life threatened by a fire in a home. There would be no hesitation and we would each do what we could to the best of our ability to try to save them.
Spiritually there are countless millions perhaps even billions of people who are very close to facing an eternal spiritual death in the burning fires of hell. What is the appropriate thing to do in order to alert someone to their impending torment in eternity? If you were the one facing death by fire wouldn’t you want someone to try to save you? Wouldn’t you want someone to at least try to talk to you about what is ahead in your future? If someone knew how you could avoid such a horrible fate as eternity in the burning fires of hell wouldn’t you want them to tell you?
Jesus, Paul, Peter, and the writer of Hebrews all speak of the need for salvation. Why did they mention the need for salvation? Because there is something to be saved from. There is something to be terrified of and that terrible thing is called hell. We should be terrified of it because it is exponentially worse than simply dying a physical fire here on this earth because hellfire will never ever end and it will go on and on eternally.
If your neighbor, or your parents, or your children, or your co-workers, or your friends are lost and facing eternal damnation in hell what should you do? What would you do if their house was on fire? Maybe you ought to try to get their attention. Certainly, you should not be ashamed of the gospel and never mention it but then that is what majority of us do. This is not something that you can put off and put off and never do anything about because there will come a day when they will slip out into eternity, and it will be too late to tell them how to be saved.
Is there someone you need to warn? Maybe you need to do a little "yowling" and try to wake them up before it is everlastingly too late.
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. - Colossians 3:12-17.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” - John 14:6.
The Indonesian language has a word for responsibility “tanggung djawab.” It means literally, “to hold the answer.” This is to say that for anyone to hold the answer in any situation and not to share it they would be blatantly irresponsible.
What is the responsibility of the Christian? The apostle Paul sums up the Christian’s responsibility with one verse in Colossians 3:17. What does the Christian life include? The Christian life is everything you say, everything you do, and everything you are. The Christian life should be everything, every detail of what you are - nothing held back.
What does it mean to "do all in the name of the Lord Jesus?" In the time of the early church the name of a person indicated the person’s authority and power - to do something in the name of that person, or in relationship with that person. What is your relationship to Jesus? How do you see Jesus in your life? You must see Jesus as Lord of your life, not as a Lord, or one of many Lords, but as the Lord.
Many Colossians, because of a false teaching called Gnosticism, saw Jesus only as a god (among many) and that there were more powerful spirit beings than Jesus. Sadly, I read in a recent Time magazine that there was a survey of religious Americans revealing that 70% agree that "many religions can lead to eternal life." Ten years ago I wrote in a devotional and said that, “few Christians would admit to having the same problem that the Christians at Colossae had.” Apparently many Christians or possibly false Christians have bought a lie in the past ten years straight from the pit of hell. However, even if we believe that Jesus is the only “Way” to Heaven many of us still have other gods that we worship. If there is anything that we put before God then it is a false God, an idol.
The false gods we worship and serve today have names like: money, material possessions, careers, recreation, selfishness, alcohol, drugs, pornography, school activities, even our children or our spouses. Before we can ever fulfill our responsibility as a Christian, we must deal with our false gods.
“Tanggung djawab.” We hold the answer, we bear responsibility for those around us, but before we can ever reach them, we must deal with our own lives. We are each responsible to place Jesus on the throne of our life so that we can fulfill our responsibilities as a child of God.
Copyright © 1998 - 2008. Ed Wrather. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for use of this material on a non-profit basis with source noted.