For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He ponders all his paths. His own iniquities entrap the wicked man, and he is caught in the cords of his sin. - Proverbs 3:21-22.
Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass (caught in a sin - NIV), you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. - Galatians 6:1.
Victor Harris stopped at a 7-Eleven convenience store, so he could put some fuel additive into his vehicle. As he was pouring the additive into the tank a paper lid fell off and into the tank. Victor tried to use his index finger to reach the lid; at least he tried until his finger became stuck. His finger was caught and he could not get it out. This happened at about 5:00 a.m. and by seven or eight o’clock Victor said his hand began to get numb, and he started to become a little nervous about the situation. The Fire Department was finally called and after about four hours they were able to cut out a section of the fuel pipe. Victor was taken to a nearby hospital where they were able to remove his finger, and he received a couple of stitches. It was even a little more embarrassing for Victor because he is an employee at the hospital.
It is unlikely that Victor Harris will ever experience a similar incident in his life again. Why? Because he learned a lesson about sticking his hand and finger into a place like that. It would be great if we could learn all of life’s lessons so well that we would never repeat our mistakes. Sin, however, is a mistake that all too often we keep repeating over and over. Why? Because we are caught by sin just as surely as Victor’s finger was caught in the fuel pipe.
Sin is a hunter which catches its prey. Sin catches us. We become "caught in the cords" of sin. Our "iniquities entrap" us, and although we may think of a sin as a single event; once we have sinned, we are caught, entrapped. As a result, we sin again and again. Those who have battled an addiction understand this because even when they want to stop it is very difficult to do so. However, it is the same for other sins. You tell a lie and the next lie is easier and sometimes because of the lie you first told you have to tell additional lies to cover up that first lie. You steal and then you steal some more. You become caught by your sin.
The very best thing that we can do is to avoid being caught by sin in the first place. However, after sin has caught you - what do you do? How do you escape the trap of sin? You cannot escape on your own. It is a spiritual trap and requires a supernatural solution. Jesus is the solution. The apostle Paul says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13)." Jesus has what you need to escape from the trap of sin. First you need forgiveness and Jesus is the One, who can give you the forgiveness that you need (1 John 1:9). Then, you need the resources, the empowerment to keep you free and Jesus has those resources. Put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-11), read and study the Word of God (Matthew 4:4; 2 Timothy 3:16-17), and be faithful in attending church (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Jesus has what you need to avoid the trap of sin, and if you are caught in sin; Jesus has what you need to escape and remain free from sin.
How to Hurt Yourself
If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head." - Romans 12:18-20.
So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king’s wrath subsided. - Esther 7:10.
In Bithlo, Florida, Craig Aylesworth had a little dispute with his neighbor and things got a little crazy. Craig made a gasoline bomb and threw it at his neighbor’s mobile home. The bomb did explode but in what must have been an act of God the wind changed. Instead of the neighbor’s trailer being burned up, Craig’s pickup, a couple of his cars, and his travel trailer were set on fire by the bomb. Officers investigating think that alcohol may have been involved.
In the Old Testament is a somewhat similar story of how a plan of revenge backfired. In the book of Esther, we are told of the wicked Haman and Mordecai. Haman was jealous of Mordecai and Haman was a power hungry, greedy man who would do anything for power and wealth. It was Haman’s plan for the Jews to be destroyed and for their property to be taken. It was Haman’s plan for Mordecai to be hung, and he even had the gallows built for Mordecai’s hanging. God’s placement of Esther as the new queen and her courage in approaching the king with the evil of Haman’s plan thwarted it all and Haman ended up being hung instead of Mordecai.
When we try to get even with or get back at others often we only succeed in hurting ourselves. Craig Aylesworth and Haman both did a good job of hurting themselves instead of their intended victims.
Instead of our taking the matter of revenge into our own hands we are told "do not avenge yourselves." Instead of getting even we are told to "as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men." Instead of hurting our enemies we are told to "feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink." David took this path in his relationship with King Saul. David refused to kill his enemy because Saul was the Lord’s anointed. Here’s what David said to Abishai one of his mighty men who wanted to kill Saul, "‘Do not destroy him; for who can stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed, and be guiltless?’ David said furthermore, ‘As the Lord lives, the Lord shall strike him, or his day shall come to die, or he shall go out to battle and perish (1 Samuel 26:9-10).’" David had faith that God would take care of King Saul when the right time came and that it would only bring guilt own himself by killing Saul.
When Judas came with the chief priests, elders and a great number of people armed with swords and clubs to arrest Jesus, Peter drew his sword ready to fight. However, Jesus said this, "Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus? (Matthew 26:52-54)." Jesus could have utterly destroyed his physical enemies, but instead He willingly went to the cross suffering and dying for the sins of all people; past, present, and future - by refusing to fight back Jesus eternally defeated death.
Revenge belongs to God and when we try to get back at someone we are inviting disaster into our lives. Let go of the wrongs that have been committed against you and place them into the hands of God; when you do so you will have peace and the blessing of God upon your life.
Watch Out for the Zombies!
We look for light, but there is darkness! For brightness, but we walk in blackness! We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes; we stumble at noonday as at twilight; we are as dead men in desolate places. - Isaiah 59:9b-10.
But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. - 2 Corinthians 4:3-5.
But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: "Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light." - Ephesians 5:13-14.
But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. - Romans 8:11.
Did you know that it is very likely that there are zombies you will encounter and that you will see walking around you every day? According to Dictionary dot com, one definition of a zombie is "the body of a dead person given the semblance of life, but mute and will-less, by a supernatural force, usually for some evil purpose." Now that would be somewhat frightening to think that there may be dead people who look like they are alive residing perhaps in the home next to yours. Just how are you to determine when you go to the grocery store which checkout clerk is alive and which one is dead - it is hard to determine just by looking at someone.
In December of 1979 it was published in the Journal of the Tennessee Medical Association that there is a "Walking Zombie Syndrome." The condition was defined as those in which depression and withdrawal lead these individuals to unconsciously believe that they are dead. It is not really all that surprising that when these zombies are told that they unconsciously believe themselves to be dead, they persist in denying it even when their symptoms and behavior affirm the diagnosis. It is strange, but there are apparently thousands, maybe even millions of zombies walking around on the streets every day.
Even more strange than the Tennessee Medical Association’s zombie syndrome is the spiritual fact of the walking dead who are spiritually blinded by the god of this age (i.e. the devil - 2 Corinthians 4:3). Their condition is described very well by the prophet Isaiah "We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes; we stumble at noonday as at twilight; we are as dead men in desolate places." These walking dead are those who are dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). In other words; they do not know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, they have not been born again (John 3:3), and Jesus has not made them alive (Ephesians 2:1).
The good news is that there is an effective treatment for the spiritually dead. All that a spiritually dead person needs to do to be made alive and have eternal life is simply to believe upon Jesus Christ as their Savior (John 3:16). So, if you have a zombie residing next door to you or even in the same home with you, why not tell them the good news?
Curiosity Killed the Cat
Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?" And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’" Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were n_ked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings. - Genesis 3:1-7.
But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. - James 1:14.
We have two cats that are like little kids and want to look at everything. Their curiosity has gotten them into so much trouble and it is easy to see how the saying "curiosity killed the cat" came into being. Human beings have a lot of curiosity too and it has gotten many of us into trouble. In Arizona, a bobcat was the cause of the Cottonwood police being dispatched to three separate incidents. In one of the incidents which was caught on cell phone video, the cat made those present scramble. Kyle Hicks was one of those who attempted to film the cat with his phone. While he was getting close to the cat to video it, the cat attacked scratching his face and the back of his ears. The cat also scratched at least one other person on the legs. The bobcat was killed by Cottonwood police officers, and it has been determined that the animal had rabies. All of the individuals that had contact with the cat are now having to take rabies shots.
Curiosity got the best of Kyle Hicks and Kyle now has to receive those shots for rabies. Curiosity to some extent was the cause of the original sin of Adam and Eve. They were tempted but they were also curious about what the fruit of the forbidden tree would taste like. They were curious about what having their eyes opened and being "like God" would be like. Our natural curiosity about things exposes us to temptation, and it has been causing trouble ever since Adam and Eve satisfied their curiosity by giving in to temptation. There are many things that we are exponentially better off not knowing about. We may be curious about p_orn, but we will be so much better off without ever having viewed any of it. We may be curious about smoking, but we will be much better off without ever trying it. We may be curious about pot, or meth, or coke, or any of a multitude of addictive substances, but we will save ourselves from so many troubles by never satisfying our curiosity. We may be curious about s_x outside of marriage, but we can save ourselves from so much pain by never experiencing it.
The end result of being "drawn away" and "enticed" by your desires to do evil is that "when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death (James 1:15)." Curiosity may kill the cat, but you do not have to let it kill you because there is a way of escape as we are told in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
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 3:23-24.
It happened in Debary, Florida about ten years ago. Drivers could see her as they drove by. She seemed to be stuck in the mud. As you would expect there was so much concern that it tied up traffic for miles. They called the police wanting something done. Monday commuters were again looking for her to see if she was still trapped by the mud or was she okay now? There was so much concern that again traffic was tied up and backed up for miles. The Florida Transportation Department knew something had to be done. They put up a electronic flashing sign to communicate to all of those concerned drivers the following, "The Cow is Okay."
We have to wonder if it had been a human being would there have been the same amount of concern? Now God is concerned about cattle (Jonah 4:11), but they are not made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Our concern for animals and disdain for humans may come from our experience with them. There is usually a good reason when an animal attacks and few of us have been on the receiving end. I have been chased by a cow but most people in Florida have probably not had the experience. However, nearly all of us have been on the receiving end of verbal or physical attacks from other humans.
I believe there is something in us that wants to show concern, that wants be kind, that wants to love. It is because we were made in the image of God and God is love as the apostle John tells us, "He who does not love does not know God, for God is love (1 John 4:8)." It may be difficult (It was difficult for Jonah and that's why he ended up in the belly of the great fish.) but it is God’s will and His command for us to be kind to each other and to love each other. We are even to love our enemies, and we know that Jonah had trouble loving those wicked Ninevites. Jesus says, "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:44-45a)." We will never really be able to experience love until we begin to love each other.
The next time we see someone stuck in the mud let us give them some help demonstrating that we are truly made in the image of God, and that we are the sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father. "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18)."
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. - Proverbs 22:6.
It is not really all that surprising as to what has happened in the Providence, Rhode Island, Roger Williams Middle School. And what you say, happened in the Middle School named for Roger Williams first governor of the Rhode Island colony and founder of the first Baptist church in America? What happened was that in a conference with Aleyda Uceta the mother of a student at the school the principal, Rudolph Moseley, Jr. told the mother that her son was being suspended for three days. The exact nature of the son’s offense is not known except that he was told to go to a room where students with disciplinary problems were placed, and he refused to go to the room.
What happened next about the conference with the student’s mother would have been shocking 20 years ago, but I am not sure that it is any more. After being told about the disciplinary problems with her son, Aleyda became very angry yelling at the principal, and then she punched him in the face and bit him. When the principal tried to protect himself by pushing the mother away, the son, who was also present at the conference, also hit the principal. A teacher tried to calm Aleyda but she also punched that teacher in the face. After police officers arrived, Aleyda continued to try to attack the principal and then did bite an officer and hit one of the officers in the face. Another officer suffered a back injury during the incident.
I think we can see the way Aleyda has trained up her son to go. Her son’s disciplinary problems are not surprising after we learn of the mother’s violent behavior. I still read the court records published each week in our newspaper and sometimes find the names of former clients that were on my caseload while I was a parole officer. In addition, now I also find the names of many of their children who are now in trouble for criminal activity as well. Little eyes see what you are doing and little feet follow down the path that you have gone.
It is sad that in a school named for Roger Williams that behavior like this is seen. Maybe if they were to teach a history class about him and his faith it might reduce the amount of disciplinary problems that they have. If the children were exposed to the writings of Williams it might make a difference. They could read words like these: "…in civil things we may be servants unto men, yet in Divine and Spiritual things the poorest peasant must disdain the service of the highest Prince." Williams also wrote, "Government and order in families, towns, etc., is the ordinance of the Most High (Romans 13), for the peace and good of mankind." He wrote too that, "The Lord Jesus is a Christian garment (Romans 13:14): O, let us keep that blessed garment always close about us."
"Train up a child in the way he should go." Whether with conscious effort or unconsciously every parent is training their children to go in some direction in life. Sadly, great numbers of parents are training their children to go down the road toward evil and violence. Others are training their children to avoid church and the words of life that they desperately need to live an abundant and effective life. How are you training your children? What direction are they headed toward with their lives?
Then to Adam He said, "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: Cursed is the ground for your sake; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field." - Genesis 3:17-18.
As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside…." - Romans 3:10-12a.
For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. - 1 Corinthians 15:21-22.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. - Romans 8:28.
This past week there was a freak accident in the Strait of Hormuz. A U.S. submarine collided with a U.S. transport ship, the USS New Orleans and although the sub was fully submerged it was not deep enough to avoid the large transport ship. Aboard the submarine, the USS Hartford, 15 sailors were injured but were released to return to duty. This was the nuclear-powered attack sub’s first deployment. Thankfully, there was no loss of life and no damage to the nuclear reactor and both vessels survived the incident, although the collision did rupture one of the transport ship’s fuel tanks.
Accidents happen even with vessels whose captains and crews have received enormous amounts of training and that have substantial electronic equipment available to help prevent collisions. It is likely that you have personally experienced a vehicle accident of some type yourself. I have been trying to remember the actual number of vehicle accidents I have been involved in. When I was a child I was in a vehicle that was involved in an accident. I had three accidents while I was a teenager. Soon after I was married, I had three accidents in about a year’s time while we were living in Oklahoma City. A few years later I had another minor accident. In addition, I have been a witness to at least four accidents, possibly more.
All of the accidents had some things in common in that they were sudden, they were unpredictable, and they were painful at least psychologically if not physically. Besides vehicle accidents, I really cannot remember the number of times that I have been hurt physically in one way or another. I know it has been many times although never severely. You can add up in your own life the number of accidents that you have had or seen others have and know there is something that is true about this place called Earth upon which we live. That truth is that things happen and although there are many good things that happen, there are also many bad things that are happening around us all the time.
Why do bad things happen? In the Garden of Eden, there were no bad things that happened but that all changed when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit. As a result of their sin all of creation was corrupted and bad things began to happen on Planet Earth. However, we have the promise of God that this will all someday be corrected as we are told of that time in Isaiah 11:9, "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." In Revelation 21:4 we are told more of this time when perfection will return to all of creation, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” Until then we have another promise of God for those who love Him, we are told, "that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose."
For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. - Romans 5:7-9.
These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God. - 1 John 5:13.
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.
If you have been a member on any of the social networks like Facebook, or Myspace for very long you have probably been deleted from someone’s friend’s list. Your friend looked at your profile, your photo, your information, and they clicked on the delete button removing you from their friend’s list. You were just not good enough for them. Kind of makes you feel bad for a little while. Of course, it’s not like they are your next door neighbor (I hope not!), or your friend you have known since grade school. But still it hurts a little knowing you did not measure up in someone’s eyes.
In the world it matters what you look like, what you do, and how you present yourself. I have had prospective friends to ask me to change my profile photo. Ouch! That hurts. It’s like asking me to change my face, and that is kind of hard to do. Some of us are just not as photogenic as others. I have had others to put conditions on our relationship as in; if I do not message them or email them frequently enough then they will delete me. Since they do not know me personally many feel free to really say what they feel. In other words, sometimes they let you have it with both barrels. To be honest I have deleted some people from my friend’s list too. Usually I have deleted them because of something obscene that they have said or posted on my profile. I have also not accepted some people as friends for the same reasons.
Thankfully, Jesus has different standards than we do. What if Jesus had the same standards as us? If He did, He might say something like this: "God demonstrated His love for those who were not too ugly, for those who behaved appropriately, for those who never say any bad words, and for those who never abuse alcohol or illegal substances." He might also add: "My friends who are heavy ladened you have come to me and my yoke is light, but I do require that you be in constant contact with me (1 Thessalonians 5:17), and never ever break any of my commandments. I will give you a trial run for about three weeks, but if you can’t cut it, I will delete you as a friend and there is no way that I will ever add you back."
Compare our defriending standards with the defriending standards of God: "Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 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 8:34-39)."
Aren’t you glad that Jesus does not have the same requirements for His friend’s list as we do? I know that I am!
Is Now the Time?
The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding. So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests. - Matthew 22:8-10.
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. - Psalm 23:6b.
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. - Matthew 24:14.
Looking ahead to our future home can give us great comfort. King David, I believe often contemplated his eternal home and how wonderful that would be to leave behind the pain and troubles of this world. How close are we to the end? I think that every generation has believed that they were on the brink. Surely, now we are very close to the Gospel being preached to every nation. Of course, only the Father knows as Jesus says, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only (Matthew 24:36).
The wedding feast of the Lamb is drawing closer and closer. In Revelation 19:9 we are told, "Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!" Who will be in the Kingdom of Heaven? All those who respond to the invitation and are clothed with the wedding clothes will be in the Kingdom of Heaven. What are the wedding clothes? In Matthew 22:11-14 is the description of a guest who refused to put on the wedding clothes: "But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ For many are called but few are chosen."
It was the custom of royalty during the time of Jesus to give beautiful robes to those attending their parties or feasts to wear while in attendance. The robes were luxurious and when they left the robes would be collected. In the parable Jesus tells, the king has passed out the robes so everyone would be properly dressed. One man, even though he wanted to attend the party, refused to put on the proper clothes. What is the King’s robe? It is the Robe of Righteousness that can be ours through the turning from sin and receiving Christ as our Savior. Isaiah says, "I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a Robe of Righteousness (Isaiah 61:10)." In Revelation chapter three we are given a view of those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life and everyone is wearing a white robe.
Perhaps life’s greatest question is have you accepted the King’s invitation and been clothed with the Robe of Righteousness?
The God Factor
But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble. - Proverbs 4:18-19.
If you do a search on Google for "dumb criminals" you will receive more than 96,000 results. No doubt you have heard many times about dumb criminals, dumb crooks, or stupid criminals etc. Many of the individuals labeled in this way possess a high intelligence and so at least in that area of just brain power, they are not stupid, they are not dumb.
Here are a few of the recent accounts of people who have engaged in criminal activity with the appearance of a lack of intelligence:
In Fox Point, Wisconsin a man attempted to rob a Tae Kwon Do studio. Obviously, that was a mistake!
In Pensacola, Florida a man burglarizing a convenience store was caught when he tripped on his jeans. The burglar was fleeing the store with his arms full of cigarette cartons and was unable to hold up his jeans and carry the cartons at the same time.
In Fredericksburg, Virginia an intoxicated man somehow got into a state trooper’s apartment and went to sleep on the sofa. Not long afterwards the trooper returned home, and you can guess the outcome of that.
In Chicago a man impersonating a police officer with a fake gun ordered two real off duty officers to leave the area.
In Cape Haze, Florida a man robbed a gas station but ran out of gas before he could leave the area.
In San Francisco a construction worker was burglarizing vehicles using a sledge hammer to break in. However, in one of the burglaries he left behind the sledge hammer which had his name engraved on it.
In Cleveland one man had for some reason, called 911 to report a couple of suspicious persons. In the process of getting a description of these people the 911 operator was told to hold on and then the operator heard the man complete a sale of heroin.
In France a burglar planned to drill into the bank vault but instead ended up in the bank’s restroom. Alarms were sounded and he was quickly arrested.
Bennie Wint had been on the run from the law since 1989 but was recently arrested after being stopped for a tail light being out.
Then there was the man seen running out of a store carrying a cash register and the police officer who just happened to be turning into the store parking lot thought that was suspicious.
There are countless more incidents of criminals who appear to commit very stupid mistakes or are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time doing the wrong thing. I would submit to you that many of these incidents are not a result of a lack of intelligence but instead of the God Factor. As the writer of Proverbs puts it, "The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble."
If you have been stumbling around in life maybe it is time to do things differently. Solomon makes this suggestion as to how to change the outcome in your life, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones (Proverbs 3:5-8)."
Time for Action
And the Lord said to Moses, "Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea." - Exodus 14:15-16.
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.
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. - Philippians 4:13.
Pharaoh had allowed the Israelites to leave after the final plague of death upon the first born sons of Egypt. But then Pharaoh had a change of heart and decided he would reclaim his slaves. He has them trapped between his chariots and the Red Sea. Soon he will either have them as his slaves or will destroy them all.
For Moses and the Israelites, it is a time of urgency and Moses knows their deliverance lies in the strong arm of the Lord. Moses has been trained by God and given the instrument needed to bring about their deliverance. God in effect, says to Moses, "Don’t waste time talking to me when you know what to do. Use the rod I have given you."
Some situations are so urgent that we must pray as we go. In some situations we do not have time for a week of fasting and praying. Instead we must depend upon the instruction in righteousness that we have been given and the leadership of the Holy Spirit as we move forward in action.
John Eliot (1604-1609) is called the "Apostle to the native Americans." His translation of the Bible into Algonquin was the first Bible printed in the United States. He visited Native American tribes throughout New England. He preached, taught, and baptized. John Eliot once said, "We must not sit still and look for miracles; up and be doing, and the Lord will be with thee. Prayer and pains, through faith in Christ Jesus will do anything."
Dwight L. Moody was another man of action. Once when he was discussing and idea for outreach with a church leader he asked the man, "What do you think?" "We’ve been aimin’ to do it for two years," the church leader replied. "Well now," says Moody, "don’t you think it’s time to fire?"
Has God been speaking to you about something He wants you to do? Is there a neighbor, a friend, a relative, co-worker, or someone else that you know is lost? You know that you need to share your faith with them, but you keep putting it off?
Has God been speaking to you about serving Him in a greater way? Is there a ministry in your church that needs help? Are you being called into bi-vocational or full-time ministry?
Maybe it is time to do something!
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. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. - Joshua 1:8-9.
Then Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said to them, "Take up the Ark of the Covenant, and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord." And he said to the people, "Proceed, and march around the city, and let him who is armed advance before the ark of the Lord." - Joshua 6:6-7.
When they combined boric acid and silicone oil it appeared to be a failure, but it did some unexpected and silly things. This silly thing they had created bounced and even though solid it flowed like a liquid and someone named, Peter Hodgson, took this silly thing and packed it in plastic eggs. It was marketed in a toy store catalog. Almost 60 years later we know Silly Putty has made more than $140 million dollars and new uses for this silly stuff are still being discovered. Who would have thought it possible except maybe Peter Hodgson? You can find out more about Silly Putty at http://www.sillyputty.com.
Joshua was asked to do what the world would call a silly conquering of a powerful enemy city. God told Joshua to march around the city each day for six days and on the seventh day they were to march around the city seven times. Then, the priests were to blow the ram’s horns and the people were to give a great shout. The people of Jericho probably thought that was a silly way to conquer them. By the seventh day they were probably laughing each time those crazy Israelites marched by. If they had had lawn chairs then, they would have kicked back in their lawn chairs drinking some cool ones while they watched the show. However, when the horns blew, and the people shouted - the walls came crashing down and no one was laughing any more.
Where did the success of Joshua and the people of Israel begin? It began with what many in the world would say is silly. Their success began with a focus on the Word of God, which was a focus on God. This focus on God allowed them to be fearless in the face the world’s mockery and fearless in the conquest of Jericho and of the giants of the land.
What would happen in your life if you stopped worrying about what people might think and instead began to focus in on what God wants? You can begin at the same point Joshua began with, God’s Word. From that point onward God will be saying to you as He said to Joshua, "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
It is time for you to report in because the Commander of the Lord’s Army (Joshua 7:13-15) has some new orders for you.
A New Life
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.
Do not marvel that I said to you, "You must be born again." - John 3:7.
We remember the horrific crash of two passenger trains in west London near Paddington Station in 1999. Karl Hackett watched the crash and saw it as an opportunity to start another life under an assumed identity. Pretending to be his supervisor, he called an emergency line and reported himself missing. Just to be sure he called again posing as his brother and again reported himself missing. His family attended a memorial service at the site of the train crash believing he had perished and the body was unrecoverable. However, Hackett’s new life did not work out quite as he had hoped, and he was given a five month suspended sentence for his deception. His attorney, Michael Ivers, said at that time: "His employment in the field of computer graphics has come to an end. He is now effectively humiliated in terms of his employment."
Many others have tried similar deceptions in order to gain a new life. In the United States in January of this year, Marcus Schrenker, attempted to fake his death by reporting problems aboard the plane he was piloting. He reported that he was bleeding profusely after receiving injuries during severe turbulence; then while leaving the plane on autopilot, he parachuted to safety. The plane crashed but the pilots of the military jets that intercepted the plane saw that the door was ajar and that the cockpit was dark prior to the crash. The plan was for the plane to crash at sea, but it crashed on land and there was not any sign of blood in the wreckage. Schrenker had hoped to leave behind the financial fraud that he had perpetrated, but he has been arrested and will be forced to face trial and receive punishment for his crimes. It seems that eventually it always fails, and it is never quite what they had hoped. However, we do not have to assume someone else’s identity in order to have a new life. No, we can be "born again." By receiving Jesus as our Savior, we will become a "new creation" and "old things" will have "passed away." We will also receive a "new name." Revelation 2:17 tells us "and I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written no one knows except him who receives it."
Sometimes we may not feel like we are a new creation. That is because we are designed for a new heaven and a new earth. Our citizenship was transferred from earth to Heaven at the moment that we received Christ Jesus as our Savior, and we were "born again." Until we actually arrive in our Heavenly home, we are "ambassadors of Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:20) here on earth to share with others the joy and hope of the new life. Contemplate the fact that you are a representative of the King of kings and the Lord of lords. It may not always feel like such a wonderful thing at the present time when we sometimes suffer for our faith but consider what the apostle Paul says about this time while we are still on earth, "For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Romans 8:18)."
Do You Need Rescuing?
…the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment. - 2 Peter 2:9.
Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. - 1 Corinthians 10:12-14.
Usually when we hear a story about a St. Bernard dog we think immediately of their heroic history as rescue dogs in the Swiss Alps. In 1707, the St. Bernard, Barry, rescued (depending on accounts of the event) between 40 and 100 people at what is now known as the Great St. Bernard Pass. The heroic dog’s body has actually been preserved and is in the Natural History Museum at Berne. However, I recently read about a St. Bernard that instead of rescuing was on the receiving end of a rescue. Duke, a 16-month-old, St. Bernard got out of his owner’s yard in Billings, Montana and ended up falling through the ice on a golf course pond. Duke got out of the pond but then was frozen to the ice. After the dog was found by a maintenance worker the fire department was called. See, it’s not only cats in trees that they rescue! Two firefighters reached the 118-pound dog with a rescue sled. After the ice was broken off, and a blow dryer at a veterinary clinic dried him off, Duke was feeling pretty good.
In the 21st Century, there are as there always have been many worldly temptations and snares of the devil. Even great servants of God can sometime succumb to those temptations and snares. Bob Harrington is an example. Bob was saved in 1958 and three days later preached his first sermon. He became an evangelist and by the late 1960s was conducting area wide crusades and had a weekly television program. His ministry in the French Quarter of New Orleans was well known and he was proclaimed by the Mayor of New Orleans to be the "Chaplain of Bourbon Street." It all came to an end in 1976 when Bob Harrington was at the pinnacle of his ministry. Bob left the ministry to live as a prodigal for 19 years. After 19 years of prodigal living he returned to the Lord. You can find out more about Bob Harrington’s life and ministry at his website thechaplain.com.
What was it that led to Bob Harrington’s fall? His website mentions his pride. What was it that led to the devil’s being cast out of Heaven? It was his pride (Ezekiel 28:17). When did Bob Harrington turn away from the Lord? It was at the point of his greatest ministry. When you are the most effective for the Lord you must be very careful that you do not fall victim to the snares of the world, the flesh, and the devil.
What if you have already fallen? You were a servant of God in the past, and even led many to a saving faith in the Lord. You were a rescuer but now you need to be rescued. There is a way of escape and the Lord is able to deliver you. If He rescued Bob Harrington, He can rescue you. If you will turn back to the Lord, the Lord will run to you as the Father ran to the prodigal son, welcoming you home (Luke 15:11-31). Just in case you were waiting for an invitation, here it is - your Heavenly Father wants you to come home.
Are You Sinking?
So he (the prophet Elijah) 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. 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." - 1 Kings 17:5-9.
O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. - Psalm 6:31.
But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. - Hebrews 11:6.
What would you do if you were out on a boat fishing and your boat was sinking? Would you keep on fishing until your boat was underwater or would you stop fishing and return to shore if possible? In Escambia County, Florida, four people were out fishing on a pontoon boat and continued fishing even though the water was washing over the pontoons. Florida Fish and Wildlife received a report from the public about a boat sinking, and they sent officers out to check out the report. It was true, the boat was sinking and the people onboard seemed to be oblivious to their dangerous situation continuing to enjoy the fishing. The officers ordered the pontoon boat to return to shore and once on shore, they discovered that holes had been drilled in the pontoons to drain water. However, the plugs used to seal the holes were not waterproof or watertight. When asked if he was aware of the boat’s condition prior to being contacted by Florida Fish and Wildlife officers, the operator said, "The boat was dragging a bit on the way out."
If you are on a boat that is sinking it may be time to abandon ship or to at least consider calling for help. If your employment comes to an end, action is needed. You need to consider your options. Elijah the great prophet of the Old Testament was being obedient to the will of God when he went to the Brook Cherith. There at the brook was water and God sent ravens to bring the prophet food. It is vital to see that even though Elijah was obedient to God, and in God’s will for his life, eventually the brook still dried up.
When someone loses their employment or some other bad thing happens it does not necessarily mean that they have been living outside of God’s will. It does often indicate that a change of direction may be needed. Elijah could no longer remain at the brook and God told him where to go next. God told Elijah to, "Arise, go to Zarephath." It was a place that was suffering from the drought that was upon the land so it might not have been Elijah’s first choice and in addition, the widow he was to stay with was almost out of food. Elijah chose to obey and God continued to supernaturally provide for his needs and for the needs of the widow and her son.
When your boat is sinking the time for fishing is over. It is time to call for help. When the boat carrying Jesus and His disciples was sinking in a storm (Matthew 4:35-41), the disciples knew what to do. They woke up Jesus and Jesus calmed the storm with three words, "Peace, be still!"
Whatever storm that your boat may be sinking in, whether it is a storm of sin, or a storm caused by the loss of employment, or something else - the solution is still the same. Seek the Lord and follow Him (Matthew 7:7-8; Hebrews 11:6).
Loving Your Neighbor
Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus said to him, "‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." - Matthew 22:35-40.
These things I command you, that you love one another. - John 15:17.
A few days ago in Lehigh Acres, Florida at a Murphy USA gas station, things got a little out of hand. One man was trying to save a parking space for his wife when he encountered a bully who wanted the parking spot for himself. The parking spot saver held up his hands but the bully who wanted his parking spot pulled forward and hit the parking spot saver in the knees. The man trying to save the spot yelled at the bully to stop but he pulled forward and hit him again. The injuries were not severe but did cause swelling and bruises. The Lee County Sheriff’s Office was contacted and the bully was arrested on a misdemeanor battery charge.
As you can see sometimes it is difficult to love your neighbor, as in loving the bully. There are a lot of bullies on the road these days and you never know when you may encounter one. How would Jesus have handled the situation? This is a multiple choice test:
(A. Zapped the bully and his vehicle down to Antarctica to let him cool off for a few minutes.
(B. Let the bully run into a brick wall instead of your legs.
(C. Move out of the way and let the bully have the parking spot.
(D. None of the above.
In this situation, the bully is your neighbor, and if you love your neighbor as yourself, how would you handle the situation? Even though it would be difficult to do for some of us, the loving thing to do would be to move out of the way and let the bully have the parking space. The failure to do so caused problems for all involved in the altercation in Florida.
The problems caused for the bully are obvious as he was arrested and will have an additional charge added to his rap sheet. He will have to pay a fine and possibly spend a few days in jail, or do some community service. However, the unloving response of the victim created problems for him too. The immediate problem was the painful injury to his knees and legs from the bully’s vehicle striking him. Additionally, it caused the waste of his time and the time of witnesses who were required to stay at the scene until the Deputy Sheriff could arrive. It caused the Deputy Sheriff to use his time to investigate the incident and write and file the necessary paperwork. There will be additional time required for all involved in the future when a court hearing is held.
No one likes it when a bully pushes you around but treating the bully as you would yourself is God’s command. The apostle Paul gives advice for these situations when he writes, "If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. ‘ Therefore If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head (Romans 12:18-20).’" How would Jesus have handled the situation? He might have stepped out of the way and then introduced Himself to the bully and offered to buy him something to drink and to eat. Then Jesus would have had an opportunity to have a little chat with the bully.
Remember it is not a suggestion when Jesus says, "I command you, that you love one another." That includes the bullies in your life too. So, save yourself some problems and love your neighbor.
Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. 1 John 2:18-23.
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. - 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4.
Mark Rimkufski arrived a little late for his flight on American Airlines Flight 299 to Los Angeles which was departing from Miami International Airport. The plane had not yet taken off, however, the gate had closed and the plane was departing. Mark had an idea though, he would use his "Fisher Island Chief of Police" badge that he had in his pocket. He showed airline employees the badge saying that he was an air marshal and the plane was stopped so that he could board. There was one small glitch in his plan as there were some real air marshals on board who examined his badge and kicked him off the plane. The impostor, Mark Rimkufski aka Harry Henry Rimm, has been charged by Miami police with impersonating a law enforcement officer, and he also will be charged federally with the impersonation of an air marshal. So, if you were thinking that you would buy an old police badge on eBay so you could use it the next time you arrive late for your flight, you might want to rethink that.
In Chicago, a 14-year-old boy bought a police officer’s uniform and showed up at a police station and was given an assignment with an actual officer. It was only after their patrol ended that the real officer noticed the boy’s uniform was not quite regulation. The boy has been charged with impersonating an officer.
The 14-year-old boy and the air marshal impostor are only two of a huge number of people who present themselves to others as someone other than who they really are. It is likely that you know some of these impostors personally. The apostle John describes one type of impostor as those who present themselves as being Christians but really are not and eventually those impostors are revealed when they begin living as non-Christians live.
The Antichrist, who will be the greatest impostor of all will soon come upon the world scene. All impostors have at least one thing in common, they are liars. The air marshal impersonator and the police officer impersonator were both liars if not by their words, by their actions. Those lost people who claim to be Christians are liars too.
When the Antichrist appears, he will perform miracles through demonic power. He will be able to make people believe lie after lie through that same demonic power, and he will eventually claim to be God and demand the people worship him. However, the apostle John pointed out that many people even then already had the spirit of the Antichrist and how much more so now. Watch out for those impostors with the spirit of Antichrist who are able to make many believe their lies, especially when their lies are obvious and blatant. Are there any leaders like this in the world today? As the apostle John says, "Little children, it is the last hour."
For the perverse person is an abomination to the Lord, but His secret counsel is with the upright. The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, but He blesses the home of the just. Surely He scorns the scornful, but gives grace to the humble. The wise shall inherit glory, but shame shall be the legacy of fools. - Proverbs 3:32-35.
A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous. - Proverbs 13:22.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you. - 1 Peter 1:3-4.
When a surveillance video was broadcast by the police in Edmond, Oklahoma of a bank robbery suspect, Michael Siany recognized the suspect. Michael who is majoring in Criminal Justice at the University of Central Oklahoma recognized the man in the video. It was his Dad! David Siany, 51-years-old, robbed two banks in Oklahoma in January 2009. They were not David’s first bank robberies, he had already been to prison for the unarmed robbery of three banks in Minnesota and Oklahoma and for planning the robbery of a bank in Texas back in 2000.
Michael said after seeing his Father on the surveillance video, "I sat there for about an hour, thinking about what I should do. A lot of things went through my mind, but I knew the right thing to do." Michael said this about how his Father got into bank robbing, "My father used to love spending time at the racetrack, and he got into debt. He just got into more and more debt. He needed money quickly, and that was the quickest way to get out of debt. I'm sure he's a good person somewhere down in there, but for some reason he does these bad things." David Siany has been estranged from his family and Michael’s mother had to raise her two sons on her own.
David Siany has left a legacy of example for his children and grandchildren. David Siany’s legacy is one of irresponsibility toward his family by gambling away the money that his family needed. His legacy also includes an example of handling the result of his gambling, and debt, in the wrong way. Instead of facing up to the consequences of his gambling, David compounding the problem by robbing banks which has resulted in his going to prison and it will likely cause his being a guest of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections sometime soon in the future.
I like the slogan of Oklahoma’s media campaign against tobacco. The slogan is "Tobacco stops with me." My Dad smoked until he was about fifty years old, but he stopped smoking one day and never smoked again until he passed away at the age of 84. I smoked some in junior high and high school but never really developed the habit. When I was a boy I looked forward to the day when I would be able to smoke like my Dad. My Mother told me once that my Dad was a closet alcoholic. Maybe he was, I do not know for sure but because of his example I did not see anything wrong with drinking. I did drink some in high school, in college and during my first months in the oilfield. On my knees before God one night in a motel room I stopped drinking and it has now been decades since I have had a drink. So far tobacco and drinking in my family has stopped with me. Thankfully, David Siany’s son has apparently decided that his Father’s gambling and unlawful actions will not be a legacy that he leaves to his own children.
Prayerfully, the legacy that I leave to my descendants will be a legacy of righteousness because my true inheritance and theirs is the Lord Jesus Christ which is "an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven" for us.
Near Miss 2009 DD45
I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. - Revelation 6:12-14.
…you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. - James 4:14.
We had a close call on Monday with the near miss of asteroid 2009 DD45. The asteroid was small only about 200 feet wide, but it did come within 40,000 miles of the earth about 1/7 of the distance from the earth to the moon. A slightly larger asteroid in 1908 caused the damage equivalent to a hydrogen bomb 1000 times the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan. The Tunguska explosion was the result of the meteor or comet exploding in the air over Siberia devastating 830 square miles of forest. The accompanying earthquake is estimated to have been 5.0 on the Richter scale. Of course, 2009 DD45 could have hit nearly anywhere on the globe. An asteroid exploding over New York City or London would obliterate those cities and large areas around them.
Only a few weeks ago a much smaller meteorite did come to a fiery end in Texas. No one knew the meteorite was headed for the earth and at first no one knew that it was a meteorite as several other explanations for the event were suggested. Apparently there have been and will be frequent near misses from NEOs, Near Earth Objects. It has only been a recent development that scientists and governments have become concerned about these NEOs. Even now there are only a very few astronomers searching the skies for these things. 2009 DD45 was only found a short time before the near miss.
Have you ever wondered how the events described in Revelation during the Tribulation period will actually come about? The statement by John the revelator that "the stars of heaven fell to the earth…" is more easily understood in light of the potential damage that one small NEO can cause. Several NEOs hitting the earth in a short period of time would cause immeasurably catastrophic damage.
What if 2009 DD45 had suddenly hit where you live this past Monday? Would you have been ready meet the Lord face to face? Were you as the saying goes "all prayed up" this past Monday? The danger that we face from just natural phenomenon much less all the man made dangers is unimaginable.
Vince Gill sings a song called, "All Prayed Up." One line that repeats throughout is, "I’m all prayed up, I’m ready to meet my Savior." Are you all prayed up? Do you know Jesus as your personal Savior? Have you asked Him to come into your heart and forgive your sins? If not, now would probably be a good time to do that. If you know Jesus as your Savior, do you have any unconfessed sins? If so, the apostle John tells us what to do, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9)." Are you all prayed up and ready to go? If not, you ought to be because "you do not know what will happen tomorrow," and "what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away."
Leave God a Message
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. - Hebrews 4:15-16.
Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. - 1 John 5:14-15.
Johan van der Dong who is an artist in the Netherlands wants people to leave messages for God. Johan has set up a telephone number with an answering machine to allow everyone that wants to do so to leave God a message. He thinks that it is a way for us to organize our thoughts and to have some contemplation. When you call the number you will hear the following message (In Dutch, I listened to this on Fox News this morning.) "Hi, you are speaking to God. I’m not in right now so leave a message after the beep." Wouldn’t that be wonderful? It would be wonderful if we could leave a message, a prayer, that God would actually listen to and hopefully respond to at some point in time.
The truth is that you do not have to record a message on an answering machine in order to communicate with God. God had a better idea. God’s idea and plan that He has implemented means that you can bypass the answering machine mode or any other intermediary and communicate directly with God. Now that is a great idea, a wonderful idea, a fantastic idea; no, it is not an idea - it is the spiritual reality. Not only that we have the ability to talk directly to God, but we can do so "boldly."
If someone were to watch us praying in private they might possibly think that we are talking to ourselves. Even if they knew that you were praying, some would say that you are wasting your time that God cannot actually hear you. However, the Bible makes it clear that we can pray with confidence knowing "that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." Not only does He hear us, but He answers us giving us what we have asked for according to His will.
Not only does God hear us and respond to our prayers, but sometimes He also speaks to us in answer to those prayers. Have you ever heard God speaking to you? In an Abnormal Psychology class that I once took the professor said that to say that you can hear the voice of God is a symptom of mental illness. However, then he said that most Baptist deacons would say that they can hear God speaking to them. Jesus says this, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me (John 10:27)." In 1 Kings 19 we are told about Elijah being very despondent and this great prophet was hiding in a cave fearing for his life. God spoke to Elijah and said, "‘Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.’ And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’"
Have you been hiding in a cave thinking that no one cares and that God doesn’t care about what you are going through in your life? Listen. Listen for that still small voice. God is speaking and if you’ve been hiding in a cave or someplace else because of the circumstances you are in - God is speaking, and He is saying, "What are you doing here?" What are you doing there when you can go boldly to the throne of the Creator of the universe and ask whatever it is that you need, and He promises to hear?
And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near. - Luke 21:25-28.
But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down (overcharged - KJV) with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man. - Luke 21:34-36.
Juan Zamora was overcharged a little when he put some gasoline in his Camaro in Richland, Washington. Juan had $90 left on his debit card, and he thought that would be more than enough for the fill up and it would have been if he had only been charged the correct amount which was $26. After receiving an email that his debit card was maxed out after the purchase, Juan called to find out about it. What Juan found out was that he had been overcharged $81,400,836,882!! Eventually, he was able to convince customer service that it would not have been possible for him to have purchased that much fuel. No one seems to know what went wrong but Juan thinks he will just pay with cash in the future.
The word overcharge or overcharged has a couple of definitions: (1. An excessive charge or price; (2. A load or burden that is too full or heavy. For the Christian there is a cost involved for "carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life." Now it is obvious that the Christian should not be carousing or even be in a drunken state but what about the "cares of this life?" Even if we are Christians we have cares, and even some concerns in life. In the parallel account in Matthew 24:37-39 Jesus says, "But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be." In the time of Noah the people were preoccupied with trivial things and neglected spiritual concerns. The time that we are now living in is very similar to that of Noah’s.
What is the charge, the overcharge, the cost of living life for the trivial and ignoring the more important spiritual matters? That the "Day come on you unexpectedly." What is the "Day"? When we "see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory (Luke 21:27)." To live life oblivious to the fast approaching time of the coming of our Lord will be costly. We will feel like those little trivial things of life have cost us far more than the $81 billion that Juan was overcharged. Now is the time for us to live our lives fully for our Lord. Now is the time to "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33)." Now is the time to be "steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:58)."
An Intolerant God
"Just as I determined to punish you when your fathers provoked Me to wrath," says the Lord of hosts, "and I would not relent, so again in these days I am determined to do good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. Do not fear. These are the things you shall do: Speak each man the truth to his neighbor; give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace; let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor; and do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate," says the Lord. - Zechariah 8:17.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. - John 3:16.
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.
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. - Hebrews 12:1.
We hear it more and more often that we must be tolerant. We are told we should be tolerant of alternative lifestyles and non-Christian religions. In the United States we appear to be headed toward court orders and legislative directives to enforce this tolerance. In Dunbar, West Virginia the First Baptist Church was having a "Haunted Hollow" at the Wine Cellar City Park. During a 45-minute tour short skits were performed demonstrating the hazards of sin. The church dropped one of the skits negative to homosexuality because of the complaints of some citizens. However, the Wiccans were still upset threatening to go to court because of what they called a negative portrayal of their religion (This all happened several years ago and the environment for Christians has continued to deteriorate.). It does appear to be proof that you cannot please everyone.
The fact is that our God is intolerant. The One True God is intolerant of homosexuality and witchcraft. But it is unfair to single those two sins out because our God is intolerant of all sins. Actually, God hates sin! "For all these things I hate, says the Lord." God hates sin so much that He "spared not His own Son (Romans 8:32)." What terrible thing caused God’s Son to die an excruciating death on that cruel, cold, Roman cross? It was sin! God hated sin so much that He sent this One who knew no sin to become sin for us. God knew that it was only through His Son, Jesus, that we might have Victory over this terrible disease of sin.
Yes, God loves us (John 3:16) but He still hates sin. As His children we love the sinners, but we too should hate the sin. We should hate the sin so much that we should oppose it at every turn (Matthew 5:13). We should hate sin so much that we tell others about God’s love of sinners and hate of sin (Matthew 5:14-16). We should hate sin so much that we "lay" it "aside" (Hebrews 12:1). We should hate the sin so much that when we sin, we immediately confess it to our Lord so that we may be forgiven and cleansed of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
Try, Try Again
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. - 2 Corinthians 4:7-9.
From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness - besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. - 2 Corinthians 11:24-28.
In South Korea, Cha Sa-soon has failed the written driving test 775 times. She has been trying for about four years to pass the test hoping that she will be able to start a trucking business. Even though she is 68-years-old, and has spent close to $7,000 on application fees, Cha is determined to continue her quest for the truck driving license. Cha believes that she may pass the test next time, and so she will try again, and again if necessary.
To be honest if I had failed the written driving test that many times I would probably have stopped trying. Actually I would have given up long before, maybe after ten or eleven tries. However, I will never give up on living the Christian life. I sometimes fail miserably, and sometimes I am discouraged, but I know that God is still God. However, I do know people who have walked away from the Christian life. Some of them claim they do not believe in God any more. Others say they believe in God but they no longer live like they believe. They have given up. They have been defeated and are having fellowship with the demons (1 Corinthians 10:19-21).
The apostle Paul could have thrown up his hands in defeat. His life did not improve after becoming a Christian. His life rapidly went downhill with an increasing number of problems and trials that were thrust upon him. Bad things happened repeatedly to Paul, but he continued on. Sometimes the doors were closed but new doors were opened. Paul never stopped believing, never stopped living the triumphant Christian life. Paul lived his life in victory no matter what the circumstances surrounding him may have been like.
What about you? Have you been defeated? Are you no longer living like a believer? Will you let the devil and his demons rejoice that you are defeated? Rise up! Stand up! Throw off the devil’s yoke! Determine in your heart that you will live for what is right. Determine in your heart that you will live as a believer no matter what life may send your way. Try, try again for it is the way of victory! There will come a day when there will be no more tears, no more pain, no more war, no more death, no more fear - until then let us fight on to the very end, knowing that our Lord lives within us and He has won the ultimate victory. Each step we take with the Lord is a step lived in victory. Surely, the angels rejoice with each step forward that we take as determined victorious believers. Try, try again and live the life of victory!
Sweet Moment of Prayer
Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, "What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." - Matthew 26:40-41.
Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. - 1 John 5:14-15.
We sometimes sing the hymn "Sweet Hour of Prayer." The words of the hymn were written by William Walford who lived 1772-1850. It is a beautiful old hymn with great expression of a mature Christian’s love for communing with God. Here is the first verse:
"Sweet hour of prayer, sweet hour of prayer,
That calls me from a world of care
And bids me at my Father’s throne
Make all my wants and wishes known!
In seasons of distress and grief,
My soul has often found relief,
And oft escaped the tempter’s snare,
By Thy return, sweet hour of prayer."
But how many Christians in the 21st Century really pray for an hour a day? How many have ever prayed even once for an hour? How many pray for 30 minutes? How many pray for 15 minutes? How many even pray for five minutes? How many pray nothing at all?
At a prayer conference, I was once told that the average evangelical Christian prays only four to six minutes per day. Maybe we should change the words of the hymn to "Sweet Moment of Prayer, Sweet Moment of Prayer." It is no wonder we are powerless Christians with so many "enter(ing) into temptation." It is no wonder that our world has so many problems with so few Christians actually spending any substantial time in prayer. The hymn in our hymnal immediately after "Sweet Hour of Prayer" is "Take Time to be Holy," which seems to be appropriate. E. M. Bounds wrote, "Prayer and a holy life are one. They mutually act and react. Neither can survive alone. The absence of one is the absence of the other."
As we can see prayer is a vital necessity for the child of God. It may be that we do not know where to begin or even what to pray about. The apostle Paul gives us a starting point when he says "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:1-4)."
Let us pray….
The Ride to Hell
But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. - 1 Corinthians 2:14-15.
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.
I once took what I thought was a ride from hell soon after starting a new job in 1975. The company I worked for had two offices, one in Elk City, Oklahoma and one in Monahans, Texas. The owner of the company decided that we needed to go to Odessa, Texas which is about 40 miles from Monahans to pick up a new inspection unit. Jim McMasters was going to be the operator of the new unit and I was going to be the assistant operator. The owner of the company, Earl Beard, had just bought a new Mercury Marquis. When we were ready to leave I tried to sit in the back seat but Jim insisted that I sit in the front. It did not take very long to understand why he wanted to sit in the back.
It is 400 miles from Elk City, Oklahoma to Odessa Texas. Our trip took only four hours! This was before air bags, or shoulder belts - the car did have seat belts and I definitely had mine fastened. Through the little towns that we went through, Earl did slow down to around 70 to 80 mph. He also slowed down once going around some curves to about 90 mph while making a call on his mobile phone and driving with his knee. I think I prayed more on that trip than I had in a long time. I was praying for a highway patrol officer or a deputy sheriff or someone to see us and stop us. We did not see any law enforcement on the trip to Odessa. On the way home, after we left Jim to drive the unit back, we saw one highway patrol officer while we slowed down briefly behind a group of a few cars that were driving slower. After being stopped many times for speeding Earl finally bought a plane and obtained his pilot’s license. Of course, he already had a lot of hours in, flying at low altitudes!
If I had it to do over again I would have confronted Earl and asked him to slow down. If he then did not slow down, I would have at least tried to have him let me out on the side of the road somewhere, anywhere. I knew that I was in danger but I did very little about it. There are countless millions of people even billions of people that are on a trip to hell which is far more dangerous than the trip that I took. James says, “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away (James 4:14).” The trip will soon be over and they will arrive in a place that is worse than the worst that they have ever experienced in life and there will be no escape (Read Luke 16:19-31).
If you are on that trip to hell the time is now to get off that road and onto the narrow road that leads to Heaven. The time is now to open up the door and jump out. Escape while you still can! Jesus is the only way of escape. Receive Him as your Savior (John 1:12; Revelation 3:20) and begin to walk down the narrow way to Heaven where the joy and peace will never end.
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. …the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity." But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, PREPARED for every good work. Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. - 2 Timothy 2:15; 19-22.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped (PREPARE and equip - NLT) for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
In Colorado Springs, Colorado, they are considering imposing a fee on hikers who make it to the summit of Pikes Peak and then are unable to walk back down. Around fifteen thousand people climb or walk up the 12 miles to the top of Pikes Peak every year. One of those hikers last year in December made it to the summit after dark and then broke into the restaurant to keep from freezing to death. He was charged $500 for the ride back down and for the window he broke.
The Rocky Mountains in Colorado can be dangerous. One man reported that he had during his climbing and walking in the mountains experienced snow during every month of the year at one time or another. Pikes Peak has experienced deadly snow storms even in July. I have made it to the top of Pikes Peak twice. Once I was in a truck that my Dad was driving. He had helped a teacher move to Boulder from Oklahoma, and we did some sightseeing on the way back home. When my family was young I drove up to the top of the mountain during one of our vacations. Even for someone in reasonably good health just a hike up the road to the summit of the mountain would be a challenge. If you ran into an ice storm or a blizzard on the way up or down it would make the hike exponentially more difficult and hazardous. To make the climb up and down Pikes Peak successfully it will be necessary to do some planning and preparation.
The Boy Scout motto "Be Prepared" is a good motto for Christians too. When Baden-Powell the founder of scouting was asked what scouts should be prepared for he responded by saying, "Why for any old thing." Christians need to be prepared too. What do we need to be prepared for? We need to be prepared for everything that we may encounter in life. We do have an enemy and that enemy wants to destroy us (John 10:10a).
There is a story in the Old Testament in 1 Samuel 13 that illustrates that the enemy will try to make us unprepared. In an attempt to disarm the Israelites, the Philistines had cornered the market on blacksmiths and those who were capable of sharpening swords, knives, spears, and pitchforks. Just prior to battle nearly all of the weapons of the Israelites were in Philistine hands so that they could be sharpened. The scheme did not work because God kept it from working, but it is an example of what the enemy will attempt to do. The enemy will try to disarm you, make you ineffective, and unprepared for the battles that you will face in life.
Don’t be fooled! Instead be prepared. Study the Word of God, turn from being a vessel of dishonor, and be a worker who needs not be ashamed (Romans 1:16) - a vessel of honor.
Sin is a Monster
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 6:23.
The recent chimpanzee attack on a Connecticut woman, Charla Nash, was somewhat surprising to me. Charla was trying to help her friend and ended up with severe life threatening injuries when she was attacked by the chimp. Hopefully, Charla will be able to recover from this horrific event. I knew that chimpanzees could sometimes be dangerous, but I had no idea of the monstrous strength of these creatures. The relative strength of a chimp to a human is five to seven times greater. The fact that Charla is even still living after being attacked by the angry, out of control chimp is miraculous!
The idea for this devotional came from Pastor James Perkins. After he commented on my devotional, "Do Not Feed the Monkeys," which was sent the day after the chimp attack, I responded that I had no idea how strong chimpanzees were. Pastor Perkins then wrote this, "that's the same attitude that many of us have about sin, we don't realize how dangerous it really is." How true! Sin is monstrous! Sin is horrific! Sin is a killer! But what do we do with sin? We play with it! We flirt with it! Is it really all that surprising that so many are hurt, devastated by sin?
Jesus indicates how seriously we should consider sin to be when He says in Mark 9:43-47, "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed, rather than having two hands, to go to hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched - where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, rather than having two feet, to be cast into hell, into the fire that shall never be quenched - where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched." Now, I do not believe that Jesus intended for us to literally pluck out our eyes, and literally cut off our hands and feet. If the early church had believed that, we would still be having eye plucking services today. But Jesus did intend for us to see a picture of how dangerous sin is to us and how we should take sincere steps, even radical steps, to protect ourselves from sin, and the consequences of sin.
Sin is serious business. Sin is so serious, so horrific, so catastrophic, so monstrous that Jesus Christ had to come down from the glories of Heaven and suffer and die on the cross for our sins.
Please do not play around with sin because, sin is a monster!
But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:10-17.
Trevor Tasker had romanced a 30-year-old woman through the Internet but what a surprise was in store for him! He lived in South Carolina, and she lived in England. Trevor was full of hope when he flew to England to meet his new love. It must have been a surprise to discover that Wynema Shumate was not 30-something or even 40-something but 65-years-old. She was also several pounds heavier than Trevor had been led to believe. If that was not enough, Trevor found out that Wynema had been arrested earlier that same month when the body of her former roommate was found in a freezer at her home. She was only charged with the unauthorized removal of a dead body because he did die of natural causes.
There have been a few deceivers in the financial world that have been revealed in recent months. Bernard Madoff is perhaps at the top of the list of those who have inflicted damage on the unsuspecting. He is also typical of most deceivers in that he appears to have little, if any, remorse for his actions. Many good people were deceived by trusting others, who trusted others, who trusted Madoff.
In love, finances, and the spiritual world there will always be someone trying to deceive us. The apostle Paul gave Timothy some instructions about how to withstand those who would deceive him. Paul said: "But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:14-15)." Paul then becomes even more specific and says: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17)."
Very little of the time I spend watching television or surfing on the Internet is profitable. However, every moment I spend in God’s Word is profitable. It is profitable "for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." Spending time in God’s Word each day will make it much harder for someone to deceive you.
Do Not Feed the Monkeys
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. - Ephesians 5:8-13.
Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. - Ephesians 5:1-7.
Nikko, Japan is the home of the famous statues of the monkeys that see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, and speak-no-evil. Nikko also has a large population of living monkeys of the wild macaque variety. Some years ago troops of these simians were causing major problems for those living in Nikko. The monkeys while scavenging for food would occasionally bite people and continually damage property. Officials blamed tourists who fed the monkeys, which made the situation worse and worse. There were more and more incidents of monkeys grabbing bags, which they thought, might contain food. The people of Nikko would like for all of the tourists to remember, please don’t feed the monkeys!
God makes it clear in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that He would like for us to stop feeding our monkeys too. In Ephesians 5:3-5 we are told of some of those monkeys which we are to avoid. Paul says we are to "have no fellowship" with them. In other words, don’t feed them! Cut off the relationship with "the unfruitful works of darkness." In Romans 13:14 we are told to "make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts." We should not even think about how to gratify those desires. The more we feed the monkeys, the more we have fellowship with them, the more we make provision for them the worse they become.
To rid ourselves of the monkeys we must cut them off. We must stop feeding the monkeys, stop having fellowship with them, and stop providing for them. We must kick them out. But it is not enough just to do that. We must replace them with something better. We are to "walk as children of light finding out what is acceptable to the Lord." We are to "be imitators of God as dear children (Ephesians 5:1)." We are to "walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us... (Ephesians 5:2)."
Have you been feeding the monkeys? Stop it!!
Pull It Out
Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and you heart will utter perverse things. Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying: "They have struck me, but I was not hurt; they have beaten me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?" - Proverbs 23:31-35.
A woman in Darby, Pennsylvania was shopping for groceries when someone running by slapped her on the back of the neck. At least that is what Darlene Jones thought. She finished her grocery shopping and bought a newspaper before walking the half-mile back to her home. After Darlene returned home her daughter noticed something sticking out of mother’s neck. It was the handle of a kitchen knife! When the daughter jerked out the knife Darlene began to bleed profusely, and they rushed her to the hospital. She did recover from her wound. The incident was described as a "random, vicious attack."
It is amazing that someone could have a knife in their neck for so long and not know! Darlene would have eventually died from her wound if her daughter had not noticed the knife. Darby Police Chief Robert Smythe said, "Five or six people walked right past her without even noticing."
How many people have been struck with an addiction and do not even know it? How many people have started drinking, or doing drugs, or looking at pornography and do not realize they have a wound that could destroy them? Most people can walk by them and would not notice their mortal wound. Even if someone does notice and questions the addict to try to help them usually they will at first try to deny their addiction.
In Proverbs 23:29, we are asked: "Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause?" The writer of Proverbs is talking about drinkers, but it seems to apply to all those with addictions. If you have an addiction you will have woe, sorrow, contentions, and complaints. Now is the time to pull the knife out and get help before it is too late.
Who is it that can help you? Jesus is the One who has the power to pull out the knife of addiction; He is the One, who can lift the burden from you. Jesus says to the addicted, "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)."
Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. - James 4:7-10.
Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. - Hebrews 2:17-18.
In Australia an eight-year-old (at the time) girl barely escaped from the jaws of an eight foot crocodile after her little brother distracted it. Paul, who was five-years-old, grabbed the beast’s tail which gave Martina the time to get her feet out of its mouth. Their father then killed the crocodile with an axe. The family had been hunting for turtles in a creek in Australia’s Northern Territory when the reptile suddenly attacked.
There is a spiritual beast who is just as dangerous which loves to tear down, destroy, hurt, kill, and steal everything that is good in our lives (John 10:10a). What do you do when the beast has you in its jaws and is carrying you off? What do you do when it seems you are going under for the last time? What do you do when everything seems to be going wrong and nothing seems to work? Martina’s little brother had the right idea. Most likely it is time for a distraction. Something is needed to take the beast’s mind off of you.
James says that we should submit ourselves to God. As humbly and best that we know how we should come before God in the Name of Jesus asking for His help. We are told what will happen in Hebrews 2:18 which says, "For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted." The word aid has been translated as help, succor, or a more literal translation is "run to the cry." Now that will get that old beast’s attention when the Lord comes running to help!
Then James says we are to resist the devil. How did Jesus resist the devil in Matthew 4? He resisted the devil with the Word of God. We need to saturate our lives with the Word of God. We need to read it, memorize it, recite it, meditate on it, listen to it, and then we need to use it to defeat the enemy. It will then become the sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17). James says what will happen is that the devil will flee from us. Give that old devil a distraction and you too can escape from the jaws of the beast!
For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. - 2 Timothy 4:6-7.
A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of one’s birth. - Ecclesiastes 7:1.
What if you were in an elevator at the Empire State Building and the elevator cable snapped? What would your final thoughts be? Shamika Peterson and Joe Masoraca had that terrifying experience one Monday afternoon several years ago. Shamika said, "We were on our way down when all of a sudden the elevator dropped, like a bungee jump." "I was terrified." "I thought I was going to die." The elevator dropped 40 stories but Joe and Shamika were saved by an emergency breaking system, which stopped it at the fourth floor.
The apostle Paul’s death did not come suddenly. When he wrote the letter we know as 2 Timothy, he was facing execution as a follower of Jesus Christ and living in difficult circumstances. Since his encounter with the risen Lord on the road to Damascus he had lived each day for the Lord and his life since that encounter had been poured out for Christ. If Paul had suddenly faced death in a plunging elevator perhaps his thoughts would have been shorter as expressed in Philippians 1:21, "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain."
If you were to face death today what would your final thoughts be? Would you be thinking that you have fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith? If not, today could be the day of a new beginning for you. Paul had such a day on that road to Damascus (Acts 9) when everything changed. "Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me (Acts 9:1-4)?" "And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank (Acts 9:7-9)." Instead of persecuting the church Paul became a preacher, missionary, church planter, and writer of a large portion of the Bible through the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
Would God have to strike you blind or send an elevator plunging 40 stories to change the course of your life? I hope not. If Paul can change, you and I can change. Whatever time we have left of this life let us live it for Christ. Then our final thoughts will be similar to those of the apostle Paul who said, "For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain." Solomon understood this when he wrote that the day of your death is better than your birth. It can be. if you know the Lord Jesus as you Savior and live your life for Him.
Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him. - Psalm 126:5-6.
Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. - Luke 15:10.
The year was 1968. Picture the scene. A firefighter risking his life crawls through thick smoke of an apartment knowing that somewhere inside there is a baby. When a window broke, light came in, and then he saw the crib with the baby. The baby was unconscious, not breathing, and had no pulse. As the firefighter fled the apartment with the baby he began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. The baby, Evangeline Harper, survived, grew up to have six children. She works as an assistant in nursing and teaching. The firefighter, William Carroll, received a commendation and after 34 more years of dedicated service, retired.
Evangeline tried to find Carroll a few times over the years to thank him but was never able to do so until yesterday. Can you picture the scene? Evangeline says, "Thank you." Can you imagine the joy of William Carroll to see this 41-year-old woman who is successfully living life and now meeting not only her but one of her children? Evangeline was not sure that Carroll would even be interested in meeting her or would even remember. However, Carroll says that he would never forget even if he lived for a hundred more years. At the end of their meeting William Carroll remarked, "What a beautiful day!" With the reunion of Evangeline and Carroll we have a very small glimpse of the joy that awaits many in Heaven.
As Christians we often are saddened by the response that we receive when we attempt to share the Gospel. However, we continue to tell others about Jesus even though our witness is often rejected. We understand why the Psalmist speaks of the sower who goes forth "weeping." We understand why there are "tears" that are mentioned in the Psalm.
Why do we persist in witnessing, in sharing our faith in Jesus with others? Because we love the Lord, and it is not the Lord’s will "…that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9)." There is rejoicing in Heaven over every sinner who repents and if there is rejoicing then by the angels, there must also be sadness over those who reject the Lord. Just as the angels understand the consequences of that rejection we understand that too. Just as Heaven is forever, Hell is forever too, and there is no escape from Hell when you leave this life without knowing Jesus as your personal Savior. On his death bed Sir Thomas Scott, Chancellor of England said, "Until this moment I thought there was neither God nor hell, now I know that there are both, and I am doomed to perdition by the just judgment of the Almighty!"
Some bright glorious day in Heaven we will experience a reunion that will be even more wonderful than the one experienced by Evangeline Harper and William Carroll. It will be more wonderful because this will be a reunion that will be eternal. All those seeds that you have sown in tears, you will now see the fruit, the lives that were touched and saved. Oh, what a wondrously beautiful, glorious, joy filled day that will be!! Joy that will never end!!
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. - 1 Corinthians 15:58.
These are difficult days that we live in for millions of people. From the prayer requests being posted at the Burning Bush website there appears to be an increase in desperation and an increase in urgency. Here are a few quotes:
"I am struggling financially, emotionally, and physically…."
"Please pray for a miracle that my husband will find the job…."
"I am suffering emotionally, spiritually, financially. I am dead inside and I need a miracle to change my life."
"…pray for a financial miracle and healing in my body."
"Pray with me for financial break-through in my family."
"Please pray…that God will provide the money for my electric bill this month."
"Please pray for my son and his family. He is not working, his wife is carrying the load and now he has started using drugs."
I have only climbed very small mountains that some would consider hills. However, even looking at a small mountain prior to climbing it, we can see in our minds the problems, hazards, and expenditure of energy that will be necessary. Usually we overestimate how difficult the climbing will actually be. Dennis Proffitt a psychologist at the University of Virginia has actually performed a study which concluded that most people when standing at the bottom of a hill will believe the impending climb looks a lot more difficult than it really is.
Profitt in his study determined that people would consistently overestimate the slope of shallow hills. The people involved in the study would judge five-degree slopes to be about 20 degrees. According to Profitt there appears to be a mental protection mechanism at work here. The mental mechanism causes the eye to overestimate the task at hand, which helps prevent you from overexerting yourself.
In modern life the mountains we face are all too often not in the physical realm. However, they can be just as difficult to climb. It is easy to become discouraged in life. We can look at our work or the problems facing us and feel overwhelmed. It may only be a five-degree climb, but it looks completely vertical from where we stand. We face one problem after another, and they take a toil on our mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual stamina. As a result we may come to a standstill as far as doing anything for the Lord.
The apostle Paul would tell us to be steadfast, immovable always abounding in the work of the Lord. Yes, you may be facing another problem but most likely it is not as bad as you think. Your mind is telling you it cannot be done but Paul would say that you can do all things through Christ (Philippians 4:13). Believe it! One step at a time. One day at a time, climb your mountain with the Lord by your side. He will give you the strength, the courage, the wisdom, and provide whatever else you may need along the way (Philippians 4:19).
It is written, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God." - Matthew 4:4.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear! - Matthew 11:16; Matthew 13:9.
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 13:43.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. - 2 Timothy 4:3-4.
We read the words and we hear the words but do we really listen? Repeatedly, in the New Testament Jesus challenges us to use our ears to listen. If we are really listening then we will apply the words to our lives. In the case of Matthew 4:4 it would mean the intake of God’s Word just as frequently as we have our meals. I think we can agree we should read, study, and meditate on the Scriptures at least once a day. But do we do it?
Why would we want to give up our time and spend it in the Scriptures? If we do not eat physical food what happens? We grow weak physically. If we do not have our spiritual food, we will grow weak spiritually. When we grow weak physically we become susceptible to all kinds of physical ailments, and diseases. When we grow weak spiritually we become susceptible to the attacks of the devil, the allurements of the world, and the lust of the flesh.
Having a quiet time in which we spend time reading the Bible and praying is much like physical exercise. The time spent in physical exercise is returned to us in the need for less sleep, increased capacity for action, and a better overall quality of life. In much the same way, God provides the energy we need to seek Him. Time spent in prayer and reading the Bible is not time lost. Instead it seems to generate its own time with more energy and better quality of life.
We are now living in a world that has completely changed because of technology from what it was like only fifteen years ago. We now have worldwide access to the Internet, and billions of people who have cell phones. Every month there are new advances in technology that affect our personal lives. Along with all of this technology moral pressures have come which will destroy those who are not spiritually fit. The only way to be spiritually fit is to have a daily quiet time which includes reading, studying, and meditating upon the Scriptures and which also includes a meaningful time of prayer.
Do you currently have a daily quiet time? Before it is too late, please commit yourself to doing so. You need to make that commitment because if you are not spiritually fit there will come a time when you will not "endure sound doctrine," and you will turn your "ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables."
Learning to Fly
Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel: "My way is hidden from the Lord, and my just claim is passed over by my God"? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. - Isaiah 40:27-31.
When I was a boy a neighbor gave me a crow that was only a few weeks old. The baby crow only knew how to walk around and so when I thought he was old enough I decided that I would teach him how to fly. Using a ladder I climbed onto the roof of our house with the crow and then dropped him off the roof. He flapped his wings and landed softly. I climbed down and then climbed back up with the crow and dropped him off again. Again he flapped his wings and landed softly. I repeated the process several times until finally instead of landing he continued to flap his wings and flew over to a tree. He now knew how to fly.
The process for a mother eagle to teach her eaglets to fly is similar. With a nest high on the side of a mountain, the eaglet is pushed out and the natural response is for the wings to begin to move, to flap. Of course, eagles avoid flapping those wings any more than necessary. Eagles soar effortlessly on the currents of wind and that is the kind of flying that Isaiah has in mind and that the Lord will enable us to do.
How does God teach His children how to fly? A few years after I was married in a one year period I was laid off from three different jobs. After the third time, with a lot of time on my hands, I began to read through the New Testament for the first time and talk with God more than I ever had before. It took a push from God for me to begin the learning process. With God’s help, I made a crucial decision that led to more right decisions in the future. Ten years down the road I quit a job and borrowed $30,000 to start an oilfield pipe inspection business. It took a month to build the inspection unit, and then I began to try to find some jobs but after a month more I still had not had any business. My financial situation was looking very bleak, since even if I did succeed in finding some work it sometimes would take three months before receiving payment. However, I knew what to do. I had faced bad times, and difficult situations before. What did I do? I prayed…and God did the rest.
Learning to trust God is difficult for most people. Getting dropped off of a roof was probably scary for my crow. Getting nudged out of a nest on the side of a mountain by your mother must be unbelievably frightening but how else does an eagle learn how to fly? If you have been pushed out of your nest, or dropped off of the roof, and you are in freefall - here’s some advice: start flapping your wings! Read, memorize, and meditate upon God’s Word. Pray like your life depends on it because it probably does. If you are not in church, you need to be. If you are not serving God, you ought to be. If you flap your wings hard enough you may eventually gain some altitude and begin to soar. "…those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint."
So the Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it." - Genesis 4:8.
For the wages of sin is death. - Romans 6:23a.
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. - John 10:10a.
In San Francisco, a man with a meat cleaver ran down a busy street hitting and slashing those in his way. Two women were hospitalized with head and neck injuries. A police officer also suffered injuries when he attempted to subdue the man who had a history of mental illness.
The story about the crazy man with the meat cleaver reminded me of when I was a parole officer. One of my clients had a new found friend and had moved in with him. I tried to warn my client that his new friend had mental problems, and I took extraordinary measures to protect my client from his friend. My client’s new friend had once been arrested after neighbors called reporting he was chasing his unclothed pregnant girlfriend down the street in the middle of the night with a butcher knife. My client did not really understand why he had to find some place else to live until a few weeks later. A few weeks later my client’s new friend broke into a home and robbed a family at knifepoint.
Sin is like a crazy man with a meat cleaver who wants to destroy you. God told Cain, "sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you...." Sin is not reasonable. Sin is unreasonable and therefore, you cannot negotiate or compromise with it. Sin tears down and destroys our lives in every possible way. The end result of sin is death, and it destroys those around us just as Cain killed his own brother. One of the reasons we do not prosper (Not just financial prosperity.) is sin. Sin robs us of blessings and starves our souls. The Bible makes this clear. Here are two verses, which speak of this:
"Your iniquities have turned these things away, and your sins have withheld good from you (Jeremiah 5:25)."
"Thus says God: ‘Why do you transgress the commandments of the Lord, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, He also has forsaken you (2 Chronicles 24:20).’"
Overcoming temptation, however, results in blessing. As James writes, "Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him (James 1:12)."
A temptation that leads to sin is usually very appealing and alluring. The true nature of a temptation is usually not so obvious. So, the next time you are tempted, remember your temptation is worse than a crazy man with a meat cleaver, and he is trying to destroy you, your family, and everything that you love and care about.
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like. - Galatians 5:19-21a.
The grocery stores in Yardley, Pennsylvania had a problem with someone purposely mutilating food. No, they were not squeezing the Charmin but they were crumbling the cookies. They were also squeezing or mashing the loaves of bread. The masher struck again and again. He went on squeezing and mashing dozens of times with the total damage estimated at $8000. It was such a problem a cookie company finally put up a hidden camera to catch the villain. The cookie masher was finally caught and his attorney had this to say "I squeeze bread when I go to the store, but I don’t get arrested for it."
It is hard to understand why someone would purposefully destroy food products but than there are others who do worse things. Today the Tylenol poisonings from back in the early 1980s are in the news again. Someone put cyanide in Tylenol capsules and seven unsuspecting people died as a result of the crime. There are some people who delight in purposefully destroying lives. They simply enjoy being mean. Stabbing someone in the back is their idea of fun. "Why be nice when you can be mean?" seems to be their motto for living life. "Why give an inch when you can push someone down?" appears to be how they operate on a daily basis. "Why say something kind when you can criticize?" must be their mindset.
Being mean on purpose is in direct opposition to most of the qualities listed as being the fruit of the Spirit which all Christians should have in Galatians 5:22-23: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." Just because others are being mean does not justify our acting in the same way. We are called to a different standard. It is a standard called the Christian life, and we ought to follow the example of Jesus. In Acts 10:38 we are told this about Jesus, "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil." Jesus "went about doing good," and we should to do the same.
Instead of being mean we are to be kind, loving, peaceful, joyful, good, longsuffering, and gentle. It is the only kind of lifestyle, which will overwhelm and conquer the mean spirited people of this world. Turning the other cheek and going the extra mile (Matthew 5:38-42) are not the most popular of behaviors in the 21st Century. However, turning the other cheek and going the extra mile are behaviors which God will use in a powerful way in the lives of those on the receiving end of those actions. Instead of being mean on purpose, let us be nice on purpose. Let us always strive to do good just as Jesus would want us to do.
For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are. - 1 Corinthians 1:25-28.
David McCullough wrote an article some time ago discussing presidential power saying that it is the unseen characteristics of former presidents which gave them their greatness. In Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s "The Little Prince" there is a scene when the fox says that what’s essential is invisible. Here are some of the invisible characteristics McCullough mentions: integrity, depth of soul, and courage. David points out that our presidents have come in all shapes and sizes. Some have had great educational experiences and some have not. In other words, what really made these individuals great would not be found in words or a photo on a resume.
It appears to be the same with the great people of the Bible. People like Gideon and David. They were the least of their families. But God knew their hearts, their inner essence, which towered above others around them. They had usable hearts. Some like David and Timothy were too young in the eyes of the world but God used them anyway. Some had hearts like that of Isaiah which said, "here I am Lord send me." Some had hearts like Gideon and Moses. They thought they were unusable but once God touched their lives they were unstoppable.
Many churches are searching for pastors, but they are looking with the eyes of the world. If Jesus were to submit a resume to your church you would most likely reject it. Why? Because He had no formal education and His only work background prior to ministry was as a lowly carpenter. He also came from a little obscure place called Nazareth. Even after He began His ministry, He did not go to seminary, and He just wandered around from place to place with His little cult of followers. Most churches today would not be all that interested in having the apostle Paul as their pastor either. Of course, Paul did have the benefit of having the finest education available at the time. However, Paul was domineering, opinionated, intolerant, and he had an unsavory past having persecuted Christians. He also had a prison record. Who would want a person like that to be their pastor?
The point being that before we consider others unusable or unqualified we need to consider what God thinks. In addition, before you consider yourself, unusable or unqualified, you need to know what God thinks.
You shall not tempt the Lord your God. - Matthew 4:7.
Do not be overly wicked, nor be foolish: why should you die before your time? - Ecclesiastes 7:17.
A fool has no delight in understanding, But in expressing his own heart. - Proverbs 18:2.
The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." - Psalm 14:1; Psalm 53:1.
You have to wonder why people do the things they do. Here are some examples:
A lawyer and two buddies were fishing on Caddo Lake in Texas when a lightning storm hit the lake. Most of the other boats immediately headed for the shore, but not our friend the lawyer. Alone at the rear of his aluminum bass boat with his buddies, he stood up spread his arms wide (crucifixion style) and shouted: "HERE I AM LORD, LET ME HAVE IT!" God delivered. The other two passengers on the boat survived the lightning strike with minor burns. You would have to think that this was not only being foolish but also tempting God. Also, for those of you who have been thinking that there is no God.maybe you ought to rethink that.
Then there are the two guys playing catch with a rattlesnake. You can guess what happened. One of the Alabama men died from the rattlesnake bites. The friend was hospitalized. Again you would have to say this was being foolish and dying before your time. If they were depending upon God to protect them, it would be tempting God as well.
Most of us are not going to do such things so obviously foolish as to stand in an aluminum boat during a lighting storm or play catch with rattlesnakes. Somewhere along the way our parents, teachers, or life has taught us better than to do something like that. However, we are foolish and tempt God in more subtle ways. It may be that we drive too fast or carelessly. Do we buckle our seat belts? There is overwhelming evidence that seat belts save lives and after all for most of us, it is the law. Then there are our personal health habits. What do we eat and drink? Is it healthy or unhealthy? Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16). 1 Corinthians 3:17 says, "If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are." Do you think that smoking, drinking, using illegal substances, and abusing legal substances might be defilement of the "temple of the Holy Spirit," perhaps even tempting God? You can probably think of many other ways in which we are foolish and tempt God.
Just in case you are ever tempted Eagle's Rock African Safari Zoo would want you to be warned about one thing. They would want you to know that super gluing both hands to the rear end of a rhino can be not only dangerous but also very unpleasant. The man who did this lived, but they had given Sally the rhino some laxative just prior to his foolish move. Very unpleasant!
I think we can see that we can live much longer lives simply by not being foolish and not tempting God. Because, you see, there is a God.
For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. - Psalm 139:13-15.
My great-grandfather’s last name was Marical but one of his grandsons pronounced the name, "Miracle" and some branches of the family do spell the name that way. My mother’s cousin, Winifred Marical, told his pastor that he was "a walking, talking miracle." At his funeral the pastor said he did not know that Winifred’s last name was actually spelled, Marical, because he had always said that he was "a walking, talking miracle" and he had been Winifred’s pastor for twenty years.
What is a miracle? It is an extraordinary event or thing unexplainable by human means. That’s my definition but I think that most people will agree with it. Every person on this earth is "a walking, talking miracle,” even those who are unable to walk or talk because they are alive and that is a miracle. In comparison to every other creature on this earth the human being is extraordinary and marvelous. Even with all of the scientific advances that have been made, man can still not create life of any kind much less create a human being. The human body has yet to be reverse engineered successfully. I would submit to you that even if man could build a human being exactly like another human being on this earth that it still would not become a living thing because only God can give life. We know all of the elements that make up a flower seed but we still cannot make one from scratch and make it grow into a flower.
Dr. John Medina, genetic engineer, University of Washington, in a 1995 lecture at Multnomah Bible College, Portland, Oregon said, "The average human heart pumps over 1,000 gallons a day, over 55 million gallons in a lifetime. This is enough to fill 13 super tankers. It never sleeps, beating 2.5 billion times in a lifetime. The lungs contain 1,000 miles of capillaries. The process of exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide is so complicated that it is more difficult to exchange O2 for CO2 than for a man shot out of a cannon to carve the Lord’s Prayer on the head of a pin as he passes by."
The heart and the lungs are extraordinary creations but there is also the brain, and the thumb, and so many other incredible things that are contained in the body of a human being. There are so many things that are still beyond our understanding that are contained within the human body. Knowing the incredible intricacies of our own bodies how can anyone deny that there is a Creator? The Psalmist said it very well, "I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well." Praise God because you are alive, you have life, and that is a miracle!
"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?" Jesus said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment." - Matthew 22:36-38.
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. - Matthew 6:33.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. - 1 John 2:14-15.
Sunday night is the Super Bowl in football and we all know where we will be Sunday night. We will be watching football, the glitter of the halftime show, and all of those million dollar commercials. Now, a few of you are thinking, "…not me, I’m going to be at church listening to my pastor preach another wonderful sermon." Some of you pastors are thinking, "…not me, I’m going to be preaching another sermon while that football game is being played." You know, that football game does not matter to me at all. I don’t care who wins it. Of course, my favorite team is not playing this year!
Sometimes reality creeps into the picture when we are talking about loving God, and we have to do more than just talk about it. Sometimes we have to actually demonstrate our love for God. During the summer it may be that instead of spending two days at the lake on the weekend that we just spend one day so that we can attend church on Sunday. During a basketball season, we may have to make a stand and on Wednesday nights attend church even though there is a basketball tournament planned for that night. Instead of taking off for a weekend of hunting maybe one day would be enough so that we can still be in church on Sunday. In the past schools and other programs would not dare to plan an activity on a Sunday or a Wednesday that would conflict with church services. Those days are long past because very few people wanted to demonstrate their actual love for God by making the choice to attend church instead of those other activities.
Those choices and demonstration of love for God pale in comparison to the demonstrations that many have had to make in the past and still make today. In the roll call of the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11 we read at the end of the chapter, "Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented - of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth (Hebrews 11:35-38)." Many still today have to demonstrate their faith in ways that result sometimes in their torture or even death. Persecution dot org states that there are some 200 million Christians who suffer for their faith every day.
Do you really love God? Or, do you just talk about it?
Hope for the Hopeless
Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited. - Jeremiah 17:5-6.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit. - Jeremiah 17:7-8.
At the end of December 2008 there were 11.1 million people that were unemployed in the United States according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In December alone, 632,000 lost their jobs. During the first week of January, New York’s unemployment system crashed when as many as 10,000 people an hour tried to file unemployment claims. In addition, to the known unemployed there are also those who are underemployed. The underemployed may be working but earning much less than they were previously, or working many less hours than they did previously. From my searches on Google the rising unemployment rates appear to be occurring globally and not just in the United States.
Stu Schweitzer a global markets strategist said, "People say they know how bad the economy is, but they don’t know how it feels to have the reality hit home." How do you continue to have hope and faith when the reality of economic disaster hits your own home? How do you continue on in what may appear to be impossible circumstances? How do you keep from just giving up?
Researchers in Illinois and Maryland have found that people with strong religious faith are less likely to suffer clinical depression. They found strong religious faith had an even greater impact on reducing hopelessness, which typically accompanies and can cause depression. Jeremiah relayed a message from God stating in vivid terms much the same thing. If you are without hope and clinically depressed you will be "like a shrub in the desert." Even when good comes you will not recognize it, and you will "inhabit the parched places in the wilderness." But if you trust in the Lord and the Lord is your hope, you will instead be like "a tree planted by the waters." Even when the bad times, the "drought" comes those trusting in the Lord will not be "anxious."
This passage in Jeremiah reminds me of Psalm 1 and from this, we see how we can increase our faith and our hope even during the most difficult of times. From where does eternal life come? From the living water of our God (John 4:10). In Revelation 22 John sees this vision: "And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb." The waters Jeremiah and the Psalmist are referring to are the waters of life flowing from God. To increase our faith and hope we must put down our roots deep into the things of God growing ever closer to Him.
"Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13)."
And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. - Colossians 1:17-18.
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.
These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. - 1 Timothy 3:14-15.
Last Sunday, one 23-year-old ended up unexpectedly going to church in Limbach-Oberfrohna in eastern Germany. The driver missed a curve going through a guardrail and then up an embankment where the car was launched into the air for over a hundred feet before crashing through and lodging in the roof a church. The driver was rescued from the vehicle and taken to the hospital but the current condition is unknown. What a ride that must have been!
Early last Saturday morning in St. Clair Shores, Michigan, Robert Schumake (43-years-old) was driving while intoxicated and crashed into the Bethel Lutheran Church destroying a $10,000 stained glass window. Last year, Roman Zeferino (48-years-old) was teaching himself how to drive in Covington, Louisiana when he lost control of the Ford Explorer and crashed into the Iglesia de Dios Ebenezer Church. Earlier this month in Avoca, Pennsylvania a driver crashed into the United Methodist Church. The driver fled the scene and may face charges.
Have you ever heard the old saying, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink?" You can lead a person to church, but you can’t make him attend either. Even though I once had a vision of a church and a few hours later my car broke down in front that church it was still several years later before I began attending church faithfully. It was not because I didn’t know I should be in church, I just did not go.
Now just to be clear the church building is not the church. Believers are the church; however, a place where believers regularly attend is a special place because of the presence and prayers of believers. Prayers are often said for those entering into a church building and for those passing by a church building.
Why should anyone want to attend church, assemble with other believers? The first and really only reason that matters is that God says that we ought to. It is not a suggestion in the Book of Hebrews but a command that we attend church. Whose idea was it to have church? It was God’s idea. The church is "…the pillar and ground of the truth." Jesus Christ is the "…head of the body, the church…."
While God will not force you to attend church, He will try to obtain your attention about your need to attend. You may not crash through a guardrail and fly through the air to land inside of church, but He may speak to you about it in His still, small voice. God may not give you a vision, but He may send a friend who will ask you to come to church with them. Is it God’s will for you to attend church? The answer for every believer is "Yes!" Have no doubt about that and when you fail to attend church you are outside of God’s will for your life, unless there is some unforeseen event or some condition that prevents your doing so.
My only regret about church attendance is of the years that I did not attend. How much more quickly I would have grown in the Lord and would have much sooner found God’s will for my life if I had only been in church during those years. Are you seeking God’s will for your life? Then, make sure that you obey those things that you know are His will like attending church. You will find His will for other things in your life much sooner if you are in church. Make a commitment to be obedient in church attendance, and I promise you will never regret it. Every believer ought to be a lover of the church.
Hear now, O heads of Jacob, and you rulers of the house of Israel: is it not for you to know justice? You who hate good and love evil; who strip the skin from My people, and the flesh from their bones. - Micah 3:1-2. Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, "Entreat the Lord that He may take away the frogs from me and from my people; and I will let the people go, that they may sacrifice to the Lord." And Moses said to Pharaoh, "Accept the honor of saying when I shall intercede for you, for your servants, and for your people, to destroy the frogs from you and your houses, that they may remain in the river only." So he said, "Tomorrow." And he said, "Let it be according to your word, that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God. And the frogs shall depart from you, from your houses, from your servants, and from your people. They shall remain in the river only." - Exodus 8:8-11.
Last week in Boca Raton, Florida, Henry Farrell (46-years-old) was arrested again. This makes 189 times that Henry has been arrested, again. This time Farrell tried a carjacking outside of a coffee shop during which he threatened to kill the driver. For this latest offense Farrell is being held on charges of carjacking, possession of marijuana, and possession of paraphernalia. Farrell has been arrested in the past for drug possession, retail theft, fraud, grand theft, and other charges. In Farrell’s defense, it is said that he is bi-polar. However, there are a vast number of people suffering from being bi-polar who have not been arrested 190 times.
Some have developed a love of evil. They hate what is good and love the bad. Solomon speaks of this in the Book of Proverbs where he writes: "Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn away from it and pass on. For they do not sleep unless they have done evil; and their sleep is taken away unless they make someone fall. For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence (Proverbs 4:14-17)." There are some who love what is bad and only live so that they can do more evil.
How did the evil lovers become what they are? How did they end up in this condition? Maybe it was because they wanted one more night with the frogs. In the Book of Exodus, Pharaoh resists the will of God for the Hebrews to be set free. Each time Pharaoh resists, another plague comes upon the Egyptians (but not on the Hebrews). The water of the Nile River has been turned to blood but still Pharaoh resists. Then a plague of frogs come upon the Egyptians. There are frogs covering nearly every inch of the land and in their houses and the palace of Pharaoh. Everywhere they turned, everywhere they stepped, there were frogs and more frogs. It must have been miserable but when Moses asked Pharaoh when he wanted the frogs to be removed, he said, not today, not tonight, no, Pharaoh said, "Tomorrow." Pharaoh wanted one more night with the frogs. Maybe that is where it begins. We want just one more hour, one more day, one more night with our sin and the result is that we want another, and another until we end up like Henry Farrell or worse. As Solomon says, "The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble (Proverbs 4:19)."
Solomon gives us instruction as to how to escape the fate of the lovers of evil who want one more night with the frogs. Solomon says, "Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn away from it and pass on (Proverbs 4:14-15)." There is a better way to live. You do not have to live with the frogs! As Solomon describes that better way, "…the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day (Proverbs 4:19)." Don’t spend another night with frogs! Ask the Lord to take those frogs away today and step onto the path that "shines ever brighter unto the perfect day."
Who is Worth Saving?
But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. - 2 Peter 3:8-10.
Barry Baker thought that he was having a heart attack and called the emergency number for help. Baker was 59 years old, lived alone and was disabled after having hip replacement surgery. When the emergency personnel arrived at Baker’s home the telephone line to emergency services was still open. The two emergency personnel that responded to the call discussed the poor condition of the house and reportedly said, "words to the effect that he was not worth saving." They decided that Mr. Baker was not worth the trouble of trying to resuscitate, and that they would tell supervisors that the man was already dead when they arrived. The entire conversation was recorded over the open line. The personnel involved were arrested for failure to perform "a duty in public office."
The two emergency services personnel involved in the above event decided that they would act as God and determined that Barry Baker was not worth saving. I wonder how many other times they have made similar decisions and were not caught? Did they really not think the man was worth saving or were they just lazy and not want to do their job?
The great evangelist Dwight L. Moody wrote, "For the last eleven years I have not let a day pass without saying something to somebody of Christ. Make it a rule that never a day pass without speaking for Christ. People won't like it. If you are a living witness for Christ it makes people mad against you. You will suffer persecution, and be spoken against, and yet they will send for such a man first when they are in trouble or on their death-bed." Moody tells a story of it being late in the day, and he had yet to share Christ with anyone. As he was walking trying to find someone he encountered a big rough looking man and thought to himself that it would be a waste of time to share Christ with a man like that. However, since there was no one else around, Moody stopped the man and told him about Jesus. To the great surprise of Moody, the man immediately gave his life to Christ with many tears.
Have you ever thought that it would be a waste of time to share Jesus with someone? Have you failed to take advantage of an opportunity to tell someone about what Jesus means to you because you thought they would not respond? Do you look at some young people and think because of the way they are dressed, or by the way that they are acting, or by their piercings and tattoos that they would not want a relationship with the Lord? Do you see older people talking with rough language and think they could never come to know the Lord? When we fail to share Christ with others are we not doing something very similar to what those two emergency personnel did with Mr. Baker? Are we not taking the place of God and saying that they are not worthy of eternal life?
Who is it that is worthy of eternal life? Who should we share Jesus with? The apostle Peter says, "The Lord is not…willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." Who is it that the Lord would have to be saved? The answer is "all." The Lord wants "all" to be saved. Some may reject our witness and the witness of the Holy Spirit through us, but it is not up to us to try to determine in advance who will receive the Lord or who will reject the Lord. Because it is not the Lord’s will that "any should perish."
Prayer Changes Things
And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, "Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him." Then Jesus answered and said, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me." And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it out?" So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there, ’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting." - Matthew 17:14-21.
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! - Matthew 7:7-11.
For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. - 1 Corinthians 3:9.
We are "fellow workers" with God and one of the ways that we are to work spiritually is through prayer. Prayer changes things because God has chosen, ordained it to be so. If we want to make a difference in this world we ought to be praying about everything, all the time, all day long - "pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17)." The world around you is shaped by the prayers that you pray or by the lack of prayers that you pray.
Prayer can change things physically. There have been several scientific studies which indicate that prayer is effective in bringing about healing. The website, God and Science dot org, quotes the results of three specific studies which revealed that prayer is effective in reducing congestive heart failure, reducing the amount of medication required, preventing pneumonia, reducing the number of cardiac arrests and the frequency of intubation/ventilation. Another study indicated prayer reduced the length of the hospital stay for those with bloodstream infections. You can read more about these and other studies at http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/prayer.html You can also read the Testimony of Frank Johnson at my website. God healed his wife and also changed him. Here is the link http://www.theburningbush.net/apps/articles/default.asp? articleid=32424& columnid=1873
Prayer will change those around you. While I was a Probation and Parole Officer and for the years, since I have been praying for my clients. Every so often, I will encounter one of them and have been encouraged to hear them tell me how their lives are better now. They tell me about their jobs and their families, and I can only praise God because I know that He is the One who has changed their lives. Of course, there are many whose lives appear to have been unaffected by prayer, but I continue to pray for them.
Prayer will change you. God has changed my life through prayer. A simple little prayer that you can expand and enlarge is the Prayer of Jabez. Asking for God’s blessings upon your life is asking for His will to be done in your life. Asking for God to keep you from evil so that you will not cause pain in the lives of others is asking for His guidance. If you have problems, pray about them and ask others to pray too. Why? Because Prayer Changes Things!!!
Change You can Believe
Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" And he said, "Who are You, Lord?" Then the Lord said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads." So he, trembling and astonished, said, "Lord, what do You want me to do?" Then the Lord said to him, "Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do." And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. - Acts 9:1-9.
Is there anything or anyone that can really change someone’s life on a permanent basis? Is that possible? I have known many people, and you probably have too, who have made New Year Resolutions to turn over a new leaf and start living right who did not even keep the resolution for a day much less for a week or for the rest of their lives. I think I can probably include myself in that group along with the other failures. Because of that we are skeptical when hearing someone say that their life has changed, or we hear about someone whose life appears to have changed. We question, doubt, whether it is true and based on our own experience, we have reason to do so.
The amazing thing that we see in the Bible is that people really do change. Perhaps the most dramatic example is that of the apostle Paul. Saul as he was known then was on his way to Damascus to persecute the Christians there when Jesus in a brilliant light appeared to him in such a powerful way that he was blinded and fell to the ground. Saul did go to Damascus but because of his blindness, he was led there. Ananias prayed for Saul and after spending a few days with the disciples we see a shocking thing: "Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. Then all who heard were amazed, and said, ‘Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?’ But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Christ." By the time of his first missionary journey Saul had become known as Paul (Acts 13:9). What changed Saul the persecutor into Paul the apostle, evangelist, and missionary? Jesus. Jesus is the One who changed him.
Even with Jesus we have our doubts. We know people who have made public decisions in a church somewhere and the next day went out and committed some terrible crime. One of my former clients did that nearly beating his girlfriend to death. What is the difference in the decision made by that man and the one made by Saul? The difference is in the heart. It comes down to whether we are serious and in that moment of time truly repent, commit, and mean it when we invite Christ Jesus into our hearts and lives. Jesus is the only One who can truly change a hardened religious persecutor like Saul into an apostle. When Saul realized the truth that he had been wrong and that Jesus was actually God, at that point Saul wanted to change. We have to reach the same point as Saul did and that is that we really want to change. Then, in our heart of hearts we believe upon Jesus unto salvation (Romans 3:22). That is change that we can really believe.
What Kind of Change?
When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place. - 2 Chronicles 7:13-15.
President Obama has promised to bring change to our country, and we do hope and pray that it will be the kind of change that will mend some of the divides in our country and not make those divisions greater. We all hope and pray that for so many who are hurting from the economic crisis that there will be a change that will bring jobs and relief from the financial pain. We know about the changes that the United States needs but what about the changes that we need in our personal lives, or the changes that are sometimes needed in our churches?
I have reached the point several times in my life when I said to myself, "I have to change." I talk to people and receive emails and messages almost daily that say they are going to change, or they want to change, or that they need to change - change the way they are living. However, we must be careful how we actually change and how the change is brought about. There is an old saying, "Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water." I am not sure of the origin of the saying, but it is one that I have heard many times. The meaning appears to be clear when applied to our lives, our churches, our nation, and to the changes we need to make. When we are cleaning the house of our lives make sure that you do not throw out that which is of the most value. The apostle Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15, "But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle."
Whether it is our nation, our church, or our own personal lives we must hold onto our Christian values. Yes, we may desperately need change in all three of those areas but let us not "throw the baby out with the bath water." Our nation was founded upon Christian values and principles. It was not founded upon the values of any other religion. To remove all things Christian from our nation will result in removing what has made our nation great. Our churches may need change, but we must still preach Christ and Him crucified. We may need to change personally but that change should draw us nearer to our Lord Jesus and not farther away.
Here is the formula for change that we can really believe in: "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14)."
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. - Genesis 1:1.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. - John 1:1-4.
Today with the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama II as President of the United States there is a sense of historic change in the events of the inauguration. Indeed, President Obama’s administration will give us change of some type. Countless millions are hopeful that there will be changes that will be favorable to them and their dreams that will be brought about by the new administration. However, there are many millions who are less hopeful and even fearful about what the new administration will bring about. To this point following the election most of those who say that they are fearful about what is ahead will agree that they have been pleased and to some extent relieved by many of the actions of the President Elect. You can be certain though that those with far reaching hopes and dreams for this new administration and those who are fearful will find that not all that they hoped for or were fearful about will actually occur. However, there will be changes. Some of those changes may appear to be good by some and bad by others. Of course, life is like that; there will always be changes that will force us to make adjustments of one kind or another.
Change is in the air and for some it has been a grim reality of life as they have faced financial devastation with their savings wiped out and their dreams of retirement moved into the future. Many others have lost their homes and unknown numbers are without homes of any kind simply living on the streets, or wherever they can. Some of us have encountered health problems for ourselves or our loved ones. Those problems are compounded by the high cost of health care in the United States and by many being uninsured. A few million people have lost their jobs and are being forced to make changes they perhaps never thought they would have to make. We all hope that the new President will be able soften the blow that some of these changes have brought into the lives of so many. Let us all do as the apostle Paul encouraged in 1 Timothy 2:1-4, "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."
Change can be difficult as one anonymous person once noted: "My great-grandfather rode a horse, but was afraid of the train. My grandfather rode on a train, but was afraid of cars. My Dad rode in a car, but was afraid of airplanes. I fly in airplanes, but I’m afraid of horses." While it is difficult, some people accept change and others view change with fear. My grandmother (My Dad’s mother) had a driver’s license in the 1920s but my step-grandmother never learned to drive.
While change is inevitable and we are constantly encountering change in one form or another, there is One who does not change. God does not change as He says in Malachi 3:6a, "For I am the Lord, I do not change." The writer of Hebrews says, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8)." From before the foundation of the world there was God. In the beginning, to the end, and forever there will always be God. God is the only sure thing in this world that will never ever change. To successfully cope with changes, whether those changes affect us negatively or positively, that we continually encounter in this life - we need to hold on to the unchangeable God who is the Lord of all.
The Stranger’s Voice
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the door keeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers. - John 10:1-5.
Following the wrong voice can cause you much trouble and pain as one little boy found out in Auburn, California. The little boy had gone to a dental complex with his two teenage sisters, and they left him in a play area for children. While they were gone the little boy’s name was called, and he followed. They put him into a dental chair, injected him with Novocain, X-rayed him and removed two front teeth. It was the wrong boy! There were two other boys with the same name in the play area. The family filed a lawsuit in Placer County Superior Court.
Adam and Eve had a somewhat similar experience listening to the voice of a snake with legs. It looks like there would have been a clue there somewhere? Much pain and heartache has followed for all of us because of their choosing to follow the wrong voice. Jesus made the right choice (Matthew 4) when he rejected the voice of the devil and all of his temptations. But the voice of the stranger is often very attractive. The fruit of the tree appeared good to eat to Adam and Eve. The devil offered Jesus the kingdoms of the world. I wonder whether the little boy was tempted with a small toy like some dentists have in their office?
During one Christmas season, I heard there was a garbage strike that affected an affluent neighborhood. Bags of garbage were piling up in the alleys and along the curbs. It was becoming ugly with the smell of it all but one man found a way to have his garbage removed. He wrapped his garbage up in Christmas wrapping paper and left it on his front porch at night. In the morning thieves would always have it removed. The voice of the stranger wraps his words in the most tempting things. But if you look closely you will see what the stranger is offering is still just garbage.
The voice of the stranger is the voice of the robber and the thief. As Jesus says, "The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy (John 10:10a)." The spiritual thief comes to rob you of life, to rob you of your best life and to replace it with garbage. Jesus instead comes to give you life; and not just any kind of life, He comes to give you the abundant life, the best life.
Listen very closely before following the voice calling your name. Is the one calling a stranger, robber, and thief or is it the voice of the Good Shepherd, the Prince of Life (Acts 3:15)?
Fulfilling Your Purpose
Then Esther spoke to Hathach, and gave him a command for Mordecai: "All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that any man or woman who goes into the inner court to the king, who has not been called, he has but one law: put all to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter, that he may live. Yet I myself have not been called to go in to the king these thirty days." So they told Mordecai Esther’s words. And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: "Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" - Esther 4:10-14.
Esther had won the royal beauty contest and had become the queen taking the place of Queen Vashti who had fallen into disfavor with King Ahasuerus. God’s purpose for Esther’s life was not just for her to be a queen. No, the evil Haman hated the Jews and especially Mordecai. Haman hatched a plan to cause the extermination of the Jews and the enrichment of himself in wealth and power. God’s purpose for Esther’s life was for her to intervene with the King to stop the fulfillment of Haman’s evil scheme. As Mordecai told Esther, "…who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" God knew and He used Esther to save her people.
Yesterday, in the "Miracle on the Hudson" God used Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III to save 150 people. As more than one person said, Sully was the right person in the right place at the right time. Sully had flown F4’s in the Air Force, has been an airline pilot for 29 years, is certified as a glider pilot, and had been studying crisis management. For all those years as a pilot very little of an extraordinary nature had occurred in Sully’s career. He had been a very competent pilot doing his job to the best of his ability for many years. Then, in a few short minutes of time all of his life experience was needed and used to save all of those lives.
God has so many of His servants who are living obscure lives and many who are living in obscure places doing less than exciting and fulfilling work. However, God knows exactly where all of His servants are, and what they are doing. He has a plan for each of our lives, and we should always seek to be the right person, in the right place at the right time for Him to use. You should always be sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit, alert to what is happening around you because God may suddenly intervene and need you to be the servant that He uses.
Seek and pray for the fulfillment of God’s will, plan and purpose in your life because only God knows "…whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this." It was Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger III’s time yesterday. It may be your time today.
A Listening Heart
Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. - Ephesians 4:29-32.
Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice: "Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness." - Psalm 95:6-8.
Doctors have the evidence that if they lend an empathetic ear to caregivers of the terminally ill it will reduce their depression and make the situation more bearable for the dying. According to the study when doctors listened to the caregivers it significantly reduced the depression of the caregivers. The study also found that patients who felt their doctors were not empathetic were more likely to consider euthanasia or doctor-assisted suicide. Terminally ill patients were less likely to feel guilty about the burden they placed on others when their caregivers had a more positive attitude.
If listening along with kind and encouraging words will make such a difference in these difficult situations what would it accomplish in everyday life? Just a few kind words and a listening ear could radically change for the better marriages, workplaces, churches, families, and every area of human interaction. To listen to someone, really listen, makes a difference. As Christians while we listen, we can also pray, and while we pray the Holy Spirit is able to speak words we could never say.
When loved ones have passed away it is often difficult to know what to say to the family. Most likely they will not remember the words so much as that you were there with them. Some pastors have reported families thanking them for words that they know they did not say. But they knew the Holy Spirit had spoken words of comfort beyond anything they could have said themselves.
How can we develop a heart that is emphatic toward others and really listens? There are a great number of interpersonal communication training courses which are helpful to some extent. However, to be supernaturally effective with our listening skills God must be included. This means that we must first listen to God, and then we will be able to effectively listen to the hurting people that we encounter. The question asked by the Psalmist is a question that we need to ask ourselves each day and especially when we seek to minister to those who are hurting. That question is, "…if you will hear His voice: Do not harden your hearts…." In other words will you listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit as He gives you insight, direction and words to say or will you be cold hearted and interact with others in only your own strength and knowledge? The impact of the difference between those two types of listening can be an eternal difference.
Is there someone in your life you need to listen to today? I have always had a rule that when people are pouring out their hearts I need to take the time to let them. Just a few minutes of compassionate listening and a few kind words can change the course of lives.
In The Long Run
My Son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. - Proverbs 4:20-22.
Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil. - Proverbs 4:26-27.
In 1967, Bo Black was a 21-year-old cheerleader at the University of Wisconsin. Playboy magazine came to the Madison campus that year to photograph women of the Big Ten Conference. Bo Black was on the cover of the magazine for that issue. Thirty-three years later Bo Black was the director of Milwaukee’s Summerfest music festival when Kellyn, Bo’s 20-year-old daughter, was out shopping and was shocked to see her mother’s photo (the same one that was on the cover of the 1967 Playboy magazine) on a shower curtain. She bought the curtain and counted her mother’s picture on it twenty-two times.
Stephanie is Bo’s oldest daughter, and she was looking through a Playboy catalog at a friend’s when she saw her mother’s photo on a shirt. A Playboy magazine spokesman said that Bo Black had most likely signed away any of her rights to the photo. The spokesman made this statement: "For the most part, Playboy retains all the rights to the photos it uses. We can use the photos in any way we want."
Now about nine years after Kellyn’s discovery of her mother’s Playboy photos she is following in her mother’s footsteps and has auditioned for the 55th edition of Playboy’s centerfold. A decision more than 40 years ago still affects and in a way overshadows the life of Bo Black. What a lesson to all of us about the long lasting consequences of the decisions we make today.
Far more shocking is the decision by Natalie Dylan to auction off her virginity. She has appeared on CNN and her sister is a prostitute at a brothel in Nevada. It appears that the decision of her sister to be a prostitute has led Natalie also into prostitution. Of course, it is said that the money will be used to pay for further education and financial stability. However, you have to wonder what effect it will have on any children that Natalie may one day have and grandchildren when they learn about what their mother or grandmother did. Will it lead them to do something even more shocking and degenerate?
The writer of Proverbs was so very right because each step, we make along the path of life is important. We should consider carefully whether our decisions are being made according to the Word of God. The only way to really do that is to so imbed God’s Word into our hearts and lives that we automatically do what is right. We are told in Proverbs to keep His Word before our eyes and in the midst of our hearts.
In the long run, what all of your friends are doing or all of your friends (or even family members) are saying you should do may not be the best option. In the long run, removing your feet from evil will bring blessing, joy, and life to you and very possibly to your descendants as well.
A Safe Landing
For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity. - Proverbs 24:16.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. - 1 Corinthians 15:58.
"His head was down, his feet were up, and he came whizzing by screaming." Chris Hoyle had looked out her window just in time to see Ken Larsen on the way down from the top of a five-story building. Larsen survived the fall with no broken bones and was only bruised and scraped.
Ken Larsen’s frightening fall seems to be a picture of many lives, which for a variety of reasons may go out of control. Many of the prayer requests we receive are from people whose lives appear to be rapidly heading for a crash landing. Some have financial problems, health problems, marital problems, job problems, sin problems or a combination of problems. So what do you do when you find your life coming apart, and you are falling?
Ken Larsen was on top of the building laying telecommunications cable. He was walking backward pulling on the cable and his co-worker was holding the spool feeding it out. When Ken stepped off the roof he still had the cable in his hands. He held on, gripping tighter and tighter, which broke his fall. He landed on his feet even though much of the fall was head first. Meanwhile back on the roof his co-worker leaned against the spool of cable trying to slow the rate the cable fed out.
The only thing that will slow our fall is to hang onto God. In 1 Corinthians 15:58 we are told, "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord...." To have a safe landing we must be steadfast, immovable in our confidence in God. It also helps as it did for Ken Larsen for others to be trying to slow our fall as well. It does make a difference when we do as the apostle exhorted us "that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men... (1 Timothy 2:1)."
If we want to have a safe landing we must be steadfast in our faith. No matter how bad it may seem that life has become or has the potential to become - always believe that God is the One, who can help you, who can change things. Persist in praying, and asking others to pray for you because it will make a difference. No matter what terrible or horrific things may happen to you or to your family always trust God, always believe that He loves you, and cares about you, because He does. He is the only One who has the power to bring good out of the bad whatever that may be (Romans 8:28). As the apostle Peter says in 1 Peter 5:7, put all of your anxiety, all of your cares upon God because He cares about you.
Fan into Flame
I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also. Therefore I remind you to stir up (fan into flame - NIV) the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. - 1 Timothy 1:3-7.
Veterans in Bullhead City, Arizona were able to raise the money and finally have built an “eternal” flame in the Arizona Veterans Memorial Park. However, according to the Mohave Daily News the flame was not so “eternal” as it was extinguished after the city received a gas bill for $961. The city manager, Tim Ernster, stated that, “It caught us by surprise. What we decided to do for the time being is to turn the flame on…for special events, for Veterans Day, Fourth of July, Memorial Day - those types of activities.” However, after complaints by veterans groups the flame is burning again. The city is looking into the possibility of installing a smaller burner to replace the one that is using so much gas.
The apostle Paul tells Timothy to “stir up the gift of God” or as the NIV puts it to “fan into flame the gift of God that is in you….” Timothy has a gift from God to minister; however, every child of God has a gift from God. Your gift may not be the same as Timothy’s gift but God has gifted you according to 1 Corinthians 7:7 which says, “…each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that.”
One thing that we can see from the language of stirring up or fanning into flame is that the gift can grow cold. Without use, without development, your gift can be virtually inoperable or unusable. The flame requires attention so that it will not go out. Sadly, many Christians do what the city council of Bullhead City wanted to do after they received the huge gas bill. Many Christians when they are confronted by challenges or difficulties in this life simply turn off the flame. Or, they just try to turn the flame on for special occasions when they think that it is expected.
For the flame to be burning brightly in our lives we must fan the flame. We fan the flame; stir it up by using the gift and by staying close to the source of the fire. If the fire has gone out it is more difficult to start than if it still has a flame even if it is very small. A fire needs oxygen and if you fan the flame you give it more oxygen which results in a bigger flame. For our own flame to burn brighter it needs more of Jesus. Your flame needs more of the Word of God, more of praying, more of church, more of preaching, more of worship, and more of singing His praises. So fan into flame that gift that God has given to you and never ever let it go out.
Make a Difference in 2009
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. - 1 Peter 2:9.
If we know Jesus as our Savior we are part of a chosen people, a royal priesthood. But is that all that we are to be? Has God just chosen us and made us special? Is there anything more?
Yes, according to the second part of 1 Peter 2:9 there is more to it than just being a child of God, more than just being a Christian. What is that more? “…that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”
How are we to do that? “…proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” The word “proclaim” is obvious in meaning. It means to tell, demonstrate or communicate in some way about “…Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” This means, of course, to proclaim or tell about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Jesus in the Beatitudes makes this even clearer when He says: “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).”
So, we can make a difference in 2009 by letting others know about how wonderful is our Lord and Savior. We do this by living like a Christian, in other words as the word Christian means, like “little Christs.” By living like Christ would live. However, we can never live as Christ would have us to live without supernatural power, supernatural strength.
How do we have the power to live in a way that will fulfill God’s purpose for our lives? It is really not all that difficult; we simply need to do as James says that we ought to do. James says in James 4, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”
The fact is that we need God; we need more of God to live life in the way it ought to be lived. Jesus makes this clear when He is being tempted by the devil and He says in Matthew 4:4, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” Jesus was quoting Deuteronomy 8:3. In other words since Jesus is the Word become flesh (According to John 1:14), Jesus was quoting Himself.
We cannot really live life by just the material things that we see before us. What we eat, our material possessions, and the money we have are not what life is really all about. If we want to really live life and fulfill our purpose than we need what? We need more of Jesus.
The Word of God is Jesus and we need more of Jesus to live life like it ought to be lived. If we want to make a difference in 2009 we must read, study, meditate upon and input God’s Word into our lives in whatever way that we can. Because the more of God’s Word that we have, the more of Jesus that we have, and the more of Jesus that we have the closer we will be to God.
It comes down to making a priority of God’s Word, of making a commitment to not let a day pass without having some input of God’s Word into our lives in some way. We must come to a point in our lives that we recognize the vital importance of the Word of God. If we really want to live life and not just float through life drifting here and there we have got to make a real commitment to having God’s Word in our lives. The result of having more of Jesus will be that we will make a difference with our lives in 2009.
Copyright © 1998 - 2009. Ed Wrather. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for use of this material on a non-profit basis with source noted.