The Fragrance of Your Life
“Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life.” - II Corinthians 2:14-16.
A woman in the city of Trabzon, Turkey has been ordered by health and safety officials to remove the cows from her apartment building. Local alderman Osman Terzi said, “I have learned that Fatma Kocaman has started selling her cows, which is a very pleasing development. It’s hard to believe someone would keep cows in an apartment. For years me and the locals have wondered what to do. The area has suffered a lot. Noise, smell and manure everywhere make a very ugly scene.” Some of our lives have more fragrance than others. Fatma Kocaman with her many cows adds much fragrance to the lives of those who live nearby.
What kind of fragrance does your life have? Is it a fragrance that leads to life or a fragrance that leads to death? Sadly, many Christians spread everywhere the fragrance of death. They do that by acting as though they were not Christians and by living for the things of the world instead of for God. We spread the fragrance of death when we do things like: staying at home on Sunday when we know we ought to be at church; when we laugh at that dirty joke; when we tell that gossip; when we stab our fellow employee in the proverbial back to climb up the ladder; when we fail to turn the other cheek; when we refuse to forgive; when we look at that Internet porn; when we go to the bar to have a few drinks; when we….
How much better it is to spread instead the fragrance of life: by sharing Jesus with those around you; by being Jesus to those around you; by being in church when your local body of believers assembles together; by telling the truth; by turning the other cheek; by forgiving; by loving; by giving and by doing countless other things that Christ would do.
Does your life have the fragrance of death? Or, the fragrance of life?
So Great a Salvation
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds…. - Hebrews 1:1-2.
“Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation….” - Hebrews 2:1-3a.
In Istanbul, Turkey a ship drifting out of control rammed into a well-known Bosphorus-shore restaurant causing much damage to the building. Thankfully, no one was injured and the ship has been pulled away by tugboats. It is uncertain what caused the ship to drift out of control. To reduce the hazards of the Bosphorus, which is one of the busiest waterways in the world, Turkey has installed a new radar system to help guide vessels through the treacherous currents.
People who neglect the things of God become much like that ship drifting uncontrollably. When we neglect the things of God we may not even be aware ourselves that we are out of control and if we are not aware most others are not aware either. What gets our attention is when we suddenly come to a crashing halt. The sudden unexpected crash may come through decisions made without seeking the direction of God. The crash may come through our succumbing to temptations of the world, the flesh, and the devil. But the cause of the crash occurred long before the crash when we began to stop praying, stop reading God’s Word, stop assembling with other believers, stop serving and reaching out to others. The cause that resulted in the crash occurred long before when we began to neglect our great salvation.
Our salvation is so great and should not be neglected because of several things:
Our salvation is eternal (John 10:28).
Our salvation was costly (Philippians 2:8; I Corinthians 6:19-20).
Our salvation is complete (Hebrews 9:28).
Our salvation is exclusive (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
Have you been neglecting your salvation? Why would we ever neglect something so good, so wondrous, and so amazing? Before the crash comes let us stop our drifting and turn back to the safety of the salvation of God. Let us mine that salvation, dive into that salvation, grab hold of that salvation, learn of that salvation, and breathe of that salvation. Let us never, ever neglect “so great a salvation.”
All Bogged Down
“A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. And not many days after, the younger son gather all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. The he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and be sent into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that swine ate, and no one gave him anything.” - Luke 15:11-16.
You’ll be excited to know that there is a new world champion in the sport of Bog Snorkeling. Philip John from south Wales completed a 60-yard course snorkeling through a four-foot deep trench of mud dug out in a peat bog. There were 90 brave individuals who competed in the contest and they were allowed snorkels and flippers. One of the competitors who is from Ireland, Julia Galvin, said, “Its an unforgiving sport. You get bitten by insects, very dirty, smelly and you are wet all day.”
While working in the oilfield I once was unable to get to the drilling rig location because of a muddy road. But they had a huge bulldozer pull my truck two miles through the mud and into the location where we walked around in mud knee high. I noticed something about the mud - it slows everything down. Just like the competitors snorkeling in the bog would be unable to swim as fast as someone in clear water its not easy to pick up your boot and take a step with mud clinging to it. The prodigal son experienced the bogging down effect of sin. The farther you are from the Father the more difficult it becomes.
Whenever you sin it complicates your life and slows down your progress spiritually and delays the fulfillment of God’s will in your life. Spiritually living outside of God’s will is like being in a bog of mud or walking around in knee-deep mud. Thankfully there is a solution for us when we become all bogged down. The solution is the same one that the prodigal son found. The only solution is to return to the Father. Turn back to God! When the prodigal son came to himself he remembered that even the servants in his Father’s house had it better than he had it.
Are you all bogged down? Don’t be like the Israelites who because of their disobedience took 40 years to reach the Promised Land when it should have only taken 9 ½ days. Turn to God because only He has the power to lift you up and clean you off. Only God has the power to forgive you and give you a new beginning.
The Devil’s Evil Schemes
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles (evil schemes) of the devil.” - Ephesians 6:10-11.
Thailand has under consideration the manufacturing methamphetamine pills that look like the real thing but actually are fake and will cause headaches and vomiting. The hope is that it will stop the abuse of drugs. Sitha Thiwaree, a member of parliament and a former fighter pilot said, “If drug addicts take these fake pills and vomit, they may later feel scared and not want to touch them again.” Methamphetamine abuse is considered one of the primary social problems in Thailand. In the USA methamphetamine abuse is rampant and even in the rural area in which I live it is a problem.
Wouldn’t it be nice if everything that is harmful to us looked and acted its part? So many times people begin the use of addictive substances and at first it may very well give them some relief from reality. But over a period of time they will discover that those substances will result in problems far worse than whatever reality they may have been escaping from.
A few weeks ago I had to take my Dad on a short trip to another town to straighten out a situation regarding my mother’s hospice care. He insisted that we take his car and everything seemed fine at first. It was very hot outside and I turned on the air conditioner but it was several miles later when I realized the air conditioner was not helping. In fact by the time we arrived at our destination we were more than hot. After our meeting and on our way home I finally found that part of the problem was that not only did the air conditioner not cool it was blowing out hot air! Because the air had heated up gradually on the way we had grown accustomed to it and had no idea that the air conditioner was blowing out hot air.
In much the same way as we had grown accustomed to the hot air many grow accustomed to addictions and other habits, which are harmful. At first there seems to be little danger but then we realize we have become the prisoner of our habits and addictions. Before you use that drug, or drink that drink, or look at that porn, or have sex outside of marriage take a moment to think about the long-term consequences. It may just be that it’s not worth it. It may very well be that those things will result in your own personal degeneration and very possibly your ultimate physical destruction. You don’t have to wait until someone develops a new fake drug that causes you to vomit before you stop using. You don’t have to wait for that sexually transmitted disease to invade your body and cause you misery for life at best and death at worst. No, through the power of God you can say no to all of the devil’s evil schemes and say yes to life.
Put on the full armor of God, be strong in the power of the Lord and make your stand against the devil.
The Rollercoaster From Hell
“They wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way; they found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses. And He led them forth by the right way.” - Psalm 107:4-7a.
Richard Rodriguez has spent the summer riding a rollercoaster for ten hours a day trying to set a new world record for rollercoaster endurance. Rodriguez is 42 years old and is a lecturer at the University of Chicago. To take his mind off of the stomach turning and churning rides in the German town of Hassloch he says, “I read the newspapers, I have a walkman, I have my cellphone, so I try to talk to people and message people during the day. I’ve been on this rollercoaster for quarter of a year now, so I am kind of anxious for the ending.”
Hard to imagine spending an entire summer riding a rollercoaster! However, some people spend much of their lives on a spiritual rollercoaster. Paula J. Anderson shares of her rollercoaster ride: “I was brought up in the church, I loved school and was an honor student. A happy child hood I had. I went astray at the young age of 14 years old. I got pregnant so I decided to get married. I was 15 years old when my first son was born. I would eventually have four more children out of wedlock, three girls and one more boy. I didn't understand and couldn't cope with the responsibilities of taking care of a husband or a child. I strayed even further away from my family responsibilities and God.”
“At 16, I was introduced to heroin by a neighbor, an ex-marine. I liked the calm, peaceful feelings it gave me. I became immediately addicted and started "shooting up" every day. I left my husband and child to begin a life-style of drugs, prostitution, and shoplifting. For the next 25 years of my life, I never really lived, but only existed day to day in this human shell. I would do almost anything for my next fix, whenever that pain and want in my body took control. I jumped from one drug to the next, whatever was easily available and affordable. Always looking for that numbing warm feeling that gave me that artificial peace.”
“In a one year period I overdosed and was comatose nine times! I was sent to the State Hospital and was diagnosed as suicidal and certified an addict. I've had many serious operations and a finger removed due to my intravenous drug use. My heart is now damaged from drug abuse. I've lost everything dear to me."
“I tried many drug treatment programs without success. I went on Methadone Maintenance for many years, another addiction, but it was cheap, legal and it kept me out of jail. I sit in prison today, 42 years old, and at the end of my five year sentence….”
Paula has been on a wild roller coaster ride but she did find the way off as she says, “I sit in prison today, 42 years old, and at the end of my five year sentence, a new woman in Christ. My Lord and Savior has pulled me out of the pit and off of Satan's rollercoaster of Hell. I have found a new program for my survival: "THE JESUS PROGRAM". Through him I have that warmth, love and a peace no drug or man could ever compare too!! Praise the Lord, I was lost but now I'm found, my faith in him will heal me!”
If you’ve been on the rollercoaster from hell maybe it is time to cry out to the Lord so He can deliver you.
No More Death!
“Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down, out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; THERE SHALL BE NO MORE DEATH, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new.’” - Revelation 21:2-5a.
“No more death” is the official policy in Le Lavandou, France. Gil Bernardi, mayor of the French Mediterranean town has banned dying because their cemetery is full. They had been planning to build a new cemetery in a peaceful setting by the sea but a court has ruled that they must find somewhere else for those who die. About his ban on death Bernardi says, “Initially, the decree has been remarkably will followed.” However, a homeless man has disobeyed the ban by dying and Bernardi is desperately trying to find a final resting place for him.
What pain there is in the world with death and dying all around. My parents are elderly and my wife’s parents are elderly with many health problems. It is a difficult time as we see them decline in health and we know that the inevitable result will be death and they will be gone from our lives for now. We think of the friends and others whose lives have been cut short by death and we grieve that such things could happen. Death has stalked mankind ever since Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden.
We have to applaud Gil Bernardi for his ban on death because we would all like to see a ban on death and the pain associated with it. We know that Bernardi’s ban is unenforceable and people are still dying in his little town just as they are all across this earth even as I am writing these words. But the good news is that there will come a day when God Himself will issue a ban on dying and there will be “NO MORE DEATH, nor sorrow, nor crying” and “there shall be no more pain.” I can hardly wait!
Having such glorious hope of the future helps us to endure the present world because we know that some glorious, wondrous day this world of pain will be gone and all things will be made new. Until then let us stand firm and let nothing move us from our love for and labor for our Lord (I Corinthians 15:58).
Living for the Devil
“And David said in his heart, ‘Now I shall perish someday by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape to the land of the Philistines; and Saul will despair of me, to seek me anymore in any part of Israel. So I shall escape out of his hand.’” - I Samuel 27:1.
“Then David said to Achish, ‘If I have now found favor in your eyes, let them give me a place in some town in the country, that I may dwell there. For why should your servant dwell in the royal city with you.’” - I Samuel 27:5.
In Devils Lake North Dakota for 25 years the nickname and mascot for the school was the “Satans”. By a unanimous vote the school board has decided to drop the name and mascot. Ed Brown, the vice president of the school board said, “I think we need to move forward. This has been hassled with many times the last 25 years. I really think we need to have a change.” Brown also hopes the change will help to bring the community together and move it forward.
I can see how for those who have a belief in God and the supernatural that having “Satans” as the school nickname would be difficult to live with. Usually we do not have that big of a choice as to where we live especially as juveniles. Devils Lake may be a great place to live and probably most people who live there do not even think about the name of the place and of course they were not responsible for naming the place. I’ve lived at some places where I didn’t necessary like the name or some aspect of it but adjusted over a period of time. For a while I lived in a town called Dill City on Roach Street. The street was named after a man of character and nothing derogatory was meant by it. I live now in a place where the zip code is 73666. We would like to see the zip code changed (Because of “666” being the symbol for the beast in the Book of Revelation.) but there is not much we can do about it and we have gotten used to it.
Spiritually we sometimes settle down with the world and get used to it and it takes something drastic to move us out of the situation. David was afraid King Saul was going to catch up to him and kill him but it was an unreasonable fear because God had continually protected him. For the Israelite to live in the Promised Land was to live in the place of God’s blessing but now David decides without consulting God to flee to Philistia. King Achish is the archenemy of the people of Israel and David calls himself the servant of Achish. It would be like our saying we were going to settle down in the kingdom of Satan and serve the devil. King Achish gives David the little place called Ziklag and he settles down there with his 600 men and their families. David grows accustomed to living in the enemies’ camp until one day he is shocked out of his complacency.
For sixteen months David has lived in the kingdom of Satan and he is happy Saul is no longer chasing him and he has no reason to leave. He has gotten used to where he is living. But finally the unexpected happened, “Now it happened in those days that the Philistines gathered their armies together for war, to fight with Israel. And Achish said to David, ‘You assuredly know that you will go out with me to battle, you and your men (I Samuel 28:1).’” What a shock to David! Achish now wants him to go and fight on the side of the enemy against his own people and against God. That’s exactly what that old devil wants us to do and he lures us into complacency until suddenly we have a choice to make between the world and the will of God.
There is always a wage to receive for being outside of the will of God (Romans 6:23) because being in Christ and in the perfect will of God is the place of blessing for the child of God. Have you settled down with the world and gotten used to living for the devil? It may be comfortable at the present time but it is only an illusion that will crumble away eventually revealing the true damage that has been done to your life. Before you get too used to the world maybe its time to start serving the Lord and living in His Kingdom. “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever (I John 2:15-17).”
It may be that like the school in Devils Lake North Dakota that it is time for a change in your life.
If I Should Die Tonight
“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” - Hebrews 9:27.
“We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men….” - II Corinthians 5:9-11a.
Matthew Perry one of the stars on the “Friends” television show told the New York Times that he has not had a drink since February of 2001. Perry says, "I didn't get sober because I felt like it. I got sober because I was worried I was going to die the next day." Facing death for many people is a somewhat sobering experience and has resulted in countless changes in the lives of those who lived another day past their close encounter with death.
I have had to preach the funeral messages for an unusual number of people over the last several months including the one for our church pianist who was a dear friend. I think that was on my mind when one night I was having severe pain from a toothache and was throwing up from the pain medication (Which wasn’t helping that much!). During that time I decided I really needed to share some things with my family and friends and wrote them a letter saved on my computer as “If I Should Die Tonight.” I began the letter by saying, “If I should die tonight I know the world will keep on going without me. My family and church will keep on going without me. God’s work will still be done without me.”
In addition to the personal words I wrote to my family I wrote the following, “If I should die tonight I will be sad that I have not been more faithful and productive for my Lord. I wish that I had been more faithful, more steadfast, more disciplined; more of everything that God wanted me to be. I’ve never regretted being a preacher and pastor. My only regret is that after I was saved that I didn’t stay in church, didn’t read God’s Word, and didn’t pray as I should so that I would have heard God’s call earlier in my life. I have never regretted the time I have spent attending church, reading and studying God’s Word, witnessing or praying. My only regret is that I wasn’t more faithful in doing those things. I am sorry that I wasn’t a better husband, father, and grandfather. I am sorry that I wasn’t a better pastor, preacher, and witness for my Lord. I’m sorry I wasn’t the prayer warrior that I knew I should be. I’m sorry that I’ve wasted so much time with worldly things. Please forgive me Lord Jesus and I pray my family will forgive me.”
If you were to die tonight would you have any regrets? Is there something in your life that you would want to change? Why not begin now to live, as you know you should. Don’t wait until it is too late!
Let Go of the Pain
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth…. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion (sexual passion outside of marriage), evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry…. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another since you have put off the old man with his deeds and have put on the new man….” - Colossians 3:1-2, 5, 7-10a.
Edward McBride burglarized a Tulsa home and then attempted to lose the police by jumping into the Arkansas River. But swimming the Arkansas River was made difficult for McBride because he was hanging onto a duffel bag containing the 50 pounds of stolen items including cameras and CDs. Tulsa police spokesperson Lucky Lamons said, “He got about 40 yards out and yelled for help. The officers took off their shirts, shoes and belts and jumped into the river. By the time they reached him, he had gone under.” McBride wore himself out trying to swim with the 50-pound duffel bag and then was unable to swim to safety.
There are so many who are doing the same thing spiritually. We are wearing ourselves out under the heavy load of the world. The apostle Paul tells us there are some things that we need to let go of and it is quite a list: “fornication, uncleanness, passion (sexual passion outside of marriage), evil desire, covetousness, anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language” and he adds “do not lie to one another.” All of these things just make it harder for us to live and makes each step along the path of life harder to take. These things keep dragging us further and further down. We need to let go of them before it is too late.
Not only do we need to let go of some things we also need to take hold of some other things. Paul says, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful (Colossians 3:12-15).”
If we let go of those things that are dragging us down and then take hold of those things Paul says to take hold of then we will have the peace of God ruling in our hearts. How wonderful to be free of the anger, lies, lust, and all those things which help to bring about depression and pain in our lives and the lives of others around us. Let go of the pain and take hold of the peace of God!
Get a Life!
“With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my first born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” - Micah 6:6-8.
Elvis lovers and impersonators are coming out of the closet with the 25th anniversary of his death. Some people still are unable to believe that he is dead and some are still making bets that he is still alive. Some people watching from afar would say a lot of those people just need to get a life. Elvis impersonator Steve Murphy at the Professional Elvis Impersonators Association’s convention in Las Vegas has a different view, “People say get a life. Well, I got one - it’s just somebody else’s.”
For the child of God having life, real life is not rocket science. The way to having quality life is spelled out in much detail in the Bible but the problem for many is that it seems too simple. Give us a mountain to climb or as they were saying during Micah’s time let us sacrifice our first-born child. We want to do something really difficult to prove our love, to prove we have done something to merit, to deserve eternal life. However, to have real life begins with believing the sacrificial work that was done by Christ and receiving Him as our Savior. As human beings we want to get the glory, to get the gold but to have real life we must instead “walk humbly” with our God and give Him the glory.
Once we know Christ as our Savior we must begin to live “somebody else’s” life. Not Elvis’ but the life of Christ Jesus. In Galatians 2:20 Paul explains, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” So, in order to have life after receiving Jesus as our Savior we must begin to live like Christ.
How would Jesus be living if He were you? He would be walking humbly with God and everything He did would be right, good, just, and merciful. You get the picture? To have life we just live “somebody else’s” life - the life of Jesus who lives within us. In allowing Jesus to come forth in our life we will experience the “abundant life” that Jesus promised. We will find that living as Jesus lived is really the only way to live and the only way to really have life. Why not get a life? Get the life of Jesus!
“Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.” - Mark 2:3-4.
In an oasis town near Cairo police have arrested a man who was performing brain surgeries but only has a primary school education. The brain surgeon pretender did have a secondary school certificate that was forged and he claimed to have studied brain surgery in Germany and Cairo. The 40-year-old fake surgeon was very busy seeing about 200 patients per week and charging $4.74 each. Apparently the fake doctor had performed several brain surgeries however it is unknown whether the patients survived.
Why would anyone go to a fake brain surgeon? For one thing there were many other people going to him for help. He did have a forged secondary school certificate. Maybe he was successful in a brain surgery or two or maybe some of his associates spread the word that the fake doctor had done their surgeries. The most likely and sad reason for the success of the fake doctor is the desperation of the people. In the midst of their hopelessness someone held out some hope and they grabbed it like a drowning person grabs a life preserver.
Desperation was what was driving the four friends of a paralyzed man almost two thousand years ago. They had heard about this Jesus and thought that He was the only hope their friend had. It was desperation that cooked up the plan of ripping up the roof and then the lowering of their friend to the feet of Jesus. It was a foolish plan but it was the only hope they had. The amazing thing about their desperation was that it had driven them to the One who really was able to help their friend. Imagine their joy as their friend at the word of Jesus stood up picked up his bed and walked out of the house! Amazing!
Have you ever had that much desperation? That much love for someone? Are you desperate enough for the souls of the lost people all around you to do something they may very well think is crazy? Do you love them enough to overcome all obstacles and take them to the only One who can help them? Jesus, unlike the fake doctor is truly able to help. That help is available, it is waiting, and it doesn’t even cost $4.74 because it is free. What are you waiting for?
The Meaning of a Name
“Please, let not my lord regard this scoundrel Nabal. For as his name is, so is he: Nabal is his name, and folly is with him!” - I Samuel 25:25.
“And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil that I may not cause pain!’ So God granted him what he requested.” - I Chronicles 4:10.
A mother has gone to court in Italy to stop her husband from naming their newborn son after a horse. While the mother was still in the hospital the man registered his son as being Varenne Giampaolo. Varenne is the name of a horse but not just any horse because Varenne the horse is thought to be the greatest trotter in history. Giampaolo is the name of the horse’s jockey. When the mother found out that she could not change the name of her son to Christian she went to court and the decision of the court is still pending.
A name can have a profound influence on a life much like the song Johnny Cash sang about a “Man Named Sue.” According to the song the father couldn’t be there so he named his son Sue so he would grow up to be tough. In the song Sue grows up to be even more tough and mean than his Dad because of that name. I’m not sure which is worse being named after a famous horse or a famous horse having your name (Mr. Ed the talking horse from the old TV show.).
The fact is that names do have a profound impact on the lives of people and we should be careful what we name our children. Nabal whose name means fool grew up to fulfill the meaning of his name. He was a fool and almost drew the wrath of David down upon him and his household. Only the wisdom of Abigail, Nabal’s wife, saved them. But because Nabal was such a fool God struck Nabal and he died soon afterwards and Abigail became David’s wife. To be a fool is something that we should fear even today. To reject Jesus as our Savior would be to become the ultimate fool.
With Jabez we see a different situation. Jabez knew his name meant pain but he did not want to cause pain and he prayed for God to help him. As a result God overruled the meaning of the name and Jabez became not a source of pain but a source of blessing.
Whatever your name may be, whoever you are you do not have to be a fool. You do not have to be the cause of pain for others. Instead you can be a blessing! Ask God to help you become a blessing to all you come into contact with through whatever means you communicate. May God indeed make you a blessing this day!
“There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one. Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.” - Romans 3:10-17.
“Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence. 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 3:14; 17-19.
Why did a 54-year-old French woman drive 12 miles (18 km) up the wrong side of a French highway? No one knows but she was arrested and placed in a psychiatric hospital. Really it was a wondrous miracle that the woman was not killed in her wrong way drive! There were, however, seven accidents involving 18 vehicles as they tried to avoid the woman. Two people were injured slightly in the chaos created between the cities of Toulouse and Bordeaux and it is even more of a miracle that no one was killed or severely injured in the chaos created by the wrong way drive.
There are many whose lives resemble the wrong way drive of the 54-year-old woman made in France. Is your life like a car being driven the wrong way up a major highway? If so many of the accidents and much of the chaos in the lives of everything around you may very well be the result of your wrong way life. You may realize that things are not quite right in your life but that’s the way its always been and so you think it can never change. Solomon writes in the book of Proverbs, “The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.” The apostle Paul writes in the New Testament, “…destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known.”
You do not have to live your life in the darkness, in destruction and misery. You do not have to live your life continually stumbling. You do not have to live your life causing chaos for all those around you. You do not have to live your life in frustration and depression because you can come out of the darkness! Solomon also writes, “But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day."
We can become “just” not through any good works that we may do but through Jesus. We are told in Romans 5:1, “…having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” When we receive Christ as our Savior and focus our lives upon Him we will come to an end of chaos in our lives. Romans 8:5-6 makes this clear, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”
Even further direction is given by the apostle Paul about how you can put an end to chaos in your life in Romans 13:12-14, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”
Let us “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” and then our path will be “like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.”
“Then the word of the Lord came by Haggai the prophet saying, ‘Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?’ Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways! You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.’ Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,’ says the Lord.” - Haggai 1:3-8.
A doctor in Massachusetts apparently had his priorities a little mixed recently and as a result has been suspended by the state medical board. Dr. David Arndt explained to a board investigator that he needed to deposit a check in order to pay some past due bills. During the spinal operation he called his office and asked if “Bob” had arrived several times, meaning the check. When “Bob” finally did arrive Dr. Arndt told the other members of the team that he was taking a break but did not tell them he was leaving the building to go to his bank. Another doctor was present for the next surgical procedure but he was not scrubbed in and was not certified for the spinal procedure. The patient was left to lie on the operating table with an open spinal incision for 35 minutes. The surgical team had no idea where Dr. Arndt had gone but saved their questions and complaints until after the surgery which was completed successfully.
The priorities of Dr. Arndt had never resulted in his suspension and loss of his livelihood in the past. He was having an increasingly difficult time of making ends meet but the day finally came when his real priorities were revealed. He was much more concerned about his own financial condition than about his patients. It was the costly result of misplaced priorities but a mistake that many have been making for centuries. We work hard but never seem to have enough; however, as long as we have a roof over our heads and are relatively safe we think we are okay. The more we encounter problems and sink toward catastrophe the more those things we surround ourselves with seem unneeded and inconsequential.
The people in Jerusalem during the time of Haggai had started out well. They demonstrated great courage returning from exile in Babylon and then under the leadership of Nehemiah rebuilt the walls even though there was opposition. They also laid the foundation for the temple but sixteen years had now gone by since their good start. The people did not deny their responsibility to rebuild the temple and they kept saying it just wasn’t yet time to do so. There was economic and political instability and it was a difficult period; however, God knew the real problem was their misplaced priorities. Despite the desperate times they still had found the funds need to panel their own homes while the House of God was in ruins.
For us today the equivalent of investing in the building of the House of God would be the investing of our time, energy, and resources into the building up of the Kingdom of God. We may have always intended to witness to our neighbors. We always intended to be more faithful in attending church. We always intended to be more active in helping the hurting people around us. We always intended to step out in faith, to step out of the boat and walk with our Lord on the waters.
The time was long past to do the right thing God told the people so the best thing to do was to get started doing the right thing not tomorrow but today. What about us? Maybe today is the day we have been putting off for way too long to build up the Kingdom of God? Let us “consider our ways!”
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” - Romans 12:1-2.
There are many committed people in this world but to what or to whom are they committed? Apparently there are still some committed Marilyn Monroe fans because some from as far away as Europe came to Los Angeles to remember the 40th anniversary of Marilyn’s death. Marilyn is believed to have died from a drug overdose when only 36 years old during the height of her fame and popularity. Some 250 committed fans arrived at a cemetery in Los Angeles to share memories and to place flowers on her crypt. There were other fans that were not quite as committed and did not attend the 40th service but 17 presidents of Marilyn Monroe fan clubs were in attendance.
What are you committed to? Do you have a level of commitment as high as the Marilyn Monroe fans for anything or anyone? If you do have that level of commitment what is it that you are committed to? Hopefully you are committed to your Lord Jesus at an even higher level than a Marilyn Monroe fan. Hopefully your commitment to the Lord will be an eternal all-consuming commitment.
What would it take for us to lose the level of commitment we have at this point? If we were to be diagnosed with a terminal illness or if a friend or relative were would that lower our level of commitment? If we were to experience disastrous financial losses or difficulties would that cause us to distance ourselves from our Lord? We experience the same thing to a certain extent in marriage. Are we really committed to death do us part or is there a point at which we will bail out?
Peter and others did reach a point where they bailed out prior to the crucifixion of Jesus. At the Last Supper Jesus said to the disciples, “All of you will be made to stumble (shall be offended) because of Me this night…. Peter answered and said to Him ’Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble.’ Jesus said to him, ’Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times (Matthew 26:31; 33-34).’” When they came to arrest Jesus that night it is recorded, “Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled (Matthew 26:56).”
I’m glad we know the rest of the story! In the Book of Acts we read how the disciples who had lost their commitment had regained it. What made the difference for them? The difference was that they had seen their Lord Jesus put to death slowly and painfully and yet knew that He was alive. All Jesus had told them was true! It was enough. They were committed and nothing would ever, ever make them lose their commitment.
Today I would encourage you to renew your commitment to the Lord Jesus. No, we did not walk with Him while he was here on Planet Earth in the flesh and we did not see Him executed and then see Him live again. But we have the testimony of many witnesses who did. By faith let us accept that Jesus has suffered, died for our sins, and is alive today and that everything He said is true.
(Because at least four were saved yesterday as a result of providing a way for them to do that I am including the following again. There is only one way to Heaven but that way is well marked and very clear. To receive Christ as your Savior pray the following prayer (which is based on John 1:12; John 3:16; Romans 10:13; and Revelation 3:20) “Dear Lord Jesus, I believe you died on the cross for my sins and rose again on the third day. Please forgive me for the sins, the bad things I have done, I want to change and be like You. Please help me to change, be my Lord and my Master and my Savior. In your name Lord Jesus I ask You to come into my heart and save me. Amen.” Please remember that words alone will not save you and there is nothing sacred about any certain prayer of salvation. Only if you truly mean it in your heart will you be saved. If you do pray the prayer above and mean it in your heart please send me an email at email@example.com and I will send you additional helpful information.)
“Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” - Matthew 7:20-23.
Imagine the shock, you have a dream vacation planned to the city of Sydney, Australia with all of its attractions but when you get off the plane you are on the wrong continent. Instead of Australia you’re in Canada! Emma Dunn and Raoul Sebastian purchased their tickets in London over the Internet and did not realize anything was wrong until they landed in Halifax, Nova Scotia. In Halifax they were asked to transfer to a small propeller driven plane for the last leg of the trip to Sydney. Sydney, Nova Scotia! Nova Scotia’s Sydney is known as the “steel city” with a population of 26,083. Emma and Raoul are now trying to make the best of their unexpected visit to the wrong continent and the wrong Sydney. Andrea Batten, an employee of Air Canada in Nova Scotia said, “They decided they might as well stay for a few days, having come all this way. It’s going to be a trip to remember.”
Spiritually there are many who are on their way to an unexpected destination. When they arrive it will be the ultimate in surprise and disappointment. Instead of Heaven it will be that other place. There are many who honestly believe they are serving God and that they will one day be in Heaven but Jesus says they will not be. How could this happen?
Earthly destinations for the most part have many different ways in which you can travel to them. Many believe that Heaven is like that but it is not. Jesus makes this clear in John 14:6 saying, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” It is only through Jesus that we may travel to Heaven. There is no other way provided by God. Jesus is the bridge between sinful man (Romans 3:23) and God who is perfectly holy, perfectly righteous (Isaiah 6:3). Jesus who was tempted at all points without sin became the perfect sacrifice. So as by one man, Adam, sin entered into the world by one man, Jesus, a way is provided for reconciliation with God. “Therefore, as through one man‘s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man‘s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life (Romans 5:18 - Read all of Romans chapter 5 for context also 6:23 and 10:9 -13). There is only one way to Heaven and that one way was provided at great cost through the sacrifice of God’s Son on the cross. To reject that one way and try to travel to Heaven by any other route will only result in our condemning ourselves (John 3:17-21).
Good works without Jesus is not the way to Heaven (Ephesians 2:8-10). Depending on church membership or baptism is not the way to Heaven because they are something that man does and is an attempt at using a different form of good work to gain access to Heaven (Note - Of course we should follow the Lord Jesus in Baptism once we know Him as Savior. However, baptism without knowing Jesus as our Savior or church membership without knowing Jesus as our Savior will not save us). Jesus says very clearly what is necessary to arrive safely at the Heavenly destination, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that who ever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). Have you believed? The Bible says in John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” Have you received Him (Jesus) by believing on His name? In Revelation 3:20 we are told, “Behold, I (Jesus) stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” Have you opened the door of your heart to Jesus? The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 10:13, “For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Have you called upon the name of the Lord Jesus?
There is only one way to Heaven but that way is well marked and very clear. To receive Christ as your Savior pray the prayer below which is based on the related Scriptures above “Dear Lord Jesus, I believe you died on the cross for my sins and rose again on the third day. Please forgive me for the sins, the bad things I have done, I want to change and be like You. Please help me to change, be my Lord and my Master and my Savior. In your name Lord Jesus I ask You to come into my heart and save me. Amen.” Please remember that words alone will not save you. Only if you truly mean it in your heart will you be saved. If you do pray the prayer above and mean it in your heart please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send you additional helpful information.
The Wind, Earthquake, and Fire
“And there he went into a cave, and spent the night in that place; and behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and He said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ So he said, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.’ Then He 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.” - I Kings 19:9-12.
Eiljah has been a mighty instrument used of God to purge the evil from among the people. Through Elijah God had defeated the prophets of Baal and destroyed them. However, after this mountaintop experience a messenger comes to Elijah from the evil queen Jezebel saying, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time (I Kings 19:2).” Then, Elijah, the man who had called down fire from heaven to consume the soaked offering in the contest with the prophets of Baal, the man who had prayed and a drought ended, this man runs in defeat and fear from Jezebel. Unbelievable!
Elijah not only ran from Jezebel but he sat down under a tree in the wilderness and prayed that he would die. “It is enough! Now, Lord take my life for I am no better than my fathers (I Kings 19:4b)!” Elijah had been on the mountaintop but now he is in the valley of despair. He is depressed and ready to die. But God is not finished with Elijah. What will it take before Elijah is willing to be used by God again? On the mountain Horeb, God asks Elijah what he is doing there? Elijah tells God of the great things he has done for Him but that he is the only one left and they are trying to kill him. How can God ever use this used up and defeated prophet again?
In order to rehabilitate Elijah, God sends a “great and strong wind” that “tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces.” Then God sends an earthquake, and after the earthquake God sends the fire. Finally Elijah is again ready to listen to God. Elijah could always hear the Voice of God but not until this point after the wind, earthquake and fire was he ready to listen and obey. Elijah was so ready to listen and obey that he could hear the “still small voice” of God. God again asks Elijah what he was doing there because Elijah was not where he should have been in service to the Lord. God sent Elijah to anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king over Israel and Elisha as prophet in Elijah’s place. God then told Elijah that he was not alone that there were seven thousand others that had not bowed to Baal.
What would it take before you would hear and obey the “still small voice” of God? Why wait for the wind, and the earthquake, and the fire? Why not listen and obey now?
The Burning Bush Devotional
Let Us Do Good
“And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.” - Galatians 6:9-10.
About a year ago, I had my first flat tire on Libby’s Explorer. I had never dealt with one on that vehicle and it was a lot more complex than the car I drive. I had to crank stuff and lower stuff and find things and figure out what the things did. When I finally figured out what to do, the jack broke. If it wasn’t for a member of our church who was there, I’m not sure what I would have done.
The next day, I purchased a much bigger jack that had less moving parts. It could jack up Libby’s car in just a few moments. I stashed the jack in her car and thought about how well I would be prepared for the next flat tire on her vehicle.
Last week we visited my family in western Oklahoma. After spending six hours on the road, I dropped Libby and the kids off at home and went to our church league softball game. After the game, someone noticed I had a flat tire. I was in Libby’s vehicle for some reason. At first, I thought great! A flat tire after this long day and even after we lost our game! Then, I remembered the super-duper jack I had purchased. The flat could be changed in no time. It wasn’t that big of a deal.
The same church member, who was present at the last flat tire, just happened to be there for this one too. The jack lifted the vehicle up quickly and then… it didn’t go any higher. The jack was stuck. It would not go higher, nor would it go any lower. My friend went and got the same jack we used a year before to help me change the tire. His worked like a charm.
In our lives, we try very hard to be prepared for anything that might happen. This is why we have insurance on our cars, homes, and bodies, do maintenance on our cars, save money in banks, go to the doctor for check-ups and why some people receive Christ as their Savior (Some people view salvation as a fire insurance policy just in case the Bible is true.). Except for Christ, all of these others are capable of letting us down. Sometimes our preparations are unable to overcome the problems we face in life. Thank God that during these times that God and our church family help us out. What do people do who do not know God or have a good church family when those dark times come?
“For it is God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 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 - always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” - II Corinthians 4:6-9.
This morning on Good Morning America I watched an amazing thing a stutterer stopped stuttering after putting a device in his ear! The device is called the “Speech Easy Device” developed by Joseph Kalinowsky himself a stutterer and two others. The device tricks the brain into thinking that another person is speaking at the same time and when speaking in unison with others the stuttering is inhibited. Currently there is a 90% success rate with the device. Debbie Cook the mother of Wesley who stutters says, “It’s just our dream come true for him. Because we’ve tried everything we knew and would never really give up hope. We’ve always prayed there would be that something and we just can’t believe we’ve found it.”
Joseph Kalinowsky grew up stuttering and he was “hard-pressed on every side” because of it. Joe says he would pray every night when he was a child, “Take off my arm, God, because I know kids will tease me for not having an arm. But if I can talk the same as every other kid, that’ll be OK. And I’d get up and the arm was still there. And I’d begin to talk and the stutter was still there. And I’d turn up to the heavens and say you didn’t do it. I guess He had another purpose.” Joe eventually became a speech therapist at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina where with two other inventors the “Speech Easy Device” has become a reality.
In the life of Joe Kalinowsky and others affected by stuttering we see the value of persistent prayer personified. Years of prayer by those who stutter, parents of stutterers and others have now resulted in a miracle through human technology. But then that is what God delights in doing. He puts Himself through the Holy Spirit in weak earthen vessels, which is the treasure, the apostle Paul is writing about. Because of the treasure of the indwelling Spirit we are able to endure and overcome. “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.” With the surrender of ourselves to the will and purpose of the Lord then through our earthly bodies the “life of Jesus” will be “manifested.”
Do you have a weak earthen vessel? Is your vessel “hard-pressed on every side“? In your weakness, in your inability may be the very thing that God will use to bring glory to Himself! Surrender yourself to God’s will and purpose and your weak earthen vessel is no longer worthless but a “treasure” that God will use to bring glory to the Lord and life to countless others touched by your life.
Rescue the Perishing
“But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.’” - Matthew 9:37-38.
There has been another rescue attempt that was valiant in its effort but it has failed. The first attempt to rescue the whales was successful for most of them with 45 being pushed back out to sea. Sadly the next day the whales again beached themselves and again many tried to save the whales but they could not. Why the creatures beached themselves is uncertain and there are many possibilities. It may have been because of illness of a few of the whales, or because of the geography of the Cape Cod area interfering with their innate sonar or something else entirely. Needless to say it was a sad time for those who had tried so hard to help the whales.
Have you ever made a spiritual rescue attempt and failed? You’ve shared your testimony, or you’ve explained the way of salvation, used the four spiritual laws, a tract, EE, CWT, or some other method of witnessing but the person rejected Christ. It is a sad day when that happens and it is even sadder for us when the person is a friend or relative. For many of us when we witness to someone and the gospel is rejected we take it personally as though the person was rejecting us personally. But that is not true. We have fulfilled our responsibility before God being a watchman, sharing the truth and when the gospel is rejected it is God they are rejecting.
Another aspect of rejection is that it clouds our perception of the harvest and we tend to think that there are few that can be saved. But that is not what our Lord says. He says and it is true even if our witnessing efforts have been rejected that the harvest is still plentiful and the workers are still few. If today more people were trapped in a terrorist attack on a building in New York City would the Firefighters and Police Officers fail to respond because not all of their rescue efforts were successful during the 9/11 attack? Of course they would respond! They would respond again with courage, with great heroism even at the risk of losing their own lives. Just because one rescue attempt fails does not mean that we eliminate rescue attempts. We must continue on knowing that there will be failures but that the harvest is still plentiful and if we faithfully share the gospel some will be saved.
About nine years ago I shared my testimony with a man and he responded by saying what I have heard many times by saying, “I’m not ready yet.” After hearing that response I thought there was little hope that he would ever be saved. However, recently one of our deacons shared with me that he had talked with the man again about his salvation and this time had responded by sharing that he had been saved and was a Christian. Amazing! Even though it may appear that we have failed we may still have sowed a seed into their lives that others will water and eventually the harvest of their soul will occur.
Don’t give up. Keep on witnessing. Keep on trying to rescue the perishing because the harvest is indeed plentiful!!
Stay in the Race
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” - II Timothy 4:7.
In order to bring about the rescue of the nine miners from the Quecreek Mine in western Pennsylvania it was necessary to assemble a large amount of equipment and manpower in a short period of time. It was a desperate operation in a race against time, which involved more than 150 workers and many tons of heavy equipment. The rescue involved making calculated risks of where and when to drill. Decisions had to be made about pumping out water and pumping in air. There was also a terrible setback with a drill bit broke resulting in a delay of 18 hours. Those hours seemed like an eternity to the rescuers and to the trapped miners who could no longer hear the noise of the drilling. Questions passed through their minds as to whether the miners would still be alive after such a long delay, could they still reach them in time?
We know now that the miners were reached in time and that the decisions made under difficult conditions were the right ones. With the rescue effort we see a parable of the Christian life. We walk by faith and not by sight. We see through a “glass darkly” while we are living here on Planet Earth. We have to make decisions many times without seeing everything in black and white and only believing that we are doing what the Lord would have us to do. Our lives the apostle Paul says are like being in a fight and a race at the same time. The rescuers of the miners were in a race against time and in a fight against the difficult conditions and uncertainties to bring about the rescue.
During our race we too will sometimes experience setbacks or what we think are setbacks. The rescuers broke a drill bit and it set them back for 18 very long hours. What a terrible thing we all thought! But now we know it was really not such a terrible thing. Instead it was a lifesaving miracle that prevented the deaths of the miners. According to the miners if the drill had punched through the ceiling of the mine sooner than it did then the delicate air bubble that was keeping them alive would have been ruptured. If the air bubble had been ruptured it would have allowed the water to rush in but with the additional time pumps were able to reduce the water level so that the miner’s chamber was not flooded. How many times even now can we look back and see that what seemed to be some horrible thing at the time was actually a good thing? And some day when we have fought the good fight and finished the race we will look back over our lives. As we look at many of the difficulties that we encountered in our lives most likely we will see that many were for our benefit (Romans 8:28).
So the next time your drill bit breaks and you are delayed or have to change course remember it may not be such a bad thing. Stay in the race, keep the faith and keep on fighting!
“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body - whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free - and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. For in fact the body is not one member but many.” - I Corinthians 12:12-14.
“…that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually.” - I Corinthians 12:25b-27.
Many of us have been praying for the nine miners who were trapped 240 feet down in the Quecreek Mine of western Pennsylvania. They were trapped for 77-hours in a cold, flooded and cramped mineshaft. One of the miners, Dennis Hall, said, “The scary part was watching the water rise and knowing that you don’t have a way out.“ What joy to hear that they were still alive! What joy to see them all brought out of the mine safely! If only every disaster could end with such victory!
How did these men survive? They survived in large part because they decided that they would “live or die as a group.” Not only did they decide that and say that with words they actually tied themselves together. They worked hard to encourage each other and to keep anyone from going into hypothermia. Blaine Mayhugh said they were “snuggling each other, laying up against each other, sitting back-to-back to each other, anything to produce body heat.” When they began to be pulled one-by-one back to the surface the man who was believed to be in the worst shape physically because of his experiencing chest pains was allowed to go first.
What a wonderful picture of how we should be as the church, the body of Christ! We too are tied together, not with an actual rope but by the Holy Spirit who dwells within each believer. We have all been baptized into the same body by the Spirit (I Corinthians 12:13). We too should have the mindset that says we will “live or die as a group.” We are all members of the same body and we should work hard to encourage each other (Hebrews 10:24). When someone is hurting they should be given the attention that is needed to encourage them. When one member grows cold we should all be active in surrounding them with prayer, love, and actions to bring them to the point of being once again on fire for their Lord.
The fact is that we Christians are all tied together and the actions of one member affect all the other members. If one is hurting we should hurt as well. If one is withdrawn and cold we should not rest until they are restored. We too can have victory and overcome through the power of God whatever life sends our way through our love for one another. And “by this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:35).”
“Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have murdered the just….” - James 5:1-6a.
The corporate crooks like former WorldCom chief financial officer Scott Sullivan who was fired because of a $3.8 billion cooking of the books are living large. Sullivan is proceeding with the building of his new mansion on 4.3 acres of lakefront property with an estimated value when completed of $15 million. Sullivan’s little home on the beach will have an 18-seat theater, domed exercise room, library, art gallery, wine cellar, 80 ft. heated pool, and his and hers 500 sq. ft. walk-in closets off the master bedroom. The estate will also include a guesthouse, a private lagoon, and a two-story boathouse.
The words of James take on new meaning for us in these days of corporate crooks that have ruined the lives of thousands and thousands of people. In a time when these self serving people have taken the millions and run we have congress ready to tighten bankruptcy laws and the President ready to sign their bill. Sadly this is at the very time those bankruptcy laws may have desperately been needed by some laid off from their jobs because of corporate greed. The change in bankruptcy laws is being brought about by credit card companies to protect their loan sharking activities. This is just another example of corporate greed and the complicity of our government in their activities. (Please forward this devotional to your representatives in Congress and to the President. The President may be emailed at email@example.com)
For those of us outraged by this conduct and for the thousands who have been directly damaged by their criminal activities James has words of wisdom and comfort. James says, “Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand (James 5:7-8).” James makes it clear that the Lord will be our avenger and that day is rapidly approaching for these selfish people.
While these corporate crooks are living large in material things through their evil activities we should live large spiritually. Let them not rob us of our joy in the Lord. James tells us to be “patient” and to “establish your hearts.” Our Lord tells us in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled (Matthew 5:6).” While the evil prospers for a time let us live large spiritually knowing that our joy comes not from the material world but from our relationship with our Lord and Savior. Our “hunger and thirst for righteousness” will “be filled.”
The End is Coming!
“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.” - Revelation 21:1.
Asteroid 2002 NT7 is projected to possibly hit the Earth on February 1, 2019 and it is massive being 1.2 miles (two km) wide apparently on a direct course to collide with our planet. Dr. Benny Peiser, an asteroid expert at the Liverpool John Moore’s University said, “Objects of this size only hit the Earth every one or two million years. In the worst case scenario, a disaster of this size would be global in its extent, would create a meltdown of our economic and social life, and would reduce us to Dark Age conditions.” However, a spokesman for the Royal Astronomical Society said, “This thing is the highest threat that has been cataloged, but the scale in terms of the threat keeps changing. If it did hit the Earth it would cause a continental-size explosion but it is a fairly remote possibility.”
The end is coming! The end is coming! The end is coming! But then we have been told, warned that the end would occur at some point in history. In the Book of Revelation we are told of several earth shaking events that are on their way. One is recorded in Revelation 8:5, “Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thundering, lightnings, and an earthquake.” Even before 1990 there had already been 59 or so failed end of the world predictions. Others say there have been 200 or more failed predictions and it may be there have been many more, which were not widely recorded. Would it make any difference in the way we live if we had a date as to when the end would occur? As Christians we will never know the precise date but we do know the end is coming.
We know that our Lord is coming back and because we know that it should affect the way we live our lives. In Hebrews 10:24-25, we are told, “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.” That “Day” is approaching and is nearer than it has ever been in history. Paul tells us in Romans 13:11-13, “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.”
We know the end is coming but until it comes let us live as we know we should and “so much the more as we (you) see the Day approaching.”
The Normal Life
“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.” - Matthew 5:13.
A “norm” is defined as “a principle of right action binding upon the members of a group and serving to guide, control or regulate proper and acceptable behavior.” “Normal” in relation to “norm” is defined as “according to, constituting, or not deviating from a norm, rule, or principle.” Is the “norm” of today the same as the “norm” of 50 years ago? Or even ten years ago? What do we accept as “right action” today that would not have been regarded as “right action” in the past? Much of what passes for entertainment on television and in movies today would not have been considered “normal” in the past. The “norm” of the world I think we would agree has been in a steep decline over the last half century.
We have to wonder how much “flavor” has “the salt of the earth” lost? How close is the salt to being “good for nothing?” Our normalcy as believers must not be considered in relationship to the normalcy of the world. Our normalcy as believers must be understood in relationship to our Lord and Biblical principles.
The apostle Paul describes his personal normalcy in Philippians 3 and beginning in verse 7 he says, “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him … that I may know Him … I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me … forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal … let us, as many as are mature, have this mind (the mind of Christ).”
According to the normalcy of the apostle Paul nothing in this world including money, homes, fame, lands, treasure, careers or anything else should take priority over our focus upon Jesus. Everything that distracts from our having the mind of Christ should be discarded and counted as being worse than garbage.
So, is our normal the normal of the world or the normal of the Christian life? Do we have the mind of the world or the mind of Christ? Are we the “salt of the earth” or have we lost our “flavor”? Are we preserving the world from a further downward slide by the way we live our lives or are we contributing to its decline? Let us commit ourselves to having the “mind” of Christ and living the “normal” Christian life.
“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.
In the face off between the Indian and Pakistani armies in Kashmir life continues on. There is a Jammu and Kashmir State Cable Car Corporation that continues to operate at Gulmarg a mountain resort in the area of confrontation. Their gondolas come within three miles of what is called the “Line of Control” separating the Pakistani and Indian armies. The gondolas do receive occasional ground fire but still people show up to ride them so that they may go hiking, skiing, and golfing at the resort.
Isn’t it amazing the risks that people will take to do the things they enjoy? Imagine people risking their lives so that they may hike, ski or golf! Significant numbers of people have been killed while golfing during lightning storms. Many have been killed while skiing and running into obstacles such as trees. Many have been killed while hiking through weather related events or by wild animals such as bears and mountain lions. And how many have been killed or injured while taking a dip in the surf by a shark or even a jellyfish? Think of the risks some people take while speeding in traffic in order to arrive at their destination a few moments sooner. Think of the risk that someone takes whenever they continue to light up cigarette after cigarette knowing the potential it has to cause cancer and heart disease. That’s not even to mention all those users of illegal substances (i.e., drugs) and abusers of legal substances. Amazing what we will do for our personal enjoyment!
Now that I have angered and alienated all hikers, skiers, golfers, swimmers, surfers, speeders, smokers and drug users let me try to get to the point. The point is that we are willing to take even deadly risks to do what many would consider unnecessary (unnecessary in terms of survival) things. However, many who are willing to take those risks are not willing to take the risk of sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with another person. Why? Now it is true that in some countries and situations sharing the Gospel can be of greater risk than in other places. In some countries you can lose your life for sharing the gospel, or lose your job, or lose your home, or lose contact with your family and other things can happen as well. However, in much of the world there are very little consequences for sharing the Gospel. What is it that we risk? At the most we risk embarrassment, alienation of a friend or relative, possibly job loss or loss of employment advancement potential. Not that those things cannot be significant but compared to the risk of death those are very small risks.
Is it that we do not want to take the risk or is it that we are really deep down inside a little ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ? I can’t answer that question for you. However, if it has been years or perhaps you have never shared your faith with another person then it may very well be that you are ashamed and are trying to hide your relationship with Jesus. The apostle Paul has truly given us a great and wonderful example to follow. Once Paul knew Christ as his Savior he was never ashamed of Him and never turned away from the opportunity to boldly share Christ. What about you and me? Let us within the next week make a stand, draw a line in the sand, and share the gospel, tell someone of our faith and love for Jesus. May it just be the beginning!
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” - James 1:2.
How many times have I been at the end of my rope and felt like I was losing my grip? I’m not sure but it has been more than a few times. My reaction today to problems is much different than it was when I was a new Christian. Back then I thought that I was able to handle things on my own. I thought I was intelligent and energetic enough to handle whatever came my way. If bad things happened God was the last place I went for help. I surely would not be asking other people to pray about my situation. In fact I would try not to let anyone know about my problems hoping they could be solved before anyone found out. I was much more concerned about what other people thought than anything else.
Flash forward thirty years and my reaction to problems is to immediately pray and ask God to help. Not only do I pray and ask God to help but I tell everyone I possibly can asking them to pray too. My prayer life now is not merely reactive but proactive. I pray about everything in my life and for everyone in my area of influence. I ask for God’s protection, for His wisdom because I have learned through very difficult times that indeed I don’t know everything and I cannot do everything but He does and can.
King David experienced the same type of evolution in his relationship with God. At one point David thought himself to be and was known to be “very crafty” or able to “dealeth very subtilely (I Samuel 23:22).” After all David had been able to kill the giant Goliath and for some time had been able to elude the clutches of the crazy King Saul. But David eventually found himself in that place between a rock and a hard place. The Ziphites in their double-dealing with David and King Saul was able to lead the King and his army to David’s hiding place.
David and his men hid out on a waterless rock “in the wilderness of Maon, in the plain on the south of Jeshimon (I Samuel 23:24).” David and Saul played a cat and mouse game of going from one side to the other side of the mountain. Saul eventually split up his 3,000 men in an encircling maneuver. There would be no escape for David and if they took off across the desert plain then Saul would easily see and eventually overtake them with superior numbers. It was just a matter of time before it would be over for David. No amount of craftiness would help him now. But just before the end came a messenger came to King Saul saying, “Hurry and come, for the Philistines have invaded the land (I Samuel 23:27)!” Amazingly the army of King Saul left when they would have soon destroyed David and his men.
For this occasion David wrote Psalm 54 which reveals he has given up any idea of his being able to survive by his own craftiness, “Save me, O God, by Your name, and vindicate me by Your strength. Hear my prayer, O God; give ear to the words of my mouth. For strangers have risen up against me, and oppressors have sought after my life; they have not set God before them. Selah. Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is with those who uphold my life. He will repay my enemies for their evil. Cut them off in Your truth. I will freely sacrifice to You; I will praise Your name, O Lord, for it is good. For He has delivered me out of all trouble; and my eye has seen its desire upon my enemies.”
Are you between a rock and a hard place? The only place left to go is to God and I think that is why James says to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials.” Because in that situation we are forced to draw near to God and in the process we become more conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29) and God draws near to us (James 4:8).
“Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the Lord.” - Lamentations 3:40.
Once while we were on our way to visit my son who lives in Broken Bow, Oklahoma in the southeast corner of the state we were taking the scenic route. The fall foliage is often magnificent in the eastern part of the state and so we traveled south along the eastern border to see as much of the beauty of nature as we could. Along the way we neglected to make a turn that we should have and fifteen miles or so later we passed a sign that said “Welcome to Arkansas.” At that point we knew we were not on the right highway and we had to turn around. Now there was nothing wrong with the highway we were on and the scenery was still beautiful it was just that if we continued we would not have arrived at our intended destination. Eventually we did arrive at my son’s home some thirty minutes or so later than we had planned.
Jeanie and I laughed when we saw the sign “Welcome to Arkansas” because we knew immediately what had happened and it was far from being the first time we had gotten off track during our travels. On a trip to Tennessee we thought we knew exactly where we were and when we would arrive at a certain destination. However, we were unaware that a completely new highway had been built that our map did not show at all. We finally had to stop and ask for directions and I bought a newer map. Other times we have been at a crossroads like our visit to Aliceville, Alabama when a lady pulled up next to us and invited us to follow her through the twists and turns to Aliceville.
In life it is not unusual to get off track somewhere along the way and usually the scenery is still good and it is not such a bad life. However, it is not the life that our Lord planned for us if we had followed Him more closely. To find our way back to the right path we may have to turn around. We may need to ask for directions. We may need to get out our map (the Bible) and study it more closely. There may be someone like the apostle Paul (or the lady who led us to Aliceville) that we can follow to find our way back. To get back on track may not be easy. Turning around may be difficult. But the rewards are eternal.
Most people get off track several times during the course of a lifetime and so we should always be prepared and ready to turn around. We should often examine our maps and frequently ask directions so that we will be more likely to stay on the right path.
The apostle Paul was on the wrong path while on the way to Damascus but when he encountered the risen Lord Jesus he changed his course forever. King David had gotten off course through adultery and murder but when confronted by the prophet Nathan he turned from the evil path back to the paths of righteousness.
What path are you on today? Is the path you are on the best path, the path the Lord has planned for your life? It may be time to get out the map and ask someone who knows (like the Lord) where you are at on the path of life.
No More Pain
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be NO MORE PAIN, for the former things have passed away.” - Revelation 21:4.
The headline says, “Breakthrough Pain Relief Therapy” which for those suffering from pain sounds like great news indeed. There is an emerging treatment for pain, which uses light therapy and this emerging pain treatment appears to be a very new technology, but researchers have been testing this approach for over 45 years. The therapy uses light emitting diode technology to relieve Arthritis and pain that is non-specific. I’m personally wondering if it will work on a toothache. The fact is that pain is a fact of life for every human being to some degree. So many people bear an incredible burden of pain every day from cancer pain to Arthritis pain. From back pain to cancer pain there is more than enough pain to go around and we would all welcome any kind of relief from whatever pain we may be experiencing. Not only is there physical pain but also there is emotional pain and then there are some people who just give us pain.
The saints of old were not immune from pain from the boils of Job to the thorn of the apostle Paul to the torture of Christians, which continues even today. Jabez prayed that he would be kept from evil so that he would not cause pain. Jabez knew that would be hard for him because his very name meant pain. There is so much evil and pain in this world from murder to robbery and things so much worse that they are unspeakable and unprintable and there seems to be more and more of it.
How can we go on in a world of pain? How can live when it hurts so much? The apostle Paul was able to continue living with pain because God said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness (II Corinthians 12:9a).” Paul responded by saying, “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong (II Corinthians 12:9b-10).” The heroes of the faith of Hebrews 11 were able to endure through faith and we are told, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth (Hebrews 11:13).”
All those saints of old who endured the pain of the world knew that there was a better world ahead and as the writer of Hebrews puts it so well, “God having provided something better for us…(Hebrews 11:40a).” Through faith we look forward to that day when there will be “NO MORE PAIN!” And there will be on that glorious day, “no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying” and the “former things” will “have passed away.” By faith let us endure and through our weaknesses bring glory to our Lord.
Out of Control
“And after some days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. Now as he reasoned about righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come, Felix was afraid and answered, ‘Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you.’” - Acts 24:24-25.
In Darwin, Australia the pilot of small plane (a Cessna 182) was trying to start the plane by cranking the propeller by hand. The plane’s engine started and began to move before the pilot could get back aboard it. The pilot wasn’t aboard but his three children were. John Hardy owner of Hardy Aviation said, “He (the pilot) wasn’t in the airplane but his three children were, which is pretty frightening, and the aircraft engine sprang in to life and developed enough power to tear off down the taxiway. I think one wheel was off the ground and it was accelerating very quickly.” The plane came to a stop after crashing into three small planes that were parked. The children were unhurt but frightened by their wild ride.
Felix was a Roman governor and powerful official. He held Paul in prison and talked with him often over the course of two years hoping that Paul or his friends would give him money for Paul’s release. A Roman historian, Tacitus, said that Felix, “maintained the royal law with a servile disposition by means of all sorts of cruelty and greed.“ There is no record of Felix ever coming to that “more convenient time” when he would have received Christ as his Savior. The downward spiral of sin in the life of Felix was out of control and it took him further than he wanted to go. Felix found life had taken him past heaven and all the way to hell.
During the downward spiral of sin we will find that we are not in control of our life and that the further we go the faster we go. Sin always takes us further than we want to go because sin takes control. How many people have thought that they could use cocaine without becoming addicted or that they could drink without becoming an alcoholic but discovered too late that their little sin had taken control. How many people are in prison because they planned to be in prison? Very few! They are there because sin on a wild frightening ride took them further than they wanted to go.
Do you have some “little sin” in your life? Please don’t wait until some “more convenient time” to turn away from it because that time may never come. When will you come to the point of no return? When will your life be out of control and sin will be in the driver’s seat? Felix never knew when that point came just as countless others have missed it as well.
If you have a “little sin” in your life turn around before it destroys you. If you turn around now you might miss the frightening downward plunge to destruction. Don’t let sin take you further than you want to go!
The Downward Spiral
“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” - James 1:14-15.
“For the wages of sin is death.” - Romans 6:32a.
As I was searching for material for this devotional I found a site that documents visibly the downward spiral sin takes a person on. Through 12 police mug shots of a woman taken at the time of her arrests over several years it is obvious how sin has taken its toll on her. King Saul also experienced the downward spiral. Because of Saul’s sin the kingdom was wrenched from him and given to David. However, the transition took several years. During this time Saul became more and more evil and you would think that he had much in common with Hitler and Saddam Hussein.
Saul reached the point in his downward spiral recorded in I Samuel 22:17 that he ordered the massacre of the Lord’s priests. Saul says to his men, “Turn and kill the priests of the Lord, because their hand is also with David, and because they knew when he fled and did not tell it to me.” Saul’s soldiers feared Saul but they feared God more and refused to kill the priests. However, there was an evil man there, Doeg, who when told to kill the priests by King Saul immediately began executing them 85 in all. But that wasn’t the end of it. Saul then went to Nob the city where the priests lived and executed everyone who lived there men, women, boys, and girls and burned the city to the ground.
Sin results in death and death is a very ugly thing when we have to live it out. The truth of the downward spiral is that if we feed sin, and nourish sin, the spiraling down is accelerated. To stop the downward plunge we must stop feeding the sin in our lives. Cut off the sin from its food supply and it will die and you will live. If you are reading this message and you have a desire to turn away from the sin that is destroying your life then it is not too late. Ask God to help you to turn around and go the other way. The upward spiral leads to life. The closer we come to God the closer He comes to us. The more we have Jesus in our lives the more life we have. The more we read, study, meditate, memorize, and hear God’s Word the more life we have. The more time we spend in prayer communicating with our Lord the more life we have. The more time we spend in fellowship with other Christians the more life we have. The more time we spend lifting the burdens of others being the hands and feet of our Lord here on planet earth the more life we have.
The downward spiral to death or the upward spiral to life - it’s your choice!
In Only Seven Seconds
“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear; though war should rise against me, in this I will be confident.” - Psalm 27:1-2.
Four Florida fishermen can testify to the rapidity of circumstantial change. They were 20 miles offshore and had caught six sharks when their boat suddenly sank. It sank and disappeared completely from view in seven seconds. The men were not wearing life jackets and there was not any time to find them and put them on. They had all the latest communications equipment including a GPS locator but none of that equipment or the life jackets helped them a bit when it was all on the ocean floor. The men did find a cell phone that one of the men had placed in a plastic bag and help finally arrived after they had treaded water for about two hours in the shark infested waters. One of the fishermen said talking about any future fishing trips, “As God is my witness, I will have my own life jacket on, and I will have a three-pack pack of flares.”
Our circumstances in life can change very rapidly. David had experienced this personally as he very quickly went from being a national hero after he killed the giant Goliath to being hunted like an animal by King Saul. At first David and his men thought that safety was to be found in the distance they could put between themselves and the King. They had fled to the Philistine city of Gath where David found it necessary to pretend to be insane in order to escape. David had hid in the cave of Adullam and had been to Moab to find a safe place for his elderly parents. The prophet Gad brought word from the Lord that David should return to Judah and there they hid in the forest of Hereth.
David and his men looked for safety in many different places but David finally discovered that safety was not in a place but in a person. David shouts this revelation in Psalm 27, “The Lord is my light and my salvation” “The Lord is the strength of my life” “Though an army may encamp against me” “though war should rise against me” even if those things were to happen David realizes, “my heart shall not fear.” Safety David found was not to be in the distance he put between himself and crazy King Saul. Safety was to be found in the closeness he had to the Lord.
Our life can change in “seven seconds” and our safety will not be found in all of the high tech gadgets. The only real security we have for this life is to be found in the Lord. David had discovered this very truth through years of running, hiding and trauma. David says in Psalm 27:14, “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!”
May we too be confident in the Lord and wait on Him. Let us draw close to the Lord and in that closeness we will find that the Lord has drawn close to us as well (James 4:8). The Lord is our safety, our security, and our safe haven so let us run to Him.
One Life To Live
“Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.” - Jeremiah 1:4-5.
“And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” - Hebrews 9:27.
In the 1965 Webster’s dictionary that I have cryogenics is defined as, “a branch of physics that relates to the production and effects of very low temperatures.” Cryogen is defined as a “refrigerant”. In 1965 cryonics is only known possibly to the comic book and science fiction reader but in the year 2002 no longer is cryonics a little known and obscure science. Cryonics in only a few weeks has become known to the world with the body of baseball great Ted Williams to be cryonically deep-frozen upside down in one of Alcor Life Extension Foundation’s tanks cooled to a minus 196 degrees. For a few select people there will be room for a few of their heads in the top of Ted Williams’ tank.
The hope of many is that someday science will have advanced to the point that their bodies can be revived and that whatever the cause of their death that it will be reversed. Also many believe that their cryonically frozen heads will be able to have an artificially created body or a body transplant. Others hope their bodies will be cloned and they will wake up in that new body. Others have a more realistic hope that their DNA will be used to clone them knowing that they will be different people than they are.
One question, which is often asked, is at what point does a person undergo cryonic suspension? At the present time it can only be performed after a person has been declared legally dead although there apparently has already been some attempts to do so before actual death occurs. The spiritual question is at what point does death occur. Obviously if a person has been declared legally dead they are dead. However, if a person were alive and experienced cryonic suspension before death would the suspension result in death? We do know that life can come from frozen embryos. At this point no one really knows for sure because no one has successfully been revived from cryonic suspension. My personal belief is that because of the complexities of the human body as compared to an embryo that revival will never be possible.
Even in the face of scientific breakthroughs and marvels God is still God and we accept that by faith. When a person dies they no longer inhabit the physical body or “tent” as the apostle Paul called it. If you are a Christian having been born again the part of you that knows, reasons, and thinks when you die will be “absent from the body” and “present with the Lord” (II Corinthians 5). If that body that you once inhabited is cloned or revived it will not and could not be you that lives within it because you will be with the Lord. It is appointed unto man to truly die “once.”
God knew you before you were even born and had a plan for your life just as He did for Jeremiah’s life. We have only one life to live. Let us live it well!
“In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise. The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the heart of the wicked is worth little. The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of wisdom.” - Proverbs 10:19-21.
James Smith had an irritating habit - he talked incessantly. He talked all the time; continually, even if no one was listening James was still talking. For those of us working with him on an oilfield crew (In 1975) it was almost torture at times to hear the constant words flowing from the mouth of Mr. Smith. It was especially irritating when we were driving from one long job to another and wanted to try to sleep or at least rest a little before we arrived at the new location. On one of those drives James was keeping us awake again and in a two hour period the longest break in the words from James was for a brief 30 seconds.
The crew members had had it and one morning James received a surprise he was not expecting. Several crew members tackled James and with a large roll of gray tape (duct tape) taped his hands, feet and mouth. They released James a few minutes later but he had gotten the point and was much more careful about the words he spoke in the future. It was a terribly unchristian (and illegal) thing for any friend to do or for anyone to do to anyone and James if you read this I do apologize and hope and pray all is well in your life.
“The tongue” as we are told in the Book of James “is a fire (James 3:6).” Because the tongue is so powerful we must be very careful what we say and how we say it. What may sound like beautiful music to our ears may be the scratching of fingernails on a blackboard to someone else. Here are some things to consider before speaking. First, consider not saying anything. Second, you do not have to tell everything you know. Solomon says in Proverbs 17:27-28, “He who has knowledge spares his words” and “Even a fool is counted wise when he holds his peace.” Third, you do not have to repeat everything you hear (aka gossip). Solomon says in Proverbs 16:28, “A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates the best of friends.” He also says in Proverbs 17:9, “He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends.” More than a few lives and careers have been destroyed by gossip. Fourth, consider carefully what you say before you say it. Solomon says in Proverbs 18:13, “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.” Jumping to the wrong conclusion and allowing our mouths to share our conclusion with the world can cause much pain.
Here are some additional words of wisdom for Solomon about our speech: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness (Proverbs 15:1-2).” “He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction (Proverbs 13:3).” “Death and life are in the power of the tongue (Proverbs 18:21).” Remember that there is the power of life and death in the words we say. Let us not just talk but instead speak words of life.
Shading The Truth
“You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another.” - Leviticus 19:11.
It has only been in the past few decades that young students have not been taught the value of truth telling through the story of George Washington’s cutting down the cherry tree. According to the story when little George was confronted by his father he said something similar to the following, “Father, I cannot tell a lie. I cut down the cherry tree.” The minister Mason Weems published this story along with others about Washington shortly after Washington’s death. Although the citizenry may have recognized the cherry tree incident as a likely myth it was believed that the first President stood for honesty. After all, he said that he had no desire to hold on to his power and had then kept his word by leaving office. Truth, honesty, and the American Way once had meaning in our society.
Yesterday in a speech given on Wall Street President Bush called for an end to “cooking the books”, and “shading the truth”, in corporate America. The President conceded that more financial scandals are possible. He called for a “new ethic of corporate responsibility.” What is really needed is a return to the old ethic of Biblical principles that the country was originally built upon. What is needed are some political, business, and religious leaders who once again stand for truth, honesty, and morality. Those in the political, business, and religious communities have had and are having a real image problem over the last several years. It has taken some time for the truth to be revealed but now we see the whole ugly truth is coming out.
The truth usually is revealed and it is nearly always painful when it has been concealed through lying, and deceitfulness. A Biblical example is that of Ananias and his wife Sapphira (Acts 5) who sold some property but lied when they said they were giving the whole amount to the church. The shocking thing about Ananias and Sapphira was that the truth was known immediately and they both dropped dead and that was the end of their lies. However, in the world we live in the truth usually is not revealed so quickly but even years after the lies, deceit, and immoralities began the truth is still shocking.
We are shocked, outraged, and many have been directly harmed by the moral deceitfulness of our political, business, and religious leaders. We would like to see justice done and an end to all of this evil. But for the most part we are powerless to bring it about by ourselves. But we are not powerless to bring it about in our own lives. If each of us strives to live in an upright and moral way it could very well have an impact on the character of the world. Isn’t that what being the “salt of the earth” is all about? Let us preserve and influence those we can as we live our lives in the way that we would hope that our leaders would live theirs. The apostle Paul said it and lived it well, “I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward (or “to keep my conscience clear before“) God and men (Acts 24:16).”
Place Your Bets
“And He said to them, ‘Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.’” - Luke 12:15.
In a German newspaper tennis star Martina Navratilova said that money is the only thing that matters in the United States. She may be right. In a survey of teen girls it was found that for 93% shopping was their favorite thing to do. We also see the importance placed on money in the tremendous increase in gambling venues. 48 states have some form of legalized gambling including lotteries, video lottery machines, para-mutual betting, riverboat casinos, and Indian casinos. In 1998 Americans spent $50 billion on gambling.
We are currently in a crisis in the business world with Enron, and WorldCom crashing and burning. But this is apparently just the tip of the iceberg with rumors of many more companies with accounting problems. Often when people speak of buying stock they talk about it being a good bet or a bad bet and the stock market has been used as just another gambling venue in the 1990s and into the 21st Century. We have seen that in the name of making money anything is permissible if you succeed and when you are caught as seen with some CEOs in the hotseat there is little contrition. Our whole economy has been warped and perverted into the ideal of the gambler hitting the jackpot with little regard for those who are hurt in the process.
Janet Folger who is the national director of the Center for Reclaiming America, author, and radio/TV commentator says that the costs associated with legalized gambling far outweigh the benefits. Folger also says, “Each compulsive gambler disrupts the lives of between ten and seventeen other people. So we’re costing marriages. We’re disrupting the lives of up to seventeen other people. We’re costing gamblers themselves their own lives; and yet, we’re pouring more and more money into promoting gambling from our taxpayers." Folger goes on to share, “In Atlantic City, once casinos were legalized, the crime rate more than tripled. Based on a federally funded study, 86% of compulsive gamblers commit felony crimes to further their addiction. This is serious stuff," she says. "It’s costing people their lives. It’s costing the taxpayers money." In May of 2002 more than 200 religious leaders sent an open letter to President Bush and Congress, urging them to address the devastating effects of legalized gambling that they describe as a “moral and cultural cancer.”
Our lives as Jesus points out does not consist of how many material possessions or how much money we have. Surely life is about more than that! If money is the only thing that matters to a person what a little life they have. The more we focus in on money and the gaining of more possessions the more life is taken from us. The more we focus in on the eternal things the more life we have. Let us seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33) and then everything else will fall into the proper perspective for us. When our focus is on God we see that in the eternal perspective money is really not all that important. We may very well gain the whole world but what good is the world if we lose our souls in the process?
“And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.’” - Revelation 3:1.
How would you feel if your pastor told you that your church was dead or almost dead? One pastor told his church that they were so dead he was going to preach their funeral service the next Sunday. As promised the next Sunday as the people arrived they found that a casket had been placed at the front of the church and solemn music was being played. The pastor told the people who had dared to come to the service that most likely some of them would not agree with him that the church was dead. So, he invited them to come forward to view the remains. As the people walked forward and looked into the casket they found that instead of a body a mirror had been placed there providing them with a view of their own faces.
I wish I had thought of that because I did tell the church I pastor Sunday morning that we have much in common with the church at Sardis. We are busy with many activities and on the surface they appear meaningful. However, we are a powerless church and I believe that this was the message for Sardis as well. The church at Sardis was told how to correct the situation, “Be watchful and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you (Revelation 3:2-3).”
To strengthen that tiny spark of life still in you remember what you have heard which you have received from God. Hold fast to it and repent, turn away from that which is not of God. To strengthen the spark of life that is still within you, to increase the empowerment, the anointing upon you - be obedient to the Spirit when He speaks to you. Every time you resist the Spirit, every time you do what you know the Spirit would not have you to do you are choking the life out of yourself. But not only are you choking the life out of yourself but you are choking the life out of the church you are a part of. Our actions do not just affect ourselves because we are all members of the body of Christ. What one member does affects all the other members.
The good news for the church that I pastor is that as result of this message many did recommit their lives to the Lord (More than the total in the past year!). What about you? Has God spoken to your heart? What would He have you to do? Will you obey and strengthen the spark of life within you? Every time you obey you have more life and every time you disobey you have less life. I pray you will choose life.
“Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.” - I Corinthians 16:13.
Yesterday was the first Fourth of July celebration in the United States since the September 11th attacks. With the celebration came increased security with those watching the events being watched by those determined to prevent further terrorism. In Washington D.C., our nation’s capitol, the eyes of security cameras and police were focused on the National Mall. The National Mall was only accessible through a couple of dozen security checkpoints because it had been surrounded with security fencing. In Los Angeles even with the increased watchfulness a man attacked workers at Israel’s El Al ticket counter shooting and killing two people before he was shot and killed. However, without the increased vigilance and alertness many more people could have been killed or injured.
The increased vigilance against terrorist attack in the USA is picture of how the Christian life is to be lived. In the USA we are encouraged to be alert, vigilant, and watchful because we are warned further attacks are inevitable. At the same time we are encouraged to continue on with life as normally as possible. President Bush encouraged the nation to celebrate freedom but at the same time warned that we are fighting people who want to attack us because they hate freedom.
As Christians we too are in a war fighting an enemy who hates our spiritual freedom and would like nothing better than to destroy us. But at the same time that we are aware of the danger of the enemy (I Peter 5:8) we must not withdraw from all contact with the world because we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-14). So, we are encouraged to “be brave, be strong” “stand fast….” Not only are we to “stand fast” against our enemy but we are also to “resist him (I Peter 5:8).” Even when our “stand” results in “sufferings” we are to “resist him.”
As we are “vigilant” we are to be “serious and watchful in our (your) prayers (I Peter 4:7)” and we are to have “fervent love for one another” and “be hospitable to one another without grumbling (I Peter 4:8).” Jesus explains to the disciples why they should watch and pray: “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41).”
We do indeed have an enemy who is vicious and evil and we must be continually watchful of our spiritual condition. Often when we are under stress and are pressed for time we tend to neglect the spiritual disciplines but those are the times when we should pray more, have a greater intake of the Word, and continue to serve and assemble with other believers. Hard to do sometimes but we are called upon to be brave, strong, stand fast against and resist the enemy.
Let us be vigilant in our watching lest we fall into temptation and our enemy devours us!
“If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” - John 8:31b-32.
Today the United States celebrates its 226th birthday, which is a celebration of independence, of having freedom. It is a costly freedom bought by the fighting of two wars, which were necessary to win it and to keep it. My ancestors fought in both wars and one died in the War of Independence. The celebration some two hundred years later is marked with fireworks and barbeques with over 161 million pounds of fireworks detonated last year and 60 million or so people taking part in a barbeque. Since September 11 we have become even more thankful for our freedom and vigilant in maintaining it.
The desire for nations and people to be free has its roots in the desire for freedom from the tyranny of sin. We are born into the slavery of sin and become so used to it that we sometimes are not aware of the chains, which bind us. But that unawareness is often shattered when we encounter those who are free. In the early 1800s Lemuel Norton between sea voyages shared a bedroom one night with Deacon Weed who prayed before going to bed, “Lord, I am going to bed with this impenitent sinner.“ Soon afterwards Norton received Christ as his Savior and became a preacher of the gospel. It is a shocking thing to those in the bondage of sin hear someone share the truth of how they were set free through the power of God (Revelation 12:11).
It can be even more shocking for someone in the bonds of sin to expose themselves to the Word of God allowing truth to enter their hearts and minds. Ronnie Byers was close to committing suicide when he finally picked up and read a Bible opened to Psalm 103:12 which says, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” The truth grabbed hold of Ronnie’s heart, which resulted in his repentance, salvation and reconciliation with his wife. Ronnie eventually became a preacher of the gospel he once tried so very hard to ignore.
The truth is not just for lost people. If we are His disciples we will not just occasionally pick up a Bible and read a few verses. Instead we will abide in His Word and there we will find that the truth indeed has set us free and will keep us free!
The Sum of All Joy
“Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’” - Revelation 21:2-4.
In the movie and the book “Sum of All Fears” by Tom Clancy the president of Russia dies unexpectedly. The new government of Russia appears to be hostile toward the USA and tensions mount. After a bomb strikes the United States they are quick to place the blame on Russia and the uneasiness and mistrust ratchet up between the two countries. Then, a second bomb explodes during the Super Bowl and a nuclear war appears unavoidable unless those really responsible for the attacks are found and uncovered. A catastrophic nuclear war destroying virtually all life on the planet could indeed be called the “Sum of All Fears.”
In direct contrast to the “Sum of All Fears” God promises us in His Word the sum of all joy. Heaven, New Jerusalem, will be every possible, joy, happiness, peace, and good thing all added together and multiplied by a million. Heaven is so wonderful it is beyond the ability of our human mind to comprehend the awesome beauty and splendor and wonder of the place.
John attempts to describe some of what he sees in his vision of heaven and says, “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him. They shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. There shall be no night there: they need no lamp nor light of the sun for the Lord God gives them light. And they shall reign forever and ever (Revelation 22:1-5).”
One of the most amazing things about God and Heaven is that He wants us to be there with Him! Over and over we are invited to come to God, invited to receive Christ as our Savior who bridges the gap between sinful man and the most holy God. In the very last chapter of the Bible one more great invitation is given. “I, Jesus have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star. And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely (Revelation 22:16-17.).”
Please don’t miss out on the sum of all joy, heaven. You’ve been invited! Accept the invitation by receiving Christ Jesus as your Savior.
(This devotional was inspired by the death of our pianist and music director, Eileen Logan. Eileen is now experiencing the sum of all joy. Eileen was a great friend, supporter, encourager and I loved her perhaps even more than my own mother. She was at church Sunday night and then passed away quietly at her home during the night. She will be greatly missed! Her funeral service is today.)
“So it came to pass, when they had brought them outside, that he said, ‘Escape for your Life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain. Escape to the mountains, lest you be destroyed.’” - Genesis 19:17.
“But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.” - Genesis 19:26.
“Remember Lot's wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” - Luke 17:32-33.
Lot, and his wife were escaping from the destruction, which God poured out on Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot’s wife forever became a monument representing those who desire the things of the world over the things of God. She very literally turned from God to the world. She wanted to save her life of worldliness and in the process lost her life and became a monument representing a wasted life. Lot in losing his life of worldliness found his life to be saved. J. Henry Jowett says, “Worldliness is a spirit, a temperament, an attitude of the soul. It is a life without high callings, life devoid of lofty ideals. It is a gaze always horizontal and never vertical.”
How tragic that Lot’s wife lost the opportunity to have a godly influence upon her daughters, grandchildren and so many others. We condemn her for her weakness but we know in our hearts that we are just as weak. How many of us have settled for what the world has to offer when we could have had riches stored up in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-20)? We’ve turned from faithfulness to God in order to earn more and more money for the trinkets of the world. In the process we have lost opportunity after opportunity to influence others for good.
Through a single sermon preached by Dwight L. Moody in 1882 a never ending chain of influence was begun. 14-year-old Tommy Bewes was saved and he became a prominent minister. Tommy’s son Cecil spent 20 years as a missionary in Kenya and eventually became the leader of England’s largest missionary society. Of Tommy Bewes’ 100 descendants nearly all of them were or are involved in some way in Christian service.
You may never stand in the pulpit and literally preach a sermon but every day of your life you will preach sermon after sermon with how you live out your life. Countless people will be influenced for good or for bad depending upon whether you lose your life in God or try to save your life in the world. Today I would encourage you to determine in your heart that your life will become a monument not to the world but to God.
Wake Up Call
“Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the Lord is coming, for it is at hand.” - Joel 2:1.
The first time I remember receiving a wake up call at a motel I was already married and working in the oilfield. At first it seemed like a great convenience for someone to remember to call me in the mornings so I would wake up and be ready to go to work at the proper time. But there were times when it would have been nice to have had a snooze button so I could have slept for just a few more minutes. If I had failed to wake up I would have been awakened by several crew members and my boss who would have been most unhappy with my behavior.
In the United States last week we received a wake up call when a federal appeals court ruled the phrase “under God” was unconstitutional. One survey revealed 89% of the people believed the phrase should remain in the pledge and there has been a great outrage expressed about the possibility of its removal. It was certainly a wake up call because an alarm was sounded.
Was the court’s action this past week the first wake up call we in the United States have received? No. The courts legalized abortion and what did we do? We hit the snooze button, rolled over and went back to sleep. The courts are making city, county, state, and federal governmental authorities remove symbols of Christianity from all public property. What have we done and are we doing about it? We’ve apparently hit the snooze button, rolled over and went back to sleep. State after state has legalized gambling and established state lotteries and what have we done about it? We’ve hit the snooze button, rolled over and went back to sleep.
We’re outraged now but where is the outrage at partial birth abortions? Where is the outrage at there now being Wiccan chaplains in some branches of our military? Where is the outrage at homosexual marriages and adoptions? Where is the outrage out a practicing publicly proclaiming homosexual being a member of Congress? How many wake up calls do we get? How long before its too late and our society has gone past the point of no return?
We have to wonder the same things about our own personal lives. How many wake up calls do we get? What would God have to do to get our attention? What would be necessary awaken us from our slumber? The alarm has long ago been sounded! Let us arise before it is too late!
Copyright © 1998-2002. Ed Wrather. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for use of this material on a non-profit basis with source noted.