Ring that Bell!
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. - Revelation 12:11.
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.
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. - Matthew 5:14-16.
A church in Avonhead, New Zealand has been told to be quiet, in effect to shut up! At least their bell has to stop ringing and it has been doing its’ ringing for 50 years. As regular as clockwork the bell of St. Christopher’s Church has been ringing for 33 seconds at 7:45am, 9:00am, and 10:30am every Sunday morning for years and years. A neighbor complained about the noise and the Christchurch City Council environmental effects team investigated and found that the bell did exceed the provisions for noise in the Resource Management Act. Archdeacon Mike Hawke was shocked by the complaint and responded by saying, "This church has been here for 50 years. When people come to live here, they need to be aware of what is around them."
We will soon have a tornado siren system in our little town, which can also be used if there is another type of civil emergency. After reading the story about the church in New Zealand, I think that if we could test those sirens every Sunday morning at about 7 or 8:00am that it might help more people wake up in time for church.
There is a continual pressure from the non-Christian world to muzzle the witness of the Christian world. The church bells may be a nuisance to some but as the archdeacon pointed out the church has been there for 50 years. The bells of the church are a witness, a reminder every Sunday of Christ Jesus. Here in the USA there has been over the last couple of decades increasing attacks on the symbols of Christianity from the Ten Commandments to nativity scenes and even Christmas trees. There is a pressure exerted by the non-Christian and nominal Christian world to silence or cover up any openly Christian witness.
Sometimes the pressure against our Christian witness is very subtle and even sneaky. I distribute free devotional booklets in several convenience stores in the area. In one store, I have noticed that my rack holding the booklets has been consigned to a less desirable position where it is frequently covered in dust. Over the last few weeks, I have noticed that in addition the rack is nearly always hidden by something placed over the top of it that blocks the view of what is in it. Of course, the result is no one sees the booklets and even if they did they probably would not want one that is covered in dust and grime.
Have you ever gone into a club or bar/pub and attempted to hand out Gospel tracts and talk to people about the Lord? I have visited some a few times with an evangelist and you can usually feel the atmosphere becoming charged with hostility. I actually thought we might be attacked in one bar but we escaped before the situation got completely out of hand. In another bar the atmosphere was similar, however, the owner allowed us to put up a poster promoting the revival we were having at the time and seemed happy that we had come.
We must not allow the vocal opposition from the enemy to make us be ashamed of the Gospel. We must not allow the lawsuits to intimidate us into hiding our Gospel light where no one can see it. We can only overcome the enemy by continuing to let our light shine, and by courageously sharing the Gospel and our testimony of the Lord even when all may appear to be against us. We must stand up, and speak up for the Gospel of Jesus Christ no matter how hard the enemy tries to make us stop. Let that light shine! Share that testimony! Ring that bell!
Can You Save Yourself?
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. - Ephesians 2:8-10.
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit. - Titus 3:5.
For the wages of sin is death, but the GIFT of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 6:23.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. - Romans 3:23.
A 78-year-old woman was riding in the front passenger seat of a taxi on the Autobahn in Germany when the driver suddenly had a heart attack and died. The taxi slammed against the guardrail but the woman did not panic. Instead, she knocked the car out of gear and then used the car’s hand brake to bring the car to a stop about 300 yards later. Her quick thinking and reaction most likely saved her life and the lives of others.
Can you save yourself? Sometimes. The 78-year-old woman taxi passenger was able to save herself from serious injury or death by her quick and wise actions. Can you save others? Sometimes. The woman by her actions very likely saved others from injury or even death.
Because we can sometimes save ourselves and sometimes save others from physical injury or death, we tend to think the same thing when it comes to the spiritual. This is the most common misunderstanding about the spiritual realities. We can save ourselves physically so we think we can save ourselves spiritually. However, it simply is not possible. The most common misconception about the spiritual realities is in thinking that we can bring about salvation by doing good deeds. This misconception about the spiritual realities would have you to believe that you just have to do more good things than you do bad things and you will have saved yourself. The spiritual truth is that all have sinned, fallen short of God’s perfection (Romans 3:23). James tells us in James 2:10, “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.” The penalty for those sins is death (Romans 6:23).
The Bible tells us that Jesus died for our sins:
John 3:16 - “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son….”
Romans 5:6 - “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”
Romans 5:8 - “…while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.”
Romans 6:10 - “For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all.”
1 Corinthians 15:3 - “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.”
Hebrews 9:12 - “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”
Hebrews 10:10 - “By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
1 Peter 3:18 - “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.”
If we could save ourselves spiritually, why would it be necessary for Christ to die? If there had been any other way for us to be saved, if we could save ourselves it would have been unnecessary for Christ to die. If we could save ourselves, we would not need a Savior. If we could save ourselves, we would not call Jesus our Savior. If we could save ourselves the Name of Jesus would not be the Name above all names (Philippians 2:9) because our name would be just as powerful. To say that you can work your way to Heaven by doing more good deeds than bad is to make yourself equal with Jesus.
No, we cannot save ourselves spiritually. Therefore, let us give all the honor, all the praise, and all of the glory to Jesus because He suffered and died for us that we might have a Savior.
Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. - Mark 1:35.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:6-7.
But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” - Matthew 4:4.
In the Philippines, a man and an accomplice broke into a house in Manila and robbed the residents of the home of two cell phones. A police patrol in the area heard screams coming from the house and were able to begin chasing one of the robbers. After a short chase the man they were chasing began to use hand signals to ask for a time-out. Erwin Buenceso, who was one of the officers chasing the robber said, “He was panting and gasping for air when we caught up with him after a 500 meter sprint.”
I think I know exactly how that robber felt because life can sometimes be a sprint through each day and into the night. Challenges at work, challenges at home, challenges with your family, obstacles to the left and to the right and you may very well feel as though you need a time-out. You need a vacation but you don’t have the time or the money to take one. You need a break, you need a live in nanny to take care of the kids but it’s the real world where you live and that is not going to happen. So what do you do? Where do you turn? Do you just try to maintain your dignity and go down with the ship? Do you just keep that stiff upper lip and keep on keeping on? You keep signaling for a time-out but no one sees.
When you are past due for a time-out what would God have you to do? Martin Luther once said during a very busy time of his life, "I am so busy now that if I did not spend three hours each day in prayer, I could not get through the day." Tommy Barnett, pastor of Phoenix First Assembly says, “I’ve discovered it is not sufficient simply to try to take time for quietness but that I must, with all diligence, make time. Whatever keeps me from prayer, solitude, and the Bible, however good it appears, is my enemy if I am to be God’s devoted friend and follower.” It does not calculate in our human brains that when we have no extra time that if we spend time in prayer that it will mean that we have more time. When everything is coming apart at the seams, we think we must become busier, doing more and more and more. However, that is the way of defeat, anxiety, depression, and loss.
Jesus had a quiet time, a time-out, alone early in the morning during which He spent time with the Father. It is an example that we need to follow bathing everything in our lives in prayer along with reading the Word of God to gain the spiritual sustenance that we need to face the challenges of each day. So, what are you waiting for? Why not have a time-out with the Lord right now? Because the busier you are the more you need His help, empowerment, and provision for the day.
As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you. - John 15:9-15.
We now have reason to believe that Bobby Cutts, Jr. killed his pregnant girlfriend, Jessie Davis, along with the unborn baby. Cutts is being held on a five million dollar bond. Prior to his arrest Cutts was working as a police officer but he has now been suspended without pay. Sadly, Cutts’ situation is not the only one where someone has appeared to be living a normal life with honorable employment but then like Cutts commits a horrendous crime. In fact it appears that it is occurring at a more frequent rate than ever before - almost a new one every week that is hitting the national and international news.
Have you ever wondered if you were capable of doing some terrible thing? The truth is that every person is capable of doing evil. We are told in Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way….” In Romans 3:23, we read, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” I know that it is only the restraining power of God that has kept me from doing some terrible thing.
None of us wants to bring embarrassment to our friends, family, or community. None of us wants to intentionally hurt someone else. But the truth is that life changing and life devastating decisions are often made in the whim of an instant. The decisions of an instant have ruined many a life. I pray most every day that God will keep me from being a fool and that He will give me wisdom to make the right decisions.
There is, however, one thing that will keep you from doing some terrible thing and at the same time propel you forward to your highest potential in life. That one thing is to be a friend of Jesus. Jesus says in John 15:15, “...I call you not servants...but I have called you friends.”
I know why I am not in prison today for doing some terrible thing. It is because I have a friend and that friend’s name is Jesus. If we know Jesus as our personal Savior He is our friend. Jesus says, “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” But even on the basis that we maintain human friendships could Jesus call you His friend? If not it is time, past time to take time to talk to your friend Jesus and renew this most vital of all friendships.
The Wrong Place
Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. - Hebrews 2:1.
Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don't drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. - 2 Corinthians 13:5 The Message.
Expose all who drift away from your sayings; their casual idolatry is lethal. You reject earth's wicked as so much rubbish; therefore I lovingly embrace everything you say. I shiver in awe before you; your decisions leave me speechless with reverence. - Psalm 119:113c The Message.
In July of 2004 the passengers on a flight from Milan to Cagliari, Sardinia were given some unsettling news. The plane would not be landing at Cagliari but at Alghero, Sardinia, 142 miles away and about three hours by land transportation. This was a late night flight and all of the passengers were ready to arrive at the right destination and find their home or a place to spend the night. The two managers on duty of the Italian airline AirOne and the pilot of the plane made the decision to redirect the flight without telling the passengers until they were in the middle of the flight. The reason given for the decision was that the Cagliari runway was closed that night for maintenance. The two managers and the pilot have been found guilty by an Italian court of aggravated fraud but their suspended sentences are being appealed.
Can you imagine the frustration of the passengers on the flight from Milan to Cagliari when they suddenly found out that they were going to end up at another city on the other end of the island? It was already late at night, plans had been made - who would they call, what would they do at this time of night? They ended up 142 miles and three hours away from where they wanted to be.
What about you? Are you going to end up where you want to be? Are you going to end up where God wants you to be? Are you on the right flight, the right path or has your life flight been redirected to another destination?
Sadly, many of us find ourselves arriving at unwanted destinations in life. We intended to serve God with our lives but somehow we became distracted by the pursuits of recreation and pleasure. Perhaps for some it was that elusive “quality time” with the family. It may appear that having a great time at the lake or the beach on Sunday with your family is “quality time”. However, nothing that is a substitute for what God wants in your life is ever going to be in your best spiritual interest or that of your family. While I was growing up my parents spent many a weekend at the lake but the moments I treasure the most with my parents are those few times that we were all together in church.
If we want to end up where we want to be and God wants us to be spiritually, we need as the writer of Hebrews says, “give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.” The apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians gives us some excellent advice so that we can stay on course, he says, “Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don't drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups.” Maybe it is time for all of us to have a test of our spiritual position so that we do not drift far away, from where we intend to be. Are you on course? Or, have you drifted away?
In His Hand
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. - Isaiah 41:10.
I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them. - Psalm 34:4-7.
Having a close encounter with a tornado is a somewhat shocking experience. It is a shock to see how close many came to death from the power of a F4 tornado. It is a shock to see the sudden destruction that a powerful tornado brought to a soundly constructed building - destroyed in a moment of time. Seeing a mobile home utterly destroyed as it was slammed into the house next to it. Seeing a large piece of tin wrapped around the top of a tree like a modern work of art.
It is somewhat troubling for us who were living in the path of this danger. It is troubling because we know that this is not the first time that a tornado has traveled this path or a very similar path. It is the fourth time in the memories of those living here that the school in Sweetwater, Oklahoma has been hit.
We were in our storm shelter in the basement of our house at least 15 minutes before the tornado arrived. There were several funnels. The strongest funnel, which hit the school, was to the west of us across the road. Another funnel touched down briefly in front of our house to hit one of our trees and then the front part of our church knocking over the steeple and damaging the front wall as it moved north. Another funnel traveled just to the south of our house, turned the corner at the end of our fence in our backyard and moved north hitting a new oilfield building a short distance away. We could hear the roar and could feel our house shaking.
Shortly before the tornado hit my wife and I prayed. Prayed for the safety of those in the path of the tornado. Prayed that no one would be hurt. Prayed for our own safety. Others in the path of this destruction have told us that they too were praying.
My first thoughts after seeing how close we had come and the awesome destructive force that passed our way was that we ought to move some place safe. Of course, the fact is that there is no place that is immune to disasters of one kind or another - natural or man made. God had protected us. The funnels had passed on three sides of us but we were still safe. We were delivered from the danger.
The question for all of us is where will we find our safety? Where will we put our faith? Of course, we need to take the precautions that we know to take like going to a storm shelter if one is available. But whether it is a force of nature, a criminal, or a terrorist that threatens the only real place of safety is found in the hand of God. “The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them.”
You Can Run…
For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the Lord, which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth. - Zechariah 4:10.
Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. - Ephesians 4:28.
When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord. - Jonah 2:7.
According to police officials, Johnny Snodgrass matched the description of a man who stole an 89-year-old woman’s purse and who was seen on the security tape at a nearby video poker store where the elderly woman‘s wallet was found. Receiving a tip police went to where Snodgrass worked at a construction site to question him. However, the suspect ran and tried to hide in a portable toilet. Police Chief James Kudlak said, “A Port-A-Potty is not a good place to hide. There's only one way out.” Snodgrass surrendered after officers found him and called to him to come out. Of course, 21-year-old Johnny Snodgrass claims that he is innocent. You can run…but you can’t hide!
Most of the time criminals are caught but sometimes they are able to hide, or conceal their criminal acts. However, on a spiritual level, you can run but you can’t hide! God knows, God sees what you do. He sees everything that you do. Because the eyes of the Lord “scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.”
For most of us, we know that stealing is wrong. It is wrong on a societal level because there are many laws against it. It is also wrong on a spiritual level because it is against the will of God for our lives. Sadly, we hear again and again about those who have stolen by embezzlement and never expect to be caught but are. I sometimes call this the “God Factor.” It may be that other human beings would never know about a theft or embezzlement except that unexpectedly it is revealed. There will always be someone who knows the truth and that someone is God.
On an entirely other level we sometimes try to run from God spiritually because we know that He wants us to do something that we do not want to do. Jonah of Old Testament fame (Found in the little book of Jonah.) is the Biblical character that fits into this category. God had told Jonah to go to Nineveh and preach to them but Jonah did not want to go. Instead, he tried to run from God. We know what happened. God knew exactly where Jonah was and Jonah ended up in the belly of a great fish for three days and nights. Apparently that was all that Jonah could take because he changed his mind at that point and prayed that God would help him. In Jonah’s words, “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord (Jonah 2:7a).” God had not forgotten about Jonah and the same call, the same command to go to Nineveh was given again. The second time Jonah did what God wanted even though he was not happy about it.
Many people try to run from God before surrendering to His will for their lives. Augustine an early church father was involved in all kinds of wickedness even though his mother was a very godly woman who continually prayed for him. Eventually God was able to gain the attention and faithfulness of Augustine. John Newton was another man who was very far from God but God knew exactly where this future mighty servant was. Franklin Graham in his testimony tells of his rebelliousness but he can also testify that you may run from God but you cannot hide!
How about you? Have you been trying to run from God? The truth is that He knows exactly where you are. Isn’t it time to remember the Lord and get out of the belly of that fish?
Life is Like That
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. - 2 Corinthians 1:3-4.
A 42-year-old woman in Hong Kong had a bad start to her day - she slipped while brushing her teeth and swallowed her toothbrush. She was still able to call 999 for help. Doctors were able to remove the toothbrush and the woman is reportedly doing well.
A 26-year-old woman in Sydney, Australia had a somewhat similar problem when she accidentally swallowed a teaspoon. She had the teaspoon in her mouth when she started laughing which resulted in the spoon being swallowed. It was difficult to remove but doctors were after several tries able to remove it without invasive surgery.
Some people are injured before they even make it out of their bedrooms in the mornings. It has been reported that every year more than 125,000 people are injured by doing things like falling out of the bed, tripping over the bed, or being hurt somehow by the headboard of the bed.
In 1972, Bob Hail had made it out of bed and apparently had successfully avoided the dangers of the bed, brushing the teeth, and of eating breakfast before going skydiving. Hail was just learning how to skydive when he had perhaps his most memorable experience in life. When he jumped from the plane, his parachute did not open. When he tried to open his backup chute, it also failed. He found himself heading toward the ground at about 80 mph and nothing slowed his descent. He landed on his face. Hail later said, “I screamed. I knew I was dead and that my life was ending right then. There was nothing I could do.” Amazingly, Bob Hail was able to stand up, and walk away with only a broken nose and some missing teeth.
In 2 Corinthians, the apostle Paul mentions those who experience tribulation and trouble. He mentions those things because life is like that. We are going to have some tribulations and troubles while living life here on Planet Earth. Sometimes those tribulations and troubles may not turn out as well as they did for Bob Hail or for the two women who swallowed the toothbrush and the spoon. Why? Because life is like that.
The good news in all of this is that our God is a God of mercies and of “all comfort.” In the midst of living life and of experiencing all of the tribulations and troubles that life sometimes brings our way - God is able to and wants to “comfort us.” When God gives us “comfort”, we are then able to give “comfort” to others who are experiencing tribulations and troubles.
So, the next time you trip over your bed in the morning or swallow your toothbrush remember that life is like that. Remember too that your God cares about you (1 Peter 5:7) and wants to give you comfort in the midst of whatever your trouble or tribulation may be.
Peace in the Storm
On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” - Mark 4:35-41.
The Solomon Islands are still suffering from the effects of a tsunami caused by an 8.0 earthquake. It has been reported that the death toll is now 25 and thousands of people are homeless. Waves as high as five meters (about 15 feet) swept people away and destroyed buildings. Thankfully, the latest tsunami was not as severe as the one in 2004 when 230,000 people were killed. However, the residents of the Solomon Islands are suffering just as much and are in great need of aid and prayer.
Hurricanes, tsunamis, tornados and earthquakes all cause us to search for answers in the spiritual realm and drive us to our knees in prayer. I now have a storm shelter where I can find safety if a severe storm with a possible tornado is headed my way. There have been many times in the past when I did not have a storm shelter and tried to find safety in a closet, or a bathroom. I can tell you that I was praying much harder when I was facing the storm unprotected in the closet or bathroom than when I am in the storm shelter.
The disciples also faced the fury of nature as a raging storm threatened to swamp their boat. It must have been quite a storm because there were experienced fishermen on board that no doubt had faced bad storms in the past. The storm was bad enough that they were calling out to the Lord for Him to save them from the onslaught of it. Then, they were shocked, surprised, and in the end fearful that Jesus could by merely saying, “Peace, be still!” bring an end to the storm.
How bad does the storm have to become in your life before you call out to the Lord? I am not just talking about nature’s storms and disasters. What about the health storms, emotional storms, financial storms, unemployment storms, relational storms…? At what point do you realize you need help which is beyond your ability, beyond any human ability to provide?
If you are facing your own personal tsunami, remember that Jesus still has the power to calm the storm whatever it may be. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses (passeth - KJV; transcends - NIV; surpasses all comprehension - NASB) all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).”
Stealing the Kitchen Sink
Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. - Ephesians 4:28.
A man in Britain took a little vacation to Thailand, Australia, New Zealand and the United States and had a great time. However, when he returned home he was a little upset to find that burglars had been busy in his house while he was away. The burglars made off with his oven, his wall units, they stripped his kitchen including his kitchen sink. Perhaps these burglars were cooks and dishwashers by day? The owner of the home, James Elstub said, “I can't believe I returned home from my holiday to find burglars had stolen my kitchen sink.” Elstub resorted to using a microwave for two weeks until he could have everything replaced.
Sadly, there are some people who make their living by stealing from others. It has been that way for a very long time. Zacchaeus is a name that most of us are familiar with because he according to the little children’s song is the “wee little man” who Jesus told to come down out of the tree. Children and some adults probably have the idea that Zacchaeus was a harmless little guy that everyone would have loved. This is far from the truth of the situation. Zacchaeus was a tax collector, and he was a very rich tax collector. He got to be that way by taking whatever extra he could take from the ones he collected the taxes from. Zacchaeus was a man that most people in the area would have hated. Not only did they hate him - they may have even feared him.
The good news is that Zacchaeus changed. Jesus told Zacchaeus to come down out of that tree (Luke 19) and Zacchaeus did exactly that. Zacchaeus became a follower of Jesus and began living like one too. We know this because of what Zacchaeus does. Luke 19:8 tells us, “Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.’” As the apostle John says, “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18).” Zacchaeus began to live like a Christian, like a believer ought to live. His actions spoke much louder than his words especially to those that he had overtaxed. He was being obedient to the Law, which states in Exodus 22:1, “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall restore five oxen for an ox and four sheep for a sheep.” Zacchaeus knew that he had stolen and began to live, as he should.
Why should a person who has stolen give back more than what was taken? In the time that the Law was written an ox or sheep that was stolen was the same as taking away the ability to make a living. It was a traumatic thing and it was only right that more be given back than was taken. Today, being a victim of a burglary or robbery is still a traumatic thing. It may not prevent us from making a living but it is still a major shock to our system. James Elstub I am sure would agree with that.
Since you have become a Christian, a believer in Jesus Christ, do your actions prove the truth of that? Have you changed like Zacchaeus not just in the words you say but also in the way you live your life? Has believing on Jesus made a difference in your life? Would anyone notice that difference?
Give Him the Keys
When He had said this, He went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. And it came to pass, when He drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mountain called Olivet, that He sent two of His disciples, saying, “Go into the village opposite you, where as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Loose it and bring it here. And if anyone asks you, ‘Why are you loosing it?’ thus you shall say to him, ‘Because the Lord has need of it.’” So those who were sent went their way and found it just as He had said to them. But as they were loosing the colt, the owners of it said to them, “Why are you loosing the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of him.” Then they brought him to Jesus. And they threw their own clothes on the colt, and they set Jesus on him. - Luke 19:28-35.
Carjacking has become a serious problem in the United States. Statistics on a national level available for the five-year period of 1998-2002 indicates that there were 2.1 carjackings per 10,000 people a year. This was an increase from 1.3 per 10,000 people during the previous five-year period. In 74 percent of the carjackings, a weapon was used. However, according to one police officer when a man with his head covered comes at you yelling obscenities most people will let them have their car even if the carjacker does not have a weapon.
Penalties for carjacking are severe because the federal Anti-Car Theft Act of 1992 made it a federal offense with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. The 1994 Crime Bill increased the punishment to include the death penalty if an innocent victim is killed as a result of the crime. Although severe, the punishments do not quite measure up to the Old West punishments for horse stealing. In the Old West, a horse thief if caught was quickly put to death by hanging. One page I found about the reasons for this said, “A man coveted his possessions in the west in this order: first his horse, second his rifle, third his dog, and fourth his wife. Steal his wife but beware of the wrath rendered if one was to steal his horse.”
Depending upon the situation usually you are safer just to give your vehicle to the carjacker instead of risking the outcome of a confrontation. All of us, however, would be upset if we were the victim of a carjacking. But what if we found someone stealing our car and when we asked them what they were doing they said, “Because the Lord has need of it.” Our first response might be, “You’ve got to be kidding!”
I am amazed at the depth of faith that the owners of the donkey had when they willing gave it to the disciples for use by Jesus. Once they knew that Jesus needed their donkey there was no need for further questions they simply allowed the animal to be taken. The owners in effect gave the keys to Jesus.
Jesus is still asking for the keys. He wants the keys to your heart. He wants the keys to your time. He wants the keys to your money. He wants the keys to all of your possessions. What usually happens when you hear that still small voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to you about what Jesus wants in your life? What usually happens for the vast majority of Christians is that they act as if Jesus is a carjacker trying to wrench something away from them. Is that how you have responded when the Holy Spirit speaks and says, “The Lord has need of it”?
When we receive Christ as our Savior, we often speak of giving our heart to the Lord. The spiritual fact is that it was not to be a temporary condition. Your heart was not something that the Lord wanted for a few minutes of time. No, He still has need of your heart, and all that you are and have. Isn’t it time that you gave Him the keys?
A Great Testimony
And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death. - Revelation 12:11.
(I recently received this testimony and it is so wonderful that I had to share it with all of you. - Ed Wrather)
Greetings and Jai Mashi (Praise the Lord) to you all in Jesus' name our Lord!
First of all I would like to thank God coz of Him I could share my testimony. Also I'd like to thank "Burning Bush" for giving me this opportunity.
My name is Shanti Bajracharya. I'm from Nepal and now working in Hong Kong. I came from a Buddhist family and my father is a Buddhist priest. I used to believe in all kind of gods and respect Jesus as one of the gods. After I married I found out my husband was an alcoholic. All my efforts on helping him to quit weren't working at all. Years passed and we have two children, they grew up seeing us arguing and fighting all the time. At that time our business of producing bags was facing difficulties and we came into a big debt. On top of it I have to raise support of the family on my own. Rents, food, utilities and school fees for children for which the income from my extra jobs wasn't even enough and we end up into more debts.....at that time my husband was still drinking as usual and even getting worse and worse!
I sought help for my husband from all kind of gods, spiritual medium, witch doctors and all kind of medicine couldn't help. Then one day in the hospital the doctor told me that his liver is damaged and one more drink will take away his life. He was not able to care for himself at all, and life was getting so difficult that I thought to myself it is better for him to die.
I became so despaired that one day the thought of committing suicide came into me so I lock myself into a kitchen and poured kerosene all over my body and again I went to the other room and burned myself. I could hear my children were screaming, the neighbors were watching from outside and finally my husband put a blanket on me.
At that time I wasn't feeling any pain at all probably the pain inside was even greater then it. I was burning inside. Soon after I was sent to the hospital, and had to stay there for a month. In the end I was unable to commit suicide.
Although I've been healed, parts of my body were still in pain, itching, and burning. Then one night I had a dream. I dreamt that God touched my aching body, and said to me "my daughter if you should ever be in need, just to call His name and He will answer" I woke up it seemed so real, it was a miracle as the sore burned parts of my body started to heal, and I thought of God working in my life.
A year later I got divorced, I received custody of my two children as my husband was unfit to care for them. Then I got an opportunity to come to Hong Kong to work so that I could support my family. I sent my children to boarding school, and although I didn't know God that well, I prayed to God to protect them and keep them safe from harm.
Life in Hong Kong was not easy, I had to struggle, as I did not speak the local language and did not know how to cook. After a year went by I wanted to quit, but I thought of my children in Nepal when I shared this problem with one of my friends, she introduced me to sister Caroline. I shared all my problems and she prayed for me and counseled me. I felt much better, she told me about Jesus who knows me even when I was in my mother's womb, who watches over me, though I may not know Him, He knows all my pain and He suffers for our sins.
She explained that God sent Jesus to earth, to save us and was sacrificed so that we may live eternally in heaven. If only we would accept Jesus as our savior into our hearts. That same day I asked Jesus to come into my heart and to forgive me for all that I've done wrong. I felt as if all my burdens had vanished. And I did not need to worry about anything, I felt like I was in the arms of my Father, so special was this experience of his great love. So I cast all my cares and burdens to my new God whom I can call my Father.
By God's grace I heard that my husband as well has accepted Jesus into his life and now he is studying in the Bible College.
I could never thank God enough for all that He's done for me, how He changed my life for the better, and I always look forward to telling others of His great love. I found the purpose of my life and I want to live now to serve the Lord. I praise God that my two children have also accepted the Lord Jesus as their Savior. I pray each day to have a closer relationship with God and also with my family. Praise the Lord.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made, your works are wonderful, I know that full well. How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” - Psalm 139:14,17.
(Shanti (which means peace) previously sent this prayer request to our prayer group: “Please, pray for my daughter Sylva, she is studying in college. Also pray for my son Ayub. He is preparing the final exam, on 4th-11th of April. Pray for me about wisdom and spiritual growth. Thank you, friends in Christ.” If you would like to encourage Shanti you can contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org )
Running - Part II
…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…. - Hebrews 12:1c-2a.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. - John 1:1-5.
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. - John 1:14.
John Bunyan was the author of “Pilgrim’s Progress” and several other books. “Pilgrim’s Progress” was written during a 12-year period of incarceration for preaching without a license. How did Bunyan find the strength to write such a wonderful book during such a dark time in his life? Bunyan says, “I was never out of my Bible.”
The great evangelist of the last half of the 19th Century, Dwight L. Moody said, “This book (the Bible) will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from this book.” Moody was a great student of the Bible. The Bible says much the same thing in Psalm 119:9-16, “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You. Blessed are You, O LORD! Teach me Your statutes. With my lips I have declared all the judgments of Your mouth. I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies, as much as in all riches. I will meditate on Your precepts, and contemplate Your ways. I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word.”
I like what Jack Hayford says about the Bible, “Consider the one thing in this world which you and I can touch that has ‘eternity’ written into its fabric. It’s the Word of God. Every time I take a Bible in hand, I hold eternity, because the life-force inherent in that Word exceeds all time and space: ‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Word shall not pass away.’”
To run the race of life across the finish line of eternity we are to be “…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith….” How do we do that? Is it just the focus of our minds upon Jesus? Or, is there more that is needed? I believe there is more that is needed. To run the race of life successfully we need to look to Jesus and there is no better way to do that than to read, study, meditate on, and memorize the Word of God. Jesus is the “word became flesh.” Jesus has always been in existence. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Every time you open up the Bible and begin to read, it is like looking into the face of Jesus.
Of course, reading and studying the Word of God is not the only part of how we are to look to Jesus. I would argue, however, that without the Bible in your life in a real and vital way that you will never find the strength to pray, attend church, or serve God in a meaningful way on a continuing basis. Without the Bible, you will be unable to consistently live the Christian life. John Bunyan had the formula for life, real life that every Christian needs as he says, “I was never out of my Bible.”
If you have been having trouble running the race of life it may be that you have left out the Word of God. Or, it may be that you have not left out the Bible completely but you have not enough of it in your life. George Mueller read through the Bible some 100 times during his lifetime in which he cared for thousands of orphans and in his later years became a world-wide evangelist in a time of sailing ships. How many times have you read through the Bible? In 45 minutes to an hour a day you can read through the Bible in 90 days (Nelson Publishing has a Bible set up to help you to do that - only available in NIV.). How many verses of the Bible have you memorized? (The Navigators have some excellent memorization tools.)
God has given us through Jesus all we need to run the race but it is up to us to do the running. How is your race going?
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. - Hebrews 12:1-4.
Robert Garside aka the Runningman of Great Britton is finally being recognized as the first person to run around the world. It was a run of 30,000 miles that crossed six continents and took six years. Garside encountered some difficulties along the way. In Mexico and Panama, he had encounters with thugs with guns. In Russia, they didn’t just chase him, they shot at him, and in China they put him in jail. That’s not even considering the natural barriers he ran across like jungles, and deserts without a support team. His most difficult moments were while running in the Himalayas as he says, “It was very cold and I was lonely and it's difficult to find motivation at times like that.” Garside speaking of the doubters, and the difficulty of having his run officially recognized said, “It's been a long process, but it was very well documented and it has now been recognized officially as the first fully authenticated run around the world. I'm really happy about this, this run cost me everything.”
We as believers are involved in a run that will take us more than 30,000 miles and six years. The run that we are making will take a lifetime. The end of our physical lives is the finish line. Jesus ran His race well, and finished His race well. The finish line for Jesus was His last dying breath on the cross. There on the cross when He knew He had made it He cried out, “‘It is finished!’ And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit (John 19:30).” Why did Jesus do it? To make it across His finish line, the finish line of the cross, cost Jesus everything. Why did He do it? “…who for the joy that was set before Him….”
The apostle Paul explains about the joy that was set before Christ in Ephesians, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will (Ephesians 1:3-5).” Jesus was looking forward to that future time when because of His having completed His race on earth that we would have a Savior and through Him be adopted into the family of God. Jesus endured the cross and the humiliation so He could experience the joy of having us as part of His family.
Because Jesus was able to complete His race being tempted at all points yet without sin, He is able to help us to complete our race as well. We can never do it in our own strength. We must continually, constantly look to Jesus for the example, the strength, and the encouragement to continue our run. He is sufficient and some day we too can come triumphantly to our own finish line. However, it is not without cost. It cost Robert Garside everything to run around the world. It cost Jesus everything to go to and through the cross. It will cost us everything to run into His eternal arms but it will be worth it all for the eternal joy that awaits.
Out of the Dust
But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand. - Isaiah 64:8.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. - Romans 8:28-29.
For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. - Colossians 1:16.
And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. - Genesis 2:7.
Scott Wade is the “Dirty Car Artist.” His masterpieces are drawn in the dust of his car window. His drawings are more than simply the words, “Wash Me.” No, his drawings are great works of art created out of only dust. He has drawn for example the Mona Lisa, superimposed over his drawing of Van Gogh’s, “The Starry Night.” He has drawn dogs playing poker and Bottelcelli’s, “The Birth of Venus.” To see these works of art created out of nothing but dust is to think that this is amazing, magnificent, impossible, fantastic…. Wade says, “I've always drawn pictures on dirty windows. It wasn’t a conscious decision to develop a new art form, it was just looking for art in everything.” You can view some of Scott’s works of art at dirtycarart dot com.
It is hard to imagine that someone is able use just the dust on a car window to create a work of art. I first saw this story on Fox News and was amazed at seeing Scott transform dust into a thing of great beauty. After contemplating this for a moment, I realized that this is exactly what God does with our lives. God created mankind out of the dust. We are all made of the same material, as was the first man, Adam.
We are just dust - but God is busy working in our lives to transform us into His own personal works of art. We are the clay, and He is the potter. His hands are upon the life of every believer molding, shaping and transforming. God never lets anything be wasted in a believer’s life. It may be a horrific experience but God will use it if allowed to further shape, mold and transform. If we love God, and seek His will, and plan to be done in our lives all is used to bring about the ultimate good, the ultimate work of art. The ultimate transformation, the ultimate in artistry for God is that we would be changed into, conformed to “the image of His Son.”
Yes, sometimes His hands upon our lives can bring pain but if we submit to His will it will all be for our ultimate benefit. The dust will be transformed into a wondrous work of art and we will be like Him!
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. - Jude 1:20-23.
Many of you watched as I did when three Japanese fishermen attempted to rescue a 30-foot long whale that had been trapped in a bay near the island of Shikoku southwest of Tokyo. The whale turned on them hitting their boat. As a result, a fifty-eight year old man drowned. Two of the fishermen were saved.
What a frightening experience it must have been! The fishermen were trying to do the right thing and save a creature’s life but instead one man lost his life. The fishermen must have known how dangerous something like that could become but they tried to save the whale anyway.
Attempting to rescue someone spiritually can be difficult and even dangerous. Jude gives us this indication that some are easy to reach “on some have compassion making a distinction.” Many that I have led to the Lord have been exactly like that. They were ready to know the Lord; they were just waiting for someone to tell them the Good News of Jesus Christ. What joy to lead someone like that to the Lord! However, Jude indicates that there is another type of lost person who will not be so easy to lead to the Lord.
Jude speaks of the difficulty and the danger in attempting to reach some lost people. Jude writes, “…but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.” This sounds like it might be as hard as rescuing a stranded whale that does not want to be rescued. “…save with fear.” What is there to fear of a lost person? Jude’s little letter was written primarily to warn of deceivers, false teachers who were trying to lead believers away from the true Christ. At the beginning of his letter Jude warns in verse 4, “For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” The danger in trying to lead these deceivers, false teachers to the truth was that you might yourself become deceived by them. So, a rescue of these people had to be done with caution and even “fear”.
In addition, to the dangers that Jude speaks of directly there are other dangers in attempting to lead some to the Lord. Trying to reach someone involved in sexual sins could result in your becoming bogged down in those sins as well. Trying to reach someone involved in substance abuse could result in your becoming addicted too. Trying to reach someone involved in financial illegalities might tempt you to try it yourself.
The Bible does give us some direction about how to proceed in dealing with these situations. In Galatians 6:1 the apostle Paul writes, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” Although Paul is focusing on believers who have turned away his advice is also good for reaching out to those who have never believed. You must consider “yourself lest you also be tempted.”
Does this mean that we should not try to reach some people because it is too dangerous? It means that we should take precautions. It means that like the Japanese fisherman we should not try to rescue a whale by ourselves. We should include other believers in our plan of rescue and seek their advice and wisdom. Jude just prior to speaking of rescuing some with fear gives perhaps the most important advice which is to keep yourself very close to the Lord as he says, “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”
The memory of the righteous is blessed, but the name of the wicked will rot. - Proverbs 10:7.
A good and honest life is a blessed memorial; a wicked life leaves a rotten stench. - Proverbs 10:7 (The Message).
“Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord God, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?” - Ezekiel 18:23.
See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. - Deuteronomy 30:15-16.
Katharine Tuck, thirteen-years-old, has won the contest. Was it a spelling bee she won? No. Was it a scholastic meet that she won? No. Was it an athletic contest that she won? No. No, nothing so mundane as any of those things. Katharine has won the 32nd annual National Odor-Eaters Sneaker Contest. Odor-Eaters’ press release on their website states, “In the end, thirteen-year-old Katharine Tuck took home the grand prize with a pair of one-year-old sneakers that nearly caused the judges to pass out.” You could probably sum up the condition of her sneakers with one word - those sneakers are just plain rotten. Katharine said, “My sneakers got dirty and smelly by just wearing them everyday to work in my yard, playing sports, and just playing.” Katharine’s sneakers will be “enshrined in the Odor-Eaters ‘Hall of Fumes’ in Montpelier, VT.”
Can you imagine wearing around some shoes that were so rotten that they would nearly make people pass out from smelling them? Those sneakers not only smelled bad but they were banged up, stained up, and taped up. They were just rotten!
Now can you imagine that those rotten sneakers represent your life and that your life is leaving a rotten stench behind? The Bible says, “…a wicked life leaves a rotten stench (The Message).” What kind of odor is your life leaving behind? Is it in the top ten, or the runner up category, or is it just kind of a tolerable odor?
There may appear to be many choices in life but there are really only two. We can choose to live a rotten wicked life or we can choose to live our lives for the Lord. Now, you may be thinking that I’m not so bad but a life lived without the Lord is always going to leave behind a rotten stench. How much better to be remembered as being “blessed”. How much better it is to live the kind of life that is a “blessed memorial”.
If we want our lives to be remembered as being more than just a rotten stench, we must choose another course, another way. That better course, that better way is only found through the Lord Jesus Christ (John 14:6; John 10:10b). As long as you have breath, you have a choice. You can choose to live for the Lord this day. You can choose the way of blessing or you can choose the way of the rotten stench. It is up to you.
Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. - Matthew 24:3-5.
“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. “Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it. For as the lightning comes from the east and flashes to the west, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. - Matthew 24:23-27.
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (No entries found on Conservapedia.com.), says this about José Luis de Jesús Miranda: …claims that he is “Jesus in the flesh“. He is the leader of the new religious movement, Growing in Grace, which has been called a cult by (among others) cult consultant Rick Ross and Daniel Alvarez, professor of religion at Florida International University. Miranda believes his life and teachings supersede those of Jesus of Nazareth—a point which he emphasizes by referring to himself as the Antichrist and by exhibiting a “666” tattoo on his forearm.
Miranda is reportedly a former heroin addict and former prison inmate from Puerto Rico. Miranda claims to have followers in 20 countries who recently have been showing their support for him by having “666” tattooed on their bodies.
It is somewhat shocking to hear of thousands perhaps even millions of people believing that someone on this earth is Jesus Christ in the flesh. However, it should not really surprise us since Jesus warned us that this would happen as the end time approaches. Of course, Miranda is not the first to claim to be Christ, there have been many others. Prophecy Central has a list of some of them at this link: www.bible-prophecy.com/false.htm#Current.
The apostle Paul says that we should not be surprised that there will be those who come claiming to be Christ or His workers as he tells us in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” Instead we should be on guard that we ourselves are not deceived as Paul expresses in 2 Corinthians 11:3, “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” Nor should we be surprised that many will follow these false christs and false teachers as the apostle Paul says in 1 Timothy 4:1, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.”
Each of us should strive to grow in the grace, knowledge, and wisdom of our Lord so that we ourselves are not deceived. As Jesus says in Matthew 24, “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many.”
But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; let those also who love Your name be joyful in You. For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous; with favor You will surround him as with a shield. - Psalm 5:11-12.
The Spanish Celta Vigo football (soccer) club is struggling because at their home Balaidos stadium, they have only won one match this season. The plan for winning the upcoming match against Real Madrid is, however, a little unusual. The Club is asking their fans to loan them their lucky charms in the hope that this will help them become winners. A statement on the Celta Vigo’s website says, “Bring your garlic, holy water, rabbit's foot or even a whole rabbit to the club offices between March 19 and April 1 and leave it there until after the match against Real Madrid.” Their hopes in the new plan is summed up with, “Let's see if together it can bring us some luck at Balaidos.”
I have to admit to having owned a rabbit’s foot with a little chain on it when I was a boy. I cannot remember how it came into my possession but they were very popular at one time. My rabbit’s foot bit the dust at some point in my boyhood because I could really see no point in keeping it. As far as good or bad things happening in my life I could not tell any difference after having disposed of the rabbit’s foot. I actually felt good about the decision and today I am even more delighted that I was able to make that decision before I became an adult. I am glad that whenever things are not going my way that I do not have to dig out a rabbit’s foot, or horseshoe, or garlic, or holy water, or whatever. I am glad that before I step foot out of my house that I don’t have to make sure that I have a rabbit’s foot in my pocket or hanging around my neck.
Instead of depending upon a lucky charm, hoping upon a lucky charm to bring me luck - I depend upon my trust in the One true and living God. I can rejoice with the Psalmist that I know the truth of His power and strength. I can shout with joy because He defends me - and His power and strength is real because He is alive!
Isn’t it time to trash the lucky charms and instead depend, trust upon the living God? The Psalmist says that He will bless the righteous with favor and surround them like a shield. What a deal! Exchange the worthless and dead lucky charms for the blessing and favor of God along with His surrounding you with His protection. Put your trust in God and not in charms. Put your trust in God and not in luck. You will always be glad that you did!
Absurdity in the Church
Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved. I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life. - Philippians 4:1-3.
There was a routine appendix operation underway in Belgrade. Everything appeared to be fine, however, that was before the operation took a turn for the worst. No, the patient did not suddenly have some unforeseen complication. No, the surgeon did not make an unfortunate mistake in the surgery itself. No, the anesthesiologist did not administer the wrong medication. So, what happened? Dr. Spasoie Radulovic was performing the operation when there was a disruption. The anesthesiologist explains, “At one moment Dr. Dragan Vukanic pulled the ear of the operating doctor, slapped him in the face and walked out.” Dr. Radulovic who was performing the operation abruptly followed the other doctor outside and the fight was on. Reportedly, the doctors involved suffered bruises, loose teeth, split lips, and a fractured finger. Thankfully, the assistant doctor for the surgery was able to complete the operation.
Can you imagine if you were a family member of the person having the surgery and saw your doctor leave the operating room and become involved in a fight? It is almost unthinkable for a situation like the one described to have actually happened. I have never heard of something like that happening! Surgeries are difficult enough without having to fight with another surgeon during the operation. Even in a war zone where there are distractions from incoming fire, and multiple traumatic wounded soldiers there is not the added stress of having to fight fellow doctors. Normally, the focus is on the injured, the hurting, and the one who needs medical attention and not on individual personalities of medical personnel.
The apostle Paul gives us a hint of a situation in the church that is just as absurd as what happened in Belgrade. Paul says, “I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord.” Apparently, there was a serious disagreement between the two so much so that their names remain forever in the Scriptures. These were not new Christians or immature Christians. No, Euodia, and Syntyche had “labored with” Paul “in the Gospel.” These were not just any Christians but serious Christians who had once labored mightily for the cause of Christ. What a tragedy! You can sense the pain of Paul as he says these words because such a thing ought not to be.
For those involved in a breach in the unity of the church it means they are out of fellowship not only with others in the body of Christ but with the Lord Himself. With the eternal destinies of so many at risk, it is even worse than a surgeon walking out in the middle of a surgery to have a fistfight. If you are involved in such a situation, I implore you just as the apostle Paul implored Euodia and Syntyche to “be of the same mind in the Lord.” Reconciliation between those involved in a breach in the fellowship could result in others being convicted of their need to turn back to the Lord as well. The end result could be a revival that begins in your church and spreads from church to church impacting the entire world.
Change Your Life - Part III - Build Your Life
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.
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. - 2 Peter 3:18.
To be healthy physically it is well known that you cannot just stop eating bad foods and start eating good foods. No, something else is needed. There are many in our church who are blessed to live long lives while still remaining very active. How have they been able to do that? One part is that they have had a lot of physical exercise over the course of their lives. No, they haven’t been going to a gym and working out. No, the exercise that they have received for the most part has been in the form of good old hard work. They have worked hard all of their lives and that physical exercise has paid off for them by helping keep their bodies running well and active even into their older years.
Physical exercise is vital to obtaining and maintaining physical well-being. “Physical Activity and Health: A Report of the Surgeon General,” gives the following benefits of exercise: reduce the risk of premature death; reduce the risk of developing and/or dying from heart disease; reduce high blood pressure or the risk of developing high blood pressure; reduce high cholesterol or the risk of developing high cholesterol; reduce the risk of developing colon cancer and breast cancer; reduce the risk of developing diabetes; reduce depression and anxiety, and there are many more benefits of exercise listed in the report.
Although it is possible to misuse your body usually hard work and exercise results in your body becoming stronger. Your body is a machine designed to be used and if you do not use it then it will grow weak. Without use, your body will grow weak even if you are not eating or drinking things that are harmful and it will grow weak even if you are eating and drinking those things that are good for it.
Your spiritual self is much like your physical body. You can be avoiding sin and having an intake of prayer, the Word, and church and still grow spiritually weak. Why? Because you need exercise, you need to put into practice those things that you have learned and are learning - to grow strong spiritually. So, I want to share with you how you can change your life by building your life, exercising your life.
One thing that you should already be doing is spending time in prayer, talking to your Lord. However, many Christians never go beyond praying about their own needs, what is going on in their own lives. To build our lives we need to go beyond ourselves and begin to pray for others. The apostle Paul says in 1 Timothy 2:1-2a, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority….” If we want to change our lives, build our lives then we must become prayer warriors and surely it is a sin (1 Samuel 12:23) for us not to be prayer warriors.
Another spiritual exercise that needs to be an active part of our lives is servanthood. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).” Surely, we are to follow the example of Jesus and be servants. If we want to change our lives, build our lives then we must become servants. As we become servants, we will find that we are not only changing and building our lives but we are changing and building the lives of those around us as well.
Witnessing is also a spiritual exercise that we need. “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth (Acts 1:8).” We are witnesses. If you are a Christian, a child of God, you are a witness - there is not an opt out provision in this verse. But you do have the option of being a bad witness or of being a good witness. Being a good witness will build your life giving you fulfillment and joy. There is nothing like joy of sharing Christ with someone that is lost. Being a good witness will also give you empowerment to live the Christian life, to enable you to witness as you should. “But you shall receive power….”
One last spiritual exercise that we need is discipleship. “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen (Matthew 28:18-20).” The Great Commission tells us that we are to go beyond witnessing. We are not to just lead people to Jesus but to make disciples. Then we are to teach those disciples, train those disciples. In the teaching and the training, we will find that we ourselves are growing and our lives are being built up as well.
The year is 2007 and isn’t it time to change your life for the better? You can do that if you stop pouring the spiritual trans-fat of sin into your life. You can do that by instead having an intake of the spiritual foods of prayer, the Word of God, and faithful attendance in church. And you can do that; change your life for the better by exercising your spiritual life through becoming a prayer warrior, a servant, a witness, and a discipler.
Change Your Life - Part II - Improve Your Life
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.
In order to improve our physical health we not only need to eliminate those foods which our bad for us but we also need to eat foods that are good for us. Some of those foods are called antioxidants and the benefits of antioxidants are well known. To change your physical health for the better you need to stop the bad foods like Trans fats and add in the good foods that contain antioxidants like fruits and vegetables.
Spiritually it is much the same we need to stop pouring the grains of sin into our lives but at the same time we need to add in the spiritual antioxidants that will protect us from the damaging attacks of the world, the flesh, and the devil. There are three spiritual antioxidants that need to be added to the life, to be a part of the life of every Christian if they want their spiritual life to be changed and improved. What are they? They are not a super secret and like vegetables and fruits for the body, the spiritual antioxidants are available at very little cost and in great quantity. The spiritual antioxidants are Prayer, the Word of God, and the Church.
This is nothing new and yet only a small minority of those professing to be Christians actually take advantage of all three of these spiritual antioxidants. Let’s examine each of these spiritual antioxidants that have the potential of dramatically improving your spiritual life.
First, consider prayer, the Bible says about prayer in 1 John 15:14-15, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.” Samuel Chadwick was a great man of God who preached in England beginning at the age of 21 during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Chadwick most famous quote is that, "The one concern of the devil is to keep Christians from praying. He fears nothing from prayerless studies, prayerless work, and prayerless religion. He laughs at our toil, mocks at our wisdom, but trembles when we pray." William Carey, missionary to India, said, "Prayer - secret, fervent, believing prayer - lies at the root of all personal godliness." How can you talk to the living God without His having an effect upon your life? Prayer will change, transform and improve your life.
Second, is the spiritual antioxidant of the Word of God. Jesus says in Matthew 4:4 quoting the Old Testament, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" In Ephesians 6:17b we read, “…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” And in Hebrews 4:12 we are told, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Allow the Holy Spirit to use His sword, the Word of God. Read the Word, study the Word, memorize the Word, meditate upon the Word and your life will be changed, improved, and transformed.
The third spiritual antioxidant I want us to consider is the church. Make no mistake about the importance of the church. Christ loved the church. Christ died for the church. That should put the church in the proper perspective for you. In Hebrews 10:24-25 we are told very plainly, very bluntly, “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.” If you want to see your life changed, improved, and transformed, make a commitment to attend every service of the church regularly and faithfully. I made that commitment almost 30 years ago and I have never regretted it. I have never regretted the time that I have spent in church. No, the only thing that I regret is the years that I was not attending church regularly and faithfully. Dwight L. Moody that great evangelist of the 19th Century once said, "Church attendance is as vital to a disciple as a transfusion of rich, healthy blood to a sick man." Change your life, improve your life, transform your life by attending church regularly and faithfully.
God has given us the spiritual antioxidants that we need to improve our lives. We cannot be living sacrifices to God unless we take advantage of the spiritual antioxidants of Prayer, Bible, and Church. Transform your life; improve your life by no longer being conformed to the pattern of this world. Instead, have a regular intake of Prayer, Bible and Church. It will change your life forever.
The Lonely Planet
Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. - Acts 2:44-47.
And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” - Genesis 2:18.
For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. - Romans 12:4-5.
Over the past ten to fifteen years there appears to have developed an affinity for privacy among the majority of people. I first noticed it with young people. When I introduce myself to a young person, giving both my first and last names invariably their response is to only say their first name. If I want to know their last name, I have to ask for it specifically. Then we have had the federal privacy rules and one development nearly all of us love is the Do Not Call List. One result of the privacy rules is that the names of those entering and leaving the hospital are no longer published in the newspaper. However, those who have passed away do still have their names published although I do wonder how long that will be allowed to continue.
An article I read this last week talks about the new status symbol of anonymity. According to the article the new status is to be non-famous, to google your name and it not to be there. A special status would be for a search of your name at myspace or youtube or other similar social sites to turn up nothing, nada, zilch. Although a recent poll by Pew Research Center of 18-25-year-olds did find that fifty-one percent of them still had the life goal of becoming famous. It may be that there is a dichotomy here that they want it both ways. After all that is what their idols who have fame are wanting. The famous want fame and the money that it brings but at the same time, they want to be anonymous - to walk down the street and no one to notice them. The famous want to be famous but not googleable.
All of this is really very sad because a complete disconnection from our fellow human beings was never something God wanted or intended. As God put it, “It is not good that man should be alone.” Yesterday, I celebrated 37 years of marriage and I am grateful that God did not want man to be alone because it would be a difficult and much less beautiful world without my wife. But God’s plan for solving the loneliness of man went far beyond the individual family. God’s plan was for a community of interconnected people from all generations to become so close and so connected that they would become the “body of Christ”.
Because of the ice storm and then the snowstorm, it has been more than two weeks since I have been able to be with my church family. I’ve missed them!! Surely, it is not God’s will for us to be alone. Whether we are famous or not, or whether we are on myspace or googleable really is not that important but no one should be alone. The great thing about what God has done for us through Jesus is that no one has to be alone. You do not have to be a part of the lonely planet. No, you can be a part of the connected planet, the really connected planet: the body of Christ.
Change Your Life - Part I
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.
Are you happy with your life? You may be reasonably happy with your life. There may be some things that you would change but not much. Having said that - there are, however, millions of people, possibly billions of people that are not that happy with their lives. Have you heard of “Second Life”? It is an Internet community, which appears to me to be for people who are not happy with their lives in the real world. Here is what the “Second Life” website says about it: “Second Life is a 3-D virtual world entirely built and owned by its residents. Since opening to the public in 2003, it has grown explosively and today is inhabited by a total of 2,260,866 people from around the globe. From the moment you enter the World you'll discover a vast digital continent, teeming with people, entertainment, experiences and opportunity. Once you've explored a bit, perhaps you'll find a perfect parcel of land to build your house or business.”
Second Life has been so successful financially that the IRS is making plans to monitor and tax financial transactions taking place through the Second Life Internet community. Think about this, in Second Life up to $500,000 in user-to-user transactions take place every day, and the economy is growing by 10 to 15 percent a month. I think you can see what I am getting at. There are millions of people who have begun to work and play in what is essentially an imaginary, make believe world. For the vast majority of them they have entered into this virtual world because of their unhappiness, at least to some extent, with their real lives.
It may be that if you are unhappy with your life or even if you are happy with your life that you need a change. Why, you are probably thinking would do I need to change if I am happy with my life? Because you are not the only one involved. The rest of us are involved as well. What you do and what I do affects everyone else. But the most important reason to change our lives is - if God wants you to change. Have you asked God recently if He is happy with the way that you are living your life? If you were to ask God if He is happy with your life - what would He say?
Is there a sin, that you have been involved with? It is not like it has consumed your life but you have been dropping some grains of this sin into your spiritual life and you know you have. Every time you drop another grain of that sin into your life, it puts a little more distance between you and your Lord. Every time you drop another grain of that sin into your life, it slows down your spiritual fervor a little more. Every time you drop another grain of that sin into your life, you have more of a concern about what the world wants and what the flesh wants than you do about what God wants in your life.
What is it that is slowing you down spiritually? What is it that is decimating your spiritual world? What is it that is ruining your fellowship with your Lord? What is it that makes you care more about the things of this world than the things of God? If we are honest with ourselves, we all have some sin in our lives. As the apostle John writes in 1 John, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us (1 John 1:8; 10).” Isn’t it time to pray as the Psalmist prayed “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).”
Do you want to change your life? The good news is that you can change if you have a desire in your heart to change. Just after the apostle John says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8).” He then gives us the good news, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).”
I think what the apostle Paul says in Romans 12:1-2 fits in well here as he says, “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.” To change our lives we must present our bodies, our lives, all that we are to the Lord as living sacrifices. To change our lives we must no longer be conformed to this world, doing what this world wants, thinking what this world wants, living what this world wants - instead we must be transformed as Paul puts it “…by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”
Change your life in 2007 by being no longer conformed to this world but being transformed by the renewing of your mind giving your life to God as a living sacrifice.
Christmas Profiles in Courage
And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. - Luke 2:1-7.
During this holy and sacred season of Christmas, it has been noted that many are depressed, lonely and discouraged - perhaps more so than at any other time of the year. It can be very difficult as memories of the past come to mind which conflict with the realities of the present. It can be very difficult for some to continue living life. We all could use some courage and inspiration during this time when so much is not right with the world and so many face difficult times.
President John F. Kennedy wrote a book called “Profiles in Courage” which described the political courage and integrity of eight United States senators that occurred in history. We still need such courage and integrity.
With the Christmas story we are given several profiles of courage and integrity. In wise men, called Magi, in the Bible we see men of great courage. They followed a star not seen by others for many months from their home country across dangerous lands to worship the newborn King of Kings. The Magi were not only wise, they were also brave and determined to be obedient to what they believed God had called them to do.
Mary although very young gives us a tremendous example of courage and obedience to God. She was engaged and in all respects except for living with Joseph was considered his wife. For her to have a child out of wedlock would make her an adulteress. The penalty for adultery could be execution by stoning. She knew that but was obedient to her Lord.
Joseph too demonstrates courage. He had already decided to put away Mary privately so as to avoid additional unpleasantries (as in stoning) for her. After he had the dream from God, he determined to proceed with his marriage even though the child was not his and even though everyone would know that it was not his child. It took courage and a determination to be obedient to God for Joseph to do what he did.
We also have the example of the courage of our Lord and Savior. Jesus came down from the glories of Heaven to be born into the family of a poor carpenter to walk upon this earth for some thirty years as a human being. He came for the purpose of suffering and dying as the perfect sacrifice in an unspeakable death on the cross. Jesus knew this and yet He still came because “God so loved the world….”
Yes, Heaven came down some 2,000 years ago to give us a Savior. Heaven came down and we have the Christmas story because of incredible courage and obedience of all those involved. Let their courage, let their obedience encourage you and give you strength to move forward to see God’s ultimate will and purpose to be fulfilled in your own life.
May you have a most blessed and wonderful Christmas!!
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction. - Proverbs 1:7.
He has sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever: holy and awesome is His name. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever. - Psalm 111:9-10.
I awoke in time this Sunday morning to see several newscasts about the removal of some 21 Christmas trees from the Seattle-Tacoma Airport in Washington state. It was reported that a rabbi had threatened several times to sue and had issued an ultimatum, which the airport took seriously. The rabbi wanted a menorah to be displayed. To avoid litigation the airport is simply removing the Christmas trees.
The tyranny of the minority has gone too far! As we know the power of the pocketbook trumps all in this society. Therefore, I propose a boycott (i.e. commercial/business aspects) of the 2007 Christmas season in order to save it. Let us give them what they want for one year - no Christmas. All Christians should simply make their own gifts or give what they already have, buy nothing extra, put up no outside Christmas decorations and travel nowhere extra for one Christmas season. Allow the people of this country to see what happens when the minority gets what it wants. If the country decides that they would like to have Christmas in 2007, they can contact their legislators and demand that a Protection of Christian Christmas Symbols constitutional amendment be passed. Please spread the word! Please post this on your website. Send it out with all of your emails.
The secular world has no fear or understanding of our God. The secular world has only contempt for the symbols of Christianity and for Christmas in particular. At the current rate of removal of Christian symbols from our public area of life, it is just a matter of time before they are completely prohibited from public view. It is time to take a stand. It is time to make a statement. If we will do it together, it will make a difference and the symbols of our faith in the public area of life can be preserved.
Let us save Christmas in our society by not having Christmas in 2007. Pass this along to everyone that you can. Send it to your legislators. Send it to the President and Presidential candidates. Most importantly pray, pray that the symbols of our faith may be maintained and preserved. Let us put an end to the tyranny of the minority and save Christmas.
Let Us Rejoice!
Today’s devotional was written by my son, Clark Wrather, who is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. The title and Scripture have been added.
After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. - Matthew 2:9-11.
I wonder just how many Scrooges are reading this newsletter. You are a Scrooge if you dread the time of year around Thanksgiving and Christmas and look forward to it being over. Is this you? I am not too sure, why or how I became a Scrooge, but it happened over the last few years. Possibly, it was the rush of having to go to this and to that holiday event. Maybe, it was the hassle of finding just the right gift for my children and everyone else on my list. It may just be the fact that a good radio station is hard to find during this time of year, one that is not playing Christmas music all day long.
Whatever the reason, I admit I became a Scrooge. When I was younger, this was my favorite time of year. I could not wait for it as a child and then as an adult, I had the same anticipation. The food, the decorations, buying presents and giving them combined to make things wonderful. Honestly, I’m not at all sure how this changed.
I’ve realized recently, that every person only has so many Christmases. There are only so many times that we get to celebrate this holiday during our lives. Over the last few weeks, I have known about two men in their early thirties, who died. Both deaths were unexpected and their families have been on my mind as Christmas approaches. It will be difficult holiday for them. Most of us think the holidays are difficult, but we really have no idea what the words hard and difficult mean.
This year, I have decided to tender my resignation to Scrooges Anonymous and enjoy the holidays with relish. Would you join me? As Christians who believe in Jesus Christ, is there anything better to celebrate than the coming of God’s only Son into our world? Sure, it is hectic, buying gifts can be a hassle, and there are parties you might want to miss, but none of those things change the fact that the Creator became one of His creatures and you are alive to celebrate it this Christmas.
Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very important city—a visit required three days. On the first day, Jonah started into the city. He proclaimed: "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned." The Ninevites believed God. They declared a fast, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. Then he issued a proclamation in Nineveh: "By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let any man or beast, herd or flock, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish." When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened. - Jonah 3:3-10.
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. - 2 Peter 3:9.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. - Ephesians 2:8-10.
David Rodgers is in so much trouble it appears hopeless. He was driving a truck in a Christmas parade in Anderson, South Carolina, that was a float in the parade. The truck was filled with children and adults but that did not stop Rodgers from passing another float and running a red light. Witnesses called 911 and police officers chased Rodgers for three miles before he finally stopped. Then, he attempted to attack an officer. An open container of alcohol was found in the vehicle. As a result of all of this, Rodgers has been charged with more than 36 charges, which include Driving Under the Influence, assaulting an officer, and 18 counts of kidnapping. A child of Rodgers was riding in the parade float for the “Steppin’ Out Dance Studio.”
At least no one was killed or seriously injured, however, the 42-year-old Rodgers could be looking at many years in prison. How does David Rodgers or anyone ever recover from the disaster that his antics has created? Only by turning your life and the entire situation over to God can such hopeless situations be redeemed.
The reluctant evangelist/prophet Jonah finally went to Nineveh and with a one-sentence sermon the power of God fell upon them and they repented. These were wicked people who skinned there enemies alive and left them hanging outside of the cities they ransacked and destroyed. Jonah hated them but God still loved them. He loved the Ninevites enough to send Jonah to warn them. The Ninevites believed Jonah, believed God and repented turning from their sins. They were under a death sentence and their destruction was rapidly approaching but all changed by their putting their trust in God.
Those without Christ Jesus as their Savior today are also under a death sentence, an eternal death sentence. However, God loves us too. He loved us enough to send not a prophet but His own son, Jesus, to warn us and to die for us. Jesus had the same one-sentence message from God, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:17).”
Only God can clean up, redeem a hopeless mess like the one that David Rodgers has made of his life. But then to some extent all of our lives are hopeless messes (Romans 3:23) which only Jesus can redeem. Would you turn from your sins (repent) and receive the most wondrous gift of all, eternal life (Ephesians 2:8; Romans 6:23b)? Only then can God begin to clean up the hopeless mess that we have made of our lives.
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:4-7.
Where we live in western Oklahoma we are in the midst of a snowstorm and it definitely looks like winter has arrived. Thanksgiving is over and Christmas is ahead but you know that. I am into the holiday season and have arrived in the writer block zone. Every year in December, I have trouble writing but it has come earlier this year. It could be because there are many things that are happening and many things that need to be taken care of. They are also known as distractions - or as some have labeled them, "the tyranny of the urgent."
Many are already sending Christmas cards and letters in addition to the annual Christmas gift buying frenzy, which began with a bang last Friday morning for many at midnight. Even in western Oklahoma, it was reported that there was a crowd of 300 people at 5am at a Wal-Mart store to find the advertised bargains. I stayed at home on Friday but did venture out on Cyber Monday to buy a Christmas gift for Jeanie via the Internet. The gift has already arrived!
There are so many distractions during this time of the year. We want to spend time with our families and they want to spend time with us. For many this involves traveling great distances and several days of time. There is the preparation time for the family time and of course the buying of gifts. Often there is also the necessity of the preparation of food for the holiday meals. Along with all of that, there are the church events from nativity reenactments to Christmas programs. There is also the hectic pace of school activities where there is almost always a Christmas program of some kind and basketball or other sports activities are going at a frenzied pace. For those schools that have band programs or vocal programs there will very likely be some special presentations during this time. It all makes for a much busier pace of life for parents many of whom are working their regular schedules and will have an office party or other extra events along the way too.
I am sure there are many other things that could have been mentioned that complicate our lives during this time of year. Life used to be simpler but even Mary and Joseph had a few complications getting ready for the first Christmas. They had to deal with the societal pressure of Mary being pregnant out of wedlock. Mary had to make a tough decision to have the promised child and she was ready to do whatever the Lord wanted. Joseph had a tough decision to make but he did make it and made the right one. Then, they were forced to make a difficult trip during the very last of Mary’s pregnancy. After they arrived in Bethlehem, they had one more little problem: there was no room in the inn. Jesus had to be born in the stables, which many believe to have been just a crude cave.
I hope that you will not become distracted by the many events of the Christmas season at least not too busy to remember to include God in your daily lives. Let us rejoice during this time and remember the true meaning of Christmas. There may very well be problems, distractions ahead for you. They may rise up on the left and on the right. They may come at you head on…but remember that the Lord can give you “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” to “guard your hearts and minds.” God would have you to rejoice in the midst of the Holiday distractions. As the apostle Paul puts it, and he surely had his share of distractions, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!”
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Quiet and Peaceful
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior. - 1 Timothy 2:1-3.
Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. - Romans 12:17-19.
In addition to the election news of recent days there has been the quiet revelation of a website that is…shall we say, dull. It is the Dull Men’s Club. The website in plain letters quietly says about itself, “A place -- in cyberspace -- where Dull Men can share thoughts and experiences, free from pressures to be in and trendy, free instead to enjoy the simple, ordinary things of everyday life.” The Dull Men’s Club is said to be a place for people who “enjoy watching grass grow.” The website states that it “contains no violence or scary scenes.” This apparently also includes exclamation points because they too are avoided. The creator of the website, Lee Carlson says, “Many people - corporate executives and celebrities I've heard about - enjoy doing the dull things.”
From the personal experience of being a man I doubt that there are many men who think of themselves as being dull. It is unlikely that there are many who would make it their life goal to become a dull person. In fact I think it would be almost shocking (As is the Dull Men’s Club website.) to encounter someone whose goal it is to be dull. Sadly, I think that many view the Christian life as being dull. As a result, the Christian life, Christian people, and all things Christian are looked at as being dull and borrring. The Christian life is far from being dull and is instead a daily adventure when lived, as it ought to be lived.
The apostle Paul urges that we live “quiet and peaceable lives” and that we live “peaceably with all men.” Living quiet lives, peaceable lives can be a challenge and is far from living a dull life. It may be easier to live quiet and peaceable lives in a rural setting than it is in an urban area. But it is still possible to have God’s peace wherever you live and in whatever situation you may be. You cannot manufacture this peace and quiet through your own strength or power. No, that is not possible. The apostle does tell us how to have that peace in Philippians 4:6-7 where he writes, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Prayer is necessary to engage the supernatural power of God to bring about that peace that we long to have.
There has been a peaceful change of power in the United States. How much of a change is yet to be seen but there have already been some changes. No one in the United States wants to live in a world of war and violence. If we really want to live quiet and peaceable lives, Paul tells us what we should be continually doing. He says, “I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.”
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What Our Country and the World Really Needs
(Originally written and sent 07.31.98 - Rewritten for today.)
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” - John 3:14-18.
In 1874, one of the first Baptist missionaries to minister to the Plains Indians arrived at what is now Anadarko, Oklahoma. On that day when the missionaries’ first message was preached (John 3:16 was the text.), some of those present still had human scalps hanging from their belts. Over the course of years, many of those Indians received Christ as their Savior.
Bruce Catton, a great Civil War historian and scholar, once gave a speech entitled “What 1861 Has to Say to 1961.” The point was that the problem, the nature of people, was the same in 1861 as it was in 1961. It is the same today. We still have crime, violence, substance abuse, wars, starvation, and on and on which arise from the same source as in the past. Human nature has not changed. “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).” Sin is not without consequence and we continue to see the reaping of its evil harvest.
The solution is the same today as it was in 1874. The answer has been the same for almost 2000 years. The answer is Jesus! The transforming, resurrecting, earthquaking power of Jesus is alive and well today in the hearts of all believers. The same power that transformed mighty American Indian warriors into gentle servants of God in 1874 is still available today. We must have the same courageous boldness of those early missionaries who risked their lives to tell the unlovable about the love of Jesus.
Have you shared Jesus with your neighbor, with your friend, with your relative, with someone God brings across your path? How about your enemies, have you shared Jesus with them, have you prayed for them, cried for them?
Jesus is the only hope, the only answer for the problems of this world.
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(Based on the devotional “Election Day” originally written and sent 11.06.00.)
Just as they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delights in their abominations, so will I choose their delusions, and bring their fears on them; because when I called, no one answered, when I spoke they did not hear; but they did evil before My eyes, and chose that in which I do not delight. - Isaiah 66:3c-4.
In the United States yesterday was Election Day and we have been bombarded with the views of the candidates and party leaders. The candidates and party leaders have had their spin on every issue and the news media has had their spin on the spin. We have been told that this election will determine the course of the nation for decades. Each side has demonized the other and the hype has reached new heights! At least the election hype is over for a few days before everyone gears up, revamps for the 2008 election.
Spiritually there is an even more important Election Day. Joshua put it like this: “...choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).” In Romans 10:13 we are told “For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” If we call upon the name of the Lord, we have voted for Him. If we refuse to call upon the name of the Lord, we have spiritually voted against Him in our lives. Jesus says in John 3:16 “...whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” In John 3:18 Jesus says, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
Once we know Jesus as our Savior our election days are not over but have just begun. Each day we must choose. We must choose to “live in accordance with the Spirit” or “live according to the desires of the sinful nature.” We must choose between “death” or “life and peace (Romans 8:5-6).” Each day is a spiritual Election Day. Let us elect to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14)” each day. Let us choose “life and peace.” Let us choose as Joshua did - to each day “...serve the Lord.”
Our election choices in the political arena do have consequences and we are beginning to see some of them with the resignation of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. There will no doubt be many more consequences of those election choices that the people of the United States have made. Spiritually our election choices also have consequences. The spiritual choices, spiritual elections that we face each day determine the course of the next. What we do or don’t do today will shape our future.
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Unfaithful - Part II
Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. - James 4:1-4.
Ted Haggard is no longer pastor of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Haggard said in a letter read to the church, “The fact is I am guilty of sexual immorality, and I take responsibility for the entire problem. I am a deceiver and a liar. There’s a part of my life that is so repulsive and dark that I have been warring against it for all of my adult life.”
I am no longer surprised to hear such stories, such revelations. I am no longer surprised by them because they occur so frequently. I personally know of several churches and staff members who have been affected by sexual immorality in the area I live (In the past 20 years - no one currently serving.). It seems as though it is several times a year that there are similar stories in state newspapers with those involved not being as prominent in religious life as Haggard. If there is a scandal involving someone in a church whether it is a bus driver, Sunday school teacher, deacon, pastor, secretary, or staff member you can be sure it will be on the front page of the paper.
Our culture, our society expects Christians, and Christian leaders to live up to what they profess. The sad truth is that we are not perfect, and we do have our flaws not having become completely conformed to His image (Romans 8:29). I believe that among non-Christians the numbers of those involved in sexual immorality is exponentially greater. This does not excuse those of us, however, who as Christians have failed to resist the temptations of the world. This does not excuse us of the spiritual adultery. We have not only failed our husband or wife when we commit adultery - we have sinned against God. As we can see in the adultery of David with Bathsheba (Also the arrangement of David for the murder of Bathsheba’s husband Uriah.) in 2 Samuel 12:13, “So David said to Nathan (the prophet), ‘I have sinned against the LORD.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die.’” In Psalm 51 is David’s prayer of confession and plea for mercy.
We are beginning an in depth study of the Book of Ephesians at our church and last night I was struck by how the apostle Paul begins the epistle. He says, “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:1).” The old KJV puts the last few words of the verse as, “to the faithful in Christ Jesus.” “To the faithful….” That is what our Lord calls us to be, “faithful.”
Being “faithful” is a challenge because temptations do assail us in this world in which we live. However, God has provided for us all that we need to live faithfully for Him. In the first chapter of Ephesians, we see that by the blessings we have been given through Jesus that we have all we need to live “faithful” lives. In Christ Jesus, according to the apostle Paul in Ephesians, we are blessed (1:3); chosen (1:4); predestined (1:5); adopted (1:5); accepted (1:6); redeemed (1:7); forgiven (1:7); enlightened (1:8-9); given an inheritance (1:11); sealed (1:13); and, assured (1:14).
You may have failed. You may have sinned against the Lord as David confessed that he had done. However, you too can begin anew and receive forgiveness. You can begin a new walk of faithfulness. You can write a new chapter in the story of your life. You can pray as David did, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin (Psalm 51:1-2).”
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You shall not commit adultery. - Exodus 20:14.
Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge. - Hebrews 13:4.
Rihanna has a song entitled “unfaithful” which describes to some extent the pain of adultery. She compares her adultery in the song to that of a murderer. She says that each time she commits adultery she kills a little more of her husband’s life. Here are some of the words:
And I know that he knows I'm unfaithful
and it kills him inside
To know that I am happy with some other guy
I can see him dying
I don't want to do this anymore,
I don't want to be the reason why
Every time I walk out the door, I see him die a little more
I don't want to hurt him anymore
I don't want to take away his life
I don't want to be,
The song is powerful and blunt in labeling adultery for what it is, murder (Romans 6:23a). Adultery is an evil, terrible, sinful act. Adultery is an act of destruction. The writer of Proverbs captures the horrific nature of adultery as well by saying, “My son, pay attention to my wisdom; lend your ear to my understanding, that you may preserve discretion, and your lips may keep knowledge. For the lips of an immoral woman drip honey, and her mouth is smoother than oil; but in the end, she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death, her steps lay hold of hell (Proverbs 5:1-5).”
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Just Playing Around
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. - 2 Peter 3:18.
Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection. - Hebrews 6:1a.
But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. - 2 Peter 1:5-11.
Ryon S. is just 15 years old and lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Ryon got the surprise of his life on Halloween night when he pointed his BB pistol at a car to scare them. He had been doing that for quite a while but then he pointed his pistol at some people that didn’t scare. Two men jumped out of a car in response with real guns, Glock semi-automatics, which they pointed at Ryon. The two armed men were police officers working undercover in an unmarked vehicle. They ordered Ryon to drop his weapon. Ryon dropped the BB pistol and try to run but was caught. The boy told officers that he was “just playing around” trying to scare people. He has been charged with “assault while displaying a dangerous weapon” but was released to his family.
As Ryon found out our actions do have consequences. If we act foolishly and immaturely, long enough - bad things happen. Hopefully, Ryon will have learned a life changing lesson from the incident and receive counseling and encouragement to prevent further foolishness. Thankfully, the officers exercised much restraint and avoided the use of their own firearms.
Spiritually, there are many Christians who are “just playing around” at Christianity. They may pray a little bit now and then. They may even open up a Bible sometimes and occasionally if there is something happening at church that gets their attention they may drop in for a service. They are “just playing around” at their faith and it ought not to be so.
God is just as serious, even more serious than those police officers with the serious weapons. God is so serious about your spiritual life that Jesus died on the cross for your sins. That is not “just playing around.” No, that is seriously giving everything so that you can have a life, an eternal life. So, what are you doing? Do you even think about God? Do you even care what He thinks about what you do every day? He cares (1 Peter 5:7) and He knows every thought that you think and everything that you do and say. Because if you have received Jesus as your personal Savior - He is living in you through the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16). Your life is no longer yours because you have been bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) and that price was the blood of Jesus Christ.
What does God want for you? What does He want you to do? He wants you to stop “playing around” and “…grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” He wants you to leave behind the “discussion of the elementary principles of Christ” and “go on to perfection.” He wants you to give “all diligence” and “add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Does God Exist?
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them He has set a tabernacle for the sun, Which is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoices like a strong man to run its race. Its rising is from one end of heaven, and its circuit to the other end; and there is nothing hidden from its heat. - Psalm 19:1-6.
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse. - Romans 1:20.
The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” - Psalm 14:1.
The numbers of people living in the United States who are not “absolutely certain” there is a God has grown over the last three years according to a survey by the Harris Poll. They found that 42 percent of adults are not sure about there being a God compared to 34 percent just three years ago. Surprisingly, 34 percent of Protestants, 36 percent of Catholics, and 70 percent of Jews are not “absolutely certain” there is a God. Perhaps the most shocking result of the survey was that of those Christians who call themselves “born again” seven percent were not “absolutely certain” that God exists.
It may be that the growing numbers of those doubting the existence of God are the result of a continual attack upon aspects of the faith especially the supernatural. Attempts have been made many times to explain away the miracles of the Bible. Those attempts have been increasing over the past several years with more media exposure.
The Bible does not try to explain why there is a God. The Bible does not explain where God came from or how God exists. The Bible assumes there is a God from the very first verse with the profound statement, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).” The Bible does state very plainly that only a fool would say that God does not exist. Why? Because the evidence that there must be a God is all around us. We view the evidence in creation and to view the majesty of it is to know that there must have been a master designer. As the Psalmist said, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.”
William Paley (1743-1805) wrote perhaps the most famous metaphor in the philosophy of science which is the image of the watchmaker (and the explanation for why there must be a Creator): “. . . when we come to inspect the watch, we perceive. . . that its several parts are framed and put together for a purpose, e.g. that they are so formed and adjusted as to produce motion, and that motion so regulated as to point out the hour of the day; that if the different parts had been differently shaped from what they are, or placed after any other manner or in any other order than that in which they are placed, either no motion at all would have been carried on in the machine, or none which would have answered the use that is now served by it. . . . the inference we think is inevitable, that the watch must have had a maker -- that there must have existed, at some time and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer, who comprehended its construction and designed its use.”
Does God exist? It is up to every individual to decide. To believe that God exists requires faith. You must believe! Do you? With all of the evidence that there must be a Creator, a God - I believe that it would take a greater faith to believe that there is not a God. Maybe that is why the Bible says that you would be a fool not to believe there is a God. “The FOOL has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”
An Intolerant God
(Originally written and sent 10.20.2000.)
Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor; and do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate, says the Lord. - Zechariah 8:17.
We hear it more and more often that we must be tolerant. We are told we should be tolerant of alternative lifestyles and non-Christian religions. In the United States, we appear to be headed toward court orders and legislative directives to enforce this tolerance. In Dunbar, West Virginia, the First Baptist Church had been having a “Haunted Hollow” at the Wine Cellar City Park during the previous two years. It is similar to the well-known “Judgment Houses.” During a 45-minute tour, short skits are performed demonstrating the hazards of sin. This year (2000), they have dropped the skit negative to homosexuality because of the complaints of some citizens. However, the Wiccans are now upset and are going to court because of what they call a negative portrayal of their religion.
The fact is that our God is intolerant. The One True God is intolerant of homosexuality and witchcraft. But it is unfair to single those two sins out because our God is intolerant of all sins. Actually, God hates sin! “For all these things I hate, says the Lord.” God hates sin so much that He “spared not His own Son (Romans 8:32).” What terrible thing caused God’s Son to die an excruciating death on that cruel, cold, Roman cross? It was sin! God hated sin so much that He sent this One who knew no sin to become sin for us. God knew that it was only through His Son, Jesus, that we might have victory over this terrible disease of sin.
Yes, God loves us (John 3:16) but He still hates sin. As His children, we love the sinners but we too should hate the sin. We should hate the sin so much that we should oppose it at every turn (Matthew 5:13). We should hate sin so much that we tell others about God’s love of sinners and hate of sin (Matthew 5:14-16). We should hate sin so much that we “lay” it “aside” (Hebrews 12:1). We should hate the sin so much that when we sin we immediately confess it to our Lord so that we may be forgiven and cleansed of all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
(Originally written and sent 12.13.1998. Rewritten for today.)
Through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace. - Luke 1:78-79.
As a parole officer, (before I was a pastor) I would often go into spiritually dark places. Sometimes it would be into bars trying to find someone or it would be into homes that were not really homes. Sometimes it would be to visit or interview someone in jail or prison. The darkness was so great and is so great in so many lives. Just today there has been much evil, much darkness in our world. Terrible things have happened today and today is no worse than yesterday or the day before.
God knew that that there would be evil, that there would be darkness - He knew. That is why Jesus came to be born in a manger. That is why God Himself came down from the glories of Heaven to walk upon this earth in flesh. He came and suffered in our place so that light could come into the darkened and near death lives of the people on Planet Earth.
If you have ever worked all night, the sun is such a welcome sight. The sun as it arises seems to give new strength and chases the darkness away. In Luke 1:78, Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, calls the unborn Jesus the “Dayspring.” Jesus is the “Dayspring” that will chase away the darkness just as does the rising sun. In Malachi, Jesus is the Sun of Righteousness.
Have you been in the darkness, sitting in the shadow of death itself? Why not let the “Dayspring” forth in your life and allow the Sun of Righteousness to bring new light, new life into your heart.
The Holiday of Darkness
(Originally sent 10.30.98. Rewritten for today.)
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. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. - Romans 13:11-14.
Halloween was a holiday, which I as a young boy was allowed to participate in. I remember trick or treating around my grandparent's house since they lived in town. The very first time that I remember going trick or treating on Halloween was when we were visiting relatives in San Francisco. When my sons were old enough I took them trick or treating. However, as I have grown as a Christian and learned more, my thoughts about Halloween have changed.
I have come to realize that at the very best Halloween is a pagan holiday (The pagan holiday, Samhain, was long in existence prior to the Catholic church trying to establish All Saints Day in 741 A.D. on November 1 and the evening before as preparation for the day.) and at the very worst it is the devil's holiday. I have read testimonies of people who claim because of Halloween experiences they were launched on the wrong course for a major portion of their lives. Halloween does seem to say that bad is good. It does seem to say that fear is good for you. It does seem to say that the devil is just a good old boy and not all that bad. But that is in direct contradiction of the Word of God.
The more we are exposed to evil the less we are sensitive to the evil of it. The more fear is put into us the more it seems good to put fear into others. The more bad is presented to us as being good the more likely we are to do bad. If we are honest, Halloween is a holiday of darkness, of evil. We are very familiar with the armor of Ephesians but there is another element of armor that we need to have. In a day of evil and darkness, surely we need the armor of light. “...let us put on the armor of light.”
The Living Dead
And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. - Romans 8:10-11.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. - Ephesians 2:4-6.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” - Ephesians 5:8-14.
In the Philippines, Manila is the capitol and the home of twelve million people. There are huge areas of people who are barely surviving the pressure of the poverty in which they live. To those living there it is probably no surprise that some of the living are living among the dead. Many people become squatters in cemeteries such as the Manila North Cemetery. Because of the expansion of the cemetery, some people were forced off of the land they were on and have moved onto the cemetery property. Others end up living in the cemetery after moving to Manila to try to find a better job and more opportunities.
One family (Actually three families - parents plus their sons and their families.) has moved into a family member’s mausoleum. Living conditions are primitive with the only electricity being stolen from nearby power lines. Some try to make a living by cleaning and painting the gravestones. Virginia Bernardino, one of those living in the cemetery said, “So far we have not seen any ghosts here. I think that only happens in the movies.” Dr. Eduardo Serrano, head of the Manila Health Department's preventable diseases division said about the situation, “They already know that they should not make homes out of cemeteries. It's dangerous to their health. The problem is they are being asked to leave but they keep on coming back.”
Spiritually, we who are Christians, who know Christ Jesus as our Savior, are the living. The dead are those who do not know Jesus as their Savior. We too are living among the dead, the spiritually dead.
For those who are physically dead and buried in a cemetery there is nothing that the living can do for them. We cannot bring them back to life. However, there is much that we can do for the living dead - those who are alive physically but do not know Jesus as their personal Savior.
We can walk in the light of our Lord and shine the spiritual light of the Lord on the moral morass of darkness around us exposing the evil. The living dead through the light of our lives may come to understand their condition. They are asleep in their death and they need to be awakened. “Awake, you who sleep, arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” Let us shine the light of the Gospel into their lives before it is eternally too late.
So, whenever you walk among the living dead be sure to take your Gospel light with you to shine on them. It may be that it is not too late and some will be brought to life, eternal life.
Today’s devotional was written by my son, Clark Wrather, who is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. The title and Scripture have been added.
Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that He has promised us - eternal life. - 1 John 2:24-25.
Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. - Proverbs 22:6.
Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. - 2 Timothy 1:13-14.
Last Thursday, the Broken Bow Savage Football team suffered a terrible defeat. Despite trailing most of the game, the Savages had a drive, late in the fourth quarter that enabled them to briefly take the lead. With few seconds left in the game, the Pirates kicked a field goal and won the game by a margin of 23 to 21.
The game was a heartbreaker for those who were watching. You see, the Savages did not lose the game in the final seconds, but lost it in the first few minutes of the first quarter. The Savages had difficulty fielding a punt and a kickoff. Both times, the ball seemed like a greased pig and the Pirates recovered very close to the Broken Bow end zone. After both of these botched attempts to field a kick, Poteau scored a touchdown. Halfway through the first quarter, Poteau was ahead 14 to nothing.
After these to ‘gimmie’ touchdowns, the Pirates did not score another. Despite their best efforts the Savages shut them down in the red zone. The pirates did have an outstanding kicker who made three field goals during the course of the game. Yet, they were never able to punch it into the end zone for a touchdown after the two given to them in the first quarter.
There is something important you can learn from this game about most situations we experience in life. It is this: if you want things to end well, you must begin well. Think about your children. If you want them to turn into productive adults who have integrity, you must begin well when they are tiny, providing them love, security, discipline and when they are older the freedom to fail by their own decisions. The same principle is at work in your job. If you begin a new job and must be kick-started to get you going, you are not going to be on the fast track to a promotion.
The same principle is seen in marriage, our physical health, saving for retirement, and even in our relationship with God. Some people try to cram for the finals in their relationship with God when things look bad. If we would take the time to be close to God right now, we would be ready to face those dark times in the future.
…so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. - 1 Corinthians 1:7-9.
Just think—you don't need a thing, you've got it all! All God's gifts are right in front of you as you wait expectantly for our Master Jesus to arrive on the scene for the Finale. And not only that, but God himself is right alongside to keep you steady and on track until things are all wrapped up by Jesus. God, who got you started in this SPIRITUAL ADVENTURE, shares with us the life of his Son and our Master Jesus. He will never give up on you. Never forget that. - 1 Corinthians 1:7-9 - The Message.
Murray Wardell is a veteran glider pilot who has again attempted to set a world flight distance record of 600km. The latest attempt has failed and Wardell said there had been problems with the flight from the beginning. A low cloud at the start of the flight forced him to fly too low to have the altitude necessary to go the distance needed for the record. The landing was unexpectedly rough as he thought he was coming in near Lake Karaka on smooth ground but it turned out to be a swampy area. The glider came to a sudden stop when it hit the mud with the tail of the plane being torn off during the landing. He then had to fight his way through the bush for a kilometer to Ripiro Beach where he called for help. Wardell said later, “I literally staggered out onto the beach. Getting there had been surprisingly tough. Any injuries I got on the day, I got during that walk.”
I like the attitude Wardell had about the problems that he encountered as he says, “At the end of the day it was an adventure rather than a disaster.” Wardell plans to make another record flight attempt in the near future.
The apostle Paul had a similar attitude, as that of Murray Wardell, about his spiritual adventure as he says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).” We can see that the apostle James had the same kind of attitude when he wrote, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience (James 1:2-3).” Paul and James saw the Christian life as an adventure during which we would encounter challenges, obstacles, and problems. However, just because we encounter those things does not mean that we are to give up and quit.
In Steven Curtis Chapman’s song, “The Great Adventure” every day is seen as being an adventure, a challenge. That is exactly the way it is portrayed in the Bible. We are not to be depressed and negative about everything because bad things may happen to us along the way. We may be temporarily discouraged but we do not have to stay that way. We can rise up remembering the promises and exhortation of God’s Word. Because all things do work to the good for those who love the Lord and are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). We can rise up and go further than we have ever gone before.
There is much that God has for every one of His children including you in this spiritual adventure. We can give up when the problems come, when the bad things happen; or we can rise up in His strength (Philippians 4:13) to conquer (Romans 8:38) the spiritual territory before us.
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Trained and Ready
But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:10-17.
Four would be muggers received a shock when they attacked an older man late one night in Bielefeld, Germany. A retired 70-year-old British man now living in Germany was the object of the would be muggers. Unknown to the attackers the man they were attacking had been trained in martial arts while he was in the military many years ago. Three of the young men confronted the man while a fourth stuck up behind him. The 70-year-old man remembering his training - took hold of the first attacker and flipped him over his shoulder. One of the other men then tried to kick him and the retiree grabbed the foot causing the man to fall down. All four of the attackers then fled from the man who had unexpectedly stood up to them. A police representative said, “Looks like he had everything under control.” The man who was attacked did have some light abrasions but was thankful that he had remembered his training.
You may never be attacked by a mugger but you will experience spiritual attacks in one form or another during your lifetime. It may come in the form persecution, or afflictions as the apostle Paul experienced. The spiritual attack could also come through those who would try to deceive you spiritually. How will you respond when you are attacked? Will your early training in the Word of God and spiritual disciplines be remembered? Will you stand up and fight or will you become just another victim of your spiritual attackers?
I hope that when the spiritual attack comes upon you something very important will occur. What is that something? I hope that you will remember your spiritual training and your attackers will be defeated. But what if you never received any training? Then you are just a sitting duck for those who would try to harm you spiritually. Without training, you are just someone waiting to become a victim.
If you are reading this devotional it is not too late, you can still receive spiritual training. If you have a Bible begin reading it (If you don’t have one I will try to send you one.), studying it, and memorizing it. Begin to pray, talk to God in the Name of Jesus every day. Attend a Bible believing church regularly because we are told in Hebrews 10:24-25 to, “…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.” Soon you will be trained and ready for whatever may happen to you just as the apostle Paul trained and ready. Then you will just need to remember your training.
Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! For you sit to judge me according to the law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the law?” - Acts 23:1-3.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. - 2 Corinthians 5:17.
As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue. - 2 Peter 1:3.
They are painting the town pink in Aurangabad, India. Why? It is an attempt to encourage the people and improve their quality of life. The town has been overrun with criminal activity including inter-caste wars, extortion, kidnapping, and murder. There are two million people living in the city in the Indian state of Bihar, which is one of the poorest in India, and their morale has been severely degraded because of the increasing violence.
It could be that painting the town pink may help with the crime problem. Painting over gang graffiti in the United States has been helpful in reclaiming gang-infested areas and preventing continued criminal activity. It has also improved the morale of the community. One sheriff department website has this statement about graffiti, “ALWAYS paint over graffiti immediately or call an agency which will paint it free for you. Research done in California shows that areas that are immediately painted over are much less likely to be "hit" again. Graffiti that is left up becomes a status symbol.”
Does painting over the graffiti or painting a whole town actually solve the problem? It may help but the problem is much deeper. The apostle Paul referred to the high priest Ananias as being a “whitewashed wall.” What did that mean? It meant that Ananias may have been wearing religious garments but he was still dirty inside - he still acting in a sinful way.
What if you were to take someone that has been living on the streets all their lives, someone who has survived through criminal activities - you can take them and clean them up put them into new clothes and a new home. Would their criminal activities cease? It is very unlikely that their nature would be changed just because you gave them new clothes and a new home. In other words, you “whitewashed” them. It is unlikely because there is a deeper problem than what you see on the outside. It is a spiritual problem that must be dealt with if you want to really see a lasting change.
When there is a move of God in a community (a revival), there will be a decrease in sinful activities. This has been seen many times in the past. When the evangelist Billy Sunday came to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania it upset the saloon (bar) owners because their business dropped by 40 to 70 percent. Cab drivers were upset too because those wanting cab rides to the red light district had virtually ceased. In the 1905 Wales revival with the move of God public drunkenness stopped, stolen goods were returned and the police had nothing to do. In 1972, a revival that had begun in Canada overflowed into Mansfield, Ohio. There a store manager was puzzled because as he said in response to a woman paying for merchandise that she had not been charged for but should have been, “Something is going on in this town you’re the sixteenth person to come in and do the same thing.” A businessman drove 500 miles to pay back customers he had overcharged. Young people hooked on drugs and alcohol were able to change and broken homes were healed. The same type of thing has occurred again and again when God intervenes in the hearts and lives of people and changes them from the inside out.
God can give a city or you the power to experience real and lasting change. As the apostle Peter says God has given to His children, “all things that pertain to life and godliness.” When Jesus enters into a person’s life it changes everything, “he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” Just imagine the difference for that city in India that is being painted pink if the people there would turn to the One true God. Everything would become new, the old would pass away, and they would have real change, lasting change and not just some new paint.
Living the Right Way
You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. - Leviticus 19:11.
These six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and one who sows discord among brethren. - Proverbs 6:16-19.
Austin Kenyon claimed to have caught a record small mouth bass weighing in at 9.32 pounds on a certified scale. The state ruled that the bass had some extra unfish-like weight added as in lead weights. Keith Underwood of the Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife gave the official ruling, “Our determination is that the fish had been stuffed with lead weights at the time it was inspected.” A couple of Kenyon’s friends gave statements indicating the fish had been tampered with prior to it being weighed. The actual record for a small mouth bass is held by Ray Wonacott who caught an 8.75-pounder in 1966.
In the United Kingdom nearly one-half (45%) of those surveyed admitted to having committed forgery. One-fifth (21%) admitted to having used fake identity cards. 18% admitted to actually forging some type of identification card. Others admitted to forging and using doctor’s notes, reference letters, fake letters on company letterhead, travel tickets, concert tickets, and sporting event tickets.
It appears that the modern society in which we live has little difficulty with dishonesty. Perhaps it is because of the dishonesty of the adults that the young people appear to engage in dishonesty so frequently. Rutgers’ Management Education Center in a national survey found that 75% of High School Students in the U.S. engage in “serious cheating.” Half of those surveyed indicated that “they don’t think copying questions and answers from a test is even cheating.” One student rationalized the situation by saying, “What's important is getting ahead. The better grades you have, the better school you get into, the better you're going to do in life. And if you learn to cut corners to do that, you're going to be saving yourself time and energy. In the real world, that's what's going to be going on. The better you do, that's what shows. It's not how moral you were in getting there.”
Where do you begin to address the moral morass that our world is in? The dishonesty pervades our society with so many politicians if not outright lying in the face of cameras are at the very least obviously shading the truth. You have to wonder sometimes if they even know what the truth is - or have they lied so much that they cannot remember?
If there is to be any hope for our society, for our world, for our countries - we must return to the absolute moral principles set down by God in the Bible because everything else is shifting sand. Does it matter how you are able to become a student in a certain university? Does it matter how you were able to become a rising star in the corporate world? Does it matter how you were able to be elected to a political office? Is it okay to lie, cheat, steal, and deceive your way to the top? The answer is…NO, NO, NO!!! It is NOT okay! It is W R O N G! It is a S I N!
The truth is that by living according to God’s principles and commands that we may not make it to the top of the heap. However, we can have some things that are much better and much more important. We can have a clear conscience, we can have peace, we can feel good about ourselves, we can have contentment, and we can be an example of what to do instead of what not to do.
Living the right way is usually not the easy way but than it is the right way and it is God’s way for your life. Try it, and see how God begins to order your steps (Psalm 37:23) to give you a real life. “For the LORD knows the way of the righteous (Psalm 1:6a).”
Distractions - Part III
But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things. - 2 Corinthians 6:4-10.
The Amish community in Pennsylvania knows about tribulations, about distresses, and about tumults. The peace of the Amish was shattered by the horrendous assault, which left five precious little girls dead. With the news of the shocking violence flashed across the world it must have been even more shocking to learn of the response of the Amish people to the attack. The headline that was on newspapers across the world proclaimed, “Forgiveness, not anger, after Amish school massacre.” Instead of lashing out in anger, the Amish have reached out in love to the widow and family of the killer, Charles Carl Roberts. The Amish have not turned away from their faith. No, they have demonstrated their faith, and no one who has seen it will soon forget.
Many things may happen to us both good and bad. But it is of eternal importance that we continue on. There are many watching us as we “stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly . . . in hard times, tough times, bad times; when we're beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love…(The Message).”
There will be major distractions for most people and for most Christians during their lifetimes. Most people will experience the death of loved ones, and many may face serious illnesses, even debilitating illnesses. Some may face a severe financial reversal from riches to poverty. Some may see a good profession or job replaced with one that barely pays the bills. Some will see their children or their grandchildren become disappointments to them. Some people are in terrible accidents or like the Amish become victims of crime.
What will you do when there is a major distraction in your life? I believe the Amish have given an example of what we should do. Many will turn away from the Lord during such times and sadly, I have seen many do that. When the major distraction comes you must “look(ing) unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).” You must “consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls (Hebrews 12:3).” This is the time that you must “draw near to God and He will draw near to you (James 4:8a).”
The distractions will come but if we have our focus on our Lord Jesus then we will be able to survive, to continue on, and see God’s will and purpose fulfilled in our lives to the ultimate degree. Now we see “through a glass, darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12a)” but some bright shining day we will see clearly and understand why all these things have happened during our lives. Until then we must “trust in the Lord with all” our hearts, “and lean not on” our “own understanding (Proverbs 3:5)” and say with the Psalmist, “I will praise the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live (Psalm 146:2).”
Distractions - Part II
Now it happened when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the wall, and that there were no breaks left in it (though at that time I had not hung the doors in the gates), that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come, let us meet together among the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they thought to do me harm. So I sent messengers to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” But they sent me this message four times, and I answered them in the same manner. - Nehemiah 6:1-4.
In the Mexican state of Chiapas, four people were killed over a dispute about repair of a pothole. Violence is reported to be common in some of the more remote areas of Mexico. Two families were involved in the argument. One family closed off the street to repair a pothole that had resulted from heavy rains, however, there was another family that owned a transport company and they needed to drive a truck through the street. An argument began with insults, physical violence, and finally weapons being used in the fight including an AR-15. The pothole has now been repaired but not until the destruction of four lives which can never be repaired. As the apostle Paul tells us violence was not the best solution to the problem, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21).”
Not only are there daily duties, obligations, emergencies, and unexpected obstacles that will be encountered in our lives; in addition, there are at times people who will try to derail you from your devotion to the Lord. It may be tempting to use inappropriate means of response and this must be avoided. When possible use such situations as an opportunity to share how important your faith is to you and the difference it makes in your life. However, you must always be alert to the possibility that the distraction is not a distraction but an opportunity for service or witness. Always be alert to the move of the Holy Spirit in those situations. Listen for His voice.
Nehemiah continually kept the main thing the main thing. He had come to build a wall around Jerusalem and he was going to build a wall. Nehemiah faced threats, and subversion but he continued on, and he continually encouraged the people to continue on.
You too will face outside interference in your devotion to the Lord. Sometimes it may be just as difficult to deal with - as friends, or even your husband, or your wife, or children, will have something better for you to be doing than serving the Lord or spending time with Him. You too in the face of such opposition, such interference, and such distractions must be steadfast as was Nehemiah. As Nehemiah responded to those trying to distract Him - you should respond as well. Nehemiah told them, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?”
Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.” - Luke 10:38-42.
In the Toledo Ohio area, two girls (teenagers) were driving in one car, and behind them two men were driving in another car on Interstate 75. One of the girls somehow placed her bra on the car antenna but it was blown off the antenna landing in the roadway behind them. James Campbell (37 years old) driving the car behind the girls swerved to try to miss the bra. As a result, Campbell’s car flipped over and over several times. James had a vertebra in his neck broken and his friend riding with him had several ribs broken. The girl whose bra flew off the antenna and landed in the roadway may face a misdemeanor littering charge but that has not been decided for sure. No other charges are planned.
It is not always the big thing that can keep you from having eternal life or as a believer keep you from living the abundant life. Much of the time it is little distractions here and little distractions there that hinder our living of the Christian life, as it should be lived. The story of the driver dodging the bra is an example of someone having their mind on other things than driving. James Campbell apparently had his mind on the girls and there may have been other things going on too. It was enough for the sudden appearance of a bra, obviously not much of a road hazard, to cause some major problems. It could easily have caused both men their lives and the lives of others as well. The focus of the men was not on driving but on something else and it was very costly for them.
We remember well the story of Mary and Martha. Martha was busy preparing the meal and was upset with her sister, Mary, for not helping. Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to Him. So, Martha did what most people would have done she complained about it. She told Jesus to tell Mary to stop wasting time and to start doing some of the work. The response of Jesus must have been a complete shock for Martha, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
We can become so wound up and distracted by the daily necessities of life. Things that we feel have to be done are so distracting - that we miss seeing those things that are of most importance. It is so easy to be so tied up with urgent things, distracting things, that we let our prayer life go down the drain, and we never think we have time, or we are too tired to read our Bible much less go to church. How can we talk to anyone about the Lord when we have so many things that have to be done? The point being that there are many worldly distractions from those things that have eternal importance and eternal value.
We must not slide through life always being too busy to do what we know we ought to do because there will someday come an end; time will run out, and it will be too late to do what we know we should have done. Jesus came so that you could have life now and to have it more abundantly (John 10:10). To have that abundant life, to live that abundant life you must maintain your focus (Hebrews 12:3; Matthew 6:33; 1 Corinthians 15:58).
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. - Philippians 2:5-8.
I have noticed something over the years of my life. I am either getting fatter or I’m becoming slimmer. It would be nice if my body would stay constantly at one perfect weight, but this has not happened. I imagine that it has not happened for you either.
I realize I am influencing the process all the time. The total often rises when I leave Pizza Hut with the satisfaction that comes from knowing they lost money on me after my performance at their buffet. This type of influence is on a subconscious level, but occasionally I try to directly influence this rise and fall.
A couple of years ago, after having a freak inspiration around New Years, I decided to stop the steady rise and see if I could make my weight take a drastic downturn. Part of my action plan included paying for a month of membership at our local gym. The membership was around $30.00, but guess what…I never went.
I never went despite wanting to lose a few pounds. I never went despite making a commitment to do so. I never went even though I had paid for it. In retrospect, I have to admit I’m somewhat ashamed of myself.
Your spiritual life is very similar to your physical life. You are either growing closer to God or you are moving away from Him. Your relationship with Him does not stay the same everyday. Like your weight, unless you decide to influence the process, you will probably move away from God instead of growing closer to Him.
I know that some of you have never gotten intentional about growing closer to God. You would like to be. You would like to walk closely with God, possibly as much as I might like to look like a guy on the cover of Men’s Health magazine. If I’m honest, I can admit to myself that I must not care all that much about my weight, because I have done nothing about it. How much do you really care about being close to God if you are doing nothing about it?
But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. - Matthew 6:33.
Today at a news conference Rep. Doc Hastings chairman of the House ethics panel said in addressing the Mark Foley situation, “There is something gravely wrong….” The last couple of weeks have been something of a wake up call for the United States with three tragic school shooting incidents along with the sick revelations of the activities of Rep. Mark Foley.
There is indeed something gravely wrong with the individuals that committed the school attacks as there is with Rep. Foley. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg it appears. Rep. Foley’s activities are not the first sexual scandal that an elected official has been involved in but a continuation of a long list. The school attacks of recent days are not the first but only the most recent of many attacks upon schools in this country.
There is indeed something gravely wrong in this country and it is clear that the problem lies with the desire by some to strip all Christian values from our public sector. There can be no good that can come from turning away from God. There will be no good that will come from turning away from God. No, the opposite will be the result and we are only at the beginning of a disastrous nosedive into reaping the consequences.
Patrick Henry once said, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this good nation was founded, not by religionist, but by Christians; not on religion, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” We need to return to this foundation. We must return to this foundation! We must return before it is too late! In 2 Chronicles 7:13 we are told of the consequences of turning from God and in the next verse of how to stop the painful plague of the bad, terrible things, “When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Is it not time for us to stand up as Christians and throw off the yoke of secular humanists and atheists? Is it not time to demand a public acknowledgement that our country is a Christian nation? Is it not time to demand that all publicly elected representatives be true believers of the One true God?
We may think that we can just enact more legislation to make our schools safer and make our Congressmen and women behave. However, it has not worked to this point and as long as we turn our backs on God it will only become worse and worse in our country. The terrible things we see happening now are only the beginning if we do not turn back to God.
It is past time, long past time that we should once again put God first in our lives and our country. Would you pray for a spiritual awakening in this country? Would you pray as if your life and your future depended upon it? Because you see, it does. Let us pray like we have never prayed before so that evil devouring our land may be turned away.
Copyright © 1998 - 2006. Ed Wrather. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for use of this material on a non-profit basis with source noted.