CHAPTER ONE - GROWING UP
CHAPTER TWO - BEGINNING THE JOURNEY
CHAPTER THREE - THE MERCIES OF GOD
CHAPTER FOUR - THE CHURCH
CHAPTER FIVE - BRINGING GOOD FROM THE BAD
CHAPTER SIX - IN GOD WE TRUST
CHAPTER SEVEN - THE CALL OF GOD
CHAPTER EIGHT - GOD'S CALL IS WITHOUT REPENTANCE
CHAPTER NINE - TO THE WORK
PART II - HELP FOR THE JOURNEY
GOD'S HELP FOR THE TOUGH PROBLEMS
FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT
PRAY WITHOUT CEASING
TOOLS FOR THE DEFEAT OF ADDICTIONS/SPIRITUAL PROBLEMS
INSTRUCTIONS FOR CASSETTE TAPE
MATERIAL FOR CASSETTE TAPE
(Praise, Prayer, and part I of Scriptures.)
SCRIPTURES FOR DEFEAT OF LUST/SEXUAL ADDICTIONS
The Lust Buster
SCRIPTURES FOR DEFEAT OF ALCOHOL/DRUG ABUSE
SCRIPTURES FOR DEFEAT OF ANGER/RAGE
HINTS FOR ESCAPE FROM LUST/SEXUAL ADDICTIONS
HINTS FOR ESCAPE FROM ALCOHOL/DRUG ABUSE
HINTS FOR ESCAPE FROM ANGER/RAGE
PART III - DEVOTIONALS FOR THE JOURNEY
For some the fruitful Christian life appears to be a given, it just happens. For most, however, the fruitful Christian life seems to be a struggle to obtain and some never really do. Jesus says in the parable of the sower: “But He that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”
Too many of us seem stuck in the “stony places” and “among the thorns.” How do we ever get out from among those stony places and thorns? It is a question that Christians of every generation have struggled to answer. It is a question which many in this contemporary world are attempting to answer in all the wrong ways. Too many are trying to find meaning and purpose in life in worldly things.
We will only find meaning and purpose in life when we move out of the world’s rocks and thorns and move into the fruitfulness of the Lord. That’s what this book is all about. It is my journey to fruitfulness but I believe it is the story of many and that the lessons contained within can speed up the process of becoming fruitful.
Growing up on a cotton farm in southwestern Oklahoma was for most days very uneventful. So I can remember with clarity when things out of the ordinary did take place in my life. Does cotton burn? That is the question my cousin and I were wondering about one day. We were both five years old, and while our mothers picked cotton for a neighbor we played in the cotton trailer. I knew where some matches were, and that day when we went to the field with our mothers we planned to find the answer to our question.
Our mothers were half way up the cotton row when I got the matches out and began to see if cotton would burn. Yes, cotton does burn, but you have to work at it. The trailer was almost full of cotton and we were both working hard at our new game of burning cotton. Thankfully, someone drove by, saw the danger we were in and rescued us. The cotton and the trailer burned up. I can’t remember my mother ever taking me to pick cotton with her again.
It has occured to me that sin is much like the predicament I was in that day long ago in the cotton trailer. Sin looks like a lot of fun, and most of the time, nothing so bad happens in the beginning. Sin is a deceiver, just as the fire was that day in the cotton trailer. I worked so hard at starting something that could have painfully destroyed me. We work so hard at what we think is a good time and what we are really doing is working to destroy ourselves. I never realized the danger I was in while playing with fire. Most people involved in sin never realize the danger they are in until it is too late.
The burning of the cotton trailer was a shock to a five year old boy and eventually I realized how close I had came to dying. I believe God began to use that in my life to reveal at the very least that I was not immortal.
Another incident occurred a few years later that I know now had a tremendous impact upon my life. I grew up in a family that was nominally Christian, that is, infrequent church attendance but no real personal commitment to Jesus Christ a Savior and Lord. A highlight of most summers was Vacation Bible School. It was a big deal to a little boy trapped out on a farm far away from any friends to play with. One summer in particular was exciting because I not only went to the Methodist Vacation Bible School but I also was invited to go to the Nazarene Vacation Bible School.
The Nazarene Vacation Bible School was located at a little country church and there I encountered more than fun with my friends. My first day in class our teacher asked us if anyone knew the Lord’s Prayer. Without thinking of the consequences, I held up my hand that I knew it. I didn’t want anyone to think I didn’t know anything. I had no idea what the Lord’s Prayer was, so I wasn’t prepared for the teacher’s next question. She wanted me to say it! How could I say it when I didn’t even know what it was. My Vacation Bible School teacher had a very fitting assignment for me during the rest of the week. My project was to memorize the Lord’s Prayer and say it during the program Saturday night when all the parents would be there to see what their children had made and learned during the week. I can tell you that it was very lonely up there on the stage Saturday night when all by myself I recited the Lord’s Prayer. It was my first experience with Scripture memorization and with being in front of so many people. I now knew what the Lord’s Prayer was!
When I was about 10 years old my family began attending church on a regular basis for about two years. One Sunday, my parents, my sister, and I walked up to the front at the end of the worship service and joined church. We were all sprinkled with water. After that if anyone were to ask me if I was a Christian, I would tell them that I was a Christian. Because I was a member of a church and I had been sprinkled with water. Our church attendance ended when my grandfather became ill and for a while weekends were spent travelling to spend time with him.
One summer I was invited to go to church camp by the church where I was a member. It was an exciting event. While there at camp I believe God was speaking to me trying to get my attention. I remember being off to myself sitting on a picnic table one afternoon. The surroundings were beautiful in a place called Devil’s Canyon. While sitting there I began to think about my future life. What would happen? Where would I go? What would I do? At the time I didn’t think that I would go to college. I thought I would most likely get a job, marry, have a family. I wanted to make a lot of money, start a business. Then, I would retire early and live on all the money I had made and enjoy life. Finally, as I was looking into the future I arrived at death. I couldn’t see anything after death, it was just black.
If only someone had told me then about Jesus, if only an invitation had been given at the services. What a difference it would have made in my life to have had Jesus during those teenage years.
The Christmas before the church camp I was given a guitar and began to work hard at learning to play. It wasn’t long before I was playing lead guitar in a rock band. I arrived at college in the midst of the Vietnam War in 1968 far, far from God. Illegal drugs were beginning to arrive even in Oklahoma. My second semester in college I didn’t have a roommate and was very lonely. Something was missing and wrong in my life more than just not having a roommate. God was what I needed.
My uncle once shared with me how his father handled his college wildness. He told me that during his freshmen year his dad paid all of his expenses and had bought him a car. However, my uncle said that he began to party and go to the bars in Oklahoma City. As a result his grades were not the best as you can imagine. When he arrived home for the summer my uncle expected to be severely reprimanded for what he had done but his dad never said anything. He worked on the farm that summer with his dad and eventually the day arrived for him to return to college. My uncle said he went to get his car out of the garage but he couldn’t because his dad had nailed boards over the doors so he there was no way to get it out. He went back to school that year on a bus and worked in a hamburger stand to make enough money to pay his own way to college. It definitely had an impact on his life!
Have you ever been blind? Most of us can say that we have at some point been spiritually blind, and I was, but have you ever been physically blind? During the summer after my freshmen year at college I found out what it is like for a brief period of time to be blind. My sister and her husband were visiting us and had brought their trail bikes with them. I had never been allowed to ride a motorcycle because my dad had had a bad experience once on one when he was young. But that day I talked my brother-in-law and my sister into allowing me to learn to ride. They took the bike out to the pasture where there were very few things around for me to hit and off I went. Before I had gone very far I thought of something I wanted to ask them and turned around. Somehow instead of slowing down I accelerated, veered off to the right, ran up a fence post and fell through a barbed wire fence.
When I fell I was cut up by the barbed wire and I hit my head very hard. When I stood up and opened my eyes I couldn’t see. Everything was just black. I began yelling, “I can’t see!” “I can’t see!” “I can’t see!” They led me to the house and called an opthamologist in a nearby town. After several minutes I began to see some light and the blackness just fell away. Except for the cuts there appeared to be no permanent damage and the cuts would heal. Being blind is a frightening experience not being able to see you are likely to run into things and things are likely to run into you. Spiritual blindness is the same thing. When we are spiritually blind we can’t see how badly we are stumbling but we are.
During that summer I met and began dating my future wife, Jeanie. Her brother-in-law was the uncle of our bass guitar player and we were practicing in their garage. During that summer I attended a Baptist church several times because Jeanie’s dad required that I be at church on Sunday evening if we were going to see each other afterwards. It seemed like a strange rule to me at the time but God would use that to draw me closer to Him.
By the end of the first semester of our Sophmore year, Jeanie and I were engaged and had set our wedding date for the end of January 1970. I decided that I was going to stop playing in the band. It seemed the right thing to do, I wanted to please my future wife and her God.
BEGINNING THE JOURNEY
After our marriage, Jeanie and I moved to Oklahoma City where Jeanie found a job as a secretary and I continued going to college. One night, two months after our marriage (March 23, 1970), Jeanie shared with me her testimony. She shared how in Vacation Bible School when she was a little girl she had invited Jesus Christ into her heart and life. After sharing her testimony, Jeanie then asked me to share with her my testimony. I didn’t know about this Jesus stuff but I was a member of a church and I had been sprinkled with water didn’t that make me a Christian?
By morning reality was sitting in and I believed there was a God, I believed that Jesus was the Son of God and I also believed that there was a place called Heaven and a place called Hell. After what Jeanie had shared with me I had some serious doubts about my eternal destination. I was confused and concerned enough to call a church nearby and schedule an appointment with their pastor at 10:00 a.m.
After arriving at the church, I shared with the pastor, Finley Tinnin, that I wasn’t sure if I was a Christian or not. He began by describing how Jesus had suffered and died on the cross for our sins and rose again on the third day. He asked me if I believed that was true and I said that I did. He then shared with me what Jesus says in Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Dr. Tinnin then asked if I would like to invite Jesus into my heart and I said that I did. I bowed my head and prayed silently asking Jesus to come into my heart and life. I don’t know if I said the right words or not but I’m thankful that God not only reads lips but He also reads hearts. I made my decision public at the Baptist Temple in Oklahoma City on Sunday evening March 29 and was baptized Sunday evening at the end of the service on April 5, 1970.
Now whenever I’m in a preaching service and the preacher is preaching about salvation or I’m reading my Bible and I’m thinking about salvation the moment the Holy Spirit brings me back to is that moment in Dr. Tinnin’s study. I’m not worried about my eternal destination anymore I know where I’m headed. When I think of death it’s not all black out there like it once was at that church camp when I was fourteen years old. As I think about death now I know that it is only the point of departure for eternity with my Lord and my Savior. You can know that you have eternal life. The Bible says in 1 John 5:13, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.”
If you’re not sure of your eternal destination why not settle the matter now? Invite Jesus Christ into your heart and life. If you are willing to turn from your sins (repent), not that you can clean up your life yourself but that you want Jesus to help you, then pray and invite Him into your heart and life. You can pray something like this:
Dear Lord Jesus, please forgive me for the sins that I’ve committed, the bad things that I have done. Please come into my heart and life, save me, and help me to live my life in the way that will be pleasing to You, be my Lord and my Master. Thank you for saving me. Amen.
Remember it is not so much the words you say but whether or not you meant it in your heart. God not only reads lips but He also reads hearts.
It may be that you are a new Christian or that you have been a Christian for many years but you’re not really, really sure about your salvation. If you were to die tonight would you go to Heaven or Hell? If you don’t have an answer why not settle it now? You can never and will never become fruitful if you have doubts about your salvation. Before you can move forward in this journey to fruitfulness you have to know that you know that you know that you have been saved and your eternal destination is Heaven.
Here is what I would propose if you are not sure about your salvation. Set aside a few hours when you can be alone with God and resolve that you will not leave until you know whether you are saved or not. Take your Bible, turn to 1 John and prayerfully, carefully read and reread the book until God speaks and you know where you stand with Him. God wants you to know whether you are His child or not. He has plans for you and those plans cannot be fulfilled as long as you are lost or doubting your salvation. Allow God the opportunity to settle this matter for you.
For several days after praying to receive Jesus as my Savior I experienced a peace which I have not experienced before or since. I wish that I could say that I lived a perfect life after being born again but I have not. Within a few weeks of being saved we had moved to the other side of Oklahoma City and used this as an excuse for not attending church. We did attend church a few times at a small church close to us but that was all.
Within a year things were beginning to fall apart in my life. Usually things do fall apart without God especially for the child of God. God will correct and chastise His children and allow them to experience the hurts and pains that occur when they stray away from Him. In Hebrews 12:3-11 the Bible tells us:
“For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh uto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement whereof all are partakers, then are ye illegitimate, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”
About a year after I was saved things were definitely going downhill spiritually. I was working two part time jobs and going to school full-time. Jeanie was still working as a secretary. Within the space of a year and a half I had had three car accidents and my insurance costs were spiraling higher and higher. We still were not attending church, I wasn’t praying and I wasn’t reading the Bible. Instead I was becoming you could say more and more tempted by the things of this world.
What happened next is for the most part predictable for those who leave God out of there lives. Our marriage and everything else began to fall apart. I quit one part-time job and I dropped a class. I dropped a couple of more classes and quit my other part-time job. Before I knew it I had dropped all of my classes and wasn’t working either. I was just going to get on with life, start a career. There was a problem though with the plan, I couldn’t find a job. It wasn’t that I wasn’t looking, I was but nothing was happening. After about seven weeks of this I hadn’t even had a job interview. After seven weeks of this, and all of the weeks before, Jeanie had had enough.
While we were visiting Jeanie’s parents one weekend, as it was time to leave to go home Jeanie told me that she was going that she was leaving. It was a long drive home. The first thing I did when I got home was to get down on my knees and pray. It was the first time I had prayed in about a year and a half. I asked God to forgive me, to bring Jeanie back and to help me to find a job. Then, I went bed and went to sleep.
The next morning I woke up to the telephone ringing. The call was about a job interview in downtown Oklahoma City with the Kerr McGee Corporation. I went to see about that job and then came back home. As I was walking in the door the telephone was ringing again, it was about another job interview. I went to the interview and I was working at 12:30 p.m. that day. Eventually, because that job was full-time but allowed me to move the hours around I was able to return to college and complete my degree.
I wrote Jeanie a long letter apologizing for any and everything I had ever done and sent her flowers every day. At the end of the week Jeanie came back home and we have been together ever since. I knew that God had answered my prayer. God had become very, very real and I made a commitment that I was going to pray every day. I’ve kept that commitment. Sometimes the prayers have been short, and sometimes they have been long but I have been praying every day since then.
It was a start and prayer began to move me closer to God. But we still were not attending church and I still wasn’t reading God’s Word. Here’s how God attempted to obtain my attention. The day had started normally enough. After dropping Jeanie off at work in Oklahoma City (We were now living in Yukon, a suburb of Oklahoma City.), I was on my way to class at Edmond (Another suburb.). On the way, I had the closest thing I have ever had to a vision. You could call it a daydream, a daydream of a little country church out to the west of Edmond and of car trouble. In the dream I could see the church and somehow knew that I could get help at the little church. Why, I didn’t know, as I had never been inside the church and had only driven by a few times. As I drove into the college parking area, I was finally able to focus my thoughts on the classes ahead.
My classes were over, and I was ready to head home. “Should I go on the interstate or cut through the country?” I suddenly remembered my earlier thoughts about car trouble and decided to take the Edmond Road. As I drove west out of Edmond, I began to think I was becoming paranoid. The car was doing great, no sign of any problem, where had those thoughts about car trouble come from?
The car was still running fine when the engine began to make a noise. Ahead about a mile I could see the little country church (Hopewell Baptist Church aka the Teepee Church at 178th and MacArthur). I thought to myself, “If it doesn’t get any worse, I’ll try to make it there, I can find help there.” The car did make it to the church, but it died right in front of the church and wouldn’t start. I used the phone in the parsonage, and soon a wrecker came to tow my car away. Later, I found out the bolts holding the fan belt pulleys on had broken. Thirty-six dollars and a few days later, the car was good as new, but I would never forget the experience.
Has God ever given you a hint that you ought to be in church and making time in your life for Him? I have no doubt that He gave me one! At the time, I was too far away from God to realize what had happened. I can see clearly now that God was just trying to get my attention. It took several years and a few more hints, but finally He did have my attention. The regret that I have is that I didn’t immediately start attending that little country church on Edmond Road. Life would have been so much better if I had made time for God during those early years of marriage. Fruitfulness would have come much sooner.
THE MERCIES OF GOD
It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
The amazing grace of God is beyond human comprehension but not beyond human experience and I am very thankful for that. Walking with God, living the Christian life doesn’t just happen. We still have spiritual choices to make. We can choose to follow the Voice of the Good Shepard or we can choose to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. Romans 8:5-6 makes these choices clear, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires, but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what that nature desires. The mind of sinful man is death but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” Romans 13:14 clarifies this even more, “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.”
I am so thankful that once we are in the hand of God, that “...we have been sealed unto the day of redemption,” and that nothing can take us out of God’s hand not even ourselves because, “...His mercies are new every morning.” God’s salvation through Jesus Christ not only saves us from past sins (justification) , but keeps on saving us (sanctification), until someday we will meet our Lord face to face and this fleshly body will be changed and we will live forever in the House of the Lord (glorification).
However, just because we have fire insurance and we know God’s mercies will never end does not mean that we should or even can go on living the life of the seemingly happy pagan. God will not allow that and we have a new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17), we can never go back to living like we were and enjoy life. The most miserable people I know are Christians who have turned their back on God and are trying to live in sin. I know they are miserable because I have tried to do that myself. I’m thankful that God did not give up on me but continued to work in my life and continued to allow things to happen in my life to draw me back to Him.
In 1975, I began working in the oilfield in pipe inspection. The money was good but it was the most miserable job that I had ever had. I was still praying every day and before long I was asking God to give me a different job because I hated the one that I had. It was as though God wasn’t listening. He knew exactly what I was asking and thinking and doing and feeling but He was not answering because sin had entered into my life. The oilfield for the most part was filled with many forms of evil. Alcohol and drug abuse was rampant along with other forms of immorality. The hard work seemed to be used as an excuse to go out and live like the devil. Party all night and work hard all day. Every month or so we would have a job out of the area and would have to spend a week or two living out of a motel. Of course this only increased the availability of all of the above that I mentioned. After work we would go eat and before going back to the motel we would all go to the bar. It was the expected and accepted thing to do in that environment. During that time period I saw what it was like inside of a biker strip joint, I saw a man shoot up once with some kind of drug and have a very bad trip. And I saw other things that I don't like to remember.
Now I knew that what I was doing was wrong and every night I would ask God to forgive me and to give me another job. But I kept on doing what I wanted to do and kept on missing out on what God had for my life. However, we most of the times sell God short on what He is able to do. We believe that He can change other people and do things in their lives. But when it gets right down to it we don’t really believe that He can do it in our lives. At least I didn’t believe that He could do it. But God surprised me with His amazing grace and demonstrated that He knew right where I was and what I was doing and that He still cared enough about me to warn me.
(A Letter from God)
One night when we were working out of town and having to stay in a motel, I called my wife. Jeanie told me that I had gotten a letter. Now I had had a mail order business of setting words to music. I didn’t make but fifteen dollars a song and it took me hours to do each song but I enjoyed it. Apparently this woman that wrote me the letter had seen my ad. It was an anonymous letter and began, “Dear People.” the lady that wrote the letter obviously had some mental problems but God was able to use her anyway. The letter was some seven or eight pages long and Jeanie read every word and with every word the conviction of my sin grew. The letter basically told about how sin had destroyed this woman’s life and it was a warning to others to flee from Sin. By the time Jeanie had finished reading the letter I knew that this was not a letter from some mentally deranged person, this was a message STRAIGHT FROM THE HAND OF GOD TO ME.
I had a choice at the point I could listen to God or continue my rebellion even in the face of His warnings and love for me. It was enough for me to immediately be on my knees crying out for my Lord’s forgiveness. The next day I left my driver’s license at the motel and after work as usual we ate and then I tried to get them to take me back to the motel room but they wouldn’t do it. They took me with them and tried to force me to go in the bar with them, the same one we had been in the night before. But they wouldn’t let me in because I looked so young and didn’t have an ID. So I sit out in the truck for several hours until they decided to go home, and that’s what I continued to do the rest of the time we were gone from home.
I believe and have experienced God’s blessings upon my life when I do what He wants me to do. Two weeks later after my encounter with God through the letter I suddenly had a job like paradise compared to the one that I had had. I had heard some of the men on my crew talking about a position that was going to be open soon with a new company. This new company was just getting into electronic inspection of tubular goods. By that time I had learned some basics about electronic inspection and was an assistant operator on the casing inspection unit. But basically my job was still rolling and cleaning pipe. We would work all day and all night many times so that we could get to another job and work all day and all night. It didn’t matter whether it was hot or cold, I remember working in an ice storm and having to use a hammer to beat the ice off of the joint of pipe so that a stripe of paint indicating inspection could be painted. The surprising thing about the new job was that I heard two men on my crew saying that they thought they were going to get this job with the new company. My wife had a friend who owned an answering service and she told the owner of this new company about me. Suddenly I had a new job, I wasn’t qualified for it, but I had it and I knew that it had come straight from the hand of God. God gave me the ability and wisdom to do that new job. Once again God had surprised me in an amazing way. But than, God enjoys doing exactly that.
Are you living a life of sin? Have you never experienced the abundant life? God is able to change your life to empower you to live a life that for all practical purposes is free from sin. Why not ask Him to help you to live such a life? Why not ask God to make your life a miracle to make your life fruitful for Him? He may not send you a letter but He will get your attention and change you in a very personal way that perhaps only you can fully comprehend. God loves you and He is able to change you and transform your life so that you have life and that you have it more abundantly. Why not ask God to help you, right now?
The Bible tells us in Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more as ye see the day approaching.”
By this point in my life in 1976 I was praying every day and had been to church a few times during that year. Now God began working on a new area of spiritual need in my life. I had never heard or remembered reading Hebrews 10:24-25 but the Holy Spirit began to convict me of my need to be in church.
Attending church regularly usually begins with a commitment. For me, that commitment came while I was working in the oilfield. My job required being available on a 24-hour basis. And in those days I didn’t have a pager and a cell phone. We had to call the answering service and let them know of the telephone number that we would be at if we were to be gone. I had a outside bell installed at home so that if I was needed I wouldn’t miss the call. It seemed to me that it was difficult to find the time to be in church and frequently I would be working on Sunday and Wednesday so I used that as an excuse for my non-attendance.
Attending church is a right which we take for granted. In this country we can either go to church if we want to, or we can stay away. Many people in other countries know what it is like to have that right taken away. The German, Russian, and Chinese people know what it is like to lose the right to attend the church of their choice. But, even some people in this country have temporarily lost that right.
Howard Rutledge lost the right to attend the church of his choice when his plane was shot down over Vietnam. Howard experienced seven long years in captivity. He had been raised in church and had received Jesus as his Savior, but after getting married he stopped attending church. His excuse was always how busy his job kept him, and the cocktail hour at the officer’s club seemed to be more exciting. However, under the pressure of Vietnamese torture and years in solitary confinement, Howard rediscovered his faith in God. He struggled to recall verses of Scripture and hymns, and eventually succeeded in remembering about 100 hymns and Scripture verses. Each day he would pray and go through all of the 100 hymns and scripture passages that he had recalled. Howard made a commitment early on in those seven years of captivity to attend church faithfully if he was ever released.
In February, 1973, Howard was released from the Vietnamese prison. On the day he was released from the Navy hospital, Howard and his family attended church at the First Southern Baptist Church of Clairmont, California. That day Howard thanked the people of the church for their prayers and told them that it was only through their prayers and his faith in God that he was able to survive. Howard transferred his membership to the Clairemont church that same Sunday. Because of Howard’s testimony, five people came forward during the invitation and prayer to receive Jesus as their Savior.
While he was in the Vietnamese prison, Howard had a deep regret that he had not attended church faithfully with his family. I, too, regret the years I failed to attend church regularly and faithfully. For the most part, I look now at those years as being wasted, as years that the locusts ate.
From 1976 to 1978 I began to attend church more and more frequently until God intervened in my life again. This time God’s intervention came in the form of our second son, Nick. Nick was born September 2, 1978 and our lives would never be the same again. God used my newborn son to stimulate me spiritually and bring me to a point of commitment about my church attendance. I made a commitment to God that to the best of my ability I was going to be in church whenever the doors were open. Meaning Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night and any other time there was a service. I would have been a part of the WMU (Women’s Missionary Union) if they would have let me.
Now this was not an easy commitment to keep but whenever I was not on a job I was committed to be in church. It is amazing to look back and see how God moved to make it possible for me to do exactly that. Sometimes I would be out on a job until late on Saturday but I would be home Sunday morning and would attend Sunday School and the morning worship services. But that afternoon I would be called out on another job. Or it might be that I had to work Sunday morning and but I would be home for the Sunday evening service. Sometimes I would have to work all day Sunday but I would be home on Wednesday night and be able to attend the prayer meeting then. So God worked out after I made the commitment and began to follow through so that I could be in church at least once a week. And now I’m there virtually all the time! My only regret about church attendance is that I didn’t begin attending on a regular basis much sooner.
We have to the tendency to be lazy people and so we as non-Christians or as baby Christians look at church as a waste of time. There are other things that we want to do like catching up on our sleep, going to the lake, having some quality time with our families. In the past sincere Christians would not work on Sunday and would keep all activities to a minimum on the first day of the week which was the day that our Lord Jesus arose from the dead. But that seems to be a quaint custom of the past in the eyes of many today. In my first pastorate many of the members of the church were farm families and I remember having several discussions about whether or not you should work on Sunday. There was one man in our congregation, Raymond Pickering, who except for very rare emergencies simply did not work on Sundays except to feed his cattle in the winter. As I was visiting with another farmer/rancher one day he talked about how many hours a week that he had to work and during harvest it would be day and night. He said that he wished that he could be like Raymond. Because he had watched Raymond over the years and even though Raymond didn’t work on Sundays he still seemed to have time for every thing and still came to church on Sundays and Wednesdays. This man seemed to be even more amazed at how God had blessed Raymond financially. He said that He knew God could do it but he just didn’t have the faith to stop working on Sundays.
An amazing thing about God is how He multiplies anything given or committed to Him. If we commit our money to Him, He will than make the remaining amount of our finances stretch further then if we had not given. If we give up a few hours of sleep and what we humans think of as rest and give it to God, then, He will multiply the remaining hours of our week so that they are more useful to us. He will use that time given to Him to give us more energy and strength. We think that if we stay at home on Sunday and take our family to the lake or some other family outing that this is quality time. That is a lie straight from the pit of hell. There is no better quality family time than to have your family in church on Sunday. The church is what has held my family together. The church is what has kept my children out of trouble. The church is where I have learned about God and been empowered to go forth in His Name.
When the Israelites were wandering in the desert for 40 years their clothes and shoes did not wear out. When Jesus blessed the bread and fishes of the little boy the result was that in the hands of God thousands were fed and 12 basketfulls of fragments (one for each disciple) were left over. When we commit hour time and resources (actually they are not ours but God’s anyway.) to God He multiplies and blesses them.
It is obviously God’s will for us to be in church to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together and so much the more as we see the approaching day of our Lord’s coming. I like what C. S. Lewis says, “There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “All right, then, have it your way.” The point is this: God will never force us to do His will: it’s up to us to decide to do His will...and then to do it.”
BRINGING GOOD FROM THE BAD
“For we know that all things work to the good to those who love the Lord and are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
Why do bad things happen to good people? I wish there was an easy answer to that question. I have heard many good approaches to this and if we read the book of Job we find that the friends of Job had some seemingly good answers but they were wrong. Just as many are wrong today who try to approach the bad and ugly of life in a simplified way.
In the beginning creation was perfect, and there was no pain, heartache, or death. We know what happened with perfection, Adam and Eve chose to eat of the forbidden fruit in disobedience to God’s command. As a result, sin entered into the world and a perfect creation became imperfect. Adam and Eve were banned from the Garden of Eden, and as a result of their sin they were no longer physically immortal. Adam and Eve died a physical death, just as their descendants have had to die a physical death. The only exceptions were Enoch and Elijah who were taken to heaven without experiencing death.
On September 2, 1978, God blessed us with our second child, another son. We named him Nick and as with most parents, even before he was born, we had plans for his life. Those plans came to an end when the doctor called me at about 10:00 P.M. the night of Nick’s birth. The doctor wasn’t sure what was wrong but the baby was having difficulty and had to be taken to Children’s Hospital in Oklahoma City. I followed the ambulance to Oklahoma City that night, praying all the way for my son.
Within a few hours after arriving at Children’s Hospital, the immediate physical problems were solved and Nick was released for the intensive care unit. He remained in the hospital for most of the week while many tests were performed. A doctor eventually explained that he could say with 99% certainty that my baby boy had Downs Syndrome. This Diagnosis was confirmed a few weeks later with a chromosome test. The doctor strongly recommended that I should consider allowing the baby to be placed in an institution. For me that was not an option, because I knew that Nick was my son and that God had given him to me, I just wanted to take Nick home. I still remember pulling into the driveway at my wife’s parent’s home with our new son. Jeanie came hurrying out and with Nick between us we hugged each other and Nick.
Why do bad things happen? I struggled with that and prayed and prayed that God would change Nick and make him “normal.” One night I was determined that I was going to pray all night, if necessary, until God healed Nick. If it took longer than a night I was going to stay on my knees as long as was needed until God heard my pleadings and healed my son. I kneeled beside Nick’s crib and began to pray. In less than an hour the answer came. No, God wasn’t going to change Nick, at least not in the way that I was wanting. But it was going to be okay. God was going to be with me, and Jeanie, and Nick. Whatever might be ahead in the future God would be there with us and His strength would be sufficient. I haven’t questioned God since that night.
Almost 19 years later I can now look back and see that Nick truly has been a blessing to our family. In fact I believe that through Nick, God has given me and my family our greatest blessing. Nick has changed our lives for the better and taught us much about the real way of love. Not only has Nick changed our lives but he has touched and continues to touch and change the lives of many, many others.
When Nick was born my eyes were suddenly opened to a whole new world that I had been trying hard to avoid. Suddenly I could see a world of hurting people. Suddenly I could see others like Nick that were mentally handicapped, others in wheelchairs, others with incurable diseases, others mired in the disease of sin in a desperate need of a Savior. I was once blind to their world but through Nick I could see. Through Nick, God gave me a heart of love and compassion that is still being enlarged as God still works in my life through my son. Through Nick I suddenly had a desire more so than ever before to seek the comfort and love of my Lord God.
Because of Nick I began to be even more faithful in attending church, praying and reading God's Word. I began to seek what God had for me to do in this life. Surely there was more for me to do than simply make money and try to be a good witness in the process. Through Nick I began to hear the call of God upon my life. As I think about the horror of abortion, and of how now they can determine if a child has Downs Syndrome early enough in pregnancy to abort it, I can only be thankful that we didn’t have that option. How awful to have aborted God’s greatest blessing upon our lives. How many hundreds of thousands are now doing exactly that.
No, things are not perfect in this world, but God is true to His promise in Romans 8:28 to bring good out of the bad for those who choose to love God and serve Him, “...who are the called according to His purpose.”
Individually we all face challenges from day to day. On our coins in this country is the phrase In God We Trust. Do you trust God? Do I trust God? In the day to day circumstances of life do we trust God? Learning to lean upon and trust God and His resources will bring joy to our lives even in times like these.
There was a missionary I once heard about who was given his first assignment in Brazil. He would be going deep into the Amazon basin. The retiring missionary told the new missionary of all the dangers that he would be facing from snakes to wild animals. Then he told him about the danger from the people that lived there. The retiring missionary told the new missionary that he would be wise to buy a handgun and keep it with him.
The new missionary bought the gun and over the years found some comfort knowing that the weapon was easily in reach in his back pack. Living and working among the natives on the Amazon he faced many dangers but never once had to use his gun. After twelve years of service and danger the missionary returned to the United States. He would soon be reassigned to another mission field.
After a few weeks at home the missionary began sorting out his belongings and remembered his gun. He thought to himself that he no longer had need of it. So he took the gun out to the country so he could fire and dispose of the bullets. He pointed the gun at a tree and pulled the trigger. “Click.” He pulled the trigger again. “Click.” Again, and again he pulled the trigger. “Click, click, click, click.” All of the shells had been corroded and rendered useless long ago.
After talking with some firearms experts he discovered that the weapon was probably useless within three months of when he bought it. Because the extreme humidity on the Amazon the shells usefulness lasted only a short while. All that time the missionary had been trusting in the weapon to protect him when really in was useless. He now knew who had really protected him during those twelve years.
All of the time that I was a probation and parole officer I carried a handgun. It was a requirement of the Department of Corrections that we carry a weapon in many situations. Also as a matter of practicality being a police officer there would be times that we would be called upon to help citizens and other officers. Carrying a weapon was a problem for me at first and I spent much time in prayer before I knew what was right for my situation. I came to the conclusion that if it was necessary that I could use the weapon to protect myself or to protect someone else.
Over the years that I served as a probation and parole officer I was exposed to many dangerous situations. At times it was necessary to draw my weapon and have it ready to fire. It was necessary to do this during drug raids, and sometimes when making arrests. I also had a caseload that was at times spread out over a large area covering several counties. Many clients that I visited on a random unannounced basis lived in very isolated areas. I never once had to fire my weapon to defend myself or someone else during those years. I know that the Lord protected me.
I remember an incident in which God taught me much about trusting Him. During the first part of 1983 I was still working in the oilfield. When this particular incident happened I was working on a rig location close to Chickasha, Oklahoma, almost two hours from my home in Elk City.
On my way to work I prayed for my family and for their protection. There being no phone on the location, my first indication that something was wrong came when my replacement arrived. I was told that one of my two sons had been severely burned, and that I needed to return to Elk City immediately.
While being driven home, I imagined all kinds of terrible things that could have happened. Would I trust God? Would I pray and ask Him for help? Would I be angry and bitter that God had allowed this to happen? Really, those thoughts didn’t cross my mind because I knew God was my son’s only hope. I accepted the worst that could have happened and still might happen. Then I placed all of my hope and my focus upon my Lord. This was a conscious decision to trust God no matter what the outcome of this circumstance might be.
I finally reached a phone that worked and was able to talk to Jeanie. I found out that our oldest son, Clark, had been in an accident and his face was severely burned. Clark and a friend had attempted to start a fire with gun powder taken from his friend’s home. The explosion was powerful enough to knock Clark backward and onto the ground. Jeanie told me that Clark had received excellent and immediate treatment in the emergency room. Even though Clark’s face was burned, his eyes were not injured. The concern now was about possible lung damage, which usually accompanies such an accident, and the extent of the scarring.
During the remaining minutes of my trip home, I continued to pray. Things were still quite bleak, but at least Clark was alive and he could see. Within a week it was obvious that there was no lung damage, and Clark’s face would have only a small area of scarring. And that is just one of the times that God supernaturally protected our son. Today Clark is the pastor of a church at Little City, Oklahoma while he completes seminary.
In God We Trust, much easier said than done. But I knew that somehow God had protected Clark, because there was no other explanation possible. All situations in my life may not have such miraculous conclusions, but I have chosen to place my trust in God for better or for worse. The Psalmist says it much better than I, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”
I would strongly encourage you to pray for the protection of your loved ones and other on your prayer lists as you begin every day. As a pastor during a two week period I once stopped praying for the protection of those on my prayer lists. Within two weeks there were six people in the hospital with life threatening illnesses and conditions which I have come to believe would not have happened if I had been praying. Needless to say I have not had such a gap in my prayer life since that time.
Today why not place your trust in God?
THE CALL OF GOD
How does God speak? I was once in an abnormal psychology class and my professor, Dr. Scott was asked how you could really know someone was mentally ill and needed treatment. He answered by saying that if a person was hearing voices that this was a good indication. Then, he paused and said, “But if you talk to any Baptist Deacon they will tell you that they hear the Voice of God.” I’m not sure if Dr. Scott’s personal opinion was that every Baptist Deacon is crazy or that they could be excluded from his definition of the truly mentally ill. But I believe that not only every Baptist deacon, but every preacher and every Child of God should be able to hear the Voice of God.
In the Old Testament in 1 Kings we have the great encounter of Elijah with the prophets of Baal. The result was the that the prophets of Baal were destroyed. Queen Jezebel was a little upset by this and sent a messenger to Elijah and the message was this, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” When Elijah heard this he ran for his life and even though God had just demonstrated His power in a mighty, mighty way on Mount Carmel Elijah became depressed. Here is what happened next:
“And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God. And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?
And He said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.
And He said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; bu the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.” 1 Kings 19:8-13
In 1979 after the birth of our second son, Nick, with Downs Syndrome I began to question why I was working in the oilfield. Was there not more to life? Was there not something that would give satisfaction? I believe God was setting the stage for what happened next. My wife and I had the opportunity to go as sponsors for our church youth group to Falls Creek. Falls Creek is one of the largest if not the largest youth church camp in the world. I was not prepared and Jeanie was not prepared for what happened there at camp. I rode with our pastor at the time, J.R. Sammons, and listened during the four hour trip to some of the adventures and tribulations of being a pastor. But never did anyone ever say anything to me during the week about the possibility of my being a preacher. It didn’t matter because whether I was in the evening preaching service or I was in the church cabin or out walking around I could hear God’s Voice. God’s Voice was continuous and He was calling me to preach His Word. I couldn’t escape it.
On Thursday night, after nearly four days of hear God’s Voice I went forward during the evening invitation to make a commitment to preach God’s Word. The preacher of the evening message preached a message about salvation. The invitation was a call to Christ. But I along with thiry or forty others heard a call to service. The missionary that counseled with me warned me that before I left that place the devil would attack me. Little did I know!
Later, after returning to the cabin, I shared with Jeanie the commitment that I had made. I was not prepared for the response. Her response was why had I not talked with her about it before making such a commitment and that many people who come to camp the first time become emotional and make commitments because of the excitement. At that point I began to question what I had done, maybe I was just emotional wanting to serve God more. Jeanie pointed out that I had never mentioned being called by God to preach before and that I seemed to have very limited abilities that would enable me to do such a thing. She was right! I did have very little speaking ability at that time and I was introverted and did not really even enjoy being around people. How could I possibly think that I could be a preacher?
From that point I became very depressed and for the next several weeks remained so. It was one of the most miserable times in my life. Why was this happening? In 1 Thessalonians 5:19 the Bible says, “Quench not the Spirit.” That was exactly what I was doing. God had spoken and I had even said yes but now had backed out on doing what He wanted. Throwing water so to speak on the fire of God in my life. The depression that I was experiencing was the result of another way that God has of speaking. The depression was a different tone of God’s Voice, it was not a still, soft voice.
In Colossians 3:15 we find the Bible giving direction for know whether we are in the will of God, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.” The peace of God was definitely not ruling in my heart! Jonah had a somewhat similar experience:
“Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is com up before me. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord.” Jonah 1:1-3.
Eventually there came a storm and Jonah was thrown overboard in order for the rest of the people on the ship to live. God had prepared a great fish which swallowed Jonah. At this point you can begin to see that God is using a tone of Voice with Jonah similar to what I was experiencing:
“Then Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish’s belly. And said, I cried by reason of mine affliction unto the Lord, and He heard me; out of the belly of hell cried I, and thou heardest my voice.” This is not a happy camper! For thou hadst cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas; and the floods compassed me about: all thy billows and thy waves passed over me. Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple. The waters compassed me about, even to the soul: the depth closed me round about, the weeds were wrapped about my head. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was about me for ever: yet hast thou brought up my life from corruption, O Lord my God. When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple. They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy. But I will sacrifice unto thee with the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay that that I have vowed. Salvation is of the Lord. And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.”
Jeremiah experineced something similar, “O Lord, thou hast deceived me, and I was deceived: thou are stronger than I, and hast prevailed: I am in derision daily, every one mocketh me. For since I spake, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the word of the Lord was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily. Then I said, I will not make mention of him, nor speak any more in His name. But His Word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay” (Jeremiah 20:7-9).
Remember the call of Moses? He finally goes but not before:
"And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee. And the Lord said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. And He said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. And the Lord said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand: That they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of jacob, hath appeared unto thee.
And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue. And the Lord said unto him. Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the Lord? Now therefore go, and I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say. And he said, O my Lord, send, I pray thee, by the hand of him whom thou wilt send. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses....”
Jonah had a change of heart, as did Jeremiah, and as did Moses. They decided that whatever God wanted was what they were going to do. I wasn’t quite to that point but I did publicly rededicate my life at our church. The first time that I remember doing that but it wasn’t the last. I began to serve the Lord in our church. I taught a youth Sunday School class then an adult Sunday School Class. I served as Sunday School Director and was ordained as a deacon. But God was not finished with me yet, and we know that God was not finished either with Jonah after the fish spit him out on the shore.
God is most likely not finished with you either. I believe that every born again believer has the call of God upon their lives. God has a plan, a purpose, thoughts toward your life. The most miserable people I know are those who have heard God call and have tried to turn away from that call, from that Voice. “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:3) Why be miserable? Call upon the Lord and He will show you what He wants.
Can you hear God calling? "And the child Samuel ministered unto the Lord before Eli. And the word of the Lord was precious in those days; there was no open vision. And it came to pass at that time, when Eli was laid down in his place, and his eyes began to wax dim, that he could not see; And ere the lamp of God went out in the temple of the Lord, where the arek of God was, and Samuel was laid down to sleep; That the Lord called Samuel: and he answered Here am I. And he ran unto Eli, and siad, Here am I ; for thou calledst me. And he said, I called not; lie down agian. And he went and lay down. And the Lord called yet again. Samuel. And Samuel arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I ; for thou didst call me. And he answered, I called not, my son; lie down again. Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, neither was the word of the Lord yet revealed unto him. And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli, and said, Here am I for thou didst call me. And Eli perceived that the Lord had called the child. Therefore Eli said unto Samuel, Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth. So Samuel went and lay down in his place."
"And the Lord came, and stood, and called as at other times, Samuel, Samuel. Then Samuel answered, Speak; for thy servant heareth” (1 Samuel 3:1-10). Is the Lord calling you? Can you hear Him speaking your name? The still, small voice of God? Why not say, “Speak for thy servant hearth.” Why not say with Isaiah, “Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8c).
GOD’S CALL IS WITHOUT REPENTANCE
“For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” Romans 11:29 “And the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city, and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee. So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord.” Jonah 3:1-3
In 1980 I started a small business, went into debt and began to make money. I had always wanted to have a business, or so I thought. After having been set up and ready to work for several weeks I had still not had a job. That’s when surprisingly enough I asked God to give my little business some work and He did for awhile. We sold our house for a $25,000.00 profit and received a lease on some mineral rights that my parents had given us for $30,000.00. With that money we bought a bigger house and more equipment for the business. Now one of our excuses for my not following through with preaching had been that we couldn’t afford to just drop everything and go to seminary. After all we had children a home and responsibilities. But if we had trusted God, walked by faith, hindsight shows us that more than enough money would have been there for me to go to seminary.
In July of 1982 I knew again that I wasn’t where God wanted me to be but how could I walk away from a business and a home? God solved the problem for me! In October 1982 I made five or six thousand dollars but in November 1982 I didn’t make anything. The bust had come to the oilfield. By February of 1993 I had swallowed my pride and gone back to work for a company where I had previously worked. Jeanie was working again by this point as well. I decided that I would go back to college. I wanted to do something to help people and so I began studying for a masters in social sciences. By the end of the first semester I believed that I should try to become a probation and parole officer and my studies were directed to that end.
Meanwhile back in the real world I was working at a convenience store part time in maintenance and as a clerk. Our finances were becoming more and more desperate and we had been trying to sell our house for months to get rid of the huge house payment. It was getting close to Christmas and I remember praying and asking God to sell our house as a Christmas present. We moved out the day after Christmas.
The summer after I completed my degree God began speaking to me again about preaching His Word. During a one week period one passage of Scripture came to me three times. In my daily Bible reading God seemed to impress me in particular with three verses in Mark chapter 5: “And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him. Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee. And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel” (Mark 5:18-20).
Those verses in Mark seemed to stick in my mind and during the week I had the responsibility of giving a devotion at church. I decided that I would use Mark chapter five for my devotional. Again through the study and preparation for the devotion God seemed to speaking to me. Sunday morning came, and as our pastor, Henry Fletcher, stood to preach his sermon he said please “turn to Mark chapter 5.” At that point I knew that it wasn’t my imagination, God was trying to tell me something. But you see I had already made my plans, and my plans were to be a probation and parole officer. After all wasn’ t that why I had went back to school for a year at great cost and effort? Wasn’t that what I had told Jeanie, and family and friends that I was going to do? So with that in mind I looked at this passage of Scripture in Mark and told myself that even though in my heart I wanted to preach God’s Word, God was saying to go on with your life and forget about preaching. And that’s what I tried to do. In August 1984 I began work as a state parole officer. We moved to Enid, Oklahoma for a year and then back to Elk City. Being a parole officer was much more satisfying to me than working in the oilfield.
During this time period I began to memorize God’s Word. As I drew closer to Him, He drew closer to me and I began to hear that still, small voice of God again speaking about of all things, preaching His Word! I tried to make my job a substitute. I was a parole officer evangelist so to speak and tried to reach out in many different ways for the Lord. I gave tracts to my clients, I witnessed to them, I prayed for them (and still do), I invited them to church and to special events at church and some of them actually came. I talked with Jeanie a few times about still hearing the call but she was still very resistant. During this time period our oldest son, Clark, attended youth camp at Falls Creek and he too heard God’s call and made a commitment to special service. However, he somewhat followed my example and tried to back out on that commitment.
In 1990, Jeanie and I were involved in a study group called Master Life. We were both very active in church. Jeanie was teaching in the elementary department and serving on committees. I was director of the singles department and had led a study group and served as a RA Leader. I was the recording secretary for the deacon body and served on several committees.
In March 1990 in our Master Life study we came to a study on praying in faith. One night I wrote out a prayer (This is a somewhat dangerous thing to do!) asking that if God really wanted me to preach His Word to reveal that to me in black and white so that I wouldn’t have any doubt. The next morning in my quiet time I turned in the Our Daily Bread devotional guide that I used for some of my quiet time reading to that morning’s selection. The Scripture reading was in Luke chapter 8. Another nice warm devotional thought until I realized that Luke 8 is virtually the same as Mark chapter 5. Suddenly I realized that God was answering my prayer that I had written out the night before, “Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, Return to thine own house, and show how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published through out the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him” (Luke 8:38-39).
Now I realized that God was trying to tell me something, the same thing that He had tried to tell me before. This time I was going to look into this more deeply. I got down a commentary to see what it would say about this Scripture. The commentary said, Jesus had to leave Gadara, but he left behind a preacher. I opened up the Our Daily Bread devotional guide again to read the devotional thought. That day’s devotion was about a man in South America that was saved and grew in the Lord. This man started a Bible study which eventually grew into a church and he became the pastor of that church. There it was! For me it was in black and white, God had called and was calling me to preach His Word. I had a decision to make. I could go with God or I could turn away from God. There was really no choice. I knew, I really, really knew what God wanted. I shared with Jeanie what had happened and here was another surprise, she was no longer resistant to my preaching. On April 30, 1990 I made a public commitment at the First Baptist Church in Elk City, Oklahoma to preach God’s Word. This time there would be no turning back.
I seemed to be following in the steps of Jonah, “And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of the even to the least of them” (Jonah 3:4-5). Have you turned away from the call of God? Why not turn back, ask God to reveal His will to you in an unmistakable way and He will!
TO THE WORK
“But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples. The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:36-38).
An amazing thing began to happen, God began to reveal to me my spiritual heritage and some of the reasons His call never seemed to go away. When I shared with my parents about my preaching they didn’t seem all that surprised. They told me about how my great-uncle, Adair Wrather, always seemed to think that he had missed his call to preach. Because of that my great-aunt Carrie (Adair’s wife) had told them that since the time that I was saved that she had prayed for me and after my son, Clark, was born for him too that we would hear God’s call and not miss it like Adair had. We have both heard and my son has been a pastor for several years now as well. I also found out that Adair’s grandfather, Baker Wrather (my three great-grandfather), had been a Methodist minister in Tennessee. As I delved into my genealogy I found that on nearly every line were to be found ancestors of spiritual depth and activity. Growing up as I did not even attending church but for a couple of years this was indeed an amazing thing and seemed to confirm God’s call upon my life.
I struggled with whether or not to go to seminary. It just didn’t seem to be financially possible or possible in many other ways with Clark being a senior in high school. I finally got down to preparing a sermon and when I had my first sermon prepared the phone rang and it was about my filling in for a pastor in a couple of weeks that was going to be gone. By the time I had my second sermon finished another pastor had called and I would be preaching in about a week. From that time on I have been preaching nearly every Sunday. After about six months one of the churches where I had supply preached called me as their interim pastor, and in another six months I became the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Sweetwater, Oklahoma. I was still working as a parole officer but resigned at the end of October 1991. In December of that year I was ordained and Dr. Finley Tinnin who had led me to the Lord came and preached the charge at my ordination.
As I ministered and preached I began my seminary studies eventually receiving a Diploma in Biblical Studies. By 1992 I had begun writing to prison inmates all over the country and after going through the study course Experiencing God began a newsletter The Burning Bush which I began distributing to prison inmates. Eventually the newsletter was being distributed by 75 prison chaplains (Some of these chaplains were in jails, others for juvenile facilities.) in 44 states, Puerto Rico and two provinces in Canada. As a result of the newsletter many were saved, many lives were touched and redirected.
In 1995, I accepted the call to my second pastorate. There our youngest son became severely depressed because of his school situation and we knew that we had to leave. After hearing Ronnie Floyd preach on fasting at the Southern Baptist National Convention in New Orleans in the summer of 1996 we came back home and prayed. We prayed and fasted for a week and on the seventh day a Sunday the search committee from Trinity Baptist Church in Weatherford, Oklahoma called.
The problem with our going to Trinity was that it would be bivocational, a smaller church, not a step up the ladder and I would need to take a one thousand dollar a month reduction in income. Now we did not have a thousand a month extra to spare but we thought we would be okay if I could find a full-time secular job in addition to the pastorate. That shouldn’t be a problem, I had done it before when I first started preaching, hadn’t I?
We moved and I began to search for that secular job and every door seemed to be closed no matter how hard or long I knocked and we prayed and fasted. The church was doing great but financially we were sinking. My spiritual life seemed to be taking a beating as well as my emotional condition. My son was doing much better but I was sinking fast. But within a year's time Trinity had given us two raises, loved us and supported us and we had reduced our expenses to the point that we were almost back to being full time.
On Friday, June 13, 1997 God did an amazing thing in my life. A couple of weeks before at a family gathering I heard my Uncle say that my great grandfather, George Richard Marical had been involved with a Pentecostal Holiness Church. Now I knew when I moved to Weatherford that my great grandfather had lived there and had owned a grocery store. I knew that he had died in 1929 but that was about all that I knew. I decided to dig into this a little deeper. We went to the county courthouse and found my great grandfather’s will and estate papers.
From the papers that we found we were able to locate where my great grandfather had lived. It was only about four blocks from where we were living. According to the papers we had found my great grandfather had been a trustee of the Pentecostal Holiness church and when he died the estate paid off the remaining amount owed on the church building and land. I was intrigued to know where the church had been located. With the lot numbers and legal description in hand I went to city hall to look at their plat of the city. The lots of the church were located at....! The church where my great grandfather had been a trustee and had attended was located at the very same location as the church that I now currently pastored! For me this was a burning bush experience, a personal revival set in which I don’t believe I will ever get over. I found out from the grandson of my great grandfather that he had went with his grandfather south of Weatherford in 1927 and helped him to dismantle a church building that he had bought. They moved that building back to Weatherford and reconstructed it and that was the first Pentecostal church in Weatherford, Oklahoma. Amazing! God did seem to know what he was doing and was in control after all! If I had had any doubt I had none any longer. One year later the first Burning Bush email devotional was sent on June 8, 1998. A direct result I believe of that experience.
I have no doubt that the prayers of my ancestors and many others have reached down to touch and influence my life and the life of my family. As I think about the call of God upon my life I can only marvel at what He has done with this lump of clay, with this wretched sinner that I am. I have not finished the Journey to Fruitfulness but I do believe that I am much further along this Journey than when I began. I hope and pray to continue on this Journey for the rest of my life here on planet earth. Someday the Journey will be completed for I will have crossed through either death to the arms of my Savior or He will have come again and I will have met Him in the sky. Oh, what a glorious day that will be!
In 1874, one of the first Baptist missionairies to minister to the Plains Indians arrived at what is now Anadarko, Oklahoma. On that day when the missionaries’ first message was delivered with John 3:16 as the text, some of the Indians present still had human scalps hanging from their belts. Over the course of the years to come many of those Indians received Christ as their Savior. The world still desperately needs to hear the same message as was delivered in 1874.
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. Indeed, the problems of the present with crime, violence, substance abuse, wars, starvation and so on, 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.” As a result of that sin we do have a payday. “For the wages of sin is death.” Sin is not without consequence and we continue to see the reaping of its evil harvest.
What is the solution or is there any solution? The answer is the same today as it was in 1861, and 1874, and 1961. The answer has been the same for almost 2000 years. The answer is Jesus! “But God commendeth His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” He not only died, suffering for the sins of all humanity (past, present, and future), but He also arose from the tomb on the third day. The cry “He is risen” continues to echo out across the ages. For each person who turns from his sins and invites Jesus into his heart, a victory has been won. With each person receiving Jesus, more “salt of the earth” has been added to restrain the forces of evil. With each person receiving and living for Jesus, more brightness has been added to the “light of the world.”
The solution to the problems of the world today is the same as it was in A.D. 33 - Jesus Christ! The transforming, resurrecting, earthquaking power is alive and well today in the hearts of all believers. The same power that transformed mighty Indian warriors into gentle servants of god in 1874 is still available today. This same power is available to you! This same power is available in your life and in mine.
Some time ago now I watched as a group of women inmates were interviewed on a television talk show. Being a former parole officer I was interested in hearing what these women would say about their lives. Nearly every one of them held up her hand when asked if drugs or alcohol was involved in some way in her incarceration. When asked why they were in prison, they all said they made the wrong choices.
What really separates us from those who are in prison? Is it not that we have so far made the right choices and that they have made wrong ones? Of course, some have made the wrong choices but haven’t been caught yet.
I can think of hundreds of people who were at one time on my caseload while I was a parole officer who made the wrong choice. For many it was the choice of using drugs, drinking alcohol, or gambling, and these choices resulted in addictions which destroyed their lives. some of them, however, have begun to make the right choices and their lives are being rebuilt. The beginning of the right choices came with their commitment to God. They made the right choice of receiving Jesus Christ as their Lord and their Savior. As they seek to put God first in their lives by following Jesus, their lives are being transformed.
One man in particular I want to share with you about, let’s call him Bill. When I first met Bill, he had been placed on probation as a result of his gambling addiction and ordered to pay thousands of dollars in restitution. His addiction to gambling had destroyed his life. At one time Bill had a business, a nice home, a loving wife and wonderful children. When he walked into my office he had nothing but an addiction to gambling and a growing dependence upon alcohol.
Things didn’t improve much for Bill while he was on probation. He remarried but continued to make the wrong choices until his second marriage had ended and he was close to suicide. It was at this point that I and a friend visited him one night and shared with him again about what Jesus could do in his life. It didn’t seem to make any difference that night and we were given a cold reception. But a few months later I received a letter from Bill thanking me for what we had shared with him. Now this former client has gone back to schoo, is off of probation, and is seeing his life rebuilt as he is making the right choices through God’s power.
But it is not just alcohol and drugs or gambling that can ruin a person’s life. With the growth of the internet we are seeing an vast increase of the numbers of people addicted to pornography. Both men and women are becoming addicted and it is easy for unsupervised young people to access sites that have what can only be considered to be porn. If you look at the lives of convicted rapists, molesters, etc. you will find that they all have something in common. That common element is an addiction to pornography. That addiction carried them deeper and deeper into that world where looking at the photos simply no longer satisfied. That is the sad truth. Sin always takes us further than we want to go. The more you receive of porn, or drugs, or alcohol, the more you have to have.
The first step to a lifetime of right choices is to commit your life to Jesus Christ. The Bible says “Repent ye therefore and be converted.” Commitment of our lives to Jesus involves repentance. This means that in our hearts and minds that we want to change and we want to stop sinning. It doesn’t mean that we have to clean up our lives before we can be saved. Only God has the power to change us. The Bible tells us in Ephesians 2:8-10, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
Then, as we are in that state of repentance we are converted/born again by praying to receive Jesus as our Savior and Lord. Asking Him to come into our heart and for give us of our sins. Jesus says in Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come into him and will sup with him and he with me.” Have you taken this first step? If not, why not do so now, because a better time may never come.
The first step is just the beginning of a lifetime of walking with our Lord. To continue making the right choices, each day we must continue to seek God first. Jesus says, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matthew 6:33).” A lifetime of right choices is made up of daily choices to follow Jesus through each minute and hour of every day.
You are on the right track! You are reading a book about change, about fruitfulness, about making the right choices and this indicates that you want to do what is right. It indicates that you have a desire to change and to grow. The Bible tells us that God will give those faithful to Him the desires of their heart. Why not commit yourself right now to take advantage of the resources, the tools that God has for you and that are described in this book? It is a choice that only you can make.
Drug abuse, alcohol abuse, and sexual addictions, these problems have been classed too many times as being beyond the power of God. Does God have the answer for really serious problems such as these? I believe the answer is a resounding, YES!
For many years I served as an adult probation and parole officer for the State of Oklahoma. My caseload reached numbers of over 100 for the majority of my time of service. Clients on probation, parole, pre-parole, and house arrest were supervised. Clients serving sentences for murder, robbery, rape, other sexual offenses, drug offenses, and a whole range of minor offenses were supervised. In addition, pre-sentence investigations and recommendations were made to the courts.
For approximately 90% of my clients (May have actually been a higher percentage.) there was a common denominator, they had a drug or alcohol problem. This substance abuse problem contributed to most of their offenses. From the use of traditional treatment methods, I know personally of few long-term successes in solving those substance abuse problems. They are, however, the best thing available to many and are a good starting point for serious addictions. Also, in the short-term, traditional treatment programs are effective for many who have the desire to change and can be a starting point for the use of God’s resources.
In November of 1990 I responded to God’s call and entered the ministry. One of the factors involved in answering that call was the frustration experienced in using man’s methods to help people solve their problems and seeing mostly failure. Sure, for many clients intensive supervision provided a temporary respite to their problems. However, when supervision was reduce or ended, most returned to their old life style. Through my service as a parole officer and my failure to induce change, I have come to believe God has the only real solutions for addictions on a long-term basis.
In addition to observing sin at work in the lives of my clients, and others; I have over the years experienced my own problems with sin. Problems such as: greed, lust, selfishness, dishonesty, anger, pride, and others. Can God solve these problems? The answer is, YES! This is not to say that we can ever be perfect, for only our Savior, Jesus Christ, is perfect. But for all practical purposes in our day to day lives these problems can be controlled. Self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit which are listed in the bible. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV). God has given me and countless others the fruit of self-control and since it comes from God, it is really God-control. You can have God-control too.
How does a person go about receiving relief from their problems of substance abuse, sexual addiction and other problems? These problems and all sin problems are like a terrible cancer which destroys and consumes. The result of sin is death (Romans 6:23a) and whether we agree substance abuse is a sin the result is the same. The result of all these problems is the destruction of all that is good in a person. Call it sin, or whatever you like, the result is the same, the result of these problems is self-destruction, the very opposite of what God wants to give to us. In the bay at Naples, Italy lives a variety of snail which the jellyfish there love to eat. Little do the jellyfish know that when they eat the snails, the snails do not die but instead begin little by little to eat the jellyfish from inside out. Eventually the jellyfish dies and the snail lives on. Of course the best way to avoid the results of sin is to avoid eating one of those snails like alcohol, or drug addiction.
Solving problems of sin can be as simple as going to our Heavenly Father, confessing our sins and seeking forgiveness through Jesus Christ. For some, God has immediately taken away their problems, but we know that for most people it’s not that easy. Personally, I know of very, very few people that have had their problems with addictions taken completely away upon forgiveness of their sins. Receiving Christ as our Savior is, however, the starting point for us all. If we want God’s help we must be sure we belong to him. Come to Jesus in repentance, ask Him to come into your heart and life. Ask Jesus to be Lord of your life and to solve the problems of sin in your life. Right now you can do that by praying a prayer such as the one following. Remember it is not so much the words that you say but whether or not you mean it in your heart.
“Dear Lord Jesus, I believe you died on the cross for my sins and rose again on the third day. Please forgive me for the sins, the bad things I have done, I want to change. Please help me to change, be my Lord and my Master and my Savior. In your name Lord Jesus I ask You to come into my heart and save me. Amen.”
The Bible says, “But as many as received Him (Jesus), to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name” (John 1:12 KJV). God has the power to enable you to live a Godly life. Putting your trust in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior is the starting point.
The Apostle Paul talks about baby Christians and mature Christians. The Christian life can be viewed as a journey from immaturity to maturity. This process of maturing as a Christian can be speeded up if you are willing to take advantage of the resources which God has provided. The Bible says, “And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:10 NIV). God has provided the resources and they are available to us, we must make use of them. Some of those resources are prayer, the Bible, the church, and the most of all the Holy Spirit.
We can view sin as a problem, like a physical disease which needs treatment. For many diseases the whole body must be treated before relief is found. For sin the whole person must be treated at the same time. The effects of sin cannot be removed and handed over to the preacher or someone else to deal with. Sin has an effect upon the total person, every part. For relief a person must immerse themselves completely in the resources of God. God’s resources of prayer, the Bible, and the Church, can be viewed as a Heavenly microwave which zaps sin. In order for the sin to be treated, we must get inside of that Heavenly microwave and turn up the power.
Now, let us look more closely at how God’s resources can help you in a very practical way.
To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:27
Within Christ is all that is necessary for us to live the Christian life and to be the vessel of service unto fruitfulness that God would have us to be. We are the branches and He is the Vine. Through the Holy Spirit, Christ is the life giving force that sustains those branches. We can do nothing of eternal benefit without Christ. We can do nothing in our own strength that will have eternal lasting value.
When the wick of a lantern has been lit that has not been soaked in oil or kerosene, what happens? What will happen is that the wick will burn up! That wick must be soaked in oil or kerosene and then the wick itself does not burn but the oil or kerosene burns. The same with us! If we are not soaked in the burning presence of our Lord Jesus through the Holy Spirit we will quickly burn out as we try to do things in our own strength.
Let us briefly remind ourselves of some other things that Paul and our Lord tells us:
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all persrverance and supplication for all saints....” Ephesians 6:10-18
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:58
“...Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Matthew 4:4
“Brethren, I count not my self to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13-14
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1
Paul says to Timothy, “Till I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 1Timothy 4:13
“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.” 1 Timothy 6:12
First let’s review and consider why a child of God needs to be filled with the HS. I may not completely understand, you may not completely but I believe that we can agree that we need the filling of the HS. And according to the construction of this verse we are commanded to be filled with the HS.
How, then, is a person, a child of God, filled with the HS? We are filled with the person of the HS not with something as a glass of water is filled. It is impossibile for the Holy Spirit to fill with His presence a vessel that is already full. In order to be filled with the HS we must be empty of something.
What is it that we must be empty of? I believe that would be anything that would quench or grieve the HS. Let’s think of what some of those things would be. Sin, worldly and fleshly desires, pride. Dependence on our own strength to do something instead of in God’s strength. Walking by sight and not by faith. I’m sure there are more. I think you get the picture.
So, to be filled with the HS we must surrender these things to give us pleasure or security or anything of value and depend instead upon God. To be filled with the HS we must reach a point of total surrender to and dependence upon God. At the point of being filled/controlled/empowered by the HS is that the most or the highest amount of control or empowerment that a person will ever reach? No.
How does one become drunk? Does a person become drunk with the first drink? Or the second? or the third? Most likely it is a progressive thing. It is the same with being filled with the HS. You can look at some of God’s servants like Charles Stanley and see that their empowerment seems to have increased over the years.
Remember Stephen, one of the seven, that was stoned to death as it is recorded in the book of Acts? The Bible talks about Stephen that he was “full of the Spirit.” Being full of the Spirit seems to be a mark of spiritual maturity. There is one baptism but many fillings, empowerments and as a person is continually filled there is a maturity that comes. Not perfection but maturity.
There also seems to be a beginning point for that first filling with the HS. There seems to have been a beginning point with Stanley as well. With DL Moody and Charles Finney and John Wesley and most great saints of God that you read about. I have heard it preached and read it many times and from my own study believe that we do receive this filling by faith. Just as by faith we received Christ and by faith we walk with our God instead of by sight.
So, given that we want to be filled. How do we reach that point of initial filling by faith and continuing of the filling as we walk with our Lord to maturity? Yes we are to abide in Christ and He in us. But the Bible also gives us Ephesians 6 where we have the description of the armor of God which presumes that Christians are soldiers involved in a battle. Paul, I believe we can agree, was abiding in Christ. But he was still pressing toward the mark and giving it all that he had. And as he says in Galatians you just have to look at the wounds on his body to know that is true.
Yes we are to abide in Christ but it is Christ Himself who says, “Man does not live by bread alone but by every word which proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”
Yes we are to abide in Christ but the apostle Paul says that we are to pray continuously and our Lord Jesus says men ought to always pray and not faint.
We are to abide in Christ but the Bible tells us in the book of Hebrews to forsake not the assemblying of yourselves together as the manner of some is....”
I believe you get the picture.
When a person is born again he becomes a baby Christian. Baby Christians hear about the filling of the Holy Spirit but it is unlikely that the really understand or can experience it at that point. Baby Christians and carnel Christians most likely don’t even have a true desire to be filled with the HS. How does a person come to have such a desire or to the point of mature Christians of being filled? I believe that it will only happen and continue to happen through our taking advantage of the spiritual resources of God. The filling is to be on a continuing ongoing basis.
There are no principles enumerated or laid out for us to be filled with the HS but there are numerous principles given by which a person is to grow to spiritual maturity. Some of those principles are: Dedication to Christ - Romans 12:1-2; Growth in Christ - 2 Peter 3:18; Study God’s Word - 2 Timothy 2:15; Prayer - Ephesians 6:18; Fellowship - Hebrews 10:23-25; Witness - Matthew 28:18-20; Obedience - Romans 6:12-15; Purity - 1 Corinthians 11:31-32; and, Confession of Sin - 1 John 1:9.
PRAY WITHOUT CEASING
Let us consider first how prayer can be helpful to you in a practical way. The Bible says, “Do not be anxious about any thing, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV). The Bible also says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: 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 what we asked of Him” (1 John 5:14-15 NIV). Prayer will activate God’s resources in your life. Personally my prayer life only began to grow when I made a commitment to pray every day.
How much time in prayer should you spend on a daily basis? If we want to grow we must pray. The more we pray the more rapidly we will grow as Children of God. If we have an addiction then the more serious the problem the more time in prayer that will be needed. For someone that has never prayed, fifteen minutes can seem like it goes on forever. But when we see God’s hand working in our lives in response to our prayers, we can easily begin to stretch the time we spend with our Lord, from 15 minutes, to 30 minutes to an hour or even more. Personally I need to spend an hour or more a day in prayer. Because that time with God becomes something we treasure more than anything else in life. It’s almost like developing a new addiction, and addiction to God and there is nothing wrong with that.
However you do it, the important thing is to get started, begin talking to God. Do it in the way that is most comfortable for you. During my regular prayer time, I spend some time sitting, some time kneeling and some time walking. Take advantage of the times during the day when you are not using your mind for other things, to pray. You can pray while driving, or doing household chores, or while standing in line, don’t waste those opportunities to spend time with your Lord.
What should a person pray for or pray about? You should talk to God about anything that makes you anxious or that concerns you. You should talk to God about your plans for each day and the far off future as well. You should pray for your protection and the protection of your family and friends and others that are close to you. You should also include praise and thanksgiving as a regular part of your prayer life.
Why should we praise God? The Psalmist says in Psalm 22:3, “But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel.” When the enemy, the devil or his demons attacks us praise becomes a mighty weapon. It is a mighty weapon because God . . . inhabitest the praises. . . .” God draws near when we begin to praise Him and the enemy decides to run to a safer place.
When we moved to our second pastorate things began going bad for us financially. The air conditioner compressor on our car went out which cost five or six hundred dollars to repair. The state wrote claiming that we had failed to pay our income tax from five years before. I believe that we had paid the tax but could never find the proof and so we had to pay another six hundred dollars. I woke up one morning to discover that the television was having problems. It had broad red lines across the screen and no picture could be seen.
I finally realized that we were under a demonic attack in the area of our finances. I went over to the church building found a hymn book and began to say the words of hymns as prayer to God. After a couple of hours I went back over to the house and turned on the TV again. This time the red lines were still there but you could see a little bit of the picture. I went back over to the church and walked around for an hour or so more still praising God. This time when I went back to check on the TV the picture was fine and we haven’t had any trouble with the TV since.
Praise can be a powerful weapon. If you have a hymn book you have a praise book and you can use the words of many hymns as praises to God. If you can sing you can sing those praises to God. However, if you are like me and can’t really sing then you can take the words and speak them as prayers to God. Everyday we ought to spend some time in prayer. Here are some praises that you can offer to God.
I praise you Jesus for your love for me.
I praise you Jesus for dying for me.
I praise you Jesus for saving me.
I praise you Jesus
Let’s look at Luke 9:18 - 22
Jesus is praying - praying because there is a great multitude of people, 5000 men alone who have been fed and healed. Why does Jesus need to pray now? The miracles have been done. The multitude want to make Him King now. They have been waiting for the Messiah to come, but it is for an earthly Messiah that they have been waiting to lead them in revolt against the Romans.
Is this not the Messiah, He has fed and healed them? Most likely the multitude is still there bedded down for the night, ready to rise and follow, expecting others to join until the Romans are defeated. Jesus has a problem, He’s not what they were expecting. He can’t lead these people in a revolution. His destiny is the cross, “. . . The Soon of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be slain, and be raised the third day” (Luke 9:22). The people don’t understand, how can he go on when no one understands - not even His disciples?
What does Jesus do? He prays, “And it came to pass, as he was alone praying, his disciples were with him. . .” (Luke 9:18). And what was the answer to that prayer? In v. 28 we see Jesus takes with Him, Peter, John and James, and goes up into the mountain to pray. This may be a partial solution of the problem that Jesus has, breaking through of the barriers into this select group of disciples. So even though Peter, John, and James may not completely understand now - eventually they will and they will remember v. 28 - 36 transfiguration
Why did Elijah and Moses appear? Remember when Jesus asked the disciples who the people were saying that He was? v. 19
Here’s proof that Jesus is not Elijah or Moses.
And what does God say? v. 35b In other words wake up and listen to what my Son is really saying. He’s saying v. 22
For Jesus, prayer is a constant part of life - a necessity. How much more so should prayer be for us? Jesus had come to an impossible situation - His response was to pray. That should be our response too.
The Bible is full of impossible situations that were faced and changed through God’s people praying. Moses and the Red Sea. Joshua prior to the capture of Jericho. That’s the way it is with God all through the Bible - The imposible made possible.
In my life, I seem to come to God frequently with situations that seem impossible - and it is as though God flips a switch and suddenly I am in a different dimension and everything has changed.
My purpose is urge you to pray. Not just about impossible situations but about every detail of your life. If we pray God will open up the windows of heaven and pour out His blessings upon us. The choice is up to you.
Before you will feel a need to pray you must cross a barrier - a barrier of the flesh. Physical things seem so permanent/unchangeable. We must understand that what we see, hear, and feel with our physical senses is not the ultimate reality of this world. We must understand and believe that there is an Almighty God able to change, transform, do away with anything that our limited human sensory components are aware of.
The first step in effective prayer is to believe God is real and all power imaginable belongs to Him Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him ust believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”
I can hear you saying, God seems so far away and my problems are right here and now. Why would God come and help me. I pray, you say, and nothing seems to happen. The answer may be in James 4:6-7, “Submit yourselves, therefore, to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you, come near to God and He will come near to you.” You may have grown apart from God or it may be that you have never really been close to God - the answer is, “Come near to God and He will come near to you.”
How can we come near to God? “Submit yourselves to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Submit...to God. If there are things in your life that you know God would not want or approve of, or that you are doing things He would not like then: Submit - Get rid of the junk, stop doing the things God doesn’t approve of. (Things you know He wants you to do.)
Submit yourselves to God - Are you reading the Bible everyday?
Submit yourselves to God - Are you in Church Sunday morning, Sunday night and Wednesday night? Are you attending SS?
Submit yourselves to God - Have you followed your Lord Jesus in Scriptural Baptism?
Submit yourselves to God - Have you moved your membership to the church God would have you to serve in?
Submit yourselves to God - Are you His witness, sharing Christ with others?
Submit yourselves to God - Are you spending time in prayer talking with your Lord, interceding for others?
Have you submitted yourself to God? If not why not? What will God have to do to bring you to your knees?
There is another important ingredient that we should remember about prayer - Hebrews 11:6, “God rewards those who earnestly (NIV)/diligently (KJV) seek Him.” Earnestly and diligently - both are correct, we must do both. Diligently, means to continually seek God about a certain thing until we receive am answer.
God exists, God is real. All these material things will pass away but God will not - We need to PRAY. And if we submit ourselves to God and draw near to Him as I have described there will be no question in our minds about whether or not God is real that He exists. The only question we will have is why we waited so long to turn to God and submit ourselves to Him. Why, we will ask ourselves, didn’t we pray about so many things in the past. Because we will know that God loves us and answers those who pray. I’ll say it again, God answers prayer and the evidence is all around you. Why not come near to God this day? Submit yourself to God.
One final thing about prayer. Ask others to pray for you, the more prayer support you have the better. It’s not a substitute for your own prayers but the prayers of others do make a difference. And, of course, you should pray for others too.
A very good tool for the fight against addictions is to prepare (record) a cassette tape to listen to when you are weak or under attack. In the material following you will find words which you can use to prepare such a tape for yourself. The cassette tape will be a tool that you can use to fight against three enemies: the world; the flesh; and the devil. For the tape to be effective you must believe that God’s Word is true and that it is powerful.
Play the tape as frequently as your problem arises but at least once a day for several weeks. I think that you will find that it is a very powerful tool. Most likely after just a few times the enemy will flee and leave you alone.
I would encourage you to pick out a few of the verses used and begin to memorize them. Pick out the verses that seem to be the most convicting, the most directed to your problem. You need to memorize God’s Word because there will be times when you will be unable to play a tape but you can always run God’s Word through your mind, even in a crowd.
There are three portions to the tape:
1. Praise. Praise is one of the most powerful weapons that we have. So, even when you may not feel like praising God that is most likely the time you need to praise Him. Praise makes the enemy run and draws God closer.
2. Prayer. Prayer in the Name of Jesus is an absolute necessity. Don’t let a day go by without asking for God’s protection for you and your family. Whenever I stop asking for God’s protection everything starts falling apart. Whenever I begin praying everything comes together. In the model prayer that we know as the Lord’s Prayer our Lord says that we should pray, “Give us this day....” We are fools if we do not ask for His help with each day of our lives.
3. Scripture. Jesus when He was being tempted by the devil in the wilderness responded everytime with Scripture to the devil’s temptations. Jesus would say, “It is written....” Jesus says that “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” We need a daily intake of the Word of God. We need to read it, study it, meditate upon it, and memorize it. The more we have the better it will be for us. Scripture is the ultimate health food for the child of God.
Part one of Scripture for the tape is contained in “Material for Cassette Tape.” Each tape should also contain a part two which is Scripture directed directly toward the problem are of addiction or moral problem. These Scriptures are listed after the “Material for Cassette Tape” as Scripture for lust/sexual addiction, Scripture for anger, Scripture for alcohol/drug abuse, etc.
PRAISE AND PRAYER TO MAKE THE ENEMY FLEE
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the King of kings and Lord of lords.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are King of the universe.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the King of creation.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Name above all names.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Almighty.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are my Life, my Love.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are Emmanuel, God with us.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Bright Morning Star.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Christ.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are Christ, the King.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Prince of Peace.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are my Champion and Shield.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Lamb of God.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Lion of Judah.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are my Strength and my Song.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Way for my life.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the only Truth.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Real Life.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the King of kings and Lord of lords.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Wonderful Counselor.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Light of the World.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Living Word.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are my Redeemer.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Messiah.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Anointed One.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Holy One of Israel.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Good Shepherd.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Sheepgate.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Lord ot Hosts.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Rock of all ages.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the King of kings and Lord of lords.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are my Hiding Place.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Savior of the World.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Strong Tower.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Mountain Refuge.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Bread of Life.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Font of all holiness.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Living Water.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the True Vine.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are my Spouse, my Maker.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are my Fortress.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Deliverer.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are my Victory.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are my Salvation.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are my Wisdom.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are my Justification.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are my Righteousness.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are my Sanctification.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Everlasting One.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Door.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the great I AM.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are my Covenant.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the great High Priest.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Just Judge.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the King of kings and Lord of lords.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Cornerstone.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Sure Foundation.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are my Joy.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are my Portion and my Cup.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are my Healing and my Wholeness.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Promise of the Father.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Suffering Servant.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Mighty Warrior.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Most High God.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Lamb that was slain.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Balm of Gilead.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are the Bridgegroom.
I praise You, Jesus, because Your are the Merciful One.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are my Provider.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are my Defense.
I praise You, Jesus, because You are my Patience.
I praise you, Jesus, because You are the Resurrection and the Life.
I praise you, Jesus, because You are the Alpha and the Omega.
I praise you, Jesus, because You are worthy of all praise forever and ever!
I praise you, Jesus, because You are the Beginning and the End.
I praise you, Jesus, because You are the King of kings and Lord of lords.
Amen and amen!
Dear Lord Jesus, please forgive me for the sins that I have committed, the terrible things that I have said and done and thought and haven’t done and said and thought. Please forgive me of my sins and cleanse me of all unrighteousness and wash me, make me whiter than snow.
Heavenly Father, please fulfill your will, your plan, your purpose, your call in my life. May your perfect will be done in my life and the life of my family as it is in Heaven.
Loving Father, please protect me and my family, protect this place where I am and through out the day protect men and my family wherever we are.
Please protect us and put hedges of your angels around us and protect us. In the Name of Jesus bind and cast the devil and his demons away from me and my family. Cast them to the feet of Jesus and keep them from coming back. Cover us with the Blood of Christ.
Please shield us from the devil and his demons and their fiery darts and from any kind of darts. Please protect us from evil and keep us from evil and hold us in the right hand of Your Righteousness in the very center of Your will.
Please Heavenly Father protect us too as You protected the Psalmist as He talks about in Psalm 91 please protect us in those ways also and in every other way that you can.
Dear Heavenly Father speak to my heart through your Holy Word. Embed your precious Word in my heart and life. Change me, transform me into your image. Create a new heart within me. Help me to hear Your Voice. For it is in Jesus’ precious and holy name that I ask. Amen.
(These Scriptures are used with every addiction/problem.)(If you prefer only KJV or another version to the one I have used then please insert your version. I have mixed KJV and NIV primarily because some versions speak more directly to my heart than do others. Do what is most comfortable and valuable for you.)(Note: Do not say the verse reference when recording on the tape. Do say the verse reference to begin and end the verse if you are memorizing the verse.)
But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou are also called....” I Timothy 6:11-12
Above all else guard your heart for it is the well spring of life. Proverbs 4:21
How may a young man keep his way pure? By living according to Your Word. I have hidden Your Word in my heart that I might not sin against you. Psalm 119:9, 11.
This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein; for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. Joshua 1:8
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 perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
For the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thought and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. Ephesians 6:10 - 18.
You, dear children, are from God and have over came them because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22.
Submit yourselves, therefore, to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts you double minded. James 4:6-7.
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:5-6.
Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm, Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58.
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present you bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. Romans 12:1
Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is - His good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And, God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way so that you can stand under it. 1 Corinthians 10:13.
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.
But seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:33
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things. Philippians 4:8
The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45
He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. John 14:21.
The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. Matthew 6:22
Avoid every kind of evil. 1 Thessolonians 5:22
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world - the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does comes not from the Father but from the world. 1 John 2:15 -16
The next step in preparation of the cassette tape is to chose specific scriptures that speak directly to your addiction or problem. Several scripture collections are provided in the sections following.
The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. Matthew 6:22
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time. Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should persish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. Matthew 5:27 - 30
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin as instruments of wickedness. Rather offer yourselves to God as those brought from death to lif; and offer the parts of your body to Him as instruments of righteousness. Romans 6:12-13
Rather clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ and do not think about how to gratify the desires of teh sinful nature. Romans 13:14
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity or of greed, because these things are improper for God’s holy people. Ephesians 5:3
Dear friends, I urge you as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 1 Peter 2:11
It is God’s will that you should be holy; that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5
Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world - the cravings of sinful man, the lust of their eyes and the boasting of what they have and do comes not from the Father but from the world. 1 John 2:15-16
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope - the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. Titus 2:11-14
But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. James 1:14
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft: hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissension, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. 1 Corinthians 5:9
But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls themselves a borother or sister but is sexualy immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a person do not even eat. 1 Corinthians 5:11
Food for the stomach and the stomach for food - but God will destroy them both. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 1 Corinthians 6:13
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside their body, but the person who sins sexually sins against their own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. 1 Corinthians 6:18-20
Know ye not that ye are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy. 1 Corinthians 3:16 -17
Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise. Proverbs 20:1
Whoever loves pleasure will be become poor; whoever loves wine and oil will never be rich. Proverbs 21:17
Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags. Proverbs 23:21
Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who linger over wine who go to sample bowls of mixed wine. Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper.
You eyes will see strange sights and your mind imagine confusing things. You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging. “They hit me,” you will say, “but I’m not hurt! They beat me, but I don’t feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink?” Proverbs 23:35
Woe to those who rise early in the morning to run after their drinks, who stay up late at night till they are inflamed with wine. Isaiah 5:11
Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine and champions at mixing drinks.... Isaiah 5:22
Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbors.... Habakkuk 2:15
Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. Luke 21:34
Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Romans 13:13
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:15-18
For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 1 Thessalonians 5:7-8
Resentment kills a fool, and envy slays the simple. I myself have seen a fool taking root, but suddenly his house was cursed. Job 5:2-3
For wrath bringeth the punishments of the sword, that ye may know there is a judgement. Job 19:29
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. Psalm 55:3
A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult. Proverbs 12:16
A quick - tempered man does foolish things. Proverbs 14:17a
A patient man has great understanding, but a quick-tempered man displays his foolishness. Proverbs 14:29
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15:1
A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel. Proverbs 15:18
A violent man entices his neighbor and leads him down a path that is not good. Proverbs 16:29
He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city. Proverbs 16:32
Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out. Proverbs 17:14
A man’s wisdom give him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11
Proud and haughty scorner is his name, who dealeth in proud wrath. Proverbs 21:24
Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered....” Proverbs 22:24
He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls. Proverbs 25:28
A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty; but a fool’s wrath is heavier than them both. Proverbs 27:3
Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming but who can stand before jealousy? Proverbs 27:4
Mockers stir up a city, but wise men turn away anger. Proverbs 29:8
If a wise man goes to court with a fool, the fool rages and scoffs, and there is no peace. Proverbs 29:9
A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control. Proverbs 29:11
An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered on commits many sins. Proverbs 29:22
Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools. Ecclesiastes 7:9
Read Matthew 5:21 - 26 (NIV)
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and dbauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissension, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21
In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Ephesians 4:26
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:29-30
You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Colossians 3:8
I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing. 1 Timothy 2:8
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. James 1:19-20
Read Romans 12:9-21 (NIV) Read 1 Corinthians 13 (NIV) Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Matthew 5:7
Read Matthew 5:39 - 48 (KJV)
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven, our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from the evil one. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly FAther will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. Matthew 6:12 - 15
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins agains me? Up to seven times? Jesus answered, I tell you, not seven times but seventy times seven. Matthew 18:21 - 22
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:31 - 32
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Ephesians 5:1
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and early loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the as the Lord forgave you. Colossians 3:12 -13
Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing, For, Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. 1 Peter 3:8-13
That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19
I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment. Ephesians 4:15
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself; I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:18
Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins. Proverbs 10:12
Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith. Proverbs 15:17
He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends. Proverbs 17:9
A friend loveth at all times.... Proverbs 17:17a
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Matthew 19:19
And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. Mark 12:30 - 31
If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. John 13:14
A new commandment I give unto you. That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. John 13:34 - 35
This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. John 15:12
Therefore dear children let us not love with words or tongues but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:18
This is the message that ye have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. 1 John 3:11 - 14
Let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. If God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. If we love on another, God dwelleth in us and his love is perfected in us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hat not see? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also. 1 John 4:7, 11-12, 20 - 21.
Of course, you should do what you know to do and that is avoid the places and people where you will be exposed to temptation.
One of the greatest sources of temptation is on the internet. One way to combat this is to change the settings on your computer so that it doesn’t load pictures. Change the security settings so that you cannot access sites where you would be tempted. There are some programs out like Net Nanny and so forth that can facilitate this. To really be effective it will be necessary to involve another person who alone will have the access code to change settings. But even without another person, the more difficult, the more barriers that you can put between you and temptation the better.
Many Christians have a rule. That rule is that if they don’t have their quiet time with Bible study then they don’t read the newspaper. No Bible, no paper. For those of us with computers we could say: No Bible, no computer. Before you even turn on your computer you ought to pray and ask for God’s protection while you are using the internet.
Sin is not something that you can have a little of and get by with it. If you have a “besitting sin” like porn/sexual addiction, or homosexuality. You cannot wean yourself away from it. It must be cut off, ended, finished! You can only do this through God’s power but it can be done!
Overcomers Outreach is a bridge between those with addictions of all kinds and the church. OO works the 12 steps but recognizes up front that the Higher Power is Jesus Christ. It is a good organization for Christians to support and it is nationwide. If you are interested and can’t find a group contact me and I will try to locate one. Or, you can obtain the materials and start your own group. A good way to do that is to involve your pastor, use the church facilities and have your pastor refer people to the group that are in need of help. Even if you don’t have a large group it can be a great source of fellowship, support and prayer. OO is also open to many others that have problems in addition to alcohol and drug abuse.
Of course, you should do what you know to do and that is avoid the places and people where you will be exposed to the temptation to drink.
AA/NA is a good resource if you are in a good group that sticks by the rules. AA and NA is based on biblical principals and working the steps will move anyone along to being more closely conformed to the Lord Jesus. If your group is not working try another one until you find the one that works for you. However, don’t let AA or NA be a substitute for church.
Overcomers Outreach is a bridge between AA/NA and the church. OO works the steps as well but recognizes up front that the Higher Power is Jesus Christ. It is a good organization for Christians to support and it is nationwide. If you are interested and can’t find a group contact me and I will try to locate one. Or, you can obtain the materials and start your own group. A good way to do that is to involve your pastor, use the church facilities and have your pastor refer people to the group that are in need of help. Even if you don’t have a large group it can be a great source of fellowship, support and prayer. OO is also open to many others that have problems in addition to alcohol and drug abuse.
Become accountable to someone. Share your problem with someone and that you are open to their reminding you of your need to change. Let me share with you what I mean. Over 20 years ago now when I was working in the oilfield I had started going to church and wanted to invite the men working on my crew to church. There was a revival at my church and so I invited them. Their response was a surprising one. They said that whenever I stopped cursing they would come to church and laughed.
Well it was true I did have a problem whenever things would go wrong or I would hit my finger or whatever one or two words would just seem to come out of my mouth. But we made a deal if I could stop for a week, they would come to church. It took me six weeks before I made it through a whole week without a curse word coming out of my mouth. Only one of them ever came to my church but I have never had a problem since with cursing.
Another problem with anger/rage is more insidious. It may never come out of our mouths but we have these angry thoughts and angry conversations going round and round in our minds. Whenever this is happening we know we have a problem and that is a good time to play the tape or pray and ask God to take the anger away or run one of our verses over and over again through our minds.
If you know that you are going to be in a highly stressful situation where most likely you will have a problem controlling your anger get prepared. Get prepared by praying and asking for God’s presence, asking for His peace in the midst of the storm, asking for it to be avoided if possible and if not that He will sustain you through it. Get prepared by playing the tape on the way or at least sometime prior to the situation. Get prepared by running God’s Word through your heart and mind. Get prepared by praising God even though there is that stressful situation coming. Get prepared by thanking God ahead of time for what He is going to do. Before the walls of Jericho came tumbling down the people gave a great shout of praise.
Remember, God is sufficient! He has the power! You can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens you! And your God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus!
Copyright 1997. 1998. Ed Wrather. All rights reserved.