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The First Burning Bush Devotional was sent June 8, 1998.
THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL ARCHIVE

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.26.17

The Good Shepherd

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. – Psalm 23:1 NKJV.

I (Jesus) am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. – John 10:11 NKJV.

I have often heard that sheep will aimlessly follow other sheep off of a cliff. This literally happened in Turkey in 2005 when about 1,500 sheep followed one another off of a cliff with a drop off of around 90 feet. The first 450 sheep died from the fall with the rest being cushioned somewhat by the sheep that had died from their fall.

We people are much like sheep in that we need a shepherd, a good shepherd, who will keep us from falling off the cliffs of life. King David, knew from his life experiences who that good shepherd was who guided him.

The Biblical analogy of people being like sheep is not a flattering one. Sheep are unable to adequately care for themselves and their ability to survive on their own is very limited. People are much like sheep in that we will at times blindly follow others to our doom. The Peoples Temple cult founded by Jim Jones is an example. The result of blindly following Jones was the murder/suicide of 918 people in Guyana in 1978.

Sheep, however, led by a good shepherd live a peaceful contented life under his protection with all their needs provided. This is how Jesus, the Good Shepherd, wants to care for us.

To be a contented sheep under the care of the Good Shepherd we need to have the mindset of a sheep. A sheep is not constantly thinking about all that it doesn’t have. As people sheep we should not be thinking constantly about what we don’t have. It may be true that you are not living in the house of your dreams, or that you do not have the perfect job, or the ideal husband, or wife. To a contented people sheep do not focus on what you don’t have. Focus instead on what you do have.

A contented sheep is not focused on possessions. Jesus tells us, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses (Luke 12:15).” Instead, focus on your blessings like the old hymn says, “Count your blessings, name them one by one, count your many blessings, see what God has done.”

The Good Shepherd is watching out for His sheep, which means that He is taking care of many of the details to bring good into our lives just as Romans 8:28 says. Knowing Jesus as your personal Savior means that you have a Good Shepherd who wants the best for you, and will never ever lead you off of a cliff. Trust Him!

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The Burning Bush Devotional
Classic from 2010

04.26.17

Who Has Woe?

Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine, those who go in search of mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart will utter perverse things. Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying: “They have struck me, but I was not hurt; they have beaten me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?” - Proverbs 23:29-34 NKJV.

In Australia, two 34-year-old men were drinking together, and they started wondering whether it would hurt if they were shot with an air rifle (pellet gun). So, they conducted an experiment to find out if it would hurt; taking turns shooting each other in the backside, and the back of their legs. Apparently, it does hurt to be shot with a pellet gun and eventually when the pain became too much for them; they sought medical treatment. Now, the state is going to do what any good parent would do, take away their pellet guns.

In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania three men are in trouble after they attacked a police officer after he attempted to arrest them for failure to bag their dog's waste. The men have been charged with aggravated assault, conspiracy and public drunkenness.

In England, a man has been fined $108,000 and banned from working as a broker for at least five years. He had been drinking, and attempted to manipulate the market for oil by buying a large amount of Brent crude oil. He then tried to lie to his employer about his actions.

In western New York, a couple of Canadian men who attended a church festival somehow ended up in the woods, naked, and covered in mud. Of course, they were drunk, and one of them had passed out in a ditch when they were found.

There are many dangerous drugs in the world but perhaps the most dangerous of all is the legal drug of alcohol. Alcohol has been creating problems for the human race since almost the beginning of time. The four news stories above are only a few of the many during the past week revealing the terrible consequences of drinking.

King Solomon in his book of Proverbs asks “Who has woe?” Dictionary dot com defines “woe” as: “grievous distress, affliction, or trouble; or as an exclamation of grief, distress, or lamentation.” For one of the murderers that I had under supervision while I was a parole officer, who killed his brother while he was drunk, he certainly had grievous distress, grief, and trouble. Another murderer that I had under supervision, killed his best friend while he was drunk, and he too knew what it was like to have “woe” in his life. They both knew the “sorrow” that Solomon mentions.

Alcohol also causes physical “woe”, afflictions, in addition to all of the emotional distress. Alcohol can cause heart problems, sexual problems, cognitive problems, gastro-intestinal tract problems, liver problems, central nervous system problems, and breast cancer. Some have died at an early age because of cirrhosis of the liver caused by drinking.

Solomon also asks “Who has contentions?” Dictionary dot com defines “contentions” as: “a struggling together in opposition; strife.” As another murderer that I had under supervision while I was a parole officer informed me, “I'm a mean drunk.” He was drunk and mean when he murdered his wife. Many who drink alcohol are “mean drunks” and seek out arguments and fights. One man that I had under supervision made a decision for Christ on Sunday, and the next Saturday while drunk, nearly beat his girlfriend to death with a two by four. He went to prison for ten years. Thankfully, his girlfriend recovered completely from her injuries.

If you are a drinker I plead with you to stop, and if you have never drank alcohol I plead with you to never ever start, because there is no joy to be found in drinking – only WOE!

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.06.17

Heartless

They refuse to understand, break their promises, are HEARTLESS, and have no mercy. – Romans 1:31 NLT.

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! – 2 Timothy 3:1-5 NKJV.

It happened in Kuwait City, an Ethiopian maid was hanging by one finger outside of a seventh-floor apartment and she was screaming “Hold on to me! Hold on to me!” The woman’s employer, instead of trying to help began filming the screaming woman until the woman fell. The falling woman fell onto an awning helping her to survive, but she did break an arm. This incident was reported as an attempted suicide.

In Kuwait, there are some 600,000 foreign workers which is about one for every Kuwaiti family. Foreign workers sign away rights when entering the country and they are treated poorly working long hours, often with poor living conditions and little food. Many of the foreign workers try to escape, but it is hard to do. Although the Ethiopian maid’s fall was not an attempted suicide, many foreign workers do attempt suicide to escape from the harsh conditions.

There has been at least one report of an employer pushing their maid out of a third story window after the maid had attempted to escape. It was reported as an attempted suicide. As poor as the working conditions are for some in Kuwait for foreign workers, conditions are worse in other nearby countries. (Standard Digital 04.02.17; Yahoo 04.05.17; and many other news venues)

Hard to believe that people can be so heartless treating people worse than they would treat a pet or even some would treat a slave. It is a travesty, it sickening, it is awful, it is HEARTLESS! This lack of caring, lack of compassion, lack of mercy, lack of forgiveness points to there being a heart problem. Jesus says in Matthew 12:35, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” There is much evil being brought out of the hearts of the employers of foreign workers in Kuwait. You could say that they have evil hearts.

It breaks my heart, and I am sure it breaks your heart to hear about how horrible some people are being treated. As the apostle Paul indicates this is one of the conditions that will be present during the “last days.” During the last days “perilous times will come.” However, are these times we live in now any more perilous than during World War II when millions of people were killed? Or, is this time more perilous than during many other perilous time periods that have been recorded in history?

Let us pray for the heartless to have their hearts changed, and that they will turn to God before it is everlastingly too late. Let us pray for those who are being treated so poorly that they many have some relief, and that our God will protect and encourage them. Let us pray for our own hearts that we might not be heartless, and that we will have compassion, mercy, and extend forgiveness. Let our hearts love, as God had love for us. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).”

The Burning Bush Devotional

03.16.17

Expect Trouble When...

His trouble shall return upon his own head, And his violent dealing shall come down on his own crown. – Psalm 7:16 NKJV.

…but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil…. – Romans 2:8-9a NKJV.

The NIV makes Romans 2:8-9a more clear: But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil.

In the day of my trouble I will call upon You, For You will answer me. – Psalm 86:7 NKJV.

Michael Orchard saved the dog! Michael risked his life driving his BMW across neighbor’s lawns smashing through fences to rescue the dog from the fire. Once he was at the neighbor’s home that was on fire, he broke through their patio door at the back of the house, and rescued a large white dog. When police officers arrived Michael was standing a safe distance away from the home holding the dog. Michael’s a hero right? Wrong. The house WAS NOT on fire! Michael admitted that he had taken cough medicine (was that cough medicine with hydrocodone?) and also mixed in LSD with the cough medicine. Michael has found himself to be in some trouble from his “rescue” of the dog. (Daily Mail 10.16.16; New York Daily News 10.15.16; TimesUnion 10.14.16)

When Michael took the cough medicine and mixed in LSD he could have rightfully expected…trouble to follow, as in go directly to jail. When an elementary teacher in Wisconsin went on a student field trip drunk she could have rightfully expected…trouble to follow, as in fired. If you drink too much and get in your car and drive off…you can rightfully expect trouble to follow, as in arrest, jail or prison. If you rob a bank you can rightfully expect…trouble to follow. If you, because of road rage, run someone off the road or start shooting at other vehicles you can rightfully expect…trouble to follow.

There is a general spiritual rule here as the Psalmist says, “His trouble shall return upon his own head….” As the apostle Paul indicates in Romans 2 if you do evil you can expect trouble and distress to follow. If you rob, steal, vandalize, and hurt people it will not turn out well for you. If you oppress others, cheat others, or curse others it will turn out well for you.

How can we avoid trouble? The Bible has some excellent advice:

Romans 13:13 NKJV, “Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.”

2 Timothy 2:23 NKJV, “But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.”

James 4:1-3 NKJV, “Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

Psalm 1:1-3 NKJV, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.”

To sum this up: If you cause trouble you can expect trouble. If you do what is right, you can avoid much trouble.

The Burning Bush Devotional

03.15.17

Call for Help!

Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me in my distress; Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer. – Psalm 4:1 NKJV.

But know that the Lord has set apart for Himself him who is godly; The Lord will hear when I call to Him. – Psalm 4:3 NKJV.

Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” – Psalm 50:15 NKJV.

As for me, I will call upon God, And the Lord shall save me. – Psalm 55:16 NKJV.

For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” – Romans 10:13 NKJV.

Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart. – Luke 18:1 NKJV.

What would you do if someone was robbing a convenience store and when you called 911 the operator hung up on you? What would you do if you had someone with a serious medical condition and called 911, and the operator hung up on you? Those calls were hung up on by Creshanda Williams a 911 operator in Houston, Texas. Creshanda hung up on thousands of other 911 calls, because it was reported “she did not want to talk to anyone at that time.” Some callers she just answered and hung up on immediately. Other callers she said things like “Ain’t nobody got time for that, for real.”

The robber of the convenience store shot and killed the clerk before the man calling for help could connect with another 911 operator. The woman with a blood clot in her lungs survived after her husband was hung up on while trying to do CPR with one hand and calling with the other. Creshanda has been fired, terminated, and faces possible charges in some 800 of those hang ups. If she is sentenced consecutively for each of those charges she might be given 800 years in jail plus fines. (Daily Mail 10.12.16; CNN 10.19.16; ClicktoHouston 10.14.16; ABC 13 Houston 10.17.16)

We do live in a time when we may be faced with unexpected dangers and threats. We also live in a time when many of us have phones, and the ability to call for help on those phones. We have come to rely upon police and other emergency personnel responding quickly to our calls for help. When David was being chased by King Saul and others there were no 911 operators to call. Hiding in a cave with those who wanted to kill him close by, David had only one source of help. That help was the Lord God. His God sustained him through the years of difficult and trying times.

Even in this time of modern technology, technology cannot solve all of our problems, meet all of our needs, or always give us the help when we may need it. Technology is only as good as the technology, and the humans who operate it. Phone systems and other technological devices sometimes fail. The humans, who operate those systems and devices, are just humans, who sometimes also fail.

Jesus says we ought to always pray. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “pray without ceasing.” The NIV puts this as “pray continually.” The point is that we should not wait until we have an emergency so desperate that we are forced to call 911. We should be praying everyday as if our lives and our futures depend upon it. Because…our lives are in His hands and our God is our Help. “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).”

The Burning Bush Devotional

03.14.17

Unknowingly Lost

For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. – Matthew 18:11 NKJV.

My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and not turned aside. – Job 23:11 NKJV.

For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish. – Psalm 1:6 NKJV.

Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. – Psalm 25:4 NKJV.

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way. – Psalm 37:23 NKJV.

As for such as turn aside to their crooked ways, The Lord shall lead them away with the workers of iniquity. Peace be upon Israel! – Psalm 125:5 NKJV.

So you may walk in the way of goodness, And keep to the paths of righteousness. – Proverbs 2:20 NKJV.

A man in China working on a temporary job some 1,000 miles from home decided that he wanted to go home for the Chinese New Year celebrations. He was in the Shandong Province and his home is in the Heilongjiang Province. Since he did not have the money to travel by train or bus he began the journey on his bicycle. Thirty days later he was stopped by traffic police, and he learned the sad truth that he had been pedaling in the wrong direction 300 miles. So now this poor man was 1,300 miles away from home.

How did this happen? The Chinese man cannot read, so being unable to read maps or signs he depended upon verbal directions from those he passed on the way. Those directions were wrong! Thankfully, the police officers and staff at the toll station bought the man a ticket home. (China Daily 01.24.17; BBC 01.25.17)

Have you ever been physically lost not knowing for sure where you were at, or how to go back to your home or to your hotel? It can be very frustrating and tiring to learn you are far off course, or have been going in the wrong direction for hours. It is less likely for that to occur in these times with GPS, although they are not always accurate, and can lead you the wrong way. Also, we have cellphones, and can call and ask for directions.

Spiritually, there are ways that you can be lost, and not be aware of your being lost. The worst spiritual way to be lost is to not have Jesus as your Savior. As Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus is the “way” to eternal life and there is no other “way.” I heard Charles Stanley say Sunday that the worst thing that can happen to a person is to go out into eternity without Christ as Savior. He also said the best decision that a person can make in life is to receive Jesus as their Savior. This is truth!

Once you know Jesus as your Savior, you can become lost from God’s plan (way) for your life. The Psalmist says in Psalm 119:176, “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant, for I do not forget Your commandments.” If that is your situation you should pray as the Psalmist in Psalm 5:8, “Lead me, O Lord, in Your righteousness because of my enemies; Make Your way straight before my face.” However, sometimes you may not even know you are not following God’s plan (way) for your life. I believe I was in that situation for many years. Only by seeking God through His Word and prayer can you know for sure you are on the right track with your life. It should be a continual prayer for us to pray for God to lead us in His righteousness to fulfill His plan, will, and purpose in our lives to the ultimate degree.

The Burning Bush Devotional

03.13.17

The Wrong Step

Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly (NIV: Blessed is the one who does not walk in STEP with the wicked), Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful. – Psalm 1:1 NKJV.

The STEPS of a good man are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the Lord upholds him with His hand. – Psalm 37:23-24 NKJV.

You shall call, and I will answer You; You shall desire the work of Your hands. For now You number my STEPS, but do not watch over (keep track of – NIV) my sin. My transgression is sealed up in a bag, and You cover my iniquity. – Job 14:15-17 NKJV.

Ryan Montoya is an experienced mountain climber who has climbed peaks in Nepal. He has also written a book “The Pilgrim’s Ladder” about climbing and life, and it is available on Amazon (His parents hope he will sell enough books to buy a new climbing helmet.). Recently Ryan had a little mishap while climbing Pyramid Peak which is near Aspen, Colorado. Not far from the summit Ryan made a step, and the ice fell away beneath him. He fell, and slid 2,000 feet down the mountain; and as he fell he screamed, prayed, and thought his life might be ending.

Ryan’s helmet was torn apart, his left elbow was dislocated, and his hip was fractured. He did survive two nights in freezing temperatures before being rescued. He does have some frostbite and doctors are trying to save the fingers on one of his hands. Montoya’s parents give the credit for Ryan’s survival to his faith and prayers of the community. (KRCR News 03.10.17; Denver Post 03.08.17)

Can you imagine the horror of taking one step that results in a catastrophic fall nearly ending your life? It was a fall that will no doubt change Ryan’s life. Will he continue climbing? Will he be able to? Will he be more cautious?

Just one wrong step, can change a life. One wrong step climbing a mountain can ruin your life, and one wrong step in life can ruin your life too. King David’s adultery and the arranging of the murder of Bathsheba’s husband Uriah resulted in the death of their son. It also had a ruinous effect upon many of his descendants. Jeroboam also had a son die and a far worse judgment fall upon him. The prophet Ahijah prophesied in 1 Kings 14:9-11 (And it came to pass as he said.), “You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made for yourself other gods, idols made of metal; you have aroused my anger and turned your back on me. Because of this, I am going to bring disaster on the house of Jeroboam. I will cut off from Jeroboam every last male in Israel—slave or free. I will burn up the house of Jeroboam as one burns dung, until it is all gone. Dogs will eat those belonging to Jeroboam who die in the city, and the birds will feed on those who die in the country. The Lord has spoken!”

Just one wrong step, or in the case of Jeroboam, many wrong steps can destroy a life. The difference between David and Jeroboam is this: David repented and acknowledged his sin (Psalm 51), but Jeroboam never did. What do you think Ryan Montoya would have chosen in the midst of his fall if he had been given a choice as to whether to continue falling or to stop? When you make a sinful misstep in life, you do not have to continue down that path. You do not have to continue falling! You can confess your sin to your Lord (1 John 1:9) and turn around.

The Burning Bush Devotional

02.13.17

Take the Sword

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. – Ephesians 6:17 NKJV.

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. – Hebrews 4:12 NKJV.

So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it. – Isaiah 55:11 NKJV.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. – 1 Peter 5:8 NKJV.

Tony Aarts who lives in North Fort Myers, Florida was having a fun day playing golf at the Magnolia Landing Golf and Country Club when he nearly lost his life. Tony was near the fourth hole when he heard a splash from a water hazard which was only a few feet away. Tony says, “As I was walking about 5 to 6 feet away from the water I heard a splash, and as soon as I heard that splash I knew it was an alligator, and he got me.”

The alligator had latched onto Tony’s right ankle, and began to pull him back into the water. Tony ended up on his back as the gator was pulling him down and he says, “I remember having a club in my hand, and as soon as he had me in the water up to my waist, I started hitting him over the head.” The gator kept on pulling Tony into the water, and he knew he would soon be completely under as the water was already up to his chest. He then says, “He was looking at me with his big eyes, and I kept hitting him. I started hitting him in the eye socket. I hit him three times and he let go of my foot, so I crawled back out and by that time the guys were there.” Officers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission captured the gator.

Tony says, “It’s a good thing I had that putter. It’s a good, solid, heavy putter. I guess a golfer should always keep a club in his hand.” (Wink News 02.09.17)

We may never have a life and death struggle with an alligator; at least I hope we don’t! What a shock that must have been to be having a fun day enjoying some golf and suddenly find that you are fighting for your life! Tony Aarts refused to give up, and kept on fighting even when it looked hopeless as he says, “And I’m thinking I’m getting deeper and deeper, and I thought you’re not gonna get me.” Whether it’s a beast like an alligator, or a terminal disease, life does have countless challenges that can come upon us unexpectedly.

The apostle Peter warns us of a spiritual beast that is always there lurking in the background seeking another victim. That old devil “walks about” looking to “steal, and to kill, and to destroy (John 10:10a)” the life of every child of God. That beast of evil wants to tear away every good thing in your life, and replace it with death.

The apostle Paul tells us of how God delivered him from the beast, “I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom (2 Timothy 4:17c-18).” As God delivered Paul from the beast, He is able to deliver you and me. No, we will not be able to defeat this spiritual beast with a good golf putter, but we have been given all the spiritual weapons needed to win the battles.

Let us begin each day by taking up the “sword of the spirit” which is far better than any golf putter. The “word of God” is powerful beyond our imaginations and will accomplish God’s purpose. By the “word of God” the worlds were spoken into existence(Genesis 1). So, when the beast of this world suddenly grabs hold of you, take hold of the “sword of the spirit” and stab the beast. “Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7b).”

The Burning Bush Devotional

11.01.16

May Truth be Revealed

And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. – John 8:32 NKJV.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14 NKJV.

But now you seek to kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. – John 8:40 NKJV.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” – John 14:6 NKJV.

The Independent Perse School in Cambridge England is teaching students how to be “artful dodgers.” When a student happens to commit a violation of the school rules they are given ten seconds to explain themselves to avoid punishment. Ed Elliott, head of the school, explained that “out and out falseness” is not allowed although “white lies” might be allowed. Elliott says, “Getting children to talk their way out of minor misdemeanors is a wonderful way of encouraging such creativity and fostering good communication skills.” Sam Leith who is a rhetoric expert and author says, “You can see this being a really important life skill and actually politicians, some of them, are the absolute straight arrow, but often the ones who get further are the artful dodgers.” (BBC 11.19.12; The Huffington Post 11.24.12)

In our current political climate it is difficult at times to discern the truth, because the truth is that our political candidates are artful dodgers. However, there is a problem that has created this deceitful political climate, and that is our desire to only hear what we want to hear. Do we want to know the truth? Do we really want to hear the truth? If a candidate tells you the truth are you offended? Jesus told the Jews the truth, and they just wanted to kill Him. Instead of pleading with Pilate to release Jesus, instead they shouted for Pilate to release a murderer (Matthew 27:20). Then, they shouted about Jesus to Pilate (Matthew 27:22-23), “Let Him be crucified” “Let Him be crucified” and Jesus was crucified. But there is a strange thing about truth, truth refuses to die. Jesus, the Truth, rose again on the third day!

Today in the United States each of us has our own idea about truth. We only want to hear our version of the truth as we have become artful listeners. We stuff our ears and turn the channel if someone actually dares to speak truth. It is sad to think that the political candidate who actually wins the election may be the one who has most successfully artfully dodged the truth.

Our duty as Christians in this election and in life is to seek the Truth, to desire the Truth, to pray for the Truth to be revealed, and that we might recognize it. Will you do that? Will you pray for the Truth to be revealed, and that you will recognize it, and receive it?

The Burning Bush Devotional

09.05.16

When God Says NO

Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. So passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them. – Acts 16:6-10 NKJV.

There is a TV commercial advertising a vehicle in which parents tell their children: “You can't take that.” One scene shows a boy walking out of a home's garage with a sledge hammer, and the parent says, “You can't take that.” Another scene shows a boy taking a fluorescent light bulb out of a fixture, and the parent says “You can't take that.” Another scene shows a little girl headed outside with hair clippers to cut the hair of another little girl, and the parent says, “You can't take that.”

A good parent knows some things are not good for their child to have, because some things can be harmful to the child, or used in a harmful way. Our Heavenly Father is a good parent, and because He is good, even though we want some things our Heavenly Father says, “You can't have that.” Our Heavenly Father says that, because he knows those things would be harmful to us. And, sometimes when we really want to do something our Heavenly Father says, “You can't do that.” Our Heavenly Father says that, because He knows something else would be better for us.

In Acts 16, God says NO to Paul twice as they were “forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia.” Next, “they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them.” Paul was on a mission to reach people with the Gospel, and even though he was the apostle Paul, God still told him NO. Why, did God not permit Paul to preach the word in Asia or Bithynia? God had a better plan which He then revealed to Paul: “And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’”

If the apostle Paul can be wrong about God’s will, it is evident that we can also be wrong about God’s will. Now Paul was a determined and persistent man of God, and we can see this when Paul beseeched God three times to remove his “thorn in the flesh.” God told Paul NO each time. Why? Paul says God told him this, “And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure (2 Corinthians 12:7).” Also, God said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9a).”

God may at times tell us NO. God may tell us that we can’t do that, or we can’t take that, or we can’t have that, or we can’t go there. However, if God blocks us from doing what we want to do, that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love us. It may be that God has a better plan for us, or it may be that God is just protecting us from ourselves. Whatever it may be, as God said to the apostle Paul, He says to us: “My grace is sufficient for you.”

The Burning Bush Devotional

08.26.16

Miserly Fools

Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”

But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” And He said to them, “TAKE HEED AND BEWARE OF COVETOUSNESS (NIV – BE ON YOUR GUARD AGAINST ALL KINDS OF GREED), for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”

Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’

“So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” – Luke 12:13-21 NKJV.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. – Romans 1:18-19 NKJV.

God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness (GREED – NIV), maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful. – Romans 1:28-31 NKJV.

The rise in pharmaceutical company prices and profits at the expense of the vulnerable is shocking. The latest is the 400% increase in the price of EpiPens which is a lifesaving product many depend on. The price has increased from $56.64 to $315.82 since Mylan Pharmaceuticals bought the patent. Since then, the CEO of Mylan, Heather Bresch, has had a salary increase from $2 million to $18 million. Other executives of Mylan have also had huge increases in their salaries. Some Senators are now calling for a probe into this outrageous profit taking at the expense of the most vulnerable. If you are outraged by this too, you can sign a petition demanding the stop of this horrific profiteering at the Other98: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/stop-epipen-profiteering-drop-the-price-of-this-lifesaving-medicine-now (Yahoo News 08.25.16 and the Other98)

There have been many great and wonderful advances in developing medicines for the treatment of diseases. However, when those medications are unaffordable what good are they? There are currently six HCV Hepatitis C drugs that reach cure rates of 96%. The cost of a 12-week course of treatment with these drugs range from $63,000 to $94,500; but, sometimes it takes a 24-week course of treatment. Just recently it was announced by some insurance companies that they will no longer cover the cost of treatment of HCV. No surprise there. Really, what good are the medications if most people are unable to afford them? (Info on medications and cost from: Healthline 02.24.16)

The definition for “greed” from Dictionary dot com is: “excessive or rapacious desire, especially for wealth or possessions.” Looking at the outrageous actions of executives of pharmaceutical companies, those actions appear to go beyond simple greed. There is another word which fits these actions. Dictionary dot com defines “avarice” as: “insatiable greed for riches; inordinate, miserly desire to gain and hoard wealth.” Executives for pharmaceutical companies appear to have an insatiable greed, greed that can never be satisfied no matter how much money or possessions that they accumulate.

At Sweetwater, Oklahoma where we lived for 18 years as I was the pastor of a church there, we would often pass by a large old house. I once asked who had built the house, and the answer was “Miser Stewart.” No one seemed to know his first name; it was just “Miser Stewart.” The pharmaceutical executives are far worse than misers. God has a name for them, and that name is FOOL! When their soul is required of them, those things they have accumulated will be meaningless. The “wrath of God” will one day be poured out upon those fools.

Focusing your life upon accumulating money and material things will only result in an emptiness that no amount of riches can fill. Money and material things cannot give you peace, fulfillment, satisfaction, and meaning in your life. Only by putting God in His proper place, proper perspective, can you have real life, the abundant life (John 10:10b) that Jesus came to give you. That proper place of God is first place. Put God first as Matthew 6:33 says and everything else will fall into its proper place. The life abundant will then begin to flow into every area of your life. You will then not be known as being a miserly fool, instead you will be known as “blessed” of God (Psalm 1).

The Burning Bush Devotional

08.25.16

Better than Gold

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the GENUINENESS of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. – 1 Peter 1:3-9 NKJV.

An anonymous prospector in Victoria, Australia has struck gold! Using a metal detector he has found two large gold nuggets only a foot or two below ground. He found a nine ounce gold nugget the first day, which at current gold price would be worth about $11,907. The second day, he returned to the same area, and found a huge nugget weighing 145 ounces worth $190,710. The first night he hid his big nugget in their oven, but it is now in a bank’s vault. The prospector said this about the find, “I had just unearthed a colossal gold nugget, a once in a lifetime find! I was in total disbelief as I didn't think nuggets of this size were still around.” He plans use the money from the nuggets to buy a van and travel Australia with his family. (Yahoo News 08.24.16)

When gold was struck in California in the 1850s, men and women from across the world poured into the area to prospect for gold. One of my ancestor’s relatives, we know from census records went to California during that time, but I have found no record of him after that time. It was a hazardous journey to California, and even more hazardous actually trying to live and work as a prospector.

Gold is even more valuable today than it was in the 1850s with today’s price being $1393.90 per ounce. However, as valuable as gold may be, there is something far more valuable, far better than gold that we can obtain. The apostle Peter tells us that the “GENUINENESS of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes.” What is “genuineness”? Dictionary dot com defines genuineness as: “possessing the claimed or attributed character, quality, or origin; not counterfeit; authentic; real.” We can have faith that is genuine, which is better than gold.

How do we know whether faith is genuine or not? In a way somewhat similar to gold being refined; when gold is refined the impurities are removed by fire leaving pure gold. We are told in 1 Peter 1:6, “though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials.” I am continually amazed when I hear of friends who have had all kinds of terrible things happen to them and their families, that they continue to praise God, continue to serve God, continue to walk with their God through each day. I have no doubt that their faith is genuine, which has been proved by the fire of earthly trials which affect us here in this world. Peter says those whose faith is going through these earthly trials “may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory.”

You don’t have to go to Australia, or California, or Colorado to find gold. The psalmist says, “The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver (Psalm 119:72).” Dig into the riches of God’s Word every day, and you will find genuine faith for “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).”

The Burning Bush Devotional

08.17.16

Living the Right Way

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be UNWISE, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And DO NOT BE DRUNK with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, GIVING THANKS always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. – Ephesians 5:15-20 NKJV.

The Unwise:

What would you do if you won a $3 million dollar lottery prize? Ronnie Music Jr. who is 45-years-old, thought the wise use of his $3 million dollars would be to invest in a trafficking methamphetamine organization. However, he is now in jail and facing a long long prison sentence. When he was arrested, he and his helpers were caught with $1 million in drugs and guns. (Atlanta Journal – Constitution 07.26.2016)

The Drunk:

29-year-old Stacy Sanchez is in trouble, a lot of trouble. She was on her way home after spending hours at several Oceanside, California bars when she hit a homeless man with her vehicle. The man was killed by the impact; however, Stacy didn’t stop her car, and she kept on going for ¾ mile with the body of her victim stuck in her windshield. When she arrived at her home, her husband called police. Stacy has been charged with DUI and vehicular manslaughter. (New York Post 06.28.16)

The Thankful:

The Family Minute dot com gives eight things that you can be thankful for: family, friends, having a home and food, laughter, job, freedoms, those impacting your life positively, and for your health. The Thought Catalog gives 51 things you can be thankful about. And, Real Simple dot com gives 100 things you can be thankful about. 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 says, “pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” That is where perhaps most well-known illustration about thanksgiving originates. Corrie Ten Boom, in a Nazi camp for Jewish people waiting for the gas chambers, is told by her sister to thank God even for the fleas in their barracks. As Corrie found out later the fleas made the guards stay away from their barracks.

The apostle Paul gives the formula for living a successful life in Ephesians 5:15-20: Be Wise, Be Sober, and Be Thankful. How do we have wisdom? We are told this in James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Sobriety flows out of having wisdom, which will then result in our being filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18) instead of being drunk or high. If we are wise, and we are filled with the Spirit, as a result we will be thankful in everything as we are commanded in 1 Thessalonians 5:18. This is how we can live the right way, God’s way.

The Burning Bush Devotional

08.16.16

Put It Away

Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:31 NKJV.

Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled. – Hebrews 12:14-15 NKJV.

Paul E. Donovan, Jr. who is 69-years-old has for 56-years had a grudge against a former childhood friend. Now, it is not that hard to understand why Donovan was upset with his friend; but, really, holding onto it for 56-years! Donovan claims that when he was 12-years-old his friend at the time stole $300 from a wooden box in his room. That would be enough to upset anyone for a while. How do we know Donovan has held a grudge for all these years? Because, the tombstone of his former childhood friend was vandalized several times by Donovan.

In 2014, Donovan spray painted “John” in bright orange on the gravestone, this was done twice. Later in the year it was vandalized again, this time with tar-like substance that was poured over the stone. A camera was then set up by police to try to catch the perpetrator of these acts of vandalism. In May of 2015, the perp was caught on video stealing lights that had been set up around the tombstone to try to prevent more vandalism. Donovan did immediately confess to the crime when arrested, but said at time of his arrest that he will, “pay back any restitution minus the $300 he was owed over 56 years ago.” A judge has sentenced Donovan to two years of probation and ordered to pay $1500 in restitution to the family. Wonder how the judge will react to Donovan just paying $1200? (Daily Local News 08.04.16)

It is likely that everyone reading this has had someone do something to them that has caused pain, and likely anger at the time. Fifty years ago someone stole a #1 Spiderman comic book from me that was in mint condition. The record sale price for one of those is $110,000. If I still had the comic it likely it would have been worth only a few thousand, because I would have read it, and looked at it, and the value would have decreased. I think I know who took the comic, but you know what? I would pay thousands of dollars to not carry a grudge for fifty years! It was just something that happened long ago, and I blame myself for leaving the comic where someone would be tempted to take it. And, think of the guilt that person had, because they stole it.

With Paul Donovan we can see the danger to our emotional and spiritual well-being from allowing bitterness to grow in our lives. That “bitter root” like a plant will slowly grow until the fruit of bitterness springs up causing trouble and moral defilement making a person unfit for serving God. The solution to such bitterness is to immediately confess our bitterness to our Lord as 1 John 1:9 directs. Not only will our bitterness, even our grudge be forgiven, but our God will comfort us so that the bitterness and anger is wiped away, replaced with His peace which transcends all understanding. If you are holding onto a grudge, let it go through the power of God before the evil fruit springs up in your life. Put it away from you as Ephesians 4:31 says, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.”

The Burning Bush Devotional

08.10.16

Learning Your Lesson

Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord delivered them into the hand of Midian for seven years, and the hand of Midian prevailed against Israel. Because of the Midianites, the children of Israel made for themselves the dens, the caves, and the strongholds which are in the mountains. So it was, whenever Israel had sown, Midianites would come up; also Amalekites and the people of the East would come up against them. Then they would encamp against them and destroy the produce of the earth as far as Gaza, and leave no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep nor ox nor donkey. For they would come up with their livestock and their tents, coming in as numerous as locusts; both they and their camels were without number; and they would enter the land to destroy it. So Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord.

And it came to pass, when the children of Israel cried out to the Lord because of the Midianites, that the Lord sent a prophet to the children of Israel, who said to them, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I brought you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of bondage; and I delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians and out of the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you and gave you their land. Also I said to you, “I am the Lord your God; do not fear the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell.” But you have not obeyed My voice.’” – Judges 6:1-10 NKJV.

Noah Elkins and Priscilla Simpson were driving along looking for a place to swim when they had a close encounter with a power pole and some tiny little creatures. It all happened in a rural area of Laurel County, Kentucky. Noah and Priscilla were high on some drugs (Suboxone, neurotin and Klonopin), but I digress. What were those tiny little creatures that viciously attacked these two thirty year olds? Bees! It was bees that immediately swarmed after them when they crawled out of their wrecked vehicle. The bees were stinging them all over; they grabbed a water hose from a home nearby, and tried to wash the bees off. Gary Anderson who lived in the home said the two were, “screaming and squalling, and running around about like a chicken with its head cut off.” Gary didn’t realize at first that the bees were stinging them, and just thought they were high on drugs.

Noah and Priscilla were taken to a hospital for treatment of injuries from the accident, and from the numerous bee stings. Noah is facing a charge of Driving While Intoxicated and Priscilla a charge of Public Intoxication. Gary Anderson, the home owner, was also stung several times on his leg attempting to rescue the two. Gary says, “Everyone around there hopes the two learned a serious lesson. I'd say by today they are learning their lesson. If they feel like my leg feels, I'd say they're learning. I'd say they're itching real good because my ankle's itching. I think it's that poison from them bees.” (CBS WKYT Lexington 07.27.16 and various other news venues)

Wonder which lesson Gary and Priscilla learned? Don’t drive around while you are high on drugs? Don’t crash your vehicle into a pole with a beehive on it? And if you do crash into a pole with a beehive, make sure you are not wearing a bikini? That had to be an unpleasant lesson they received, but I doubt they actually learned anything from it.

This reminded me of the Book of Judges where the children of Israel had a hard time learning their lesson. The cycle of sin, repentance, and deliverance kept repeating itself in their lives over and over and over. They would sin, they would be oppressed, they would cry out to the Lord for help, and God would send a deliverer, a judge to lead them to freedom. In the passage in Judges 6 it is Gideon that God raised up to lead them in throwing off the oppressive yoke of the Midianites. Failure to learn their lesson was a continual problem and eventually led the children of Israel to be carried into captivity to Babylon.

It is easy to condemn those who sin, those who have some kind of moral failure. God knows I have had many painful lessons and have not always learned them. “There but for the grace of God go I” is a saying I have heard all my life. Many of us are familiar with this saying and google gives more than two million results for it.

When we are caught in the Judges cycle with our own lives what should we do? How can we learn our lesson? The problem is a lack of focus on what is most important. The most important of all in our lives should be Jesus. “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…(Hebrews 12:1b-2a). “…consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls (Hebrews 12:3).” “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5).” Discipline is necessary, and there is no way around the need for faithfulness in applying the resources of God to our lives so that we might have the mind of Christ: Prayer, Bible, Church. May we all learn our lesson!

The Burning Bush Devotional

08.01.16

How to Make God Smile

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. – Genesis 6:5-8 NKJV.

Then the Lord said to Noah, “Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation.” – Genesis 7:1 NKJV.

The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, in those who hope in His mercy. – Psalm 147:11 NKJV.

The Kilauea Volcano is smiling; yes, it is smiling, and there is video evidence of the smile. The volcano smiley face has two glowing eyes and a long crooked smile. The volcano smiley face was filmed by Mick Kalber from a helicopter belonging to Paradise Helicopters. The Kilauea volcano is a very active and has erupted continuously since 1983 and is located on the Big Island of Hawaii. The lava flow from the volcano has reached the ocean for the first time in three years. You can view the photos and video of the volcanic smiley face at this link: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3715583/Mother-nature-flashes-smile-Hawaii-volcano-appears-red-hot-grin-complete-glowing-eyes-molten-lava-hits-sea.html (DailyMail 08.01.16)

We visited the Big Island of Hawaii in 1995 and the volcano was one of the more memorable things that we saw on the island. However, there were no smiley faces in the volcano then. In 1995, the lava flow was reaching the ocean and we along with a large number of other people tried to get as close as we could to view it. I remember we were still a long way away from the lava flow when the heat became unbearable and we had to turn away.

Seeing the video of the volcanic smiley face this morning made me think of this question: Does God smile? And if God does smile, what would make Him smile upon our lives? Searching the Bible, depending upon which translation is used, there are only three to five references to the word smile. However, although the Bible does not specifically reference God smiling I believe that God does smile if you think of Him as being pleased with the lives of some of His servants.

God appears to be pleased with His servants Enoch and Noah. Why? Because Enoch and Noah pleased God. But how did they please God. In Hebrews 11, it is revealed that it was by faith that Enoch and Noah pleased God. The writer of Hebrews comments on Enoch’s faith by saying this, “By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, ‘and was not found, because God had taken him’; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:5-6).” The writer of Hebrews also comments on how Noah pleased God by saying, “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith (Hebrews 11:7 NKJV).”

How can we make God smile? King David tells us in Psalm 51 in his prayer of repentance: “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise. For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise (Psalm 51:15-17 NKJV).” In Romans 10, we see more specifically how we can make God smile as we are told, “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:12-13 NKJV).’” The Amplified Bible puts the last part of Romans 10:12 as, “[He is] abounding in riches (blessings) for all who call on Him [in faith and prayer].” The New American Standard Bible puts this as “abounding in riches for all who call on Him.”

So, how can we make God smile? “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).” By faith receive Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, and you will surely make God smile. And, then by faith walk with God as did Enoch and Noah, and God will surely smile even more!

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.28.16

Pokémon Go and Becoming the Best

I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:14 NKJV.

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. – Matthew 6:33 NKJV.

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. – Ephesians 5:15 NKJV.

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. – 2 Timothy 4:7 NKJV.

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. – 2 Timothy 2:15 NKJV.

Tom Currie in New Zealand is on a mission, a Pokémon Go mission to become the best Pokémon Go hunter in the world. Tom is 24-years-old, and before becoming a full-time Pokémon Go hunter he worked at the Hibiscus Coast restaurant in Auckland. Tom has tendered his resignation to the Hibiscus Coast café to dedicate the next two months to Pokémon hunting. He plans to travel by bus all over the country to capture these Pokémons. So far Tom has captured 90 of the 151 Pokémon creatures that are possible to be caught. Currie says, “I wanted to have an adventure. I have been working for six years and I was desperate for a break. And Pokémon gave me the chance to live that dream.” (Newshub 07.15.16; The Guardian 07.15.16)

Are you living the dream? Are you the best that you can be? You have to admire anyone who gives everything they have to be the best they can be at something. Do you have a dream? Are you the best that you can be? Those I think are good questions to ask ourselves, but as Christians we should always include God in the equation. Does our dream include God, is it something that will bring honor and glory to God? If we are the very best at something, is that something God will be pleased to see demonstrated in our lives?

A starting point for any God honoring dream should include Matthew 6:33 because we can never really be the best that we can be if we leave God out of our lives. In Philippians 3, we have a statement which is helpful in understanding this: “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death (Philippians 3:7-10 NKJV).”

If we leave God out of our quest to become the best we can be all we will have accomplished will just be a pile of garbage. Without God, a dream is worthless. Let us “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Let us fight the good fight while keeping the faith and redeeming the time; being diligent workers not ashamed who are approved by God. May we truly be the best that we can be finishing the race, not giving up, even to the very end of our walk here upon this world.

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.27.16

Pokémon Go and the Unseen World

For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. – Colossians 1:16 NKJV.

Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation? – Hebrews 1:14 NKJV.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. – 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 NKJV.

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. – Ephesians 6:10-13 NKJV.

Having never played Pokémon, I have little knowledge of what it actually is except what I have read or viewed in news stories. Please bear with me as I share a little information that I have found. I turned to Wikipedia to find out more, and this is what they say Pokémon is: The name Pokémon is the romanticized contraction of the Japanese brand Pocket Monsters. The term Pokémon, in addition to referring to the Pokémon franchise itself, also collectively refers to the 722 known fictional species that have made appearances in Pokémon media.

The Pokémon website says this about the new incarnation of Pokémon, Pokémon Go: “Get on your feet and step outside to find and catch wild Pokémon. Explore cities and towns around where you live and even around the globe to capture as many Pokémon as you can. As you move around, your smartphone will vibrate to let you know you're near a Pokémon. Once you've encountered a Pokémon, take aim on your smartphone's touch screen and throw a Poké Ball to catch it. Be careful when you try to catch it, or it might run away! Also look for PokéStops located at interesting places, such as public art installations, historical markers, and monuments, where you can collect more Poké Balls and other items.”

One of the unfortunate side effects of Pokémon Go is the injuries some have experienced hunting these imaginary creatures. The Washington Post published an article 07.10.16 about those injuries. Here is a quote from the article: “Pokémon Go put me in the ER last night,” read one post on the Pokemon Go subreddit. “Not even 30 minutes after the release last night, I slipped and fell down a ditch,” said the Reddit user. “Fractured the fifth metatarsal bone in my foot, 6-8 weeks for recovery. I told all the doctors I was walking my dog lol... Watch where you're going, folks!” Others posted that they, too, had near misses or minor scrapes from chasing Pokémon a little too enthusiastically. Some have reported mishaps while seeking Pokémon and driving, which is a thing that just shouldn’t happen. That bears repeating: do not Pokémon Go and drive.

The good news for Pokémon go players in Russia is a new free insurance policy that is now available for them. Sberbank will insure players with a free policy providing up to $800 in case of injury while playing the game. The same article about the insurance policy says: Ever since the game’s release, people have been crashing into police cars, tumbling down stairs, getting shot and someone has even fallen off a cliff in their effort to catch the best Pokémon. (CNBC 07.25.16)

Through the Pokémon app on their phones, players are able to see and interact with an unseen imaginary world. What if there was an app on our phones to see the unseen, very real spiritual world? Looking through the app we could then see the demons attacking our lives and the angels of God trying to protect us. We could then see that when we sin it allows the demonic world an entry point into our lives to cause trouble. When we live righteously we could then see how much easier the angels are able to repel the demonic attacks. When we respond in prayer to those demonic attacks we would see how crushing blows are delivered by God upon those demonic forces.

Although we cannot see our spiritual enemies they are very real, and we must resist them. The Bible does give us much direction in how to do this. Here are two additional Scriptures that can help us: “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded (James 4:7-8 NKJV).” Also, Revelation 12:11 NKJV: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.25.16

Prayer Guidance

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. – 1 Peter 3:12 NKJV.

But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. – 1 Peter 4:7 NKJV.

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. – 1 John 5:14-15 NKJV.

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men – 1 Timothy 2:1 NKJV.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NKJV.

Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving. – Colossians 4:2 NKJV.

Ruqiyyah Abdur Raqeeb Sadiq, a 28-year-old woman failed to stop at a stop sign in Mary Esther, Florida, crossed an intersection, and slammed into the side of a house. Usually with accidents like this you would think that alcohol or drug use would be involved. However, you would be wrong this time. Sadiq said that the accident must have happened while she had her eyes closed praying. This was also likely why they took her to a hospital for evaluation. Sadiq has been charged with reckless driving with property damage. Thankfully, no one in the house was injured. (Daily News of NW Florida 07.11.16; Smoking Gun 07.12.16)

There are some things that you should not do while praying. As we see with Sadiq’s accident, driving with your eyes closed while praying is one of those things. Also, in spite of what Carrie Underwood sings in “Jesus, Take the Wheel” it would be a mistake to turn loose of the steering wheel while you are driving.

There are some things that will hinder our prayers, but in general God will hear our prayers:

When we pray with our eyes closed.
When we pray with our eyes open.
When we pray with our heads bowed.
When we pray without our heads being bowed.
When we have our faces turned toward Heaven.
When we pray outloud.
When we pray silently.
When we pray standing up.
When we pray sitting.
When we pray lying down.
When we pray upside down.
When we pray running.
When we pray walking.
There are hardly any wrong ways to pray, and some prayers are unspoken as God hears our heart’s cry. I like Amy Grant’s song, “Better than a Hallelujah” where she sings:

God loves a lullaby
In a mother's tears in the dead of night
Better than a Hallelujah sometimes

The honest cries of breaking hearts
Are better than a Hallelujah

The woman holding on for life
The dying man giving up the fight
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes

The tears of shame for what's been done
The silence when the words won't come
Are better than a Hallelujah sometimes

Regardless of what we pray or how we pray, the Spirit we are told makes intercession for us according to the will of God. In other words, the Holy Spirit translates our prayers so that the Father hears them according to His will. “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27 NKJV).”

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.20.16

An Outrage!

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put MY LAW in their minds, and WRITE IT ON THEIR HEARTS; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. – Jeremiah 31:33 NKJV.

The mouth of the righteous is a well of life, but violence covers the mouth of the wicked. Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins. – Proverbs 10:11-12 NKJV.

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like…. – Galatians 5:19-21a NKJV.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth.This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic.For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. – James 3:13-18 NKJV.

Yesterday, in Cleveland, Ohio near the Republican National Convention, protesters committed a new outrage. What was this new outrage? Throwing urine in plastic baggies on police officers and others. Someone tweeted asking why anyone would have a baggie filled with their urine? Someone tweeted in response that it was in Chapter 2 of the book, “Things I learned in prison.” It is reprehensible! It is an outrage! It is also an assault, and those throwing urine in plastic baggies on others should be arrested and prosecuted. In fact, if someone is infected with a disease it could be considered an assault with a deadly weapon. It is an outrage that there are unlawful violent assemblies blocking highways, rioting, causing personal injuries, and destroying millions upon millions of dollars in property. That is an outrage! It is an outrage when police officers protecting our communities are targeted for assassination. That is an outrage! To list all of the outrages being perpetrated in our country would take more than the space I have here today.

What is the problem that has created such a racial divide, hate and violence in the United States? John Adams, the second president of the United, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence long ago identified the problem we now see in the United States. Adams said this: “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion…Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Franklin Graham in his essay “America the Beautiful?” in the most recent issue of Decision Magazine writes, “Wherever Christianity flourishes, freedom flowers. Wherever it is marginalized, tyranny, despotism, and eventually anarchy will inevitably follow.”

The solution to the hatred, the racial divide, and the violence is obvious. The people who make up these United States of America must turn to God; we desperately need a spiritual awakening to sweep across America. No presidential change, no amount of new laws, no amount of great speeches will change the hearts of Americans. Only God is able to change and renew the hearts, lives, and attitudes by writing His law upon our hearts.

The Bible tells what we must do in multiple places similar to Galatians 5:16 which says, “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” It will take all of us, turning from the godless evil that threatens our freedom, and turning to a real walk with God to bring to an end the outrages we now see destroying our nation. Let it begin with me; let it begin with you, as we seek to daily obey the law of our God which He has written upon our hearts.

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.18.16

All Peoples

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to ALL PEOPLE. – Luke 2:10 NKJV.

For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of ALL PEOPLES, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel. – Luke 2:30-32 NKJV.

For God so loved THE WORLD that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. – John 3:16 NKJV.

And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw ALL PEOPLES to Myself. – John 12:32 NKJV.

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of ALL nations, tribes, PEOPLES, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” – Revelation 7:9-10 NKJV.

Strange in these days, that to say “all lives matter” means according to the “Black Lives Matter” organization that you are a racist. BLM is trying to focus attention on the shootings of black men by police officers and they claim that to say “all lives matter” is taking the focus off of that issue. I will agree that there have been some shootings of black men by law enforcement that does not appear justified just as there have been of some white men and those of other races. However, BLM has been involved in a rush to judgment before the facts are known for most of these shootings.

Most of the shootings of black men by law enforcement have been shown to be justified. I have little sympathy for anyone black, white or of any race that resists arrests and ends up being injured. Resist arrest and you can expect that bad things will happen. Even if you believe the arrest is unjustified, resisting arrest will only complicate the situation. To avoid injury when encountering law enforcement, comply with their lawful orders. Be respectful to law enforcement saying “Yes sir, or No sir” or “Yes Ma’am or No Ma’am” this will make your encounter with law enforcement much safer for you and them.

It is beyond sad the amount of violence that is occurring in black communities like there is in Chicago. Very strict gun laws in Chicago, but still horrific amounts of shootings mostly of what you would think of as being innocents. Why isn’t Black Lives Matter protesting this far greater threat to black lives? I suspect it is because the police are a much easier target; whereas if they protested violence in their own communities, it is likely they would be exposed to being shot. I hope and pray that BLM will change their focus to the greater threat of black on black violence.

Regardless of how we may feel about BLM does God care about all lives? Do all lives matter to God? The answer to that question is a resounding YES! Yes, God cares about all peoples. God so loved “the world” that Jesus suffered and died on the cross that we might have a Savior. It is the command of Jesus that He be lifted up so that “all peoples” may be drawn to Him. During this difficult time with so much violence and so much terrorism across the world what are we to do? Let us lift up Jesus, so that the Prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6) may draw “all peoples” to Him and still the waters (Mark 4:39) with His peace.

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.13.16

No Other Name

And it came to pass, on the next day, that their rulers, elders, and scribes, as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, “By what power or by what name have you done this?”

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” – Acts 4:5-12 NKJV.

There is a new law in Russia that essentially outlaws the sharing of your faith whatever that faith may be. The Barnabus Fund which helps persecuted Christians across the world has this to say about the new law: “The new law will require any sharing of the Christian faith, even a casual conversation, to have prior authorization from the state. This includes something as basic as an emailed invitation for a friend to attend church. Even in a private home, worship and prayer will only be allowed if there are no unbelievers present. Churches will also be held accountable for the activities of their members. So if, for example, a church member mentions their faith in conversation with a work colleague, not only the church member but also the church itself could be punished, with individuals facing fines of up to 50,000 rubles ($770).”

The new law was promoted by Putin as being needed to protect against terrorism according to a report by Radio Free Europe. Radio Free Europe also reported the law: “boosts state access to private communications, requiring telecom companies to store all telephone conversations, text messages, videos, and picture messages for six months and make this data available to the authorities. Encrypted programs must provide authorities a key, and the law also increases the number of crimes that 14-year-olds can be prosecuted for and restricts the activity of religious preachers.” The law is in violation of International law and of the Russia’s own constitution; however, the law, any law, doesn’t seem to matter to dictators. (WND 07.07.16 Many thanks to World News Daily for this article!)

In the United States, and in other free countries we are seeing a creeping constriction of religious freedoms. What once was considered preaching the Word of God i.e. the Bible, is now seen by many as hate speech. There are those who are continually trying to constrict the ability of pastors to interpret the Bible according to how they are led by the Spirit. New laws are continually being proposed that would bring the United States closer to that of Russia’s now control, or attempted control, of any religious conversations.

In Acts 4 after the healing of the lame man, Peter and John were confronted with whether or not to bow to the commands of the Sanhedrin, “So they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:18).” Peter and John are not afraid of the Sanhedrin which could have severely punished them. Instead of bowing to the will of man, Peter and John make it very clear what they intend to do: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard (Acts 4:19b-20).” After their release they pray, “Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word (Acts 4:29).”

What will the Christians in Russia do? Will they continue to share their faith, or will they bow to the will of Putin? I suspect that they will continue to cautiously share their faith when they have the opportunity, even with the risk of the legal penalties. How will those of us who live in other countries respond when our religious liberties are restrained? Will we have the courage to stand up for our faith? Will we have the courage to preach as did Peter that there is salvation in no other name than that of Jesus Christ of Nazareth; and that, “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved?”

In the United States, we still have freedom to speak of our faith, and to assemble to together to worship our God. Sadly, even though we have those freedoms, the vast majority of believers rarely exercise them; especially in the sharing our faith with another person. We can change the course of history by rising up in the name of Jesus, and speaking boldly of our faith, as did Peter and John. Will you do it? I think your God would like an answer.

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.29.16

What is the Problem?

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:23 NKJV.

So the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” - Genesis 4:8 NKJV.

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. – James 4:7-8 NKJV.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. – Romans 8:5-6 NKJV.

33-year-old James Jenkins led sheriff’s deputies on a wild high speed chase in Florida. In an attempt to lose the deputies, Jenkins went off the road, crashed through hay bales, and his vehicle went airborne several times until the car died from the damage. But Jenkins wasn’t finished, he jumped out of the vehicle holding a large beer can, and ran toward some trees. Not only did his car come to a stop from the damage from the chase, but Jenkins also came to a stop from the damage to his face when he crashed into a tree, which allowed deputies to arrest him.

During the entire chase there was a child in a car seat in the back seat of the vehicle. The child told deputies that he had been holding onto his car seat with all his might during the incident. Thankfully, the child was not injured. Jenkins was charged with several offenses including fleeing and eluding, resisting arrest, habitually driving under suspension, and this is a surprise: child neglect. Oh, almost forgot, he was also charged for the open can of beer in the vehicle. (Palm Beach Post 06.17.16; Crestview News Bulletin 06.15.16)

Jenkins is not the only one doing something stupid. Sonja Farak in Massachusetts got herself into some trouble. She had been the state crime lab chemist, but was fired in 2013 after being employed by the crime lab since 2005. What was she doing? She admitted to being high on illegal substances every day while working for the lab. Here are some of the drugs she admitted to using: meth, ketamine, ecstasy and LSD. (Washington Post 05.16.16)

In Calhan, Colorado, 38-year-old Robert Williams during an argument with his wife threatened his wife and daughter with a handgun. Williams told his daughter to get another firearm so they could have a duel. Williams then shot at his daughter who returned fire, but neither one were hit. While Williams went to find a shotgun, the wife and daughter fled to safety of a neighbor’s house where they called 911. Williams has been charged with felonies of menacing, prohibited use of a firearm, and child abuse. (Fox 31 06.02.16; KDVR Denver 06.02.16)

Then there is 26-year-old Prolancia Turner who was at an Outlet Mall in Vero Beach, Florida where she shoplifted at a Claire’s store. Turner walked out of the store with earrings hidden in her clothing. Turner was angry and crying about being arrested because…she said, “Everyone steals from this store. Why are you picking on me?” (Smoking Gun 05.19.16)

What in the world is wrong with people? Why do people do such obviously wrong things? What is the problem? The problem is simple. The problem is SIN! Sin = Death, because the wages of sin will always be death. Sin will always bring bad things into your life. Sin will always hurt you, and sin will always seek to destroy you. As the Lord said to Cain, “And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you.” Sin lies in wait at your door too; its desire is for you, to devour you and all that is good in your life.

Having identified the problem, what is the solution? The solution to the age old sin problem is still the same. Obedience to your God. Cain rejected that solution, but you do not have to follow in Cain’s steps. You do not have to do one stupid thing after another destroying your life, and the lives of those around you. The solution to the sin problem is to do as the Bible says “submit to God.” If you will “draw near to God,” “He will draw near to you.”

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.28.16

Human Logic

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:8-10 NKJV.

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. – John 3:17-19 NKJV.

Dominyk Antonio Alfonseca, who is 24-years-old is going to prison for 35 months for a bank robbery in Virginia. The evidence is indisputable, which includes Dominyk posting on Instagram two videos of the robbery, and also a photo of the note passed to the bank teller. Dominyk enjoyed his ill-gotten money for all of 20 minutes before his arrest with the bag of cash. In Dominyk’s defense, he was polite and his note passed to the bank teller did say “please” and had smiley faces on it. Also, Dominyk says he posted the Instagram videos to prove he did not have a firearm. However, Dominyk disputes his guilt and says, “I don't know how I'm a robber because I asked for it. She could have said no, and I could have left. I didn't have a gun. I didn't have anything. I even waited my turn. They called me up and I handed them the note. I didn’t consider it robbery. The way I see it is, by law I might be guilty, but by my logic I’m not. I feel like I’m innocent by logic.” (CBSnews; WTKR Norfolk 12.23.15)

For those of you thinking about applying for a loan from a bank, here is an important point about procedure. Do not simply enter a bank and give a bank teller a note asking for money! Ask to see a loan officer about applying for a loan. It is easy to see the flawed logic of Dominyk Alfonseca. Dominyk thought he could escape a charge of robbery on a technicality of not actually saying he was robbing the bank. The law, however, is also clear in that a bank robbery is a bank robbery even if you ask politely for the bank to give you money. Human logic vs. the law, and the law won. Actually, there’s a song by that title: I Fought the Law and the Law Won. Here are some of the lyrics:

Breakin' rocks in the hot sun
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won
I needed money 'cause I had none
I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won

(Just in case you didn't get it: The Law Won!) On a spiritual basis human logic says there should be many ways to Heaven. God says there is only one way, and that way is through Jesus Christ who says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6).” Human logic also says that if I do enough good things to outweigh the bad things that I do, it will entitle me to go to Heaven. However, God says “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).” Trusting in human logic spiritually will send you to eternal torment in a devil’s hell. Just because something sounds good to our human minds does not necessarily make it so.

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.23.16

The Music of Silence

Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah – Psalm 46:10-11 NKJV.

In 1952, John Cage composed “4’33”. If you had the sheet music, or musical score for this “music” it would consist entirely of rests. There was no music, only silence. Cage defended his non-music by saying that he wanted to focus on the space between the notes i.e. silence. There is an actual YouTube video with soloist John Marx performing “4’33”. The soloist sits at the grand piano, adjusts the music, and then closes the keylid, or keyboard cover. The silence is deafening! I do like a quote of John Cage as he says, “Everything you do is music.”

Have you noticed how hard it is to escape noise? I can remember when I was a boy living on a farm there was no way at times to escape the silence. When I left my career as a parole officer to become a pastor of a small rural church, one of the hardest things to adjust to was the silence. Going from having a very busy life with constant interactions with others to only having a few opportunities each day to visit with people was a shock. I learned to adjust, listening more for God’s small still voice. I talked with God for hours and hours. Instead of doing things, effecting change in the physical world, by physical means; my focus was changed to effecting change, moving mountains by spiritual means.

Psalm 46 begins in this way, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah (Psalm 46:1-3 NKJV).” A continuing problem for the Israelites was making allies with pagan nations and relying on military strength for their security. The Psalmist urges his listeners to “be still” and consider “God.” “Be still” and remember the awesome works of the One true God who alone is worthy to be praised. God, the Psalmist says is where you will find your help in trouble, God is the one who will give you the refuge you seek.

When you are still before God, when you seek Him in silence, it may not sound like anything to you. However, to God your stillness before Him is a beautiful piece of music which you are performing in His presence. Be still!

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.21.16

Lost

Let my soul live, and it shall praise You; and let Your judgments help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant, for I do not forget Your commandments. – Psalm 119:175-176 NKJV.

Return, you backsliding children, And I will heal your backslidings. – Jeremiah 3:22 NKJV.

For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. – Matthew 18:11 NKJV.

A man and a woman on their way from Baltimore to New York became lost during their drive. Somehow they turned onto an access road of the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station, and things went downhill from there. When they arrived at a locked gate preventing entry to a sensitive area, why didn’t they just turn around? No, they did not turn around. Instead, the man apparently used a bolt cutter he just happened to have in his car to cut the chain which secured the gate. After the couple was arrested they claimed not to have seen the two “No Trespassing” signs on the gate. Both the man and the woman were arrested for trespassing; and when they were searched, the woman was found to have a small metal pipe which smelled of marijuana. The woman was also charged with possession of a controlled dangerous substance. A spokesperson for the Atomic Power Station assured the public that the couple had been under surveillance the entire time. She also said there were several layers of security preventing entry into the most sensitive areas of the power station. (York Daily Record 05.29.16)

I have gotten “lost” a few times while driving, and one time I was so lost that I actually bought a map to find my location. I guess I could have asked someone for directions, but that would have been admitting failure violating the unwritten code of manhood to never ever ask for directions. Okay, I will confess, I have asked for directions a couple of times. However, I have never been so lost as to whip out my bolt cutters and cut the chain on a gate with two “No Trespassing” signs barring the way to a nuclear power plant. Of course, I have never been smoking pot while I was driving either. What kind of people are these? I do have some bolt cutters that are in my farm pickup, but I have never seen a need to carry bolt cutters around in my car.

Are you lost? There are at least three ways that we may in some way be lost on a spiritual level. The worst kind of lostness is to not know Jesus as your Savior. Jesus came to seek and to save you (Matthew 18:11). In Revelation 3:20 Jesus says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” Jesus is addressing Revelation 3:20 to the members of the congregation at Laodicea; however, the context and terminology suggest that most were not authentic believers being without a saving knowledge of Jesus as their Savior. Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart and He wants to come in, will you let Him?

Another way we can be lost is that after we have come to know Jesus as our Savior, we then turn away at some point. The Old Testament speaks of this as “backsliding” (mentioned in Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Hosea) in KJV or of choosing your own “willful ways” in the NIV. This is addressed in 1 John 1:8, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” A false claim of the critics of the apostle John was that believers are without sin, unable to sin. John makes it clear that this is not true and he gives us the solution to this form of lostness in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” If you have chosen your own “willful ways” instead of God’s will, now is the time to confess those sins to the Lord.

A third way of being lost is when we have a broken spirit. Psalm 119:176 says, “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant, for I do not forget Your commandments.” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary says this about Psalm 119:175-176, “The last verse of the psalm is a cry from a broken spirit, not a confession of apostasy. The psalmist feels helpless, like a ‘lost sheep,’ and cries to his Good Shepherd to ‘seek’ him, for he has not neglected God or His word.” What is the solution to being lost? For all three types of lostness we just need Jesus. We must look unto Jesus “the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).”

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.16.16

Always Ready

Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share. – 1 Timothy 6:18 NKJV.

Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. – 2 Timothy 4:2 NKJV.

Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work. – Titus 3:5 NKJV.

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear. – 1 Peter 3:15 NKJV.

What is it about brides? Brides seem to have superhuman courage, at least some of them do. Maybe there needs to be a new TV series, call it: Brides to the Rescue. Sarah Ray on her wedding day, still in her wedding dress; who is also a paramedic, headed to the scene of an accident. Georgette Clemons as she was leaving her wedding reception, still in her wedding gown, saw smoke coming from a house. Georgette sprang into action wedding dress and all, rescuing the family.

Just this month another bride who had just said her wedding vows performed CPR on an unconscious woman without a pulse. Julie Stroyne Nixion is a trauma nurse, and as she was leaving the wedding reception she heard someone scream, “Does anybody know CPR? Is anybody a doctor?” Darlene Limpert who witnessed the bride in action said, “She didn’t hesitate for a second.” Julie’s new husband said about his bride, “It was a heroic act. I’m not surprised. I’ve known her a long time.” Thankfully, Julie was able to revive the unconscious woman. Hurray for the brides!! (Pittsburgh’s Observer-Reporter 06.13.16; Huffington Post 06.15.16)

The one thing that all three of these brides had in common besides being brides, is that they were ready. They were ready to take on the unexpected, even risking their own lives as Georgette did. These brides were ready to sacrifice their own special moment in life celebrating on their wedding day, to render aid others needed. The immediate thoughts of these brides were not about whether their wedding dress would be ruined, or if they might break a fingernail. The thoughts of these brides were not about themselves, as they jumped into action.

Readiness for action is a desired characteristic for the child of God. We must be ready spiritually “…for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect (Matthew 24:44).” We ought to also be ready to die for the faith, if called upon to do so, as was the apostle Paul, “For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 21:13 – See also Revelation 12:11).” We are to be “…rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share (1 Timothy 6:18).” We are to “Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching (2 Timothy 4:2).” We should “…always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear (1 Peter 3:15).” To sum up the broad scope of the need for readiness believers should have, we are told in Titus 3:5, “…to be ready for every good work.” Are you ready?

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.14.16

Do the Right Thing

Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. - 1 Peter 4:1-3 NKJV.

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. – 1 Peter 4:12-16 NKJV.

Five elementary school children are heroes in West Fargo, North Dakota. The kids were having a fun day with a water-gun fight armed with super soakers when they saw a fire on an apartment’s deck. These heroes immediately took action, letting the resident of the apartment know about the fire, who was unable to leave because of being on oxygen. The five children then began dousing the fire with their super soaker water guns. By the time the fire department arrived they had reduced the fire to just a smoldering mess. The West Fargo Fire Chief Daniel Fuller believes the kids saved the building from extensive damage and likely saved the life of the person living in the apartment. (Inforum 05.31.16)

Doing the right thing at the right time has always been a difference maker. Esther immediately comes to mind (Esther 4) as her Uncle Mordecai says to Esther, “who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Through Esther’s courageous action her people escaped extermination. The shepherd boy David saw the giant Goliath taunting the Hebrew army and could have kept on herding his father’s sheep. Instead, David faced death at the hands of the giant with only his slingshot and was victorious empowered by His God. Daniel and his friends faced death more than once by doing the right thing. They refused the king’s rich food, they refused to bow to idols, and God protected and blessed them. So, many of the heroes of the Bible are heroes of the faith; because they did the right thing at the right time, risking their lives to do so.

How can we have the courage to do the right thing at the right time? The apostle Peter tells us in 1 Peter 4:1, “Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind….” To do the right thing at the right time we must arm ourselves with the mind of Christ. How do we do that? To know what someone’s mind is like, so much so that we act as they would act, we have to spend time with them. To have the mind of Christ, we must spend time with Him through prayer, reading His Word, spending time with His people, and by following Him (Luke 9:23). Do you have the mind of Christ?

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.07.16

Questions

For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its tender shoots will not cease. Though its root may grow old in the earth, and its stump may die in the ground, yet at the scent of water it will bud and bring forth branches like a plant. But man dies and is laid away; indeed he breathes his last and where is he? As water disappears from the sea, and a river becomes parched and dries up, so man lies down and does not rise. Till the heavens are no more, they will not awake nor be roused from their sleep. Oh, that You would hide me in the grave, that You would conceal me until Your wrath is past, that You would appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man dies, shall he live again? – Job 14:7-14 NKJV.

Have you ever wondered how many shakes it takes for a dog to dry? Apparently, some government scientist wondered the same thing and spent $390,000 to find out. However, the answer must be a secret, because I still cannot find the answer to that question. Have you ever wondered if you could out run a dinosaur? A government scientist also wanted the answer to that question, and spent $1.9 million to find out. Have you ever thought that Facebook might be addictive? Someone in the government, or was it Facebook wanted an answer to that and spent $511,860 to find out. I could have told them the answer to that one for free. Have you ever wondered which has more hairs, a squirrel or a bumble bee? Who thinks up these questions! The government spent $753,000 to find the answer to that one. Then there is the question of the ages, why is yawning contagious? I’ve wondered about that too, but I would not have spent $1,000,000 to try to find out!! These questions all came from Senator Jeff Flakes’ “20 Questions: Government Studies that will leave you scratching your head.” Okay, one more. Why does the face of Jesus appear on toast? I don’t know, but the government spent $3.5 million to try to find out.

Most would agree that Job experienced life at its worst. All of Job’s children were killed, and then the “fire of God” (Job 1:16) burned up his sheep and many of his servants. Next the Chaldeans came, and carried away all of Job’s camels and killed the rest of his servants, except for the one who escaped to share the bad news. If that was not enough, Job was afflicted then with sore boils (Job 2:7) all over his body. In addition, Job’s wife was not all that supportive either (Job 2:9). Perhaps even worse were his “friends” who were miserable counselors with a half-truth theology. W. A. Criswell says this about Job’s friends: “All three of Job’s friends have the same theology: Righteousness will be blessed, and evil will be punished. This is only a half truth. Ultimately, the wicked will be punished and the righteous rewarded, but in the meantime even righteous men will suffer because of sin, testing or the pressures of other men.”

Job has many questions for God, as we would have too, if we had been afflicted like that man. In Job 38 and 39 we have the longest list of questions in the Bible. Government scientists might want to consider some of those questions. We often hear of the “small still voice” of God (1 Kings 19:12). However, God has a different voice that God used to ask His questions of Job. “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind (Job 38:1).” That would get your attention!

God did not answer His own questions for Job, but Job did have the answer to the most important question of all: If a man dies, shall he live again (Job 14:14)? And the answer is found in Job 19:25-27: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!”

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.03.16

Faithfulness

His lord said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.” – Matthew 25:21 NKJV.

Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. – 1 Corinthians 4:2 NKJV.

In 2004 at a pastor’s conference, I heard Pastor Paul Negrut from Romania preach. Negrut shared that there were 600 Baptist churches in Romania when communism collapsed, and 90% of those churches were without pastors. He talked about the first crusade that was held after the collapse of communism in Romania by Luis Palau. Negrut said that they started not to even go to the stadium where the crusade was being held; because it was pouring down rain, and they thought no one would come in the rain.

When Pastor Negrut arrived at the stadium where the crusade was being held, he said it was overflowing with people. Palau preached and he gave the invitation that if any wanted to receive Christ as their Savior to come forward. Negrut said that the whole stadium full of people began to move forward in response to the invitation. Palau thought that they must have misunderstood, and so he gave the invitation again. And, again the whole stadium began moving forward to receive Christ as their Savior.

Pastor Negrut urged the pastors present at the conference in 2004 to not see things just as they are, but as they could become. He said that we need to have a vision to have the ability to do what you can with what you have - a vision based on God’s Word. Someone had a vision to have a Luis Palau crusade in Romania after the collapse of communism. Even with their vision to have the crusade, they must have been surprised at the overwhelming response. Vision to look beyond what the world says is possible, to what God can do is important, not just for pastors, but for every child of God.

In order, to have vision, to have passion, what is needed is character. To have character, there must be faithfulness. As Jesus says in Luke 16:10, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.” From where does faithfulness come? The Bible tells us in Galatians 5: “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:16; 22-23).” Do you want to have vision? If so, you need character, and to have character you need faithfulness. Be faithful even in the small things!

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.02.16

A Change in Plans

There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand. – Proverbs 19:21 NKJV.

For this reason I also have been much hindered from coming to you (Paul’s plans for visiting Rome.). But now no longer having a place in these parts, and having a great desire these many years to come to you, whenever I journey to Spain, I shall come to you. – Romans 15:22-24 NKJV.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. – James 4:13-14 NKJV.

Jamie and Fernanda Stern had the perfect wedding reception planned aboard the Majesty, which is a Boston Harbor Cruises vessel. Jamie Stern described what happened to their perfect wedding reception, “Suddenly a big noise, everything stopped. The music was playing and next thing you know, there were life jackets, little kids crying.” The boat had run aground. What was to have been the perfect three hour wedding reception, turned into a seven hour ordeal, with the wedding party having to be transferred off of the grounded boat. Several agencies worked together with five boats to transfer the passengers. Jamie Stern had this to say about their ruined wedding reception, “We’re going to love each other no matter what, my girl is still here.” His wife, Fernanda said, “It made it more memorable.” (Mailonline 05.29.16)

Plans often have to be changed because of unforeseen situations that arise. In 2010, while I was pastor of Sweetwater’s First Baptist Church, we had a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the church. Many former members and pastors were invited to be present and to speak at the event. The planning for this event involved many meetings over several months. It was carefully planned to have a catered lunch using a well-known caterer.

Around 11:00 A.M. we received a call from the caterer asking for further directions to the church. It was learned that the caterer had gone to Stillwater, Oklahoma instead of Sweetwater, Oklahoma. Stillwater is more than 200 miles away and more than a three hour drive. The bad news was that the caterer could not arrive in time for the lunch. Other plans were made, which involved my wife and two other church members driving rapidly to Elk City, 30 miles away, to buy food from restaurants and a grocery store. The good news was that a former pastor was preaching and he preached for more than an hour. I have never been so thankful for such a long sermon! It was enough time for the group that had traveled to gather food to return, and have things ready for the lunch. Many of the people who attended the celebration likely never knew that there had been a change in plans. For those of us who knew what had occurred; it made it an unforgettable event, in which we experienced the moving of God’s hand upon us.

The apostle Paul had to change his plans for visiting Rome as he was “much hindered” from making that trip. Paul also planned to preach the word in Asia (Acts 16), instead God called them to go to Macedonia. As James says, we do not know what will happen tomorrow, we do not even know what will occur during the rest of this day. One thing, however, we can be sure of is this, “the Lord’s counsel—that will stand.” If our plans are changed it is not the end of the world. Seek wisdom from the Lord as to how to proceed. God may have an even better plan in mind for you.

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.01.16

More of Jesus

Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. – 2 Peter 1:1-7 NKJV.

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. – 2 Peter 1:2 NIV.

Grace and peace [that special sense of spiritual well-being] be multiplied to you in the [true, intimate] knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. – 2 Peter 1:2 Amplified Bible.

When you first meet someone, do you immediately know everything about that person? Of course not. With social networks like facebook and twitter it is easy to understand this lack of knowing about a new friend on Facebook, or a follower on Twitter. Over a period of time as you interact with a new friend on facebook or follower on twitter you come to know more about them. Then, there are some friends and followers that you never really know; because they never interact with you, they never talk to you. It is the same in the actual real world when you meet a new person, they may become a friend, or they may just be a person whose name you know.

Do you know Jesus, really know Him? Did you meet Jesus one day receiving Jesus as your Savior, but that initial experience is about all you know about Him? You know His name, but that’s about all? Are you wondering why other believers sing the praises of knowing Jesus, but you have never personally experienced anything like they have? God, through the apostle Peter, is trying to help us to understand that knowing Jesus, really knowing Jesus is the key to the abundant life (John 10:10) that Jesus came to give us.

The “divine power” of Jesus “has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” For us to receive the “all things that pertain to life and godliness” Peter is telling us (2 Peter 1:1-7) that we need a growing relationship with Jesus. We can’t just be Facebook friends with Jesus if we want to have the “all things.” We need to know the “exceedingly great and precious promises.” We must give our relationship with Jesus “all diligence.” If we want to have the blessings of God, the “all things” we just need more of Jesus.

As the old hymn “More About Jesus” puts it:

More, more about Jesus,
More, more about Jesus;
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love who died for me.

“That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death (Philippians 3:10 NKJV).”

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.31.16

The Beast

Casting all your care (anxiety – NIV) upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. – 1 Peter 5:7-9 NKJV.

In Houston, some people were out jogging when they discovered that their pleasant little run had become a run for their lives. Why was that? Because there was an 80-year-old 12-foot long 700lb beast chasing after the joggers. It was a Texas sized alligator! That’s a big gator, but in Palmetto, Florida there’s a 16-foot alligator that they say has been living on a golf course for years that golfers see frequently. Back in 2006, a woman jogging near a canal in Sunrise, a northwest suburb of Fort Lauderdale, was killed by an alligator. Yesterday, there was an article about a large alligator being caught outside of a Dallas, Texas middle school. Meanwhile, in Florida there have been four African crocodiles that have been found which are much more aggressive toward humans than alligators. (abc13 05.27.16; Houston Chronicle 05.11.06)

I can’t imagine the terror that you would feel to look back and see a huge alligator nipping at your heels. When I was a little boy I was out in our pasture and saw a large snake. That snake chased me; at least I imagined it chased me, all the way back to the house. I have been watching for snakes ever since then. At least we don’t have pythons here in Oklahoma, like they do in Florida, or do we? But we do have rattlesnakes, copperheads, bobcats, mountain lions, and some bears.

In the world in which we live there is a necessity for a certain amount of caution. Certainly, we should not live in fear, but we should be aware that there could be dangers lurking. Spiritually, there is a continual threat to our well-being; it is a beast that is continually seeking its prey. The apostle Peter warns of this threat, and makes it clear that we should be aware of the devil who seeks to destroy us. Peter says “Be sober, be vigilant…Resist him, steadfast in the faith....”

We should believe in the sovereignty of God and that He is concerned about His children; however, that does not mean that we are to do nothing to protect ourselves. Of course, we should not live in a state of panic, or terror, but we must resist the beast, being steadfast in our faith casting our cares, our anxieties upon the Lord. What else are we to do? Ephesians 6 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 you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil...praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints (Ephesians 6:10-11;18).”

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.30.16

No Surrender

Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. – 1 Timothy 6:6-12 NKJV.

In the United States today is Memorial Day, a federal holiday for remembrance of those who died while serving in the armed forces of the country. Memorial Day was originally Decoration Day begun in 1868 when the graves of the Union war dead were decorated. There was also a day for remembering the Confederate war dead from the Civil War, but these days were merged into the one that we now observe.

Today on Memorial Day is a good time to remember one of the famous battles of WWII called “the Battle of the Bulge.” Military.com has a short, but excellent article about the battle. In December 1944, the Germans had launched a counter offensive and were able to surround Bastogne, Belgium. Bastogne was being defended by the 101st Airborne Division commanded by General Anthony Clement McAuliffe. On the morning of December 22nd four Germans approached carrying a white flag carrying with them a demand for the Americans to surrender. There were two pages demanding the Americans surrender, which in part read, “To the USA Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne…There is only one possibility the honorable surrender of the encircled town.”

When General McAuliffe first briefly looked at the message from the Germans his immediate response was, “Aw, nuts!” Military.com gives this insight into how the actual official response of General McAuliffe occurred: “When he told his commanders he didn’t know what answer to send, Lt. Col. Harry Kinnard said ‘That first crack you made would be hard to beat, General.’ Everyone laughed as a sergeant typed up the succinct response: ‘To the German Commander: Nuts! The American Commander.’” The 101st Airborne was able to hold on until they received relief from Patton’s troops and weather cleared enough for air support. General McAuliffe would likely agree with Dictionary dot com’s interpretation of the word “nuts” as being an expression of “disapproval, disgust, or defiance” meaning in essence “insane, or crazy.” It might have been a temporary relief from the terrible conditions they were in to have surrendered, but that would have been “crazy!”

At times we may feel like we are surrounded spiritually. We may all express silently, if not verbally as did Peter, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” Sin, whether small or great in our eyes, is a spiritual defeat; but, that does not mean that the war has been lost. However, we may “feel” like we have been surrounded by the hosts of hell and that the only thing to do is to surrender to their demands. That in a word would be as General McAuliffe uttered at Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge, “Nuts!” As the apostle Paul encouraged Timothy, instead of surrender, rise up and “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life!”

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.27.16

What's in Your Basement?

When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. – Matthew 25:31 NKJV.

He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. – Luke 1:32 NKJV.

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. – Matthew 6:24 NKJV.

Eileen Scanlon bought a New Jersey waterfront bungalow to use as a rent house in 2010. Eileen had heard rumors that there was something big underneath the house. In fact, she once looked under the house in the crawl space, and thought she saw a large rudder. Eileen is now having the house renovated, and it has been raised off its foundation to enable the work to take place. Now, it is clear what is under her rent house. What is it? It is a 19thCentury coal boat, that is 44-foot long and 12-foot wide, made with planks 3-inch thick; 18-inch long iron nails were used to hold the planks together. Russell Card of Historical Society of the Highlands said this about the boat, “It was beyond amazing. I've heard about it before and the first time I ever saw it was yesterday. I never realized it was so big. I was amazed at the craftsmanship of it.” It is thought that the boat was moved there on wheels, and the house was just built around it. (Fox News 05.27.16)

A lot of strange things have been found in the basements of homes. In Cottage Grove, Minnesota a couple found a scientist in their basement that had been missing for 20 years making LSD in a secret laboratory. Another find in a New Jersey basement was far better than a 19th Century coal boat. After a couple passed away, their children discovered a Rembrandt painting that had been lost for years in the basement called, “An Allegory of The Sense of Smell” that the artist painted in 1625. The painting sold for $870,000. Then there was the 6-foot 200lb alligator in the basement of house in Chicago. The owner apparently knew it was there, but not an appliance repairman.

If you were to think of your life as a house, what’s in your basement? Where do you have the Lord Jesus at? Is He in your living room, your den, or do you have Him hidden away down in your basement? If the Lord is down in your basement, maybe you ought to invite Him up so you can visit with Him from time to time. Is Jesus on the throne of your life?

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.26.16

Sheep Gone Wild

All we like sheep have gone astray; have turned, every one, to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. – Isaiah 53:6 NKJV.

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. – 1 Peter 2:21-25 NKJV.

There is a sheep problem in Swansea, Wales. There is a group of sheep that have gone wild in Swansea. In fact, one Swansea County Councilor fears “we could have an outbreak of psychotic sheep rampaging through the village.” The horror! But there is already a herd of sheep that have been “getting in people’s gardens and one even entered a bungalow and left a mess in the bedroom.” What has happened to the sheep in Swansea? Someone illegally dumped cannabis plants; and some of the sheep found the plants, and ate them. Now the sheep are running wild! (The Independent 05.26.16)

Do you remember what your life was like before you were a believer in Jesus Christ. It is hard for me to imagine now what I was like in the years before I knew Jesus. In my teen years I had no idea what I would do with my life. My only goal was to be better at playing the guitar. When I enrolled in college, I had never thought about what my major would be. I’m not even sure I knew there were majors. I grew up on a farm, and for 12 years attended a small rural school. Few people from our school ever went to college, although a few became teachers, and one did become governor of our state. On my senior trip, I believe I narrowly escaped dying from alcohol poisoning. Until I committed my life to Jesus, I was a sheep on a rampage through life, with no real purpose in life.

What about you? Are you a sheep gone wild? Do you know the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul (1 Peter 2:25)? I will be forever thankful that my Lord and Shepherd reached down and touched my heart. He bore my sins in His own body and by His stripes I have been healed. The Overseer of my soul has given me eternal life and purpose.

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.25.16

Harebrained

Arise, O God, plead Your own cause; remember how the foolish man reproaches You (mock you – NIV) daily. – Psalm 74:22 NKJV.

A quick-tempered man acts foolishly…. – Proverbs 14:17a NKJV.

The devising of foolishness is sin…. – Proverbs 24:9a NKJV.

In Pakistan, a trial was disrupted when Constable Liaquat Ali demonstrated how a grenade (evidence in the trial) could easily be detonated by pulling the pin. It was thought that the grenade had been disarmed, but no one knew that for sure. Everyone knows now that the grenade was not disarmed, because it exploded. The Constable and a court assistant were injured with the Constable receiving injuries to his hands, but he has been released from the hospital. What did the judge do? The judge fell off his chair, according to witnesses. (Daily Pakistan 04.11.16; The Guardian 04.12.16)

There is an old word which describes well the decision making abilities of someone who pulls a pin on a grenade in a courtroom without know for sure that it has been disarmed. That word is, harebrained. The Free Dictionary defines harebrained as something that is: “rash, foolish, or badly thought out.” The earliest recorded use of the word harebrained is from 1548 in Scotland and England. The original meaning was to slam the actions of someone by saying that they only had a brain the size of a hare (rabbit).

There are many things that could be described as being harebrained according to the Bible. David recognizes that his sin was harebrained by saying, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done; but now, I pray, O Lord, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly (2 Samuel 24:10 NKJV).” Sin is always going to be a harebrained thing to participate in. Knowingly participating in sin is like pulling the pin on a grenade, the results are never good.

James describes how our words can sometimes be like an exploding grenade. In James 3:5-6 we are told, “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” Opening our mouths and saying the wrong things can at times be like pulling the pin on a grenade. The writer of Proverbs says, “Wise people store up knowledge, but the mouth of the foolish is near destruction (Proverbs 10:14).”

The two most harebrained things of all time is to mock God (Psalm 74:22), and to consider the only way of salvation as being foolishness. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18 NKJV).”

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.24.16

Escapes from Death

For You have delivered my soul from death. Have You not kept my feet from falling, That I may walk before God In the light of the living? – Psalm 56:13 NKJV.

Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 6:8-11 NKJV.

It happened near Garner, North Carolina; that is where a 71-year-old woman escaped death twice at a railroad crossing. The first time she escaped death was when she had to hurry across the crossing to avoid being hit by an Amtrak train. She hit a tree on the other side of the crossing. The second time (two weeks later) she escaped death, she attempted to follow a line of cars across the crossing; however, the cars stopped and left her stranded on the tracks. Seeing the approaching train, she attempted to back up off the tracks, but the front of her car was still struck by the Amtrak train. Thankfully, no one on the train was injured, and the 71-year-old woman escaped with minor injuries. The car, however, does have some major damage from the two accidents. (abc11 05.15.16; The News & Observer 05.11.16)

Escapes from death, how many close calls have you had? I have never had a close call with a train, and hope I never do! I know that as a teenager I had two close brushes with death. Working in the oilfield I had two narrow escapes from death and also as a parole officer more escapes from death. While driving I know there have been many close calls. Those are just the ones I know where God protected me from an early death. I realize that there were countless other times that God has protected me from physical injury and then there are the times that I know God has healed me. As the apostle Paul says, “For in him we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 17:28a).”

Hebrews 9:27 makes it clear that we will all suffer a physical death, but if we know Jesus as our Savior we have already passed from eternal death (escaped from death) unto eternal life (John 5:24). Only God knows the number of our days upon this earth. As it has been said by many, each day is the beginning of the rest of our lives. King David knew this very well as he said, “Blessed be the Lord, Who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation! Selah. Our God is the God of salvation; and to GOD the Lord belong escapes from death (Psalm 68:19-20).” Let us live each day confident that God Himself through the Holy Spirit dwells within us. Whatever we may face this day, God is with us (Matthew 1:23).

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.23.16

God's Will be Done

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. – Romans 8:28 NKJV.

But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? – Matthew 5:44-46 NKJV.

David Shoshan in Israel has been having some problems with someone treating him “harshly and not nicely.” David says that he has made several contacts with police about these crimes, and that the police were sent to his house ten times. However, what David really wants is a restraining order; but Judge Ahsan Canaan denied the request. David represented himself at the hearing, but for some reason the other party was not available for the hearing. Who is this that is causing David so many problems? David says God is the one who has been very unkind to him over the years. Judge Canaan said that David is “delusional” and that he needs resources not available to the court. The Israeli news site NRG attempted to contact God for comment, but He was unavailable. (Independent UK 05.06.16; NRG 05.06.16; Fox News 05.06.16)

Over the centuries there have been others that may have wanted a restraining order against God; although they did not seek relief in a court. Job’s wife, who told Job he should just curse God and die, would have like to have had a restraining order. Job himself would probably have liked to have had one too. Then, of course, there is Jonah. God called him to witness to those evil Ninevites in Nineveh. Today that would be like God calling you to go and witness to ISIS, although the Ninevites may have been even more evil.

It is not always God’s will for some things to happen to you. This is an important thing for you to understand. Is it God’s will that someone who is drunk or high on some substance to drive the wrong way down a highway and slam into other vehicles? Of course, that is not God’s will, but it has happened many many times. Is it God’s will for someone to decide to rob a bank and kill someone during the robbery. Of course not, but that is what has happened many many times.

Do we need a restraining order against God when bad things happen in our lives? No. Did God cause that bad thing to happen in your life? Possibly, but it is more likely that it was just something that happened because of the bad decisions of others. Or, it just happened because of the corrupt nature of the world we live in that was corrupted when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden. Because God “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

At times we may not know what to pray for or about; however, the Holy Spirit knows, and the Holy Spirit will take our prayers translating them according to the will of God. In Romans 8:26-27 NKJV we are told, “For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.” The assurance that we receive in Romans 8:28 is this: bad things may happen in your life, but God wants what is good for you. This is God’s will. Pray for it! As Jesus taught us to pray in Matthew 6:10 NKJV, “Your kingdom come. YOUR WILL BE DONE. On earth as it is in heaven.”

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.20.16

Hearing Voices

Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. – 1 Kings 19:11-12 NKJV.

Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to Him, “Rabboni!” (which is to say, Teacher). – John 20:16 NKJV.

Brad Sapp who owns a recycling business in Carroll, Iowa was hearing voices as he worked late one night. Actually, it was just one voice whispering, “Get out of here.” When Brad told his wife, Carrie, about it she told him that he must be “afraid of ghosts.” The next morning, Carrie was hearing voices too, as someone in the chimney yelled, “I’m in your chimney, I was playing hide and seek with my cousin. Don’t call the cops; I just need the help getting out.” Carrie did call the police, and the fire department. Firefighters punched a hole in the brick chimney to extricate 29-year-old Jordan Kajewski. Kajewski has been charged with trespassing. (Daily Times Herald 05.18.16; Yahoo News 05.19.16)

Hearing voices can be a symptom of mental illness. However, as my professor in Abnormal Psychology once said, “But most Baptist deacons would tell you that they have heard God speak to them.” While I was a parole officer, I had a client tell me that he was hearing voices. He said that the voices were telling him to hurt people; but, after he spent a year in a mental institution he was no longer hearing those voices. The last time I saw him, years later, he was doing well and was leading an alcohol recovery program.

Please don’t tell anyone, but I have been hearing voices, and they seem to be growing louder. Actually, just one voice, the voice of God. God speaks to me through His Word, He speaks to me through other believers, He speaks to me through His still small voice as I pray and go through my day. “I come to the garden alone. While the dew is still on the roses and the voice I hear falling on my ear the Son of God discloses. And He walks with me, and He talks with me, and He tells me I am His own; and the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known. He speaks, and the sound of His voice, is so sweet the birds hush their singing, and the melody that He gave to me within my heart is ringing (The old hymn: In the Garden by C. Austin Miles).”

Have you been hearing the voice of God? Has He called your name? Listen…can you hear Him?

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.19.16

Well-Meaning People

Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. – 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 NKJV.

Paul Allen is a co-founder of Microsoft, which he left some time ago. In these days, Paul is known for his philanthropy giving in support of primarily coral reef restorations. One of his projects has been in support of the West Bay Coral Reef in the Cayman Islands. Recently, Allen’s 300-foot yacht dropped anchor, it dropped anchor on the West Bay Coral Reef and caused some damage. They dropped anchor and destroyed 80% of the reef! (National Geographic 01.16.16; The Guardian 01.28.16)

Paul Allen is an example of a well-meaning person, or well intentioned person; who when they try to help, instead of actually helping cause damage. Dictionary dot com defines well-meaning as: “having or indicating good or benevolent intentions, usually with unfortunate results.” Have you ever encountered a “well-meaning” person? Have you ever been a “well-meaning” person?

Another question that needs to be asked is this: Is being a “well-meaning” person wrong in God’s eyes? Dictionary dot com defines evil in this way: “morally wrong or bad; immoral; wicked - harmful; injurious - characterized or accompanied by misfortune or suffering; unfortunate; disastrous - anything causing injury or harm - a harmful aspect, effect, or consequence.” The answer to the question is that a “well-meaning person” is in the wrong when they cause harm. This is why we are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:22 to “abstain (or avoid – GNT and CNT) every kind of evil.”

Unintentionally causing harm can come about in innocent ways. It may be a lack of information, or the wrong information that causes an action that results in harm. Apparently, whoever was piloting Paul Allen’s 100-yard long yacht did not have the right information about the location of their ship in relation to the reef. When you are captain of a ship a football field long you need to be cautious of where you pilot the ship, and where you drop a very heavy anchor. When you are a human ship you also need to be careful of which way you turn the rudder. James 3:4-6 tells us, “Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.” Where are you piloting your ship today?

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.18.16

The Shepherdless

But the multitudes saw them departing, and many knew Him and ran there on foot from all the cities. They arrived before them and came together to Him. And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd. So He began to teach them many things. – Mark 6:33-34 NKJV. (At the feeding of the five thousand.)

Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.” – John 10:25-30 NKJV. (At the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem.)

If you have ever watched the movie Adventures in Babysitting (Filmed in 1987 and there may be a 2016 remake.), you have good reason be concerned about what the babysitter does with your kids. Last week, there was a real life adventure in babysitting that occurred in Colorado. Rachel Einspahr, who is 28-years-old, picked up seven and one and a half year old sisters after school and possibly the toddler from a daycare. All is good at that point; however, Rachel was considering a plan to rob a bank. She drives around for a while, until she finally decides upon a bank in Severance, Colorado. In the bank’s drive through area, Rachel sent a message claiming there was a man in the car threatening to harm the children. The bank teller gave her $500. There was no man in the car, and the children were not in any immediate danger. After the robbery the babysitter went to a park where the children could have some fun. Rachel needed money it was learned to pay off $15,000 she had stolen from a previous employer. It doesn’t look like Rachel will need to do any more babysitting for some time, since she has been charged with robbery, and two counts of child abuse. (CBS 05.16.16Yahoo News 05.17.16; Fox News 05.18.16 and various other news venues)

Rachel Einspahr is like a sheep without a shepherd, making one bad decision after another, digging a deeper and deeper hole. The sad thing, the really sad thing, is that there are multitudes of people just like Rachel without a shepherd. The heart of our Lord and Savior is still moved with compassion for them. As believers our hearts should also be moved with compassion for the multitudes without Jesus as their shepherd.

Many believers have been blessed to have prayer warriors praying for them. I am very thankful for the prayer warriors who were praying for me when I was young and throughout my life. If you do not have a prayer list of people you are praying for, you need to start one. If you have one, are the people on your list only family or close friends? If so, it is time for you to enlarge your coasts, your personal ministry, add people to your prayer list outside of your immediate circle of influence. Add strangers to your prayer list, add children, youth, and young adults and all ages to your prayer list. Those people on your prayer list do not have to know that you are praying for them, although for many it would be an encouragement if they did know. Who else can you pray for?

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.17.16

It's Not in the Ten Commandments

And God spoke all these words, saying:

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”
“You shall have no other gods before Me.”
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image…you shall not bow down to them nor serve them.”
“You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain….”
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work….”
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”
“You shall not murder.”
“You shall not commit adultery.”
“You shall not steal.”
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.” – Exodus 20:1-17 NKJV.

In Jonesboro, Arkansas a man had 134 pounds of marijuana shipped to his house. Officers posed as if they were deliverymen, and arrested Alberto Gomez-Reyes when he signed for receipt of the package. He has been charged with possession and intent to distribute. (Yahoo News 05.13.16) It may not be in the Ten Commandments, but don’t do that!

One night Sophia Sanchez was arguing with her boyfriend in Riverside, Illinois and apparently her boyfriend ended it by refusing to argue any longer. The next morning, Sophia rammed her car into her boyfriend’s vehicle so he would have to stop and talk to her. (WLS-TV 04.27.16) It may not be in the Ten Commandments, but don’t do that!

Kirk Kelly had violated his probation and was arrested in Akron, Ohio. However, Kirk had an idea, if he were to bite off his fingertips; police would not be able to identify him by his fingerprints. He tried, but it didn’t work as he was still positively identified as Kirk Kelly. (WFTS-TV 02.26.16) It may not be in the Ten Commandments, but don’t do that!

In Portsmouth, England a 21-year-old woman was found by police to be using her grandmother’s handicap parking badge. Emily Davis’ grandmother had recently passed away. (Metro News 02.26.16) It may not be in the Ten Commandments, but don’t do that!

In Georgia (USA), 32-year-old David Presley put three pounds of Tannerite into his riding lawn mower. Tannerite is used to make exploding targets for shooters. There are videos of Tannerite blowing up a barn and vehicles. David was going to start small, and blow up his lawn mower, shooting it with his rifle. The lawn mower did blow up, and even though he was 90 feet from the mower he was still hit by pieces of metal, which severed his leg below his knee. In Oklahoma a man shot at a refrigerator filled with Tannerite and his young son was killed by shrapnel. (Athens Banner-Herald 03.23.16) It may not be in the Ten Commandments, but don’t do that!

Just because something is not covered by the Ten Commandments, does not necessarily mean that it is okay to do, or not to do something. That is one reason why God has given us the Bible. If we will read the Bible, study the Bible, and memorize the Bible we will gain wisdom to avoid many mistakes in this life. Yes, I still mess up at times, but the errors of my way are far fewer now than before I sought wisdom from the Word of God. The Book of Proverbs is a good place to begin, as there are 31 chapters, one for each day of the month. The Book of Proverbs begins with this: “To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding, to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion—a wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel, to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction (Proverbs 1:2-7 NKJV).”

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.16.16

Take Your Medicine

Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. He went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare, and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of the Lord. – Jonah 1:1-3 NKJV.

So they picked up Jonah and threw him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and offered a sacrifice to the Lord and took vows. Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. – Jonah 1:15-17 NKJV.

Jessie Kingsinger’s mother called police for help in Florida to obtain a psychiatric evaluation for her son. Her son, Jessie, is 21-years-old and he attempted to flee from the police officers who arrived to help. In his attempt to get away from officers he jumped into a nearby lake, but officers did find him soon afterwards. Sadly, an alligator had bitten off three-quarters of Jessie’s left arm by the time he was found. A spokesperson for the Police Department said about the injury: “We expect it had just happened, seconds before he crawled out, otherwise he would have bled out.” Jessie as you would expect, has been hospitalized for the injury to his arm, and for the psychiatric issue. (Yahoo News 05.12.16; The Ledger 05.12.16)

Have you ever tried to run away from something unpleasant? I have. It is human nature to want to avoid unpleasant things. I once wrecked my car when I was a teenager by trying to jump over a ditch four or five feet wide. The car did make it over the ditch, but it slammed the fan through the radiator, and warped the frame. Now this was an obvious complete failure of judgment and responsibility on my part to do such a crazy thing. How would I explain it to my parents? My first response was that I had a friend, who had a friend whose Dad had a body shop, and I would have him repair the car before my parents found out. I went so far as to have my friend’s friend to drive a wrecker out to the scene, before I came to my senses, and decided to take my medicine.

“Take your medicine” is an old phrase that was often used when I was growing up. UsingEnglish dot com defines “take your medicine” as: “If you take your medicine, you accept the consequences of something you have done wrong.” I stumbled onto song lyrics by a group I never heard of (Cloud Cult) titled “Take Your Medicine” with these words: “You can take it in stride, or you can take it right between the eyes. Suck up, suck up and take your medicine.” That night I had my friend drive me home to face my parents to take my medicine. Probably the worst part of that was the disappointment I knew my parents had about what I had done. My Dad let my wrecked car sit out in the yard for a couple of weeks, and then he took it to a body shop and had it repaired.

You know it is hard to “take your medicine” but there is something freeing about doing so. Confession is good for the soul; it is like having a heavy weight lifted off of you. That’s what King David found out after he was confronted with his sins by Nathan the prophet. David cries out, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation (Psalm 51:12).” You can run and run from God like Jonah, but you will never escape. 1 John 1:9 says to do what? “Confess!” “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” When you have messed up, when you have failed, when you have sinned horribly – Confess! Don’t try to run, don’t try to hide, it will never work! Confess! Then your God, can begin the healing that will restore the joy of your salvation.

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.13.16

Are You Trapped?

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” They answered Him, “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, ‘You will be made free’?” Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. – John 8:31-36 NKJV.

The Message puts John 8:34-35 as: Jesus said, “I tell you most solemnly that anyone who chooses a life of sin is trapped in a dead-end life and is, in fact, a slave. A slave is a transient, who can’t come and go at will.”

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. – 1 John 2:15-16 NKJV.

A homeless woman in Key West, Florida somehow became trapped in a huge banyan tree. Police and Fire and Rescue were able to extricate the woman from the tree. What a predicament to be in! She was virtually unable to move with her legs sticking out of the twisted tree. Why did the woman try to climb the tree? The answer? The woman said: “It looked like fun.” (Yahoo 05.12.16)

Did the woman in Key West intend to become trapped in a tree? Of course not. It is never the intention of anyone to become trapped in a tree or of anyone to become trapped in sin. How often is it though that we become trapped because it “Looks like fun?”

There are a multitude of traps, of snares that can keep us from reaching our potential as children of God. Focusing upon the attractions, the allures of this world, instead of upon Jesus (Hebrews 12:3) is a trap. Having pride in all that you do and say without giving glory to God is a trap (1 Peter 5:6). Constantly seeking only what makes you feel good or pleasures you is a trap (Romans 8:5-6). Being only concerned with your home, or your land, or the money you have in the bank is a trap (Matthew 6:24). Those are just a few of the traps that we can fall into in life.

The truth is that you may not be an actual slave trapped in a life of menial labor, but you may be trapped as a slave to sin. How can you escape from the trap you have fallen into? How can you have the freedom that God wants you to have? Jesus tells us in John 8: “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. …Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.12.16

Jesus Can Help!

Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.”

He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.”

Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy.

So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. – Matthew 26:36-44 NKJV.

A study of long-term Alcoholics Anonymous members has shown that prayer reduces cravings. This is a credible study using brain scans of long-term AA members when they are exposed to photos of drinking. The brain scans prove that the AA members who pray using AA prayers from the AA Big Book were able to reduce their cravings to drink alcohol. I believe this is an important and exciting study not only for alcoholics, but for those with other addictions. It would appear that you can extrapolate these results to say that when you are exposed to temptation, immediate prayer will reduce the likelihood of your succumbing to the temptation. I will post a link to this article in my Facebook Overcoming Addictions group. (Source: Millard M, Weber J, Dermatis H, Josipovic Z, Galanter M. An Initial fMRI Study on Neural Correlates of Prayer in Members of Alcoholics Anonymous. American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse. 2016.)

Why was Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane? He was praying because His human flesh was under intense pressure, an intense temptation. Jesus knew exactly what was ahead, He knew that He would be crucified, and that it would be a horrible excruciatingly painful death. Jesus was experiencing the temptation to flee from that future He knew was immediately ahead. Jesus did not have to stay and wait for His arrest, trial, and execution. But He did stay; He did suffer and die becoming the perfect once for all sacrifice.

Now there is credible proof from brain scans that prayer will help you to overcome temptation. If you have been a believer for very long you most likely already knew this to be true. However, do you actually take advantage of this resource? In Hebrews 2:18 we are told, “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” The Applied Bible, Classic Edition puts this as: “He (Jesus) is able [immediately] to run to the cryof (assist, relieve) those who are being tempted and tested and tried [and who therefore are being exposed to suffering].” What does this mean for those facing temptation? It means that when you are facing temptation and pray in the Name of Jesus, that He runs (immediately) to help you.

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.11.16

The Little Things

Catch us the foxes, the little foxes that spoil the vines, for our vines have tender grapes. – Song of Solomon 2:15 NKJV.

The Message puts Song of Solomon 2:15 as: Then you must protect me from the foxes, foxes on the prowl, foxes who would like nothing better than to get into our flowering garden.

The huge Hadron Collider which was built at a cost of $4.4 billion recently was shut down. It is thought that it will take several days to restart the collider which is located near the Swiss and French borders. The unplanned shutdown was the result of a weasel getting inside of a transformer and burning it out. Sadly, the weasel did not survive. In 2009, there was another unplanned shutdown of the collider believed to have been caused by a bird, although no traces of the bird remained. (Yahoo 04.29.16; BBC 04.29.16)

Little things can sometimes cause many problems and much irritation. I like Christian artist Francesca Battisteli’s song “This is the Stuff.” Francesca lists some of the little things that drive her crazy: losing her keys, can’t find her phone, and getting a ticket for speeding just a little. According to Francesca’s song these thing make her forget at times how much God has blessed her. Have you let the little things make you forget how much God has blessed you?

It is in Song of Solomon chapter two where, “the little foxes that spoil the vines” is inserted in a passage where the writer is talking about the perfect love between a man and a woman. But is he not really talking about the perfect love that God has for His children; and, how so often little things can interfere with that perfect love between God and His creation? What little things have you allowed to come between the love you and God have for each other? Have you forgotten how much God has blessed you?

Don't let the little things in life bring you down.

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.10.16

The Stairway to Heaven

Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

And behold, the LORD stood above it and said: “I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.”

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” – Genesis 28:10-17 NKJV.

What would you think if you were to see what appeared to be a ladder extending into Heaven? That is what Trisha Hawke saw in the sky at Accrington, Lancashire, England. Most of us would not believe Trisha, except that she has a photo she took of this very unusual cloud formation. She had just taken her nine-year-old daughter to school and she says “I always have my camera with me and usually take pictures every morning after dropping my daughter off at school. The way the sun was coming through the clouds on this particular morning was really pretty and would have made a nice photo anyway but then I saw this really strange shape rising up from the skyline. It looked just like a set of stairs or steps so my first thought was it looked like a stairway to heaven. I was really pleased to have caught it on camera as often these things don't show up the same as when you see them with your own eyes. I'm not sure what made the shape appear like that or how long it was there for but it must have been a little while as I had enough time to get my camera out and take a picture.” Here is the link to the article and to the photos of this stairway to heaven: http://www.express.co.uk/news/nature/668460/Pictures-Stairway-heaven-sky-clouds-shape-Accrington-Lancashire (Express UK 05.10.16)

Jacob had a vision of a spiritual ladder extending to Heaven with angels descending and ascending. I believe there are still angels descending and ascending to Heaven today. Most of the time we cannot see them, but that does not make them any less real. Did the ladder Jacob saw in his vision look like the one Trisha snapped a photo of?

If you do a google search for “stairway to heaven” there are a huge number of search results for the rock song with that name by Led Zeppelin; with lyrics and much of the music by Jimmie Page. I have heard the song many times, but never really listened to the lyrics; so, I looked them up today. Perhaps if you are high on some substance they would make more sense to you. The reason the lyrics are so strange is because, according to Wikipedia, Page took the words from a book he was reading at the time, “Magic Arts in Celtic Britain.” However, as often happens with secular writing there is a line of truth within the lyrics. Here is the line of truth: “Yes, there are two paths you can go by, But in the long run, There's still time to change the road you're on.”

There are two paths in life, a life with God and a life without God. Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:13-14).” Entry to eternal life and a pass to the only stairway to Heaven is only through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus is the “gate” to the path of eternal life and the only way of salvation (John 14:6). If you are still breathing, and you are on the wrong path, now is the time to change the road you are on before it is everlastingly too late. Receive Jesus as your Savior now!

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.09.16

Guard Your Heart!

Keep your heart (guard your heart – NIV) with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. – Proverbs 4:23 NKJV.

A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. – Luke 6:45 NKJV.

It happened in Foxbank Plantation, South Carolina, that’s where an alligator was seen attempting to ring the doorbell of a home. The home owner was not at home, but a neighbor’s video of the gator has gone viral. (05.04.16 Mailonline) Then there is the bear in 2012 in Naples, Florida that rang the doorbell of a home there; but there are many reports and videos of other doorbell ringing bears. There is also a video of a lion walking up to a car and opening the car door. So, if a lion can do that, it could also conceivably ring a doorbell.

If you knew an alligator was ringing your doorbell or knocking at your door, would you let it in? Of course you wouldn’t! If you knew a bear was ringing your doorbell or knocking at your door, would you let it in? Of course you wouldn’t! If you knew a lion was ringing your doorbell or knocking at your door, would you let it in? Of course you wouldn’t! Why would you not let those animals into your home? Because you know they are dangerous, those animals could hurt you or even kill you. At the very least those animals could wreak havoc upon the interior of your home, destroying much that you would think of as being valuable.

Your home is valuable, but there is something that is even more valuable, and that is your heart. The world, the flesh, and the devil are continually ringing the doorbell of your heart trying to find a way in. Envy, greed, lust, pride, and more are ringing the doorbell of your heart. Don’t let them in! Guard your heart! 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 says this: “Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.” 1 John 4:1 gives us additional instruction saying: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Just because some evil thing rings your doorbell it doesn’t mean that you have to let it in. Guard your heart!

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.06.16

Are You Annoyed or Annoying?

This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, “These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And he came out that very hour. – Acts 16:17-18 NKJV.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal (annoying distraction – AMP) – 1 Corinthians 13:1 NKJV.

Dictionary dot com defines annoy as: to disturb or bother (a person) in a way that displeases, troubles, or slightly irritates. Some things are annoying like a train parked on the tracks blocking an intersection in Inola, Oklahoma for weeks along with the constant noise of a crossing signal. Now that is annoying! What annoys you? Buzzing insects? Fingernails scratching on a blackboard? Other people’s children screaming? Waiting half an hour in a checkout line? There are a lot of things that annoy us.

Do you annoy other people? There is an article on Psychologium that gives seven signs that your personality is annoying for people around you:

1. Your friends and family constantly tell you to cheer up and to look at the bright side of things.

2. Your co-workers tell you that you are very patronizing.

3. You are always the one everyone comes to for the latest gossip.

4. You are always late and unreliable.

5. You are always competing.

6. You are selfish and temperamental.

7. You are plain rude.

So are you annoyed or annoying? One of the problems that annoying people have is that they do not really have the love of God in their hearts. That is what we are being told in 1 Corinthians 13. Without love we are like clanging cymbals, just annoying distractions. Without love to temper our words and actions we will be very hurtful to those around us, because we will not care whether we hurt them or not. Without love we only care about ourselves, and what makes us feel good and look good.

What can you do if someone or something is annoying you? There are likely several things that you could do, but the apostle Paul gives us an example as he commanded the demon to come out of the servant girl in the Name of Jesus. Now, in these days to do that verbally likely would result in a violent response. You can, however, always pray in the Name of Jesus about whatever is annoying you. But what if you think that you are an annoying person? Only by receiving Jesus as your Savior and following Him can you have the love of God in your heart. Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Are you following Him?

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.05.16

Are You in Prison?

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. – Matthew 10:28 NKJV.

But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. – Matthew 10:30-31 NKJV.

The headline is: “The Longest Armed Stand-off in American History Ends.” John Joe Gray was stopped for speeding and arrested in December 1999 for having rifles in his car, and for biting the arresting officer. Gray was released on bond, but never left his 47-acre plot of land after his release; threatening to shoot any officers attempting to arrest him. The charges were dismissed in December 2014. The District Attorney, however, failed to notify Gray of the charges being dropped, and Gray did not know until January 2016 that he was no longer a wanted man. Why didn’t law enforcement attempt to arrest the man? Henderson County Sheriff Ray Nutt said, “Joe Gray has been in prison out there himself, in my opinion, for 14 years.” Chuck Norris met with Gray in 2000, and offered to obtain free legal representation for him, but he still refused to leave. (Mail Online 03.06.16 and various other news venues)

Are you in prison? No, not a literal prison, but a prison created by your own fears? You likely are not a lazy person that the writer of Proverbs refers to in 22:13 and 26:13, but you still fear there is a lion out there lying in wait for you. Dictionary dot com defines fear as: “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.” Is fear of failure preventing you from serving your God in a greater way? If so, you are in prison. Is the fear of being laughed at keeping you from pursuing your dreams? If so, you are in prison. Is there a relationship that needs to be mended, but you are afraid to take the first step for fear of being rejected? If so, you are in prison.

Some fears are real. Just because someone is paranoid does not necessarily mean that there are not people out there who want to harm them. Moses is an example of that, although he was not paranoid. He had real fears, based upon the reality that there were people out there at one time who wanted to harm him. That is why he fled Egypt after committing murder to defend one of his Hebrew brothers. Even after leading the Hebrew people out of Egypt there were real dangers that Moses had to face. Can you imagine having a couple of million people unhappy with you, and you are living right in the middle of them?

Whether your fears are based on reality, or fantasy, Moses gives an example of how to defeat them and free you from the prison of your fears. In Hebrews 11:27 we are told, “By faith he (Moses) forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.” Overcome your fears; overcome the imaginary lion in the street, by “seeing Him who is invisible.” “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (1 Timothy 1:7).”

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.03.16

Forgive!

Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” – Matthew 18:21-22 NKJV.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35 NKJV.

Rodney and Randy Gilliam both more than 40-years-old living in the same house had a little disagreement. Rodney thought that Randy had taken his pot roast, and became enraged; stabbing Randy several times in the head with a three-pronged fork. The result was that Randy had stitches all over his head and a swollen eye. When police arrived they found blood all over the place and arrested Rodney for aggravated battery. Randy says they had been drinking and that it was, “A family squabble, I mean, like I said I’m sorry he’s going to jail for it. I don’t want to see him do that but I guess, you know, you shouldn’t stab me.” Maybe it is something in the water in Muncie, Indiana that caused this? Because last summer a family was having a barbecue and one woman stabbed another in the eye with a fork over a rib. Now, in her defense, Sabrina says the other woman had a knife. (Fox59 04.30.16; Fox59 05.27.15)

There is often a common ingredient in violent family arguments and that common ingredient is alcohol. While I was a parole officer I had a murderer on parole that had killed his brother, alcohol was also involved in that violent act of rage.

Jesus says we should forgive not seven times but “seventy times seven.” Peter’s suggestion that they should forgive seven times was actually generous compared to rabbinic thought at that time. According to the Expositor’s Bible Commentary: “In rabbinic discussion, the consensus was that a person might be forgiven a repeated sin three times.” The parable following of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:23-35) makes it clear that seventy times seven is not the limit to forgiveness in that we have been forgiven far more than we can ever forgive others. The vastness of the debt, God forgives through Jesus, is shown in the great debt of 10,000 talents that the Unforgiving Servant is forgiven. King David in comparison donated seven thousand talents of silver and three thousand talents of gold to be used in the construction of the Temple (1 Chronicles 29:4, 7).

The next time you’re at the family barbecue and someone takes the last rib, forgive! The next time you think someone has stolen your pot roast, forgive! Remember you have been forgiven far more than you can ever forgive anyone else. Forgive!

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.02.16

Count Your Blessings

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NKJV.

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. – Hebrews 13:15-16 NIV.

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. – 1 Peter 4:12-16 NKJV.

In Philadelphia at the 122nd Penn Relays, Ida Keeling has set a world record in the 100 yard dash! She set the record in her age group of 80 and older and she is 100-years-old! Ida was not always a runner according to her daughter Shelly. She only began running when she was 67-years-old after her two sons were murdered. Ida shares the secret to her longevity: “Eat for nutrition not for taste. Do what you need to do, not what you want to do, and make sure you exercise at least once every day. I think God every day for my blessings.”(CBS Philly 05.01.16)

If you had two of your sons or daughters murdered, how could you praise God or thank God for your blessings? But that is what Ida Keeling does every day. It is also what God was in effect telling Job to do in Job 37:14, “Listen to this, O Job; stand still and consider the wondrous works of God.” God told this to Job, whose seven sons and three daughters were killed in what sounds like it was a tornado: “a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house (Job 1:19).”

How can you keep on living after a tragedy? “Stand still and consider the wondrous works of God.” Instead of turning away from God, turn to God. In the end, that is what Job did. Job says to God at the end of the book of Job, “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know (Job 42:2-3).” Too many times I have sought to comfort and pray with families that have had a son or daughter die in accidents or from natural causes. Those families who have drawn closer to their God during those most difficult times have found the strength to continue on with life.

We may not understand completely why some things happen, but we can still thank God for the blessings He has bestowed upon our lives. In the counting of our blessings, in the praising and thanking of our God we are strengthened and infused with stamina, with the life we need to keep on living; for He inhabits our praises (Psalm 22:3). Let us rejoice and praise God for the greatest of all blessings that He has given to us: Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.29.16

Are You Deluded?

For the idols speak delusion; the diviners envision lies, and tell false dreams; they comfort in vain. Therefore the people wend their way like sheep; they are in trouble because there is no shepherd. – Zechariah 10:2 NKJV.

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. – Matthew 6:33 NKJV.

Are you voting for Hillary, Bernie, Donald or Ted? If you’re not sure who to vote for there is another option. That option is Andrew Basiago, he is an attorney and is running for President as an Independent. Basiago claims he has unique qualifications for being President of the United States. What are his unique qualifications? He claims to have been involved with a project called Pegasus which has sent him on time travels from the time he was a boy of seven years of age. Because Basiago has seen the future, he claims that as President he will know what to avoid to keep the country safe. Also, Andrew is vastly more experienced in foreign relations, because of his travel to Mars in 1981. (Inverse 04.26.16)

Dictionary dot com defines delusion as: “a fixed false belief that is resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact.” Although, I’m not a psychologist, I think any reasonably sane person would conclude that Andrew Basiago is suffering from a delusion. It is surprising that Basiago is not currently a resident in a mental health facility. Of course, the way things are going he may receive a surprising number of votes.

Zechariah was a prophet during the time of the Babylonian exile who along with Haggai encouraged the completion of the Temple. The construction of the Temple was begun in 536 B.C., but work had halted because of the opposition of the Samaritans. In Zechariah 10:2, the prophet identifies the spiritual cause of the Babylonian captivity, which was idol worship. Today we may not have a wooden or stone idol that we bow down to, but we still have our idols.

Our idols today consist of anything that we put before God (Matthew 6:33). Here are a few of the things that can become idols: money, job, power, recreation and hobbies. What was it that had flowed out of idol worship during the time of Zechariah? The people were captive in a foreign land and “…the people wend their way like sheep; they are in trouble because there is no shepherd (Zechariah 10:2b).” Focusing time and resources on idols creates a delusion. The delusion is that we do not need God and can live life better without Him. This will always result in our captivity by our idols, we will make poor decisions without our Shepherd (God), and our quality of life will diminish.

Let nothing delude you into thinking that you can live better without God. It is a lie straight from the pit of Hell. Put God first and everything else will fall into its proper place.

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.28.16

Just Slipping By

Then Jesus said to them again, “Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. – John 10:7-9 NKJV.

He who believes in Him (Jesus) is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. – John 3:18-19 NKJV.

A man in New Jersey has been sliding by, avoiding payment of the New Jersey EZ Pass toll. He has slipped by some 200 times owing some $12,000 in tolls. He was able to avoid payment for so long in part by not having a front license plate on his Mercedes Benz. The missing license plate was what led to an officer stopping Joe’s vehicle and discovering not only did Joe P. owe for the tolls, but he also had a suspended driver’s license. Now, it is time for Joe to pay up, because he has been arrested and his Benz has been impounded. It is now likely that he will have to pay far more than the $12,000. It took a while, but Joe is no longer slipping by. (Various News Venues 04.27.16)

I wonder how many years Joe had been slipping by without paying his tolls? I remember the first time I was on a new toll road and I thought I had enough money to pay the toll at the automated toll booth. However, the toll was 25 cents or more than I had, but there was no way to turn around at that point. I knew there was a large fine for failure to pay, and wasn’t sure what to do. I finally saw a phone number on the booth and called it to locate where I could go and pay. When I left the booth, I drove directly to where the toll office was located and paid the $1.35, or whatever it was then that I owed. I can’t even begin to imagine having failed to pay the toll 200 or more times! I have a PikePass now, which automatically pays the toll.

Spiritually, there are many who believe they can slip by. They think they can live without God, and do a few good deeds that will outweigh the bad they have done (Ephesians 2:8-9), and slip into Heaven. Then, there are others who think they will slip into Heaven, because God is good, and how can a good God send anyone to Hell? God is more than good, holy, and righteous in that He has provided us with a way to have salvation through Jesus Christ’s sinless once for all sacrifice (Hebrews 9:12) on the cross. God does not send anyone to Hell, it is the rejection of Jesus Christ that will send a person to Hell, because they condemn themselves (John 3:18-19).

There is only one way to Heaven as Jesus says clearly in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” There is only one way to Heaven, and that is through Jesus Christ! Jesus is the door through which entry is made into eternal life as He says in John 10:9, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” The Bible is clear about the spiritual fact that there is no slipping by, no slipping into Heaven.

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.27.16

The Wrong Race

I returned and saw under the sun that—The RACE is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all. – Ecclesiastes 9:11 NKJV.

And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish MY RACE with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God. – Acts 20:22-24 NKJV

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the RACE, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. – 2 Timothy 4:6-8 NKJV.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and LET US RUN with endurance the RACE that is set before us. – Hebrews 12:1 NKJV.

LeeAdianez Rodriguez, 12-years-old, intended to run in the Rochester Wegman’s Family 5K marathon. Her mother dropped her off, because she was late, and she rushed to join the other runners at the Broad Street Bridge. There were more than two thousand runners that took part in that marathon. However, there was a problem. LeeAdianez was unknowingly running in the half-marathon of 13.1 miles; the 5K she was registered to run in started 15 minutes after the half-marathon. Two hours and 43 minutes later she completed the hilly course to the relief of her mother. While LeeAdianez was running, her mother was going crazy trying to find her daughter after she was not among the runners completing the shorter 5K. Officials finally spotted the girl in the longer marathon, spoke with her, and she just wanted to finish the race at that point. Her mother said, “She gave me a really big scare. It was such a scary moment, but rewarding for her in the end. I don't even know how she did it. I'm so proud of her.” LeeAdianez finished 1,885th of 2,111 of those participating in the half-marathon. (Yahoo 04.26.16; Rochester Democrat and Chronicle 04.17.16)

It can be a shock; to find out what you thought you were doing right was actually doing something wrong. Have you ever studied the wrong material for a test? I have. Have you ever put together a shelving unit or a filing cabinet or some other project, and at the end realized you left out a critical step; then, you had to redo the whole thing? I have. Have you ever arrived for a doctor’s appointment or some other appointment only to find out you arrived on the wrong day or the wrong hour? I have. In our human condition we often think we are right when we are wrong. We make mistakes.

Life is pictured as a race in the Bible. We are racing through life to the finish line of death, or as Paul put it, the time of our departure. The apostle Paul was running his race with joy even though he knew from the testimony of the Holy Spirit to his heart that there were some hills and mountains he would have to run through. Paul knew he was in the right race, on the right course, on track to finish at the right time. What about you? Are you in the right race? Do you know Jesus as your Savior? Are you living your life for Him? When you finish your race, will you find out you’ve been running the wrong one? What a horrible shock that would be! If you need a course correction, NOW is the time to make it!

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.26.16

The Power of Love

Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good. – Romans 12:21 NKJV.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity. – Proverbs 17:17 NKJV.

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. – 1 Corinthians 13:13 NKJV.

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. – Ephesians 5:1-2 NKJV.

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ. – Philippians 1:9-10 NKJV.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. – 1 John 4:11 NKJV.

Srikanth Bolla is the CEO of an Indian company estimated to be worth more than $7.5 million. He is just 23-years-old, and was born into poor and uneducated family with a yearly income of only $300. Oh, and Srikanth was born blind. When Srikanth was born many of his parent’s friends encouraged them to abandon him, but they refused to do that. Instead, they showered their love upon him and Srikanth says of his parents, “They are the richest people I know.” Srikanth’s company Bollant Industries manufactures packaging solutions using recycled paper and leaves. The company hires the physically challenged as their employees.

Srikanth’s path to becoming the CEO of a large company was not easy. He struggled in school until placed in a school for those with special needs. He was rejected by India’s MIT, because he was blind; however, MIT accepted him and when he graduated he returned to his homeland to start Bollant Industries. Swarnalatha was his teacher at the special needs school and now helps train the physically challenged employees of the company. Swarnalatha says, “Srikanth is my true source of inspiration. He is not only my young friend and protégé but is also my mentor who teaches me daily that anything is possible if you set your mind to it.” (Indian Times 04.19.16)

It is hard to even imagine the poverty that Srikanth was born into. Even harder to imagine the choice that Srikanth’s family was encouraged to make of abandoning their baby. When our youngest son was born with Down Syndrome I was encouraged to give him up for adoption. That was never considered as a possibility by me; I just wanted to take him home from the hospital so that we could love him.

Love is at times incomprehensible. How can parents deep in poverty love a blind child so much? How could Jesus love us so much that while we were still His enemies (Romans 5:8), He died for us? There is such great power in love. Love is the greatest good, the greatest power upon this earth. Love will overcome the worst if it is allowed to touch even the unlovable. God is love (1 John 4:16), and God’s kind of love conquers all. Let the love of God loose! Let the love of God run wild in your life!

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.25.16

Chaos

For God is not the author of CONFUSION but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints. – 1 Corinthians 14:33 NKJV.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth.This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic.For where envy and self-seeking exist, CONFUSION and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. – James 3:13-18 NKJV.

Workers from two construction companies competing for a construction job in China engaged in a demolition derby against each other. Several bulldozers rammed into each other, one was knocked over, with the operator running for safety, and then other workers with a different machine attempted to upright it. Meanwhile, passenger cars fled this way and that, trying to move out of the way of the dueling behemoths. The chaos was brought on by the intense competition for construction work since the real estate construction sector is down two-thirds from a year ago. The investigation into the incident has not been completed with details about arrests and injuries still unavailable. (Yahoo News 04.18.16)

Dictionary dot com defines Chaos as: “a state of utter confusion or disorder; a total lack of organization or order.” The demolition derby scene that occurred in China is a picture of total confusion, disorder and chaos. It was brought about by “self-seeking.” Neither side in the battle cared about the other side. There was no attempt to negotiate some type of shared work on the construction project. It was either all, or nothing. If the two owners of the construction companies had contacted each other, and met together; maybe it would have been possible for each company to have some work.

Envy and self-seeking creates what? It creates confusion, disorder, and chaos. The more there is of envy and self-seeking, the greater the confusion, disorder, and chaos. However, it is worse than that as we are told in James 3:16, “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.” “Every evil thing,” that takes in a whole lot of territory, and there is nothing good in any of it.

The cure for envy and self-seeking is this: instead of putting yourself first, put God first. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness… (Matthew 6:33).” Instead of demanding your way, your rights, be a peacemaker. We are told in James 3:18, “Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” Seek the wisdom from above, which only God can give. His wisdom will make you “…peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy (James 3:17b).”

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.22.16

Time Travel

Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness, in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began. – Titus 1:1-2 NKJV.

For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. – James 4:14b NKJV.

Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. – Colossians 4:5 NKJV.

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven. – Ecclesiastes 3:1 NKJV.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. – 2 Timothy 4:6 NKJV.

In the movie “Back to the Future” Marty McFly travels back in time in a nuclear powered DeLorean. Being attacked by terrorists, Marty jumps in the DeLorean zooming off until the car, and Marty are zapped back in time. Apparently, someone tried to recreate the scene, although he just had a gasoline powered Dodge Challenger. He did succeed in traveling through the front of a tax preparation business, but missed the Pensacola Caskets business located next door. The car crashed through the entire building coming to a stop at the back. Thankfully, no one was at work on a Sunday morning, and the driver was not injured. He was, however, taken to a facility for a mental evaluation, which may have had something to do with his saying he was attempting to “time travel.” (Pensacola News Journal 12.15.16; New York Daily News 12.14.16)

Is time travel possible? That is a question many would like to answer in the affirmative. The creators of the comic superheroes increased the fascination with the idea of time travel having Superman zooming around the earth until he goes backward or forward in time. The Flash character could do the same thing. Of course the iconic science fiction novel by H. G. Wells in 1895 stirred interest in the subject. Wells was the creator of the term “time machine” in his novel. Time travel, in movies and novels, has been portrayed countless times since.

The word “time,” depending upon which translation is used, is mentioned more than 700 times in the Bible. God makes it clear that there is a beginning to time and there will be an ending to time as we know it. Before time began, God in His plan for humanity, planned for eternal life (Titus 1:2).

The truth is that we do not need a nuclear powered Delorean to travel through time. Why? Because, we are all time travelers. Every day and night we are journeying through time. All through our lives we have been passing through time. Our lives are like a vapor (James 4:14) that appears for a brief time and then passes away. During this brief journey through time there is important work for us to accomplish. We need to redeem the time (Colossians 4:5) and accomplish the purposes of God for our lives; because the time of our departure (2 Timothy 4:6) is fast approaching. If we know Jesus as our Savior we will soon pass from this journey through time into eternity where time never ends.

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.21.16

Are You a Fake?

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Bekindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. – Romans 12:9-13 NKJV.

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. – Romans 12:9 The Message.

The Waffle House in Fayetteville, North Carolina almost had a robbery. One of the customers hiding in the restroom with her two children called 911 and said, “We’re in the Waffle House on Reilly Road, and there’s a guy who’s trying to rob here, and he has a really big gun.” Pretty scary and the robber might have had a successful robbery except for 70-year-old Phillip Brooks who had served two tours in Vietnam. The robber ran up to the cash register with his AK-47 and demanded, “Give me all the money in the drawer. Open the drawer.” Brooks, who uses a cane, says that he saw immediately that the AK-47 was a fake, “This thing was wood almost all the way up to the end of the barrel. No trigger guard, no trigger. All the working parts were missing, so I just told the girls, ‘don’t give him anything. That’s a fake gun.’” The robber’s response? He pointed the fake gun at Brooks and said, “Well, I’m for real.” Brooks’ response? “I showed him how real I was. I hit him in the nose with my cane.” Other customers helped out at that point, and the robber ran away.(WRAL 04.08.16; MyFox8 04.09.16)

Have you ever tried to fake something? Have you faked you knew how to do something when you didn’t. I have. In the oilfield, I did not really know how to operate electronic inspection units when I started working as an operator. I had been promoted to assistant operator for a company; and had sat at the console actually operating their inspection unit for about 15 minutes total, before being hired as an operator for another company. When I was called as a pastor, I did not really know everything I needed to know to be a pastor; although I had watched pastors at work, and had served as a deacon for several years. I guess you could call it on the job training.

Have you ever faked that you liked something when you really did not like it? Have you ever acted like you loved something when you hated it? Maybe you haven’t, but some of us have. The apostle Paul in says in Romans 12:9, “Let love be without hypocrisy.” The Message puts this as, “Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it.” Paul is saying in effect, if you don’t have love for others, do you really have the love of God in your heart? Good question. How much love do you have in your heart? Enough to love others without faking it?

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.20.16

Truth

Mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven. Yes, the Lord will give what is good; and our land will yield its increase. – Psalm 85:10-11 NKJV.

Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight! – Isaiah 5:20-21 NKJV.

A fatal hit and run of a pedestrian appears to have been solved. Christopher Lemek, Jr, who has a history of driving while intoxicated, has been charged with the crime. Lemek pleaded not guilty at his arraignment, although police say they have a confession. It took some time to find the perpetrator of this offense, because Lemek went to great lengths to hide his involvement. Apparently, Lemek used a track hoe or a similar construction machine to crush his pickup, dig a hole in his backyard, and bury the vehicle. Police while visiting Lemek at his home, noticed some freshly disturbed earth in the backyard, which led to the discovery of the vehicle involved in the hit and run incident. (22WWLP News 01.19.16; Mass Live 03.19.16)

Truth has a way of making itself known. One of the more famous verses in the Bible is John 8:32 which says: “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” There is freedom in the truth being made known. Lemek tried to cover up his crime and almost succeeded; however, now the truth is known. Now Lemek may suffer consequences for his crime, but he will not have to continually worry about the truth being revealed. The truth is known, and the victim’s family can now move forward knowing who was responsible for the death of their loved one. It has been more than 20 years since I received a letter from a serial murderer. He had been a truck driver and had murdered several people across the country. However, he came to a point where he could not live with what he had done and he turned to God. He contacted authorities and confessed to his crimes. Truth being revealed has allowed him to have freedom in Christ, even though he will spend the rest of his life in prison.

In this election season, with the next President of the United States soon to be elected, it seems as though every candidate at times tries to hide the truth. The media also is a part of the deception with only six percent of the people in the country trusting the media. It is frustrating trying to perceive what is true, and what is not true. How refreshing it would be if every candidate and the media could always be counted on to tell the truth. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to always be able to believe what our government tells us?

Whether you are a Democrat or a Republican there appears to be discontent within the parties. Many members of both parties are unhappy with the “Establishment.” I believe that part of this discontentment flows from the truth being hidden. Instead of truth we see the calling of evil good, and good evil. Nothing good will come from this hiding of the truth. That is exactly what Isaiah is saying and it is what the Psalmist is indicating in a reverse kind of way. I agree with what Matthew Henry says in his commentary where he says,“When there is no truth nor mercy all goes to ruin.” The Psalmist is saying that when there is truth and mercy, “…the Lord will give what is good; and our land will yield its increase.” May truth be revealed across our nation!

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.19.16

Run

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. – 1 Corinthians 10:13-14 NKJV.

Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. – 1 Corinthians 6:18 NKJV.

For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. – 1 Timothy 6:10-11 NKJV.

Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. – 2 Timothy 2:22 NKJV.

I rise before the dawning of the morning, and cry for help; I hope in Your word. – Psalm 119:147 NKJV.

In December 2015, there was an attempted armed robbery of a cellphone store in Springfield, Massachusetts. At least two people were involved, with the first robber entering the store appearing to be just another customer. Shortly after the first robber entered the store, employees heard a loud banging on the back door. This was when the first robber jumped over the counter brandishing a handgun. The robber then ran over to the back door to let his accomplice into the store. This was when the robbery went badly for the robbers. The two employees took advantage of this situation by screaming, and running out the front door of the store. The screaming for help scared the second robber who left the store; the first robber decided to leave the scene too, without taking anything. There was a suspect arrested almost immediately based on a photo from the surveillance system. However, this man was later cleared, because of his being able to prove he was at another store during the time of the robbery. (Masslive 12.09.15; The Republican 02.16.16)

The employees of the cellphone store did two things right during the attempted robbery. They screamed for help, which frightened off the second robber, and while they had the opportunity they fled out the front door. When we are faced with temptation or danger these two things can make a difference in your survival.

When faced with temptation our spiritual response should include two things. What are those two things? First, we should cry out for help, ask our God to help us as did the Psalmist (Psalm 119:147). Second, we should flee, run from the temptation. When we think of temptation the first thing we think of is the kind of temptation Joseph faced with Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39). However, there is another temptation that can be just as powerful in its own way. Idolatry, putting money or anything other than God first (Matthew 6:33) in your life is a great temptation.

When you are tempted to succumb to a temptation remember this: “For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:20).” Remember you belong to God, cry out for His help, and run from the evil temptation.

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.18.16

Close the Door

Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil (Do not give the devil an opportunity – AMP). Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:25-32 NKJV.

Just another morning for a PNC bank manager in Zebulon, North Carolina; until, he spotted a man wearing a mask, gloves, hoodie, and holding a gun. The bank manager sprang into action; he did not have time to lock the door so he held onto the door while the robber tried to pull the door open. It was a tug-of-war, but the manager won and the robber finally gave up and ran away. Thankfully, the robber did not fire his gun to try to gain entry. You just never know what may happen on a Monday morning! (ABC News; Fox News; AP 01.28.16)

What would have happened if the bank manager had not held the door closed preventing the robber from entering the bank? Most likely the robber would have entered the bank and demanded money. It is impossible to know how that scenario would have worked out. If the robber immediately was given all of the money he demanded and no one interfered the robbery may have ended without anyone being hurt. However, we know that sometimes robbers do not act rationally. One of the employees may have irritated him in some way resulting in the robber shooting the employee.

Just one week before the attempted robbery in North Carolina there was a bank robbery in Eufaula, Oklahoma. In Eufaula, the bank manager was shot and killed, a teller was shot but survived, and another employee was taken hostage. The robber was killed in a shootout with police and the hostage was also shot, but survived. Once the robber has entered through the open door there is no way to predict the damage that may occur.

In Ephesians 4 we are told not to give place to the devil, not to give the devil an opportunity. What happens if we give the devil an opportunity? There is no way to know for sure the damage that he will do. One thing for sure is that the devil will cause all of the damage in your life and the lives of those you care about that he possibly can. We open up the door for the devil when we sin. When we sin it’s like we have invited the devil to come in and cause us trouble; and, that old devil is very good at causing trouble, at creating havoc in lives. Close the door! Don’t give place to the devil! Don’t give the devil an opportunity to destroy your life! James 4:7-8a tells us how to close the door, “…submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.15.16

Our Hiding Place - Redux

Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My HAND. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s HAND. I and My Father are one.” – John 10:25-30 NKJV.

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the LOVE OF GOD which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:37-39 NKJV.

An escaped inmate in Texas appears to have scored a first. Wesley Evans hid from law enforcement in a dishwasher! He was able to hide so well that the first search of his girlfriend’s apartment was unsuccessful. However, someone called in an anonymous tip, and the second search succeeded in the capture of the 6’ tall 20-year-old with his slender body folded up inside of a dishwasher. Evans apparently took the racks out of the dishwasher to be able to hide inside. Doing a google search I was unable to find any other occurrence of a fugitive hiding in a dishwasher. A baby has hid inside of a dishwasher and a puppy, but no fugitives. The most popular hiding place for fugitives inside of a house is the clothes dryer. Hundreds, maybe even thousands of people have hidden inside of clothes dryers. You can look at the first “Our Hiding Place” devotional (02.06.12) to read of some of those fugitives hiding out in clothes dryers. (New York Daily News 04.15.16; Reuters 04.14.16; WALB News 04.13.16)

It is our vulnerable human condition that requires at times that we find somewhere, some place to hide; even if you are not an escaped inmate, or on the run from the authorities. Where do we go, what do we do when our world falls apart? What do we do when we unexpectedly lose or job and the bills are due with no way to pay them? If you are employed by a non-governmental employer, you know that your job can end at the whim of your boss. It is not much fun to be called into a meeting and be told that your services are no longer needed. Especially when you really do need the job and have no idea where to turn to find another one.

What do you do, where do you turn when your health suddenly takes a turn for the worse? A friend of ours thought she had a cold, but after a visit to her doctor and tests found that she had stage four cancer. My wife thought she had strained a muscle, but found out she had a large ovarian tumor and stage three cancer. In 2003, I was mowing the lawn one day and the next I was in hospital with ischemic colitis; it was nine days later before I was released from the hospital. So many people have experienced far worse health conditions that were not survivable or are chronic debilitating conditions. You need a hiding place when you receive news like that.

What do you do when you have a child born with a physical or mental handicap? What do you do when your child or your spouse suddenly dies? You need a hiding place. There are countless other human conditions that require that we need some place to hide away for a time. Where do we go what do we do when we need that hiding place? My hiding place has always been to turn to God to place myself in His hand, for His will to be done. He has never failed me, and He will not fail you. God has the power to hold you together, and take you step by step through the worst that this world can bring into your life. Place yourself in the hand of God, in the center of God’s love; that is the only hiding place that really works. Of course, you can hide in a dishwasher, but it won’t do you very much good!

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.14.16

Procrastination

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ. – Colossians 3:23-24 NKJV.

One of the worst of my acts of procrastination occurred while I was in college. I had to write a paper for a personnel management class. It wasn’t like this was suddenly assigned; it was assigned at the beginning of the course with the deadline for it given. However, I waited until the Friday before the Monday it was due to begin writing the thing. Thirty hours later I had finished the monster and presented the paper on time Monday morning. Sadly, the professor thought the work was too good for me to have written it, and gave me only a marginal grade for the work. Maybe if I had been working on the paper the entire semester, I would have scored higher on the tests; participated more in class, and then the professor would have believed I could have written the paper.

On a site called “Worst Procrastination Stories” I found another person who did something similar who says, “I did a 22,000 word document in 36 hours after having four months to do the work.” Of course, procrastinating about some things can get you into real trouble like the person who wrote, “Not doing my taxes for two years. Apparently Canada Revenue doesn’t like that. Who knew??” For those who don’t know, the IRS here in the US doesn’t like procrastinators either. So, for all you procrastinators the good news for US taxpayers is you have until the 18th of April this year to file your tax return.

Procrastination is a killer. It is a killer of your peace of mind and a creator of worry. The semester I was taking my personnel management class I had to worry the entire semester about writing that paper. I put it off, and put it off, and it created anxiety in my life. That’s what procrastination does.

Is there a cure for procrastination? Possibly; however, it is not a one and done kind of thing. The cure for procrastination is rooted in our relationship with our Lord. As we walk with our Lord and Savior listening for His Voice we will have a desire to do our best, which includes not giving in to procrastination. Whatever it is that we are doing, it should be God honoring, and when we do it we are serving the Lord. “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” Then, as we walk through each day with our Lord we will find “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Romans 8:37).”

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.13.16

Oblivious

But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. – 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 NKJV.

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. – Galatians 1:3-5 NKJV.

The video of a bear chasing a snowboarder in Japan has gone viral! If you haven’t seen it yet you probably will soon! Kelly Murphy was taking a video selfie of herself snowboarding down a mountain in Japan when a bear chasing her was captured on video. Murphy was at the Hakuba 47 winter sports park near Nagano in Japan. Murphy in her YouTube post of the video writes: “OMG! I was going through my snowboarding videos and I found a bear chasing me!!! I nearly got eaten!!!” The bear on the video finally gives up the chase as Murphy speeds down the mountain oblivious to the danger singing a Rihanna song.

Now some have questioned the authenticity of the video saying the bear is a brown bear when it is more likely if there had been a bear, it would have been a black bear, although there could be brown bears in the area. Really? Well, I didn’t even know there were bears in Japan and I couldn’t tell whether it was a brown bear or a black bear. Likely, Kelly Murphy had no idea there were bears in Japan either. Murphy told CNET: “The video is real, I couldn't believe it myself when I watched it back but there it was! So scary! I'm going to stick to the easy slopes with my friends from now on, no more back country runs.”(UPI 04.13.16: theguardian 04.13.16; various other news venues including CNET)

Kelly Murphy being chased unknowingly obliviously by the bear (Whether true or not.) could describe spiritually the lost that the god of this world, the devil, is chasing seeking to destroy them (John 10:10a). The lost, those without Christ Jesus as their Savior, are blinded to their need of salvation. The lost are flying down the mountain of life with the devil blinding them from seeing that they are headed for the lake of fire and eternal damnation.

What can be done to help these poor helpless creatures, the lost, headed for eternal doom? What can I do, what can you do? We can pray for them! We can pray that Almighty God will remove their spiritual blindness before it is everlastingly too late. Jesus prayed for the lost, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34).” We can pray that God will send witnesses across their paths to share the truth with them (Matthew 9:37-38). We can be one of those witnesses to the lost (2 Corinthians 5:11). We can live holy lives that will point the lost toward our Lord and Savior as we are told in Jude 1:20-23, “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.” The lost may be oblivious to the danger that they are in, but we are not! Let us do what we can to save them!

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.12.16

Desires of the Heart

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the in heritance; for you serve the Lord Christ - Colossians 3:23-24 NKJV.

The NIV puts Colossians 3:23 as: Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.

Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the DESIRES OF YOUR HEART. Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. – Psalm 37:1-6 NKJV.

Kevin Abosch is one of the most sought after photographers in the world. Kevin has photographed some of the most famous actors and actresses. He has also photographed many successful business people. However, Kevin’s real passion is taking photos of potatoes. Can you make money do that? Apparently, Kevin is able to do that. He recently sold one of his potato photos for more than one million dollars. His studio has this statement about the potato obsession: “Kevin likes potatoes because they, like people, are all different yet immediately identifiable as being essentially of the same species.” (Business Insider 01.20.16)

What is it that you are passionate about? If it is something that honors God, we are given a great promise in Psalm 37:4 that He will give us the desires of our heart. Now I may have a desire to take photos of potatoes and make millions of dollars; but I know, and you know, that this is not a desire of the heart that God is talking about. Psalm 37 desires of the heart are desires that God has placed inside of us. This kind of a heart desire is like the call of God upon the heart of Abraham. Stephen tells of Abraham’s call, “The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said to him, ‘Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.’ Then he came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran. And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell (Acts 7:2-4 NKJV).”

It is easy to become distracted from where our true focus in life should be. There are the allures of the world; and, our neighbors and friends may have more than we do stirring up envy and jealousy. There are evil people who will attack you or cheat you. This has happened to me at times that I have been attacked or cheated. Sometimes, these things are happening and we do not become aware of them until later. But it still hurts, that even people you have trusted, and say they are believers could act in such harmful ways. God tells us what to do when we are in these situations: “Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb.” Don’t fret; don’t vex your righteous soul as Lot did (2 Peter 2:7-8) with the things of this world or the actions of the evil-hearted. Instead, do this: “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the DESIRES OF YOUR HEART.”

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.11.16

Buying Hell

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. – Matthew 16:24-17 NKJV.

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. – Revelation 20:11-14 NKJV.

Hell is for sale, Hell, Michigan that is, and the price is a bargain having dropped from $1.3 million to just $900,000. Hell consists of five acres of commercial property and includes businesses along with the rights to several really hot slogans. One of those slogans is: “Beer in Hell is safer than water in Flint.” Or, if you don’t like that one, how about “Hell is safer than Detroit”? In lovely downtown Hell, there is the Hell Hole Bar, along with the Chapel of Love, and the Screams Ice Cream Shop. John Colone, the unofficial mayor, or is that devil-in-charge, is “willing to work with anyone.” Who wouldn’t want to own the town that has hosted the longest funeral hearse parade in the world?(Detroit Metro Time 03.11.16; Detroit Free Press 03.11.16; Livingston Daily 03.11.16)

What is the price of actually buying a reserved place in the Biblical lake of fire? The devil is running a fire sale; it will only cost you…everything. The only cost is the loss of your own soul; lose your soul, and experience the “second death.” What a deal!

In order, to complete your purchase of a guaranteed participation in the “second death” experience there are some obstacles you will need to avoid. You will need to avoid reading the Bible; you will need to avoid listening to any of those crazy Bible thumping preachers, and stay out of those Bible believing churches. You must also avoid listening to any of those testimonies Christians always want to corner you and share. It is an obstacle course, but if you are really really determined to spend eternity in the Lake of Fire you can do it. You can lose your soul!

I don’t know about you, but buying a place in Hell appears to be far too high a price to pay. The sticker price on a place in Hell requires losing your soul, experiencing a second death, and burning for eternity. Seems like the price of Hell is a far too high to me.

If the price of Hell is more than you want to pay, maybe you should consider Heaven as an alternative. The cost is far lower, in fact while “the wages of sin is death…but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).” What a deal! Receive Jesus as your Savior by believing in Him (John 1:12; John 3:16) and your name will be written in the “Lamb’s Book of Life.” Your place in Heaven, New Jerusalem, will then be guaranteed for eternity.

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.08.16

Stealing the Sign

This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men. – Acts 24:16 NKJV.

This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience…. – 1 Timothy 1:18-19a NKJV.

For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, CLEANSE YOUR CONSCIENCE from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. – Hebrews 9:13-15 NKJV.

Signs are often the target of thieves, the more unusual the sign the more likely it is to be stolen. Reportedly, the most stolen sign (Actually two signs) is the US 1 Highway sign with the 0 Mile Marker sign in Key West, Florida. Although there is a road sign in Embden, Maine that may be stolen just as frequently. The “Katie’s C_____ Road” sign has cost the city so much money to replace that they want to rename the road. Some road signs are more important than others, and the removal of them, or poor maintenance of them can be dangerous. Remove a “Dead End” sign and someone could end up dead. When I ran off a dead end when I was a teenager, it would have been nice if there had been a sign. When I was leaving a doctor’s office Wednesday, the street is one way, and I was puzzled for a moment as to why the sign pointed in the wrong direction. Apparently, the top screw holding the “One Way” sign in place had come out causing the sign to point the wrong way.

New Smyrna Beach Police Department in Florida had a nice surprise this week and they posted this on their website: “The City of New Smyrna Beach recently received a strange package in the mail containing a large metal sign that said, NEW SMYRNA BEACH SAYS NO TO DRUGS. Taped to the sign was a hand written note which said: ‘Please accept this sign and funds to reinstall it, as well as my apologies. Sometime in the late 80’s, I stole this sign in a fit of youthful exuberance. Forgive Me!’ Also inside the package was a money order for $50.” (New Smyrna Beach Police Department 04.06.16) The person who stole and returned this sign obviously had a guilty conscience, and it had been eating on him for 30 years. Of course, some people are not bothered by a guilty conscience like the man who failed to return a VHS tape to the rental store 18 years earlier. When he was stopped by a police officer for a traffic violation it was discovered that there was a warrant for his arrest. The video rental store was no longer in business, but he still had to pay a $200 fine, and suffer the indignity of being arrested.

Dictionary dot com gives these definitions for the conscience: “the inner sense of what is right or wrong in one's conduct or motives, impelling one toward right action; the complex of ethical and moral principles that controls or inhibits the actions or thoughts of an individual; and, an inhibiting sense of what is prudent.” I don’t know if you have ever experienced a guilty conscience, but I have. It is not a pleasant experience. It took 30 years before the man who had stolen the sign in Smyrna Beach returned it. This reveals the convicting unrelenting power of the conscience, and why we should avoid doing or saying anything that we will regret. Let us say with the apostle Paul: “I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.”

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.07.16

Bridal Bandits

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. – Ephesians 5:25-27 NKJV.

The light of a lamp shall not shine in you anymore, and the voice of bridegroom and bride shall not be heard in you anymore. For your merchants were the great men of the earth, for by your sorcery ALL THE NATIONS WERE DECEIVED. And in her was found the blood of prophets and saints, and of all who were slain on the earth. – Revelation 18:23-24 NKJV.

For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. – 2 Corinthians 11:2 NKJV.

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. – 2 Peter 2:1-3 NKJV.

For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. – 2 Peter 2:18-19 NKJV.

Brides, grooms, and wedding guests can now relax; the Bridal Bandit has been caught and given a seven year prison sentence. 50-year-old Denise Gunderson is the Bridal Bandit and as she posed as a guest she would steal everything she could. Denise stole cash, wallets, purses, and credit cards. She stole from the actual wedding guests and from bride and groom. She made fraudulent charges of thousands of dollars on the stolen credit cards. Most of the thefts were in San Diego County, although she was arrested in December for theft of a wallet at a church in Las Vegas. Denise admitted to having three prior felony convictions; however, since she used several aliases she may have had more. After she was arrested it was discovered there were warrants for her arrest already in San Diego and Riverside counties in California. (7SanDiego 04.06.16; KNSDtv; ABCNews; 10News 12.11.15)

Thankfully, I never had a bridal bandit attend any of the weddings I have officiated. However, there has been another type of bridal bandit show up at the churches where I have been the pastor. Let me explain. The church, which is not a building; but all born again believers, is the Bride of Christ. This picture of believers as God’s bride is in the Old Testament too as Isaiah 65:2 says, “And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” In Hosea 2:19 God says, “I will betroth you to Me forever; yes, I will betroth you to Me in righteousness and justice, in lovingkindness and mercy.” What would you call someone who leads believers away from the truth of the gospel? In 2 Peter we see that God calls them “false prophets” and “false teachers.”

These bridal bandits (false prophets and false teachers) work hard at stealing away the truth and joy of believers distorting the gospel, adding in false doctrines, and saying works are needed for salvation. Some of the bridal bandits I have encountered, spread the lie that you can live a perfect life, and must live without any sin to have salvation. In other words everything you think, do or say, or don’t do or say has to be without sin. This is a lie. Other bridal bandits demand that you work your way to Heaven by keeping certain rituals. Some claim that Jesus was not God, just an angel, or just a good teacher or not fully human and fully God. The lies of bridal bandits continue to multiply, but it doesn’t make them true. The good news is that there will be a day of judgment for the bridal bandits as we are told in the Book of Revelation.

How can we avoid becoming a victim of the bridal bandits? We must follow the example of the Bereans, “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so (Acts 17:11).” Search the Scriptures, study the Scriptures, memorize the Scriptures, and the bridal bandits will find it very hard to make you one of their victims.

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.06.16

Forgotten Treasure

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. – Matthew 13:44 NKJV.

For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. – 2 Corinthians 4:6-7 NKJV.

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises…. – 2 Peter 1:2-4a NKJV.

…add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. – 2 Peter 1:5b-9 NKJV.

In Logan, Pennsylvania police have a mystery on their hands, who put the jewels in the handbag? A woman shopping at a Boscov’s store bought a new purse; inside of the purse, she discovered a treasure of jewelry including necklaces, rings, watches and bracelets. The theory is that the purse was purchased previously, and returned to the store for some reason. The first purchaser apparently forgot about the treasure she had stored inside of the purse. The second purchaser of the purse turned the treasure over to the police hoping the owner will be found. (YahooNews 03.29.16)

It does seem strange that you could forget about a treasure of jewels. However, we humans are forgetful beings, especially about God. The children of Israel had this repeated problem in the Book of Judges. As times were good they would forget about their need for God and begin to worship false gods. When times grew difficult for them, usually because of a ruler that had become harsh, they remembered their God and would cry out to Him for help. God would respond by sending a deliverer, a judge who would lead them to freedom. This cycle was repeated many times. Why? Because they would forget about their need for the One True God.

We have the same problem, when times are good we tend to forget about our need for God. How can we forget about such a great treasure? Yet, God says through the apostle Peter that if we lack virtue, self-control, godliness, kindness, and love there is a problem. The problem is that we have forgotten about the treasure, forgotten that we were cleansed from our old sins. We have forgotten that in our earthen vessel dwells the Holy Spirit, there is no greater treasure. Let us not forget our Treasure!

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.05.16

The To-Do-List

A worthless person, a wicked man,
Walks with a perverse mouth;
He winks with his eyes,
He shuffles his feet,
He points with his fingers;
Perversity is in his heart,
HE DEVISES EVIL CONTINUALLY,
He sows discord.
Therefore his calamity shall come suddenly;
Suddenly he shall be broken without remedy.

These six things the LORD hates,
Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:
A proud look,
A lying tongue,
Hands that shed innocent blood,
A HEART THAT DEVISES WICKED PLANS,
Feet that are swift in running to evil,
A false witness who speaks lies,
And one who sows discord among brethren. – Proverbs 6:12-19 NKJV.

The To-Do-List is a basic personal and business management tool for helping to manage your life. We’ve probably all used it at some point in time. Kristina Green and Gary Withers, who live in San Diego, are two people who also use the To-Do-List. On a Tuesday afternoon, they were busy taking care of one of the items on their list as they followed a mail delivery truck. The driver noticed a Dodge Charger following him, and also that after he delivered a package someone from the Charger would run up to the house and grab the package and the mail. The delivery truck driver called 9-1-1 and Sheriff’s deputies arrested the couple who were on probation for theft.

Inside of the Dodge Charger deputies found heroin, meth, stolen mail, a loaded firearm along with a To-Do-List. The To-Do-List included: apply for welfare, shoplift, steal mail, and kiss Mom. (7SanDiego 12.15.15; Times of San Diego 12.15.15 and various other news venues) Can you imagine being at a point in your life where your To-Do-List includes shoplifting and stealing mail? At least they were not planning to murder someone.

When you leave God out of your life the result is that your To-Do-List begins to fill up with not so good things, things which God hates. This will not end well as the writer of Proverbs points out: “Therefore his calamity shall come suddenly; suddenly he shall be broken without remedy.” Will the arrest of Gary and Kristina stop their downward spiral? It is unlikely, although possible if they turn to God. The sad thing about Gary and Kristina is that if they have children, the children will be trained to do the same evil things, and look upon them as being good things. Even their grandchildren will also make evil plans, and do evil things. Sad to even think about, but I have seen the truth of this too many times.

What is on your To-Do-List? Maybe you ought to take a look at it and make sure there isn’t an evil plan or two on there. Here are some things that you may want to include if they are not on your To-Do-List already: “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,’ for we are members of one another. ‘Be angry, and do not sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:25-32 NKJV).”

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.04.16

Selfishness - The Human Default Setting

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. – Philippians 2:3 NKJV.

The Message puts Philippians 2:3 as: If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Last week, a plane flying from Hawaii to Japan had a problem passenger onboard and was forced to turn around. A 72-year-old man did not want to sit in his seat while his wife and others were eating. So, he went to the galley in the back of the plane and began doing yoga. The crew ordered him to stop and to return to his seat, he refused. Marines onboard the plane, were able to escort the South Korean, Hyongtae Pae back to his seat, although Pae did violently resist by trying to bite them. Pae has been charged with “Interfering with the crew of an aircraft” and he was released after posting a $25,000 bond. An FBI Spokesman Tom Simon says, “While yoga and meditation can be beneficial activities, it doesn't negate the need to obey flight crew instructions while in the air.” (AP 03.30.16; Reuters 03.31.16; CNN 03.31.16)

It does appear that Hyongtae Pae has some mental issues, but this is an example of what some will do to have their own way. Pae did not care what those in authority wanted him to do, and he did not care what his own wife wanted him to do. He did not care that he was violating the law, he knew what he wanted and he was going to do it, regardless of the consequences. Well there are some consequences in Pae’s situation, and he could even be incarcerated for a substantial period of time, although that is unlikely.

I did a Google search this morning for “getting your way” and was surprised to find 334,000 results for the search. At the very top of the list of search results was: “The Little Green Book of Getting Your Way: How to Speak, Write, Present, Persuade, Influence, and Sell Your Point of View to Others.” Then Monster dot com has the article “Five Tips for Getting Your Way Without Authority.” And there is even a song “Getting Your Way” by the English rock band, Mansun, and here are a few of the lyrics: “So proud when you get up and dance, Move centre on stage, Make sure that everybody can see, Exposure's maximum, Subconsciously, When you know that you are sitting on, Top of the tree.”

Getting your own way is the default setting for us human beings. Our natural nature is one of selfishness, looking out for number one: me, my, myself, before anyone or anything else. To change the default setting from selfishness to humility we must do this: “…put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them (Colossians 3:5-7 NKJV).” But how do we do this? We must do what we are told here in Colossians 3:1-2: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.01.16

Are You Cinderella?

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. – John 1:12 NKJV.

And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. – Revelation 19:16 NKJV. (See also 1 Timothy 6:15)

Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, “Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife.” – Revelation 21:9 NKJV.

We remember the fairy tale of Cinderella and the Prince who finds the slipper she left behind. The slipper only fits the foot of Cinderella who becomes a Princess living happily ever after with the Prince. In Taiwan, there is now a beautiful glass slipper church 55 feet tall. It will be used primarily for weddings. The glass slipper church was inspired in part by the Cinderella story, but also by another well-known story in Taiwan. In the 1960s a 24-year-old woman named Wang was to be married, but she contracted the disease known as Blackfoot disease. The United States National Library of Medicine in an abstract says this about the disease: “Blackfoot disease is an endemic peripheral vascular disease found among the inhabitants of a limited area on the southwest coast of Taiwan, where artesian well water with a high concentration of arsenic has been used for more than eighty years.” The sad story of the young woman in Taiwan is that her legs had to be amputated. Her wedding was cancelled, she never married, and she lived the rest of her life in a church. (BBC 01.15.16)

There are many versions of the Cinderella story in many cultures of the downtrodden persecuted heroine being raised up from the lowest of the low to become royalty. The earliest known secular variant of the Cinderella story was written in 7 B.C. about Rhodopis. Rhodopis was a Greek slave girl who was raised up from slavery to marry the king of Egypt. However, it may be that all of these stories are based on the Biblical story of Esther who won the royal beauty contest (Esther 2:1-4) to become the queen of King Ahasuerus aka King Xerxes, ruling Persia from 486 to 464 B.C., one of the most greatest monarchs of the ancient world. This occurred while the Jewish people were in captivity. In this original Cinderella story God has a plan for this young orphan Jewish woman born in captivity and raised by her cousin or uncle Mordecai. Through Esther, all of the Jewish people are saved from the plot by the evil Haman who sought to destroy them.

Esther must risk her life to save her race by entering the presence of the king uninvited to tell him of the evil plot by Haman. Mordecai tells her: “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this (Esther 4:13-14)?”

If you have received Jesus as your Savior (John 1:12) you have been “born again” into the royal family of the King of kings and Lord of lords. You are the Cinderella princess or the Cinderella prince. Just like God had a great plan for Esther’s life, God has a great plan for your life. Don’t miss out on God’s great plan! For “who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

The Burning Bush Devotional

03.31.16

Save me, O God!

The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide. – Psalm 37:31 NKJV.

For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again, but the wicked shall fall by calamity. – Proverbs 24:16 NKJV.

Ropoto is a Greek town that has slid and sank out of existence. The town was located on a hilltop and everything seemed fine until 2012. On April 12, 2012, there was a landslide which made homes and buildings slide down the hillside. The town is also sinking a foot or so every year. There are still buildings there, but they are uninhabitable leaning this way and that. The town’s infrastructure was destroyed ruining the water system and electrical. About 300 families were forced out of their homes, some living in very difficult situations at first in barns. No one in the town wanted to leave their homes, but they were forced out by the disaster along with the threat of additional landslides. Yorgos Roubies narrates the tragic story in a documentary which GreekReporter dot com has produced. Roubies says, “The churches, everything was gone, there’s not even a cafe here. If someone gets sick, they won’t even be able to find a glass of water. We had never seen such a disaster.”

It is hard to imagine seeing your home slide down a hill and suddenly having no place to live. Of course, the town of Ropoto is not the only town or city to experience disaster. Disasters are a constant upon Planet Earth with mudslides, landslides, earthquakes, tornadoes, tsunamis, hurricanes, sinkholes, floods and I am sure there are also other disastrous situations. Besides natural causes of disasters there are manmade causes of disasters including war, environmental, and other things.

In our lives we may at times feel as though we are in the midst of a landslide sliding and sinking deeper and deeper. We are not alone in experiencing this kind of thing as the Psalmist cries out, “Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing; I have come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary with my crying; my throat is dry; my eyes fail while I wait for my God (Psalm 69:1-3).” The Psalmists situation was one that he had no control of, it was not the result of sin. Psalm 69 is a messianic psalm and Jesus who was tempted at all points without sin applied verse 4 to Himself (In John 15:25): “Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head; they are mighty who would destroy me, being my enemies wrongfully; though I have stolen nothing, I still must restore it (Psalm 69:4).”

In other times this falling, sliding, and sinking in our lives comes about as a result of sin. In Proverbs 24:16 we see the possibilities for those who know God are different from those who do not know God. The righteous, the believers, even though they sin can repent of their sin and rise again to walk with their God. Once you have repented, storing up God’s Word in your heart will stop the slide, and will become steps for you to climb out of the pit (Psalm 37:31; Psalm 119:9,11). The wicked, the unbelievers, when they fall into sin have no desire to turn to God, they have no desire to repent and do not rise again.

Whatever the cause of your falling, sliding, or sinking the way out is to cry out to your God as did the Psalmist: “Save me, O God!”

The Burning Bush Devotional

03.30.16

The Overflow of Trash

For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. – Luke 6:43-45 NKJV.

The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouth of fools feeds on foolishness (Trash – NLT). – Proverbs 15:14 NKJV.

Picture in your mind a river of white winding through hundreds of yards of the city of Jdeideh, a suburb of Beirut, the capital of Lebanon. At first glance, it is almost beautiful until you realize that the white is the result of thousands, maybe even millions of white bags filled with trash. The closer you come to the river of trash, the more the smell becomes almost unbearable. You wonder how can people live with this river of stinking trash flowing by their homes? The trash river came about when the main city landfill was closed down in July 2015. One man said, “This used to be such a beautiful place, but look at it now. We can’t even walk by it.”

The truth is that the trash is affecting the health of the people by flushing toxins into the water system, and with warmer weather airborne toxins will become problematic. There could be a resulting rise in cancer rates. People are angry, even rioting at times. The government is trying to find a way of disposing of the trash, but have not yet succeeded. (The Guardian; CNN)

In Luke 6 Jesus speaks of trees bearing good and bad fruit. He then speaks of hearts that overflow with good or evil. Matthew Henry says that the tree represents the heart. Jesus is indicating that to have good fruit on the tree of our heart, and to have an overflow of good treasure flowing from our lives; there must be good treasure, good fruit stored up in our hearts.

Proverbs 15:14 speaks of fools who feed on trash, who store up trash in their lives. This brings to mind the ungodly of Psalm 1:4 who are “like the chaff which the wind drives away.” The Bible is clear about how to avoid being an unfruitful tree, on how to avoid having an overflow of evil coming from your life, to avoid being like the chaff that the wind blows away. Psalm 1:1-3 tells us what to do: "Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper."

The Burning Bush Devotional

03.29.16

Building Momentum

And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men. – Colossians 3:23 NKJV.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. – James 1:22 NKJV.

It has been said that if you want something done, ask a busy person to do it, because they know how to get things done. There is a recent study which lends credence to this. The study shows that if a person is busy this tends to create momentum leading to more things being accomplished.

The reverse of building the momentum of accomplishment would be of doing less and less until nothing is accomplished. Procrastinators and those experiencing depression know what it is like to arrive at a standstill. How do you ever start moving when you are at a dead stop? How do you rise up out of the pit of depression when it feels like you have nothing to live for?

Having done my share of procrastination and at one point in my life experiencing depression I know it is hard to start moving again once the momentum has ceased. The way out of the procrastination and the depression is action. The way out of that life stoppage is by doing. This is where we as believers must have the attitude of our doing being unto the Lord. “Whatever you do” Paul says “do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.” The Message gives this translation of Colossians 3:23, but really it is more of a commentary: “Servants, do what you’re told by your earthly masters. And don’t just do the minimum that will get you by. Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ.”

Once you take that first step of action, the next step is easier, and the one after that is even easier as every step builds momentum. In addition, you will generally find that change in feelings follow action. Each step you take as the Lord leads you will improve your attitude and will empower you. If you have come to a standstill in life, bow before the Lord asking for His help, and then rise up to take that first step of action in His power that will change your life.

The Burning Bush Devotional

03.28.16

Worldly Noise

Woe to the multitude of many people who make a noise like the roar of the seas, and to the rushing of nations that make a rushing like the rushing of mighty waters! The nations will rush like the rushing of many waters; but God will rebuke them and they will flee far away, and be chased like the chaff of the mountains before the wind, like a rolling thing before the whirlwind. – Isaiah 17:12-13 NKJV.

Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us.” He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure: “Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion.” – Psalm 2:1-6 NKJV.

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport is located three miles south of downtown Washington D.C. It is the closest airport to the capital. During the last year or so flight patterns over and around the airport have been changed and enlarged. These changes of flight patterns have resulted in 8,670 noise complaints in the last year. However, 6,500 of those complaints were made by just one individual averaging about 18 per day. But there have been no reports of any changes in the flight patterns in response to the complaints. (NewsBeatSocial 03.10.16; Wikipedia)

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could shut out completely the noise of the world? It is simply not possible unless we live in a cave in a very remote place with no modern conveniences. Oh, but it would be nice to have a mute button for everything evil.

Evil driven people bomb and shoot others, and nations plot to destroy other nations. “What will come of all of their evil? Here is what God will do: He who sits in the heavens shall LAUGH; the Lord shall hold them in DERISION. Then He shall speak to them in His WRATH, and distress them in His deep displeasure: ‘Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion (Psalm 2:4-6).’”

Yes, there is evil lurking in this world seeking to attack us making a lot of noise, but God has our six. Jesus Christ the King of kings is alive and well at the right hand of the Father. As we are bombarded with all the noise of the world, as we face the threats against us we need to have the attitude of the apostle Paul: “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens (2 Corinthians 5:1).” Let us overcome this noise, this evil of the present world as will the saints of the Book of Revelation: “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death (so much as to shrink from death – NIV) (Revelation 12:11).”

The Burning Bush Devotional

03.25.16

What's so Good About Good Friday

And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha, where they crucified Him, and two others with Him, one on either side, and Jesus in the center. Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was:

JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.

Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. – John 19:17-20 NKJV.

After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit. – John 19:28-30 NKJV.

Usually when we think of a good day we are thinking of a day like Peggy Lee described in the song she wrote, “It’s a Good Day.” The song was published in 1946 and versions of it were recorded by Judy Garland and Perry Como. Here are the lyrics:

It’s a Good Day:

Yes, it's a good day for singing a song, and it's a good day for moving along; Yes, it's a good day, how could anything be wrong, A good day from morning' till night

Yes, it's a good day for shining your shoes, and it's a good day for losing the blues; Everything to gain and nothing' to lose, A good day from morning' till night

I said to the Sun, "Good morning sun Rise and shine today" You know you've gotta get going If you're gonna make a showin' And you you've got the right of way.

'Cause it's a good day for paying your bills; And it's a good day for curing your ills, So take a deep breath and throw away the pills; 'Cause it's a good day from morning' till night.

That’s the kind of day that we all want to have every day. However, that surely was not the kind of day that Jesus had on Good Friday. Physically for Jesus it was a nightmare of a day being whipped, humiliated and crucified unjustly on a cruel Roman cross. Now in anyone’s mind that is a BAD day!

Spiritually for Jesus it was just the opposite of a bad day, it was a great day! That Friday was the day when the mission would be completed; that was the day when Jesus could cry from the cross, “It is finished!” That was finally the day when He would die “once for all (Romans 6:10).” That was the day when Jesus, “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:12).”

It is thought that the word “good” originally meant “holy” in old English. The day Jesus was crucified is indeed good in the sense that it is holy as Jesus “entered the MOST HOLY PLACE once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” for you and me and all those who believe upon the Name of Jesus. “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God (1 John 5:13).”

Good Friday was the best day, the most wonderful day, the most good day in all of human history! On this Good Friday let us praise our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

The Burning Bush Devotional

03.24.16

The Truth of Easter

Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.

But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.

And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell My brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see Me.” – Matthew 28:1-10 NKJV.

Since September 2001, things have changed as to how many of us live our lives. We are more careful, more cautious aware of our surroundings when we leave our homes. Even in flyover country in United States where I live we know terrorist attacks from one group or another are possible. Many either carry a weapon or have one nearby. If you plan to fly, arrival at the airport a few hours early is now prudent. Also, we now know from Brussels that even walking into an airport exposes you to the risk of a terrorist attack.

Things have not changed for the better in the years since the towers came down. Terrorists have become bolder in their senseless horrific acts against the innocent. One of those innocents is a 19-year-old American citizen who had close brushes with death at the Boston Bombing, the Paris Massacre, and now at the Brussels attack where he received some non-life threatening injuries. If this young man could post his future itinerary we might all know where not to be…. Why some are spared and some die in these attacks is something that only God knows for sure. But make no mistake; God is not responsible for these evil acts perpetrated upon the innocent. This evil flows from Satan, the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4), into the lives of the demonically blinded and deceived.

The world this Easter is different from the Easter we celebrated prior to 2001. The world may have changed in 2001, but the meaning of Easter is still the same. The events of that Resurrection Day almost 2000 years ago speak to us this truth: Jesus Christ is the Lord of Lords, and the King of kings (1 Timothy 6:15)! He is the same “yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8)!” That first Resurrection Day gives us hope that evil has been defeated even though the battle still rages. There will come a day when every knee shall bow at the Name of Jesus (Philippians 2:10). There will come a day when evil will be no more upon this earth and we will live in peace (Revelation 21). The Truth of Easter is that the pain and suffering of this present world is a temporary condition for all those who place their faith in Jesus Christ.

The Burning Bush Devotional

03.23.16

God is on Your Side

Read Psalm 118

I can remember in grade school playing games like Red Rover. Games like that required that there be two teams with the leader of each team choosing one at a time those who would be on their side. In those days at my school there was no teacher supervision of that process, or of the playing of the game. I always dreaded those times, hoping that I wouldn’t be the last one chosen! That would have been bad. If you were going to play the game you had to be on one side or the other.

In life who is on your side? Your spouse, your children, your parents, your co-workers, other members of your church, your pastor? You do have some people in life who are on your side. Most likely you are never as alone as it may sometimes seem. However, we need to remember that people are just people. Sometimes we humans do not always make the right decisions, even those who you think are on your side. Other people make mistakes just like you do and they have problems in their lives the same as you. There will be times when those that you believe to be on your side will fail to stand up for you. There will be times when you want their help, you ask for their help, for their support and those people will let you down. This is a sad fact of life that people will sometimes let you down.

When everything in life goes south and you wonder how you can go on, here’s a tool that you can use to help. Psalm 118:6 NKJV says, “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” What can man do to you? What is the absolutely worst thing that can happen? The worst of the worst most likely will only occur in your life a few times over the course of a lifetime. If you can make it through it, you will have clear sailing for years. Here is something that can help you to survive. If you can come to the point where you can accept the worst that can possibly happen – then you can move forward. You can move forward knowing that regardless of what other people may do or say, God is on your side. “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” GOD. IS. ON. YOUR. SIDE! And, God proved that once and for all when Jesus suffered and died for our sins on the cross.

The Burning Bush Devotional

03.22.16

Let Us Fight!

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. – Ephesians 6:10-13 NKJV.

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 10:4-5 NIV.

By now you have heard about the latest horrific terror attacks in Brussels, Belgium. More than 30 dead and 100 or more injured. There seems to be no end to the amount of misery that some humans want to inflict on other humans. This is not something that we want to think about; but we cannot, and must not ignore this threat to our peaceful existence.

We should be aware that terror is the physical manifestation of a spiritual war. Not only is there a war here on earth being fought, but there is also a spiritual war being waged. We may not be able to fight hand to hand with our terror enemies here on earth. However, we can and must engage our enemies on a spiritual basis. This is a war between all that is good and all that is evil and we cannot remain neutral. We can put our hands up in surrender and our enemy will still kill us.

We need not fight this war with worldly weapons when we have mighty spiritual weapons available. We have weapons with “divine power to demolish strongholds.” This is a war where most of us will not be on an earthly battlefield, but must fight this war on our knees “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints (Ephesians 6:18).”

“Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:14-17 NKJV).”

The Burning Bush Devotional

03.21.16

The Number 1

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. – Matthew 6:33 NKJV.

So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. For we walk by faith, not by sight. – 2 Corinthians 5:6-7 NKJV.

This morning I received two phone calls on my cellphone from the number “1”. I answered both calls, said “hello” but there was no reply. I did attempt to return the call and was given an error message by an automated voice. I thought that perhaps my son or one of my close friends had tried to call me. However, no one that I contacted had attempted to call this morning.

As I was considering who or what the number “1” was that had called me, it occurred to me that God should be first above all things. Now, I don’t believe that God actually tried to call my cellphone, but what if He had? What if God did routinely ring us up on our cellphones along with an occasional text message? That would be a game changer, wouldn’t it? Imagine, you are busy with your normal routine when your cellphone rings, it’s Number 1 again. When you answer, Number 1 asks, “Why didn’t you talk to Me this morning?” Before you can answer He’s gone, because Number 1 has a few more calls to make. Or, you are just about to commit your favorite sin, and your cellphone buzzes. It’s a text from Number 1 which says, “Don’t do it!” Or, you’re praying about what decision to make about a critical life choice and just at the providential moment your cellphone rings, it is Number 1 calling to tell you which is the right choice.

For reasons only God knows we walk by faith and not by sight while we are physically alive upon this earth. The incredible thing is as born again believers we are not walking alone; because “…you are the temple of God and …the Spirit of God dwells in you (1 Corinthians 3:16).” We are to see while upon this earth, with eyes of faith. Romans 10:16 tells us how we can improve our spiritual vision: “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

Did you take a few moments this morning to visit with Number 1? Did you pray and read His Word? Have you put Him first today?

The Burning Bush Devotional

02.17.16

Time to Act

And the LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.” – Exodus 14:15-16 NKJV.

Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out… - Numbers 13:30-32 NKJV.

Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying, “Pass through the camp and command the people, saying, ‘Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you will cross over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you to possess.’” – Joshua 1:10 NKJV.

It happened on the same night that the LORD said to him (Gideon), “Arise, go down against the camp, for I have delivered it into your hand.” – Judges 7:9 NKJV.

And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Now after he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called us to preach the gospel to them. – Acts 16:9-10 NKJV.

Anthony Ruelas is a hero, even though he received a two day suspension from school for what he did. At Gateway Middle School a girl was having an asthma attack, wheezing and gagging. The teacher emailed the school nurse and waited for the nurse to respond. When 15-year-old Anthony saw the girl fall out of her chair he took action saying “We ain’t got time to wait for no email from the nurse.” In spite of the teacher ordering him not to, Anthony picked up the girl and carried her to the school nurse’s office. The girl is doing well thanks to the prompt action of Anthony. Even though, Anthony received a two day suspension for defying the teacher, he says that he would “most definitely” do it again. (Washington Post; KCEN; KWTX 01.25.16)

Throughout the Bible we see the servants of God confronted with decisions requiring action. With Moses, when the Hebrews were trapped between the rapidly advancing Egyptian army and the Red Sea, Moses prayed. God’s response was that the time for praying was over. Do what you know to do Moses. Use the rod Moses that I gave you to part the sea. When spies were sent into the Promised Land soon after the Hebrews escape from Egyptian slavery, ten of the spies did not have the faith to take action to possess the land. As a result, the Hebrews had to wander in the wilderness until all of the old generation except for Moses, Caleb and Joshua had died. Joshua again sent spies into the Promised Land at the end of this time. Through this we see that it is okay, and wise to check things out, but there will still arrive a time of decision to take action on the information that has been found. God had to prod Gideon into action, but he did act. With the apostle Paul, we see a heart attuned to the Voice of God and he immediately responds to the Macedonian call.

Are you faced with a difficult decision? Have you prayed about it? Have you researched all you can about the situation i.e. spied out the land? These are prudent things to do. However, it may just be time to act, and do what you know to do before it is too late.

The Burning Bush Devotional

02.15.16

Kind Hearts

Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. – Genesis 6:5 NKJV.

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:30-32 NKJV.

When six-year-old Zejd Coralic began school in Sarajevo, Bosnia his teacher, Sanela Ljumanovic, knew that Zejd was deaf. Sanela immediately noticed that Zejd would sit all by himself, because of his inability to communicate with his classmates. At first, Sanela tried creating her own signs to communicate with the boy. Surprisingly, one of the parents of another child had a much better idea. This parent’s idea was for the whole class to learn sign language. Because of the parents of children in the class contributing funds a sign language teacher was employed to teach the children. Zejd’s classmates all learned sign language in about three months, and are excited about being able to communicate with Zejd. The idea has now spread so that many other classes are learning sign language. Zejd’s teacher believes this experience has made all of her students more sensitive to others with disabilities. (Skolegijum-onlist for school practice; avaz.ba 02.15.16)

With the situation with Zejd Coralic we see many kind hearted people demonstrating how “tenderhearted” people can make a difference. The teacher has a kind heart. The classmates of Zejd have kind hearts, and the parents of the classmates have kind hearts. This kind of tenderheartedness seems strange, and is almost shocking in a world where many are like the people of Noah’s day when “every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”

Do you have a kind heart? Or, do you have a wicked heart thinking evil continually as the people were during the time of Noah? Do you look for ways to extend kindness? Think of the difference you can make in the lives of those around you by touching them with kindness. One small act of kindness may be what someone going through a difficult time needs to make it through another day. One small act of kindness may be what someone needs to prevent their doing something terrible. One small act of kindness may be remembered for years, even generations.

How can you show others your kind heart today? Who has the Lord placed on your heart that needs a touch from a kind heart?

The Burning Bush Devotional

02.08.16

I Believe in Love

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. - 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NKJV.

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. - 1 Corinthians 13:13 NKJV.

He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. - 1 John 4:8 NKJV.

And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. - 1 John 4:16 NKJV.

I confess, I watched the Super Bowl last night including the half-time show. I watched as dancers gyrated on a stage in the shape of a cross. In the stadium seats the words were spelled out “I Believe in Love.” The love being exhibited on the Super Bowl stage appeared to me to be a sacrilegious everything goes kind of love being offered on a worldly altar.

The Super Bowl half-time show reminded me of the golden calf incident in Exodus 32. While Moses was on the Mount Sinai receiving the Law from God, the people down below, had turned away from the One true God. An idol was made, which the people worshipped instead of the true God. But it was worse than that. Aaron made the gold calf and an altar. “Then they rose early on the next day, offered burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play (Exodus 32:6).” The word “play” indicates unrestrained sexual immorality as Exodus 32:25 says, “When Moses saw that the people were unrestrained (for Aaron had not restrained them, to their shame among their enemies).” The Super Bowl half-time show appeared to portray a modern version of the incident; although muted somewhat, in order to be broadcast into our homes.

I believe in love, but not the kind of love portrayed by the Super Bowl half-time show. I believe in the kind of love defined in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” The love of 1 Corinthians 13 is further defined by 1 John 4:8 and 16, “God is love.” I believe in the God of love who “so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).” I believe in the god of love who “demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).”

Let us reject the worldly Super Bowl half-time definition of love; and instead, embrace true love from the only true God, who gave Himself to save us from our sins. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18).”

Reject the world, and embrace the God of true love!

The Burning Bush Devotional

02.05.16

More Fire

And the fire on the altar shall be kept burning on it; it shall not be put out. And the priest shall burn wood on it every morning, and lay the burnt offering in order on it; and he shall burn on it the fat of the peace offerings. A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out. - Leviticus 6:12-13 NKJV.

Recently, I did a brief study in the Book of Leviticus, and it was a challenge. An important thing to remember about Leviticus, is that it is a book meant not just to be read, but to be studied. There are many lessons in Leviticus for us today as Christians. One of those lessons is the need to keep the fire burning, it should never die out. Every morning the Old Testament priests would lay more wood on the fire so that it would “never go out.”

While the fire of the Holy Spirit may never really go out in the life of a child of God, it may appear that way. I think we all know some Christians who at least on the surface have very little spiritual life left. They were once on fire for God, assembling with other believers, teaching classes, witnessing to all who crossed their paths. Maybe something traumatic happened, a death, an illness, a job loss, a marriage failure, or something else, which led to the dimming of their fire. Or, maybe it was just the lack of new fuel being placed on the fire every morning?

We need the fuel of God's Word placed upon our spiritual fire every day. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).” We need the spiritual fuel of communing with our Lord God through prayer every day. “...men always ought to pray and not lose heart (Luke 18:1).” It is not a daily thing, but we do need the spiritual fuel of assembling with other believers when it is possible “in order to stir up love and good works (Hebrews 10:24b).” We also need the spiritual fuel derived from serving our God because “we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us (2 Corinthians 5:2).” Have you done the work of an ambassador lately?

It is vitally important every day, every morning, to lay some more fuel on your spiritual fire. I know with our busy lives it is very easy to become distracted and rush by doing what we need to do. Here is what I do every morning, to make sure I have some new fuel on the fire, in case the urgencies of life interrupt my having a more lengthy quiet time. While I am preparing for the day, taking a shower, dressing, making my breakfast I am going to spend 20 minutes or more in prayer, and go through out loud or in my mind 36 to 50 memory verses. You may not have that many verses memorized, but you have some. Here are a few that you may have memorized that you could go through every morning.

John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Matthew 21:22: “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

Start with the verses you know, even if they are only a few, or even just one. Go through them several times every morning. Try to add a verse every few months to your list. This will build your spiritual fire and build your faith because “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).” So, if you haven't already done so, throw some more wood on the fire!

The Burning Bush Devotional

02.03.16

Don't Run

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God.” - Luke 9:23-27 NKJV.

Luke 9:23 from The Message: Then he told them what they could expect for themselves: “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. DON'T RUN from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how.

Dogs can be a problem for postal service workers, parole officers, pastors and many other workers. Trying to visit in rural areas as a pastor I often encountered dogs of different breeds and temperament. Some dogs, you can just look at them and know not to even attempt to open the door of your car. In that kind of situation I usually honked the horn to obtain the owner's assistance in having the dog in a safe mode. Other times you may not even know there is a dog outside of the residence.

In a visit I once made to a rural residence, there did not appear to be any dogs around. I opened up the car door and stepped out, shutting the car door behind me. It was then that I saw the dog. It was a very large German Shepherd running straight at me. I thought he had to be going 90mph, although I know that is impossible! There was no time for me to open up the car door and reenter the car. I simply stayed still and faced the threat. Would the dog tear me apart? I didn't know, but I did know that if I ran the dog would take me down.

What happened was that the dog ran right by me just a few inches away. I then thought it might be safe to walk to the house and knock on the door. The dog watched me the entire time. No one was at home. I tried to visit at that home a few other times after that, and every time the dog would do the same thing. He would run at me as hard as he could, running right by me as I stood still, and faced the threat. The one time, I actually was able to visit the resident of the home, the dog was nowhere to be seen!

In life we will encounter all kinds of problems with threats to the left and to the right. We may face suffering from physical illnesses or injuries. We may suffer persecution for our faith. Don't run! As we are told in 1 Corinthians 15:58 NKJV, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” Day by day deny your fearful impulses, take up your cross, and follow your Lord.

The Burning Bush Devotional

01.26.16

Be Courageous

No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” - Joshua 1:5-9 NKJV.

An old drug with a new approach to treatment may be able to cure some fears. The treatment approach involves reactivating a fear or phobia, and then taking the drug, which in their experiments with spiders appears to work. Of course, whether that will actually work with phobias, PTSD, and other fears has yet to be proved. Wouldn't it be nice whenever you are fearful just pop a pill and you become fearless? Isn't that what a lot of people are trying to do already with alcohol, meth, cocaine, pot, and the list goes on? Still, it would be nice to have some help for our fears.

As I have grown older, I have come to realize it takes courage to live life. It takes courage sometimes to get out of bed in the mornings, put on our clothes, and go to work. It takes courage when our knees or hips are hurting to walk across the room, much less leave the house to do anything. It takes courage to have a surgery when you know there will be so much pain involved. It takes courage to go through a course of chemo, or endure radiation treatment for cancer. It takes courage to live life.

To overcome our fears, we first need to realize that fear is an emotional response, and the courage we need to overcome it is an attitude. Courage is a decision that we make. God told Joshua as he faced leading a huge number of people across the Jordan River and into the Promised Land to “Be strong and of good courage.” Joshua needed courage because he knew that ahead lay the fortress city of Jericho, and he also knew there were giants in the land, which he had seen with his own eyes. We know God provided Joshua with the courage he needed to face the giants, and He can do the same for us.

To have courage we need to use the resources that God provides to develop and nurture that courage. The number one God given resource for developing and nurturing courage is the Word of God. God tells Joshua “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth.” Speaking God's Word, reciting memory verses out loud, will help to develop and nurture your courage. God also tells Joshua that “you shall meditate in it (God's Word) day and night.” The best way to do that is to have verses of Scripture memorized so that you can review them in your mind. And God tells Joshua to “observe to do according to all that is written in it (God's Word).” Speak, think, and do the Word of God, and godly courage will be developed and nurtured in your life; and, “you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” God is saying the same thing to you today that He said to Joshua: “Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

The Burning Bush Devotional

01.18.16

Limitless Life

I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge, even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end, that you may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. - 1 Corinthians 1:4-9 NKJV.

You may have watched or heard of the movie, “Limitless” that was produced in 2011. There is also now a television series by the same name. Here is the official description of the movie: “Facing unemployment and his girlfriend's rejection, writer Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) is sure that he has no future. That all changes when an old friend gives him a drug that produces enhanced mental acuity. Stoked on the untested chemical, Eddie rises to the top of the financial world and attracts the attention of a tycoon (Robert De Niro) who intends to use him to make a fortune. But terrible side-effects and a dwindling supply threaten to collapse Eddie's house of cards.” The description of the TV series is similar: “A man gains the ability to use the full extent of his brain's capabilities. A television adaptation of the 2011 film, 'Limitless'.”

The type of life portrayed in the “Limitless” movie and television series is science fiction. Will it someday be possible? That we do not know. What we do know is that our God offers through Jesus Christ a far better “limitless” life. Jesus gives us an indication of what this better “limitless” life is like in John 10:10b NKJV, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” Also in John 7:38 Jesus says, “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” Jesus also tells us in Matthew 21:22, “And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” The limitless life Jesus offers is far better with unlimited resources, strength and access.

Through Jesus we have unlimited resources which the apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 1:7 NKJV, “so that you come short in no gift (do not lack any spiritual gift - NIV), eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Through Jesus we have unlimited strength or power and Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:8 NKJV, “who will also confirm you (keep you strong - NIV) to the end.” And through Jesus we have unlimited access to the Creator of all things, “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Corinthians 1:9).” The writer of Hebrews tells us, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16 NKJV).”

What is necessary for us to experience the limitless kind of life that God promises us through Jesus? What is necessary is the surrender of our will, our plans, our goals to the will of God for our lives. Only then will we begin to experience the limitless life that Jesus came to give us. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Romans 12:1-2 NKJV).”

The Burning Bush Devotional

12.14.15

Overcoming Addiction

Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine, those who go in search of mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart will utter perverse things. Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying: “They have struck me, but I was not hurt; they have beaten me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?” - Proverbs 23:29-34 NKJV.

Zhang Rui is 30-years-old, and he is an alcoholic who lives in Bengbu, China. Up until six months ago, Zhang had a job as a truck driver, he had a wife and children, and he was gentle non-violent person. All of that changed after Zhang began drinking, because he became very violent and abusive. In a very short period of time he lost his job, his wife and children and found himself on the streets begging for money for another drink.

Zhang, unlike many, has decided to do something about his alcoholism. He has chosen an unusual way of doing that, and one I wouldn't recommend, but it may just work. Zhang is living at home now with his mother. Doesn't sound too bad, but Zhang is chained up where he cannot leave his attic room. The locked 12 ft chain weighs 22lbs and is wrapped around his neck. He plans to stay locked up in the attic for at least six months, or until his desire to drink is gone, in the hope that this will solve his alcohol addiction. (Shanghaiist 12.10.15)

The problem for Zhang, and for most with addictions is the tendency to relapse. From my observations of, and conversations with the addicted, it is clear that for some there may be several relapses before a sustained period of abstinence is obtained. 30-day treatment programs or even Zhang's radical approach are effective for drying a person out, but not much else. The longer the addiction treatment program, the longer the abstinence that is usually obtained. Traditionally, the legal system has mandated aftercare programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Sometimes counseling sessions with an addiction counselor is also required. AA, NA, and Addiction counseling are all helpful tools, but they do not guarantee success.

From my observations as a parole officer and as a pastor I do not know of any addicts who have successfully abstained from their addiction for years without there being a spiritual component. Sounds like there is not much hope for someone with an addiction, but there is hope. The very best way of all to overcome an addiction is not to develop one. However, that is of no help to anyone who has one. Here is what I would recommend to anyone that does have an addiction:

1. Turn to God in repentance and ask for His help to overcome the addiction.

2. Use the tools of treatment programs and aftercare which is just good common sense.

3. Use the tools that God provides: Prayer, Bible, and Church. Immerse yourself in the resources of God. The closer you are to God, the less power the addiction will have over you (“Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” - James 4:7-8 NKJV).

The Burning Bush Devotional

10.20.15

Fear Not

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. - Isaiah 41:10 NKJV.

My Mother worked in the civil service at Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base in Oklahoma for five years during 1960-65. The base, which is no longer an active Air Force base, is only about six miles from our home; but we do still have B-52s flying over our house from Altus Air Force Base. My Mother worked as a food service worker for about a year, and then began working as a keypunch operator on base. To gain entry to the base, there was only one way, and that was through an armed guard station on the east side. Every vehicle, to gain entry had to have a government issued decal on the front bumper. If you did not have the decal, you had to obtain a visitor's pass, which usually was only available during the daytime.

Because of an accident, my parents traded cars, and the new car did not yet have the approved decal. My memory is somewhat blurry of the details of why, but I remember well the night my Mother infiltrated the Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base. This was during the time of the tensions of the cold war, and there were always B-52s with nuclear weapons fueled and ready to take off. We could see them from the road with armed guards and German shepherds. If I remember right, if scrambled, all of the planes could in the air in fifteen minutes. The air base should have been a very secure location, and it was for the most part.

Apparently my Mother had left something at her workplace, or needed something from her workplace; but because of it being nighttime, and not have the authorized decal she was unable to obtain access. However, that did not stop my Mother. With my sister and I with her in the car (I was probably ten or eleven years old.) she simply drove through a place between two houses where there was a small gap in the fence. She drove between those two houses, across their grass, into the street and then to her workplace. We left the base the same way we came; across the lawns, between the houses, and through the gap in the fence. So much for being a secure facility!

Fear, I experienced fear the night my Mother invaded the air base. It is not a pleasant experience, but it was one of the first times in my life that I experienced real intense fear. Looking back I realize now that not much would have happened to us even if we had been caught. Likely they would have given my Mother a stern warning, and sent us on our way out the front gate.

Since that time, I have experienced fear many times, but I never seek it out. Fear usually seems to come upon us unexpectedly, often suddenly. Often fear like that night on the air base is exaggerated, blown up out of proportion. Later we realize that things are not as bad as we thought they were, and that we will live another day. In the daylight, things never seem as bad as they do in the middle of the night.

Whatever you may be going through, if you know Jesus as your Savior, He is there with you. The Lord knew this thing was going to happen, and He is not in a panic mode. The Lord never panics. This is what our Lord would want you to know: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

The Burning Bush Devotional

09.24.15

Just Taking a Nap

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. - John 5:24 NKJV.

I assure you and most solemnly say to you, the person who hears My word [the one who heeds My message], and believes and trusts in Him who sent Me, has (possesses now) eternal life [that is, eternal life actually begins—the believer is transformed], and does not come into judgment and condemnation, but has passed [over] from death into life. - John 5:24 AMP.

Along a highway in eastern Pennsylvania drivers were horrified to see a man's body. The body was seen by several drivers on Highway 33 about 75 miles north of Philadelphia. When highway patrol troopers responded they found a man laying near an exit against a guardrail. Troopers woke up the man who said he was just “Taking a nap” and the man then left the area. (Lehighvalleyonline.com 09.21.2015 - just discovered this free access newspaper)

Jesus makes it clear in John 5:24 that if you know Jesus as your Savior that you have eternal life. We are told this through the apostle Paul in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” In other words, if you know Jesus as your Savior you are alive! It seems strange, but talking with some Christians, some believers, they seem more dead than alive. Maybe, they are just taking a nap?

In our lives there are definitely times when we “feel” more alive than at other times. These times when we “feel” more alive may occur during major events such as a wedding, birth of a child, graduation from high school or college, beginning a career, vacations, illness, accidents and other events. Spiritually, there may also be times when we “feel” more alive than at other times. Sometimes our “brook” dries up as it did for the Prophet Elijah (1 Kings 17). In baseball, a dry spell is described as being a “slump.” Maybe you are in a “slump,” a dry spiritual period? It happens to the best, it even happened to Elijah.

What do you do when your joy is not overflowing? What do you do when everything feels wrong and you're not sure why? What do you do when you are in a spiritually dry time? Jesus says in John 15:9-11, “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” It is God's will for you to be alive, to be filled with joy. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, JOY, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).” When we are dry spiritually we must continue to “abide” in Jesus meaning we need to return to the well of “living water (John 4:10).”

When we are going through dry times spiritually this is a time to draw nearer to God (James 4:7-8) and not a time to withdraw from Him. These are times when we need more of the “living water” and we cannot receive that from the things of this world. We must immerse ourselves in the things of God, spending more time in prayer and in His Word. Abide in Him, and the dry times will end, and you will be filled with His joy. Believe it! Live it!

The Burning Bush Devotional

08.21.15

The Message

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” - Matthew 4:4 NKJV.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV.

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. - Ephesians 6:17 NKJV.

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. - Hebrews 4:12 NKJV.

How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You. - Psalm 119:9,11 NKJV.

The message has finally been received! It only took a little over a century, but the message finally got through! The message was contained in a bottle which was thrown into the North Sea in the early 1900s as part of a marine research project by the Marine Biological Association in the UK. Likely it was part of a project researching ocean currents. The bottle was found by a couple on a beach at Amrum in Germany. The couple sent the bottle, and the message to the Marine association, and they received a shilling that was promised in the message for doing so. Message received, reward given. (Yahoo News 08.21.15; CBC News 08.21.15)

How thrilling it must have been to find the old bottle containing the message! It must have been exciting too for the marine association to actually receive this old message. Even the possession of an old letter or reading the words from it can be meaningful. A year or so ago, we discovered online a couple of letters written by my two great grandfather telling of how he had traveled from Tennessee to Missouri and back. In the letter he also talked about how scarce paper was at that time, which explains why there were not more letters. A few words written down in a message can change your view of people, and of the world.

Did you know there is a letter written to you that is thousands of years old? You know what I am writing about. I am writing about the Bible. It is a message, a living message. Using many human authors God has written you a message. Now, you would think that if God Himself wrote a letter to you and you found it in your mailbox you would immediately open it up and read it. Can you imagine? You open up your mailbox, there is a letter in there, and the return address simply has: GOD. I think I would want to read that letter!

God Himself has written you a letter and tossed it out into the waves of time. Miraculously, even more miraculously than a message in a bottle being found, most of us have a copy of that letter. Have you read it?

The Burning Bush Devotional

08.19.15

Are You Crazy?

When Jesus came into a house, many people gathered around Him again. Jesus and His followers could not even eat. When His family heard of it, they went to take Him. They said, “He must be crazy.” - Mark 3:20-21 NKJV.

Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!” - Acts 26:24 NKJV. (driving you insane - NIV; crazy - NLV; mad - KJV – “mad” coming from Greek work mania)

At a popular tourist spot on a river in Alaska where grizzly bears can be seen feeding on fish, a man suddenly appeared in a complete bear outfit. Not only did the man appear, but he ran toward a grizzly and her two cubs, jumping up and down. There were differing reports as to whether the man approached on two feet or four. The grizzly man came within ten feet of the cubs before a wildlife worker took action to scare the actual grizzly and cubs away by shouting. Carl Koch, the wildlife biologist, said “As you can imagine, that's a really dangerous thing for the guy to do.” What did the grizzly man do? He walked back to his car, got in, and drove away without removing his costume. The incident took place about 500 miles east of Anchorage. (Reuters 08.14.15; CBS Seattle 08.17.15)

Most of us know crazy when we see it. A man running at a grizzly mother bear with cubs in a bear suit jumping up and down would get you committed to a mental institution for observation in most states. Maybe not in Alaska, but most states. Did the man want to commit suicide by bear? Did he want to gain fame? Or, was he just mentally unbalanced i.e. crazy? I think most of us would go with crazy, as in insane!

As Jesus went about doing good and teaching, not only did Jewish leaders think he was crazy, but his own family, relatives, friends, and everyone in his hometown thought he was crazy. The apostle Paul encountered the same kind of thing. As Paul gave his defense before King Agrippa and Governor Festus, Festus thinks the great learning of Paul has driven him insane. Paul is simply sharing his testimony of the hope he and the Jewish people have in the resurrection of the dead, and of how Jesus had worked in his life. The recounting of how the crucified and resurrected Jesus encountered Paul on the road to Damascus may have been a bit much for Festus to swallow.

Jesus and the apostle Paul were both called crazy for proclaiming God's truth and actually living it. What about you and me? Has anyone ever accused us of being crazy for being on fire for God? Are you insanely crazy for Jesus? If not, why not? What has happened to your fire? Has the cares of this world choked out your fervor? Throw off the chains of this world, and let's all go crazy for Jesus!

The Burning Bush Devotional

08.12.15

Begin

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. - Genesis 1:1 NKJV.

And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it— lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? - Luke 14:27-30 NKJV.

There are many weeds that have sprung up on our property since the drought has ended. In the ten years since I have taken over the care of the grounds around this home from my father, there has not been anything like this. I look at all of the weeds and grass, and I think of it as being a jungle. How am I ever going to tame this jungle? Where do I even begin? I did arrive at a conclusion yesterday that it really does not matter so much as to where I begin, as it does that I actually begin cutting down the jungle. So, I mowed as much as I could, and then got out my 4-cycle weed wacker and began to cut down the jungle. It still looks like an almost impossible task, but since I have actually started do something about it, I think it may just be possible to tame my jungle. Beginning the work has made the impossible appear to be possible.

Beginnings are important. God made a beginning as we read in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Now Jesus does warn about counting the cost of building a tower before beginning to build, and of the cost of following Him. However, if a person who wants to build a tower does not begin, it will never be built. Also, if a person does not actually begin to follow Jesus, the spiritual journey will never begin.

Most of us have had many beginnings in our lives. We were born. We began to attend school, we began our careers, we began our married life (for many of us), and we may have begun a business venture or countless other things.

Spiritually, there are beginnings. The first step spiritually is to be “born again” as Jesus says in John 3:3. Once we know Jesus as our Savior having been born again, we need to take up our cross and follow Him. In the following of Jesus there are many beginnings. I remember the first time I memorized Scripture in a Vacation Bible School one summer. I remember beginning to pray, not just every so often, but faithfully every day. I remember making a commitment that I was going to attend church faithfully whenever it was possible for me to do so whether my family went with me or not. I remember making a commitment to read God's Word and to memorize it. I remember how God called me to ministry and how there was a beginning that went beyond knowing to actually making public in a church that God had called me. I remember beginning to preach, that first time. I remember selling our home and moving into a parsonage as we began our lives in ministry. There was a beginning as I began to send out devotionals by email. There was a beginning as I created a website and began to post the devotionals there. Many beginnings....

At some point, we need to begin in the Christian life. At some point, we need to actually pick up our cross and follow Jesus.

The Burning Bush Devotional

08.05.15

Time for Action

And the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea. And I indeed will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they shall follow them. So I will gain honor over Pharaoh and over all his army, his chariots, and his horsemen. Then the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gained honor for Myself over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.” - Exodus 14:15-18 NKJV.

I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon, because I keep hearing about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all of God’s people. And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ. - Philemon 1:1-6 NLT.

On July 4th, in DeLand, Florida, Heather Charlebois was sitting outside at a table at the Cafe Da Vinci. There was a lot of noise from fireworks being exploded when she suddenly felt a sting on her leg. Heather says, “My first thought was somebody hit me, slapped me open handed really hard on my leg and pinched me, but it did not make any sense because I didn't see anyone.” She went to the bathroom to try to see what was causing the pain. There was a spot on her leg with a little blood, and some fluid draining from the spot causing her pain. Heather says she just thought that somehow she had been hit by an errant firework. Five days later as the wound did not heal, and the pain was becoming unbearable with friends encouraging her to seek medical aid, she finally did go to a hospital emergency room. An X-Ray revealed a .38 caliber bullet lodged close to an artery. Heather says, “I feel very fortunate, I have four kids and we have been through a lot.” It is thought that during the fireworks someone fired a gun into the air from some distance away, which landed, unfortunately in Heather Charlebois' leg. Or, fortunately the bullet landed in her leg, because it could have been her head. (Daytona Beach News-Journal 07.09.15; Fox News 07.10.15)

What would have happened if Heather had not finally relented and sought medical aid? It is likely that an infection could have become severe enough for it to be necessary for part of her leg to be removed to save her life. Of course, we put off medical treatment when it may not be necessary, because of the hassle and the expense. However, sometimes you have to take action, because the failure to do so would have horrific consequences.

Action is required in other areas of our lives too, including spiritually. We often pray and pray about things when what is needed is for us to actually do something. Moses was in this situation as Pharaoh had the Hebrews trapped between them and the Red Sea. Moses was praying, crying out to God for help. What did God say? “Why do you cry to Me?” In effect, God told Moses to do something; that Moses had all the tools needed to get them through this situation. When Moses acted the Hebrews were able to walk across the Red Sea on dry ground to safety, and the Egyptians were destroyed.

The apostle Paul pleaded with Philemon to put into action his faith saying, “And I am praying that you will put into action the generosity that comes from your faith as you understand and experience all the good things we have in Christ.” Of course, we need to pray, but there are times when action, our action is required. It may be that God is saying that you have all the tools and resources that are needed. Do Something!

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.28.15

Kicking Yourself

Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” - Acts 9:1-5 NKJV.

Saul answered, “Who are You, Lord?” He said, “I am Jesus, the One Whom you are working against. You hurt yourself by trying to hurt Me.” - New Life Version (NLV).

Puskar Nepal has set a new world record. A lot of strange records have been set, and this one is pretty strange as well. Puskar has set the record for the number of times a person is able to kick themselves in the head in 60 seconds. Puskar's new record: 134 times! He lives in Nepal, and it was in Kathmandu that the record was set, and will now be recorded in the Guinness World Records. This is the eighth time that the Kicking Yourself in the Head record has been broken since 2003. The first record was set by Michael Lloyd with 42 kicks to the head in 60 seconds. Amazing! I can't even make my foot touch my head....

Before the apostle Paul was the apostle, he was known as Saul the persecutor of Christians aka the Way. Saul was on his way to Damascus to try to destroy the followers of this Jesus who lived there. He was consumed with hate, his every thought was of the killing out of this sect that had arisen. It took something drastic to change the course of Saul's life. It took something never heard of before to gain his attention. It took Saul being struck blind, and for the risen Lord Himself speaking to him. What was it that Jesus told Saul? Jesus told Saul that by attacking those of the Way, by trying to attack Jesus, Saul was just hurting himself. Jesus told Saul, “You hurt yourself by trying to hurt Me (NLV).” Gamaliel had warned in Acts 5:39, "...if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.” Saul had been fighting against God Himself. He had just been kicking himself in the head.

Which side are you on? Are you on the side of God? Or, are you on the other side? If you are not on God's side, you are just hurting yourself; you are just kicking yourself in the head over and over and over again. Saul finally came to an understanding of the truth, and changed sides. What about you? Have you become a part of the Way? Have you joined the side of Jesus Christ who is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6)?”

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.17.15

Ending Chaos

This devotional was originally written 08.02.02. Posting it again in the archive to include the update.

(Update: There is an increasing amount of chaos across the world with much of it coming from Islamic extremism. Yesterday, a jihadist attacked in Chattanooga, Tennessee killing four marines and severely wounding one sailor. There was chaos in that city, and even though we may not live there, many of us felt that chaos in our hearts. Islam cannot end chaos, it can only create it. Only the One True God has the power to end chaos in our hearts and replace it with peace. – Ed Wrather 07.17.15)

There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one. Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes. - Romans 3:10-17 NKJV.

Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence. But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble. - Proverbs 4:14; 17-19 NKJV.

Why did a 54-year-old French woman drive 12 miles (18 km) up the wrong side of a French highway? No one knows, but she was arrested and placed in a psychiatric hospital. Really it was a wondrous miracle that the woman was not killed in her wrong way drive! There were, however, seven accidents involving 18 vehicles as they tried to avoid the woman. Two people were injured slightly in the chaos created between the cities of Toulouse and Bordeaux, and it is even more of a miracle that no one was killed or severely injured in the chaos created by the wrong way drive.

There are many whose lives resemble the wrong way drive of the 54-year-old woman made in France. Is your life like a car being driven the wrong way up a major highway? If so, many of the accidents, and much of the chaos in the lives of everything around you may very well be the result of your wrong way life. You may realize that things are not quite right in your life, but that’s the way it has always been, and so you think it can never change. Solomon writes in the book of Proverbs, “The way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.” The apostle Paul writes in the New Testament, “…destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known.”

You do not have to live your life in the darkness, in destruction and misery. You do not have to live your life continually stumbling. You do not have to live your life causing chaos for all those around you. You do not have to live your life in frustration and depression, because you can come out of the darkness! Solomon also writes, “But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.”

We can become “just” not through any good works that we may do, but through Jesus. We are told in Romans 5:1, “…having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” When we receive Christ as our Savior and focus our lives upon Him, we will come to an end of chaos in our lives. Romans 8:5-6 makes this clear, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

Even further direction is given by the apostle Paul about how you can put an end to chaos in your life in Romans 13:12-14, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”

Let us “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” and then our path will be “like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.”

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.10.15

Good for Your Soul

Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield. - Psalm 33:20 NKJV.

In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul. - Psalm 94:14 NKJV.

Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones. - Proverbs 16:24 NKJV.

Kate Steinle was walking with her father along the Pier 14 waterfront in San Francisco when she was shot and killed by an illegal immigrant. Pier 14 is a popular tourist spot and gathering spot for local residents. Kate was out for an evening stroll with her Dad. She was just 32-years-old. Liz Sullivan told the San Francisco Chronicle soon after her daughter was killed that it was unbelievable, surreal, and “I don't think I've totally grasped it.” The killer is Francisco Sanchez who is an illegal immigrant, reportedly a drug dealer who has been deported at least five times (Although having used 30 aliases over 25 years it could possibly be more.). Brad Steinle, Kate Steinle's older brother wrote this: “The day before Kate died she changed her Facebook cover photo with a saying that said ‘Whatever's good for your soul..........do that.’ Please always remember Kate and live your life by these words.” (From multiple news venues)

So, what is good for your soul? I do not believe we can fully understand what is good for our soul unless we understand what is bad for the soul. The Bible makes it clear what is bad for the soul. 1 Peter 2:11 tells us that “fleshly lusts war against the soul.” Lot living in the evil of Sodom and Gomorrah “tormented (vexed - KJV)” his soul “day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds (2 Peter 2:4-9).” If we commit adultery we destroy our own soul (Proverbs 6:32). According to Proverbs 15:32, he who “disdains” instruction in righteousness, “despises his own soul.” By being around angry people you may learn their ways (Proverbs 22:24-25) and “set a snare for your soul.” If you sin against God, you wrong your soul and love death (Proverbs 8:37).

From learning what is bad for our soul, we can see what is good for our soul. These things are good: abstaining from sin, being around godly people, the Bible, praying, church, helping others, having a generous heart, and putting God first in our lives. The number one thing, or should I say person that is good for our soul, is Jesus. Only through Jesus, can we have eternal life (John 14:6). Jesus is the “anchor of our soul.” Let us “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts (Romans 13:14).” Therefore, whatever is good for your soul…do that!

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.29.15

America's Downward Spiral

Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a reproach to any people. - Proverbs 14:34 NKJV.

Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases! For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men. - Psalm 12:1 NKJV.

Ben Carson says America is in a downward spiral because “we have abandoned God.” Carson also said: “It was our Judeo-Christian values that allowed this to be an exceptional country, that allowed us to move forward so incredibly quickly and as we abandon God, you can see that we are spiraling downward just as quickly.” (A Google search for this will give results for multiple articles.)

Justice Antonin Scalia said this in 2013: “To the extent that the country is in a downward spiral, it’s not because of the law, it’s because of the people. You can’t have a good country without good people. I fear we have lost some of the virtues that characterized Americans in the past.” (The Daily Revielle 10.13.13 - Q & A at Baton Rouge Lawyers Chapter of the Federalist Society)

According to the Christian Examiner (07.01.2012) polls show morality in America is on a “disappointing downward spiral." Gallup polls revealed that more than 50% of America believed homosexuality was morally acceptable, believed having a baby outside of marriage is morally acceptable, and 38% believed abortion was morally acceptable.

An article by Carol Brooks, “What Happened When the Praying Stopped” gives statistics as to the moral downward spiral in America since 1962. Here are a few of them:

“Since 1963 violent crime has increased 544%. Illegal drugs have become an enormous and uncontrollable problem. The nation has been deprived of an estimated 30 million citizens through legal abortions just since 1973.” Read more at: http://www.inplainsite.org/what_happened_when_the_praying.html

Billy Graham wrote this in 2012: “Some years ago, my wife, Ruth, was reading the draft of a book I was writing. When she finished a section describing the terrible downward spiral of our nation’s moral standards and the idolatry of worshiping false gods such as technology and sex, she startled me by exclaiming, ‘If God doesn’t punish America, He’ll have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.’” In the same letter Graham wrote: ‘Yet the farther we get from God, the more the world spirals out of control.’”

Psalm 12:1 describes what is occurring in America with those faithful to the God of the Bible disappearing, “Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases! For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men.” Without faithful believers who are the “salt of the earth” and “the light of the world” immorality is without restraint.

America has been exalted among the nations and along with that exaltation has come God's protection. As sin has become more and more a “reproach” there is less of God's protection. As sin increases, evil increases and more attacks upon America are successful. It is the same in an individual's life. If we turn away from God we will find ourselves in a downward spiral with our lives falling apart. The solution for our country and individually is to turn back to God. When we turn back to God, He will begin to bring healing, putting things back together in our country and our lives.

How low do we have to go? How bad does it have to become before we turn back to God?

What can we do if we personally are in a downward spiral? James 4:7-8 tells us what to do, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

What can we do to stop the downward spiral of America? As Christians, to the best of our ability we must stand for what is right, what is the straight principled way of God. Will we fear what man can do? Or, will we stand up for our God? They hate us, because they hate God. They hate the light that exposes the evil, which condemns them. May we do all we personally can to shine the truth of God across this country. May we pray without ceasing for the people to turn back to God, for there to be revival before it is too late, before judgment comes, and our future as a nation is destroyed.

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.02.15

Throw Him Out!

Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. - 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 NKJV.

Now before this, Eliashib the priest, having authority over the storerooms of the house of our God, was allied with Tobiah. And he had prepared for him a large room, where previously they had stored the grain offerings, the frankincense, the articles, the tithes of grain, the new wine and oil, which were commanded to be given to the Levites and singers and gatekeepers, and the offerings for the priests. But during all this I was not in Jerusalem, for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I had returned to the king. Then after certain days I obtained leave from the king, and I came to Jerusalem and discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, in preparing a room for him in the courts of the house of God. And it grieved me bitterly; therefore I threw all the household goods of Tobiah out of the room. Then I commanded them to cleanse the rooms; and I brought back into them the articles of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense. - Nehemiah 13:4-9 NKJV.

In Pennsylvania, an elderly woman with some physical disabilities was unable to climb the stairs to the second story in her home. The elderly woman had a caregiver, which unknown to the homeowner, had invited the caregiver's boyfriend to live in the second story of the home. Apparently, the boyfriend had been living in the second floor of the home for several weeks before visiting family members discovered him hiding in a closet. Local police were able to remove the man, and have charged him with some law violations. The family has now found another caregiver and will be much more watchful of what might possibly be lurking in the upstairs of the home. (NBC News 05.22.15)

It would be shocking and even frightening, to know that a stranger was living unknown in your home. What Nehemiah discovered in the temple at Jerusalem was even more shocking. He found that Eliashib, the priest, allowed Tobiah the enemy of God to actually live in the temple. Tobiah, along with Sanballat were leaders of those attempting to prevent Nehemiah from rebuilding the wall of protection around Jerusalem. Not only was Tobiah living in the temple, but Eliashib had “prepared” the “large room” for Tobiah to live in. Nehemiah had a solution to the problem which grieved him, “I threw all the household goods of Tobiah out of the room. Then I commanded them to cleanse the rooms; and I brought back into them the articles of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense.”

What does this have to do with us? The body of a believer in Jesus is the dwelling place of the Spirit of God, “You are the temple of God.” What are you allowing to live in the temple of God? Have you invited sin to dwell alongside of the Spirit of God? The Bible says, “If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” The solution is not easy, it wasn't easy for Nehemiah either; but Tobiah, sin, must be thrown out. Throw him out!

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.01.15

Unworthy

Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? - Romans 8:34-35 NKJV.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:38-39 NKJV.

Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” - Hebrews 13:5 NKJV.

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! - 2 Corinthians 9:15 NKJV.

Alfred Guercio wanted to give his friends a nice and generous Christmas gift. So, he bought them a set of knives, which they accepted, and placed on top of their refrigerator. A few months later Guercio discovered that his friends had not used his gift, and the knife set was still on top of their refrigerator. Guercio decided that his friends were unworthy of having his generous gift, so he went to their house one afternoon to take the gift back. That's what he told JMS (a woman), since they were not going to use the knives he wanted them back. JMS was willing to give the knives back, and told the man to wait while she went to get them. Guercio did not want to wait; wedging his foot in the door as JMS was trying to close it. He then forcefully shoved the door open, proceeded to the kitchen grabbing up the knives as JMS screamed at him. JMS called 911. Guercio was arrested, charged with second degree burglary, and could go to prison for 90 days to ten years. I think it should have been first degree burglary, since there was a person in the home when he violently stole the knife set. (Minneapolis City Pages 03.17.15; kstp.com 03.16.15)

Can you imagine the shock of someone you thought of as your friend, showing up at the door of your home unexpectedly, demanding the return of a Christmas gift? I think Guercio should be happy that his “friends” actually had kept the knives, because they could have regifted them to another family. Just in case you didn't know, when you give a gift to someone else, it is no longer yours!

Whoever receives Christ Jesus as their Savior can be thankful that it is not Alfred Guercio who sits in judgment of their worthiness to continue in possession of the gift of eternal life. Of course, there are many humans today who do want to do exactly that; they, in what they believe to be their higher level of godliness, think it is their right to judge us. These human judges put themselves in the place of God to condemn what God has forgiven. These human judges would say that if we have sinned at any point that Christ Jesus has forsaken us. We can take comfort knowing that the Bible makes it absolutely perfectly clear that this is not, and will never be true; because Jesus Himself says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” We will lose our fellowship, and peace when we sin, but not our salvation. To have that fellowship and peace restored we should confess our sins in repentance to Jesus seeking His forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 says what? “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

God has given to us who know Jesus as our Savior a most costly, generous and precious gift. God's gift was generous and unbelievably costly, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).” God's gift was, and is so very precious, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).” Are you worthy of this gift? Am I worthy of this gift? Isaiah 6:6a tells us how worthy we are, “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.” We can only say with the apostle Paul, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.29.15

Things Happen

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. - 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NKJV.

Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become. - 2 Corinthians 12:10 MSG.

Joseph T. Brennan, Jr. had an accident, sort of. Brennan describes the cause of his accident by saying: “I lit a cigarette with the gunpowder in the front seat.” The cigarette ignited the gunpowder, and then, BOOM!, there was an explosion. He reportedly told the police, “I wasn’t going to do anything malicious.” The explosion blew out the car windshield along with other car windows, and blew Brennan out of his car. He suffered burns, and his hair was singed. Officers searched his car, searched his house, and charged him with one count of possession of components of a destructive device and three counts of possession of a destructive device. Police officials say that Brennan did not have malicious intent, and his neighbors were not in any danger. Well, unless he decided to smoke a cigarette at his house. (Patriot Ledger 04.14.15)

Joseph Brennan was the source of his accident; however, many of us simply encounter unexpectedly things that just happen. James Crawford was on his way to work in New Jersey in 2012 when the operator of a construction crane allowed a gigantic steel beam to float into the traffic stream. The beam ripped off the entire top of Crawford's van. Crawford suffered a few cuts and a broken thumb. Morgan Lake in 2013 was on her way to visit relatives when her accident occurred. It was not her fault that a large semi-truck did not slow down, and pushed Morgan's car off of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The windshield and the driver's side window had been shattered by the impact, and the car plunged three stories into the bay. The vehicle quickly began to sink; Morgan unbuckled her seat belt, somehow got out of the shattered driver's side window, and swam to the surface. She suffered only bruises from her accident.

These accidents that I have mentioned are only a few of the millions of things that happen to people every day. Some accidents are caused by our own carelessness, or the carelessness of others. The cause of some accidents, are hard to explain. Of course the crash of a plane on a routine flight in the Congo, was easy to determine. Someone had brought a small crocodile onto the plane. The pilot and 18 passengers were killed in the crash. The crocodile escaped from the bag it was in, and the passengers panicked; stampeding forward, they caused the plane to plummet to the ground. There was one survivor, and he reportedly took care of the crocodile with a machete before exiting the remains of the plane (Mailonline 07.23.14).

Every day on Planet Earth, there are millions, perhaps billions of good and bad things that happen. This is a fact of life, and the proof of this is all around us. These good and bad things happen not only to non-believers, but also to believers. The message from God through the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12 in part is that we should not let these things that happen hinder our service to the Lord. Through the writer of Ecclesiastes God gives us a similar message: “If the clouds are full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth; and if a tree falls to the south or the north, in the place where the tree falls, there it shall lie. He who observes the wind will not sow, and he who regards the clouds will not reap (Ecclesiastes 11:3-4 NKJV).” The message is the same; don’t let the things that happen on this earth prevent you from sowing a crop. Continue on living the Christian life, share the gospel, and sow the seeds of Truth (John 14:6) everywhere and every time you possibly can.

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.26.15

Can't Be True!

Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. - Acts 2:22-24 NKJV.

And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. - Acts 2:40-41 NKJV.

If someone applied to work at your business in these days you would of course be careful about hiring a new employee. So, if someone filled out their application saying they had previously lived in the city of North Pole, graduated from North Pole High School, and had work experience working as an elf in Santa Claus' House...would you hire her? That cannot possibly be true! However, the truth is that Joyclin Jaksons grew up at North Pole, Alaska, and did graduate from North Pole High School. She also does have work experience having worked as an “elf” in Santa Claus' House, which is a souvenir shop. The shop does a lot of business during the summer. Joyclin went to college in Oklahoma, and did have some trouble finding a job, because of her unbelievable background. The good news is that someone did check out her story, found it to be true, and found an excellent employee. (Edmond Life and Leisure 05.07.15; Daily Oklahoman 05.23.15; Fairbanks Daily News 05.19.15)

It had to be shocking to hear the apostle Peter preaching that the one who had been crucified, the one whom they had shouted to have crucified, had come back to life! How could this possibly be true? But God, through the Holy Spirit, was speaking with that double edged sword of truth with every word Peter spoke that day. Three thousand were saved and brought into the Kingdom of God, because they were able to see that the unbelievable was actually true. That was just the beginning!

In Acts 3, we read that a man who had been born “lame” unable to walk all of his life, was healed through the power of God. How could that possibly be true? Peter says to the lame man begging for money, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk (Acts 3:6 NKJV).” The man then jumped up, running into the Temple; leaping, and praising God!

When the High Priest had the apostles thrown into prison, the angel of the Lord released them, and sent them back to testify to the “words of this life.” The High Priest then forbid them to preach, and Peter said, “We ought to obey God rather than men.” They plotted to kill the apostles then, but Gamaliel warned, “if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.”

Saul, who became the apostle Paul, persecuted the church until on the Road to Damascus, “As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me (Acts 9:3-4 NKJV)?’” Saul, came to understand that what could not possibly be true, was indeed true!

It may sound like the Gospel of Jesus Christ cannot possibly be true, but it is true! If you have been rejecting, and rejecting, and rejecting the truth of Jesus being the only way to salvation (John 14:6); Gamaliel would tell you not to be found fighting against God. Saul, who became the apostle Paul, would tell you not to wait for the blinding light of truth to bring you to a sudden stop in your life, because the Gospel is true, it is all true! Billions have believed the truth since the powerful sermon of truth preached by the apostle Peter nearly 2,000 years ago. It is still true! Believe it!

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.23.15

Behaving Wisely

And David behaved wisely (The Hebrew word is sakal) in all his ways, and the Lord was with him. Therefore, when Saul saw that he behaved very wisely, he was afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them. - 1 Samuel 18:14-16 NKJV.

18-year-old Austin Hatfield who lives in Hillsborough County, Florida, is in the hospital in serious condition; because…he kissed a snake! Oh, he not only kissed the snake on top of its head once, but 13 times, and that last time was when the Cottonmouth (aka Water Moccasin) bit Austin on his face. Reportedly, Austin had caught the snake while swimming and decided to keep it. Apparently he had also performed the snake kissing on a previous occasion. A friend, James Belcher, said they were at Austin’s home when this incidence occurred. Belcher says that, “We were sitting in the kitchen and he ran out of the room saying, ‘Hospital, hospital, now, now.’” (yahoo7news 04.23.15; WTVY 04.22.15)

In this life there are some things we know, without being told, that we should not do. Kissing a poisonous snake is one of them! However, is kissing a poisonous snake any worse than smoking a cigarette when you know it causes cancer and heart disease? Is kissing a poisonous snake any worse than drinking or doing drugs when you know the horrible toll they will take on your body? The difference only seems to be in the time frame. Kissing a poisonous snake results in immediate negative reinforcement whereas with smoking, drinking, or doing drugs the negative consequences may take years to have full effect. Austin Hatfield may possibly recover from his snake bite, but smoking, drinking and doing drugs will likely result in permanent damage.

King David behaved wisely (sakal) before the people and the Lord. In other words, David didn’t go around kissing snakes! David behaved wisely when confronted with the jealousy of Saul. Saul threw a spear at David intending to kill him. However, David did not throw the spear back, although he could have. David acted wisely by not overreacting and harming Saul, the Lord’s anointed.

The Hebrew word sakal carries the idea of prospering through wisdom and understanding. We see the word used in regard to David’s behavior. The word is also used 69 other times in the Old Testament including Joshua 1:8, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” The word “success” in Joshua 1:8 is the Hebrew word sakal. Someone who has “sakal” is a person who is teachable; and, able to learn and obey the Lord.

You too can have “sakal.” You can avoid kissing poisonous snakes and behave wisely following the example of David. Don’t overreact when there is opposition in your life. Do develop God honoring relationships with other believers as David did with Saul’s son, Jonathan. Do grow in wisdom by studying the Word of God. Then, you will behave wisely and have “good success.”

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.10.15

Trapping Yourself

A fool’s lips enter into contention, and his mouth calls for blows. A fool’s mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul. - Proverbs 18:6-7 NKJV.

By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life. Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse; he who guards his soul will be far from them. - Proverbs 22:4-5 NKJV.

And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. - 2 Timothy 2:24-26 NKJV.

…not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. - 1 Timothy 3:6 NKJV.

Everyone in Fairfield, Maine can now rest easy because the notorious police evader and social media poster, Christopher Wallace, has now been caught. The arrest was made thanks to his posting his exact location on Snapchat. Wallace was arrested on burglary charges stemming from theft of propane and wood stoves and violation of administrative release. The arrest of the man was made possible by the participation of many notifying the Sheriff’s Office of his social media posts.

When Christopher posted on Snapchat that he was at his home in Fairfield, Maine citizens notified the Sheriff’s Office; deputies and police officers then responded going to Wallace’s house and searching it for him. Law Enforcement was unable to locate Wallace, until…he posted on Snapchat that police were searching his house, and he was hiding in a cabinet. Many citizens then called the Sheriff’s Office again reporting where in the house the man was hiding. The Sheriff’s Office posted this on their facebook page after the arrest: “Over the past few weeks, since our press release looking for the public's assistance in locating him, Mr. Wallace had become cocky. Which led to his downfall.” (Huffington Post 03.24.15; Morning Sentinel, Waterville, Maine via AP 03.24.15)

On one of the trips we made in our country, I observed a couple of older High School boys say to another boy, “What are you doing acting like you are something?” I think it had to do with the way the boy was dressed, and he just ignored the other two boys. Apparently Christopher Wallace thought that he was, “something!” You could say that he was like the devil in that he was “puffed up with pride.”

Have you ever thought you were “something?” Pride is a dangerous thing which blinds us to reality. It blinds us to our need for God, and as with the devil, pride can cause us to believe that we are almost a god ourselves. Because of whatever has made us think we are “something” we tend to think of ourselves as better than others, and smarter than others. As we see with Christopher Wallace, this can cause us problems just as pride resulted in the devil being kicked out of Heaven.

Pride is an insidious thing, which is, as the Bible indicates a snare for our soul. Proverbs 22:5a says, “Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse.” “Perverse” in Strong’s Concordance means “distorted, false, crooked, froward.” The word “perverse” originates from Middle English meaning, “facing the wrong way.” Pride is the complete opposite of what God wants the attitude of His children to be, and with the devil, we can see the ultimate outcome of pride. Pride is literally “facing” away from God, and it is the sitting of a snare, a trap for our souls. We must as Proverbs 25b says, guard our souls against the snare of pride. The good news is as Proverbs 22:4 says, “By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches and honor and life.” If we will humble ourselves before God, we will avoid much evil in this life, and He will lift us up (James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6).

The Burning Bush Devotional

03.18.15

Made for More

Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. - Luke 12:23 NKJV.

I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. - John 10:10b NKJV.

For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. - Romans 5:17 NKJV.

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. - Romans 8:37 NKJV.

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! - Matthew 7:11 NKJV.

Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know. - Jeremiah 33:3 NKJV.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. - Matthew 7:7-8 NKJV.

Jamie Fox has a unique job description, he is a human scarecrow. Jamie is 22-years-old, with degrees in music and English, and he knows this scarecrow thing is just a temporary job before beginning a career in teaching. Although, he is making $400 a week working an eight hour shift to scare away partridges, which seem to love the canola in the ten acre field. The farmer told Jamie to “Bring a deckchair and a good book.” Jamie also plays his ukulele, but it doesn’t seem to bother the partridges any, they may even like it. He says “The only way to get rid of the them (the partridges) is to walk down the field and push them off.” Who knew partridges liked canola? Before hiring the human scarecrow, the partridges would eat all the leaves of the plants leaving them to die. (Huffington Post UK 07.10.12)

One thing Jamie knows, and that is that eventually he will pursue a more meaningful career than that of scarecrow. It may not have happened yet, but he knows the more meaningful career is coming at some point. Have you ever felt that way? You know that what you are doing is temporary and there is more ahead for you? Something more meaningful? Now, you may be trying to fulfill the spirit of Colossians 3:23 in your life and work “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men”; but still you sense God has more for you.

God did not and does not want us to plod through life as human scarecrows in a meaningless existence. There is more to real life than having food to eat and clothes for the body. Jesus came to give us life, real life, abundant life. As children of the One true God, we are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” We are meant to “reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.”

So, if we believe God has more for us in this life what do we do? Matthew 7:7-8 is still in the Bible, ask, seek, and knock. God wants to give good gifts to His children, the best gifts, but often we fail to ask (Matthew 7:11). God tells us what we should do in Jeremiah 33:3, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”

The Burning Bush Devotional

03.17.15

What Have You Learned?

Show me Your ways, O Lord; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day. - Psalm 25:4 NKJV.

Teach me Your way, O Lord, And lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies. - Psalm 27:11 NKJV.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. - Psalm 32:8 NKJV.

Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O Lord, And teach out of Your law. - Psalm 94:12 NKJV.

Teach me to do Your will, For You are my God; Your Spirit is good. Lead me in the land of uprightness. - Psalm 143:10 NKJV.

“God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. - 1 Peter 5:5c-7 NKJV.

Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. - Matthew 5:5 NKJV.

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. - James 4:10 NKJV.

Frano Selak claims to have faced death and survived more times than most. Frano worked as a music teacher in Croatia, and if Frano is still alive he would be 86-years-old now. Frano’s first brush with death occurred in 1962 when the train he was riding in came off the tracks crashing into a river. Selak was pulled to safety, but 17 passengers drowned. In 1963, on the only flight he has taken, a door came open and he was blown out. The plane crashed and 19 people were killed. Frano survived having landed on a haystack (There is no record of a plane crash in Croatia in 1963; however, records in that time period for that area were not perfect.). In 1966, Frano came close to death again when the bus he was riding in slid into a river. He was able to swim to shore, but four passengers drowned. In 1968, he was teaching his youngest son how to shoot a gun when he shot himself, and once again he survived. In 1970, his car caught on fire and he barely escaped before the gas tank exploded. In 1995, a bus hit him, but he only had minor injuries. In 1996, while driving on a mountain road, he swerved to miss a truck with his car which then crashed through a guard rail. Frano was thrown from the car, just before the car plunged 300 feet into a canyon.

Frano has encountered and escaped some bad things in his life, even if only half of his stories are true. One thing we know for sure is that in 2003 Frano won $1,110,000 in a lottery. We also know that Frano has learned some things through his experiences in life. For a while he lived in a mansion, but came to the conclusion that as he puts it, “money cannot buy happiness.” Frano sold the mansion, and gave away most of his money to family, friends, and church. He then moved back to where he used to live in a much smaller and humbler home. (The Telegraph; BBC; Wikipedia 05.14.10 and various other news venues)

Proverbs 9:9 tells us, “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.” It took Frano Selak a substantial part of his life to become a wise man. He has been married five times, but is now very happy with wife number five. He has experienced what it is like to be rich, but now is much happier since giving his riches away. The Psalmist says, “Blessed is the man whom You instruct.” No doubt God was busy in Frano’s life trying to gain his attention and to teach him. It appears that Frano has finally listened gaining much peace of mind and heart in the process.

How do we arrive at a point where God can teach us, and we can be wise enough to put His instruction to work in our lives? The key appears to be having or gaining humility. I believe in my own life facing adverse circumstances increased my humility and dependence upon God. Almost losing my wife, multiple car accidents, losing jobs, losing a business, and struggling financially decreased my pride and increased my humility. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says in the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the meek.” This word “meek” is sometimes translated in other versions of the Bible as “humble.” Peter and James both tell us to humble ourselves. Peter says to humble ourselves “under the mighty hand of God” and James says to humble ourselves “in the sight of the Lord.” If we do humble ourselves before God we will be wise (Proverbs 9:9), we will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5), God will lift us up (James 4:10), and God will exalt us (1 Peter 5:6).

The Burning Bush Devotional

03.06.15

For a Limited Time Only

And Jesus answered and spoke to them again by parables and said: “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding; and they were not willing to come. Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited, “See, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fatted cattle are killed, and all things are ready. Come to the wedding.”’ But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. And the rest seized his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. But when the king heard about it, he was furious. And he sent out his armies, destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city. Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding.’ So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.” - Matthew 22:1-10 NKJV. (Read the rest of the parable Matthew 22:11-14)

But as many as received Him (Jesus), to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. - John 1:12 NKJV.

James Patterson has a new book that could revolutionize reading and learning. Patterson has developed a book for purchase on a one time basis for only $294,038. Who would ever buy such a book especially when learning that the book explodes, self-destructs in 24-hours? The book does come with some perks though including a countdown clock, binoculars plated in 14 karat gold, and air travel to an undisclosed luxury hotel for a two nights stay. The book owner will also receive a five course dinner with the author. Why has the author created a book that may need a bomb squad present at the end of the 24-hours? Patterson’s ad agency spokesperson, Susan Holden says, “He likes to market. He’s an ex ad guy. He believes in advertising and he believes that’s a significant reason why his books have been so successful.” (Wired 01.26.15 and various other news venues)

Can you imagine how self-destructing books could be teaching tools? Read the homework chapters assigned completing the questions in the allotted time or your book explodes in your face…maybe with some red dye or something…. I probably would have turned in my homework on time with that kind of incentive! Of course, there would have been quite a few of us walking around the school hallways with red faces for a week or two.

What if God were to send you a personal message so important that it has a time limit and is priceless? If the message from God is not read with in the allotted time it will no longer be available for you to access? In a way this is what God has done.

God has sent you a personal message called the Bible. It is available for most people to read whether through print, digital, or online. It does, however, have an expiration date. You only will be able to read this book while you are physically alive. There is, thankfully, an exception for some people.

Those who do read and receive the message (John 1:12), and those who may not actually read it; but are told about the message, and receive it, will receive some special perks. What are those special perks? You will live in the House of the Lord (the author of the book) forever continuing to hear God‘s Words! While you are there you will participate in the “marriage supper of the lamb (Revelation 19:9)” and you will be clothed in a special wedding garment, the “Robe of Righteousness (Isaiah 61:10).” Also, since you have received that special message from God, He has adopted you into His family, the royal family of the King of kings, and the Lord of lords!

The Burning Bush Devotional

02.23.15

The Challenge of the Call

And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him. - Matthew 4:18-20 NKJV.

Hu Huiyuan is a 21-year-old woman who lives in the Anhui Province in China. Hu is writing a novel, and has written six chapters of it, approximately 60,000 words. Many people, perhaps millions, write novels. However, how many of them write their novels by typing with a toe on their left foot? She has cerebral palsy; the only parts of her body not paralyzed are her head and left foot. Hu’s mother has been a dedicated teacher providing her with an education; in addition to helping her learn how to perform physical tasks most of us take for granted. Hu’s mother says, “When I was teaching her how to speak, I had to be very patient as every single word might take a thousand times of repeating.” Hu says about her education, “I’m not a genius, but I’m very focused. When I watched TV in my childhood, I often learned words with subtitles.” It is surprising that Hu is now able to type on her keyboard, while strapped in a wheelchair, 20 to 30 words a minute! (Shanghaiist 01.26.15)

Life will always provide us with challenges, we may not have to try to write a book typing with our toe, but it may seem like it at times. Every person who comes to know Jesus as their personal Savior is called to a challenging life of service. We are told this in Luke 9:23, “Then He (Jesus) said to them all, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.’” The indication here from Luke 9:23, is that the call is not a call to a life of ease, but to a life of sacrifice. The phrase “take up his cross daily” makes this clear, because we know what a cross meant in the first century. The cross in the first century was a horrific instrument of execution, which the condemned would often be required to carry on their backs to the place of their death. The amazing thing to consider is why would anyone follow Jesus, especially in the first century, when He was calling them to a life of cross carrying?

Even the apostle Paul faced great challenges as he lived out the call God had placed upon his life. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 7:5, “…when we came to Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears.” But Paul also says, “I am filled with comfort. I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation (2 Corinthians 7:4).” Then Paul says, “Nevertheless God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming, but also by the consolation with which he was comforted in you, when he told us of your earnest desire, your mourning, your zeal for me, so that I rejoiced even more (2 Corinthians 6:5-7).”

Whatever challenges you face in life, whatever God has called you to do, the God “who comforts the downcast” has what you need. You may think you simply cannot take another step physically or mentally, but then God makes His presence known. It may be that God shows up through the words of a book, a devotional, or as the apostle Paul experienced through the coming of a trusted friend who encourages you. Cross carrying has never been easy, but it has always been possible as we look to the One who called us to help us take one more step, or even to type one more letter. May God show up in some way today in your life to encourage, to strengthen, to empower, and to comfort you.

The Burning Bush Devotional

02.17.15

How to Find God’s Plan

Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon. “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. - Isaiah 55:6-9 NKJV.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. - Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV.

Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite. - Psalm 147:5 NKJV.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. - Proverbs 3:5 NKJV.

Ashley McIntyre and Danny Robinson are soon to be married. They began dating in May, and Danny asked Ashley to marry him on Christmas day 2014. Their romance began in a completely unexpected way. Ashley happened to overhear her mother talking with someone about a 25-year-old man who lived in their city, Louisville, Kentucky. The discussion Ashley overheard was about this man’s need of a kidney since his kidneys had stopped functioning. The man’s story seemed tragic as his father had recently died, and not only that, his house had also burned. Ashley felt a compulsion to do something about this and called to volunteer as a donor. Of course, what are the odds of being a donor match for a perfect stranger? She had all the tests performed to determine whether she could be a donor and it was found that she was a perfect match. The surgery was performed in April, and afterwards they stayed in contact texting and calling until they began dating. Ashley says, “As soon as we started dating, not long after that, was when we realized this was it. I never in a million years imagined this would happen, it was a whirlwind. It's crazy how it all worked. It was all planned out by God.” (Orange News 02.13.15)

I have often pondered Philippians 4:7 where we are told, “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (NKJV).” The old KJV puts this as, “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Having experienced that peace which surpasses, passeth “all understanding” many times, I am always amazed at how God does that.

God is God because He is beyond our understanding; He has abilities beyond what we can comprehend. We see examples of this in creation. There are besides human beings, creatures roaming this earth that are very intelligent: cats, dogs, apes, dolphins and more. However, the abilities that we have intellectually are beyond those creatures abilities to understand.

God’s plans have often perplexed humans, and we see examples of this in the Bible. Think of Noah building a huge ark on dry ground. Think of God’s plan for the defeat of the great walled city of Jericho. Think of Gideon and God’s method of choosing a far smaller number of warriors to defeat the enemy. Instead of thousands of men, God only thought Gideon needed a few hundred, and God was right!

God does have thoughts toward you, and those thoughts are “of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” God does have a plan for your life and the key to finding that plan is as the writer of Proverbs says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” Noah, Joshua, and Gideon all had to “lean not” on their “own understanding” and with eyes of faith put their complete trust in the Lord. And, that my friends, is how you find God’s plan for your life.

The Burning Bush Devotional

02.04.15

Keep Calm

Truly my soul silently waits for God; from Him comes my salvation. He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be greatly moved. - Psalm 62:2 NKJV.

Then He (Jesus) arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. - Mark 4:39 NKJV.

In Orland Park a suburb of Chicago, a man only identified as Steve, was walking along peacefully when his next step sent him suddenly falling down 20 feet into a storm sewer. One of his legs was broken with other “trauma” to the lower part of his body. He was trapped and couldn’t move. Steve did have his cell phone and was able to connect to 911 asking for help. It took about 15 minutes to locate the area where Steve had fallen, and then by his shouting, the exact hole was found. It took 70 minutes to extricate the man from the storm sewer hole. From 911 tapes that were released, we know that Steve remained calm throughout his ordeal of almost two hours. Steve said from the hospital, “While I'm in a great deal of pain, I am thankful to be alive and grateful to the fine men and women who rescued me and are treating me here in the hospital.” To whom was Steve thankful? I believe he was thankful to God for his being able to survive his horrific ordeal. (Yahoo News; Fox News; 5NBC Chicago 12.31.14)

Within the last two years the “Keep Calm” phenomenon has arisen with all kinds of admonitions to “Keep Calm.” Here are a few of them: keep calm and carry on, keep calm and ignore the haters, keep calm and stay positive, keep calm and relax, keep calm and never give up, keep calm and have fun, keep calm and stay strong, keep calm and be cool, keep calm and eat a banana, keep calm and dream on, keep calm and google it, keep calm and ride on, keep calm and be yourself, keep calm and hug a husky, keep calm and rock on, keep calm and smile, keep calm and go shopping, and keep calm and love yourself. There appear to be countless other variations of the admonition to keep calm.

According to Wikipedia, “Keep Calm and Carry On” was a motivational poster produced by the British government in preparation for the Second World War. Some 2.45 million of the posters were produced, although it was rarely displayed and mostly forgotten until a copy was found in 2000. The current fad of the “Keep Calm” phenomenon may have been spurred on by the discovery of 20 copies of the original poster, which were featured on Antiques Roadshow in 2012.

I think we can all agree that to keep calm in trying circumstances is usually a good thing to do. But how do you do that? The Psalmist was able to “silently wait” and to not be “greatly moved.” The Psalmist was able to do that by his fully trusting in God saying, “He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense.” To keep calm in difficult circumstances is possible, and there is a way to do that as the prophet Isaiah says about his God, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You (Isaiah 26:3).”

Whether you suddenly fall into a sewer drain hole and break a leg, or you are called into the head office and told your employment has been terminated, it is helpful to know how to keep calm. The first thing to remember is that God is not surprised by this sudden catastrophe in your life. He most likely did not cause it, but He knew it was going to happen. The second thing to remember is that the God who can say “Peace be still!” to the waves stilling them can calm the sudden storm in your life whatever it may be. The third thing to remember is to ask God to help you. Matthew 7:7-8 is still in the Bible, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” Don’t forget to “ask” for help from the One who is able to help you! And, keep calm….

The Burning Bush Devotional

01.15.15

The Wall of Truth

Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” - Acts 9:1-6 NKJV.

One night this week, I got out of bed in the dark to walk to the bathroom. I seemed to have enough light to see where I was going, although I usually take a flashlight. However, I apparently fell asleep while walking, but I woke up when my head slammed into a wall! While I was sleep walking, I thought I could see where I was going and I believed I was on the right path. It was a sudden shock to realize how wrong my perception of reality was.

Saul was likely in charge of the execution of the godly Stephen (Acts 7:58-60). You could say that Saul was a religious fanatic determined to eradicate those of “the Way” who believed Jesus was God’s Messiah. There was absolutely no doubt in Saul’s mind that he was doing the will of God by killing those errant people who had gone off the rails blaspheming the One true God. However, Saul was completely absolutely wrong, and he ran into a wall of truth because Jesus is “…the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6).” Jesus says in John 8:32, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Saul slammed into the wall of Truth and the Truth blinded Saul making him fall to the ground. Then, the Truth set Saul free when Saul finally understood that Jesus was God.

In the world today, we have seen the rise of the Islamic religious fanatics who are absolutely completely convinced that they are on the right road with their lives. These religious fanatics are similar to Saul, in that they believe wrongly that it is their religious duty to wipe off the face of the earth all those who do not believe as they do. I pray that they will run into the same wall of Truth as did Saul before it is everlastingly too late for them.

Sadly, it is not just religious fanatics that are walking down the wrong roads, the wrong paths, with their lives. Many today appear to be blissfully unaware of the reality of their need for Jesus. These blissfully unaware people are rushing full speed ahead toward a wall of Truth where they will slam into eternity facing judgment by the One true God. “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).” “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3:17-18).” What do you do if you are not sure if you are on the right road with your life? The Psalmist says this: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).”

The Burning Bush Devotional

12.19.14

Boiling the Ocean

…I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. - Matthew 17:20 NKJV.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. - John 3:16 NKJV.

While I was waiting for a haircut today, I read some magazines, and learned a new phrase or saying that I had not heard before: “Boiling the Ocean.” The Urban Dictionary defines “boiling the ocean” as: “To attempt something that is way too ambitious, effectively impossible. An idea too broad in scope to accomplish.” They also had this to say about usage of the phrase: “Jargon often used by self-important corporate middle managers prone to bloating their speech with meaningless and unnecessary buzz-words.” An example of someone using this phrase according to the Urban Dictionary is, “Herb, buddy, you're really ‘boiling the ocean’ on this one. We can't manufacture and nationally distribute fifteen-thousand widgets in ten minutes.”

In these days of the 21st Century, more and more things appear to me to be like trying to “boil the ocean.” If I had known that phrase this morning when I was attempting to move an old sleeper sofa out of the house, I would have said that would be like trying to “boil the ocean.” Jeanie has wanted to do this for two years, and today was the day she wanted to “boil the ocean.” Really, things do appear far more difficult than they did a few years ago having so many technological advances in such a short period of time. Synching your phone with your car…I’m not sure I can do that. My new phone should be synched now, but it still doesn’t work right. Some houses are so technologically advanced that you probably have to synch your phone with your house. For me that would be like trying to “boil the ocean!”

Even though things may appear difficult, with God it may be as easy as telling a mountain to move from here to there (Matthew 17:20). If you look back through the pages of the Bible, you will find that there was a lot of ocean boiling going on. Noah built the ark to save mankind and every animal species. Abraham left his home only knowing God wanted him to leave, not knowing where he was going. Moses and the Israelites walked across the Red Sea on dry ground, while the Egyptians were pursuing them. Water coming out of rocks, and the walls of Jericho falling down after the people walked around it several times and they all shouted. Caleb conquered a mountain full of giants when he was 80-years-old. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego made it through the fiery furnace, and Daniel survived a night sleeping with the lions in their den. David killed Goliath, the giant, with a slingshot. Peter walked on water and Paul survived being stoned almost to death, being drug outside of Lystra and left for dead; but he rose again after they had a prayer meeting and went back into the city (Acts 14:19-20).

The greatest of all ocean boiling moments occurred when God in His audacity came down from the glories of Heaven to be born as a tiny baby into a lowly carpenter’s family. What ocean boiling that was, to think that a tiny baby could become the Savior of all who would seek Him. But that’s what God did because “God so loved the world….” So the next time someone tells you that you need to stop trying to boil the ocean, tell them that sometimes even greater things happen. And that is what Christmas is all about; a Savior was born because our courageous God loved you and me. Let us follow His example, attempt those great things for God, because sometimes mountains do move.

The Burning Bush Devotional

12.18.14

Christmas Gift Ideas

So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. - Luke 2:6-7 NKJV.

…wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” - Matthew 2:1b-2 NKJV.

…behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. …they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. - Matthew 2:9; 11 NKJV.

Heavy dot com has a list of unusual Christmas gifts for Christmas 2014. Here are some of them: An extendable selfie stick with Bluetooth remote, $25.99. Place your cell at the end of the stick and extend it out to 40 inches. You too can take the perfect selfie! Then there are the Zombie Cajun Hot Sauce Sampler, Pressed Flower iPhone6 Case, and the Japanese Candy and Snack Pack.

The DoDoBurd has a list of 100 of the most unique Christmas gifts for 2014. Here are some of them: A 60-hour candle for $30, Live Video Camera Drone $1300, Sunrise Simulator Alarm Clock $139.99, Staple-less Stapler $16, 3D Printing Pen $100, Authentic Pac-Man Arcade Game $3500, Automatic Cordless Tire Inflator $90 (I’d like to have one of those…), Automatic Home Canning System $299.95, Polaroid Camera $180 (Photos come out the side now.), 3 Wheel Folding Electric Scooter $1800, and the Giant Piano Mat $90.

What do you give to the man, or in the case of the Magi, the babe (Or, toddler depending on when the Magi actually visited.) who really does have everything because He made everything? John 1:3, “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” The Magi brought three gifts, and we can understand the gift of “gold.” The family of the King of kings might need some gold to take proper care of Him. Then there is the “frankincense.” What kind of a store do you go to when you want to buy frankincense? Wikipedia gives this information about it: “Frankincense was one of the consecrated incenses (HaKetoret) described in the Hebrew Bible.” Frankincense in modern usage is believed to have many health benefits. “Myrrh” has many medicinal uses even today as well, but it was also used in embalming. While there were likely practical uses for these gifts there was the symbolism representing the true identity of Jesus. Gold was for His being the King of kings (1 Timothy 6:15). Frankincense was for His being our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14), and Myrrh pointed toward His death once for all on the cross (Romans 6:9-10).

We know what the presents were that the Magi or wise men gave to Jesus. But what can we possibly give to God Himself who made everything and owns everything? If you think of the night Jesus was born fully man and fully God upon this earth there was something that He needed. That something He needed was a place to be born, because there was no room in the Inn. Jesus is seeking a place to dwell in your life, to make your body His Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16; Revelation 3:20). This Christmas, give Jesus a room in your Inn, give Him your heart.

The Burning Bush Devotional

12.17.14

Don’t Burn the Goat!

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” - Luke 2:8-14 NKJV.

Since 1966 in Gävle, Sweden, a huge straw Christmas goat 42½ feet tall (13 meters) weighing 3.6 tons has been erected in the town square every December. The Yule Goat is one of Scandinavia and Northern Europe’s oldest traditions. Sadly, vandals have burned down the straw goat at least 24 times before Christmas during the years since 1966. In 1977, the goat only lasted six hours before burning to the ground. In 2012, the goat only made it to December 12th when it was burned down. Last year, the goat was treated with a flame retardant and it was thought that it would solve the problem; however, it was still burned down again.

There is a live cam which I looked at this morning of the Christmas Goat and it is a pretty sight that is apparently still standing so far this year. It is reported that the Goat has Twitter and Instagram accounts and provides updates about itself in Swedish and English. To deter future goat arsonists let‘s be clear, it is against the law to burn the goat, and at least one American has been arrested for setting fire to it. (Yahoo News; Huffington Post; The Report; Wikipedia; and numerous other news venues)

Making it to and through Christmas without burning down the goat can be challenging for most of us. Putting up the Christmas tree and decorations can be challenging. How many have been injured falling off of a ladder or slipping down the roof? Shopping for those Christmas gifts can sometimes be more like a full contact sport fighting the crowds and rushing from store to store. There is the yearly ritual of sending out the Christmas cards. In addition, the Christmas season usually has the most events that families must attend. Schools always have Christmas programs as do churches that families must attend. It is also a time of many sporting events which children are involved in along with band events, choir events, and on and on. Then there is the scheduling of Christmas gatherings with all the families, driving there, or flying there, just getting there. The cooking, the eating, and did I mention the credit card bills?

The Christmas season can be so frustrating that it can make the most kind and peaceful person want to burn down the goat. Let us remember the reason for Christmas is not the giving and receiving of presents. The reason for Christmas is not the gathering of families and fellowship with friends. The reason for Christmas is not even the helping of the unfortunate. What is the reason for the Christmas season? The short answer is, JESUS! The reason for the “good tidings of great joy which will be to all people” is as the angel of the Lord said to the shepherds, “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” So, whenever we become so frustrated that we could burn down the Christmas goat, let us remember what the real reason for the season is, and that reason is JESUS. Instead of frustration, place Jesus in the center of your heart and of your Christmas celebration; and He will give you, “great joy.”

The Burning Bush Devotional

12.11.14

Turning Green

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. - James 3:13-16 NKJV.

Also, if a garment has a leprous plague in it, whether it is a woolen garment or a linen garment, whether it is in the warp or woof of linen or wool, whether in leather or in anything made of leather, and if the plague is greenish or reddish in the garment or in the leather, whether in the warp or in the woof, or in anything made of leather, it is a leprous plague and shall be shown to the priest. - Leviticus 13:47-49 NKJV.

And he shall examine the plague; and indeed if the plague is on the walls of the house with ingrained streaks, greenish or reddish, which appear to be deep in the wall, then the priest shall go out of the house, to the door of the house, and shut up the house seven days. - Leviticus 14:37-38 NKJV.

There is a new tourist attraction in Varna, Bulgaria which is a seaside resort. The new attraction has nothing to do with fun in the sun on the sea. Instead, the new attraction is all about a cat, which is apparently friendly because it purrs. What makes this cat so special? The cat has turned green! Emerald green! It was thought at first that a cat hater or a group of cat haters had dyed the cat’s fur. There was even a facebook page set up seeking the perpetrators of this hateful action. Now it is known that the cat’s fur has become greener over time discounting the possibility of someone actually dying the animal. I’m wondering now how long it will be until the people of Varna begin to turn green too? That ought to be a real tourist attraction! (The Independent 12.08.14)

Green, as a color, has a better reputation in these days than it has had in past days. The “Hanging of the Green” is a frequently attended service at many churches in the United States at the beginning of the Christmas Season. I have been present at a few of those services and it can be very beautiful and meaningful. One church on their website actually says it is their most meaningful service of the year.

It was not long ago when the phrase “turning green with envy” was heard often. Why has there been a reduction in its use? “Green with envy” shows up in a Google search 790,000 times. The Urban Dictionary defines “green with envy” as: “Wishing very much that you had what someone else has. A longing to possess something awarded to or achieved by another.” But where did the phrase originate? I believe it came about because envy is a sin. In the Old Testament, there would often be a physical manifestation of sin called, leprosy (Having leprosy in these times does not mean that the person has sinned.). Leprosy, in the Old Testament was a vivid picture of the damage sin causes to a person and even to the possessions of a person. There was not only the leprosy of people, but also of clothing and of houses. Clothing with leprosy, and even houses with leprosy would sometimes turn, GREEN.

The Christmas Season, in some ways is also the envy season. When we see others who are able to give so much more to their families than we are, we envy. When we see others with homes more brightly decorated than ours, we envy. When we hear others tell about everything they are giving or have received in the way of Christmas presents, we envy. If our clothing or our houses could still turn green with leprosy, how many of us would be living in green houses wearing green clothes? Perhaps those of us who have so much, should be careful about how we show off what we have and what we give. Maybe it would make the Christmas Season, a little less GREEN, and a little less painful for those who do not have quite so much.

The Burning Bush Devotional

12.10.14

Courage Through Faith

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. - Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV.

Manon Ossevoort has finally made it to the South Pole, and it only took nine years! Manon used a Massey Ferguson MF 5610 tractor to drive there. I’m wondering when John Deere will step up to the plate here? Because it looks like Massey Ferguson may have the best tractor? Manon is now 38-years-old and a mother of a young daughter. The adventure began in 2005 from her hometown in the Netherlands. She drove the tractor 23,612 miles (38,000 km) from Europe to Cape Town in South Africa, but missed the ship because of delays that would have taken her to Antarctica. Manon then had to wait four years before making the final 1,553 mile (2,500 km) part of the journey across the Antarctica land mass.

Manon’s expedition was named Antarctica2 honoring Sir Edmund Hillary, who made the journey in 1958 on a tractor which had tracks. Manon’s Massey Ferguson has inflated tires. The Antarctic part of the journey was the most difficult traveling 23 hours and sometimes more every day. The seven member team faced -56C temperatures, crevasse fields, solid ice-waves, and altitude sickness. Manon said this after arriving at the South Pole, “Wow! I've made it! To have dreams is beautiful but to see them realized is the most extraordinary feeling. I'm inspired.” She says this about this amazing feat, “Fear holds people back from pursuing their dreams, and many believe that putting them into reality is as impossible as driving a tractor to the South Pole. The tractor for me symbolizes this very down to earth fact that if you want to do something, maybe you will not be so fast but if you keep going and keep your sense of humor you will get there.” Manon is also an actress, which makes me wonder if maybe John Deere can have an actress like Angelina Jolie make a trip down south too? (Orange News 12.10.14; Daily Mail 12.10.14)

What is it that Jesus told Mary? “For with God nothing will be impossible (Luke 1:37 NKJV).” It was a tremendous statement of courage that Mary responded with her statement of faith, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word (Luke 1:38 NKJV).” God called Mary to put aside her fears. Just as Manon said, fear does hold back many from pursuing their dreams. God called Mary, and I believe God calls every child of God to put away the fear, and to face life with courage.

When you respond to the call of God, it is not necessarily an easy life that He will lead you through, and it will require endurance as you run the race of life. The call of God for most will be in some ways as challenging and difficult as driving a tractor to the South Pole. We have a choice in life. We can choose to allow the emotion of fear to rule us, or we can choose to act in courage. Fear is an emotion, but courage is an action. We can decide as Mary did to act with courage even though we may be “troubled (Luke 1:29)” by what we are facing.

How can we have the courage to act when the fear of the known and of the unknown is so powerful; even overwhelming at times? We can have courage by having faith. How do we have faith? “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).” Mary responded courageously because of the faith that was instilled in her upon hearing the Word of God spoken by the angel, “For with God nothing will be impossible.” You can have that same faith, because our God has not changed. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8 NKJV.”

The Burning Bush Devotional

11.20.14

Doing Good

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. - Galatians 6:9 NKJV.

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. - Acts 10:38 NKJV.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. - Ephesians 2:8-10 NKJV.

Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” - Matthew 9:36-37 NKJV.

Lucas Patchett and Nicholas Marchesi who live in Australia have created a mobile laundry service for the homeless. They have installed an industrial washer in dryer in the back of their van. (Yahoo News 11.10.14) A millionaire from Korea living in Bahrain wakes up before dawn every morning to…clean the streets. He says he has been doing this for 11 years because there is a lot of garbage and it makes people sick. (Elite Daily 11.06.14) Mark Bustos a hair stylist in New York uses his Sunday day off to give haircuts and shaves to the homeless. In eastern Zhejiang Province of China passers-by banded together to lift a car off of a woman trapped in an accident. Give, the United States and Myanmar have a 64% generosity rating, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia also are generous in their giving (Yahoo News 11.18.14).

Searching for stories about people doing good things, I quickly realized there are far more stories about people doing bad things than good things. This points to the need for us Christians to be more proactive in following the example of our Lord by going about doing good in every way that we can. I like the motto of Charles Wesley and think that it should be the motto of every child of God: “Do all the good you can: By all the means you can; In all the ways you can; In all the places you can; At all the times you can; To all the people you can; As long as ever you can.”

Sadly, before many of us can do good to others we need to stop doing bad to others. Jabez recognized this problem and we are told this in 1 Chronicles 4:10 NKJV, “And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!’ So God granted him what he requested.” If you have been causing more pain than good in the lives of others, pray the prayer of Jabez every day and it will change your life. If you want to increase the amount of good that you are doing in the lives of others, pray the prayer of Jabez every day and God will enlarge your territory empowering you to do more good.

Doing good things will not save your soul as Ephesians 2:8-10 makes clear; however, we become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:10) in Jesus to follow His example of doing good. What is the greatest good that you can do in another person’s life? Share Jesus with them! There is nothing wrong with the harvest, just a lack of workers.

The Burning Bush Devotional

11.11.14

Finding Inner Peace

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. - Isaiah 9:6 NKJV.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. - John 1:14 NKJV.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses (passeth - KJV) all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV.

Leanne aka Shyanne is a 40-year-old website designer living in Australia. Leanne has a completely unique way of finding inner peace, she becomes a pony! She dresses up as a pony even with a bit in her mouth and a saddle on her back! Her method of finding peace is not cheap and the pony outfit costs at least $8,000. Leanne is not worried about what others think as she experiences freedom acting like a horse and a sense of peace. She says, “For me, it’s spiritual, it’s a different realm. You’re not worried about bills, you’re not worried about going to work.” (Mail Online 09.26.14, 10.09.14; Dmax 09.30.14; wearechampionmag.com 10.06.14; and various other news venues)

How do you find inner peace? Many people seek an inner peace and serenity through spending hours in the practice of yoga. Michael Grab seeks that inner peace through balancing rocks. Damian Aspinall says that he finds peace by raising gorillas. In South Korea some people are checking into a prison to reduce stress and find peace. It is a privately owned facility with a prison theme. Dan Price has been living in a tiny underground hole in Oregon for twenty something years to reduce stress and find peace. A social club in Tokyo says that they reduce stress and find peace by cleaning public toilets together on the weekends. Jodi Rose says that she has found peace by marrying a 600-year-old bridge. Luo Dan says he has found inner peace by wearing a deer head mask which releases his inner deer. One thing is clearly seen here and that is that people are stressed, anxious, and are seeking relief in whatever possible way they can to find peace in their lives.

This morning I awakened from an unpleasant dream about our shed being damaged by the wind. There has been an artic front blowing into our state with winds in the 40 to 50 mph range. Hearing those winds while I was asleep may have triggered the anxiety I felt early this morning. After praying briefly, I began to read the Bible in the Psalms, and in only a few brief minutes my anxiety was gone, and I was blessed with the peaceful presence of my Lord. You see, there is a much easier more effective, and surefire way to reduce stress and obtain inner peace.

It is not the Christmas season yet, but Isaiah 9:6 reveals several truths that we need year around. One of those truths we need to remember and hold onto when we are stressed, anxious, and about to lose it, is that Jesus is the “Prince of Peace.” In Philippians, we are promised “the peace of God, which surpasses (passeth - KJV) all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” when we bring our anxieties to our God in prayer. In John 1:14, we see that Jesus is the Word of God become flesh. When we pray, when we read God’s Word, the Prince of Peace shows up and anxiety is defeated by His increased presence.

Throw off the pony outfit, the deer mask, and leave the prison behind, because the Prince of Peace can give you real peace anywhere, and every day of your life in just a few moments of time.

The Burning Bush Devotional

11.10.14

Fish or Cut Bait

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. - Matthew 7:13 NKJV.

And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. - Joshua 24:15 NKJV.

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. - Acts 1:8 NKJV.

Fish or cut bait is an old colloquial expression dating from at least the mid-1800s in the United States; although, even then the meaning was not entirely understood by some. What does it mean? Yesterday, as I was talking about this at our church we found that all of us had heard the term used by our parents when we were growing up, and there were two apparent uses. One use of the term was to decide whether to continue fishing or cut the fishing line with the bait and go home. The other apparent use would be to decide between whether to continue cutting up bait to use in fishing or to begin to actually start fishing. So, it appears that the term is used in relation to decision making. I liked the definition I found in Wiktionary, “To make a decision, especially after a period of delay; to either take action now or forgo the opportunity.” Wiktionary gives the following as a use of the term, “It's time to fish or cut bait: either we buy this house now, or we must start looking for another one.”

Why am I writing about this term, fish or cut bait? Because, I believe that God has been bringing it to my attention over the last couple of weeks. Am I really giving my all in service to my Lord? If not, God is calling me to a time of decision and commitment.

Jesus warns of the “broad” way as compared to the “narrow gate” in Matthew 7:13. This is a fish or cut bait kind of decision. Will a person enter the “narrow gate” through receiving Jesus as their Savior or will they instead continue down the “broad” way that leads to destruction? Joshua called the Israelites to a fish or cut bait kind of decision, would they worship false gods or follow the one true God? Joshua made his decision, and commitment very clear, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

The disciples had followed Jesus for three years and then they fled for their lives when Jesus was arrested and crucified. When the resurrected Christ Jesus appears to His disciples He once again calls them to a fish or cut bait kind of moment. In Acts 1:4, “And being assembled together with them, He (Jesus) commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you have heard from Me.’” The disciples confronted with the truth of the resurrection are obedient as they wait in the upper room for power from on high to come upon them (Acts 1:8).

God is continuously calling us daily (Luke 9:23) to either fish or cut bait. Our part is to make the decision to follow, to make the commitment. God’s part is that He does not throw us to the sharks, but provides us with the empowerment (Acts 1:8) as we see demonstrated with Peter becoming the awesome preacher of Pentecost. God is still calling, will we fish or cut bait today?

The Burning Bush Devotional

10.29.14

The Last Straw

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. - 2 Peter 1:2-8 NKJV.

The Free Dictionary defines “The Last Straw” as “The last of a series of annoyances or disappointments that leads one to a final loss of patience, temper, trust, or hope.” The dictionary says the saying comes from an old proverb, “It's the last straw that breaks the camel's back.” It appears that quite a few people have experienced that “Last Straw” considering some of these headlines:

Great Grandmothers Fist Fight in Hospital Maternity Ward

Golfer Attacks Partner with Putter after Dispute over Marking Ball

Man Arrested After Stabbing Watermelon

Man Jailed After Fight Over Church Pew

Irate Man Walking on Boardwalk with Chainsaw Yelling at People

Math Teacher Faces Termination for Cussing out Students

High School Principal Charged with Trying to Burn Down School

TSA Officer Arrested, Accused of Making Terrorist Threat

Seattle Man goes Nuts Destroying Several Homes with Bulldozer

Bus Driver Accused of Choking Student

Those headlines were found on Drudge Report and there were many others far worse than these of people who experienced that Last Straw.

Have you ever lost it? Have you been down to the proverbial Last Straw and someone piled more onto your back? Many of us have been, and most of us are not proud of our actions when it occurred. Once when I lost it, I attacked a cousin, had him on the ground choking him, threatening verbally to kill him. It happened at school during recess when I was in the fourth grade. No, I did not kill him or even really hurt him, but I am still ashamed of the way I acted.

As Christians, we do not want to ever come to the point in our lives when there is a Last Straw that breaks our back resulting in our acting in an inappropriate manner. To assure that we never arrive at our Last Straw back breaking point we must tap into the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). Through being “partakers of the divine nature” we can “…add to (your) faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love (2 Peter 1:5-7 NKJV).”

If we are to be “partakers of the divine nature” as the apostle Peter says, we must do what? We must have contact with the divine, with God. If you never pray, never read the Bible, never assemble with other believers, never even think about God…don’t be surprised if that proverbial Last Straw that breaks the camel’s back, breaks yours!

The Burning Bush Devotional

10.13.14

Inadequate

For with God nothing will be impossible. - Luke 1:37 NKJV.

Contemplating my life, I have decided that it does not matter what task I have done during my lifetime, I have always been inadequate. Let me list how pitifully inadequate I have been. I was inadequate when I was working as an auto parts salesman, so much so that the owner of the business sent me to a Dale Carnegie course to try to help me. Maybe it did, I’m not sure. In the oilfield, as operator of pipe inspection units supervising the crews, I was inadequate. There were always others better; more qualified than me, but the job still had to be done. As a parole officer, I was inadequate to make decisions that would alter the lives of those I supervised. I was inadequate to make the recommendations in pre-sentence investigations that judges would usually follow. But I still had to make those decisions that affected those lives. As a pastor, there are so many others that have been much better pastors of their churches. As a pastor, I have been inadequate and as a preacher I have been inadequate, and as a writer I have been what? Inadequate. Let’s see what else have I been inadequate at? I have been an inadequate father, grandfather, husband, and worst of all, an inadequate Christian.

Have you ever felt like you were inadequate? Most likely all of the saints of God who have gone before us have felt like they were inadequate at times, although there may be some exceptions. Moses had some excuses for not being the one to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt including this one: “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue (Exodus 4:10).” Gideon had a great excuse basically saying that he was the weakest and least qualified in the entire country for the job that God had for him. When God called Gideon here was his excuse: “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house (Judges 6:15).” When God called Isaiah to be His prophet, Isaiah voiced his inadequacy by saying, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts (Isaiah 6:5).” Jeremiah had his own excuse of inadequacy saying, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth (Isaiah 1:6).”

Moses, Gideon, Isaiah and Jeremiah all believed that they were inadequate for doing what God was calling them to do. What did God do with his inadequate servants who felt so very unqualified to do what they were being called to do? God qualified His unqualified inadequate servants empowering them to become heroes of the faith. Even though the apostle Paul was known to have great learning, he did not as an apostle depend upon his education alone. It was Paul who said in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Even Paul, needed the strength that only God could provide to be the great missionary of our faith and the writer of a large portion of the New Testament.

You may feel that you are inadequate, unqualified, and incapable of doing what God has placed before you. It does not matter! Because, God is very experienced at qualifying the unqualified and making the inadequate, more than adequate. I am still inadequate in so many ways; however, I know that if God calls me to do something, His power will be upon me to make possible what seems impossible.

The Burning Bush Devotional

10.09.14

Why?

Recently while listening to a Christian radio station I heard that it is illegal to go fishing on the back of a camel in Idaho. Strange, right? I did Google that, and did find some clarifying information, but not what prompted the law in the beginning. There is an article that appeared in the St. Petersburg Times in Florida on Wednesday, October 4, 1944. The very brief article states: “If you bring your camel to Idaho don’t expect to go trout fishing on it. It’s illegal. Attorney General Bert H. Miller said so in reaffirming a previous opinion for the benefit of Sgt. Gordon A Ray, Idahoan now in New Guinea, who said buddies ‘ribbed’ him on finding the state statute in a list of odd laws. The Idaho law makes it a misdemeanor ‘to fish for trout from the back of any animal.’” So, we now know that the powers that were in Idaho did not single out the camel for special non-fishing privileges, but it is still not clear why a law from fishing from back of animal was enacted. Perhaps it was for sanitary reasons? Hard to say why from our perspective today.

Why did Jesus come down from the glories of Heaven to walk among us in human flesh? God says it is because He loves the “world.” Even though, God tells us His why, it is still hard to understand from our human perspective today. A man in Oklahoma is questioning tonight why his only daughter was shot and killed by a man. He talked about how he had heard many times how these things had happened to other families, but this time it has happened to his family.

Why, we ask? In the Bible, we read of Job a very righteous man whose entire family, except for his wife, was wiped out by a natural disaster. Job’s seven sons and three daughters were all killed by what sounds like a tornado. King David, a man after God’s own heart, had a son become sick and die when he was only seven days old. Why? Countless people over the ages have asked that question of God, why?

God had some questions for Job and for us:

Who set the wild donkey free? - Job 39:5.

Have you given the horse strength? Have you clothed his neck with thunder? Can you frighten him like a locust? - Job 39:19-20.

Does the hawk fly by your wisdom, and spread its wings toward the south? - Job 39:26.

Does the eagle mount up at your command, and make its nest on high? - Job 39:29.

Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it. - Job 40:2.

Are you able to contend with God, to rebuke God, to correct God? God says in Isaiah 55:8-9, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’”

We ask why about so many things, but from our perspective as created beings it is difficult for us to understand. Because God is not like us, His thoughts are not like our thoughts, and His ways are not like our ways. We only have to look at the heavens, the infinite numbers of stars above our heads every night to know we can never really understand the whys while clothed in human flesh. Someday God promises that all will be made understandable for us. God tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.” Meanwhile, here on earth where the whys are not always answered God through the apostle Paul says to us, “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work (2 Corinthians 2:15-17).”

The Burning Bush Devotional

10.07.14

Lost Something?

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. - Romans 12:9-13 NKJV.

The NIV translates Romans 12:11 as “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.”

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. - 1 Corinthians 15:58 NKJV.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. - Matthew 5:16 NKJV.

There is an annual Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany and every year the people attending the two-week festival lose some things many of which are turned into the lost property office. This year, the festival had a reported 6.9 million people that visited and this year the visitors lost a lot of stuff just like every other year. The lost property office reported that a live grasshopper had been turned in, wonder how they knew it was lost? Maybe it was in a little cage or a box? Then, there was the Viking helmet, an electric wheelchair, camping chairs, more than a thousand items of clothing, hundreds of wallets, mobile phones eyeglasses, a thousand identity cards, 90 cameras, jewelry, watches, hundreds of keys, a set of dentures, and a partridge and a pear tree. Just kidding about the partridge and pear tree…. Charles Reinbold, who has worked in the lost property office for almost 20 years said, “The year I started I remember we had five or six sets of false teeth in, and a pensioner walked in and tried them all on. Unfortunately, his weren't among them.” Reinbold credits improved adhesive for the reduction in the number of lost dentures. (Oktoberfest.de 2014)

Maybe you have lost something too? Have you lost your spiritual fervor, zeal, steadfastness? Have you let go of what is good? Has your shining light lost its shine? Many have. Bob Harrington, known as the Chaplain of Bourbon Street, lost his, but he came back and now says, “Let's make every minute count for Jesus by living our lives every day seeking that opportunity to share Him with a hurting and dying world that thinks there is no hope (the chaplain dot com).” Aaron and Samson in the Old Testament lost their way, but they both came back. Jonah ran from God, but he came back. The Prodigal Son came back.

If you have lost your way, or fervor, or zeal, or steadfastness, or shining light, how can you come back? The Message translation of Romans 12:11 says, “Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.” You can come back by fueling up on the resources of God: His Word (Matthew 4:4); Prayer (Luke 18:1); Assembling with other believers (Hebrews 10:24-25); and Service (John 12:26). If you want to be on fire for the Lord, God has what you need to come back! “Do not let your heart envy sinners, but be zealous for the fear of the Lord all the day. For surely there is a hereafter, and your hope will not be cut off (Proverbs 23:17-18 NKJV).”

The Burning Bush Devotional

09.25.14

Alone

Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” - John 16:31-33 NKJV.

I had probably only been a Probation and Parole Officer for about a month when I was assigned a pre-sentence investigation of a murderer. The interview took place in an old county jail, in a windowless room, with a small wooden table in the middle. I was somewhat surprised when the murderer was led into the room without restraints and was seated across from me at the table within arm reach. I was told to knock on the door or yell when finished with the interview. I was then locked inside of the small room with the murderer.

Having worked in the oilfield supervising crews of men I had worked with several who had been in prison on a variety of offenses ranging from drugs to bank robbery. This, however, was a first; alone, locked in a room with an unrestrained murderer who was much larger than me. The situation was uncomfortable and unnerving. I did have an out though if I needed help I could yell and hope they could hear me through the wall. Since that time in many other jails and prisons I never again had to interview a prisoner who was unrestrained or that I was not separated from by bars or glass. I do still remember that interview, and the feeling I had of being so alone with the threat of danger being so close.

My exposure to the threat of danger when I interviewed the murderer was very small compared to what millions of others have faced. The Book of Daniel provides us with two extreme examples, with the fiery furnace and the lion’s den. After Daniel had spent the night down in a hole with the lions, the king asked Daniel if the God he served had been able to save him. Daniel responded by saying, “My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, so that they have not hurt me…(Daniel 6:22a).” Because Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not worship the golden image they were placed in a fiery furnace heated seven times hotter than usual. To the king’s surprise the three men not only survived, but the men were not alone in the furnace. The King said of this amazing sight, “Behold, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt! And the form of the fourth is like a son of the gods (Daniel 6:25)!”

Once we know Jesus as our Savior, we are never really alone. Proverbs 18:24b says “…there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” We are told how close that friend sticks with us in 1 Corinthians 3:16, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” Living inside of every believer is the Holy Spirit! The importance of this is seen in Hebrews 2:18 NKJV, which says, “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” The Amplified Bible translates Hebrews 2:18 in this way, “For because He Himself [in His humanity] has suffered in being tempted (tested and tried), He is able [immediately] to run to the cry of (assist, relieve) those who are being tempted and tested and tried [and who therefore are being exposed to suffering].” When you cry out for God to help you, He will “run to the cry.” How far does He have to run since He lives within you? Not far at all!

Jesus knew there was a time coming when His disciples would run for the hills and He would be alone. Jesus also knew that He would not really be alone because as Jesus says, “the Father is with Me.” If you know Jesus as your Savior, you are never really alone, just as Jesus was not alone. Your “friend who sticks closer than a brother” will run to help when you cry out for Him. You are not alone!

The Burning Bush Devotional

09.10.14

Be Careful What You Eat

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” - Matthew 4:4 NKJV.

Moreover He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and He caused me to eat that scroll. And He said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly, and fill your stomach with this scroll that I give you.” So I ate, and it was in my mouth like honey in sweetness. Then He said to me: “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them. - Ezekiel 3:1-4 NKJV.

Veterinarians have entered the “They Ate WHAT?!” contest since 2006 which Veterinary Practice News says is “to showcase the humorous situations veterinarians and pet owners can face as well as the clinical advances available through digital radiography.” Apparently, all kinds of animals eat all kinds of things and now with radiography veterinarians can identify and remove what those animals should not have eaten. The first place winner was a frog which had eaten more than 30 ornamental rocks. The rocks were successfully removed. The second place winner was a German shorthaired pointer. The dog had eaten a shish kabob skewer and the vet was able to remove it successfully. The third place winner was a three-year-old Great Dane that had eaten 43½ socks! The socks were successfully removed and we have solved the age old question of what happens to the socks that disappear. 4th place was a bearded dragon that had eaten a toy banana about the size of a nickel from a Barbie‘s Dream House. Other winners had eaten a fishing hook, a toy alien figure, a light bulb, five rubber duckies, nine sewing needles, 104 pennies, closed pocket knife, and Norris, the rat terrier, ate 14 inches of a bra and bra strap. Norris has been banned from the laundry room. (Veterinary Practice News 08.27.14; Orange News 09.08.14)

Of course, we humans have been known to eat weird stuff too. For example, the woman who confessed to having a habit of eating her own hair after a ten pound hairball was removed from her stomach. Then there was a woman in China who after a quarrel with her boyfriend did what anyone would do, she gobbled down 20 cobblestones! Then there are the inmates in North Carolina who have been known to swallow batteries and bedsprings to gain a brief freedom from prison by going to the hospital.

In these days, most of us know how important a good diet can be. This is also true of spiritual nourishment. Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 4:4 that we need God’s Word just as much as we need any physical food to live a meaningful life. God tells Ezekiel to eat the “scroll” which contained the words of God and Ezekiel said, “So I ate, and it was in my mouth like honey in sweetness.” Ezekiel was then empowered to be the prophet of God delivering God’s message to God’s people.

Spiritually we have a problem with eating the wrong kinds of things. We read books we know have very little redeeming qualities. We watch movies, and TV shows, we know are offensive to God, but we watch them anyway. When we watch things like that, the spiritual strength we have is diminished. To increase our spiritual strength, we must have a regular diet of God’s Word, spend time in prayer, and be with God’s people. So, if you have been eating the wrong things spiritually…stop it!

The Burning Bush Devotional

09.09.14

Good Out of the Bad

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. - Romans 8:28 NKJV.

Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. - Genesis 50:19-21 NKJV.

Nineteen months ago 22-year-old Ben McMahon of Australia was involved in a severe car accident, and he was in a coma for a week before he finally woke up. Soon after he awakened, he spoke to his nurse in Mandarin Chinese! He had studied the language in school, but it was only a basic knowledge of the language, and he was far from being fluent in speaking Mandarin. It took several days before he could again speak in English, however, his fluency in Mandarin has remained. Ben said this later about what has happened to him, “It was like a dream. It was surreal. It was like my brain was in one place but my body in another. I just started speaking Chinese, they were the first words that left my mouth.” A new world has opened up for the man with his new found language ability. He has led Chinese tours of his hometown of Melbourne. He has become one of the hosts for a Chinese language variety show called “Au My Ga” which means “Oh My God.” The show tries to bridge the gap between Australian and Chinese culture in Australia. Ben has now started college in Shanghai to study commerce with his newfound language skill. (NY Daily News 07.16.14; Orange News 09.05.14)

Good can come out of very bad things and Ben McMahon is at the very least a worldly example of that occurring. Ben had an accident so severe that it left him in a coma for a week and it took him some time to recover from it. The bad thing opened up a new world of opportunities for the man, which would never have happened without the accident.

In the Old Testament, we have the story of Joseph, who at the hands of his brothers was nearly killed, but instead was sold into slavery. While in slavery, Joseph was unjustly put in prison until he was able through the power of God to interpret the dreams of the Pharaoh. Joseph surely experienced some very bad things before being released from prison to become the second most powerful person in the kingdom, and perhaps the world. Joseph stored the excess grain from the harvests and by this provision the Egyptians, Joseph’s own family, and other nations were able to survive the years of famine. Joseph’s brothers did mean evil by their selling Joseph into slavery; however, God meant it for good.

No matter how horrific some thing may be, God can bring good out of it. I say, “can” because the promise of Romans 8:28 is not automatic. God can bring good out of the bad for who? For “those who love God,” and for “those who are the called according to His purpose.” We see in the life of Joseph that in spite of the bad things that happened to him, he continued to “love God,” and he sought to see the fulfillment of God’s will in his life and in the lives of others. May we do the same!

The Burning Bush Devotional
Classic from 2002

08.26.14

Abuse of Authority

Now the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the Lord. …before they burned the fat the priest’s servant would come and say to the man who sacrificed, ‘Give meat for roasting to the priest, for he will not take boiled meat from you, but raw.’ Therefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord, for men abhorred the offering of the Lord. …Now Eli was very old; and he heard everything his sons did to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. So he said to them, ‘Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people.’ - 1 Samuel 2:12,17,22-23 NKJV.

The General Medical Council of the United Kingdom had to deal with an almost unbelievable problem of bad conduct on the part of a surgeon. The Council said, “Dr. Mohannad Al-Fallouji’s conduct has rightly been described as bizarre.” The news media described the doctor as “a walking terror in a white coat.” The doctor once told a patient, “you have cancer, I have asthma, we all have to die sometime.” He would occasionally grope female colleagues and make lewd remarks. He tried to arrange a date with an underage female patient without her parents finding out. To the credit of the General Medical Council they have barred the doctor permanently from practicing medicine.

Have you noticed how often people who are given authority or power over others abuse it? The sons of Eli were entrusted with a sacred position of authority just as many priests and pastors are today. The sons of Eli used their position to intimidate and take advantage of those who sincerely came to worship the Lord. Many priests and pastors today are doing the same. Sin is still sin and the Bible describes this sin as being “very great” because they “abhorred” the offering to the Lord. Not only did they abhor the offering of the Lord they did many other evil things taking advantage of those in vulnerable positions. God was not deceived and judgment came upon them.

It is terrible that some priests and pastors take advantage of the weak, but they are not the only ones. Many doctors, bosses, CEOs and those with a little bit of power (including politicians) have abused their privileged positions using those positions to take advantage of others. The sins of the sons of Eli were and are shocking! No less shocking were the abuses of Dr. Mohannad Al-Fallouji. But even those abuses of power, which are not shocking, are still wrong and harmful.

If you are in a position of authority to any degree, and you are abusing that power be warned that God is not mocked. God knows exactly what is going on and judgment is coming. For those of us who may be on the receiving end or have knowledge of the abuse of authority - what do we do? If we have within our power what is necessary to stop an abuse of authority or power and do not do so, we are enabling that abuse to continue. God held Eli responsible for the abuse of authority by his sons. God warned Eli, “In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them (1 Samuel 2:12-13.).”

The Burning Bush Devotional
Classic from 2002

08.26.14

Abuse of Authority

Now the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the Lord. …before they burned the fat the priest’s servant would come and say to the man who sacrificed, ‘Give meat for roasting to the priest, for he will not take boiled meat from you, but raw.’ Therefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord, for men abhorred the offering of the Lord. …Now Eli was very old; and he heard everything his sons did to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. So he said to them, ‘Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people.’ - 1 Samuel 2:12,17,22-23 NKJV.

The General Medical Council of the United Kingdom had to deal with an almost unbelievable problem of bad conduct on the part of a surgeon. The Council said, “Dr. Mohannad Al-Fallouji’s conduct has rightly been described as bizarre.” The news media described the doctor as “a walking terror in a white coat.” The doctor once told a patient, “you have cancer, I have asthma, we all have to die sometime.” He would occasionally grope female colleagues and make lewd remarks. He tried to arrange a date with an underage female patient without her parents finding out. To the credit of the General Medical Council they have barred the doctor permanently from practicing medicine.

Have you noticed how often people who are given authority or power over others abuse it? The sons of Eli were entrusted with a sacred position of authority just as many priests and pastors are today. The sons of Eli used their position to intimidate and take advantage of those who sincerely came to worship the Lord. Many priests and pastors today are doing the same. Sin is still sin and the Bible describes this sin as being “very great” because they “abhorred” the offering to the Lord. Not only did they abhor the offering of the Lord they did many other evil things taking advantage of those in vulnerable positions. God was not deceived and judgment came upon them.

It is terrible that some priests and pastors take advantage of the weak, but they are not the only ones. Many doctors, bosses, CEOs and those with a little bit of power (including politicians) have abused their privileged positions using those positions to take advantage of others. The sins of the sons of Eli were and are shocking! No less shocking were the abuses of Dr. Mohannad Al-Fallouji. But even those abuses of power, which are not shocking, are still wrong and harmful.

If you are in a position of authority to any degree, and you are abusing that power be warned that God is not mocked. God knows exactly what is going on and judgment is coming. For those of us who may be on the receiving end or have knowledge of the abuse of authority - what do we do? If we have within our power what is necessary to stop an abuse of authority or power and do not do so, we are enabling that abuse to continue. God held Eli responsible for the abuse of authority by his sons. God warned Eli, “In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them (1 Samuel 2:12-13.).”

The Burning Bush Devotional

08.15.14

Sometimes We Need Help

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. - 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NKJV.

As Jason and Jenna Weigner were traveling near Santa Cruz, Bolivia they came across something they had never encountered before. What they found was a Brahman calf draped over the top of the guardrail and the heifer was stuck unable to go backwards or forward. Jason went over to the heifer and was able to push it off the guardrail backwards. The calf rolled down the hill behind the guardrail but was able to stand and then rejoined the rest of the herd. (Orange News 08.14.14)

Yesterday, we received some help in clearing away some old buildings we have. One of those buildings was an old chicken house that had partially collapsed. Over the past year, we have spent many hours tearing down that building, but still two of the walls were still standing. It was amazing to watch a large track hoe demolish the remainder of that building in only a few minutes of time. Sometimes you just need a little help!

We are all aware of the savage advance of ISIS in Iraq although the name was changed to ISIL and now they are just calling themselves IS, short for Islamic State. There are more than a million refugees from IS savagery and they need help. Some of the refugees are Christians, and some of the thousands still trapped on Mt Sinjar are Yizidis. There are Kurds and Muslims that are also refugees. All of these refugees need a little help! Actually they need a lot of help, but have been receiving very little.

It appears that the primary reason those refugees who desperately needed and still need help have not received or received it very slowly was of a political nature. Here is one of the definitions of the word, politics: “use of intrigue or strategy in obtaining any position of power or control.” Another definition that is often heard is that “poli” means many and “tics” means ticks. So, instead of providing immediately the help refugees needed in Iraq there was a lot of blood sucking going on. I hope that political posturing for whatever reason ends soon.

When we see someone in need of help and know we have the ability to meet that need, how do we respond? In Luke 10, there is the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” There was a lawyer who then stood up and “tested” (NKJV) or “tempted” (KJV) Jesus by asking “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus responds to the lawyer testing him in Luke 10 with the Good Samaritan parable. A man from Jerusalem was the victim of robbers “who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.” There was a priest that came upon the man, but he moved to the outside of the road to pass by the victim. Another religious leader “a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.” Were both the priest and Levite afraid of being robbed too, or did they just not want to become involved knowing that it would be costly in terms of time, effort and money? Jesus says that it was a Samaritan who actually did stop and help the robbery victim. Jesus asks the lawyer, “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?” The lawyer replies with the right answer by saying, “He who showed mercy on him.” Jesus then instructs the lawyer and us by saying, “Go and do likewise.”

The Burning Bush Devotional

08.13.14

The ISIS Death Cult

In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled. - Daniel 10:2-3 NKJV.

Suddenly, a hand touched me, which made me tremble on my knees and on the palms of my hands. And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you.” While he was speaking this word to me, I stood trembling. Then he said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia. Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come.” - Daniel 10:10-14 NKJV.

Here are a few of the well-known death cults that are included in a tour that someone has put together to visit where these groups committed some of their murders: The Charles Manson family who killed more than 27 people in the late 1960s; Yahweh ben Yahweh and the Temple of Love in late 1980s and 1990 are linked to dozens of murders as an initiation rite; The Order of the Solar Temple is responsible for the murder and suicide of dozens of people. These death cults were all in a minor league compared to what the world is facing with ISIS/ISIL.

This is a sick, very sick subject to have to deal with; however, the alternative is to stick our heads in the sand and pretend everything is wonderful in the world. Why talk about it? Because there is a new death cult stalking the world on a larger scale than has been seen in many decades. Lt. Colonel (Ret) Ralph Peters is a strategic analyst and on Fox News this morning said that ISIS or ISIL is a new kind of threat, “This has gone beyond Islam. This is a new, apocalyptic death cult that’s burst out of Islam. Even the Nazis didn’t film public beheadings and broadcast them. ISIS is beyond Islam, it’s beyond any religion, it’s a blood cult, a death cult.” A blurb on Amazon about one of Peters’ books describes who he is by saying, “For three decades, Ralph Peters has been the most provocative and visionary American writer on strategy, security, intelligence, and military affairs, predicting every major trend that has plagued the post-Cold-War world. A career military officer and acclaimed author, he has always faced the issues others shunned until it was too late.”

On the Anniversary of D-Day this year I wrote about how evil must sometimes be confronted (Confronting Evil 06.06.14). Evil was confronted and temporarily defeated in World War II. Prior to the nations confronting the evil represented by Hitler and the Axis powers (Germany, Italy, and Japan) huge numbers of people were massacred. Finally, it was realized by all that if nations didn’t want to be under the horrific thumb of Hitler and his minions they would have to go to war. Nations have done the same thing with the evil represented in the death cult of ISIS/ISIL. This growing evil and threat has been ignored even though it is estimated ISIS had already horrifically slaughtered 170,000 mostly Christians in Syria before they got to Iraq.

ISIS/ISIL is the physical manifestation of Satan here on Planet Earth. Knowing the true nature of this evil helps in knowing the way to fight it. There will have to be a physical confrontation of ISIS, but for that battle to be won there will have to be a supernatural victory won through prayer. That is why I am writing today, it is to call the world to prayer to pray down this death cult. Christians, we need to be on our knees in prayer! We must get serious about the evil that is now stalking us and beseech our God to intervene to defeat and destroy this horrifically evil group. The passage of Scripture in Daniel 10 gives us a look into the spiritual warfare that is raging continually in the heavenlies. Daniel’s prayers were answered only after three weeks of fasting and praying. Let us pray for God to defeat this ISIS death cult!

The Burning Bush Devotional

08.11.14

Pure Evil

Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand all. - Proverbs 28:5 NKJV.

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. - Romans 13:3-5 NKJV.

Pure Evil is a term that I have been hearing more frequently these days with so much evil abounding in our world. What would be the definition of Pure Evil? I never really found an actual definition in the sense of how it is being used in recent days. Here is my definition for Pure Evil: A person, or group of persons who are completely absent of any good, without even a tiny sliver of anything of a good nature, with absolutely no redeeming qualities. All that a Pure Evil person or group of Pure Evil persons think and do is evil.

There is actually a listing of the top Pure Evil people of all time. Of course, it is just an arbitrary list from an individual, but they all sound very evil to me. Here are a few of them: Adolf Hitler, Ivan the Terrible, Adolf Eichmann, Pol Pot, Mao Tse-tung, Idi Amin, Joseph Stalin, Genghis Khan, and Tallat Pasha. There are thousands of lesser well known people who would appear to qualify as also being Pure Evil.

On the march in the world today is a group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The group is also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and of the Levant (ISIL). Whatever their name, they would appear to qualify for my definition of Pure Evil. They had slaughtered an estimated 170,000 people in Syria before they even began their rampage in Iraq. They have possibly as many as 40,000 men, women, and children trapped on a mountain top in Iraq without food or water. The specialty of ISIS appears to be the beheading of any Christian, Yizidis, Kurd, or even some Muslims that do not convert to their brand of Islam. However, it is known that some who claimed to convert were killed anyway. The group seems to take great pleasure in beheading even children. The rumors of their atrocities include things that even the top ten list of Pure Evil people did not think of doing.

Should our government or any government try to stand up to ISIS and stop their rampage of evil? Why should we even ask that question? Doesn’t Jesus say this: “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.” There is a difference between how God sees actions of the individual and of a nation. Are police officers or soldiers who are sometimes forced to kill committing murder? They do “not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” Of course, there is a difference between evil empires ruled by evil dictators and other nations. You could rightfully point to ISIS and think of them as an evil empire and that all nations opposing the evil as being on God’s side. Some would say that the Roman empire was an evil empire, and to some extent it was; however, God used the Romans to bring order, peace, and justice to much of the known world during the time that Jesus walked upon this earth. There is no justice in the atrocities ISIS is committing or in the atrocities committed by other evil empires.

Doing or committing evil acts is sinful and perhaps one of the more shocking things found in the Bible is this: “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all (James 2:10).” We also know that the Bible says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).” Yes, members of ISIS have sinned, but we have sinned too and this is why all of us are in need of a Savior. Do you know Jesus as your personal Savior? Have you opened up the door of your heart (Revelation 3:20) and invited Jesus to come in? Have you “believed” upon Jesus for forgiveness of your sins (John 3:16)?

Let us all pray that the evil represented by ISIS will be pushed back into whatever hole it came out of and that all nations not supporting this evil will “not bear the sword in vain.” May the justice of God prevail and ISIS be destroyed. If you live in the United States please call today your Congressman or Congresswoman and Senator and ask for a more robust response to the evil empire of ISIS.

The Burning Bush Devotional

08.08.14

In His Steps

…there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. - Proverbs 18:24b NKJV.

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore (carry - MSG) our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness - by whose stripes you were healed. - 1 Peter 2:21-24 NKJV.

“China’s most beautiful student” is beautiful because she has a beautiful heart. The student is He Qin-Jiao, and she is just a 13-year-old little girl living in the Hunan Province. Her heart is beautiful because of what she has been doing for her friend He Ying-hui for three years. Qin-Jiao has been carrying her friend, who has polio, to and from school, which is a four mile round trip. She says, “Ying-hui is my best friend and school would not have been the same without her. If that meant, I had to carry her then that’s what I had to do. I didn’t mind it at all. It gave us a chance to have a good chat before and after school every day.” In a creative writing project Ying-hui described the most important person in her life as she wrote, “He Qin-jiao uses her little young shoulders to prop up my sky. I wouldn’t have been to school at all if it hadn’t been for her. She is the best friend anyone could have.” (China.org; Shanghaist 08.07.14)

For today’s students in the United States just walking one way two miles to school, would be beyond difficult. Now we have all heard stories, some true, of our parents or grandparents walking five miles to school in the rain and snow. That kind of difficulty in attending school is hard for students today to really understand. It is almost beyond belief that a young student would make the sacrifice to carry a disabled friend those many miles for those many years. He Qin-Jiao truly is a very beautiful child inside and out! May the Lord bless her and heal her friend!

Think for a moment about that friend that sticks closer than a brother, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is hard to wrap our minds around, why did Jesus, the Creator of the Universe die for our sins? Jesus “bore (carry - MSG) our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness.” Jesus left the glorious comforts of Heaven to come down to this earth and walk among us for some 30 years. Jesus did not come in this modern age where so many have so much that makes life easy. Instead, Jesus was born into this world, fully God, fully human, in a time without the modern conveniences we have now. The world Jesus was born into was a cruel world where bad things happened at a far greater frequency than they do for many of us today.

We are told that the suffering of Jesus was an example in 1 Peter, “…leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.” The most beautiful student in China, He Qin-Jiao, is an example of someone knowingly or unknowingly following the example of Jesus. Jesus carried our sins, “bore” our sins on the cross. He Qin-Jiao has carried her friend with polio four miles round trip back and forth to school for three years. Qin-Jiao has been “a friend who sticks closer than a brother” to her friend. May we too follow in the steps of Jesus!

The Burning Bush Devotional

08.07.14

Teamwork

but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ - from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. - Ephesians 4:15-16 NKJV.

For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them - Romans 12:4-6 NKJV.

There was an amazing rescue yesterday in Perth, Australia. You may have seen the video of the rescue because already 2.4 million have watched it and likely even more have seen the video on news reports as I did. A man somehow managed to get his foot stuck between a commuter train and a passenger platform. The video shows a huge number of fellow travelers working together to push the train over so the man’s foot could be freed. The spokesperson for Perth Transport David Hynes said this about the incident, “There were lots of them (people), off the train, and we organized them to sort of rock, tilt the train backwards away from the platform so they were able to get him out and rescue him.” (FoxNews 08.06.14; Orange News 08.07.14)

Teamwork in prayer with others works better than prayer by ourselves. Jesus makes this clear when He says, “Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them (Matthew 18:19-20 NKJV).” Worship is also always better with others, as seen here in Matthew 18:20 and in Hebrews 10:24-25.

Teamwork in witnessing and bringing others to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ is necessary. Now we may witness to someone and they may immediately pray and receive Christ as their Savior. However, it is likely that our effort is simply the harvest of the planting of the seed of the Word of God in their lives and the watering of that seed by many others. We see the effectiveness of teamwork in the story of the four men who let nothing stop them from taking a paralyzed man to Jesus in Mark 2:1-5 where Jesus says to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”

Teamwork works in the world as seen with the rescue in Perth. Most of the time you can do more with others than without them. Teamwork in the church is mandatory, essential, and necessary. Believers are all part of one body and if we are not working with other believers, it is likely that we are working against them. Jesus warns against this in Luke 11:23 NKJV where He says, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” I don’t know about you, but I want to be a gatherer and not a scatterer.

The Burning Bush Devotional

08.06.14

A Kind Word

What is desired in a man is kindness, and a poor man is better than a liar. - Proverbs 19:22 NKJV.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. - Galatians 5:22-23a NKJV.

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. - Colossians 3:12-13 NKJV.

The people of the land have used oppressions, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger. So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. - Ezekiel 22:29-30 NKJV.

Australian Don Ritchie has been called the “Angel of the Gap.” From 1964 until Don passed away two years ago he was able to prevent 160 people from jumping to their deaths at “the Gap.” Sadly, there have been far more than that who did successfully jump to their deaths. An article in the Sydney Morning Herald in March 2010 says an estimated 50 people jump to their deaths every year at “the Gap.” The article also reports that suicide “is the leading cause of death for Australians under the age of 44. In 2007, 1881 suicides were registered in Australia, with a further 65,000 attempts recorded.” Suicide is a problem worldwide and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention states, “In 2011, 39,518 suicides were reported, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death for Americans.”

Don Ritchie tried his best to stop people from committing suicide. In his early years, he would actually tackle people who were on the verge of jumping and drag them away from the cliff. Over the years, Ritchie perfected a better method for preventing those deaths. Every morning he would look out his window to see if there were anyone standing there who might be contemplating ending their life. If he did see someone he would walk out to them with his palms facing up smiling and say, “Is there something I could do to help you?” Ritchie says, “I’m offering them an alternative, really. I always act in a friendly manner. I smile. Over the years, I’ve spoken to many, many of them - just a way of saying, ‘What are you doing over here? Please come and talk to me. Come over and have a cup of tea, come and have a beer.’ To get them away from what’s on their mind, to get them away from going over while I’m here.” His daughter Sue Ritchie Bereny says, “And that was all that was often needed to turn people around, and he would say not to underestimate the power of a kind word and a smile.” Don Ritchie was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2006 for his many rescues. May God raise up many more like Don Ritchie! (The Sydney Morning Herald; Gawker 08.06.14)

Often, it does not take that much to stand in the gap for those around us who desperately need help. Sometimes all it takes is a smile and a kind word to prevent a tragedy. Sometimes all it takes is a prayer and God moves mountains to bring peace into the lives of hurting people. Sometimes all it takes is to share the truth of God’s Word that Jesus loves them and wants to be their Savior to bring healing to a hurting heart. Are you standing in the gap? Can you say a kind word to someone today?

The Burning Bush Devotional

08.04.14

The Survivor

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. - Ephesians 4:31 NKJV.

Soon after the Survivor was born he was relocated to a new land along with his mother, two brothers and a sister. Not long after their move the mother died from a heart condition. While the Survivor was growing up his sister disappeared and was never seen again. The Survivor suffered a life threatening accident and both of his brothers also died, but the Survivor lives on. Who or what is the Survivor? The Survivor is a cat and his name is Batman. Batman is a large long haired mostly black cat with some white around his face and belly. This cat is a survivor having lived outside in a dangerous environment for four and a half years. He has survived having a broken leg. He has survived threats from owls, hawks, coyotes, bobcats, and dogs along with attacks from other male cats.

Batman has a strategy for surviving in his relationships with other cats that has been effective. It is a somewhat strange strategy. Batman survives in his relationships through extending forgiveness and demonstrating kindness. A large male cat outside has at times viciously attacked Batman, but yesterday I saw him go up to this cat and rub on him and begin to give him a bath. Batman now comes inside on our patio at night where it is safer. However, we have an inside cat, George, who is a bully. Also, yesterday I saw George jump on Batman, who at first hissed in response, but then went over and began to rub on George and purred. Now Batman is a large male cat who is all muscled up from his years outside and he could make short work of either of those other cats, instead he chooses to forgive and act kindly toward them.

Jesus gives us a strategy for surviving in our relationships with other people. What is that strategy? Forgiveness and kindness. In Matthew 18:21-22 Peter asks Jesus a question about forgiveness: “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” This is the answer Jesus gives to Peter: “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” The point is not to forgive 490 times. The point Jesus is making is that the extending of forgiveness toward others should be never ending. If you have ever been on the receiving end of receiving forgiveness from another person you know that this is something that is not soon forgotten. Forgiveness goes far beyond words extending deep into our hearts.

What does Jesus have to say about being kind: “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil (Luke 6:35).” Extending unexpected kindness is always fun, because you can see the surprise and joy etched on the faces of the recipients. Just like it is etched on our own faces when we are the recipients of unexpected kindness.

The Jesus strategy for winning friends and influencing people begins and ends with extending forgiveness and extending kindness even toward your enemies (Matthew 18:21-22; Luke 6:35). If you haven’t tried the Jesus strategy for relational survival lately, try it. Living as a forgiving and kind person will not only extend your life, it will make your journey through this world a far more pleasant one.

The Burning Bush Devotional

08.01.14

Crocodile in the Shower

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. - Psalm 32:1 NKJV.

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. - 1 Corinthians 11:28 NKJV.

Can you imagine going to take a shower in your home and finding a six or seven foot long crocodile? That is what Kalpesh Patel found in his home in India. Kalpesh says, “At first I didn't even know if it was alive, I just stood there staring at it in my bathrobe and then suddenly I saw it blink, and I turned round and ran off as fast as I could, slamming the door behind me. I have no idea how it got into the house or even why it went there, but we weren't prepared to let it out again.” He warned his family about the crocodile and had some neighbors come take a look confirming that he was not hallucinating and that the croc was real. They called the police, and some forestry officers captured the croc and took it away. Here is another reason why when you go to the bathroom at night you ought to turn on the light to see what is in there! (Orange News 08.01.14)

There is something on a spiritual level just as damaging, if not more so, than a crocodile can be to your physical body. What is that something? Unconfessed sin. Strange as it may sound, some of us are carrying around unconfessed sin that we are not even aware is there. King David is an example the Bible gives us. Even though, he had committed adultery and had arranged the murder of Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba; he was able to ignore his responsibility before God until confronted by the Prophet Nathan. Here is a description of what it is like to know you have unconfessed sin and to fail to repent of it and confess it, “For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer (Psalm 32:4).”

It is a strange spiritual fact that God knows us better than we know ourselves. As David says in Psalm 139:1, “O Lord, You have searched me and known me.” The Holy Spirit continually searches our hearts and knows the real us. We are given a word of warning against participating in the Lord’s Supper (Communion) with sin in our hearts. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 11:28 about this, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” In other words, if there is a crocodile of sin inside of your heart it would be unwise to partake of the Lord’s Supper.

In 1 Corinthians 10:1-11 a warning is given concerning those in the Old Testament who because of their sin were not pleasing to God. 1 Corinthians 10:12 then says, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” If you do search your heart and find a crocodile in there please do not feed it with more sin. Instead, repent of it and confess it. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9 NKJV).”

The Burning Bush Devotional

08.01.14

Crocodile in the Shower

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. - Psalm 32:1 NKJV.

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. - 1 Corinthians 11:28 NKJV.

Can you imagine going to take a shower in your home and finding a six or seven foot long crocodile? That is what Kalpesh Patel found in his home in India. Kalpesh says, “At first I didn't even know if it was alive, I just stood there staring at it in my bathrobe and then suddenly I saw it blink, and I turned round and ran off as fast as I could, slamming the door behind me. I have no idea how it got into the house or even why it went there, but we weren't prepared to let it out again.” He warned his family about the crocodile and had some neighbors come take a look confirming that he was not hallucinating and that the croc was real. They called the police, and some forestry officers captured the croc and took it away. Here is another reason why when you go to the bathroom at night you ought to turn on the light to see what is in there! (Orange News 08.01.14)

There is something on a spiritual level just as damaging, if not more so, than a crocodile can be to your physical body. What is that something? Unconfessed sin. Strange as it may sound, some of us are carrying around unconfessed sin that we are not even aware is there. King David is an example the Bible gives us. Even though, he had committed adultery and had arranged the murder of Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba; he was able to ignore his responsibility before God until confronted by the Prophet Nathan. Here is a description of what it is like to know you have unconfessed sin and to fail to repent of it and confess it, “For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer (Psalm 32:4).”

It is a strange spiritual fact that God knows us better than we know ourselves. As David says in Psalm 139:1, “O Lord, You have searched me and known me.” The Holy Spirit continually searches our hearts and knows the real us. We are given a word of warning against participating in the Lord’s Supper (Communion) with sin in our hearts. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 11:28 about this, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.” In other words, if there is a crocodile of sin inside of your heart it would be unwise to partake of the Lord’s Supper.

In 1 Corinthians 10:1-11 a warning is given concerning those in the Old Testament who because of their sin were not pleasing to God. 1 Corinthians 10:12 then says, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” If you do search your heart and find a crocodile in there please do not feed it with more sin. Instead, repent of it and confess it. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9 NKJV).”

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.29.14

Covered with the Robe

Now Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up, and struck the water; and it was divided this way and that, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground. - 2 Kings 2:8 NKJV.

Then he took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, and said, “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” And when he also had struck the water, it was divided this way and that; and Elisha crossed over. - 2 Kings 2:14 NKJV.

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. - Isaiah 61:10 NKJV.

Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. - Revelation 4:4 NKJV.

Ojo Obaniyi, who lives in Ibadan, Nigeria, has found a unique way to attract people to his raffia palm cane weaving business. He uses his pickup truck to gain the attention of people to his artistic ability to weave the raffia palm cane. What he has done is to weave a covering for every surface of his vehicle. Inside and out of Ojo’s pickup there is a beautifully weaved cane covering. The seats, the steering wheel, the dashboard, and the body of the pickup are all covered with a beautiful raffia palm cane weaving. Ojo has 20-years of experience in cane weaving and says, “I wanted to prove a point that it is not only the educated elite that can make positive changes in society. We, the artisans also have talents to effect a change and make a positive impact in the society.” (African Spotlight 01.14.13)

How would you like to have a car or a pickup covered in raffia cane weaving? Or, even better to have a suit of clothes made of cane weaving to cover your body? Our Lord and High Priest, Jesus Christ, wore a one-piece robe which covered his body (John 19:23). The high priests of the Old Testament wore a one-piece garment, the robe of the ephod, which covered their bodies (Exodus 28:31-32). The Old Testament prophets, at least Samuel, Elijah, and Elisha all wore a one-piece covering of their bodies too called a “mantle.” The Hebrew words for the Robe of the Ephod and the word for mantle are different, but there does appear to be great similarity between the two garments.

The mantle that Elijah and Elisha wore was not only their clothing, but it was a symbol of God’s power. The symbol of the power of God given to Moses was the rod (Exodus 4:1-4). The mantle and the rod, however, in the hands of these men of God were not just symbols. Through the mantle and rod these men of God were empowered with the supernatural power of God. When Moses stretched out the rod, the waters parted. When Elijah and Elisha struck the waters with their mantle, the waters parted.

The prophet Isaiah was clothed with a Robe of Righteousness. Although this is not a physical robe or mantle which covered Elijah and Elisha, Isaiah is still a God empowered mighty prophet. We are given a brief view of the church in Heaven in Revelation 4-5. The family of God is symbolically represented here in the 24 elders who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and are clothed in “white robes.” If you are a believer in Jesus Christ you too have been clothed in a “Robe of Righteousness.” Your “Robe of Righteousness” is just as powerful if not more so than the “mantle” of Elijah and Elisha. Why? How? Jesus says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it (John 14:12-13).”

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.28.14

Precious

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you. - Exodus 20:12 NKJV.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” - Ephesians 6:1-3 NKJV.

Ding Liang, a 63-year-old grandmother in China has a problem, the problem is that she is too ugly! At least that is what her son has said. The issue has been a continuation of a long-standing problem that the Mother has encountered with her son. The son, basically, is just embarrassed to have Ding as his Mother. One of the first indications of a problem occurred many years ago at her son’s wedding. Ding’s son at the time was moving in a higher social stratum than his Mother and was embarrassed when she came to the wedding dressed as a peasant.

Since the wedding of her son, the Mother and son have become more estranged with the son rarely making contact. Ding says, “I don’t mind, I know he has his own life now, so I understand that he doesn’t call and only speaks to me when I ring him. But when he rang me the other day to say that he had had a baby, I wanted to visit him and bring my grandchild some gifts.” But, “He said I would embarrass him because I’m too ugly.” Ding and her husband have always tried to be supportive of their son and borrowed money so he could go to college. They also borrowed money when her son was getting married to help them. But now the son says to his Mother that he would be embarrassed for her to visit because she is too ugly. (China Smack 07.21.14)

“Honor your father and your mother” not only is one of the Ten Commandments, it is also a commandment with an attached promise. The promised result of obedience is, “that your days may be long.” It appears that a potential curse has been added to the commandment by the writer of Proverbs 30:17 which indicates mocking and scorning your parents will result in bad things. Here is what Proverbs 30:17 says, “The eye that mocks his father, and scorns obedience to his mother, the ravens of the valley will pick it out, and the young eagles will eat it.” Every child should be made to memorize it and repeat it daily (ha!). For the child of Ding there appears to be some truth in this as publicity about his bad behavior toward his parents is having some ugly consequences for him.

The 5th commandment says to “Honor” your mother and father. W. A Criswell, a great Bible scholar, says that to “Honor” your mother and father means to consider them “precious.” Indeed, your parents are precious, in that through them God has given you life. You can call your parents names, and you can treat them like dirt, but here is one thing that you can take to the bank: God will not “honor” you if you act in that way toward your parents. You can be a possible beneficiary of the promise of the 5th Commandment by honoring your parents “that your days may be long upon the land.” Or, you can mock and scorn your parents and receive the ugly promise of Proverbs 30:17.

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.22.14

Bad Endings

Do not be overly wicked, nor be foolish: Why should you die before your time? - Ecclesiastes 7:17 NKJV.

And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment. - Hebrews 9:27 NKJV.

Evgeniy Tankov, a 35-year-old attorney, is in trouble and could spend the next ten years in prison. Evgeniy is in trouble with the judge in a Kazakhstan inheritance case because things were not going well for his client. You have to wonder how the attorney for a client in a civil case ends up facing those many years in prison? Here’s what he did, he approaches the judge and says, “Let's not hang about arguing the law here, let's decide this with flyswatters.” Evgeniy then holds up a flyswatter and proceeds to slap judge with it three times. The judge does nothing at first until the opposing attorney joins the fight by punching Evgeniy. That is when the judge leaves the bench and helps to wrestle Evgeniy to the floor. (Orange 07.18.14)

There are some things that you just know are going to end badly! Here is an example, don’t ever hit the judge with a flyswatter! Here are a few of the foolish things I have done that ended badly. Just because on the Dukes of Hazzard and other TV shows and movies drivers can jump their cars over ditches and other things…does not mean that you can. It really was a small ditch, four, five, six feet wide and my car did jump the ditch…but it shoved the fan through the radiator and bent the frame. That car seemed to have a problem with that, because when I drove it off a dead end it pushed the fan through the radiator and bent the frame that time too. Those events occurred my senior year in High School. Another foolish thing that will end badly is having a blowtorch fight, at least it ended badly for me because the back of my hand was burned. I think that happened my junior year in High School, and yes, I probably did something equally foolish every year, although thankfully I’ve been able to blot most of them out of my memory.

Having fools as friends who do foolish things can cause problems for you too. My freshman year in college one night I walked with my roommate and another guy downtown. Before I knew what they were doing, they had pulled down some Halloween decorations that were on a business building. I had not walked over to the store with them for some reason, but it didn’t matter what I did or didn’t do at that point. A police car came zooming into the parking lot, and suddenly I was on the run from a crime I didn’t commit. It is not much fun hiding under cars and climbing over fences. We escaped without a really bad ending, and I learned a lesson, which I think maybe my friends learned too!

There does appear to be an appointed time for us to die as it says in Hebrews 9:27, “as it is appointed for men to die once.” However, Ecclesiastes 7:17 warns that we can die before that time if we act foolishly. Jump off the top of a ten-story building and it is likely that you will die before your time. Step in front of a train traveling 60 miles an hour, and it is likely that you will die before your time. To guard our lives against foolish actions, let us continually seek the wisdom of God. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him (James 1:5).”

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.21.14

Build

As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever. Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong, and do it. - 1 Chronicles 28:9-10 NKJV.

So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. - Acts 20:32 NKJV.

For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. - 1 Corinthians 3:9 NKJV.

Hu Songwen was faced with an impossible situation, at least it would appear to be impossible to most people. Hu experienced renal failure in 1993 and began to receive dialysis treatments. The procedures at the time each cost $80 and in six years all of his and his families’ savings had been exhausted. The alternatives were stark in that he could do nothing and simply die from renal failure or was there something else that he could do?

Hu decided to build his own dialysis machine and build it he did. He somehow found a textbook and using things from their kitchen and medical supplies he was able to obtain he built it. Hu says, “As long as you have a high school degree, understand the principle of dialysis, follow the operational instructions and keep a close watch during the process, nothing should go wrong.” For the past 13 years, Hu’s home built dialysis machine has kept him alive. Instead of paying $80 for each treatment, it now only cost him $10 per treatment, with the added benefit of not having to travel a long distance each week. One study revealed that one in ten in China who needs dialysis cannot afford treatment. Wow! How many lives and millions of dollars could be saved if everyone who needed dialysis could build their own machine, and use it in their own home? (The Telegraph; China Daily; Southern Weekly Magazine 01.29.13)

God chose Solomon to build the Temple in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, we know that God does not now dwell in a physical, literal building. Instead, God has chosen to dwell through the Holy Spirit within every “born again” believer in Jesus Christ. We are told this in 1 Corinthians 3:16–17 NKJV, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”

Believers now have been given an awesome responsibility to build with God (1 Corinthians 3:9) a New Testament temple in which the Spirit of God dwells. Your own body, your own life, is where as a believer that God dwells. How are believers to build a New Testament temple for the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 3:16)? Jesus tells us, “Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock (Luke 6:47-48).” Have you ever considered what God thinks of the temple you are building for Him? Here is the word of encouragement and commandment that God gave to Solomon and to all believers now, “be strong, and do it.”

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.18.14

Give It Up!

Jesus said to him (The Rich Young Ruler), “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. - Matthew 19:21-22 NKJV.

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. - Matthew 6:24 NKJV.

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? - Luke 9:24-26 NKJV.

At one time, German Sterligov was one of the richest men in Russia. He was an oligarch who was rich, powerful, and famous. Sterligov was the first legal Russian millionaire since the Revolution in 1917. He began the first Russian commodities exchange in the early 1990s and had more than 2500 employees. He ran for President in Russia but only succeeded in creating a lot of debt and sold his four-story mansion in Moscow to pay it off. An idea then took hold of Sterligov, what if he were to give it all up? He then proceeded to sell off and give away all that he owned. He sold his penthouse in New York, sold his retreat in Geneva and castle in Burgundy, sold his offices in Wall Street, London and in Moscow. He also gave away shares worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

What did Sterligov do after he had gotten rid of all of his riches? He took his family, consisting of his wife and five kids and camped out in the middle of some woods about 60 miles from Moscow. With the small amount of money they had left, they built a little log cabin with no electricity. Only a few days after they moved out of the tent and into the cabin their fifth child was born there. Sterligov says this about his new life, “Not in a million years do I want to be a businessman with these silly, shiny badges of success; the Rublyovka houses, swanky yachts, Bentleys and so on. I’m happy with my peace in the countryside, and my sheep, along with my wife and kids. Being super-rich is a kind of slavery from which we’re free, thankfully.”

Sterligov does claim to be part of the Russian Orthodox Church although there was no clear statement that his faith led him to the decision that he made to leave his riches behind. However, it may be that his faith is part of why he and his wife have such peace with their decision now. Sterligov’s story is somewhat similar to what the Rich Young Ruler from the Bible would have had to give up to follow Jesus. It would have been difficult, but possible.

What about you? Have you given up anything to follow Jesus? Many in ministry have given up careers and comfortable lives to launch out into the unknown world of an uncertain future not knowing where they will end up or even how they will survive financially. Many have left behind their addictions to follow Jesus. Many have left behind lives of crime to follow Jesus. Many have left behind their sinful lifestyles to follow Jesus. Many have left behind the faiths of their parents and ancestors to follow Jesus even though some of them were killed because of leaving the Muslim faith. What about you? Have you given up anything to follow Jesus?

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.17.14

No Clothes

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation. - 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 NKJV.

At a gas station and convenience store combination in Poland, there was an unexpected incident which occurred. One of the customers, Cezar Zawadzki, was present and recorded the event using his phone. For most people, it would likely be a memorable occurrence in that it is not often that a young woman without clothes walks into a store. According to Cezar, everyone tried to act as though there was nothing strange about what was happening. The woman walked to a display and picked out some food and something to drink, and then walked to the counter. Cezar says, “She completely ignored me and she didn’t seem drunk or on drugs, she just stood patiently waiting in the line to be served so that she could pay for her drink and sandwich. It was a really surreal experience. After she paid she just left the shop and went back down the road as if it was the most normal thing in the world.” (Orange News 07.16.14)

Why would someone do something like the young woman in the above incident? There are multiple possibilities; however the one most likely is mental illness. A study from the National Institute of Mental Health indicates that in any year, one in four adults suffers from a diagnosable form of mental illness. It is common for some unknown reason for people who are mentally ill to disrobe. Some of the possibilities are schizophrenia, catatonia (resulting from schizophrenia), and psychosis. In addition, medications and illegal drugs can be a causal factor. In older people with dementia, disrobing is sometimes seen, but it is more related to confusion in thinking.

Personally, I have heard many reports of people disrobing at inappropriate times and read many articles similar to the young woman in Poland. My own Mother who had been unable to walk by herself for several months had a strange incident of this behavior. In the middle of the night, she jumped out of bed ran out of the house without clothes, ran down the road for more than a quarter of a mile before collapsing in the middle of the road before my Dad could catch up with her. My Mother did suffer from mental illness at times during her life. At times, she was very well and at other times she had trouble functioning at all. During the time that she had the incident of running down the road, she was on several types of medications that could have caused an adverse psychotic reaction. Of course, not all disrobing incidents are caused by mental illness, some are the result of…how can I say this…unwise behavior. Also, some incidents like this are simply an attempt to gain the attention of others, but maybe that is a type of mental illness too?

The truth is that the mentally ill sometimes do far more shocking things outside of the societal norms than simply disrobing. It is tempting, when confronted with this type of behavior to run, not walk, away from it as fast as we possibly can. We do not want to see it and we do not want to talk about it. However, what we need to remember is that for whatever reason, people exhibiting these types of behavior are hurting. People acting in these ways likely need medical treatment, but even more they need the consolation of God and the compassion that we Christians can extend toward them. God has comforted us “that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.16.14

Do It Yourself

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:9 NKJV.

Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. - Matthew 26:41 NKJV.

Jacob Rogers of Smyrna, Georgia was the victim of a hit-and-run driver. Thankfully, his injuries were minor as the vehicle struck the left side of the bike injuring his left foot and damaging the left pedal. One of the witnesses called 911 and the police arrived at the scene of the accident soon afterwards. Jacob was advised by the police that it would likely be one or two days before a detective could be assigned to investigate the hit-and-run accident.

Jacob decided to perform his own accident investigation because he says, “I was not so much upset about the accident because accidents happen. I was upset that she pushed her way through and it was a hit and run.” Knowing the vehicle had driven out of the entrance to an apartment complex, the next day Jacob began a search for the silver Volkswagen. The first silver Volkswagen found by Jacob was the one involved in the accident. In the grill of the vehicle was stuck part of the pedal that had been broken off of Jacob’s bike in the accident. Jacob contacted the police and 20-year-old Pablynne Silva was arrested for a misdemeanor hit and run offense. She could face up to one year in jail and a $1000 fine. (USA Today, Maxnews, WXIA-TV Atlanta and other news venues 07.16.14)

There are some things in the Christian life that you have to do yourself as in you cannot have another person do it for you. For example, another person cannot confess your sins and expect that you will receive forgiveness for their confession. If you want your sins forgiven you must confess those sins in a state of repentance yourself. Another thing that another cannot do for you is to be baptized. Now someone else can be baptized for you, but it will have no meaning. You, yourself will have to be baptized if you want to be obedient to God. Partaking of the Lord’s Supper is another thing that someone else cannot do for you. You will have to partake of the Lord’s Supper yourself for it to have meaning in your life.

There are other things in the Christian life that others can do for you, but you are the one primarily responsible for doing them. Prayer is an example. Jesus tells His disciples, “Watch and pray, lest YOU enter into temptation.” We know that Jesus Himself was praying for His disciples, but the disciples themselves still are told to pray for themselves. Philippians 4:6 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let YOUR requests be made known to God.” “Let YOUR requests be made known” makes it clear that you should be praying personally about everything in your life that makes you “anxious.” Even though, your pastor or other prayer warriors are praying about situations in your life that does not mean that you are not to pray yourself.

Studying God’s Word is something you must also do yourself (2 Timothy 3:16), however you can benefit from others who have studied the Scriptures, through their sermons, and writings. Others can witness to your relatives and friends, but this does not remove the primary responsibility for sharing the Gospel with them from you (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). Jesus tells us that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few (Matthew 9:37-38). Maybe the workers are few because we expect others to do what we should be doing ourselves? Sometimes you have to do it yourself.

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.15.14

Living in the Past

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world…. - Ephesians 2:1-2a NKJV.

Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. - 1 Peter 4:1-4 NKJV.

A 35-year-old man in England is living in the past, as in the 1940s. Ben Sansum is working hard to make the past become real in his life. He has a bought small Victorian cottage (four rooms) and has decorated and furnished the house in 1940s furniture and décor including appliances. His fascination with the past time period began when a great uncle gave him an old radio from the 1940s. Now Ben dresses as a man in the 40s would dress, cooks as they cooked then, surrounds himself with everything he possibly can from the past. He even has a view from his home that he says has not changed in a thousand years. Ben says about his way of life, “I couldn’t live in a modern house now with modern interiors. I like this period, I like the community spirit. I don’t want to glorify the war, I like all the things that took people’s minds away from the war, the music and the fashions and the cars.” However, Ben does have a girlfriend now who has her own home. The girlfriend’s home is completely modern and Ben says they are just in a relationship that happens to have two homes. I am wondering though, about how much longer Ben’s girlfriend is going to allow him to live in the past? (BBC, Huntspost 07.10.14)

There are at least three ways that believers attempt to live in the past. Believers sometimes live in the past by acting as they did prior to knowing Christ as their Savior. The apostle Peter is warning believers against this type of behavior and says in 1 Peter 4:7 NKJV, “But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers.” Surely the “end of all things” is drawing near as we view all that is happening across the world in these days.

Another way that believers live in the past is continual dwelling upon what has happened in our lives. This goes beyond just thinking about the past to a focus upon those days as being the most important without any concern for the present. Yes, we must not forget the lessons we have learned in the past God makes that clear throughout the Bible and Hebrews 11 is a New Testament example. The point being that as long as we are here in this flesh upon this earth God has more for us to do. Our focus should not be upon past deeds, but upon the present with the work and plan that God has for our lives.

The third way that believers are living in the past is by the dwelling upon our sins, our failures prior to becoming children of God. Yes, we did all those bad things, and we are sorry for them, but they are in the past. We cannot, as much as we would like to, undo those past sins. Now we can try to restore those we have hurt and seek forgiveness, but the sin itself cannot be undone. The great news is that if we know Jesus as our Savior, God has washed away those sins with the sacrificial blood of the perfect Lamb of God on the cross. God has forgiven us and remembers those sins no more (Hebrews 8:12; Jeremiah 31:34; Micah 7:19), so forgive yourself, choose to forget as God has, and move forward with how God would have you to serve Him now.

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.14.14

LOL

Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us.” HE WHO SITS IN THE HEAVENS SHALL LAUGH; the Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure: “Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion.” - Psalm 2:1-6 NKJV.

Several people driving home from Las Vegas, Nevada to Primm, Nevada viewed a strange cloud in the sky. The cloud spelled out the letters “LOL” which if you have been on the Internet using chat or been texting for very long, you know what it means. LOL is short in text shorthand for “Laughing Out Loud.” Many people were stuck in traffic the day the cloud appeared as they traveled the 44-mile commute from Las Vegas to Primm. One person posted that it had taken them two hours to make the drive on that day. A man with the Reddit user name of “Waymoe” posted the photo on the social media site. Waymoe posted this “Stuck in terrible traffic and look up to see this, it’s like the sky is laughing at us.” After the photo had been seen by thousands Waymoe posted, “Just woke up to see this on the front page! I hope clouds are jerks to me more often.” (Orange 07.09.14; Mirror.co.uk 07.08.14)

Did God place the LOL in the sky? Good question. Would God have been able to arrange clouds in the sky to spell out letters? Of course, God could do that if He wanted to. God can do whatever He wants to do. I think it would be great if God were to begin to send us text messages in the sky through clouds. Suppose you are driving along thinking about how you are going win millions in the lottery and God spells out with clouds NGH, which is short for “Not Gonna Happen.” You would then know not to waste your time or money buying that lottery ticket! Or, how about you are praying for the traffic ahead of you to part like the Red Sea did for Moses and God spells out in the clouds NIMY which is short for “Never In A Million Years.” Or, you are praying as you drive along and confess some of your sins to Him and suddenly in the sky appear the letters YS which are short for “You Stinker.” Then, in the sky appears this long string of letters YMYBNYCSII which are short for “You Made Your Bed Now You Can Sleep In It.”

It would be nice if God communicated with us by text messages in the sky, wouldn’t it? However, the Bible tells us this in 2 Corinthians 5:7, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” But some day if we know Jesus as our Savior, and we are present with the Lord, everything will become clear as we are told in 1 Corinthians 13:13 NKJV, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.”

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.11.14

Spiritual Orientation Phenomenon

But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. - 1 Corinthians 2:14 NKJV.

But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. - 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 NKJV.

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” - John 8:31-32 NKJV.

Do you have “Spatial Orientation Phenomenon?” Bojana Danilovic from Serbia is one of the very few known to have this odd condition where everything appears to them upside down from the rest of us. Bojana is 29-years-old living in Serbia and is a college graduate with a degree in economics. Nothing is wrong with her intelligence or her eyes, it is just that her brain interprets the data from her eyes upside down. She has lived with this all of her life and has been backwards about nearly everything. She was born feet first, crawled at first going backwards, the same when she first began to walk, and she wrote backwards too. She watches a TV that is turned upside down, turns her mobile phone upside down, turns her computer monitor and keyboard upside down and her newspaper upside down. (NY Daily News; Daily MailOnline; International Business Times 03.15.13)

Spatial Orientation Phenomenon is a very rare condition that only a very few in all of history have had, at least that have been documented. I have discovered another condition that is not so rare and the truth is that maybe a few billion people suffer from it. What is this condition? I have named it “Spiritual Orientation Phenomenon.” Those with this condition (SpOP) see spiritual things backwards and are able to more easily believe a lie than they are able to believe the spiritual truth. People with SpOP often suffer from the delusion that everyone goes to Heaven or that there are multiple ways or paths that one can take to arrive in Heaven. The Bible is very clear that there is only one way to Heaven and that is through Jesus as He tells us in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Other often suffered spiritual delusions with SpOP are the belief that there is no God, and that if you do more good things than bad things you will go to Heaven. There are likely additional SpOP delusions, but all have in common rejection of the spiritual truths as revealed in the Bible.

The Bible identifies a person with Spiritual Orientation Phenomenon (SpOP) as someone who is a “natural man” who has not been “born again (John 3:3).” All those suffering from SpOP have been “blinded” by the “god of this age (the devil)” and will perish eternally if they continue in their state of delusion. The cure for SpOP consists of confronting spiritually delusional people with the truth because the truth will set them free (John 8:32). In addition, sharing your own personal testimony of how God freed you through Jesus can be helpful as we are told in Revelation 12:11, “And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony….” In order to reach the spiritually deluded with the truth, we must remain spiritually strong ourselves. “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life (Jude 1:20-21).” By staying spiritually strong ourselves, we will then be able to help those suffering from SpOP, pulling them from the fire of eternal death. “And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh (Jude 1:22-23).” We know the truth that someday all will face judgment so as the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:11a, “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men….”

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.10.14

Cross Carriers

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” - Luke 9:23 NKJV.

Lindsay Hamon, 61-year-old man from England, for almost half of his life; has been carrying a literal cross 12 ft long with a crossbeam of 6 ft. Lindsay has carried his cross across 19 countries and uses his cross as an evangelistic tool providing him opportunities to tell people about Jesus. He began his effort of cross-bearing in 1987 carrying the cross for as much as 12 hours a day never knowing where he would stay during the night. Lindsay says, “I find people often want to talk, but if people don’t want to know I walk on. The love you get from it all is amazing, people will just stop and ask you questions, offer you food and sometimes a place to stay.” There have been some difficult times like when he was in Bangladesh and was attacked and the attackers tried to shoot him. Lindsay says about the possibility of danger, “There is fear there sometimes because I have a wife and kids and you don’t want to put yourself in danger. It is really trusting in God, knowing He will protect you.”

According to Hamon he has had the opportunity to visit with thousands of curious people and he has prayed with many of them. Somehow God overcomes the language barrier that is there at times as Lindsay shares, “Sometimes you get people who translate for you, I had one young boy who came out of nowhere when I was talking to around 20 or 30 people and he just translated everything. When it was done he just disappeared, I never knew who he was or where he came from, it’s amazing.” When people ask why he is carrying a cross he tells them, “The cross is the greatest symbol of how much God loves them.” He has so far traveled across these countries: Belarus, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Belgium, Germany, France, Holland, Ireland, India, Hungary, Nepal, New Zealand, Italy, Russia, Romania, Poland, Sri Lanka, Slovakia, Latvia, Denmark and the UK. (MailOnline.com 03.21.13; LindsayHamon.com; Lindsay‘s book, “When God Takes Over” is available on Amazon.)

Did Jesus mean for us to literally take a cross and carry it on our shoulders on a daily basis? No, He is making it very clear that living the Christian life is not a piece of cake. Instead, living the Christian life is more like carrying a cross to the place of your execution. The cross is something that the hearers of Jesus were very familiar with, but this is the first mention of the cross in the written record in the Gospel of Luke (9:23). Those listening to Jesus knew that when the Roman government condemned someone to die on the cross the condemned person was made to carry the crossbeam to the place where he was to be executed. Luke adds one word to the statement made in Luke 9:23 that Matthew and Mark did not have, and that word is “daily.”

When Jesus says in Luke 9:23, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me,” it is a cautionary statement for those who would be followers of Him. Jesus is making it clear there are costs involved in being His disciple. If you would be a disciple, a follower, a believer in Jesus, you must be prepared even to die for your faith in Him. “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels (Luke 9:24-26).” May we daily be cross carriers for Jesus!

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.09.14

Life Without Fear

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. - 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV.

And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him! - Luke 12:4-5 NKJV.

Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, And the Lord listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name. - Malachi 3:16 NKJV.

But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings; And you shall go out And grow fat like stall-fed calves. - Malachi 4:2 NKJV.

In Russia, Valery Bochkarev and Alexander Blagov have created a two-day course to help people to overcome their fears. The idea is to confront people with extreme challenges and by completing those challenges their confidence is increased and fear is reduced. The fear reducing course is a hands-on type of thing. If you participate in this course, you will experience: walking on burning hot coals, walking and lying down on broken glass, lying and standing on a bed of nails, winter swimming, staged fights, stopping a falling knife with your stomach, large bugs crawling over your body, breaking wooden sticks with your necks, being buried alive and much more. Sounds like a lot of fun doesn’t it? However, there was no mention of snake charming. (Prafulla.net)

Fear can be crippling, so much so, that some people will not leave their homes (agoraphobia). It is just one of a huge number of fears identified by psychologists and psychiatrists called phobias. Those suffering from phobias can become withdrawn, depressed, and socially incapacitated. Anyone suffering severe symptoms from a phobia should seek professional help and treatment.

It is not God’s will for us to live in fear as 2 Timothy 1:7 says believers have not been given a spirit of fear; “but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” It is not God’s will for you to have so much fear that you are unable to leave your home. It is not God’s will for you to have such a great fear of germs or simply of social interaction that you refuse to have contact with others.

How can fear be overcome? We know that it is not God’s will for us to be fearful of our environment, our surroundings that we live in, or of what other humans may possibly do to us. The Bible tells us that instead of fearing these things we should fear God. We should reverence and respect God by being obedient to Him. The result of such reverence, respect and obedience to God will be a reduction in the amount of abnormal fear we have toward any and everything else. You could say that as you grow your faith in God your fears will shrink. How can you grow your faith and reduce your fears? “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Hebrews 10:17).”

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.08.14

Finding Peace

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. - Romans 13:14 NKJV.

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. - Romans 13:14 NIV.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. - Romans 8:5-6 NKJV.

It all started in 2009 for Luo Dan, that was when he found inner peace and released his inner deer. What? Luo Dan lives in Chonqing, China and 2009 was when he began to wear a large deer mask that completely encompasses his head every day. Dan wears the mask, not just in his home, but everywhere that he goes. As to why Dan wears the mask he says, “The deer is a tame animal. Wearing its mask, I could find a long-missing inner peace. When I wear the mask, I feel I am a deer from within.” (Metro.co.uk 04.12.13)

You have to admire Luo Dan for seeking after a good thing, peace. In his own way, Dan seems to be seeking God. If only someone could share with him about the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) who through the Holy Spirit will live within (1 Corinthians 3:16) those who know Jesus as their Savior. Peace, appears to be a fleeting thing for so many with the pressures of modern life. In the 21st Century, there are so many distractions, so many worries, cares, and problems that drain away our peace.

Thinking about Luo Dan wearing his deer mask and releasing his “inner deer” can give us insight as to the application of Romans 13:14 and also Romans 8:5-6. As believers, we do not have to put on a deer mask and wear it around every day; instead, we are to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” We are to “put on” or “clothe” ourselves with Jesus and do what? Release our inner deer? No, we are to release Jesus through the Holy Spirit so He is displayed in our lives. As we live clothed in Jesus, acting as Jesus would act, thinking as Jesus would think; we will be “spiritually minded” and the result will be “life and peace.”

In 2 Peter 3:10-13, we are told of the coming “day of the Lord” that will come as a “thief in the night.” Then we have 2 Peter 3:14 which says, “Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him (Jesus) in peace, without spot and blameless.” Are you “in peace” in your life now? If not, you can be by putting on, clothing yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ. Allow the Holy Spirit who lives within to be released; displaying the attributes of Jesus in your actions and in your thoughts, and you will have “life and peace.”

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.02.14

Searching for Life?

All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. - John 1:3-5 NKJV.

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. - John 5:24 NKJV.

But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. - John 5:40 NKJV.

Danielle Davis is living a make believe life with celebrity, Bradley Cooper. Danielle is 39-years-old married with two children, and she is living her make believe life by taking a life-size cutout of Cooper with her everywhere she goes. Danielle takes the cutout of Cooper with her when she goes shopping, when cooking, just about everywhere! Danielle says, “I picked Bradley Cooper because I went to college with him for one year and we were in a play together, so I've watched his career from the get-go. My kids think it’s fun but get a little impatient with it sometimes, especially if they think I’m not doing something they want me to do. Then they’re like ‘It’s Bradley Cooper this and Bradley Cooper that!’ My daughter is young enough to not realize it might be embarrassing – I even took him to her school. My son would be mortified if I did that to him!” The motive for all of this craziness may be the promotion of a future book and her Instagram account reportedly now has 10,000 followers. (Today.com; MailOnline; and other news venues 07.02.14)

Let’s see, if I began carrying around a cardboard cutout of a movie actress everywhere I went, posting photos of the two of us on my facebook profile…what would happen? I think there would likely be an involuntary commitment for a mental evaluation in my future! You have to wonder if the cardboard cutout is one step short of actually stalking the actor. It does seem a little creepy, well maybe a lot creepy! There is a movie about a man who lives with a life size doll (Lars and the Real Girl -not a celebrity though) and he takes her everywhere with him.

If someone were actually trying to live an alternate life through a cardboard cutout or life-size doll, it would be indicative of a life that they want to have in reality. Maybe Danielle Davis really would like to be the wife of Bradley Cooper and thinks, fantasizes continually about what that life would be like. The man in the movie with the life-size doll, appeared to want to have a wife and family, and instead settled for life with a doll.

What kind of life have you settled for? You may not carry around a cardboard cutout of a movie star or a life-size doll, but are you living a life without real meaning, without real purpose, and without experiencing real life? Jesus came that we might have real life (John 10:10b), life with meaning and purpose. How do we have real life? Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:33 NKJV, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Jesus tells us in Luke 9:23, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Jesus tells the woman at the well, and us, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life (John 4:13-14 NKJV).” If you are willing (John 5:40; John 5:24), Jesus can give you real life.

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.01.14

Go to the Source

He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. - Isaiah 40:29 NKJV.

It is God who arms me with strength…. - Psalm 18:32 NKJV.

Bob Renning, 52-years-old, and his girlfriend were traveling on a Minnesota Interstate highway when they noticed a car on fire. They tried to attract the attention of the driver with no success. Soon afterwards, the burning car drove off the highway because of mechanical failure and died. Bob stopped his car and ran back to the burning vehicle. The driver of the stopped car, Johannes, was unable to open the doors or power down the windows after the car had lost power. Bob, as he was running toward the burning car, could see the flames and smoke filling the interior of the vehicle. As Bob was at first unable to open the door, he then was somehow able to force his fingers around the top of the car door and bend the door in half shattering the window. Johannes, after the car window was shattered and the door bent, was able to escape from the burning car. Trooper Zachery Hill, who responded to the scene of the incident, says about Renning, “He did an extraordinary deed, bending a locked car door in half of a burning car to extricate a trapped person.” Bob Renning said, “I’m still not sure exactly how I did it.” Johannes says that, “30 seconds more and I would have been done. He saved my life.” (Star Tribune; USA Today; TwinCities.com; FoxNews 07.01.14)

In one article I read, Bob Renning, is referred to as a superhero. No doubt the rescue involved superhuman courage to run toward a burning car, which we all know can sometimes explode. It also required superhuman wisdom to know how to attack the problem, and then superhuman strength to bend the door down, and shatter the car window. It is well known, that the body and mind are capable of extraordinary feats of strength, wisdom, and courage. However, not everyone demonstrates those extraordinary attributes during times of trial and crisis.

Most of us will never encounter a situation like Bob Renning did of a man trapped in a burning car. However, we will encounter situations in life that require superhuman courage, wisdom, and spiritual strength. As believers we know where to go for that courage, wisdom, and spiritual strength. The apostle Paul is an example of a person God empowered with the abilities needed to face the challenges of life. Paul was (2 Corinthians 11:22-33) persecuted, whipped multiple times, beaten with rods, stoned, imprisoned, shipwrecked, and even bitten by a poisonous snake. He endured riots, hunger, thirst, cold, and dangerous journeys. Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13 NKJV).” King David also endured and overcame extraordinary challenges. David praises God for being the source he needed to meet those challenges, “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold (Psalm 18:2 NKJV).”

Do you need superhuman courage? Do you need superhuman wisdom? Do you need superhuman strength? There is a source that has been found and proven to exist by countless servants of God. As David says, “It is God who arms me with strength.”

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.30.14

Scorpion Eaters

For they do not sleep unless they have done evil; and their sleep is taken away unless they make someone fall. For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence. But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day. - Proverbs 4:16-18 NKJV.

“For they are impudent and stubborn children. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God.’ As for them, whether they hear or whether they refuse-for they are a rebellious house-yet they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you dwell among scorpions….” Now when I looked, there was a hand stretched out to me; and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. Then He spread it before me; and there was writing on the inside and on the outside…. - Ezekiel 2:4-6; 9-10a. NKJV.

Moreover He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” - Ezekiel 3:1 NKJV.

A farmer in Iraq says that he eats a live scorpion on a daily basis. Ismail Jasim Mohammed says that he develops withdrawal symptoms if he goes a few days without eating a scorpion. Ismail is 34-years-old and has been eating scorpions for 15 years. He decided one day to try to eat one of them and liked the taste. Ismail admits that he has been stung several times inside of his mouth but has developed resistance to the scorpion venom. (NBC; Aleqt 05.29.13)

Hard to believe that anyone would attempt actually to eat a scorpion! Even harder to believe that someone could become addicted to eating scorpions! I know many people have scorpions in their homes at times and have to be watching for them. Ismail says that he keeps scorpions in his home so that he will have a supply even though his wife and children are terrified of them. That would be an unpleasant way to have to live your life.

Ezekiel may not have been eating scorpions, but God told him that he was living among them, meaning the rebellious Israelites. Ezekiel was given the difficult task of trying to witness to hard-hearted people. He did not have to go to a foreign land where people spoke a different language. Instead, Ezekiel was given perhaps an even harder assignment of trying to reach people speaking his own language.

Christians today are living among rebellious people somewhat like Ismail Jasim Mohammed, who refuse to stop eating scorpions. What am I talking about? We live among people like the Israelites who persist in eating, not scorpions, but evil (rebellion against God - Ezekiel 2 and 3). They are addicted to eating the scorpions of evil. As the writer of Proverbs 4:17 says, “For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence.” Let us refuse to eat the scorpions! Instead, let us eat the bread of righteousness. As Ezekiel was told to “eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel” let us eat of the “bread of life (John 6:48),” and go witness to the people of our own nation.

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.27.14

The Good Fight

But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. - 1 Timothy 6:11-12 NKJV.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. - 2 Timothy 4:6-8 NKJV.

A Utah man attacked another man, who was a visitor, at a church service over the seat where he usually sat. Reportedly the man who was attacked was trying to save three rows of seats which included the seat where Wayne Dodge usually sat. Dodge and the visitor had a few words later in the parking lot where Dodge punched the other man in the face. Also, as Dodge was driving away, he tried to hit the other man with his vehicle. (Salt Lake Tribune 07.03.13; KPRC-TV 07.03.13; and various other venues)

The fight over church seats occurred in a Mormon church, but they have occurred in other churches for many reasons. Another church fight occurred in the choir of a Missionary Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee. Two families had a brawl right in the choir loft. Reportedly the Wednesday before there had been a verbal confrontation when someone told someone to “stop sleeping with somebody.” (WMC-TV 12.07.11)

A new phenomenon is “fight church” with churches sponsoring brutal MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) matches. As one person asked, “Can you love your neighbor and knee him in the face?” It just doesn’t seem like the right thing for believers to do…. MMA church fights may have the right goal in that they want to win people to Christ, but they are not going about it in the right way. It appears, at least to me, that they are leaving out the “gentleness” which the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul instructs Timothy to have.

The apostle Paul moved by the Holy Spirit instructs Timothy to “Fight the good fight of faith,” and “to wage the good warfare (1 Timothy 1:18).” Paul in 2 Timothy also says that he has “fought the good fight.” Now this is the kind of church fight that believers need to be involved in.

Living the Christian life according to the apostle Paul is a fight, it is a war. Ephesians 6:10-18 describes the weapons available for the battle. In 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 we are given more information about these weapons and what they can do, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” Our weapons are not of this world, and we do not fight as the world fights, when we fight the “good fight of faith.”

Instead of fighting over who sits where in a church, or over some gossip that someone has told, we should be busy wielding the supernatural weapons we have been given. Prayers are far more powerful than a fist. The shield of faith has given us the ability to overcome the fiery darts thrown by the enemy. Faith results in courage, instead of the fear the enemy wants us to have. Instead of our fists we fight the “good fight” with “righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.” These are the most powerful weapons of all!

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.26.14

Soldier On

Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. - Colossians 4:1-4 NKJV.

Surely he will never be shaken; the righteous will be in everlasting remembrance. He will not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is established; He will not be afraid, until he sees his desire upon his enemies. - Psalm 112:6-8 NKJV.

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. - 2 Timothy 2:3 NKJV.

Phillip Coon, a survivor of the WWII Bataan Death March of April 1942, has passed away. 75,000 men who surrendered to the Japanese were forced to march 60 miles through the jungle to prison camps. Only 54,000 survived the punishing march. Coon says that if he slowed down, or looked behind, or stopped, a soldier with a sharp stick would jab him in his side. He said that he could hear the screams of men behind him who could not keep up or had fallen that were either bayoneted or shot. After reaching the prison camp, he was forced to work in a copper mine and lost 55lbs during the three years of being a POW weighing only 90lbs when he was freed. How did Phillip Coon survive those horrific conditions? Coon says it was “Because of his faith and because he knew people back home were praying for him.” Coon was a Native American and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief George Tiger said this about Coon, “He certainly had a tremendous amount of faith.” (Tulsa World 06.25.14; Daily Oklahoman 06.26.14; New York Daily News 10.22.13; Indiancountrynewsmedianetwork 09.07.11)

The things that some people have endured are, I think, almost beyond belief for those of us who have lived our lives in safety and some degree of comfort. We hear the stories of people who have endured persecution for their faith. We hear the stories of those who have endured harsh captivity during war. We hear the stories of those who have endured severe mistreatment even during peacetime. Do we really understand, comprehend, what these people have gone through and that many are going through? I am amazed at how God has given so many the strength to endure horrific things and situations, even for years. But I know that I do not really understand, do not really perceive the true level of suffering that these people have suffered.

Psalm 112:6-8 could have been words penned by Phillip Coon. Phillip and others that went through the horrific Bataan Death March (One of my wife’s uncles was also a survivor of the Death March, her Mother’s brother-in-law.) surely received “evil tidings.” Those “evil tidings” kept on coming for three years. How was Phillip able to continue on? Reportedly he had a “tremendous amount of faith.” He was a man of prayer and he could feel the prayers of many lifting him up, sustaining him.

The apostle Paul while chained to a Roman soldier knew the value of prayer, of his prayers and of the prayers of others. The captivity of Paul was not as severe at the time of his writing Colossians as that endured by some, but Christian tradition indicates that Paul later was martyred for his faith by beheading. Through the apostle Paul, God gives us instructions for dealing with the “evil tidings” and suffering we may encounter in life. Prayer is of vital importance, our own prayers and the prayers of others. Paul, I think, would say to believers suffering today what he said to Timothy, “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” The Psalmist would add that the believer should not be afraid, being steadfast and trusting in the Lord while waiting for God’s deliverance to come. No matter what “evil tidings” may come let us soldier on!

The Burning Bush Devotional
Classic from 2007

06.25.14

Out of the Dust

But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand. - Isaiah 64:8 NKJV.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. - Romans 8:28-29 NKJV.

For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. - Colossians 1:16 NKJV.

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. - Genesis 2:7 NKJV.

Scott Wade is the “Dirty Car Artist.” His masterpieces are drawn in the dust of his car window. His drawings are more than simply the words, “Wash Me.” No, his drawings are great works of art created out of only dust. He has drawn, for example, the Mona Lisa, superimposed over his drawing of Van Gogh’s, “The Starry Night.” He has drawn dogs playing poker and Bottelcelli’s, “The Birth of Venus.” To see these works of art created out of nothing but dust is to think that this is amazing, magnificent, impossible, fantastic…. Wade says, “I've always drawn pictures on dirty windows. It wasn’t a conscious decision to develop a new art form, it was just looking for art in everything.” You can view some of Scott’s works of art at dirtycarart dot com.

It is hard to imagine that someone is able use just the dust on a car window to create a work of art. I first saw this story on Fox News and was amazed at seeing Scott transform dust into a thing of great beauty. After contemplating this for a moment, I realized that this is exactly what God does with our lives. God created mankind out of the dust. We are all made of the same material, as was the first man, Adam.

We are just dust, but God is busy working in our lives to transform us into His own personal works of art. We are the clay, and He is the potter. His hands are upon the life of every believer molding, shaping and transforming. God never lets anything be wasted in a believer’s life. It may be a horrific experience, but God will use it if allowed to further shape, mold and transform. If we love God, and seek His will, and plan to be done in our lives all is used to bring about the ultimate good, the ultimate work of art. The ultimate transformation, the ultimate in artistry for God is that we would be changed into, conformed to “the image of His Son.”

Yes, sometimes His hands upon our lives can bring pain but if we submit to His will it will all be for our ultimate benefit. The dust will be transformed into a wondrous work of art and we will be like Him!

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.24.14

Pretend Christians

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? - Matthew 7:15-16 NKJV.

Tim Lambesis, who was the leader singer for a Christian heavy metal band, has been convicted of trying to hire someone to kill his wife and sentenced to six years in prison. During interviews, Lambesis has revealed that he is not a Christian and that he is an atheist. He claims he was the third member of the group to become an atheist and he thinks that the other two group members also are atheists. Tim says, “I remember one Christian festival where an interviewer wanted one of the guys to share his testimony, and he just froze up, and let one of the guys who was still a Christian at the time answer the question. We laughed about it afterward, but we were only laughing because it was so awkward.” When rumors circulated that the group was Satanist he says, “I was afraid it would affect sales, which would affect my overall income. I was trying to put out the fire by saying the easiest thing, ‘I’m not a Satanist!’ Truthfully, I was an atheist.” Lambesis claims that only one in ten of Christian groups is actually Christian and that the rest are just pretending to be Christian. (06.19.14 Washington Post; Alternative Press; 06.23.14 Religion News Service; and various other news venues)

One of the problems with saying anything about whether some Christian music groups are actually made up of Christians or not is that we have to take the word of a man who has been convicted of trying to hire someone to kill his wife. For all we know he may have also wanted to hurt the other members in his band and by making these statements he was hoping that he could. However, it does appear that there was at least one pretend Christian in the group based on the statements of Tim Lambesis about himself. I surely hope that it is not true that many Christian group members are only pretending to be Christians. Sadly we have seen many supposedly Christian individuals over the years confess to some very unChristian things.

Jesus gives us words of instruction as to how to know who may be a false prophet and who may be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. First, Jesus tells us to “Beware” of fake prophets who will appear to be sheep but who are actually “ravenous wolves.” This means that we do have permission from the Lord Himself to be cautious about giving a blanket acceptance to everyone who claims to be a Christian. We have permission to dig a little deeper into a person’s background when we encounter them in our church or our lives.

How do we discern whether someone is a sheep or a wolf? Jesus says, “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?” Tim Lambesis, who claims as a member of a Christian heavy metal group that he was actually an atheist, demonstrates clearly the fruit from his life. The fruit from his life is the attempt to hire someone to kill his wife for which he has received six years in prison. He also says that he pretended to be a Christian so that he would make more money. Let us be aware that there are wolves like Tim in sheep’s clothing that will take advantage of Christians if they have the opportunity.

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.23.14

Stop Digging

Therefore, putting away lying, “Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor,” for we are members of one another. “Be angry, and do not sin”: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. - Ephesians 4:25-32 NKJV.

It all began in Salem, New Hampshire, that’s when a police officer made a traffic stop. Robert Zygarowski from Pennsylvania was very uncooperative and the result was that Officer Adam Pearson had to use his stun gun to try to subdue Robert. The next thing that happened was likely a complete shock to the officer because Robert pulled out the stun gun barbs and attacked the officer. Then, Robert was able to get back into his car and drive away from the scene of the traffic stop. Of course, that was not the end of the story! Officer Pearson chased after Robert until the man’s car had a tire blow out. Officer Pearson ordered Robert and two others out of the car, but the officer was again surprised as the man charged toward him and was able to escape in the officer’s vehicle. When more officers arrived they began to chase after the man once again, however, they found the stolen police vehicle a short distance away. Not long afterwards the man was seen entering a gas station threatening the clerk who called police. Police converged on the area and Robert was found on a nearby trail where he once again resisted arrest but was finally taken into custody. (WMUR.com 06.21.14)

Let’s see what are some of the charges Robert Zygarowski may face? Some of the possible charges are: disobeying lawful orders, three counts of resisting arrest and assault, reckless driving, theft of a motor vehicle, and probably many others. It appears likely that the man was under the influence of drugs or alcohol as well. Robert has dug himself a hole filled with some serious law violations which will result in prison time. The first law of holes is attributed to a British politician Denis Healey and also to Will Rogers. That law states: “If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” Robert just kept on digging. He could have stopped at the first traffic stop and simply been arrested for a possible under the influence charge, but Robert kept on digging going deeper and deeper into trouble.

God, through the apostle Paul, lists a bunch of things that we as Christians should avoid doing. Don’t lie, don’t hold onto your anger, don’t steal, don’t let bad words come out of your mouth, don’t do this and don’t do that. Why? Because when you persist in doing those things, you are digging yourself into a hole spiritually. “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” What’s the first rule of holes? This is a test…and the answer is: stop digging! Because if there is one thing you don’t want to do it is to “grieve the Holy Spirit of God.”

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.19.14

Just One Person

The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, “Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?” Then they went out of the city and came to Him. - John 4:28-30.

And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His own word. - John 4:39-41.

And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him. However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.” And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled. - Mark 5:18-20.

Yacouba Sawadogo of northern Burkina Faso is known as the man who stopped the desert. Yacouba used an ancient practice known as Zai to plant trees. The practice worked and in 20 years he successfully grew a forest of 30 acres where before it had been a completely barren area. Others took notice and began to use the same techniques for planting trees as Yacouba used. Chris Reji, a natural resources management specialist says, “Tens of thousands of hectares of land that was completely unproductive has been made productive again thanks to the techniques of Yacouba.” The determined efforts of one man have halted the advance of the desert and saved the livelihoods of countless families. (Wikipedia, National Geographic Magazine, Permaculture Magazine)

One person helped to stop a desert. One person can point many others to Jesus and hold back the barren desert of spiritual darkness. The woman at the well of John 4 did exactly that. Once she understood and believed nothing could stop her from telling others about Jesus. The people of her city knew this woman’s life had been transformed and they poured out of the city to find Jesus for themselves. The former demoniac of Mark 5 and Luke 8 was left behind by Jesus. Jesus had to leave, but he left behind a man determined to tell everyone he possibly could about the great things that Jesus had done in his life. This one man went through the ten independent city states of Decapolis proclaiming Jesus, “and all marveled.”

One man, Jonah, after being in the belly of the great fish, was a man determined to proclaim the message God had given him. It was enough to turn thousands upon thousands of people to God and spare an entire nation from God’s destruction. Saul, who became the apostle Paul after being struck blind on the road to Damascus, would let nothing stop him from sharing the truth about Jesus.

The woman of John 4, the man of Mark 5, and the apostle Paul were absolutely fearless in delivering the good news of Jesus. Jonah was absolutely fearless in delivering God's message of the coming destruction that was planned for Nineveh. Nothing could stop them from sharing God's truth. Just one man, just one woman can transform the world around them when they are empowered by the Spirit of God. What about your world? Is the world around you different, better, since Jesus came into your life?

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.18.14

Life is Not Fair

The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. - Psalm 19:9.

Then I returned and considered all the oppression that is done under the sun: and look! The tears of the oppressed, But they have no comforter - On the side of their oppressors there is power, but they have no comforter. Therefore I praised the dead who were already dead, more than the living who are still alive. Yet, better than both is he who has never existed, who has not seen the evil work that is done under the sun. - Ecclesiastes 4:1-4.

Yanyan is a homeless seven-year-old girl who lives under a bridge in Nanchang City, China. However, things could have been even worse for the little girl. Xiong Jianguo who is, 50-years-old now, was searching for plastic bottles to recycle when he lifted the lid of a trash dumpster seven years ago. He heard a baby cry and found Yanyan in a box with a blanket which also contained a note that stated: “Was born on October 15, 2007.” Xiong had pity on the little baby and took her home to a tiny room he lived in with his wife. He says, “No matter how hard it is, I intend to make sure that I raise her until she is old enough to stand on her own two feet. I don’t believe she would have had a good life in an orphanage.”

Life has not been fair to Xiong either. Because his parents died when he was young, he had very little education. Since finding Yanyan, his wife has left him, and their home was demolished so they now live homeless under a bridge. Yanyan says about her life: “Whatever happens, every year on my birthday, which is the day he found me, I get a small cake and a trip to a photo studio so that my picture can be taken when I get my birthday present, and so I can have a memory of the day. As long as it is my father’s place, I’m home.” (China, 21 News 06.18.14)

If you needed proof, Xiong and Yanyan are proof that life is not fair. Some people live under a bridge while other live in $100 million dollar mansions. We remember the story of the rich man and Lazarus that Jesus tells us in Luke 16, “There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores (Luke 16:19-21).” The lives that some have lived and are living are hard to imagine for some of us. Phil Collins song “Another Day in Paradise” somewhat describes it:

Oh think twice, it's another day for
You and me in paradise
Oh think twice, it's just another day for you,
You and me in paradise

Oh lord, is there nothing more anybody can do
Oh lord, there must be something you can say

You can tell from the lines on her face
You can see that she's been there
Probably been moved on from every place
'Cos she didn't fit in there

The fact is that life is not fair and it is likely that every one of us has encountered unfairness in some way in the past. We know what it is like, at least to some degree to be treated unfairly. Ecclesiastes gives us a depressing commentary on how unfair life can be by saying, “Therefore I praised the dead who were already dead, more than the living who are still alive. Yet, better than both is he who has never existed, who has not seen the evil work that is done under the sun.”

It is true there is much evil work being done under the sun as Ecclesiastes tells us! What hope do we have when life is so unfair? What hope did Lazarus have? In the case of Lazarus we know what happened: “So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom (Luke 16:22).” And Abraham says about Lazarus, “he is comforted (Luke 16:25).” What hope does the little girl in China have? Yanyan says, “As long as it is my father’s place, I’m home.” We have a similar, although much greater hope if we know Jesus as our Savior. “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know (John 14:1-2).” Life is not fair, but God is more than fair.

(Please pray for Yanyan and Xiong that they may come to know Jesus as their Savior.)

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.17.14

My Way or the Highway

The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways, But a good man will be satisfied from above. - Proverbs 14:14 NKJV.

We lie down in our shame, and our reproach covers us. For we have sinned against the Lord our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even to this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God. - Jeremiah 3:25 NKJV.

Say to the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. - Isaiah 3:10 NKJV.

Rolf Steiner, while passing by a home on his bicycle, was amazed to see a cow on top of the steep roof of the house. It happened in the Swiss Alps and Rolf says, “I couldn't believe my eyes and had to look three times to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing. A cow on the roof.” Apparently the distance to the roof was not as great in the rear of the house and the cow was able to jump onto the roof. The cow created a mess of the roof breaking tiles with its hooves. The cow’s owner says, “She always was one of my most cantankerous beasts, always wanting to do it her way, not mine or the herd's. I tried to chuck a broom at her to get her off, and put a ladder there, but I didn't use it, as I was worried she'd fall on top of me. She would have stayed up there for eternity if she had wanted to. I tried to coax her off when I first saw her, but she wouldn't budge. She had to do things in her own sweet time. And I am left with the bill for replacing the tiles she smashed.” The cow was able to go back the way it had come, and jump back down from the roof. (Orange News 06.16.14)

From looking at the photo of the cow on the steep roof, I was impressed as to how nimble that cow had to be! It is a wonder that she didn’t fall off, or even fall through the roof, or fall onto someone or something as the farmer feared. As I was reading this story, I began thinking about the backslider, a person who has decided to go their own way, instead of God’s way. The backslider causes damage not only to themselves, but to all those around them. I have thought in the past of how a backslider is somewhat like a “bull in a china shop,” but I’m tired of that comparison. So, now I am going to think of a backslider as being like a “cow on a roof” causing damage and with the potential of causing damage to everything around it.

We have choices in this life. We can choose God’s way or the highway. “My way or the highway” is another old phrase that even a song or two has been written about. Relient K a Christian rock group has a song with the title “My Way or the Highway,” and here are a few of the lyrics:

He said, "It's my way or the highway to hell."
It's your decision, choose it well.
He said, "It's my way or the highway to hell."
Decisions we make; life's an election.

But we've got a guide - a really thick handbook.
No one around to help you decide.
It's time to make up your mind.
It's time to make up your mind.

You got to choose our side and live, or their side and die.

I don’t remember ever hearing the song, but it does have a message.

Is your life filled with your own ways without any consideration of what God wants for your life? Are you like a “cow on a roof” punching holes in the roof and a danger, a threat to everyone around you? Then, maybe you are a backslider, and it is time for you to make up your mind which side you are on. Are you on God’s side or the Devil’s side? You can make the choice to exclude God from your life. However, to go your own way is simply asking for trouble, and trouble for everyone around you. Instead, choose life! Choose to live and “be satisfied from above (Proverbs 14:14).”

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.11.14

Strength from Weakness

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. - 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NKJV.

For 25 years, Station 17, has been making music. Station 17 is a somewhat obscure and unusual band from Hamburg, Germany. The band is obscure because not a lot of people know about it, and it is unusual because it consists of members who are physically or mentally disabled. The band was formed by Kai Boysen, a social worker, who had been the lead singer in the Painless Dirties, a punk rock group. Boysen may have settled down, but the desire to make music never left him. As a social worker, he found that music therapy was a wonderful tool for use with the disabled. Within the weakness of the disabilities of Station 17, has come the strength of their amazing creativity with a completely unique sound. Here is the link to a YouTube video about the group: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STA7abbXkoo&feature=player_embedded

From those society would deem of little value has come great value. Station 17 is just one of countless times that society, the world, has been wrong about people. Who would have thought that someone deaf and blind from birth could earn a college degree and write 12 books? But that is what Helen Keller did. How could anyone with muscular dystrophy contribute to society? But that is what Ralph Braun did. In 1966, Ralph created the first wheelchair accessible vehicle with hand controls. Through continued innovation, he has brought mobility to millions of people. Although Abraham Lincoln suffered from bouts with severe depression and grew up in the backwoods of Kentucky, Ohio and Illinois, he was still able to become one of the greatest presidents of the United States. The list of people with disabilities in one form or another that have lived successful lives is endless.

Weakness in the hands of God, can be an overcoming power. God said to the apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Paul had a thorn in the flesh that he pleaded with God on three separate occasions to remove. Those prayers were not answered in the way that Paul thought that he wanted. However, Paul discovered a great secret. What was that secret? Here is how Paul described it, “when I am weak, then I am strong.” Many believe that his thorn in the flesh was a problem with his eyesight. Possibly a disease he contracted on his first mission trip. But that did not stop Paul from writing. He just spoke the words and another recorded them for us to read.

Think about the strength and the good that has come from weakness. Consider the weakness of a shepherd boy named David. David was the smallest and youngest of the family, but he was the one who had the faith to believe he could sling a stone and slay the giant Goliath. The ultimate example of strength from weakness is given in Jesus. Jesus, the Creator of worlds who could have called legions of angels to take him down from the cross, instead He became the helpless lamb and through weakness became our Savior. If you have a thorn in your flesh that has made you weak, remember that in the hands of God when you are weak, you can be strong. As we are told through the apostle Paul, “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.10.14

Your Life Focus

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. - Isaiah 26:3 NKJV.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. - Hebrews 12:1-3 NKJV.

You shall have no other gods before Me. - Exodus 20:3 NKJV.

In the world today, we see many different things that people focus on with their lives. I want to share with you just a few.

David Avner is focused on making himself look like a tiger and he has spent more than $200,000 on plastic surgeries in an attempt to do that. And, there is a man in South America having plastic surgeries to make himself look like a Korean. And, a South Korean woman has had plastic surgeries to make her look like Miranda Kerr. And, I’ve read about a woman having plastic surgeries to make herself look like a Barbie doll. And, Rodrigo Alves has had 20 plastic surgeries to make himself look like a Ken doll. I don’t have $200,000 so I guess I will just have to keep on looking like me.

Ruan Tang is focused on helping her community in eastern China by killing flies. For the last 14 years she has been killing flies eight hours every day. Someone please buy them some of those bug zappers.

Three men from Dublin, Ireland have quit their jobs and are doing Irish dances across the world and want more people to join in. I might join in since I have some Irish ancestors, but none of them passed down the dances.

John Brooker spent 13 years turning a 150-foot long hedge into a 20-foot tall dragon because he thought his hedge was boring. Now, he does have a really cool looking dragon hedge.

We have to be careful or what we really enjoy doing can become an idol. What is an idol? An idol is anything that we put before God. For example, when I was younger my guitar was the focus of my life. It had become an idol, although it took some time after I became a Christian to recognize the danger it represented. Nothing wrong with playing the guitar, but it had become my focus in life instead of God. We may really enjoy fishing, hunting, water sports, winter sports, and other sports; but if those pursuits are placed before God, they are idols. We love our families, but if we place them or a family member before God they can even become idols.

The danger of placing our focus upon anything other than God is that it will rob us of peace, rob us of joy, and rob us of blessings. We may, as Hebrews 12:3 indicates, become “weary and discouraged in our souls” when our life focus is not upon our God. Our motto, our plan, our purpose, our focus should be as we are told in Matthew 6:33, “…seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” As we are told in Hebrews 12, we must lay all of that other stuff aside and look to Jesus, focus on Jesus, because He is “the author and finisher of our faith.”

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.09.14

Looking Backward

Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O Lord; let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me. For innumerable evils have surrounded me; my iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of my head; therefore my heart fails me. - Psalm 40:11-12 NKJV.

Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. - Luke 17:32-33.

But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. - Genesis 19:26.

I can remember doing basketball drills and having to run backward, I never enjoyed that! But can you imagine having to always walk backward while often looking over your shoulder to see where you are going? That is what Mani Manithan of Tamil Nadu state in India has been doing for…25 years! I have to say it, that is just crazy! However, according to Mani, it is all for a good purpose. Some people pray for world peace, Mani walks backward for world peace. It all began in 1989, when there were many violent acts which took place that year in India. Mani says, “On the international level, terrorism has increased, so many blasts are happening, the youth are misguided. To condemn such incidents I have been walking backward for 25 years. My only agenda is world peace.” He has perfected the art of looking over his shoulder while walking backward and has been walking backward for so long that he says, “Walking normally is more of a challenge, my mind has forgotten how to do it. I have become very comfortable walking like this.” (Caters News 06.09.14)

There are some ways of looking backward in our lives, and of going spiritually backward. We remember the story of Lot’s wife. Lot and his family were living in Sodom and Gomorrah but because of the wickedness of the place God destroyed it. However, God sent His angels to save Lot and his family. They were warned not to look back…Lot’s wife looked back anyway and we know what happened to her; she turned into a “pillar of salt.” She is an example of someone attached to material things. She wanted to see what was happening to her home and the sad result was that she lost everything.

The Israelites experienced a little difficulty soon after escaping from slavery in Egypt and wanted to go back to their chains (Exodus 16:3). In the New Testament we find Ananias and Sapphira, who lied about how much they sold a property for so they could keep part of the money, but still look good in the eyes of other believers. Peter told them they didn’t just lie to men, but to God, and we know what happened to them. They like Lot’s wife were looking back at material things instead of forward toward what God had for them. The Rich Young Ruler of Matthew 19 did the same as he was looking backward at all the riches he would lose if he were to go forward with following Jesus.

Mark may give us an additional way of looking back with our lives and a way of actually turning back from God’s will as did Ananias and Sapphira. Mark we know from Acts 15:38 while on a mission trip with Paul left the work at Pamphylia and went back home. Some think he had grown fearful, others think he may have been missing a girlfriend back home; Mark not only looked back, he went back. However, that was not the end of the story because from 2 Timothy 4:11 we find that Paul now considers Mark to be “profitable,” or “useful” in ministry and Paul wanted him by his side. We can see that we can look backward in our lives to all of our material things. We can also look backward for other reasons like people (i.e. Mark possibly missing a girlfriend), and safety. We can also go backward spiritually by returning to the way that we lived prior to becoming believers in Jesus.

The Psalmist speaks of another backward way of looking (Psalm 40:11-12). We can become overwhelmed by thinking of how we have sinned in the past, of our past failures. This kind of backward thinking can paralyze us to the extent that we are unable to move forward in service to our Lord. In this kind of situation, we do not need to remember Lot’s wife; no, we need to remember 1 John 1:9. We need to look to the example of Mark, who returned to the work, after a dismal past failure. Stop looking backward, and instead look forward to all of the glorious riches that we have in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.06.14

Confronting Evil

Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: “Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” - Esther 4:15-16 NKJV.

The Jews gathered together in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who sought their harm. And no one could withstand them, because fear of them fell upon all people. - Esther 9:2 NKJV.

Thus the Jews defeated all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, with slaughter and destruction, and did what they pleased with those who hated them. - Esther 9:5 NKJV.

Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. - Acts 12:1-3 NKJV.

Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church - Acts 12:5 NKJV.

Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands. - Acts 12:7 NKJV.

Today, June 6th, is the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion with some 150,000 allied troops taking part in the attack at Normandy, France. Allied casualties were 12,000 with 4,414 confirmed dead. German casualties have been reported at around 1,000. D-Day was a horrific part of World War II, but the horror was far greater than a single day. We can begin to understand a little of the horror of World War II by considering the total deaths during that war. Battle deaths are listed at 15 million. Battle wounded 25 million. Civilian deaths 45 million although in China alone civilian deaths are thought possibly to have been as high as 50 million people. These numbers are from www.nationalww2museum.org There are 41 countries reported as having suffered people being killed during the war; although, every country was affected to some degree. There was a very high horrific cost in confronting the evil Hitler had planned for this world. However, it is clear that the cost of not confronting that evil would have been far higher.

Evil did not disappear after World War II ended. There have been countless wars and conflicts across our world since then. There are still wars and conflicts today. The enemy has morphed into new faces and has new tactics of operation. Terror is the new face of evil which we have seen up close and personal in the many horrific bombings and other types of attacks like 9/11. However, evil is insidious, evil is sneaky, evil is evil and is lurking everywhere just below the surface. We have seen evil surface with the school shootings in the United States and other countries too, but in China they have had knife attacks. We have had the Tylenol poisonings, the Unabomber, and the rise of the cults. Just this week we learned of Slenderman and of the two 12-year-old girls stabbing another 12-year-old girl in an attempt to please this imaginary character that someone made up. Evil it appears is alive and well on planet Earth.

How do we confront evil? Sometimes evil must be physically confronted as with home invasions, carjackings, kidnappings, robberies, terror attacks, and in war. But I would submit to you that there was a supernatural war raging at the same time the physical war was raging during World War II. At the beginning of the war the Germans had better planes, batter tanks, better machine guns, they had rockets and were working on “heavy water.” They had better everything than the Allies had. In the Pacific, the war began with a devastating attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese had the advantage with better planes and a much large fleet of ships. While the physical fight was being fought with guns, bullets, and blood the supernatural fight was being fought by millions of people on their knees in prayer.

Just because we do not see a physical manifestation of evil does not mean that evil does not exist and that it is not a threat to us personally and all that we love. We must engage in the battle against evil every day. We must pray, and pray hard every day for God to protect us from the evil that is lurking in the background waiting for an opportunity to pounce. Evil may not be as visible as it was during World War II, but it is perhaps an even more dangerous threat to us today. New weapons, new diseases, new avenues of temptation and new tactics are being used by a supernatural enemy. We must respond with the ageless weapon of prayer. Does prayer make a difference? Yes! Prayer has always been and still is a difference maker. Let us pray, and pray hard for all that we love and is good upon this Earth.

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.05.14

Are You Izikhothane?

Again, I saw that for all toil and every skillful work a man is envied by his neighbor. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind. The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh. Better a handful with quietness than both hands full, together with toil and grasping for the wind. - Ecclesiastes 4:4-6.

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like. - Galatians 5:19-21a.

There is a somewhat strange youth subculture in South Africa called Izikhothane. It basically means something like, “brag it.” Young people gather together, which is not that unusual, but what they do is…weird! When they meet up with other Izikhothane, they have encounters with other similar groups. No, they don’t pull out their guns, and switchblades and start shooting and cutting. No, they have dance-offs! While they are dancing the night away, they burn cash, spill alcohol and expensive food out on the street, tear up their clothes, and break cellphones. One of the Izikhothane explains, “To be Izikhothane, you have to be like us. Buy expensive clothes, booze, fame, girls, driving, spending. And when you are dressed in Italian clothing it shows that you’re smart.” It appears that they do what they do to show off as in they have more money, clothes, alcohol, and food than anyone else. The point is to demonstrate how much they have, so much, that they can burn it. Strangely enough, most of these gang members do not have wealthy parents. Most of the Izikhothane come from working class families. One of the mothers of an Izikhothane said, “They tear up their clothes and money, forgetting that we are poor and struggle for money. What the he_l is this Izikhothane business?” In 2012, the gangs gained much attention when one of the members committed suicide because he was unable to keep up with the others. Cedrain Wambe, who has researched the Izikhothane, “Young people tell me they’re prepared to do anything, including hitting their parents to get money.” (Vocativ, VICE, France24 05.26.14)

When I read about the Izikhothane, I was wondering how could anyone just burn up money and other expensive stuff to get some attention? The truth is that it is an extreme form of what adults across the world do to a lesser degree. It is called “Keeping up with the Joneses (Insert any name here.).” Our neighbor buys a new car, and then we buy a new car so we will still be on the same social level with our neighbor. Our friends buy a new house, that is bigger and better, and we feel like we have to buy a bigger and better house to keep up with them. Our friends and neighbors have parties and drink a lot of expensive alcohol and so we have a drunken party too. A woman’s best friend buys a purse that costs a few thousand dollars, and she thinks she has to do that too. A man’s best friend buys an expensive suit or some new toys and he tries to keep up. Is this so different from just taking money and burning it? A well-known member of a Iaikhothane gang, She-Ra, says, “People must see that when you walk out you are worth thousands. I can’t be caught wearing sneakers and jeans. That would be the joke of the year. People admire me. Everywhere I go, people scream, ‘She-Ra! She-Ra!’ I love dressing up in expensive clothes so that’s why people know I’m Izikhothane.”

It is a “selfish ambition” to spend money to make yourself look better in the eyes of the world. When you envy your neighbor and all that he has, Ecclesiastes says this is “vanity.” Trying to keep up with the Jones (insert any name here) family, trying to gain attention by what you have and by what you spend is like “grasping for the wind” and the result is similar to consuming your own flesh. The better course, and use of your efforts in life is summed up by Solomon in Ecclesiastes 12:13, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.” Honoring and obeying your Creator, this alone, will provide you with happiness and fruitfulness on earth and beyond in eternity.

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.04.14

The Best Laid Plans

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” - James 4:13-15 NKJV.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. - Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV.

By now you have probably seen the video of the wedding party on the collapsing dock. It was on virtually every news program yesterday. The soaking of most of the 29 members of the wedding group occurred in Crosslake, Minnesota. Prior to the wedding ceremony, the photographer took several staged photos and videos. One of them was on an older dock, which could not take the combined weight of all 29 people. But the show must go on, and an hour later the mostly dry group did participate in the actual ceremony. It was reported that after the drenching the bride was laughing and smiling and was asking the videographer if she had gotten the dock collapse on video. Megan Fritze, the videographer, said that “An hour later, you couldn’t even tell that anyone had gotten wet.” And about the bride’s attitude Megan said “This is a really cool bride. The bride was absolutely stunning, in and out of the water.” (ABC; NBC; FoxNews and other news venues 06.03.14)

From my personal observations, few weddings are perfect. Many glitches occur around the wedding rings. In one wedding I officiated, the rings were forgotten, but we simply acted as though we had the rings. In another wedding I read about, that took place in the 1940s in an unfinished church, there was a problem with the rings too. The rings were somehow dropped by the pastor, and they fell through a gap in the unfinished floorboards. After the ceremony, they searched in the dirt of the unfinished basement until the rings were found.

It is not just wedding plans that end up being changed or going awry. In the Chinese city of Zhengzhou, the city officials wanted something nice for their city. They planned, and attempted to create an artificial lake nearby to be filled by a known underground water source. However, the water dried up, and the instead of a lake there is a large sand pile covering an area the size of four football fields. (People.com 05.19.14)

You can probably think of a few of your own plans that have been changed or gone awry, I know I can. From personal experience, I know what it is like for a profitable business to suddenly be lost due to changing market and political conditions. Many others lost their businesses too. I know what it is like to have a job thinking it will last for many years and to suddenly be told that the business can no longer afford to have me as an employee. But those things are not as painful as the emotional turmoil of shattered marriages ending in divorce, or the tragedies that many have faced.

As God points out through James, we don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow, much less farther down the road of time. Plans do change, and they do go awry through no fault of our own simply because life is like that. How we choose to deal with those situations is something we do have some control over. An excellent example is given to us by the bride, who with her wedding party, were all soaked when the dock they were posing on collapsed. Her response was one of smiling, laughing and wanting to know if the videographer had gotten the video of the dock collapse. As James says our lives are like a “vapor,” but we don’t have to let a change in plans blow us away. Remember if you know Jesus as your Savior you are not alone. Psalm 70:4 tells us what to do when things change unexpectedly: “Let God be magnified!” Make much out of God, and little out of what has happened.

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.03.14

Don’t Do That

The Ten Commandments - Exodus 20:
1 - You shall have no other gods before Me.
2 - You shall not make for yourself a carved image.
3 - You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
4 - Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
5 - Honor your father and your mother.
6 - You shall not murder.
7 - You shall not commit adultery.
8 - You shall not steal.
9 - You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
10 - You shall not covet.

A Silver Valley, North Carolina home, has been destroyed by fire. It is tragic whenever that occurs even if there is no loss of life, and no one lost their life this time. Officials report that the fire was avoidable. Why was the fire avoidable? Because the man who started the fire did something that you shouldn’t do. He blew his nose while he was smoking and the tissue he was blowing into caught fire. The burning tissue caught other things on fire and while the man tried to stomp out the fire he was unsuccessful. The blowing nose incident occurred at 3:00 a.m. the fire department responded and the fire was out by 5:00 a.m. although the house was destroyed. Thankfully, no one was injured. I wonder if a firefighter may have told the man who tried to blow his nose while he was smoking something like this: “Don’t do that!” (WGHP FOX8 06.02.14)

There are some things that you just shouldn’t do as detailed in the lyrics of “Don’t Mess Around with Jim” by Jim Croce:

You don't tug on Superman's cape
You don't spit into the wind
You don't pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger
You don’t mess around with Big Jim Walker

And, now we can add to the list: Don’t blow your nose while you are smoking!

We can learn from the lives of those mentioned in the Bible other things that you don’t want to do. Take the example given to us by Adam and Eve, God told them just one thing they were not to do: “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat…(Genesis 2:17a).” What did Adam and Eve do? They ate the fruit of that tree and there were consequences. God made them leave the Garden of Eden and all of creation was corrupted. That was the very first object lesson to all of mankind. When God tells you not to do something, don’t do that!

The Ten Commandments in the minds of many have very negative connotations and it looks just like a list of dos and don’ts and they don’t like being told what to do, and what not to do. The Ten Commandments, also known as The Law; are, even though it is hard for some to believe, for our benefit. It is a matter of faith, since we believe God is the Creator of everything, He knows what is good and what is bad for us. Makers of electrical and electronic equipment will tell you water and electricity do not usually mix well. In fact, you can be severely harmed by getting into a bathtub with a toaster that is plugged in! Who would do such a thing? Not anyone in their right mind! God is the Father who tells the child not to touch a hot stove, why? Because it will hurt! Don’t do that! The Ten Commandments are given by a loving Father to His children so that we don’t get burned.

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.02.14

Who Would have Thought?

For with God nothing will be impossible. - Luke 1:37 NKJV.

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” - Mark 10:27 NKJV.

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. - Hebrews 11:6-7 NKJV.

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. - Romans 10:17 NKJV.

In the UK, 50% of those surveyed take photos of their food. Nine percent do so every day! I’ve noticed on facebook it does not matter where people live because people from all over the world take pictures of their food. Birds Eye, a large frozen foods company, has decided to take advantage of this obsession that we have with our food. The result is “The Picture House” where you can take a photo of your food, upload it to Instagram, and eat for free! No Joke! It’s true! Take a picture of your food and it’s free! It is also great advertising for Birds Eye. Who would have thought that you could ever pay for the food you eat by taking a photo of it? Amazing! (Mailonline 06.02.14)

The Picture House made me think of some other things that are mind boggling. Who would have thought that crazy guy building the enormous ship on dry land was right? Noah probably took a lot of criticism right up to the day the rains came and kept on coming. Who would have thought a man sold into slavery by his brothers would eventually become the second most powerful person in Egypt, and probably the world, and save his family? Who would have thought that 80-year-old Hebrew guy hiding out from the Egyptians and herding sheep would lead a couple of million of his people from slavery to freedom? Who would have thought marching around the city of Jericho blowing horns, and shouting would make the walls of the city fall down? Who would have thought the 85-year-old Caleb could still fight battles against giants (Joshua 14) and win? Who would have thought the Christian persecutor Saul would become the apostle Paul?

There are so many stories in the Bible that boggle the mind and we have to think that the people during the time they occurred were saying, “Who would have thought…?” I can look around today and say the same thing about some great, but unknown servants of God and say “Who would have thought…?” I talked with a man last week who said that while in prison he started a Bible study with three men and ended up before he was released with 27 men in his Bible study. He is still attempting to reach people for the Lord in whatever way that he can. There are several young men and women today that while I was their pastor I did not have high hopes for, but who are now living their lives for the Lord.

Not even I would have thought that I would someday preach the Word of God and that people across the entire world would read my words. Who would have thought…? The mother of a fellow classmate of mine while I was growing up once told my wife that she thought I was the least likely of any in my class to become a preacher. It is likely that many others have thought the same thing, but have not said it. There was very little indication in my early life that God was calling me. However, I was having long talks with God long before I invited Him into my heart in a pastor’s study in Oklahoma City. Unknown to me I had a great aunt who was praying that I would be saved and that I would not miss God’s call as her husband believed he had missed his call (She was praying the same for my son, Clark, after he was born). My parents and others knew about her prayers, but no one ever mentioned it to me until after I had publicly announced that God had called me to preach. What is God calling you to do? I am praying that you will not miss His call upon your life!

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.30.14

Appearances can be Deceiving

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” - 1 Samuel 16:7 NKJV.

And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.” So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” - 1 Samuel 16:11-12 NKJV.

You have probably never heard of the Hemeroplanes Triptolemus. It is a caterpillar that can transform itself into what appears to be a poisonous snake (Eyelash Viper). Looking at photos of the caterpillar while it is posing as a snake, you would think that it was a snake. The caterpillar is able to give itself reptilian scales and is able to snap at anything coming close which makes the imitation more believable. The Hemeroplanes can be found in parts of Central America, South America, and Africa. These snake posing caterpillars are actually moths and they feed on vine leaves. (WDRB.com 12.23.13; Wikipedia)

I have always loved the story of David, who was the youngest of his brothers and appeared to be just a shepherd boy. All the other brothers were rejected by God until finally the shepherd boy was brought to the prophet Samuel. Everyone thought David was just a shepherd boy, but he was actually the man chosen by God to be king.

People often put forward a façade when interacting with others. At times, they may appear to be a snake or a bully; at other times they may seem to be a kind loving person. I have been surprised more than once by television news personalities, celebrities, and by politicians who projected a kind Christian appearance, but were actually far from being kind or Christian. However, it is not just people on television, or facebook, or other social networks whose appearances can be deceiving. It is likely that all of us have encountered those whose real personalities are far from what they appear to be at first glance. Our own façade that we present to others may not be what is really deep down inside either.

One thing that we can be sure of when interacting with others and it is that God knows the truth about all of us. God knows because He does not just look at the outer appearance, the outer façade, but instead God looks at our hearts. What is really inside of our hearts? The truth is that we may not even know ourselves what we are capable of until we face some kind of a test.

Consider Gideon, who said this about himself, “Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house (Judges 6:15).” In other words, Gideon considered himself to be the weakest and most unlikely person in the entire nation to be used by God. In contrast, here is how God thought of Gideon, “The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor (Judges 6:12)!”

Do you consider yourself to be unworthy of being used by God? Do others consider you to be unqualified or incapable of being used by God? Do you think because of your appearance that God cannot use you? Do you think because of what has happened in your past that God cannot use you? Or do you think those things about someone else because of their appearance or whatever it may be? The truth is they are wrong and you are wrong because “…man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.29.14

Finding Treasure

I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure. - Psalm 119:162 NKJV.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it. - Matthew 13:44-46 NKJV.

Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. - Matthew 6:10 NKJV.

Many have begun searching for treasure in San Francisco as part of the Northern California Treasure Hunt. An anonymous donor is giving away money in a somewhat novel way. The man is hiding envelopes with usually about $100 and then posting clues from his Twitter account, HiddenCash. As you might expect, the number of followers of that Twitter account has grown exponentially. As of this morning the account has 256k followers. The man giving away the money claims to have made a lot of money in real estate and wants to give back. The anonymous donor says, “I want the spotlight on what I'm doing and trying to do. I have no plans to stop any time soon. I'm planning to continue this indefinitely into the future.” Envelopes of cash have been found taped in various places like dumpsters, stop signs, and fire hydrants. The anonymous donor plans to expand the treasure hunt to Los Angeles in the near future. (FoxNews; CNN; Reuters; 05.28.14)

Have you ever found a treasure? Have you ever found any money or something else of value? I remember when I was in our school’s high school band and after marching in a parade I found a five dollar bill in the street. Since I only had a dollar or two in my pocket, it was a very welcome surprise! A few times I have found an Indian head penny and was always excited when I found one. Years ago I bought a metal detector and thought I would find a lot of treasure. I don’t think I ever found anything of value with the thing. However, I have found great treasure.

What is the treasure I have found? I have found the Kingdom of Heaven! Although it was actually the Lord Jesus who found me because He came to “seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).” What is this “Kingdom of Heaven” aka “Kingdom of God” and where is it located? From Matthew 6:10 of the Lord’s Prayer we find the location of this Kingdom. Where is it? The Kingdom of Heaven is located wherever God reigns. I found the Kingdom of Heaven and Jesus found me when He began to reign in my heart some 44 years ago.

Once the Kingdom of Heaven is reigning in our lives, we will see that there are more treasures to find. The treasures of the Kingdom of Heaven are beyond our imagination and will never run out. One of the greatest treasures of the Kingdom of Heaven is the Word of God, the Scriptures. What great riches we find through God’s Word! God’s Holy Word gives us the daily spiritual sustenance we need (Matthew 4:4). The Word of God is the “Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17)” and is sharper than a two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). The Scriptures will keep us from sin (Psalm 119:11). This great treasure of God’s Word will never run out because it is “settled in Heaven (Psalm 119:89).”

How is your spiritual treasure hunt going? Have you found the Kingdom of Heaven? I pray that you have. Are you storing up the treasure of God’s Word? I pray that you are.

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.28.14

Stealing the Chocolate

…above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. - Ephesians 6:16 NKJV.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought (every loose thought and emotion and impulse - MSG) into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. - 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 NKJV.

Luis Augusto Mora of Bogota, Columbia has been given five months in prison. Those five months will be served in La Picota, one of the worst prisons in the country. What terrible thing did Luis do to merit this punishment? He shoplifted two boxes of chocolate bars with a value of eight dollars from a supermarket in Bogota. Luis admits that he is a chocolate addict, but has expressed regret. He says he will, “never touch a chocolate again in my life.” To the credit of the President of the Columbia, Juan Manuel Santos, he says that prosecutors should not waste their time with misdemeanors similar to Luis Mora’s. (KTRK-TV; CBS46.com and various other news venues 05.27.14)

Certainly, even stealing eight dollars of chocolate is a criminal and spiritual offense. It is likely that this was not the first time Luis had stolen chocolate, and probably not the second, or third, or fourth time either. Will five months in one of the worst prisons in Columbia change the heart of Luis and stop him from ever stealing chocolate again? It is doubtful but possible. While I was a parole officer, a man told me that he had served a few years (1930s or 1940s) of hard labor in prison at Oklahoma State Reformatory (OSR). Most of the time after serving time at hard labor in OSR the man was able to stay out of trouble. This was back during the time when the inmates were chipping away at a granite mountain making it into a small mountain. They were also picking cotton and doing other farm labor. For some people though, the threat of punishment is not a deterrent. It has been reported that during colonial times while pickpockets were being hung, in the crowd were other pickpockets still picking pockets.

What is needed is a true change of heart which will only come through a spiritual transformation. A fruit of the Spirit is “self-control (Galatians 5:23).” Growth from being a baby Christian into a mature believer will result in the all of the fruit of the Spirit being manifested in the believer’s life. If we have “self-control” we will not be controlled by our fleshly impulses. Instead, we will be free of momentary impulses that can wreck our lives.

In addition to fleshly impulses, there is another spiritual threat that we face. That threat is from the “fiery darts” of the devil. I believe that those “darts” include thoughts that are sometimes placed into our minds. At times, those evil thoughts can be almost overwhelming, and many succumb to their evil intent. Any thought, which urges you to do anything evil, contrary to what you know God wants could be a thought straight from the pits of hell. You can fight those thoughts with God’s Word. Memorize at least a few verses so that when those thoughts come you can say those verses out loud, or in your mind, and it will defeat the “fiery darts.” This is the example given to us by our Lord Jesus when He was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4). When the devil tempted Jesus, He responded with Scripture. That is what we need to do too! “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God….”

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.27.14

Don’t Hold Your Breath

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. - Titus 2:11-14 NKJV.

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? - 1 John 5:3-5 NKJV.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. - 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV.

Near Manning, Oregon is a the Highway 26 tunnel and it takes about ten seconds to pass through the tunnel at the 55 mph speed limit. Daniel J. Calhon, however, didn’t make it through the tunnel. He had an accident, and it resulted in himself and three other people going to the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries. What caused Daniel to have an accident? He told police officers that he was holding his breath as he went through the tunnel and passed out. State Police Lt. Gregg Hastings said that people sometimes hold their breath through tunnels as part of a game or superstition. Hastings also said that investigators did not believe drugs or alcohol were involved. Daniel Calhon has been charged with reckless driving, three counts of reckless endangerment and fourth-degree assault. (The Oregonian; AP; various other news venues 05.26.14)

One person that commented on this article noted that holding your breath for ten seconds does not usually cause a person to lose consciousness. He said this: “Do a search on "huffing driving" to see what I'm talking about, and I'm assuming the police looked for bottles of compressed air? I have second hand experience on this one - a friend's now deceased wife was a huffer and passed out several times while inhaling air and driving (as well as other places). She drowned after huffing, passing out in the bathtub.” It is shocking to think that people could be driving around do that!

Holding your breath for a Christian is like trying to live a sinful, worldly life after you have been “born again.” You can hold your breath for 30 seconds or so, but you cannot do it for days or even hours at a time. Your nature, once you have been “born again,” has been changed, transformed (2 Corinthians 5:17) and you cannot continue on the same path of life you were on before. You may be able to do it for a while, but your new nature will have to come up for a breath of air at some point. If you persist in holding your breath, there will be consequences. Physically, holding your breath can have consequences, some severe as we see with what happened to Daniel Calhoun. Spiritually, holding your breath will have consequences too, because “the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23),” and those wages must be paid.

Why do people try to hold their breath spiritually? I think the number one reason is succumbing to temptation. There is a continual spiritual pressure upon Christians from the world, the flesh, and the devil. However, God will provide a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13), but we must choose to take God’s way. Another reason is that people become angry with God and they throw a temper tantrum by spiritually holding their breath. Little children sometimes have temper tantrums. Here are the top five things that have been reported that children do when having a temper tantrum: Scream, stomp, kick, cry, and hold their breath. I have seen kids do all of those things. To stop children from holding their breath, some parents have resorted to throwing cold water on them to break the habit.

If you think that you will gain God’s attention by throwing a spiritual temper tantrum, it may happen. Jonah (Jonah 1:17) threw a spiritual fit and what happened to him? He ended up in the belly of a great fish. Lot’s wife (Genesis 19:17, 26; Luke 17:32) looked back, and turned into a pillar of salt. Ananias and Sapphira ended up dead (Acts 5), and it didn’t work out very well for Adam and Eve either (Genesis 3). So if you are thinking about not doing what you know God wants you to do or doing what you know He doesn’t want you to do, here’s my advice to you and to myself: Don’t hold your breath, DO WHAT GOD WANTS!

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.23.14

Blue Days

And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” - 1 Kings 19:1-4 NKJV.

In the city of Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, taxi drivers have found a solution to non-paying fares. Although it does seem a little harsh…. Drivers force the non-paying fares to disrobe, and then they pour blue paint over them. In defense of the drivers, they say they have repeatedly taken the non-paying fares to the police and that the police do nothing but give them some “harmless” punishment. Of course, customers have a very different view of the treatment. One non-paying fare was made to run across the city without any clothes smeared with blue paint. The man said, “They pushed me out of the car, started beating me. Threatened me that if I do not find the money, they will put me on the counter. One minute equals 100 rubles. They threw me into a pit and doused me with blue paint. After that, I was made to run the streets of the city, looking for money.” Sounds like he had a very blue day! (Sumitra 05.23.14)

Feeling down? Feeling blue? Feeling depressed? It is part of the human condition that sometimes occurs. Great servants of God are not immune as we see with Elijah. Elijah had just defeated the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. He had just seen the power of God demonstrated in an awesomely powerful way. Then word comes to him that Jezebel plans to have him killed, and Elijah forgets all about how powerful the Almighty God is, and just wants to lay down and die. Because, the evil queen is after him. How could Elijah believe that any human being could do anything to him with God on his side? Yet, Elijah is having a seriously blue day and just wants to die.

God sent an angel to minister to Elijah and encourage him. But Elijah is still feeling blue, even after hearing the still, small voice of God speak to him. Elijah says to God that he is the only one left, the single solitary servant of God left in the whole wide world and so there is no reason for him to keep on living. God then makes it clear to Elijah that he is not alone and says to Elijah, “Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him (1 Kings 19:18).”

God knew exactly where His servant Elijah was at, and where all of His other servants were. When Hagar fled from Sarai after she was treated severely, God appeared to Hagar (a theophany, an appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ) and she said this in response, “Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, ‘Have I also here seen Him who sees me (Genesis 16:13)?’”

So when you are having a blue day, remember that you serve the Almighty God who sees you, who knows you, who has bought and paid for you with the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). God has not forgotten about you, and He knows and sees exactly what is happening in your life. During these times when you are feeling down and blue, these are the times to draw closer to Him than ever before. You are of great value to Him, pray and seek the comfort of your God.

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.22.14

The Treasure Inside

Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are. - 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 NKJV.

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. - 1 Corinthians 2:12 NKJV.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. - Galatians 5:22-25 NKJV.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed - always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. - 2 Corinthians 4:7-10.

Heather Andrews and a childhood friend, Jillian Pozzi, have been giving to each other for a few years, statues of garden gnomes. The gifting of the gnomes is an ongoing joke between the two of them. Heather accidentally dropped one of the gnomes when she was unloading the three from her car. As she was picking up the pieces of the one that had fallen she noticed that there was something inside of the broken gnome. Inside the gnome, was another statue of what appears to be an armless angel with intricate detail inscribed or carved onto the statue. The gnome was made in China and one of the commenters on the article said it was common to find other statues inside of statues made there. Heather says about the beautiful figure of white she found, “People have told me that gnomes represent guardians of treasure, and that may be his treasure just inside him.” (yahoo news; The Tennessean; AL.com 05.21.14)

It is always a sickening feeling that we have when we break something that is valuable to us. Heather had the pleasant surprise of having her sadness replaced by joy with the finding of a treasure inside of her broken gnome. We live in bodies that are in a state of continuing degradation. Yes, the body repairs itself, but there is always more repairs to be done than it can do. The result is an aging, and the breakdown of our bodies. However, inside of the fragile human bodies of believers in Jesus Christ there is a great treasure. That treasure is God Himself in the form of the Holy Spirit. W. A Criswell, a great Bible scholar, writing about 1 Corinthians 4:7 says, “Reflecting on the strange, incongruous phenomenon of the indwelling Holy spirit of God, Paul surmises that God indwells ‘earthen vessels,’ giving His power to men, so that the excellency of His power might be magnified in otherwise weak, human vessels.”

In 1 Corinthians 2:12, we are told we have been given the Holy Spirit, “that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” Some of those things given to us by God are the fruits of the Spirit as listed in Galatians 5, “…love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Galatians 5:25 says, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” If we want truly to discover the awesome value of the treasure inside of us, we must not only exist as believers with the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us, but we must “walk in the Spirit.” The apostle Paul says that we do that by, “crucifying (crucified) the flesh with its passions and desires.” You are the guardian of the treasure inside of you, will you allow the “excellency of His power” to be magnified in your life?

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.21.14

Facing Our Fears

Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. - Luke 12:6-7 NKJV.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. - 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV.

So we may boldly say: “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” - Hebrews 13:6 NKJV.

Have you ever been afraid to leave your home? Some people are and it is a well-known psychological phobia called Agoraphobia. The Mayo Clinic website has some good information about the phobia and says this, “People with agoraphobia often have a hard time feeling safe in any public place, especially where crowds gather. You may feel that you need a companion, such as a relative or friend, to go with you to public places. The fears can be so overwhelming that you may feel unable to leave your home. Agoraphobia treatment can be challenging because it usually means confronting your fears.”

Personally, I’ve had a fear of getting out of bed on a few mornings. It wasn’t Agoraphobia, it was just what I knew was waiting for me at work that day! If you have experienced that, you’re okay and it’s not Agoraphobia. However, those who do actually have the phobia may experience panic attacks, rapid heart rate, excessive sweating, feeling shaky, numb or tingling, chest pain, or pressure, dizziness, and a lot of other unpleasant symptoms. Check the Mayo Clinic site for a more complete list.

The word fear is mentioned 359 times in the NKJV of the Bible and 385 times in the KJV. The phrase “fear not” is in the NKJV ten times and in the KJV 63 times. Fear is common to the human condition. Every person ever living upon this earth has experienced fear to some degree. So how do we cope with something that we all must face?

Fear can be overwhelming to the extent that it paralyses our lives making any kind of action almost impossible. I read a story this morning about crossing the street in Vietnam. If you want to cross the street in Vietnam you will have to forget about your fears and “charge straight ahead.” A Vietnam Travel Guide says this about it: “You want to get to the other end of the street, but it does not look quite feasible. Unless you try it. Crossing over the jam is actually not that bad. You will just have to do it. The magic is that no one will ever run into you.” (Vietnam Online; Sumitra 05.20.14)

The way you have to cross the street in Vietnam is somewhat similar to how we Christians must face our fears in life. Knowing that God is with us and that we in God’s eyes are of great value we too need to “charge straight ahead.” As it has been noted by many, if you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat. If we want to experience the abundant life that Jesus came to give us (John 10:10) we have to climb out of bed in the morning, put on our game face, open the door of our home, and face our fears. Remember this: “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).”

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.20.14

The Daily Battle

Give us this day our daily bread. - Luke 11:3 NKJV.

Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” - Luke 9:23 NKJV.

I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. - 1 Corinthians 15:31 NKJV.

Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my door. - Proverbs 8:34 NKJV.

If you do a search on google for “‘daily battle’ depression” you will find 38,000 results. Here are the search results of other topics:

“‘daily battle’ porn” 105,000 results.
“‘daily battle’ alcohol” 173,000 results.
“‘daily battle’ meth” 47,700 results.
“‘daily battle’ heroin” 54,600 results.
“‘daily battle’ cocaine” 34,500 results.
“‘daily battle’ crack” 181,000 results.
“‘daily battle’ hydrocodone” 33,700 results.
“‘daily battle’ oxycontin” 8,010 results.
“‘daily battle’ inhalant abuse” 16,900 results.
“‘daily battle’ anger” 374,000 results.
“‘daily battle’ pain” 463,000 results.
“‘daily battle’ anxiety” 215,000 results.
“‘daily battle’ finances” 223,000 results.
“‘daily battle’ relationships” 404,000 results.
One thing is for sure and that is that there are a lot of battles in this life being fought every day. It appears that many have discovered that just because you win the battle one day, it does not mean the war is over. Because tomorrow, there will be another battle with whatever your personal antagonist may be.

Why do we fight these battles? Because we know that to give in to our opponent will result in our destruction. If you have an addiction there is never a point where your addiction will be content with your consumption. If you have an addiction to a substance whether alcohol or crack or something else there will always be a desire for more. There will be a desire to have a bigger, better high, or at least a high as good as it was the first time. Those addicted to porn will always want to view more. If you give in to those addictions they will destroy you. That is why the battle must be fought every day.

Then there are the other battles many are fighting like depression, anxiety, anger, mental illness, finances, and relationships. If you give into depression what happens, nothing good that is for sure. Depression can be fought, and there are many fighting it and winning day by day. The same with anxiety, and anger. How do you fight mental illnesses like Schizophrenia? You can take your meds, seek the treatment that you need, and step by step go through each day. How do you fight a relational problem? You fight to hold on to your marriage. Nothing easy about that. You can let go, you can give in, or you can refuse to do that. You may not win, but you can try. Then there are struggles with finances, debt is overwhelming many, but there are strategies for overcoming it. Restraint in spending, increasing income where possible can be a daily battle.

The fact is that God knows what you are going through. He knows every day people across this world are facing a battle to continue even to exist. We don’t know what will happen tomorrow, but we know today it is possible to win the battle. At least we can try. As Jesus says in Matthew 6:34, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” It is a daily battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil. That’s why the apostle Paul says “I die daily.” We must be dead to sin, dead to whatever your personal antagonist may be, and alive to Christ each day. That’s why Jesus says to take up your cross daily, meaning execute your fleshly, worldly desires every day. That’s why in the Lord’s Prayer we are told to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” We must seek God’s help not once, but every day. As we are told in Proverbs, “Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my door.” If we want to win the daily battle, we need God’s help, and…He wants to help us.

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.19.14

Playing Dead

We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes; we stumble at noonday as at twilight; we are as dead men in desolate places. - Isaiah 59:10 NKJV.

For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. - Romans 6:10-14.

Chuck Lamb found a new occupation in 2005. His occupation? Chuck’s dead, as in he plays dead. It all began one night when he and his wife were watching Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Chuck had always wanted to be an actor and he suddenly realized that he could be even though he never thought he had any special talent. He decided that he could be “dead guy Chuck” and made some videos and photos of himself. Viola! “Dead Guy Chuck” now makes as much as $1500 a day playing dead for TV shows and movies. Chuck says, “I look like a dead body. If you're going to get somebody to play dead you might as well get the palest most normal looking guy you can find. No one's ever going to call me and ask me to be the leading man heart throb so I thought I'd put what God gave me to good use. I thought outside the box by putting myself in the box.” (Mail Online 05.05.14; Today.com 10.28.13)

In Isaiah 59, the people were as good as dead because of their turning away from God and their sinfulness. The people were like “dead men in desolate places.” Today, there are people like them although they are not really dead, they are just playing dead. The apostle Paul is talking about these people in Romans chapter six. Apparently, there were those who knew Christ, but were not living like it, they were playing dead. Paul says in Romans 6:4, “…we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”

Sad, isn’t it? We who are alive in Christ are playing dead by letting “sin reign in” our “mortal” bodies (Romans 6:12) and by “present(ing)” our “members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin (Romans 6:13).” The result of this acting like we are dead is described in Isaiah “We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes; we stumble at noonday as at twilight.” In other words, we wander around in spiritual darkness never knowing which way to turn, making bad decision after bad decision; never accomplishing anything.

Romans chapter six gives us the solution to spiritual deadness. The solution is this: “…present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God (Romans 6:13bc).” “…reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Please, stop with the playing dead act and make this be your mantra, your motto for life, real life: Dead to sin, alive to Christ. Dead to sin, alive to Christ. Dead to sin, alive to Christ.

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.16.14

Ask for Help

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. - Matthew 7:7-8 NKJV.

If you shot yourself accidentally in the head what would you do? Personally, I would either call 911 or somehow go to the nearest emergency room and ask for help. But, no, that is not what a 43-year-old Alaskan man who lives at Anchor Point did. He self medicated the wound with Neosporin for five days until he finally decided to ask for help at the South Peninsula Hospital Emergency Room. Beth Ipson a spokeswoman for the Alaskan State Troopers said that the “Investigation revealed the man had shot himself in the head while negligently handling a firearm. The gun the man accidentally shot himself with was a .22 long rifle. He was playing around with it and shot himself. No treatment before today other than he put Neosporin on the wounds.” (ktuu 05.15.14)

Now we understand why the man did not want to go to the ER, because with a gunshot wound it would have to be investigated by authorities. Also, it would be revealed that he was playing around with a gun. However, we don’t know whether there were other things involved. Was the gun stolen? Was he a convicted felon in possession of a firearm? Was he high on an illegal substance? All of those things would make a person reluctant to seek help for a self inflicted gunshot wound.

We sometimes use reasoning similar to what the man in Alaska may have used before we seek help from God. Things like, I haven’t been in church for 20 years so why would He help me now? I’ve done all these bad things, this, and this, and that; so there is not much use in praying now. I did this stupid thing which I know is a sin, that caused all of this trouble, so how can I ask God to help me? If I really got right with God, what would all of my friends think?

This is what the Bible tells us:

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16 NKJV).

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him (1 John 5:14-15 NKJV).

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him (Matthew 7:11 NKJV)!

Now it is true that if you have wandered away from God and refuse to ask Him for help it is unlikely that He will help. But the first step back is to admit that you need help and that you want God to help you. Sincerely ask God for His forgiveness (1 John 1:9), and then these promises of help become God’s promises to you. Or, like the man in Alaska you can keep on putting Neosporin on your gunshot wound to the head. But it is not going to do you much good!

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.15.14

Do the Impossible

…assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. - Matthew 17:20 NKJV.

So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” - Matthew 21:21-22 NKJV.

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.” - Mark 10:27 NKJV.

As a pastor, and having taken many groups to youth camps, I’ve played my share of table tennis; although just about anyone can beat me. I think that I’m playing good if I can successfully return the ball when it is hit toward me. There are, however, some very good table tennis players in the world, and it is considered a serious sport, especially if you watch some of the world class players playing. Ibrahim Hamato is one of those world class players, and he is very good. So good that he has been invited to the 2014 World Team Table Tennis Championships in Tokyo.

Ibrahim Hamato lives in Egypt and he is a little different from the rest of those competing in Tokyo. The difference is that Ibrahim has no arms! He lost both of his arms in an accident when he was ten years old. His favorite sport was and is table tennis so he learned how to play by holding the paddle in his mouth. Ibrahim gives this encouragement to everyone, “I hope this shows people that nothing is impossible as long as you work hard.” (New York Daily News; ESPN; USA Today; Christian Post 05.13.14)

One man that I knew and went to church with early in my Christian life only had one arm. I asked him once how it happened and he said that his brother accidentally shot him with a deer rifle when he was ten years old. Joe Clark was a mechanic, which now with all of the great tools available would be much easier. But back then, I always wondered how he could do the impossible….

From withering fig trees to saving people, nothing is impossible with God, even the moving of mountains from one place to another. I think we can agree on that. God can do whatever He wants to do, whenever He wants to do it. Most of us don’t have a problem with that. However, what we have a problem with is when God says we can do the impossible too when we ask in prayer for God to do it. That through prayer we can move mountains too.

The literal moving of mountains used to be impossible, but now with earth moving machines and explosives they can be moved, flattened. In China, there are plans to remove 700 mountains for additional space for the city of Lanzhou (NTD TV 12.07.12). It should be easier for us now than ever to believe, but we still have a lack of faith. Faith, that appears to be the missing ingredient that we need prior to seeing mountains move in response to our prayers. What is it that we need for our faith to increase? “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).”

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.14.14

Enraged!

But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath (rage - NIV), malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. - Colossians 3:8 NKJV.

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath (rage - NIV), selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like. - Galatians 5:19-21a.

Let all bitterness, wrath (rage - NIV), anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. - Ephesians 4:31-32.

More and more people are expressing their rage and here are just a few of the many stories I quickly found this morning:

Bevalente Hall a 37-year-old woman in Gastonia, South Carolina was enraged when a Subway didn’t put pizza sauce on her Flatizza. According to Bevalente, Subway workers had put marinara sauce on the Flatizza and refused to refund her money. So, the enraged Bevalente called 911. She has been charged with misuse of the 911 system. (WSOC-TV News; Gaston Gazette 05.13.14)

Ana Folch (62-years-old) was enraged with her neighbors so she called a demolition company and had their trailer and septic tank demolished. Folch said she did it because “people who had lived there were unsavory and she suspected they had broken into her car. She said she considered it a favor to her neighborhood.” Folch caused about $25,000 in damages and has been charged with criminal mischief. (Jacksonville.com 05.08.14)

Alec Baldwin was peacefully riding his bike the wrong way on a New York City street when he was stopped by police officers. Deputy Police Chief Kim Y. Royster said this about the incident, “He got belligerent and started arguing with them and using profanity.” Baldwin had no identification and was arrested for disorderly conduct. (CNN.com and various other news venues 05.14.14)

How could we ignore the story and video of Beyonce’s sister Solange Knowles attacking Jay Z in an elevator? Do a search for that and you get 143,000,000 google results. I think we could say that Solange was a little enraged!

There was also a road rage incident with a video being reported yesterday. I think it is likely that some of those people expressing their rage would consider themselves to be Christians. The Bible makes it very clear that rage and the expression of rage are not something that believers should be doing.

There are many things in this world today that are very frustrating and can quickly make us enraged. Coping with rapidly changing technology is something that our ancestors never had to do. Knowing whether or not you were biking on the wrong side of the street is new to recent generations. In the past, road rage was unknown because it was hard to cut off another horse driven carriage and race away. Monday a car cut me off by coming into my lane on a curve and I had to hit my brakes and swerve to avoid a collision. I’m sure the driver in the other car blissfully drove on not knowing they had almost caused an accident.

How do we keep from becoming enraged and having “outbursts of wrath?” The apostle Paul gives us some direction in Colossians 3:1-4 where the Bible says, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” You see there are some things more important than all of these things that can frustrate us here on earth. Instead of having “fits of rage (NIV)” when something doesn’t go our way, or we are frustrated, or people do something completely human and upsetting, let us set our minds “on things above.”

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.13.14

Moral Failure

But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. - Matthew 5:28 NKJV.

For a righteous man may fall seven times And rise again, But the wicked shall fall by calamity. - Proverbs 24:16 NKJV.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:9 NKJV.

Statement issued by Calvary Chapel of Fort Lauderdale, Florida: “On April 3, 2014, Bob Coy resigned as Senior Pastor of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, effective immediately, after confessing to a moral failing in his life which disqualifies him from continuing his leadership role at the church he has led since its founding in 1985. The media ministry of the Active Word that distributes his Bible teachings through radio, television, and digital media has also been suspended.” Bob Coy is not the only pastor who has resigned because of a moral failure. Three additional megachurch pastors in Florida have resigned because of having confessed to extramarital affairs. Isaac Hunter, pastor of Summit Church, later committed suicide. (Christianity Today 04.07.14; also the Blaze, Religion News; Huffington Post and various other news venues)

The four Florida pastors are certainly not the only pastors who have had a moral failure of the same magnitude. Some of those other pastors were well known, but far more were not so well known. I’ve known some of those lesser well known pastors personally and they did recover from their failures. Although those failures marked their lives in traumatic ways, but they were able to continue in ministry after some time had passed. Their later ministries were on a smaller scale than they had previous to the moral failing.

Seeing great men of God fail it causes most to give pause to their own ability to overcome temptation. The majority of pastors, and of married men, have not had extramarital affairs and have not been tempted to have one. However, I doubt there is a single man who has ever lived (except for our Lord) who can truthfully say they have not violated Matthew 5:28. It is not just the outward actions, it is also the thoughts of our hearts.

For those who have actually committed physical, visible known acts of immorality it is traumatic, and for all those in their circle of relationships. As with Issac Hunter the pastor who committed suicide in Florida, the damage from an adulterous affair can be overwhelming. He is not the only pastor or Christian man to have committed suicide after a moral failure. Even for those who have failed in their thought life, their heart life, it is also damaging. Some men have had suicidal thoughts even while trying to cope with what lies in their hearts that are in violation of Matthew 5:28. Those pressures upon men and even women are perhaps greater today than ever before.

The truth is that many great servants of God have experienced moral failure in one form or another. Adam and Eve were not sinless and their failure corrupted all of creation. David, the man after God’s own heart, committed adultery with a married woman and arranged for the murder of her husband. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, did some very unwise things. Samson also had his problems. The truth is that none of us human beings are perfect and we all sin (Romans 3:23) to one degree or another.

When we sin, it can make you miserable to the extent that you no longer want to live. Is that what God wants? No! God wants you to fall on 1 John 1:9 and to rise again to walk with Him and serve Him. Does God condone sin? No, Romans 6:23 says that the “wages of sin is death.” Sin, to whatever degree brings deadness instead of the abundant life that God wants us to have. If you do experience moral failure, it does not have to be the end of the road. It will likely not be easy to recover, but there is hope. That hope is based on the Word of God. As seen with King David, when there is true repentance (Psalm 51), a turning from sin and to God, restoration can occur.

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.12.14

Balancing Act

Be sober, be vigilant (Be well balanced - Amplified Bible); because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. - 1 Peter 5:8 NKJV.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. - 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV.

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control. - 2 Timothy 1:7 Amplified Bible.

Cui Juguo has a skill that is unique, he can balance eggs on the point of needles. Cui says, “Ostrich eggs are the largest in the world, and I can balance them on a pin. No one else could do this. I set a Guinness World Record on August 19, 2011, and I am still the record holder.” Cui is able to balance several eggs on needles in only about ten seconds. He developed his skill while trying to stay awake while he was a truck driver. When he became sleepy he would stop for a while and balance eggs. Cui says, “I would often take several eggs with me on the road. Once I felt sleepy, I would pull over and start to stand the egg on the needle point.” Juguo is from Changsha in China‘s Hunan Province. (ecns.cn 11.09.11)

Living the Christian life in an increasingly immoral world can feel at times like we are attempting to balance eggs on the tip of a needle. The world, the flesh, and the devil are all trying to pull us off of a tiny needle tip we are balanced on while the Holy Spirit living within us is trying to keep us from falling off. Those forces can counteract each other, but if we fail to make right decisions our lives can become out of balance.

What kind of decisions can we make that would cause our lives to become out of balance? We are told in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” Sometimes we choose not to find a way of escape from temptation.

In Galatians 5:25 we are told, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” If we are walking in the Spirit then the fruit of the Spirit, “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)” will be demonstrated in our lives. However, sometimes we choose not to walk in the Spirit and instead walk in the flesh and the result is, “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like (Galatians 5:19b-21).”

What do we need to do keep from going out of balance by making bad spiritual decisions? What we need is more of God, more of the presence of the Holy Spirit manifested in our lives. Jesus says this in John 14:21, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” How do we have more of God? James 4:7-8 says, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” Draw near to God by reading, studying, memorizing His Word (Matthew 4:4). Draw near to God by spending time in communication with Him (Luke 18:1). Draw near to God by assembling with other believers (Hebrews 10:24-25). Draw near to God by joining Him in His work (1 Corinthians 3:9; Matthew 28:19-29; 2 Corinthians 5:20).

You can have spiritual power and love, along with a sober, and vigilant mind…spiritual balance. You can live the Christian life, but you cannot live it without God which is what far too many Christians are trying to do.

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.09.14

Don’t Give Up!

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ - Isaiah 41:10.

Kristin Hopkins can be thankful that an unknown man stopped along a highway in Colorado to take some photos and somehow spotted her wrecked car. The man apparently thought that whoever was inside the vehicle was dead, reported it to the local Sheriff’s Office and left. Kristin, a 43-year-old mother, was still clinging to life after a horrific accident. For whatever reason, her car flew off the roadway for about 120 feet and then rolled another 200 feet into a clump of trees. The crash alone should have killed her, but she survived for five days without food or water.

Kistin somehow near the end of her ordeal found the strength to push a red and white umbrella through a small opening. She had written on the umbrella, “Six days, no food, no water; please help me; need a doctor.” It sounds like from most recent news reports that Kristin will survive although both of her feet have been amputated. One of the emergency responders, firefighter Jim Cravener, said: “She really had a strong will to survive.” (05.07.14 CNN; NBC News; USA Today; ABC News; New York Daily News and various other news venues)

Life can be challenging to say the least! Most of us will not have to face a challenge as horrific as Kristin Hopkins faced and is now facing as she recovers. However, we will all face challenges of one form or another in life, to one degree or another. Many of us have faced difficult health issues, others have suffered the death of a loved one, others like Kristin have faced the challenge of recovering from severe accidents. Then there are financial challenges, job challenges, and multitudes of other challenges that we humans may suddenly encounter.

Kristin Hopkins has given us an example of what to do when faced with an extreme life challenge. The example she gives is this: DON’T GIVE UP! Keep on living, keep on surviving, keep on breathing, until help arrives.

God gives us in Isaiah 41:10, a great promise. God says, “Fear not…” Why should we “Fear not?” Because God says, “I am with you….” If that is not enough God affirms that we should “fear not” because, “I am your God.” But knowing how weak we are God goes even further and says, “I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” God would say to you who are struggling, who face overwhelming difficulties in life, through Isaiah 41:10 this one thing, DON’T GIVE UP!

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.01.14

The Wedding Garment

I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban. - Job 29:14 NKJV.

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. - Isaiah 61:10 NKJV.

But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ - Matthew 22:11-13 NKJV.

Xiang Junfeng is free! But she knows what slavery is like having been kidnapped from Jimo in China when she was 18-years-old. She was sold to an elderly man and forced to marry him. It wasn’t much of a marriage as she was forced to work like a slave in the fields every day. Finally after 15 years she was able to escape to a little town where a woman there helped her. Xiang Junfeng married the woman’s brother in 2004. Xiang is so happy with her freedom and marriage that she has been wearing wedding clothes for the past ten years. She continues to wear the wedding dress that she was married in and has had three more dresses made so that she has a dress for each season. Xiang says about her new life, “I had only ever known a violent and abusive man and I avoided men until I met my new partner who brought me truly out of my shell and treated me so differently. I couldn’t believe it when he asked me to marry him.” (Mail Online 04.01.14)

Can you imagine being so grateful for your freedom that you wear a wedding dress every day? How wonderful it must be after being kidnapped and treated like a slave to be wondrously free! Xiang Junfeng knows what that is like!

Those of us who are believers in Jesus Christ actually do know what it is like to have been slaves and then to live in freedom. In John 8:34-36 Jesus says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” We were slaves to sin, but now through Jesus we have been set free! We no longer need fear that we shall be “cast into outer darkness” where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” because we have put on the “wedding garment.”

When Jesus set us free from being slaves to sin, He not only set us free, He also gave us some new clothes. The clothes we wear now are not of this world, and they never wear out. Jesus has, “clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10b).” Once we have been clothed with “the robe of righteousness” we will never want to take it off. Once we have put on our “wedding garment” we will wear it every day forever and ever.

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.30.14

Do Good

Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. - Isaiah 1:16c-17 NKJV.

Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. - James 4:17 NKJV.

For he who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. - 1 Peter 3:10-12.

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. - Galatians 6:9

How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. - Acts 10:38.

In 2001, I wrote a devotional about a woman causing a traffic jam because she was threatening to jump off of a bridge (Over the Edge 08.30.01). Many people yelled ugly things at the woman because of the delay including telling her to go ahead and jump. Sadly, the woman did jump and it was last reported: “She is alive in critical condition with chest and abdominal injuries at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.” Since I don’t know the woman’s name I have not heard about what has happened in her life since.

This week we have a more encouraging story with Jill Hewitt in Milwaukee keeping a man from jumping off a highway overpass. Jill saw a man on an overpass who appeared to be preparing to jump. She held onto the man while another person called for help. The man kept repeating “I want to die. I want to die.” Hewitt said, “I told him I wouldn’t let him go. God meant for you not to take your own life.” Jill shared with the man some of the struggles that she had faced in her own life. (WTMJ; UPI; New York Daily News 04.29.14)

Doing good and not evil definitely appears to be God’s will for His children. Of course, that is God’s nature. God is holy. In Revelation 4:8 we are told, “The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!’” While Jesus was walking upon this earth He gave us an example. Jesus who “went about doing good.” “Doing good” and not evil, is the example we have been given by Jesus. Seems simple enough, if we want to follow Jesus, we are to do the same.

In Isaiah we are told, “Cease to do evil, learn to do good.” One of the best ways to learn is by doing. To learn to do good, we should begin to practice doing good in whatever way that we have the opportunity. There is an obvious spiritual benefit to doing good, and not evil. Here it is from 1 Peter 3, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” If we want our prayers to be answered we must cease from evil and go about doing good just as Jesus did. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want the “face of the Lord” to be “against” me!

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.29.14

Sinful Mistakes

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 6:23.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:9.

Atari made a costly mistake back in 1982, which resulted in a $75 million dollar loss and the downfall of the gaming industry. ET was a hit movie, and to try to cash in on the favorability of the movie Atari rushed into production the ET video game. Wikipedia quotes author Steven Kent as saying the game was “infamous with primitive graphics, dull game play and a disappointing storyline.” Wikipedia also cited an editor for The Miami Herald as saying the game was difficult to learn to play. The Atari ET game crashed and burned! The game was originally put on the market with a price of $49.95, but was discounted so many times it was finally selling for less than a dollar. What did Atari do? Atari literally buried their mistake at an Alamogordo, New Mexico trash landfill. Rumors had circulated about the burial for years and recently they were proven true when an excavation found 782,000 game cartridges buried in the landfill. (Orange News 04.29.14; Wikipedia)

Atari is not alone in the making of mistakes. Here are a few of the more famous or notorious historical mistakes: The leaning tower of Pisa took 177 years to build and was not meant to lean. It was built on unstable ground with a foundation of only three feet, and the result was that less than a decade after construction was finished the tower began to lean. Then there was the “unsinkable” RMS Titanic which did sink due to design flaws and with a huge loss of life because of the inadequate number of lifeboats. In 1961, Decca Records auditioned a group, but decided they wouldn’t be marketable. Not long after the turndown by Decca, the Beatles signed with EMI. Albert Einstein’s teachers thought that he was a really bad student. Western Union in 1876 turned down Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone saying, “This telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.”

Have you ever made a mistake that you wish you could bury? Have you ever made a mistake that you are so ashamed of that you never mention it? I have made some mistakes that are that bad. Actually, these mistakes are not just mistakes, they are sins I have committed. I am not proud of these moral failures. I don’t want to talk about them; I don’t want to even think about them, and I try not to. I just want to bury those sins.

The spiritual reality is that God doesn’t want to think about your sins. He doesn’t want to see your sins, and He doesn’t want to remember your sins. What does God want to do with your sins? He wants to bury them! Micah 7:19 tells us where God wants to bury your sins, “You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.” This has often been called God’s Sea of Forgetfulness. Then God says in Hebrews 10:17 (Also Isaiah 43:25), “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”

What must happen before God buries our sins? 1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Confession as used in 1 John 1:9 involves more than just saying what we did or didn’t do. According to W. A. Criswell, “The idea of confession is to view sin as God views it and to identify with His judgment against sin.” In other words, we agree with God that what we have done or not done was a sin, that it was bad, and we repent of it, turn from it, we want to change from doing what we have sinfully done or not done in the past. God can forgive our sins because the penalty of those sins has already been paid by Jesus on the cross. We just need to receive the “gift” of forgiveness that God freely offers.

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.28.14

All Things

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. - Romans 8:28.

November 1982, was the beginning of a difficult time in our lives. I had an established business in the oilfield, but the bust had come to the oilfield. One month I had a good income, the next there was no income. After a couple of months, I was able to go back to work for a previous employer. However, because of the slowdown in the oilfield that job only lasted for about four months. We made the decision for me to go back to college. My wife had to go back to work. I worked part-time at a Love’s convenience store. The equipment owned by our business was sold for about a fourth or less of what it was worth. We sold our home, and after a year of college moved away from the area we had lived in all of our lives. A year later we were able to move back, buy another house, and start a new life.

I’ve learned that Romans 8:28 is true, but that doesn’t mean that the “all things” is going to be easy. In fact, it can be downright hard. But I realize that if our business had continued on as it was the hard choices of change would never have been made. It is possible, maybe even likely, that I would never have become a pastor and that my son would have followed in my footsteps working in the family business and never becoming a pastor either. In those months of change, I learned to swallow a lot of pride. I had to ask for a job from an employer that I had already left two times before and had been sure I would never return to again. But I did. Instead of being the proud owner of a business that was making a lot of money, I was cleaning toilets, making sandwiches, and being a clerk in a convenience store. We sold our beautiful home and moved into a much smaller place. But through it all we continued to pray, continued to seek God’s direction, continued to stay in church, and God led us through it all step by step.

The “all things” has not been easy for many of God’s servants. Consider Joseph in the Old Testament. He was nearly killed by his own brothers, but still was sold into slavery. Things were going well for him there in Egypt even in slavery when it suddenly got worse, again, when he was falsely accused and thrown into prison. However, from the very worst place he could be in Egypt, God raised Joseph up to be the second most powerful person in the known world. The “all things” in Joseph’s life were used of God so that his own family, the Egyptian people, along with many people from other lands could all be saved from the famine that God knew was coming. The “all things” in Joseph’s life were not easy, but they were necessary to bring about the end result of “good.”

If you think about it, Jesus experienced the ultimate in “all things” being difficult. Jesus came down from the glories of Heaven to be born into a family with few of the luxuries of what most of us are used to these days. The King of kings and the Lord of lords gave it all up to walk through the “all things” of being tempted at all points, and of experiencing the pains and trials of human existence. The “all things” of Jesus included suffering the torture and humiliation of execution on a cruel Roman cross. But the “all things” were necessary to arrive at the “good” of our having a Savior.

I don’t know what you are going through, but Romans 8:28 is true. Whatever it is, Jesus can help carry you through it, because you see, He has gone through even worse Himself. He knows what it is like, and He can help you to make it through the “all things” until you arrive at the “good.” So keep on step by step, day by day “looking unto the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1a).” Keep on going because eventually you will arrive at the “good!”

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.25.14

Finding Peace

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. - Isaiah 26:3 NKJV.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV.

Early in my ministry while I was at a children’s camp with a large group of kids I found myself in the middle of a nightmare. It was the last night of the camp with a special feature of groups of children hiding out with a sponsor while other sponsors attempted to find them. The last group to be found would be the winner. I was not a fan of this, but the children did enjoy it. Some of our children hid in a small room and it triggered a seizure in a girl named Meagan. She had never had a seizure before, but she had one then. Camp leaders quickly located me and since the camp is in an isolated area about 17 miles to the closest hospital it was determined to send her in my vehicle along with a nurse.

During the entire trip, Meagan kept having seizures and I kept thinking the entire time that she might die before we made it to the hospital. I had seen others have seizures in the past and what Meagan was going through seemed far worse. I had thoughts going through my mind that she could die. I could imagine having to call her parents and trying to tell them that their daughter had died at a children’s camp. Even after we arrived at the hospital it was an hour or more before we were finally told that Meagan was going to be okay. Of course, by then I had already been in contact with the child’s parents and they were on their way to the hospital.

It is easy to talk about the peace of God and how we can pray and have God’s peace. It is another thing altogether to actually experience it. The entire trip from the camp to the hospital I was praying for God’s help. God did help us. He kept Meagan from dying and the last I heard she has grown up and is married. God also gave me peace in the midst of a nightmare, an assurance that He was with us. God brought healing to Meagan, held me together, and protected us while we were on our way to the hospital. As far as I know, Meagan had never had a seizure before, and she has not had one since that night.

It doesn’t matter what you are going through or how bad it is, God can help. No matter how bad a nightmare it may be, if we will put our focus on our God if we will seek His help; He will give us peace. He will hold us together, even though we may feel like we are falling apart. In the midst of a nightmare, God can give us peace which “surpasses all understanding.”

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.23.14

Fantasy vs. Reality

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith. - 1 Timothy 1:3-4.

The Message translates 1 Timothy 1:3-4 as: “On my way to the province of Macedonia, I advised you to stay in Ephesus. Well, I haven’t changed my mind. Stay right there on top of things so that the teaching stays on track. Apparently some people have been introducing FANTASY stories and fanciful family trees that digress into silliness instead of pulling the people back into the center, deepening faith and obedience.”

In France and across the world there has been an ongoing search for two-year-old Chayson Basinio who reportedly disappeared from a store parking lot. After the boy’s great-aunt reported the missing boy the police worked hard at finding any clue and even dredged a lake trying to find him. As police officials prepared to break the bad news to the family that the boy had not been found they came to a realization. That realization was that Chayson and his father were only real on facebook. Public prosecutor Eric Mazaud says about their search, “It was long and complicated, but we can now say that the young Chayson has never existed and nor have his father or mother.” The “great aunt” who is also not a real “great aunt” is in jail for inventing a crime. Others involved who helped to create the false facebook profile are also being questioned and may be charged. (theguardian 04.17.14; and many other news venues)

Fake profiles on facebook are abundant although facebook has become more vigilant in trying to remove the fakes. It is strange that someone would report a crime and go to all of the trouble to invent fake people to make it believable when there is no apparent motive for doing so. But then people have been making up things for a long, long time.

From what we see in 1 Timothy and other New Testament passages people have been inventing spiritual fantasies since the beginning of Christianity. Some of the older ones have fallen into disfavor, but there always seem to be new ones that are being invented. Let’s look at some of the more popular Christian fantasies of today.

The Fantasy: There are many paths to God. I hardly go a day without reading or hearing that it doesn’t matter whether you believe in Jesus or Budda or Islam's Allah because there are many paths to God.

The Reality: Jesus says in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 3:18, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

The Fantasy: If you do more good deeds, good things, than bad deeds or things you will go to Heaven when you die.

The Reality: Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Titus 3:5, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.”

The Fantasy: If you are a member of a church that will assure your entrance into Heaven.

The Reality: John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

The Fantasy: If you sin after believing and being “born again” you will lose your salvation.

The Reality: Believing in this theological position means that you can never know for sure whether you are lost or saved. This is in direct contradiction of 1 John 5:13, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” John 10:27-29, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone (includes you) snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.”

There are many spiritual fantasies that some believe and teach today. How can we know what is real and what is just a fantasy that someone has made up? By searching the Scriptures until, the truth is revealed (Acts 17:11). If you have been deceived and have believed a fantasy, give it up. Sometimes, like the police searching for a missing boy who was never lost, we need to admit we were deceived and look for the truth.

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.22.14

Warn Them!

To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. - Colossians 1:27-29.

By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. - Hebrews 11:7.

Undergraduate student Diane Hartley may have saved the Citicorp Center building in Manhattan from falling down and taking with it other buildings in a domino effect. The Citicorp building is built on huge stilts placed at the center of the sides instead of at the corners as conventionally done. It is a weaker construction and to compensate for the effect of winds a damper was constructed on top of the building. Hartley called the chief engineer LeMessurier warning that quartering winds, winds striking the corners of the building, could cause a collapse. LeMessurier did his own calculations and concluded that if the building did lose power the damper on top of the building would not be able to function. It was determined that each year there would be a one in sixteen chance that the building would be hit by a storm causing the 59 story tower to potentially fall causing a huge disaster. Construction was begun in secret after normal work hours to repair the flaw and was completed by the end of 1978. (Yahoo News 04.21.14; Damninteresting.com 04.12.06)

Diane Hartley made one phone call that potentially saved thousands of lives and blocks of devastation. Noah was warned by God of the coming disastrous flood. The apostle Paul exhorts all believers to warn non-believers of the coming disaster they face.

How many have avoided an eternal disaster called Hell because one person cared enough to make one phone call to warn them. A man that had ignored my own warnings to him in the past received a phone call when he was near death in a hospital. I was very much surprised to learn after the man died that he had believed on Jesus before his death. A woman in our church had made one last phone call and the man was saved.

Jesus came that we might have life and so that we would have it more abundantly (John 10:10b). So that we might have eternal life, Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:20). Jesus did not stay in one place, in one building waiting for the lost to discover Him. Instead, Jesus during his three years of ministry here on earth was continuously on the move going from place to place. He has given us an example. The example is that the lost are to be actively sought by whatever means are available. Jesus gave up the glories of Heaven to come down to earth with all of the tribulations, temptations, and eventually crucifixion. To seek the lost, for Jesus was very costly. Has it cost you anything to seek the lost?

How are you seeking the lost? Can you make a phone call? Can you send an email? Can you send a text? Can you make a facebook post or post to another social media site? Can you get in your car and drive to your neighbor or friend’s home, knock on the door, and tell them about Jesus? Or, can you just walk a few feet to your neighbor or friend’s house or across the hall to their apartment and share Jesus with them? Will you warn them of the coming disaster they are facing?

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.21.14

The Armor of God

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 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, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints. - Ephesians 6:10-18 NKJV.

Russian troops seen in action in the Ukraine appear to have been equipped with a new generation of body armor. Their armor is reportedly made of titanium and hard carbide boron ceramics. (Washington Times 04.20.14) The Russians may have missed out on a cheaper body armor option. Rickey Wagoner is a believer in this other armor option. Rickey is a Dayton, Ohio bus driver, and when his bus developed an electrical problem he stopped the bus to investigate. It was then that he was attacked by three men and shot three times. Two of the bullets were stopped by the New Testament that Rickey carried in his shirt pocket. As Police Sgt. Michael Pauley says, “There was obviously some kind of intervention involved in this incident, because he (Rickey) probably should not be here.” Rickey fought back even after he was shot in the hip and it felt like a sledgehammer had hit him in the chest where he was shot twice. He was stabbed in his left arm, but he still managed to take the gun away from his attackers. The attackers then fled. A friend said about the attack that it proved that God was on Rickey’s side. The friend also said, “Rick is a great guy, you couldn't ask for anybody better than Rick. He's a great friend and terrific dad." (Dayton Daily News; New York Times; CBSnews 02.24.14)

Here we see the world’s armor and God’s armor. Rickey Wagoner is an example of how to put on the armor of God. Apparently, Rickey is a believer who puts the Word of God to work in his life by actually doing what God says to do. Another way of saying it is that Rickey lives the Word of God. He has wrapped the truth of God around his life. He has determined in his heart to live a life of righteousness in obedience to his God. He is prepared to share the Gospel of Peace whenever and wherever he can. He carries God’s Word because he is prepared to use it to share the peace of reconciliation that can only come from God. The sword of the Spirit is ready to be used. His faith is so strong because he wears the helmet of salvation and the fiery darts of the enemy were stopped.

There is a spiritual truth about the “armor of God” that we need to understand and apply to our lives. We can read and read and read God’s Word, and we can pray that the armor of God be upon our lives, and we ought to do that. However, if we never apply God’s Word to our lives by actually doing and living what God says we should do, than all of our reading and praying are of no effect. Have you truly put on the armor of God by applying God’s truths, His Words to your life? If not, there is no better time then now to begin. As the Psalmist says, “I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have given me life (Psalm 119:93).” Let us remember God’s “precepts” by doing them! Let us put on the armor of God by living the Word of God!

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04.18.14

A Living Faith

Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.” So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. - Matthew 28:1-8.

People do sometimes come back to life and many have had what is called “near death experiences.” Velusamy an 80-year-old man in India was thought to have died of old age. His sister-in-law tried to wake him for supper and found him to be lying on the floor “like wood.” She received no response to her frantic yells or when sprinkling his face with water. However, when Velusamy was bathed with cold water prior to his body being burned, he woke up! He said, “It’s very cold” and got up from the ground. His family rejoiced at having, “got back grandpa back from the other world.”

Performing a search on Google for “back to life” found 897,000 references for the phrase. A vast multitude of things are said to be brought “back to life” including books, programs, furniture, machines, radios, stocks, lakes, frozen lobsters, Inca canals, schools, bands, and nations. There were a few instances of people like Velusamy who were thought to be dead being brought “back to life.” However, the reality is that Velusamy will eventually die and not be brought back again to physical life. We as human beings can restore usefulness to inanimate objects and through science restore, sustain usefulness for human beings to a certain extent. There is, however, no way by scientific methods to bring a person back to life that is actually dead. When person has been dead and buried for a year or so there is no record of such a body being raised to physical life.

Easter is not just a holiday or a time to have fun with our family and friends. Easter is important because what happened 2000 years ago represents our only true hope for eternal life after death. Easter is important and mind boggling because it represents God Himself intervening in the course of human events at great cost to provide us a way of salvation. Easter means that we have a living faith and not a dead faith. We do not worship a dead god. We worship a God who is alive and has proven that He has the power over death. God has proven that He has the ability to give life.

This Easter let us rejoice that He has indeed risen! Let us rejoice that we have a living faith in the living God who loves us so much that He died for us!

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04.17.14

Alive in Christ

Jesus said to her (Martha), “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” - John 11:25-26 NKJV.

Stig Kernell planned ahead for when he would die and wrote his own obituary. Stig was 92-years-old when he passed away April 6th. As planned, the obituary written by Stig was published by the local funeral home. Here is his obituary in its entirety: “Jag ar dod.” In English, “I am dead.” You might think that Stig’s life was an unpleasant one; however, his family says that it was far from being dull. Stig was a pilot, a flight instructor, an aviation historian and once made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest aviation book collection. His son, Lars, says about his father, “He was a special man with a very particular sense of humor and a twinkle in his eye.”

Jesus actually wrote His obituary far in advance of His physical death and here it is: “I am the resurrection and the life.” A shorter version would read: I AM ALIVE! Jesus lived a far shorter life than did Stig Kernell and yet accomplished all that had been planned. As Jesus makes His sixth statement from the cross saying (in John 19:30) “It is finished!” Jesus rose triumphantly from the dead on the third day and appeared to many before ascending into Heaven.

What will your obituary say? Have you already written it? If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, God has already written your obituary; at least the one that matters, and here is what it says that you are: “Alive to God in Christ.” Here is the shorter version: I AM ALIVE! Romans 6:11 says, “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:22 says, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” In Ephesians 2:4-6 we are told, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us ALIVE together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” 1 Peter 3:18 tells us we are ALIVE because of the sacrifice of Jesus, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.”

Now that we know where we are going if we have Jesus as our Savior we just need to live life now. We have a choice. We can choose the life Jesus came to give us (John 10:10b) or we can choose the life the devil wants us to have while here on this earth (John 10:10a). We have a choice between a life full of life or a life full of dead things. Romans 8:5-6 makes this more clear, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded (governed by the flesh - NIV) is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” How do we make the right choice? The Bible tells us in Romans 13:14, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”

Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ that we are ALIVE eternally if we know Jesus as our Savior! And, that we can have an abundance of life while we are walking on this earth if we will “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Are you alive eternally? If so, are you living the abundant life?

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04.17.14

Alive in Christ

Jesus said to her (Martha), “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” - John 11:25-26 NKJV.

Stig Kernell planned ahead for when he would die and wrote his own obituary. Stig was 92-years-old when he passed away April 6th. As planned, the obituary written by Stig was published by the local funeral home. Here is his obituary in its entirety: “Jag ar dod.” In English, “I am dead.” You might think that Stig’s life was an unpleasant one; however, his family says that it was far from being dull. Stig was a pilot, a flight instructor, an aviation historian and once made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest aviation book collection. His son, Lars, says about his father, “He was a special man with a very particular sense of humor and a twinkle in his eye.”

Jesus actually wrote His obituary far in advance of His physical death and here it is: “I am the resurrection and the life.” A shorter version would read: I AM ALIVE! Jesus lived a far shorter life than did Stig Kernell and yet accomplished all that had been planned. As Jesus makes His sixth statement from the cross saying (in John 19:30) “It is finished!” Jesus rose triumphantly from the dead on the third day and appeared to many before ascending into Heaven.

What will your obituary say? Have you already written it? If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, God has already written your obituary; at least the one that matters, and here is what it says that you are: “Alive to God in Christ.” Here is the shorter version: I AM ALIVE! Romans 6:11 says, “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:22 says, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” In Ephesians 2:4-6 we are told, “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us ALIVE together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” 1 Peter 3:18 tells us we are ALIVE because of the sacrifice of Jesus, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit.”

Now that we know where we are going if we have Jesus as our Savior we just need to live life now. We have a choice. We can choose the life Jesus came to give us (John 10:10b) or we can choose the life the devil wants us to have while here on this earth (John 10:10a). We have a choice between a life full of life or a life full of dead things. Romans 8:5-6 makes this more clear, “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded (governed by the flesh - NIV) is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” How do we make the right choice? The Bible tells us in Romans 13:14, “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts.”

Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ that we are ALIVE eternally if we know Jesus as our Savior! And, that we can have an abundance of life while we are walking on this earth if we will “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Are you alive eternally? If so, are you living the abundant life?

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04.15.14

Spiritual Amnesiacs

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. - Matthew 5:43-48.

The Message translates Matthew 5:48 in this way: “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”

John Smith has finally been identified! John was discovered in a snowdrift in Norway four months ago. An Oslo Police press release says, “the man did not possess any form of identification, and did not remember his name, origin, how he ended up in Norway or any other details of his life.” As the police worked to identify the man it was found that he could speak English well and understood at least four other languages. John said that he had been assaulted and from his wrists it appeared that he had been tied up with plastic ties. Finally, because of the efforts of many law enforcement agencies, a family in the Czech Republic has identified John as being their son. Even though John has been identified, he does not want his identity to be released. (04.10.14 NBC.com; Agence France Presse)

I have always been fascinated by amnesiacs and how the brain somehow blocks out the true identity of a person. Not knowing who you really are, as with “John Smith,” prevents you from moving forward with your life. Not knowing who you really are, prevents you from forming meaningful relationships with others. Not knowing who you really are, prevents you from having a life; it puts everything on hold. John has been at a standstill with his life these four months while waiting to discover is true identity. Although now that he has been identified, he does not want to release that information.

Once you come to know Jesus as your personal Savior, you have been “born again (John 3),” you have a new identity. But is just having that new identity enough? No, God has more for you; however, it requires a public release of your identity to others. The very first step in that public identification is to tell someone else about your new belief in Jesus. The second step given by God for identification as a “born again” child of God is to follow Jesus in public baptism. The third step is given to us in the words of Jesus in Matthew 5. What is that third step of identification of being a Christian? The third step is a continuing step which is to begin to live, to act, as Jesus would live and act.

Do you know your spiritual identity? Are you a child of God? Have you received Christ Jesus as your Savior and been “born again” by being birthed into the Kingdom of God by the Holy Spirit? Have you then allowed all others to know of your new found faith by following Jesus in baptism? And, are you now living as Jesus would want you to live? Have you identified with Jesus? Don’t keep it a secret! If you know your spiritual identity, don’t become a spiritual amnesiac; tell everyone you can about who you are as a believer in Jesus.

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04.14.14

I Thirst

After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. - John 19:28-29 NKJV.

For human life to exist there must be water because more than half of the human body consists of water. According to About.com, “The average adult human body is 50-65% water, averaging around 57-60%.” In Dala, Myanmar, lines of people form every afternoon to obtain a couple of buckets of drinking water from a reservoir near Yangon. For each bucket of water the cost is 10 kyats, about 10 cents (U.S.). People walk for miles for the water, but they hope in a year or two the government will install pipes to provide them with water closer to their homes (NewsOk.com; FoxNews 04.12.14). In the United States, we still have drought conditions across much of the country. Parts of Australia have also experienced a drought along with other places in the world. If we want to live, we must have water.

I have been preaching through the last seven statements of Jesus from the cross. “I thirst” is the fifth statement. “I thirst” speaks to the humanity of Jesus and we can all understand it. Most of us have been thirsty before. We have perhaps worked out in the hot sun becoming so thirsty that our bodies begin to rebel until we find some water to drink. With this statement, Jesus is identifying with all of humanity because He not only is fully divine, but also fully human.

One of the early heresies of the Christian faith was Docetism. Those believing this heresy agreed with the deity of Christ, but rejected his humanity. Their view was that Jesus only appeared to be human denying that Jesus suffered while on the cross. Jesus’ fifth statement from the cross confronts this heresy allowing all to see His humanity.

Why was it necessary for Jesus to suffer as a human being on the cross? Hebrews 2:14-18 explains, “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” Without the human suffering of Jesus, we would not have a Savior. Jesus became the perfect sacrifice, the Lamb of God, by being tempted in His humanity at all points like we are, yet without sin. As we are told in Hebrews 4:15, “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

In this Easter season, we can have hope when we feel pain whether that pain is physical or mental. We can have hope when we feel alone, because God Himself has suffered. He knows what it is like to be human, to be like you and me. He knows what it is like to experience the very worst that life can send a person’s way.

Because Jesus experienced thirst, He has become the Savior who alone can satisfy our spiritual thirst. In Revelation 21:6 Jesus shouts to all that would hear and believe, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who THIRSTS.” Come to Jesus and receive forgiveness for your sins! Come to Jesus and find meaning, purpose, peace, and eternal life! “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).” Will you allow Jesus to quench your thirst?

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04.04.14

Slimed!

For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. – 1 Thessalonians 4:7.

Yin Min Tai, a woman who lives in Fuzhou, Fujian Province of China, had the unpleasant experience of being SLIMED! When Lok Wan, the woman’s boyfriend, slowed to make a U-turn a cement truck following could not stop in time. The result was a load of cement flowing onto and into the car Yin Min was inside. Lok Wan was able to escape from the vehicle before the cement forced its way inside, but Yin Min was trapped. She was covered in cement and it took rescuers 40 minutes before they were able to pull her out of the vehicle. After rescuers were able to wash the cement slime off of Yin Min they surprisingly found her to only have very minor injuries. (Orange News)

Can you imagine being completely covered with sticky icky heavy slimy cement? Can you imagine being trapped in that slime for 40 minutes? What would have happened if the slimy cement had not been removed? The cement would have begun to dry, and to harden. For the woman, it would have become increasingly harder to move, perhaps even to breathe, until all movement ceased; causing death.

The physical effect of slimy cement covering a person is similar to the spiritual effect of the filthy evil slime of the world. What is the slime of the world? In the time of Noah, the earth was filled with wickedness and violence; the thoughts of all except for Noah and his family were “only evil continually (Genesis 6:5 NKJV).” Another example of the world’s slime the Bible gives us is of the homosexuality in Sodom (Genesis 19:4-5). The Bible speaks of those covered in the world’s slime in Romans 1:28-32 NKJV in this way: “…God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”

The world is continually trying to slime us through every kind of media; from television to Internet the slime is raining down upon us. In addition, those who have been slimed are continually trying to slime everyone else because they want everyone to be like them…covered in slime. The more slime we have in our lives the harder it is to hear God, the harder it is to do anything for Him. The more slime we have in our lives meaningful spiritual activity decreases until we have turned completely away from God.

How are we to cope with this flood of slime the world continually pours out upon us? Colossians 3:5-7 NKJV tells us, “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.” Colossians 3:2 NKJV says, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Romans 12:1-2 NKJV says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind….” In 2 Corinthians 6:17 we are commanded to, “…Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.”

Is your life covered in the slime of this world? If so, and you want to be cleansed 1 John 1:9 tells us how to be cleansed, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Then, turn off and turn down the world’s immoral messages and instead fill your life with good things like God’s Word; think about good things as we are told in Philippians 4:8; and fill your life up with, “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure….”

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04.03.14

Are You Weary?

For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. – Hebrews 12:3 NKJV.

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You. – Isaiah 26:3.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30.

A man in Lawton, Oklahoma, dropped a $20.00 bill, which fell into a storm drain. It was the only money the man had so he climbed down into the storm drain to find the twenty dollar bill. The storm drain pipe has a diameter of only 42 inches which forced the man to crawl along through the pipe. City workers say that there is a vast network of underground pipe and that they have to use maps to keep from becoming lost. This is what happened to the man who was trying to find his money; he lost his way in the network of pipes. Two days later, a group of students heard the man yelling for help. Police officers said the man was about 15 feet below street level. He had a bump on his head, was dehydrated, disoriented, and weary; not sure of the time or the date. And…he never found his twenty dollar bill. (KWSO-TV 03.08.14)

Can you imagine crawling in a pipe for hours and hours in the dark? Then, you have no idea how to crawl back out and so you begin to call out in the dark for someone, anyone to help you. You bump your head, you become weaker as you go without food and water having no idea as to where you are…Sounds like the setting for a Stephen King novel.

The Lawton man’s ordeal in a way is a picture of what happens when we have the wrong focus in life. His focus was the twenty dollar bill, money. Now if we were down to our last twenty dollars we would probably be crawling down into that storm drain too. In life, as we focus in on making money, or gaining fame, or power, or other worldly goals it can become a maze leading to nowhere. We try this, we do that, we go there, we turn left, we turn right, and become so unhinged that we don’t know which way is up, and which way is down. We cry out for help and wonder if there is anyone there.

If you have grown weary of crawling through the maze of the world’s goals seeking what the world says you ought to seek, there is a solution. There is someone listening. The solution is actually very simple, you need to have the right focus. That is what the Bible is saying in Hebrews 12:3 when it says to “Consider Him.” The Him, is Jesus. Change your focus in life to Jesus and then you will not “grow weary and discouraged.”

The world has a way of driving us crazy, making us weary, making us angry, of giving us the opposite of what God can give us. If we put our trust, our focus on God, “stay” our minds on Him, we will find “perfect peace,” which the goals of this world can never give us. Jesus tells us what we need to do, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

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04.02.14

Looking for Yourself

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? – Matthew 16:24-26 NKJV.

Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. – Psalm 37:4 NKJV.

A tourist group on a tour bus in Iceland was on their way to Eldgia Canyon when they made a rest stop near the Canyon. One of the women on the tour took the opportunity to change clothes and freshen up a little. When the group had reassembled to resume their trip to the Canyon for some unknown reason the group did not recognize the woman who had changed clothes and instead thought that she was missing. A search party was then made up of 50 people from the group (This included the missing woman who didn’t know they were searching for her.) and others which began searching the area. The Icelandic Coast Guard began to mobilize to help in the effort. Finally, many hours later someone in the group realized that the one they were looking for was actually helping them look for herself. The missing woman had finally found herself! (Orange News 03.11.14)

For most of my life, I have heard about people who leave home traveling about trying to find themselves. It is said to be an adventure in self-discovery. What is it that they find when they finally find themselves? What is it that they are really searching for? When you join a search party looking for yourself what are you trying to find?

From my own observations, it would appear that we would all like to have a meaningful life. We would like our lives to count, to make a difference in someway. We have a built in desire for something. Our hearts desire what? This is what we are really searching for when we begin to try to find ourselves, the desires of our hearts.

Blaise Pascal may be the first who wrote about the God shaped hole in our hearts when he said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.” Although I believe King Solomon was speaking of this same thing when he said, “I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives (Ecclesiastes 3:10-12 NKJV).” The Amplified Bible translates a portion of verse 11 as: “He also has planted eternity in men’s hearts and minds [a divinely implanted sense of a purpose working through the ages which nothing under the sun but God alone can satisfy]….” As we are told in the Acts 17 the apostle Paul noticed that the people of Athens were worshiping an “unknown god.” The people of Athens also had a God shaped vacuum within their hearts.

How do we “find ourselves?” What we are really saying and wanting when we begin to look for ourselves is that we want to find the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4). How do we find the desires of our hearts? Jesus tells us in John 7:37, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” Jesus, is how we find ourselves. He will fulfill our heart’s desire. He will fill up the vacuum, the God shaped hole in our hearts. As Jesus says, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will FIND IT.”

If you have been looking for yourself you don’t need to take a walkabout, you don’t need to take off on a survival trip into the wilderness, you don’t need to wander the world in search of your life; you don’t have to do any of those things. Because, you see, you just need Jesus!

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03.31.14

Old Solutions for New Problems

Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’” For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. – Matthew 6:30-34.

In a world with exponential technological advances occurring daily, we are finding new solutions to old problems. Consider the parental problem of pulling a child’s tooth. When I was a child there was the Slamming Door Method. To extract a tooth using this method tie one end of a string around the tooth, and the other end to the doorknob of an open door…Then, slam the door. My sister, as I remember it was the one who performed my tooth extraction in this way. What great memories…ha! Another method some used in the past was to have the child bite into an apple or a piece of hard candy.

There is now a new home method of tooth extraction developed by a father in Dublin. It is the Remote Control Helicopter Method. It may become popular as some 80,000 people have watched the video of Adam Swan’s tooth being jerked out by the remote control helicopter. (Orange News 03.27.14) As I was reading about this today, I found that the majority believe the best method is to wait for the tooth to fall out on its own or to take the child to the dentist. The problem occurs as I remember when the tooth is not yet ready to come out and the door is slammed it can be quite painful. I did read about one child who after a home extraction procedure had to go to the emergency room for treatment.

As we can see there are new solutions to old problems, but that does not necessarily mean that they are the best. Even with all of our technology there never seems to be enough time to do what we need to do. In fact, it appears that the technology has reduced the amount of time that we have. Why? Because we have to check our facebook, tweet, check email, and respond to messages that we consider important. Then there is Instagram, Pinterest, and a bunch of other social media that is now available.

There is an old solution to this new problem of technological time draining that we are experiencing. The ages old solution to technological time draining is putting first things first. I recently read this quote by E. M. Bounds (1835-1913) who was a Methodist Episcopal pastor, chaplain during Civil War, Attorney, and author of nine books on prayer: “I feel it is far better to begin with God, to see His face first, to get my soul near Him before it is near another. In general, it is best to have at least one hour alone with God before engaging in anything else.” Perhaps this is why Bounds was able to write the material that is now available in 11 books (Many of these are available online free of cost – search for E. M. Bounds).

The old solution of putting God first before everything else is still the best solution for whatever this 21st century world may throw at you. Try it! It still works!

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03.27.14

While You Are Waiting

Then Midianite traders passed by; so the brothers pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt. - Genesis 37:28.

So Joseph made ready his chariot and went up to Goshen to meet his father Israel; and he presented himself to him, and fell on his neck and wept on his neck a good while. - Genesis 46:29.

This morning I am waiting, waiting while my computer performs some checks and installs updates. It is taking far longer than I thought and I am not happy about that! So while I am waiting, I am writing this devotional on my kindle. Waiting, no one really likes to wait unless you are waiting for something bad to happen. Even if you are waiting for something bad to happen, often you would like to hurry up time so the waiting would be over. The waiting for Mary Virginia Jones is finally over after 32 years in prison. Mary was wrongly convicted, but now she is free, free, free at last!

While Mary was incarcerated she quickly became a spiritual leader and gave those in prison with her much hope. One of the women that she gave hope to shared this, "She taught us how to walk the walk and keep the faith. She had a light that just shined." Mary's daughter, Denitra Jones-Goodie said that her mother always believed she would be released, and says "She's got strength on top of strength."

Mary's story reminds me of Joseph who was also wrongly imprisoned. Joseph's captivity began when his brothers sold him into slavery, and did not end until many decades later. It ended when Joseph was finally reunited and reconciled with his family.

Taking these two stories into consideration, when was the work of God, the serving of God being done? It is obvious in both situations that the serving and the work of God was being performed during the waiting. We know with Joseph that God had more for him to do, and I am sure that God has much more for Mary to do too, during her freedom.

This brings us to you and me. Does God have you in a spiritual holding pattern? You know there will be so much joy when the waiting is finally over, why doesn't God make this time go faster? Maybe God doesn't make the time you are waiting shorter for the same reasons that He didn't for Joseph and Mary Jones. While Mary was waiting, God has used her to point many women that the world would have said were worthless to new lives in Christ of immeasurable value. Those lives that God has touched through Mary will touch countless other lives with God's transforming love. While Joseph was waiting, what did God do through it? God through Joseph made the preparations necessary to save both the Egyptians and the Hebrews.

What is it that God is doing through your life while you are waiting? While I was waiting this morning, I wrote this devotional, and I pray that God will accomplish His purposes in the lives of all who take the time to read it. May God speak to your heart...

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03.04.14

Wedding Vows

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. – Ephesians 5:25-33.

Sadly, I learned recently that one of my facebook friends had actually passed away August 13, 2013. I am very glad that Larisa, the sister of Tina Nedelcu Carruthers, messaged to let me know. Otherwise, I might never have known the rest of the story.

Tina lived cancer free for nine months after her marriage to Neil Carruthers. Tina had fought cancer once and not only survived but recovered. She had the determination to learn again how to walk and talk. She had in the past sung in church, and she regained her singing voice and sang again. Tina demonstrated courage in the face of a fearsome disease. When the disease returned she fought again and this time her husband fought by her side.

Tina was 29-years-old, and Neil was 34-years-old when they died 46-hours apart last August. Neil had no apparent physical problems when he collapsed, and suddenly died just 46-hours before Tina, the love of his life passed from this world to the next, as well. (BostonGlobe.com 09.27.13; Larisa Chapman; Tina Carruthers facebook profile) I hope you will read the rest of this beautiful love story at http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2013/09/26/neil-carruthers-and-tina-carruthers-stoneham-couple-paths-converged-before-they-died-hours-apart/CgRlMo2kB5GmcssvOiOyxK/story.html#

In wedding ceremonies I often use the following vows after the exchange of rings: “…you are each given to the other in times of happiness and of sorrow; in times of plenty and of poverty; in times of sickness and of well being; to love and enjoy till death shall separate you.” Death only separated Neil and Tina from each other for 46-hours!

Vows, wedding vows, consider the vow to be faithful to each other even in sickness; Neil and Tina lived out that vow. What a beautiful love they demonstrated for each other and for all those who encountered their lives! Rarely do younger couples encounter the challenge of caring for a physically or mentally ill husband or wife. Much more often the challenge comes at a much older age. However, many couples never face such a challenge even if they live long lives.

Does it make any difference whether or not you live together or if you marry? I believe it does, and that standing before others; and God, reciting vows of faithfulness will hold many couples together for their entire lives. It does make a difference when couples put Christ first in their lives (Matthew 6:33), and demonstrate His love toward each other. It makes a difference now, and eternally!

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03.01.14

Testimony of Jennifer

God has done a phenomenal work in my life. Jesus truly saved me from myself. About 12 years ago I was a floundering, scared, anxious, often depressed alcohol dependent bulimic diagnosed with ptsd who found my worth and value in sexual intimacy with men. I had been in and out of a roller coaster relationship with a drug addicted man who abused me physically, emotionally, and mentally for nearly 9 years and I was absolutely emotionally devastated. I was so lost and hurting, my world was a dark place to put it mildly.

I was saved when I was 12, baptized in water and had a wonderful experience with our God for a very short time. Then when I was 15 I met a man who introduced me to new age spirituality and that fit the life that looked so appealing to me, so the enemy began to dominate my world. From that age all through my twenties I worshiped alcohol, partying, and men all the while struggling deeply with an eating disorder, which were all significant of the true issue, my lack of self-worth, self-esteem, self-confidence and most of all self-love. I had no value as a person until God moved in a big way in my life back in 2002.

I went to a Christ centered treatment facility that year, the Salvation Army treatment center in Harrisburg, PA and when I reflect back that is the year I called on God in dire desperation, at a bottom I had never dreamed I would experience. While I did not complete my treatment there it had a big effect on my life. Later that same year God paved the way for a geographical move from my home town of Johnstown, PA with a bar on every corner, to the place I live today, Zebulon, NC with a church at every country mile. While I continued to struggle with the old habits of alcohol, bulimia and men for a few years, I clearly see that God was working in my life all along the way.

I hit another bottom in 2005, at which time I fully surrendered my life to Jesus, in utter knowing that the alcohol and bulimia owned me, fully assured that, that behavior would bring me to a certain and untimely death. I will never forget calling out to Jesus once again in absolute desperation, like only a dying woman would do. It still amazes me to see how He answered! He wrapped his arms around my life and my world and guided me as I held onto Him for dear life every step up that mountain of healing.

I stand on top of that proverbial mountain today, still leaning on Him so completely, all the while He shines so brightly in and through me! Today I am 9 years free of bulimia, 7 years, 1 month and 15 days sober and going strong. I am fully committed to celibacy as I date at 40 years old. I am at this place, instead of being 6 feet under, all because of the phenomenal redemption power of a loving relationship with our most perfect savior, Jesus Christ. I have a very stable life as a single mom of two beautiful daughters, ages 7 and 21 and an amazing 2 year old grandson. My relationships with my oldest daughter, mom, and my siblings have experienced the love of Jesus and are fully repaired; while my youngest daughter has had an entire life of the benefits of a mother who knows how much she is loved by Jesus Christ. I have a very good and stable job in my accounting career. I am in the process of buying my very first home in a gated lake community with lots of wonderful amenities, none the less. I am working on my degree in Psychology with a dual major in Christian Counseling and Addiction and Recovery at Liberty University Online. All of these amazing blessings for a woman who 12 years ago was homeless, living in a recovery center, while my oldest daughter was being cared for by one of my older sisters.

With tears in my eyes and unspeakable gratitude in my heart, I am alive and abundantly well to testify that my life today in the loving embrace of our most perfect savior is like having a piece of heaven right here on earth, while I continue to hold onto Him, embracing Him so very tightly through this now beautiful, faith filled journey. Our God, through Jesus Christ, changed me on the inside, in a phenomenal way! He loved me so very completely when I could not love myself and that changed everything for me. Today I am a humbly confident lady who knows her worth and value in the Lord. I am the righteousness of Christ and for all the amazing work our God has done in me I stay forever grateful. Thank you Jesus!

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10.29.13

What Would It Take?

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. - Hebrews 10:23-25 NKJV.

…Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. - Ephesians 5:23b NKJV.

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. - Matthew 28:18-20 NKJV.

Casey Wagner is thankful that he is still alive after being hit twice by lightning. It occurred while he was at an off-road racing event at Saint Jo, Texas. Casey was under a tree when he was struck, which knocked him to his knees; then he was struck a second time. Casey says, “It dropped me to my knees and then it hit me again. When I got hit, it was just two big ol' flashes and then sparks went everywhere.” Casey says he could feel the electricity shoot through his body from his right foot out through his arms. He did lose feeling in his right leg and left arm for a time but had no other significant injuries other than his heart skipping a beat. Casey says now, “I've got all the feeling back. It's just like my whole body is waking up from… like if your arm falls asleep, that's how my whole body feels.” Casey does believe that it was God that protected him keeping him alive. And…Casey plans on going to church more now. (FoxNews 10.28.13; CBS 10.28.13; New York Post 10.28.13)

In past devotionals when I have mentioned attending church services I have always received comments from some saying that they believe in God; but want no part of organized religion. So what is a church? W. A. Criswell, a great Bible scholar, writes “A ‘church’ (ekklesia, Gk.) is a group of people who, having been called out of sin and unbelief to faith in Christ, have given witness to that faith through believer’s baptism and have banded themselves into a voluntary fellowship. The church is made up of all those who have been regenerated by faith in the atoning work of Christ.” Criswell also writes that ekklesia means literally, “…the called out ones.” Criswell also says, “The word itself implies no more than simply “assembly.” Criswell writes further, “The universal Church is manifested in the world by a series of individual local churches, each of which is to be a microcosm of the whole, with N.T. Christians under the leadership of the Holy spirit banding themselves into local independent assemblies and operating democratically under the sovereign rule of the Holy spirit to carry on the ministry in that particular locality.”

From this passage in Ephesians 5:23 we see how the work (Matthew 28:18-20) of Christ upon this Earth is to be done is through the “ekklesia”, the “assembly” i.e. the church. The “head”, the leader of this “church” is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Church, assembling together with other believers, is God’s idea and His command.

What would it take for you to be obedient to God’s command for you to be faithful in assembling with other believers? For Casey Wagner, it took being struck by lightning twice…. What about you? What will it take in your life?

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09.26.13

Just Wasting Time

Hear, my son, and receive my sayings, and the years of your life will be many. I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hindered, and when you run, you will not stumble. Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; keep her, for she is your life. Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn away from it and pass on. - Proverbs 4:10-15 NKJV.

The Message translates the passage in this way:

Dear friend, take my advice; it will add years to your life. I’m writing out clear directions to Wisdom Way, I’m drawing a map to Righteous Road. I don’t want you ending up in blind alleys, or WASTING TIME making wrong turns. Hold tight to good advice; don’t relax your grip. Guard it well - your life is at stake! Don’t take Wicked Bypass; don’t so much as set foot on that road. Stay clear of it; give it a wide berth. Make a detour and be on your way. - Proverbs 4:10-15 The Message.

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. - Matthew 6:33 NKJV.

PointlessSites dot com has a list of 100 “all-time favorite sites for wasting time.” The list begins with the “Falling Sand Game” and continues with such favorites as “Cows go moo” and “Watching Grass grow”!! Those are all good time wasters; however, I believe the ultimate time wasters are our addictions. Whether your addiction is alcohol, meth, cocaine, heroin, porn, or something more innocent like food - they are all time wasters. Think of the time that you spend trying to find your addiction of choice and then all of the time you spend consuming that addiction. Not to mention, the time you use earning the money you need to acquire and consume the addiction.

The Bible has great advice and instructions for us as we see in Proverbs. We can avoid wasting time by avoiding those wrong turns in life. Our addictions are wrong turns. To avoid making the wrong turns the solution is simple. What is it? “…seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness….”

The Prophet Joel speaks of the years the locusts have eaten up in Joel chapter two. Our addictions are the locusts of today, and they are consuming the years of our lives. The good news is that if we will make a right turn toward God seeking Him first with our lives we can make up some of the lost time. The Bible tells us in Joel 2:25 NKJV, “So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten….” Never stop seeking first the will of God in your life, and with each right turn God will continually restore more of the time you have wasted through your addiction.

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09.10.13

Help Me!

But You, O Lord, do not be far from Me; O My Strength, hasten to help Me! - Psalm 22:19 NKJV.

O God, do not be far from me; O my God, make haste to help me! - Psalm 71:12 NKJV.

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. - Hebrews 4:16 NKJV.

What would you do if you were kidnapped at gunpoint and were in a speeding car being carried away? It happened to a 25-year-old woman who was forced into the kidnapper’s vehicle at gunpoint in downtown Dallas, Texas. Two teenaged boys noticed the woman in the car and then saw her mouth the words, “Help Me!” Aaron Arias and Jamal Harris were the two young men who saw the plea for help. Aaron called 911, and they followed the kidnapper’s vehicle until police officers arrived and were able to stop the kidnapper and rescue the kidnapped woman. A 37-year-old man, Charles Atkins Lewis, was arrested for kidnapping. As for the two young men, they did receive a thank you and a hug from the rescued woman. (ABC News 09.05.13)

What would you do if you were kidnapped at gunpoint? Would you ask for help if you had the opportunity? Of course! Of course, you would ask for help from everyone that you possibly could. According to a Beliefnet poll 64% say that they pray more than once a day. Another poll says that only 20% of Americans 45-years-old or older who are somewhat religious cite prayer as their most satisfying spiritual or religious experience (Foster Letter, 2/05). As a pastor, I have found that it is difficult to inspire people to be excited about prayer. Having been a pastor of three churches (and a member of four churches while a layman) the level of excitement about prayer was about the same in all of those churches.

In October of 2008, we found out that our son, Nick, had lost the sight in his left eye because of a detached retina. This occurred after he had cataracts removed from both eyes. He had surgery in November of 2008 to stabilize the eye so that it would not have to be removed. Nick has Down Syndrome and has trouble communicating, because of this we were surprised yesterday when we found out during an eye exam that he now has some vision in the damaged eye! We have prayed and prayed for the restoration of his vision along with countless others. Five years from when we first began praying for healing the hand of God has moved in answer to those prayers.

I fully believe that your prayer life shapes the world in which you personally live. Some think that being a mature Christian means that you only pray for others, and we ought to pray for others; we need to pray for others. However, we have the example of the Psalmist and many throughout the Bible who asked and received help from God for their personal situations. God still answers even when it only consists of those two words, “Help me!”

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08.14.13

Up a Tree

Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.” Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” - Luke 19:1-10 NKJV.

Laddy was missing, and of course the family was upset. Cynthia Weeks said this, “I was beside myself. We went around calling for him, and I drove around. I put it on my facebook pages, and we put fliers out around the neighborhood.” Two days later Laddy showed up, literally up, as in up a tree! Ron Stevenson was doing some yard work when he heard the border collie barking, and whining, and he found the dog ten feet or more up in a tree! (Orange 08.14.13)

We once had a dog named Ernie (Named after Ernie of Bert and Ernie of Sesame Street fame.) that could climb, he was an escape artist. He could go over or under the fence. I buried chicken wire around the bottom of the fence and thought that would keep him in. We took a weekend trip, and when we came home we found our names on the front page of the local newspaper as owners of a dog (He had a collar and tags) that had scratched a little boy. The dog didn’t really bite the boy just jumped up and scratched him. The dog was at the pound, and it was as if we were criminals and they were looking for us. But it got worse as a day later the escape artist escaped from the pound, apparently climbed out. However, the second newspaper article, also on the front page, made it sound like we had staged a jail break and broke the dog out of the pound!

All of our families began the search for our little furry escape artist and finally Ernie heard us calling his name. We took him back to the pound, and after a few days Ernie was granted his release into our custody.

Zacchaeus climbed up a tree of his own free will; however, you have to think that even though he was rich, he was already up a proverbial tree. Zacchaeus was somehow up that proverbial tree and like the collie was unable to find a way down. Jesus was the answer that Zacchaeus had been waiting all of his life for; he found Jesus, but Jesus was already looking for him because, “…the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” I think you could say that Zacchaeus finally heard Jesus calling his name.

Life has a way of putting us up a tree at times. Who would think that you could go away on a little weekend trip and come home to find that you are public enemy number one of the entire community! But it happens…life happens, and the way out, the best way out is to look to Jesus, and He will help you down out of whatever tree you may have found yourself in. If you listen, you may just be able to hear Jesus calling your name, telling you to come down out of that tree!

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08.13.13

Sometimes the Answer is No

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. - 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NKJV.

David has had a terrible experience and his friend Jessica I’m sure also has had a terrible experience. David invited his girlfriend Jessica to a minor league baseball game in Connecticut planning to propose to her. It was all setup to be a memorable experience that the couple would remember for a lifetime. The couple was brought out onto the field by the stadium announcer telling everyone that David had something to ask his friend. David kneels on one knee in front of Jessica and asks, “Will you marry me Jessica?” As the crowd is cheering, Jessica responds, “David, I’m sorry, I can’t” and she then ran off the baseball field. (Orange 08.06.13)

We now know that the marriage proposal was a hoax and that David and Jessica were two employees who were part of a performance, a skit. Of course, the video went viral on the Internet with huge numbers of people seeing the video who will never know the failed proposal was not real. The same is probably true for some who were present at the ball park that day.

I don’t know how many marriage proposals have been rejected or how many have backed out prior to the marriage. I think it would be heart rending to have that happen in your life. The thing to remember here is this: It is not the end of the world. It may seem like it, but good can come from it if we will allow God to use it in our lives. Romans 8:28 is true where we are told, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” This is not an automatic promise, but it is a true promise for those who love God and seek His will to be brought about in their lives.

The apostle Paul had some kind of physical ailment, and many of us have attempted to suggest what it might have been. We do know that he had a problem with his eyesight, but it could have been any number of things in an age without having access to the medical treatment that we have today. Paul says, “…I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.” Now when Paul says he pleaded three times it would not have been a causal short one sentence prayer. It perhaps would have involved fasting and prayer for many days. However, the answer was still no; even for the apostle Paul.

We can see the evidence of the truth of Romans 8:28 in the apostle Paul’s life. Paul tells us there in 2 Corinthians, “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Through God giving Paul daily strength to endure his affliction, his inner strength grew as the Lord was able to work more powerfully through the apostle. Whenever God or even some person says “No” in your life, remember God can do the same for you as he did for Paul.

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04.25.13

Life Has Surprises

So Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother, and came to the vineyards of Timnah. Now to his surprise, a young lion came roaring against him. And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he tore the lion apart as one would have torn apart a young goat, though he had nothing in his hand. - Judges 14:5-6 NKJV.

Jenna Krehbiel was enjoying the Isis Shrine Circus that had come to Salina, Kansas when she visited the ladies’ restroom and…had a surprise she will never forget! Jenna says: "I went in to use the bathroom, and a lady came in to get her daughter out and said there was a tiger loose. I didn't know it was in the bathroom, and I walked in the door, which closed right after I had walked in. I saw the tiger; it was at most two feet in front of me, and I turned around calmly and walked back toward the door. Someone opened the door and said, ‘Get out’. You don't expect to go in a bathroom door, have it shut behind you and see a tiger walking toward you. Looking back, it was a scary ordeal... My daughter wanted to know if it had washed its hands. That was her only concern.” The tiger had escaped during the circus and had entered an open bathroom door. Security was able to move people out and barricaded the door. But Jenna entered a door at the other end of the restroom. Chris Bird, manager of the center hosting the circus said, "Once she saw the tiger, I'm sure she knew to go the other way. Overall, it was a scary, surreal moment. I am glad no one was hurt or injured.” (Orange News 04.24.13; CNN 04.23.13; Salina.com of the Salina Journal 04.22.13)

You never really know what life will bring your way. We are told in James 4:13 NKJV, "Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” One thing we do know about tomorrow is that it may not turn out exactly as we plan. I have always liked a statement made by Tom Hanks’ character in the movie Castaway written by William Broyles, Jr., "So now I know what I have to do. I have to keep breathing. And tomorrow the sun will rise, and who knows what the tide will bring in.” Sometimes, life sends a tiger into our path, and sometimes, life sends what we need to escape from a desperate situation. Whatever happens, we need to keep on breathing, keep on living for the Lord.

Whatever life sends your way you have a choice as to how you will react. Jenna Krehbiel could have collapsed in shock and became a tiger’s lunch; instead she did what she knew to do and left the place of danger. God calls upon us to do the same when possible, as is pointed out in 1 Corinthians 10:13 NKJV, "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” When there is a way of escape, take it!

In life, we may, however, have situations thrust upon us that provide no immediate way of escape and must be met head on with all of the resources that we have available to us. Samson faced one of those situations when "…a young lion came roaring against him.” There was no way of escape except through the lion. The resources of Samson included, "the Spirit of the Lord” which "came mightily upon him.” We may believe that we are totally inadequate to meet the roaring lions and tigers of life that come upon us, and we are. However, we have the same resource that Samson had; we have the Holy Spirit living within us if we know Jesus as our Savior. "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you (1 Corinthians 3:16)?”

Whatever life brings your way this day, or tomorrow, as a child of God you are not alone. Rise up in the power of God and meet the challenge of life, because you can surely overcome whatever it may be!

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03.15.13

Not Our Home

For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven. - 2 Corinthians 5:1-2 NKJV.

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. - Philippians 3:20-21 NKJV.

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims (aliens and strangers and exiles - Amplified Bible), abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they P> On my new route to civilization (McDonalds, Wal-Mart, lumber yard, etc.) these days, I frequently pass by an acreage where a llama is peering over a fence. Invariably, the llama is always next to the fence looking toward the south. I’ve come to believe that the llama knows that this is not his natural home. Somehow he knows that he was meant for more than a few acres of grass surrounded by a fence in Oklahoma. No, this llama knows that his true home is far to the south. He knows it is down there somewhere. Far to the south on another continent there are herds of llama that roam the mountains of Peru and Ecuador. This llama has never seen that far away land, but he knows that he was made for more than the life he is living now.

As Christians, we often feel somewhat out of place in the worldly world in which we live. We hunger for more than what this world has to offer. We feel out of place because when we are “born again” our citizenship is transferred from this world to Heaven. Similar to the llama, we have not seen that far away place, but we know it is there. We somehow know that in Heaven, life would be so much better than it is here on earth below.

The Christian singing group Thousand Foot Krutch has a song called “Be Somebody.” A couple of lines from the song are:

We all want to Be Somebody
We just need a taste of who we are

We push and strive upon this earth to “Be Somebody” when the truth is that if we know Jesus as our Savior, we already are “Somebody.” If we know Jesus as our Savior, we are part of a “chosen generation.” If we know Jesus as our Savior, we are part of a “royal priesthood.” If we know Jesus as our Savior, we are part of a “holy nation.” If we know Jesus as our Savior, we are part of Jesus’ “own special people.” If we know Jesus as our Savior, we have eternal life because the King of kings and the Lord of lords died for us. The Creator of the Universe knows your name and loves you! You are “Somebody!”

Some bright shining day you will arrive in your eternal home. Until that day, be assured that you are somebody who has been temporarily placed upon this earth to represent the eternal Kingdom of God. The full authority of Heaven above has been placed in your hands. God Himself, through the Holy Spirit resides within your body. Rise up and be somebody! Be a child of God! Be an Ambassador for Christ! “…abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

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03.13.13

Good Intentions

Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. - Mark 14:38 NKJV.

For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God - through Jesus Christ our Lord! - Romans 7:19-25 NKJV.

It has been said “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Maybe that is true because it is hard to translate intentions into actions. A Harvard economist, Dr. David Laibson has been doing some behavioral research about how to turn good intentions into actions. Dr. Laibson found that when people were given a choice between eating chocolate or fruit it depended on the time frame as to what they chose. If they had to wait a week to receive the food they would choose the fruit. However, if it was the same day they would usually choose the chocolate. Dr. Laibson stated that: “The problem is the difference between good intentions for the future, and the reward today. If you get the reward today, you give it full weight. A reward in the future gets half the weight.” He also found that when working toward a goal you will always be more successful if you start out in the right place. Those people who were signed up for an automatic payroll deduction for a 401(k) savings plan were much more likely to continue than someone who had not actually completed the paperwork for the plan. Dr. Laibson says: “It makes all the difference if you start out in the right place.” (Seattle Times 03.04.13; NewsOk.com 03.12.13)

To most Christians, Dr. Laibson’s research findings are obvious. We know how hard it can be at times to turn good intentions into reality. As Jesus said, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” The apostle Paul in Romans 7 confesses of the spiritual war that rages within him, and indeed in all Christians. As with Paul, the good that we would do sometimes we do not do. As the apostle puts it, “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.”

In this war with sin, with evil, there are some things that can help us to turn good intentions into spiritual reality. Dr. Laibson’s finding, “It makes all the difference if you start out in the right place”, is helpful. How do you rid yourself of a habitual sin? Hebrews 12:1 says, “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us….” To start out in the right place with sin, we must lay it aside. The sin must be cut off, and no more provision or thought should be given to fuel the sin (Romans 13:14).

Jesus gives us more insight into battling this spiritual war by saying to His disciples, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation….” We should be aware of those things that can cause us to stumble, and we should be praying for the Lord to lead us, not into temptation; but to deliver us from evil (Matthew 6:13).

The most important thing that we need to turn good intentions into reality is not a thing but a person. The apostle Paul comes to this conclusion when he tells us, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God - through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Jesus is who we need. As Paul says in Romans 13:14, “…put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” Put on the Lord Jesus by spending time with Him in prayer, through reading His Word, by serving Him, and spending time with His followers.

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02.28.13

A God Thing

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. - 1 Corinthians 1:25 NKJV.

You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior,the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas. - Psalm 65:5 NKJV.

It was 40 years ago today, when our oldest son was born. At the time, we were living in a 12’ by 50’ mobile home at the Gaslight Village mobile home park lot #125 in Yukon, Oklahoma. My wife was a secretary in the land department for Union Oil Company. I had just completed my undergraduate degree and was working as an accounting clerk for Robberson Steel Company in Oklahoma City. We were not attending church and had not been for some time. A couple of the ministers from the First Baptist Church in Yukon had visited us, and we talked about attending there, but never did. If someone had told us back then that someday our son would be the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Yukon, Oklahoma, we would have thought it was the craziest thing we had ever heard. Soon after our son was born we moved back to western Oklahoma.

What God has done with our son is typical of how God moves upon our lives. It is like God wraps everything up in a beautiful package, tying it all up with a bright red ribbon on top. He does that just so that we know that it was God that made it all happen. There is no way things like this could have ever been planned and brought about by man. It is another of God’s “awesome deeds of righteousness.” It is a God thing!

God has such great wisdom, far greater than any of us living here upon this earth. Knowing this, why is it that we do not trust God more? Why do we worry about such small and insignificant things when we serve such a magnificent God? The Bible urges us always to pray and not to lose heart (Luke 18:1). The Bible tells us not to be anxious about anything, but to take all those worrisome things to God in prayer (Philippians 4:6-7). The Bible tells us to focus in upon Jesus so that we will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:3). God is continually telling us that He has this and we can trust Him with whatever may be going on in our lives.

What “God thing” has God done in your life? What would God do in your life if you placed your life in His hands? Think about some of the great servants of God in the Bible. Joseph of the Old Testament was sold as a slave by his brothers, but God used it for good eventually bring Joseph’s family to safety as a result of this bad thing that had happened. However, it only happened because Joseph persisted in trusting God in spite of what seemed like terrible things that occurred in his life. Eventually, we know what happened. It was like God wrapped everything up in a beautiful package tying a bright red ribbon on top just so everyone would know that this was a “God Thing.” Only God could have done what was done in Joseph’s life bringing great glory to God.

I want to encourage you to place your life into God’s hands. Allow God to perform “awesome deeds of righteousness” in your life. Some day you will look back and say, “That was a God thing!”

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02.21.13

The Right Place at the Right Time

Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert. So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go near and overtake this chariot.” So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. - Acts 8:26-31 NKJV.

Kraai McClure and Scott Beautler were in the right place at the right time to rescue two little girls. McClure and Beautler were driving on a state highway near Naselle, Oregon when they just happened to notice some damage to a tree and decided to stop to check it out. Scott says that something “struck him as weird” about the tree damage. What they found was an accident scene and two little girls who survived. Jessica Rath, the mother of the two girls had apparently fallen asleep while driving; struck the tree and was killed. The 4-year-old girl was able to get her 2-year-old sister who was injured out of the vehicle and covered them both with a blanket. The overnight temperature was in the lower 40s and the girls could have died from exposure in the cold and rain. The girl’s father is now caring for them.

Was it just luck or coincidence that McClure and Beautler happened to be in the right place at the right time noticing “something weird” about a tree? I choose to believe that it was an act of God directing their attention to the tree damage, enough so that they stopped to check it out.

The story about Phillip and the Ethiopian in the Book of Acts gives us instruction about the right time and right place thing. There was nothing accidental about Phillip being there when the Ethiopian passed by. It was not accidental because God placed Phillip at that exact place and time so that he could be a witness to the Ethiopian. There was nothing accidental about McClure and Beautler being in the right place at the right time either.

How often do events occur and we pass them off as just being luck or coincidence that we are there in the right place at the right time? How often do we fail to take advantage of opportunities to witness or to help even though God has supernaturally placed us where we will be able to witness or help?

The next time you appear to be in the right place at the right time, look around, and see what it is that God would have you to do.

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02.20.13

Distracted

And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. - Luke 10:39-41.

A funny thing happened to a woman on the way to pick up a friend 38 miles away. She became “distracted” and drove through Germany, Austria, Slovenia, and to Zagreb, Croatia. 38 miles became, two days later, 901 miles. Sabine Moreau claims she noticed her GPS was taking her on a strange route. She says, “I saw all kinds of traffic pass. First in French, then in German; Cologne, Aachen, Frankfurt. But I asked myself no questions. I was just distracted, so I kept my foot down.” When Sabine arrived in Zagreb, she says she suddenly realized she was no longer in Belgium and phoned home. Good thing! Her son had reported the 67-year-old woman missing, and police were gearing up for a full scale search. (Telegraph.co.uk 02.13.13)

Those pesky GPS units! Amazing how far off those things will take us sometimes! As with most technological innovations, a human brain is usually required for them to function properly. My GPS unit has led me onto dead ends more than once. True, on the other side of the dead end I could see the street that I needed to be on, but it was impossible to access from there. You have to think, it was a major distraction to drive 901 miles through three countries prior to thinking that this cannot possibly be the correct route!

Martha and Mary were both devoted followers of Jesus. We can certainly sympathize with Martha. Because Martha is having to do all of the work and Mary is just sitting around doing nothing but listening to Jesus. Martha had to be shocked at the answer of Jesus. Martha, had become “distracted” through her “much serving.” She was distracted from the main thing being the main thing. That main thing was Jesus.

Have you ever become distracted from your devotion to Jesus? I know that I have, and it can happen in completely innocent ways. For example, you have a hobby that you enjoy. You spend more and more time with your hobby. You spend more and more money on your hobby. Before long you are traveling around the country going to meetings with others who love your hobby. You stop going to church, you stop reading your Bible, you stop praying; because you only have time for your hobby. Your hobby becomes the main thing and the focus of your devotion.

The apostle Paul in a discussion about being married or not being married in 1 Corinthians 7 says in verse 35 NKJV, “And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.” This appears to be the key to knowing whether or not we are on the right course with our lives. Is what we are doing or not doing of a proper nature and allowing us to “serve the Lord without distraction?”

What about you? Are you serving the Lord without distraction?

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02.19.13

How Times Have Changed

…scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. - 2 Peter 3:3 NKJV.

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. - 2 Peter 3:10-13.

Recently, I began reading through a diary that my great aunt Carrie Wrather kept for the year 1948. Her husband Adair Wrather was working on a railroad ballast machine mostly in the Texas panhandle. Apparently, each worker on the machine had their own car that they lived in, which traveled with the ballast machine. If the worker was married, the worker and his wife were allowed to live in a private railcar, and that is what my Aunt was doing in 1948. I want to share a couple of the entries that my Aunt made during the year. The first diary entry is from Tuesday, February 3, 1948: “Granville went to get married this morning. He only met the girl Sat. My what funny things do happen and how time has changed since Adair and me married seventeen year ago today.” The second diary entry is from Tuesday, February 24, 1948: “We learned this morning that Granville’s wife has left him.”

My great aunt passed away several years ago, and I’m sure that she would be shocked at how the world has changed in these last few years. What happened to Granville back in 1948 rarely happens now (i.e. needing a divorce), because people rarely bother with the formality of marriage. Why is this happening? It is happening because there is no longer a fear of God. Because, as the apostle Peter said “scoffers will come”, and they have surely come! Today, huge numbers of people are scoffers, doubting that whether they live as God wants them to or not makes any difference.

Does it make a difference whether you live as God wants you to or not? In response, the apostle Peter tells us, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up (2 Peter 3:10 NKJV).” It will be shocking when God demonstrates the reality of His existence and power. How shocking? More shocking than the sudden fiery disintegration of the meteor as it streaked across the sky near Chelyabinsk, Russia last week, unleashing nearly 500 kilotons of energy, which is more than 30 times the energy of the Hiroshima atomic bomb.

“Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation…since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:14-15a; 17-18).

There is a clear choice for each of us to make. We can choose to live like the world believing that there is no God. Or, we can choose to live life believing that God is real and that He is coming again in power and glory.

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02.18.13

Ever Make a Mistake?

For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin. - Ecclesiastes 7:20.

The Good News Translation puts Ecclesiastes 7:20 in this way: There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake.

Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. - Matthew 5:23-24.

In Anna, Illinois, police officers raided a suspected methamphetamine lab and secured the area. However, upon closer examination what they had found was not a meth lab; it was canisters and tubes collecting maple sap from some trees to make homemade maple syrup. The Benson family gave the officers some of their syrup, and invited their neighbors who had reported the suspected meth lab to come on over for some pancakes with maple syrup. (kfvs12.com 02.14.13; news-leader.com 02.15.13)

The story reminds me of a glaringly similar mistake that I once made while I was a probation and parole officer. During a home visit with a new client I noticed a large plant with just part of it in view sticking up over a backyard fence. I wasn’t sure, but it looked like a marijuana plant. To make sure that the case was not thrown out for any reason I decided to obtain a search warrant. One of the detectives at the police department where I had my office drove by and took a photo of the plant that was in view. Looking at the photo it surely appeared to be marijuana. The Judge agreed, and signed the warrant. We raided my client’s house and property taking possession of the plant. My client told me that the plant only looked like marijuana and we found nothing else of an illegal nature. Tests soon confirmed that the plant was indeed not marijuana. I apologized to my client, and continued on having greater wisdom than before. Just one more of my many mistakes!

The spiritual fact is that we do all make mistakes in one form or another. When we have harmed our brother like I did, our response should be immediate as we seek to mend the relationship. Mending that relationship is even more important than bringing a gift to the Lord and worshiping Him. This is because when we have this wound in our hearts we are unable to worship in the way that we should. Once we have experienced reconciliation, we will be at peace with our brother, and with our God.

When we make mistakes the example in Scripture is that we need to turn around and do the right thing. When Jonah came to his senses in the belly of the great fish, what did he do? What he did was to do what God wanted him to do at the beginning. Jonah went to Nineveh. When the prodigal son came to his senses in a far country what did he do? He went back home to his father where he should never have left.

Some mistakes are unfixable, and reconciliation is not possible. When that is the situation, we can only do what David did in Psalm 51. After David committed adultery with Bathsheba, and had her husband killed, there was no way to undo what he had done, or make reconciliation at that point.

David prays:

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me (Psalm 51:1-3 NKJV). Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit (Psalm 51:10-12 NKJV).

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02.16.13

Bearing Fruit

Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away. And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither away so soon?” So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” - Matthew 21:18-22 NKJV.

Fruit trees are expected to eventually bear fruit. The age of trees before they actually do bear fruit varies. Apricot, peach, plum, and cherry trees usually begin to bear fruit at three years from planting. Pear trees take even longer to bear fruit with it sometimes taking six or seven years before they will bear fruit. Apple trees can take even longer, taking as much as ten years before one of those trees will produce fruit. (umaine.edu - cooperative extension)

Just as, fruit trees are expected to eventually bear fruit, so are Christians. Maybe this is one of the lessons we learn from Jesus and the fig tree. It seems to be a strange scene, Jesus apparently is hungry, but when He finds a fig tree He finds no figs. Jesus responds by supernaturally zapping the tree and it instantly withers away. If nothing else, it should be a warning to all fruitless Christians that God expects you to bear fruit, and it appears that there may be consequences if you do not bear fruit.

Why do fruit trees fail to bear fruit? Again from the helpful University of Maine website I found that there are four general reasons for failure to bear fruit. Trees may fail to form flowers, there may be flower bud death from cold injury or frost, lack of pollination, and insect damage to fruits. We can relate this to why Christians sometimes fail to bear fruit.

First, the failure to form flowers. Why does this happen to fruit trees? It can happen from a lack of the proper nourishment. Trees need fertile soul and some water. Christians fail to form flowers for the same reason through a failure to maintain proper nourishment. The nourishment that Christians need comes from the Word of God. As Jesus says in Matthew 4:4 NKJV, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”

Second, bud death from cold or frost. In trees, it simply happens when the bud freezes, or becomes cold enough to cause damage. A similar thing can happen to baby Christians. An older Christian, or someone that has been a Christian longer can have a damaging impact upon a new Christian. Discouragement can happen any many ways. One of the most frequent is hearing Christians being hypercritical of others. A fruitless, heartless, mean-spirited person that presents themselves as being a faithful Christian can cause immense damage to the young children of God.

Third, lack of pollination. There has to be interaction between the trees with the spread of pollen between them. It occurs through the wind, bees, and birds. For Christians to grow we need to have interaction with other Christians. That is why the Bible tells us in Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Fourth, insect damage to the fruit. Insects can wipe out a fruit crop; wrecking immense damage. False teachers can do the same to young Christians. In 2 Peter 2:1-2 NKJV we are told, “But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.”

Are you bearing fruit in your life? If not, check for how the fruit in your life may have been damaged. Then begin to make repairs by giving yourself what you need to produce fruit, and protect yourself from what will damage the fruit in your life.

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02.15.13

Close Calls

Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel…. - Daniel 3:28c NKJV.

My God sent His angel and shut the lions’ mouths, so that they have not hurt me…. - Daniel 6:22a NKJV.

Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish’s belly. And he said: “I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction, and He answered me.” - Jonah 2:1-2a.

So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.” - Matthew 14:29-33 NKJV.

But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god. - Acts 28:5-6 NKJV.

Xiao Li a 20-year-old college student had a close call with an express train traveling at 90mph in Shaodong, China in Hunan Province. Li asked a friend to take some photos of her with her hair blowing while the train zoomed by in the background. Somehow, Li stumbled, or came too close to the train, and the train hit her shoulder; which knocked her down. Li described what happened by saying, “I felt this sudden bump and I was flying sideways. The train stopped, and the driver thought he must have killed me. I didn’t realize I was so close. My shoulder was badly bruised, but I’m lucky to be alive.” (Orange News 02.08.13)

There are some really close calls recorded in the Bible. There is the close call of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego with the fiery furnace. Daniel had the close call with the lions in the lions’ den. Peter had his short hike on the water which ended when he began to sink. The apostle Paul had the close call with a shipwreck, a poisonous snake, a murderous mob, and others. Of course, we all remember Jonah’s close call with that big fish.

There is a striking difference between the reaction of Xiao Li to surviving a potentially deadly event as compared to those who survived them, or witnessed them in the Bible. With the close calls in the Bible, there is no reference to those survivors being “lucky.” But in these days it is increasingly common to hear someone say that they were “lucky” to survive or escape injury from something. I know that I have said it myself without even thinking. It is a common saying. Many people say it. The problem is that when we credit our survival or good fortune to “luck” we are robbing God of the glory that should be His.

It is not “luck” which has allowed me to be still be alive. It is only through the power of God. How many times has God protected me? How many times has He protected you? I know that the times and the ways of God’s protection, support, help, empowerment in my life are incalculable. I can only praise Him for His mercy, and give Him all the honor, glory, and praise for anything good in my life! Luck, has had nothing to do with it.

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02.14.13

Kindergarten Love

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. - 1 John 4:7-8 NKJV.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. - 1 Corinthians 13:4:8a NKJV.

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. - 1 Corinthians 13:13 NKJV.

Picture the scene, 100 brides and grooms in wedding dresses and suits all gathered to give rings and make wedding vows. This huge wedding took place in Zhengzhou, China in Henan Province. The brides and grooms, had each carefully chosen their own husbands and wives. They had each wooed their new husband or wife with a chocolate or a…toy. The toys were important because all of these brides and grooms were between the ages of three and six! The head of the Kindergarten program Li Wang says that “This teaches them about relationships and how to maintain them and what they should be working towards. They’re taught to be kind and thoughtful.” The wedding did take place before a government registrar, but parents were assured that the ceremonies were not binding in any way. Of course, each bride and groom had to have their parent’s permission to participate in the event. (Orange News 01.15.13)

Robert Fulghum wrote the book “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”. I have never read the book, but I have never forgotten the title. Some life lessons that Fulghum says that we learn in Kindergarten are: Sharing, being fair, cleaning up your messes, don’t hurt people, and apologizing when you hurt someone. Robert Fulghum can add a new chapter to his book now: How to Get Married.

Love is a wondrous thing. Love can make everything beautiful, and the lack of love can suck the life out of anything. Maybe that is because God is love, and God is life. The opposite of love is hate, and opposite of life is death. Herein is the key to life, love, and marriage.

How can we make our marriages better, and how can we live life better? We can make marriages and life better by having more love. But, you are going to have to go to the true source to find that true love. The true source, the primary source of love is God, because God is love.

We are told in James 4:8 that if we draw near to God that God will draw near to us. We must get closer to God to have more love. How do we get closer to God? Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:33 to “Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.” We have to make God the number one priority in our lives. Jesus also tells us in Matthew 4:4 quoting from the Old Testament, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” To become closer to God we need more of His Word in our lives. We also need to be in greater communication with our God, asking Him to grow our love. We are told in James 4:2c that “…you do not have because you do not ask.” Ask God to increase your love and to strengthen your marriage.

Whether a marriage works or not comes down to one important thing. That one thing is whether both the husband and the wife are truly committed to following their Lord. The marriage will work, and the love will continue, if you love each other as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25). How did Jesus do that? He died for it. You must continually die to self to make your marriage be filled with love.

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02.13.13

Falling the Right Way

So Gad came to David and told him; and he said to him, “Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or shall you flee three months before your enemies, while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ plague in your land? Now consider and see what answer I should take back to Him who sent me.” And David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Please let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man.” So the Lord sent a plague upon Israel from the morning till the appointed time. From Dan to Beersheba seventy thousand men of the people died. - 2 Samuel 24:13-15 NKJV.

I had never heard of this, but apparently in Boston a construction company wraps their scaffolding in bubble wrap until the work is completed. One of the construction workers is very thankful for that bubble wrap. He is thankful because when he fell 30-feet he landed on some unused bubble wrap laying on the ground. When the worker landed on the wrap, he became embedded in it, and firefighters had to cut him out of it. He did experience some shoulder and back injuries, but will survive. And…suddenly, a new use for bubble wrap has been found! In 1957, when Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes created bubble wrap while trying to make a 3D wallpaper they must have had little idea of how their creation would someday be used. (Orange News 02.06.13; WCBV.com 02.06.13)

How did David sin in numbering, taking a census, of his armed forces? His motivation appears to be one of pride. David is now an old king who has experienced the power of God over many years. David does not need to know the strength of his armed forces; instead, he needs to trust in His God. The king knows this, because in Psalm 20:7 NKJV David wrote, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.”

Because of his sin, God gives David a choice, which is communicated to him through the prophet Gad. All three choices are bad, but David makes a wise choice. He chooses to depend upon the mercies of God and not upon the mercy of any man. The consequences of David’s sin are devastating; however, it does give us a picture of the destructive nature of all sin. All sin is destructive. All sin is terrible. All sin brings death, because “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).”

What is it that you are trusting in? Your money? Your health? Your job? Your business? Your family? Some bubble wrap? All of those earthly things can be taken away in a moment of time.

When it comes to sin, people choose to deal with it in different ways. Some of us choose to live with it. Some of us choose to ignore it. Some of us try to hide it. Some of us blame others for it. It all comes down to a matter of trust. Can we trust God to treat us fairly? Can we trust God that He will do what He says? If we trust God, we will choose to fall in the right way. If we trust God, we will make the choice that David made. We will choose to fall into the hands of our God. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Fall at the feet of Jesus, agree with Him about the destructiveness of your sins seeking His forgiveness…and you will have it.

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02.11.13

It Will Never Happen

And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” - Mark 2:1-12 NKJV.

Back in December (2012), Scot and Wanda Denhalter moved into a new home that they had rented in St. George, Utah. Scot was somewhat concerned about a ridge above the back of the home that was covered with boulders. Wanda was not concerned. However, only a few weeks later Wanda barely escaped being killed by a 12 foot wide boulder that crashed into their house. The boulder hit the bed Wanda was sleeping in and caused injuries, including a gash to her leg, which required four hours of surgery to repair. Scot was not at home when the boulder hit, but said he had told Wanda before they moved in that, "…you could have a big boulder snap and come down and come right through the house, but she said that would never happen." (FoxNews 01.21.13)

The incident recorded in the Gospel of Mark, when Jesus heals a paralyzed man is fascinating. What great faith the friends of the man who was paralyzed must have had! To get their friend to Jesus they tore up the roof of someone’s house, and interrupted the sermon Jesus was preaching in a most dramatic way. Can you imagine sitting in your pew at your church, peacefully listening to your pastor preach God’s Word…when suddenly debris begins to fall from the ceiling as a hole opens up. Then, a stretcher with a man on it is lowered through the hole to the floor! If you had been sleeping in church, that would probably wake you up! However, the most amazing part of the event was that Jesus forgave the man his sins, healed the man, and the formerly paralyzed man picked up his bed and walked out of the house! What a Sunday service that would be!! And we would all be saying just like the people that day, “We never saw anything like this!”

If you could have interviewed the people present prior to the event recorded in Mark chapter 2, and asked them if they thought Jesus would forgive a man’s sins and heal a paralyzed man during the service what would they have said? They would have said, “It will never happen!” However, there were four men that day who believed that it would happen, and it did!

We must be careful not to discount the power of God. If anyone had told me, or even told those who knew me when I was a teenager that I would spend more than 20 years of my life as a pastor; we all would have said, “It will never happen!” Here is what God says, “…if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you (Matthew 17:20).”

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01.21.13

Conformed

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son (molded into - Amplified Bible), that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. - Romans 8:28-29.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters. - Psalm 23:1-2.

Anita Mann had a frightening few hours early last Wednesday morning around 3:45am in Portland, Oregon. No one appears to know exactly how it happened; including Anita and her husband. Maybe she was out sleepwalking, some people do. However, it happened, Anita slid between two walls into a spot where she was squeezed, sandwiched, into only an eight inch wide area. Anita screamed and pounded on the walls with her fists until someone did hear her, and rescuers were finally able to cut into the wall and free her. Thankfully, Anita is okay with some scrapes and minor hypothermia. (OregonLive.com 01.17.13; FoxNews and many other news venues)

Once we have been born again (John 3:3) God begins the process of moving us from being baby Christians to mature Christians. The goal is for us as Christians to become like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This process of molding us into a likeness of Jesus varies from person to person. For some of us it takes a much longer time to be conformed to the image of Christ than it does for others. God takes us where we are and begins to work in our lives.

The maturing, conforming, molding of our lives by the hands of God does not always feel like a pleasant experience. However, God always wants the very best for our lives. At times the conforming may feel like we are being squeezed between two walls that are only eight inches apart like Anita Mann experienced. I can remember some times like that, but from the distance of several years I can see that it was a merciful God who kept the pressure on me bringing about the changes that I needed.

The 23rd Psalm is perhaps one of the most beloved passages in the Bible. I read it often at funerals, and during times of stress I have meditated long upon those words. However, did you catch the words just prior to that beautiful vista of green pastures. What does it say there? It says, "he makes me to lie down in green pastures." Why does God have to make us "lie down in green pastures?" Because at times we are unable to recognize what is a green pasture and what is not. At times, we do not want to lay down in a pasture, especially when we can see all of the dangerous glitter and charm of worldly pleasures. That is why, if we are a child of God, we sometimes experience that squeeze of God's molding hand upon our lives. It may not be exactly what we want, but have no doubt that it is the best thing for our lives. Maybe this is one of the reasons we are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, "in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

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01.15.13

Determined to do Wrong?

Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn away from it and pass on. For they do not sleep unless they have done evil; and their sleep is taken away unless they make someone fall. For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence. - Proverbs 4:14-17.

It happened in the parking lot of an Oceanside, California store. What happened? A wannabe carjacker failed three times. With his first attempt the carjacker threatened a woman with a knife, but she was able to drive away. In the second attempt, the carjacker used a gun to threaten a woman who ran inside the store for help. The carjacker hit pay dirt with his third attempt. He ordered a woman from her car with his gun, and he was able to enter the vehicle on this third attempt. However, the car was equipped with an anti-theft device which disabled the vehicle and locked the carjacker inside. He was able to smash through a window and escape. The wannabe carjacker is reportedly still at large. (4NBCSouthernCalifornia 12.14.12)

Sadly, some people are determined to do wrong. In fact, as the Book of Proverbs points out there are some people who greatly enjoy doing what is wrong, what is evil. Because, “…they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence.” At some point in time, they entered “the path of the wicked” and began to “walk in the way of evil.” What great darkness has come upon their lives! Jesus says in Matthew 6:22-23, “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” The admonition of Proverbs is that we do not travel on the “way of evil” and that we “turn away from it and pass on.”

As much as some people are determined to do wrong, there are some who are determined to do what is right. Their eyes are good, and their whole bodies are full of light. As the Bible says in Proverbs 4:18, “But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day.” What powerful contrast! What a great choice is given to us in the way to live our lives! We can choose great darkness, wickedness, evil; or, we can choose the path of light, of the shining sun, that shines ever brighter.

Which path have you chosen for your life? Are you determined to do wrong? Do you love the darkness? Or, are you determined to do what is right? You love the light, because you love the Lord? And God says through the Book of Proverbs: “My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you. Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil (Proverbs 4:20-27).”

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11.05.12

What Kind of Voter?

This devotional was written by my son, Clark Wrather, who is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Yukon, Oklahoma.

I have seen some commercials running about the election where people claim they are an energy voter or a peace voter. The commercials are an attempt to motivate people to vote based upon a personally held value instead of voting based upon the likeability of a candidate. The ads did cause me to think about which primary value I would carry with me to the polls. In this election, I will be a religious freedom voter.

Religious liberty is the cherished principle behind most of our nation's founding documents. It is seen throughout the pages of the Bible, but was not articulated well in the secular sphere until Martin Luther in the 1500s. His book, On Secular Authority, was a passionate expression of the principle: Liberty of Conscience. "Liberty of conscience" is the principle that forbids human authorities from coercing people's spiritual beliefs. We might call it religious freedom. In this book, Luther insisted that God requires voluntary religious beliefs. Compelled or coerced faith is insincere and must never be allowed. Luther insisted that "liberty of conscience" was one of Jesus Christ's principles. According to Luther, the civil government's role is simply to keep outward peace in society. The civil government has no business enforcing spiritual laws. "The laws of worldly government extend no farther than to life and property and what is external upon earth," Luther insisted.

Luther continued, "God has ordained the two governments: the spiritual, which by the Holy Spirit under Christ makes Christians and pious people; and the secular, which restrains the unchristian and wicked so that they are obliged to keep the peace outwardly...The laws of worldly government extend no farther than to life and property and what is external upon earth. For over the soul God can and will let no one rule but himself. Therefore, where temporal power presumes to prescribe laws for the soul, it encroaches upon God's government and only misleads and destroys souls. We desire to make this so clear that every one shall grasp it, and that the princes and bishops may see what fools they are when they seek to coerce the people with their laws and commandments into believing one thing or another."

The greatest assault upon religious freedom since our nation's founding is happening as we speak. Provisions in the Affordable Care Act mandate and require people to violate their deeply held religious beliefs and spiritual convictions. This is an encroachment upon the realm of the King of Heaven. Civil government has overstepped its bounds. Religious companies and institutions will be required by the Affordable Care Act to provide insurance to employees that make contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortifacients freely available. Religious universities, parachurch ministries and Christian family owned business are affected by this legislation.

While we may differ on our beliefs with Catholics, they are being required to ignore their deeply held religious beliefs and provide contraceptives and sterilizations. If this was as far as the legislation went, I would have a problem with it for causing some people to violate and deny their religious convictions, but the legislation goes even lower. It requires employers to provide the morning after pill and the week after pill that causes a pregnancy in its initial stages to terminate. The federal government's own birth control guides say, the drugs prevent implantation of a fertilized egg in the womb. This is abortion by any definition, not contraception.

A prominent company from Oklahoma, Hobby Lobby, is also affected by this legislation. The family has deeply held Christian convictions that will have to be violated in order to meet the requirements of this mandate. This is soul tyranny and it is why our forefathers fought a bloody revolution. The company has filed a law suit against the federal government and their attorney had this to say, "What the petitioners need to hear immediately is that the government cannot use health care reform as an excuse for trampling on religious rights."

In this election you can be an education voter, an energy voter, a peace voter, an abortion on demand voter, a free birth control voter, and many other things. I will be a religious freedom voter and stand with my forefathers against tyranny of the soul.

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09.14.12

How to Really Live Large

Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; do not spare; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes. - Isaiah 54:2 NKJV.

For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. - 2 Corinthians 5:2 NKJV.

Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease. - 2 Peter 1:13-15 NKJV.

And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory….” - 1 Chronicles 4:10a NKJV.

In Warsaw, Poland, a new house is being built between two existing buildings. The architect for the project is Jakub Szczesny. The house will be a temporary home for various artists and writers beginning with Israeli writer Edgar Keret. What’s so unusual about this house? The Architect said, “It’s the most challenging project I ever had. The living conditions in it will require a spaceship like adaptability.” Why is that? At the narrowest point, the house will be two feet, four inches wide. At the widest point, the house will be slightly less than four feet wide. The reason for building the house? To provide a living space that has a restrictive feel to the inhabitant’s surroundings. I think that would do it for me! (Orange News 09.12.12)

Jabez prayed asking God to “…bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory.” Just moving from a smaller home to a larger one, you do have a sense of enlargement. The first home for our family was a small apartment where we lived for a few months, and then we bought a small mobile home that was our home for about four years. It did seem as though the longer we lived in the mobile home the smaller it became. Maybe that was why the next home that we bought was an old two story house with about 3,000 square feet. It was not in the best of shape, but we did enjoy our enlarged area for living. We only had the house for a year and a half, but we enjoyed our time there.

Another way to enlarge your territory (coast - old KJV) appears to be as Jabez was suggesting with a land area. This would fit in with the idea of a merchant having additional markets for his goods. It also fits with a larger ministry area. When I changed careers from being a parole officer to that of a pastor, my ministry area increased dramatically. With the advent of the Internet, my ministry area had an exponential increase.

A third way that our territory can be increased is in a personal way. Isaiah speaks of enlarging the place of your tent. The apostle Paul and the apostle Peter speak of their human bodies as being a tent. More specifically, they are speaking of their earthly lives as being like a tent. Your earthly tent can be enlarged by an increase of margins. When you have less debt, and more savings you have a financial margin. When you are in a good relationship with your spouse and your friends, you will have an increased emotional margin. When you are in a good relationship with your God by spending devotional time with Him, as in time, in the Bible, prayer, fellowship with other believers, and serving the Lord, you will then have spiritual margin. When you have spiritual margin, you will find it results in your having increased margin, an enlarged tent, for every area of your life. And that, is how you can really live large.

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09.07.12

Pretty Faces

For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. - Galatians 1:10.

Venus, the cat, appears to be a Photoshop creation, although she is not. Venus is simply the result of being born the way she is. Her face is split perfectly with one side being black. On the black fur side of her face, she has a green eye; on the other side of her face, she has a blue eye and ginger fur. The cat’s human (aka owner), Christina, said, “This is just the way she was born, that’s it.” You can see a photo of Venus, on the cat’s facebook page at www.facebook.com/VenusTheAmazingChimeraCat The page has more than 61,000 likes, and there are photos of other two faced cats and dogs on the page. There are also videos of Venus the cat on YouTube. The National Geographic Magazine does have an excellent article online about the science behind what happened to bring about a two-face cat like Venus.

The Online Dictionary defines two-faced (As related to us humans) as being: “deceitful; insincere; hypocritical.” Also as being: “marked by deliberate deceptiveness especially by pretending one set of feelings and acting under the influence of another.” We now know what a two-faced cat looks like. If a cat is two-faced, you can easily identify the creature simply by looking at the face of the cat. However, two-faced humans are often much harder to identify, because outwardly their faces do not appear to be two-faced. Marilyn Monroe identified the problem when she once said, “If you are going to be two-faced, at least make one of them pretty.” That is the problem with identifying two-faced people, because their faces are often pretty, and often appear very innocent while beneath the surface in their hearts there is a much darker side.

The apostle Paul could have acted and could have spoken in a two-faced way. He could have said one thing to the new Gentile believers and another thing to the Jews who wanted Christians to continue to obey all of the old rituals that Jews had observed in the past. Paul chose to speak the truth in love. The Jews did not like it, but that did not make it any less truthful. Paul chose to obey God, and not the men who were pressuring him to compromise the truth. The fact that Paul chose to obey God and not men was evidence that Paul belonged to Christ, that he was “a bondservant of Christ.”

What about you? Do you profess faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? But at the same time, there is little evidence displayed in your life of your actually belonging to Christ, of your actually being “a bondservant of Christ?” Do you put on your “pretty” face on Sunday for church, but the rest of the week the darker side of your heart rules supreme? When you are with your friends, and you encounter some of your “church” friends, do you have to switch faces and put on your “pretty” face?

Life is psychologically much easier to live when we only have one face to put on in the morning. The apostle Paul gave us an example of living a life of truth, of always seeking to please God, and not men. Let us strive to do the same!

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07.26.12

Do It Yourself Dentistry

Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine, those who go in search of mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, When it swirls around smoothly; At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart will utter perverse things. - Proverbs 23:29-33.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. - James 1:5.

In Decatur, Alabama, a 61-year-old man had a toothache that had been bothering him. Now most people if a toothache is bad enough they will eventually go to a dentist. However, this man had another idea, and as a result, police were called to the home of the man and his brother. When the police arrived they found a 61-year-old man that was bleeding profusely from his mouth. His brother was trying to administer first aid and had a towel pressed onto his brother’s face trying to stop the bleeding.

What in the world would happen to someone trying to treat their own teeth that would cause such a severe injury? As the man’s brother explained to the responding officers, his 61-year-old brother had been drinking, and he had also been complaining about a tooth hurting before going to his room. The uninjured brother said that he heard a loud noise, and when he entered his brother’s room he found him sitting on the bed with a small caliber handgun in his hand. The injured brother told his brother that his tooth had been hurting, and he tried to shoot it out. The injured man was taken to a local hospital where he was treated for his injuries. He may have also been told that this is why dentists don’t use guns to remove teeth! (Decatur Daily 06.02.12)

Which drug is it that causes people to commit the most violence? Alcohol is the most dangerous drug of all, and it is legal. Alcohol interferes with our decision making abilities and you see people like the man in Decatur, Alabama making what can only be described as a stupid decision. Nothing good can come from substance abuse, including the use of a legal drug like alcohol.

Part of having wisdom is to know not to partake of anything that would reduce your ability to make wise decisions. Who in their right mind would attempt to use a gun to shoot out a tooth that is hurting them? Who in their right mind would shoot and kill their best friend? But that is what one of my clients that I had while I was a parole officer did while drinking. Who in their right mind would shoot and kill their brother whom they loved? But that is what one of my clients that I had while I was a parole officer did while drinking.

Let us remember to seek after God’s wisdom that is found in the Bible. Let us remember to pray and ask God for His wisdom every day. So, the next time your tooth is hurting; instead of picking up a gun, you might want to pray and ask God what is the wise thing to do in the situation. Most likely God will tell you to pick up the phone, call and make an appointment to see a dentist who will know how safely to care for your tooth.

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07.17.12

Don’t Let It Get Away From You

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. - 1 Corinthians 15:58.

In 1997, we moved from one side of town to the other (We were living at that time in Weatherford, Oklahoma.); from a duplex to a small house. My parents had just bought a new pickup truck, and so I asked my Dad if I could borrow it for the move. He agreed, and gave me this word of advice, “Don’t let it get away from you.” After I had driven the pickup some, I understood what he meant. Just a little pressure on the accelerator would make the truck take off as if you had pushed the accelerator to the floor on many vehicles. If you were unprepared for the sudden thrust of acceleration, you could lose control. Thankfully, I never let the pickup get away from me! Now since my parents have both passed away I still drive the pickup some and frequently remember my Dad’s words of advice about driving that old truck.

As I was thinking about this phrase, about not letting it get away from me, I used a search engine to see how often the phrase had been used. Surprisingly, there were more than two and half million results! Apparently, a lot of us have been letting a lot of stuff get away from us. Aretha Franklin even has a song with the phrase in it. Here, are a three lines from the song:

Gotta be strong, gotta be strong, gotta be strong
Don't let it get away from you
Do whatcha gotta do

A couple of other lines in the song seem to be so very true:

Taking care of home and family
Sometimes it's hard to keep your sanity

Just living life, making a living, raising children, keeping a marriage strong, and holding a family together can be enough to push some over the edge, or I guess we could say, let life “get away from us.”

How do we keep from losing it? How do we keep from letting life “get away from us?” I love this verse in 1 Corinthians 15:58, just reading the verse you receive a sense of strength, power, and determination. We as Christians are able to keep it together and prevent life from getting “away from us” by keeping first things first. How can we be steadfast in the Lord? Remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”

If life has gotten away from you, if one thing after another keeps going wrong, God has the answer for how you can keep things together and be “steadfast” and “immovable”. What is the answer? The answer is Jesus! Listen to God’s Word:

Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”

Hebrews 12:3, “For consider Him (Jesus) who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.”

Philippians 4:6-7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

So, before life gets away from you, put Jesus first in your life. Every morning, before you do anything else, pray (Mark 1:35) and read God’s Word (Matthew 4:4). Every week allow time, give the time necessary for your family to assemble with other believers (Hebrews 10:24-25). Give a part of what God has blessed you with (Proverbs 3:9-10; 2 Corinthians 9:6-7), and be the servant of God serving others by following the example of Jesus (Mark 10:45).

Don’t let it get away from you!

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07.10.12

Super Vision

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. - 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

The normal human being is able to see one million different colors. However, a woman in England has been discovered who has the potential to see 100 million different colors. According to Gabriele Jordan, who is a neuroscientist at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, this ability is only present in women. Jordan has estimated that as many as 12 percent of women may have the ability to see in colors beyond the imagination of most people. Most of these people, like the one known woman with the supervision, do not know that they are able to see beyond what other humans see. We normal humans are unable to describe what we see to them, and they are unable to describe what they see to us. (Orange News 06.22.12; Discover Magazine July/August 2012)

Who would have thought anyone could see so many colors! I didn’t even know that the normal non-color blind person can see one million colors! Amazing! What other amazing things can some obscure human being on this planet do? And, just like the super color seeing person, they may not even know it. Just in case you are wondering, the woman with super color vision is a doctor in England referred to in scientific literature only as cDa29. So, will cDa29 ever come out of the closet and reveal herself to the world?

As amazing as it is that someone can see 99 million more colors than most of us, there are some people among us that have an even more amazing ability. There are millions of these people with an extraordinary gift, perhaps even a billion or more who have it. What is it that they can do? We probably ought to be careful about revealing this and assigning a number to each one to assure their privacy. However, number one billion and one might be a little cumbersome. Okay, I’ll let you in on this secret. These people with this superhuman ability are able to see…the unseen!

The Bible tells us about this amazing ability to see the unseen in 2 Corinthians 4:18, “while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” It seems that the apostle Paul is writing about not just some select group of preachers, deacons, and teachers; but, here is the really strange thing, he is saying that all believers in Jesus have this ability. Although, it is somewhat like the superhuman ability to see multiple millions of colors, in that even though people have the ability to see the unseen they may not use it.

What are these unseen things that believers in Jesus should be able to see? God, Heaven, Angels, God’s will, God’s plan, God’s purpose, and all eternal things. 2 Kings 6 tells us of when Elisha’s servant was almost frightened to death because of the huge mass of the Syrian army that was sent after Elisha. The Bible tells us this, “And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, “‘Alas, my master! What shall we do?’ So he answered, ‘Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’ And Elisha prayed, and said, ‘Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.’ Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:15c-17).”

May God open our eyes so that we may see the unseen, and every day look beyond the temporary things of this world to the eternal.

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07.09.12

On Christ We Stand

For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. - 1 Corinthians 10:4.

Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall. - Matthew 7:24-27.

Three people looking for a place to pitch their tent ignored a few warning signs, drove around barriers, and found what they thought was the perfect campsite. Now why would someone put up warning signs and road barriers to prevent access to an area? In this particular situation, the restricted area happens to be on the Swedish military Älvdalen Firing Range. The range was being used by an amphibious regiment practicing firing grenade launchers. The live fire exercise was ongoing when the campers arrived, but thankfully for them, it was discontinued until they could be removed from the restricted area. The Swedish military is said to be planning to sue the campers for $4,200 for the cost of the disruption of the exercise. (The Local, Sweden’s News in English - May 14, 2014)

I love the old hymn, “The Solid Rock.” Some of the words of the hymn are:

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand

Thinking of the clueless Swedish campers, their choice of campsites is a picture of the “all other ground” of the hymn. It is also a good example of the “sand” foundation of Matthew 7.

What was the reasoning of these campers? How did they arrive at the conclusion that, in spite of the warnings and barricades that it would be okay for them to camp in that area? I was intrigued by one of the comments posted on the article: “If the campers really were ‘from (a city in Sweden*)’ they probably thought quite reasonably for (residents of that city) that the military exercise should be postponed until they had finished camping - nothing should get in the way of what a ‘resident of that city’ wants to do.” Now I don’t know anything about people who live in that city; however, a sense of entitlement could explain their disregard for the warnings. (*Name of the city in comment about article has been omitted.)

Some people appear to have a sense of entitlement when it comes to doing whatever they may want. Why should they do what some archaic book called the Bible says they should do when they are rich, or famous, or powerful, or whatever? Because of their “status” they believe they have a right to sin.

In addition to the sense of entitlement view toward authority, there is another method that some use in justifying their actions. They somehow think that if they ignore what authority says that; therefore, those rules promulgated by those authorities do not apply to them. Ignore God, ignore the Bible, ignore what is right, ignore the warning signs, ignore the barriers, and somehow in their minds those things do not exist.

Just because through some warped thinking you can somehow justify doing what God says is wrong; does not make it right. Build your life on sinking sand, on ground other than the solid rock of Christ, and your house, your life will fall.

Let us drink of that spiritual Rock, let us build our lives on that spiritual Rock; because Christ is the only foundation that a life can be safely built upon. On Christ we stand!

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06.11.12

Special People

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. - John 1:12.

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. - 1 John 3:1-3.

“…do not get the idea you’re anything special. Because you’re not.” - David McCullough Jr. speaking to the 2012 Wellesley High School graduating class in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Sadly, I agree with David McCullough Jr. somewhat; in that it appears that students in these days whether graduating from an exclusive, private school, or from a public school have a sense of entitlement. However, is this worse today than it was thirty or forty years ago? Maybe we are just better at identifying and communicating about this issue than we were in the past. In part, we are better at this because we experienced it ourselves.

For the majority of students in schools, in the United States, they live in a some what protected environment. The egos of these students have been protected to some extent from the reality of what it will be like to live in the real world making a living. Even though, I grew up on a farm, and had my share of work on the farm; I still was not as prepared for life on my own as I would have liked to have been. I know what McCullough was trying to do, because I have tried to do the same thing in baccalaureate messages I have given. In other words, these students, maybe all students need to wake up to the fact that life is not a bed of roses; and it will be a shock, a challenge beyond anything they have faced, to leave their protected environment and face life in the real world.

What I found out, after I had left my protected home environment, was that my own abilities, my own intelligence, my own resources were not enough to survive in the real world. What I needed was something, no someone, bigger than me to enable me to live life. That someone that I needed was and is, Jesus Christ. I would not be alive today without Jesus. I would have long ago been crushed and defeated by life without Jesus walking with me through each day.

The truth is that without Jesus you are not all that special, but with Jesus you become a very special person. Receiving Jesus as your personal Savior makes you a child of the King, and not a child of just any king, but a child of the King of kings, and the Lord of lords. When you are “born again” by receiving Jesus as your Savior, the Creator of the universe takes up residence within you (1 Corinthians 3:16). By yourself, in your own strength, life can be very difficult. However, when God Himself lives within you, when the Creator of the universe lives within you, your resources for living life are exponentially greater than anything you can imagine. That is why the apostle Paul was able to say in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

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05.14.12

Excuses

Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, “and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ “But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ “And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ “Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ “So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’ “And the servant said, ‘Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.’ - Luke 14:16-22.

Have you ever “accidentally” robbed a bank? I haven’t either. But that is what Navey Skinner claims that she did back in January. She “accidentally” wrote a note that said, “Put the money in the bag now or die.” She then “accidentally” went to a bank where she “accidentally” handed the note to a bank teller. It may not have been the best excuse for robbing a bank, but it has to be an original excuse! Navey says she spent part of the money from the robbery to buy meth. Police were able to identify the woman, which led them to contacting Navey’s mother. Navey’s mother is now raising Navey’s 12-year-old daughter and told police that the last time she had seen Navey was on Christmas day. While visiting her mother and daughter, Navey stole her own daughter’s Christmas presents. I wonder if that was an accident too? (The Herald, Everett, Washington - January 30, 2012)

Have you noticed how for some people, they are never at fault? It must be great to never make any mistakes! And if they do “accidentally” make a mistake they always have an excuse for doing what they did. Personally, I gave up on being perfect a long time ago. The fact is that I do make mistakes. Looking back over what I have just written I have already noticed several errors. Hopefully, I have corrected all of them.

In case you did not know, God is aware of our human tendency to give excuses for our failures. In Luke 14, Jesus talks about several excuses that God knows about. Actually, when we are communicating with God it is useless to try to make an excuse. Why? Because God can see very clearly what is in our heart, regardless of what our lips may be saying.

Over the centuries, there have been some whoppers of excuses told to God. Moses comes to mind. Moses who was educated as a prince to become pharaoh of Egypt claimed that he could not speak well. Jonah had a pretty good excuse he just did not like those Ninevites. Of course, that did not keep Jonah out of the belly of the great fish! Then there was Gideon who claimed that his tribe was the smallest tribe, and his family was the smallest family in the tribe, and that he was the smallest, weakest, most unlikely person in his family to be chosen by God. Ha! In spite of that excuse, God chose Gideon and he became a great leader.

If you are fearful about being obedient to God’s will for your life, then share your fears with God. Making excuses for why you do not want to do what God wants you to do is an insult. God knows exactly what is in your heart and what is coming out of your mouth before you speak it. Allow God to speak to your heart, and take away your fears about following Him. Because God’s plan is always the best plan for your life, even if you do not fully understand it at the time.

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04.12.2012

Preoccupied

But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. - Matthew 24:37-39.

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. - Romans 13:11-12.

In La Crescenta, a suburb of Los Angeles, California, a man had an unexpected close encounter with a four or five hundred pound black bear. After hearing a helicopter (which was tracking the bear), Vaz Terdandenyan walked outside his apartment to see what was happening. Vaz was also texting his employer at the same time. He later shared this: “I was walking down the stairs, and I looked up and saw the bear coming up the stairs towards me. So I turned back and ran for my life.” (Orange News 04.11.12; Syracuse dot com 04.11.12)

Vaz Terdandenyan was preoccupied with thoughts of his day and of life when he nearly walked into the paws of a bear. We have all seen videos of others who have been focused on texting while walking and experienced unpleasant consequences. I remember the video of a woman texting and walking into a hotel swimming pool. I read recently of a woman texting while walking down a pier, and then she walked into a river. According to the New York Times (01.08.12), more than a thousand people seek emergency treatment resulting from texting while walking.

The Lord Jesus will return for those who know Him as their Savior. It is called, the rapture, when Jesus returns in the air for His followers, and the apostle Paul writes about this in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”

The apostle Paul tells believers in Romans 13 “it is high time to awake out of sleep.” In other words, we need to stop our preoccupation with the trivial things of life because the Lord could come at any time. “Therefore,” Paul says, “let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light.”

For those who do not know Jesus as their Savior, the days prior to the flood are a warning when the people then, “were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark.” So many people are just as preoccupied with the trivial, mundane things of life, as was the man who nearly walked into the bear. If a person does not know Jesus as their Savior, it will be much worse than walking into a bear, to be left behind here on this earth.

Open your eyes! Open your heart! Open your mind! Jesus is coming again, and that time is closer than ever before!

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03.12.12

Lay it Aside

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares (besets - KJV) us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. - Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV.

Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped and held captive for nine months, has married and is moving on with her life. Elizabeth’s mother had some advice for her daughter as to the kidnapping and captivity, “He (David Mitchell - the kidnapper) has already taken nine months your life. Don’t give him any more of your life.” (CNN Headline News 03.12.12)

Elizabeth lived a nightmare for nine months enduring unspeakable horrors, and then had to relive those horrors recounting them in a courtroom at the trial of her abductor. She is an amazing woman whose courage has given encouragement to many. May the rest of her life be blessed!

As I listened to the words of Elizabeth Smart’s mother, it occurred to me that those with addictions are being held captive. If you have an addiction, you are being held captive by a cruel master who has completely disrupted your life. If you have an addiction, your life is off course from where God would have it to be. If you have an addiction, you are being robbed, robbed of life. If you have an addiction, you are continually in danger of losing any life that you may have left.

The writer of the Book of Hebrews gives encouragement to those with addictions. We are told that we must “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us.” The old KJV refers to this as sin which “besets us.” Besetting sin, or ensnaring sin, is sin which holds us captive. Dictionary dot com defines an addiction in this way: “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.”

We are told in Hebrews 12:1 that we should “lay aside” our addiction. All of Hebrews chapter 11 leads up to this statement that we should “lay aside every weight, and the sin….” The first word of Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore”, refers back to Hebrews 11. What does Hebrews 11 tell us? Hebrews chapter 11 is the great roll call of the faithful. Hebrews 11 recounts the deeds of many who through faith endured to the end. Those heroes of the faith were overcomers. They overcame their fears they overcame their cruel masters, they overcame because they could see beyond the here and now to eternity. Hebrews 11 begins with this statement, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible (Hebrews 11:1-3).” The writer of Hebrews is telling us to look beyond the temporary, look beyond the need for the temporary fix of comfort that our addiction may provide. Look beyond this day, look beyond this moment to eternity. Look to Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) and “lay aside” that addiction that has us ensnared.

How much time, how much life has the cruel master of your addiction taken away from you? How long have you been enslaved? Your addiction has already robbed you of years of your life. Don’t give away any more of your life to it! Lay it aside, as you look beyond the need for some temporary comfort, looking to eternity. Jesus is the “author and finisher of our faith” and He has come to give you life. Allow Jesus to put your life back together, and restore the years (Joel 2:25) that the locusts of your addiction have eaten away.

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03.07.12

Growing Up

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. - Hebrews 5:12 NKJV.

Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. - 1 Peter 2:1-3 NKJV.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. - Philippians 2:5-7 NKJV.

In the United States, AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) has a TV commercial aimed at recruiting new members. You can join AARP when you are 50-years-old, and they have been regularly sending me invitations ever since before my fiftieth birthday. The TV commercial asks the question of those who would be old enough to join AARP, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” In the commercial, several responses are given, including these: fix up old houses; run a marathon; and start a band. On the AARP website, they have many other responses from people about what they want to be when they grow up, including: be the oldest surfer in the world; be an architect and build affordable housing; sail around the world; be a Radio Music Hall Rockette dancer; college professor; travel in RV; yoga instructor; backup singer for Tina Turner; registered nurse; diva on a soap opera; write a romance thriller; and, be the person I was before I had to grow up. AARP finishes their commercial by saying that they believe, “you’re never done growing.”

From the Book of Hebrews and from the epistles of the apostle Paul we know that some early Christians had not yet grown up. The early Christians referred to in the Book of Hebrews should have grown in the faith, and had time to grow in the faith, to become teachers; however, they were still just babies in the faith. Before we condemn them, we need to remember that those were tough times to be living life as Christians. I watched a video Sunday detailing some of the historical records of Jesus. One record from 102 A.D. was of a Roman commander writing the Emperor to determine if Christians should still be put to death. Their crime? They had met together and sang a song referring to Jesus as God.

What about you? What about me? What is your excuse, what is my excuse, for not reaching our growth potential as disciples of our Lord? The apostle Peter indicates some of the things that slow down the growth process: malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and evil speaking. Peter says those things must be laid aside. The writer of the Book of Hebrews says we need to, “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us.” The apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 3 encourages that we avoid worldly wisdom, and we are told that, “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God (1 Corinthians 3:19).” Of course, there are many other things which slow down our growth as children of God. I am sure that you know very well what they are in your own life, just as I am in mine. Whatever is slowing down our growth to our maturity in Christ, let us lay it aside.

What do you want to be when you grow up as a child of God? Personally, I want to be like my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ when I grow up. As we are told in the epistle to the Philippians, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”

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03.05.12

Empty Words

By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. - 1 John 3:16-18 NKJV.

The Chinese communist party newspaper, the People’s Daily, says that the government will remove the current harsh slogans about enforcement of China’s one child policy in force since 1979. The policy will remain the same, but the words will change. Here are some of the slogans that will be removed: “If you don’t receive the tubal ligation surgery by the deadline, your house will be demolished!” “Kill all your family members if you don’t follow the rule!” “Once you get captured, an immediate tubal ligation will be done; should you escape, we’ll hunt you down; if you attempt a suicide, we’ll offer you either the rope or a bottle of poison.” Instead of the harsh slogans there will be softer, kinder messages used such as these two: “Caring for the girl means caring for the future of the nation.” “Please get rid of the alcohol and cigarettes before you plan to be a father.” However, the policy will not change, only the words. (Orange News 02.28.12)

There has been an increasing outrage from the world toward the Chinese one child policy, and their harsh enforcement of that policy. Now that the Chinese have changed their words, will that be enough to soothe world opinion? Will continued harsh enforcement of the one child policy only with kinder, gentler words, be enough?

The apostle John is speaking about those who through their words are kinder and gentler without any change in their actions. The apostle John is talking about people who act like the Chinese government. They change their words, but keep on doing what they have always done.

When we have it within our abilities, and resources to help others, are words enough? For the one who needs the help, words alone are useless. To make a difference in this world, words are nice, but actions are what are needed. Our actions, demonstrate our love, or lack of love. Jesus has given us an example. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us Jesus did not say one of His followers ought to die for the sins of others, instead; He “died for us.” The actions of Jesus, prove that His words of love toward us are not empty promises.

Are your words, are my words, empty words, empty promises? Will you do what you say? Will I do what I say? If you have failed to follow through with what you have said, maybe you should do so now. If you have failed to follow through with what you know God would have you to do, maybe you should do so now. Jesus told this parable of two sons in Matthew 21: “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father? They said to Him, ‘The first (Matthew 21:28-31).’”

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02.29.12

Dead Living

But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives. - 1 Timothy 5:6 NKJV.

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. - Ephesians 2:1-3 NKJV.

But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” - Ephesians 5:13-14 NKJV.

95-year-old Li Xiufeng had been in her coffin for six days when she crawled out. A neighbor had found Li not breathing and not moving in her bed. Chen Qingwang was unable to wake Li and believed that she had died while she was asleep. Chen said, “She didn’t get up, so I came up to wake her up. No matter how hard I pushed her and called her name, she had no reactions. I felt something was wrong, so I tried her breath, and she was gone, but her body is still not cold.” The day before the funeral, Chen went to Li’s house and found her coffin was empty. Chen said, “We were so terrified, and immediately asked the neighbors to come for help.” They found Li sitting in her kitchen cooking! Li told them, “I slept for a long time. After waking up, I felt so hungry, and wanted to cook something to eat. I pushed the lid for a long time to climb out.” (Orange News 02.29.12)

You could say that Li Xiufeng was dead, but still living. Her body was still alive at some very low level of existence; however, who would want to live like that? How wonderful it must have been to awake from her almost dead existence, crawl out of the coffin, and begin to really live!

We have heard about people who text while driving, who drink while driving, who are high on drugs while driving, and who do all kinds of other things while they are driving. Even more scary are those who are dead living while driving!

If you do not know Jesus as your personal Savior, if you have not been “born again (John 3:3)”; you are dead in your “trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1).” In addition, those who know Jesus as their Savior who “lives in pleasure is dead” while living. To be “carnally minded (mind of sinful man - NIV) is death (Romans 8:6)” and everyone who puts their focus, their desires upon the things of this world, or human, fleshly desires are dead living.

The Bible makes it clear what we must do to stop our dead living. We must “awake!” We must “cast off the works of darkness” and “put on the armor of light.” We must “walk properly.” We must “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts (Romans 13:11-14 NKJV).”

So, if you have been dead living, crawl out of that coffin, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and find out what it is like to really live!

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02.28.12

A Hot Potato

See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh. - James 3:5-12 NKJV.

A talebearer (gossip - NIV) reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter. - Proverbs 11:13 NKJV.

Hot Potato is a children’s game, with those playing standing or sitting in a circle. Something small like a potato, ball, or a beanbag is tossed from one player to the next while music is playing. When the music stops the player holding the “hot potato” is out of the game. The game continues until just one player is left. The game is sometimes played without music, and someone shouts out “hot” instead of the music stopping. I can remember playing the game a few times when I was a child.

The Chinese military appears to have their own version of the “Hot Potato” game. There is a video that originally appeared on state owned Chinese television showing soldiers passing around a live explosive device. Each soldier holding the device counts to six prior to passing it to the next soldier. The soldiers are standing around a hole in the ground and just before the device explodes the last one holding the device throws it into the hole. All of the soldiers than dive away from the hole to protect themselves when the device explodes. The device in the video does appear to explode, and all of the soldiers survive without injury. (Chinese state television, Daily Telegraph, Huffington Post, Youtube 01.24.12)

There is another type of “hot potato” that we sometimes pass around called gossip. Gossip is defined by Dictionary dot com as being, “idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others.” Gossip, just like the Chinese device can sometimes explode causing tremendous damage. However, unlike the Chinese explosive device, gossip is much more unpredictable. No one knows when gossip may suddenly explode, and no one knows all of those who may be hurt by it. Sometimes, just the person the gossip is about is hurt, although usually the last person passing the gossip is also harmed. Just as in a war, when an explosive device goes off, there will nearly always be collateral damage caused by gossip. Once we speak the words with our mouth there is no way to bring them back. Once we speak the words with our mouth there is no way of knowing who will eventually be hurt whether the gossip is true, or whether it is not.

Have you ever been the person responsible for spreading the gossip? Nearly everyone has been at some time or another including me. Have you ever been hurt by gossip? Nearly everyone has been at some time or another; I know I have been. What should you do when you hear some juicy bit of news about someone else? Drop it! And run, because it may go off at any time! It’s a “hot potato!” We are told in Ephesians 4:29 NKJV, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” The New Living Translation says, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” May my words, may your words, always be encouraging to those who hear them…or hear of them.

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02.22.12

End of the Road

But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. - 1 Peter 4:7 NKJV.

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last. - Revelation 22:13 NKJV.

Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. - 1 Corinthians 15:24-25 NKJV.

And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment. - Hebrews 9:27 NKJV.

There is a new highway being built in southern China in the Fujian Province. For those of you driving around in Fuzhou, China, the key words here are, building, new highway, and unfinished. Wang Lu and the two passengers with her found out what that meant when they came to the end of the road. The road ends, with an unfinished elevated bridge 40 feet above the ground. Wang Lu drove off the end of the road in her Nissan. She drove off the bridge at the end of the road, because there were no warning signs, no barriers, no warning of any kind to mark the coming end of the road. Thankfully, and surprisingly all three of the occupants of the Nissan survived with no major injuries. One witness, Chen Hen, said this, “I kept thinking, the car would stop, but it sailed straight off the edge.” (Orange News 02.22.12)

We here on Planet Earth are hurtling toward the end. The end of the road is coming just as rapidly as a speeding car approaches the end of an unfinished highway bridge. We are coming to the End, and the End is Jesus Christ who is “the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.” When we all reach the ultimate End of the road, every knee will bow, and every tongue will “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:11).” All of the enemies of Jesus Christ will be put under His feet, because at the very End is Jesus.

A couple of weeks ago I was saddened to learn of the death of a friend. Eldon had been a good friend through grade school and through our junior year in High School. His senior year his parents sent him to a private school in another state. Some years ago, I did make contact with him and exchanged a letter or two. I always thought that we might be able to get together and have a good visit about what had gone on in our lives. However, that will never happen now in this life. Hopefully, from what I know of my friend’s beliefs, he knew Jesus as his Savior. Yesterday, I learned also that the husband of a High School classmate had passed away. From what I know, I believe that this man also may have known Jesus as his Savior.

This human life that we are now living is coming to an end, and the Bible is very clear about that. We are told that, “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” The Bible is also very clear about the brevity of life, “For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that (James 4:14-15 NKJV).’” The Bible is also very clear that none of us have any guarantees about the length of our lives; or what will happen tomorrow, or in coming days in our lives as we are told in James 4:13-14a, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow.”

The End is rapidly approaching for every one of us. Will we sail off the end of this life into eternity not knowing Jesus as our personal Savior? Will we go out into eternity doomed to eternal torment? It does not have to be that way! Before you sail off the end of the road of your life “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29)!” Jesus is the Lamb of God, and He can take away your sins too. Let Him!

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02.21.12

Get-R-Done

Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest. How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep - So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, and your need like an armed man. - Proverbs 6:6-11 NKJV.

When He rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow. Then He said to them, “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.” - Luke 22:45-46 NKJV.

But his lord answered and said to him, “You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed.” - Matthew 25:26 NKJV.

Most of you know who Larry the Cable Guy is. His name is actually Daniel Lawrence Whitney, and he’s a comedian whose motto, whose theme is Get-R-Done. The History Channel, beginning last year produced a series that starred Larry the Cable Guy as he traveled the country, and experienced working at different jobs. I have watched a few of those History Channel shows and enjoyed them. If there is a motto, theme, slogan for the farmer, the oilfield worker, or blue collar workers in other industries, I think it is the motto, the theme of Larry the Cable Guy: Get-R-Done.

I grew up on a farm, and my Dad farmed, drove a truck, worked at the air base, and did basically what he needed to do to support his family and survive. He was able to support himself by farming alone for only a period of five or six years. On the farm, you don’t have a bunch of other people there to help when something goes wrong. It is up to you for the most part to take care of whatever the problem is. You’ve got to Get-R-Done.

My Dad always had a lot of scrap metal, and collected more of it whenever he could. Because whenever a plow or something on the tractor broke; he was going to try to fix it with some of that scrap metal, a welder, a cuttin’ torch, and whatever else he could find. Because when you live on a farm, you have to Get-R-Done, and that’s the way it has been for thousands of years.

When you are in the oilfield, it’s the same way. The first drill pipe inspection unit that I operated (Later I would operate tubing and casing inspection units.) by myself was a brand new one brought up to Oklahoma from Odessa, Texas. The first job that I went on with that unit was in December, and the temperature was ten degrees. I had a two man crew to run the air jacks. My boss, the owner of the company, and the customer were setting in a car watching. The only problem was that the air jacks that we used to jack up the drill pipe, so the inspection buggy could run down it, would not work. The air system was rigged up all wrong.

I had never looked closely at the air system before, but when you have everyone standing around looking at you, and your job is on the line - you have to do what? Get-R-Done. So, you remember it’s ten degrees, and I have a bunch a people standing around watching while I pull everything apart in a compartment on the side of the truck. I tried to figure out what was wrong, and put it all back together. You can probably guess what else I was doing? I was praying! Thank God it all worked, and we got the job done. Because in the oilfield and in life, you have to do what? Get-R-Done.

God will give us the strength, the energy, the wisdom to Get-R-Done in our lives. However, this does not just automatically happen. Instead of sleeping in, we need to do what? We need to pray so that we do not “enter into temptation.” We need to read God’s Word because we do not live by bread alone (Matthew 4:4). We need to assemble with other believers so that we will be stirred up unto love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). We need to be good stewards of what we have been given, so that God will bless our work (Matthew 25:14-30). So, instead of sleeping in, instead of having a pity party, instead of getting depressed, let us rise up in the power of God and Get-R-Done!

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02.20.12

Not Giving Up

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart (give up - NIV). Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. - Galatians 6:9-10 NKJV.

Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart (give up - NIV). - Luke 18:1 NKJV.

Robert “Choc” Thornton has had a few injuries during his career. At the age of 33-years, he has already been injured from 367 falls. During his career, he has had all of his ribs broken, lost several teeth, nine times his collar bone has been shattered, and he has experienced torn ligaments and tendons. What kind of job does Thornton have? He is a National Hunt jockey. According to Wikipedia, National Hunt Racing “is the official name given to the sport of horse racing in the United Kingdom, France and Ireland in which the horses are required to jump over obstacles called hurdles or fences.” Because of his injuries, Thornton has temporarily had to stop racing 42 times, and is currently in one of those racing delays with a broken arm. Thornton commented on his injuries by saying, “I haven't thought about giving up, and the day I do will be the day I retire. You can't ride with thoughts like that in your head.” (Orange News 02.16.12)

If there were a hall of fame for the toughest people who ever lived, Choc Thornton ought to be in there somewhere. Because Choc has proven his toughness. I think that the apostle Paul ought to be near the top of the list, and at the very top of the list should be Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul endured being stoned, whipped, shipwrecked, snakebitten, imprisoned, and more; but he never gave up. Jesus endured the ultimate in physical punishment with a Roman scourging, the crown of thorns, carrying of his cross, and finally execution on a Roman cross. Jesus endured it all even though He could have called legions of angels to come to His aid. Jesus endured it to the end. He endured it until He could cry out from the cross “It is finished.” Jesus not only bore the physical pain, but he also bore the sins of all people past, present, and future to become the “once for all” sacrifice (Hebrews 7:26-27).

It is possible to endure great physical pain and emotional torment without giving up. It has been done before. In addition to those already mentioned, we are given the roll call of the heroes of the faith in Hebrews chapter 11. Those men and women of God remained faithful to the end. They had their hearts and minds set on being faithful; they were not giving up.

Jesus gives us instruction about how to keep from giving up in Luke 18, “Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart (give up - NIV).” Why do we want to pray when we are thinking of giving up? Because Jesus can help us. We are told this in Hebrews 2:18 NKJV, “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” The Amplified Bible translates Hebrews 2:18 in this way, “For because He Himself [in His humanity] has suffered in being tempted (tested and tried), He is able [immediately] to run to the cry of (assist, relieve) those who are being tempted and tested and tried [and who therefore are being exposed to suffering].” Jesus “is able” to help you when you are thinking of giving up. He will “run” to your “cry” for help. However, we need to remember the instruction of Jesus in Luke 18. We must remember to ask for His help, and not give up on asking for His help.

Let us live life confidently knowing that whatever we may face, whatever comes our way, we can be faithful to the end. Jesus will give us all that we need (Romans 8:32) so that there will never be a need for us to give up.

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02.17.12

Not Crushed

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed - always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. - 2 Corinthians 4:7-10.

Ludovic Maciave was driving his 4x4 in the French Alps’ Arly Gorge near Albertville when he came to a sudden stop. What stopped Ludovic was a 20-ton boulder that smashed his vehicle. Emergency responders did not expect to find anyone alive inside of the smashed vehicle; however, Ludovic did survive with flattened lungs, damaged ribs, and assorted other injuries. Ludovic says, “When I came to, I realized that there was a huge rock in the car. I was stuck between the rock and the bottom of the door…space was very restricted…could be measured in centimeters…I was completely compressed. It’s a miracle I’m alive. Although I’m not a believer I do think this was a miracle. The chances of it happening were very small. Now I will see life differently.” (Mail Online News UK 02.10.12 - Here is a link to the article where there are photos posted: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2099167/Now-THATS-lucky-escape-Miracle-driver-survives-4x4-flattened-20-tonne-boulder-French-Alps-road.html)

Ludovic Maciave knows what it is like to be hard-pressed physically on every side, and yet not be crushed. He experienced it in a very literal way! I agree with Ludovic; it can only be described as a miracle that the man is still living. Hopefully, he will move from his belief in a miracle to a belief in the One who brought the miracle about in his life.

The apostle Paul writing through the direction of the Holy Spirit in 2 Corinthians describes the pressure of life that was upon him. Paul had not been literally crushed with a 20-ton boulder; however, Paul had an emotional and spiritual weight of a huge boulder resting upon his shoulders. In 2 Corinthians 6, the apostle Paul writes of these pressures saying, “But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings…(2 Corinthians 6:4-5).” Paul says that even though he and other believers are going through these difficult things they are “not crushed.”

Why are the apostle Paul and other believers “not crushed” by the pressures of living life? Because Paul says, “…we have this treasure in earthen vessels.” What treasure is that? It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The earthen vessels are the bodies of the believers indwelt by the Holy Spirit by whose presence we have the living presence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

How can we be crushed when we have Jesus living within us? How can we be crushed when the power that created Heaven and earth resides within us? Let us do what Ludovic Maciave cannot yet do; let us believe! Believe, as did the apostle Paul. Believe, as have countless others since the resurrection of Christ Jesus. Believe, and you will never be “crushed” by anything upon this earth. Believe it!

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02.13.12

Broken Hearted

And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last. - Mark 15:37 NKJV.

Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. - John 19:31-34 NKJV.

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. - Hebrews 4:15 NKJV.

I never knew that having a broken heart is an actual medical condition. A TV station in my state (newsok.com; news9) mentioned the condition today. A Google search led to information about the condition at Mayo.com and to an article dated 01.26.12 on About.com by Richard N. Fogoros, M.D. The condition used to be called takotsubo cardiomyopathy, but is now called stress cardiomyopathy. It is a serious condition with symptoms similar to a heart attack with shortness of breath and pressure in the chest. It occurs when part of the heart suddenly balloons resulting in a less effective pumping action. It is usually caused by being emotionally traumatized in some way. The good news is that the person experiencing the broken heart usually recovers within a few days or weeks.

The article on About.com indicated that the incidence of broken hearts increases substantially on and around Valentine’s Day. If you have ever had a relationship suddenly end, or even had a sudden disruption of a relationship you know that this can be traumatic. My wife and I celebrated our 42nd wedding anniversary last month. For most of our marriage, we have enjoyed a wonderful relationship, although there have been some brief periods of stress and trauma. Although I have never had stress cardiomyopathy, whenever there has been stress in my relationship with my wife it has felt like my heart was broken.

Without Jesus in my life, my marriage would have ended long ago. The very best thing that I have ever done to sustain my marriage was a commitment to Jesus Christ. My marriage has grown even stronger as I have made commitments to pray, to read the Bible, and to attend church.

We have a High Priest, Jesus Christ, who has experienced the worst that this world can thrust upon a person. As the Bible says, Jesus “…was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus knows what it is like to have a broken heart because that is what He died from; a broken heart (Because of the sudden cry, and bowing of the head of Jesus, many doctors analyzing the Biblical record believe that He died of a cardiac rupture.). Because Jesus has successfully endured terrible emotional and physical trauma without surrender to the demands of the world, He is able to help us.

What is the spiritual cure for a broken heart? Look to Jesus! “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls (Hebrews 12:1b-3 NKJV).” Lay aside the weight, the trauma of that broken heart, by turning your eyes upon Jesus. As the old hymn says:

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

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02.10.12

Finding Lasting Love

God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. - 1 John 4:16b NKJV.

Which statement best expresses your impression of Valentine’s Day: 1) Valentine’s Day is…a day for those in love? Valentine’s Day is…dumb and you’re wasting your money? Personally, I have always had a good impression of Valentine’s Day from the time I was a little boy to the present. I have great memories of receiving Valentine cards and candy when I was a boy. I have great memories of giving Valentine cards and candy. As an adult, I have enjoyed being able to express my love for my wife in some tangible way on Valentine’s Day. However, as I found out today, not everyone shares my enthusiasm for the day. There is an article today on the street dot com by Jason Notte with the title of, “Valentine’s Day is Dumb and You’re Wasting Your Money.”

Jason Notte begins his article with this statement: “Valentine's Day is best illustrated in one series of actions: Withdraw from an ATM what you'd usually spend on date night, withdraw that amount again, show it to the person you love most and then flush the entire sum down the nearest toilet.” Notte as you can see has a very jaded view of the day. I will concede that Valentine’s Day has become commercialized, but no more so than Christmas, or maybe even Easter. It may be that your sense of value of and meaning of this holiday is based on your own experience with love. If at the current time you are not in a relationship or have had a bad relationship, your view of Valentine’s Day probably mirrors that of Jason Notte. However, if you are in a happy relationship, a long and happy marriage you most likely view Valentine’s Day in a more favorable light.

There is an old saying, and that “Love is fickle.” Dictionary dot com defines “fickle” this way: “likely to change, especially due to caprice, irresolution, or instability; casually changeable: fickle weather. Not constant or loyal in affections.” Fickleness in love mirrors our humanness. We humans frequently change our minds about nearly everything, including love. Contrast this characterization of humans with the character of God described in Numbers 23:19 NKJV, “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent (change His mind - NIV 1984). Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” God remains the same (Hebrews 13:8). God does not change His mind as we humans do.

One of the character traits of God is that of love. We are told this in 1 John 4:16 NKJV, “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” Also, in 1 John 4:8 NKJV, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” In what we know as the Love Chapter in 1 Corinthians 13 we are told this about God’s kind of love, “Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a NKJV).” The entire chapter is summed up with this statement in verse 13, “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

With the character traits of God in mind, we can make better choices as to relationships that will succeed. No guarantees, but you will have greater success in relationships that are based on a mutual respect and love for God through Jesus Christ. This is why the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” As I always say in marriage ceremonies that I perform, “The greater your love for Jesus Christ, the greater the love you will have for each other.”

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02.09.12

Fight Back

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. - James 4:7-8 NKJV.

It was in a Bremen, Georgia, Wal-Mart that 25-year-old Thomas Woods attempted the abduction. Brittney Baxter was looking at toys in the toy aisle with her mother nearby when the attack occurred. Woods grabbed Brittney and attempted to carry her away, but he was unprepared for a seven-year-old second grader to fight back. Brittney said this about how she fought back, “I was kickin' and screamin' and then he put his hand over my mouth, but I kept kicking.” Woods dropped Brittney and fled from the store. Brittney said that she was thankful that her parents and teachers had taught her how to fight when a stranger attacked. Woods is a parolee on parole for manslaughter, and he was arrested a short time later. (thewiregrassnews.com 02.09.12; Fox News 02.09.12)

A little seven-year-old girl gives all of us an example of what to do when we are experiencing a spiritual attack. Brittney did what she had been taught to do and was being obedient to her parents by fighting back. The first step in winning a spiritual battle is to be obedient to God. “Submit to God.” Do what God would have you to do and not what the devil, or the world, or your flesh may want. If you have sin in your life, the place to begin your battle is on your knees in confession as we are told in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” That is how you do what the apostle James tells you to do when he says, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

The next step in fighting a spiritual battle is to “resist.” Your resistance has already begun when you submit yourself to God. However, there is more to it than that. Jesus gives us a couple of examples of how to resist and overcome the devil and his demonic minions. When Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness (Matthew 4), Jesus responded with the Word of God. When Jesus was tempted by the devil to use the power of God to give Himself food, Jesus responded by saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” When the devil tempted Jesus to demonstrate His power, Jesus responded by saying, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” When the devil tempted Jesus with the kingdoms and riches of this world if Jesus would worship him, Jesus responded by saying, “For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” As we are told in Ephesians 6:17b to, “take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Another example given by Jesus in fighting spiritually is given when He cast out demons His disciples were unable to cast out in Mark chapter 9. When Jesus was asked by His disciples why they could not cast the demons out, Jesus responded by saying, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29).”

In addition, to the examples given to us by Jesus in the Gospels, we are told in Ephesians 6:11 to “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” The apostle Paul then describes the “armor of God” in verses 12 through 18.

So, before you give up and wave the white flag of surrender to the temptations of the devil and his demons…in the words of Brittney Baxter try some “kickin’ and screamin’”. Do some screamin’ and quote the Word of God out loud and in your mind. Do some kickin’ and pray in the Name of Jesus for God to come to your aid. Because if you “resist the devil” he will “flee from you.”

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02.08.12

Chasing Yourself

The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it arose. The wind goes toward the south, and turns around to the north; the wind whirls about continually, and comes again on its circuit. All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; to the place from which the rivers come, there they return again. - Ecclesiastes 1:5-7 NKJV.

An undercover police officer in Sussex, England was notified by a CCTV operator that there was a suspect in his area. This is an area that has been hit hard by burglars. The CCTV operator gave instructions to the officer, and the chase was on. The officer chased and chased the suspect for more than 20 minutes until a supervisor realized that the CCTV operator had made a mistake. The operator thought that the officer, who was in plainclothes, was a possible burglary suspect; and had been instructing the officer to chase himself. (Orange News 02.08.2012)

What was the point of a police officer chasing himself? What is the point of anyone chasing themselves? That is the point. It is pointless. It is purposeless. It is meaningless to chase yourself. “The wind goes toward the south, and turns around to the north; the wind whirls (circles - Amplified Bible) about continually, and comes again on its circuit.” The Book of Ecclesiastes is all about how to find meaning in life, or maybe a better way of stating it would be of how not to find meaning in life. Solomon tried about every possible way to find meaning and for a portion of his life just ended up chasing himself. Solomon kept going in circles like a cat or a dog chasing its tail, just chasing himself. Have you ever felt like that? You just keep doing the same thing over and over again, and you wonder if there is any real purpose, real need to keep on going? How do you find meaning, purpose, in life?

Solomon sums up his miserable attempts to find meaning in the pleasures of this world with a summary statement of what he finally realized by saying, “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 NKJV).” What about us what are some practical ways that we can find meaning and purpose in life and stop chasing ourselves? In response to the question about what is the greatest commandment, Jesus said this, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:37-40 NKJV).”

You can know Jesus as your Savior and still end up chasing yourself if you do not love God by putting God first in your life. As Jesus says in Matthew 6:33 NKJV, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” This is a prescription for purpose, for meaning, for joy to be added to your life. Serving God, being obedient to God, has to be at the very top of your list of priorities or you will just continue on chasing yourself around and around in circles. You make God first by giving Him your time. You give God time when you pray, read the Bible, attend church, when you give, and serve Him in any way. You make God first by not just talking about these things but by actually doing them.

You do not have to go through the misery that Solomon went through and that so many others have gone through. You can begin now to live your life for God in every possible way that you can. Then, you will find peace. Then, you will find joy. Then, you will find meaning. Then, you will find purpose. Then, you will have stopped chasing yourself.

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02.06.12

Our Hiding Place

You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. - Psalm 32:7 NKJV.

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.” - Psalm 91:1-2 NKJV.

When sheriff’s deputies in Oklahoma City tried to serve a search warrant on a suspected drug dealer, he ran out of the house. Carter Hickerson, 28-years-old, ran to another house and hid. Someone saw the man run into the house and told the deputies who then entered the second house and found Hickerson hiding in a clothes dryer. (Daily Oklahoman 02.04.12)

In Clark County, Ohio deputies were searching for an escaped inmate Kelsey Litteral. They found her in a basement of a house hiding in a clothes dryer. (whiotv.com 12.15.11)

In Amarillo, Texas, authorities were searching for 34-year-old Candida Pacheco because of her suspected involvement in a drug ring which was operating out of the Potter County Detention Center. They found Candida inside of a house, hiding inside of a…clothes dryer. (Amarillo Globe News 03.11.2010)

What do you do if you don’t get the job you always wanted? What do you do if you’re in debt so deep that you have to file for bankruptcy? What do you do if your doctor gives you some bad news? What do you do if you fail? What do you do if the worst thing that you can imagine, actually happens? What do you do if the police has a warrant for your arrest? You can run and hide in a clothes dryer, but it’s not going to do you a lot of good is it?

The spiritual truth is that, at one time or another, we all need a hiding place and that clothes dryer isn’t going to do us very much good. We can run, and we can run from the bad things in this life, and still never escape. Where do we turn, what do we do, when our world falls apart? Some people hide in a clothes dryer. Back in the time when King David lived they didn’t have clothes dryers, but they did have caves. David hid out in, and lived in a lot of those caves, while King Saul and others chased him.

David learned from that experience that even while hiding in a cave you still need a better hiding place. The cave was only a very temporary solution. The cave could not really protect him from the reality that there were those who wanted to kill him. The cave could not give him peace in his heart. David learned what we also need to learn, and that is that there is only one real hiding place in this world. That hiding place is in the arms of God. As David put it, “the Secret Place of the Most High…under the shadow of the Almighty.” There we will live in a “refuge” and a “fortress”.

When the worst that can possibly happen in our life happens, we need to remember that God is still God. When the worst that can possibly happen, happens; we need to remember that God still loves us. He loved us so much that Jesus suffered and died for our sins. He took our place on the cross. No matter what may happen or may have happened, know this: God loves you. God loves you and nothing can change that.

When the worst that can possibly happen, happens; we need to remember that God can change things. No, He will not undo what has happened. However, God can bring good out of the very worst that this life may thrust upon us. Romans 8:28 KJV is true. “…we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” But the promise of Romans 8:28 is not automatic; it is conditional. It is dependent upon our loving God, and our seeking to be obedient to what he wants in our lives.

So, when the worst that can possibly happen, happens; let us remember that God loves us and let us continue to love Him seeking to be obedient to all that He wants in our lives. That is where we will find our hiding place “under the shadow of the Almighty.”

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02.01.12

Avoiding Mistakes

Jesus answered and said to them, “Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. But concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. You are therefore greatly mistaken.” - Mark 12:24-27 NKJV.

Amado Cardenas was upset with his former girlfriend which led to his mistakes. Amado broke into what he thought was his ex-girlfriend’s apartment and did what burglars do. He went through her stuff taking the money he found along with medications. He tried to pry a flat screen television from the wall and then drank some alcoholic beverages he found in the fridge. However, unlike most burglars, Amado Cardenas then took a nap on the floor. That is where he was when Amado’s former girlfriend’s neighbor came home discovering him on the floor still asleep. Amado had broken into the wrong apartment his ex-girlfriend‘s neighbor‘s apartment! She called 911 and Amado was arrested, and hauled off to jail. (Broward Palm Beach New Times The Pulp Blog 12.02.11)

Cardenas made several mistakes. He began by making the mistake of trying to obtain revenge against his ex-girlfriend. What does God say in the Bible about revenge? In Romans 12:19 NKJV we are told, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Instead of trying to get back at someone God says this, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head (Romans 12:20 NKJV).” In other words, when someone is mean to you, be nice to them because God will take care of it.

The next mistake that Cardenas made was in deciding to break the law by breaking into an apartment to steal and to destroy. The command that God makes against stealing is one of the Ten Commandments which says: “You shall not steal (Exodus 20:15 NKJV).” When you steal you are hurting yourself, the Bible says in Proverbs 1, “So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; It takes away the life of its owners (v.19 NKJV).” And “…they lie in wait for their own blood, they lurk secretly for their own lives (v.18).”

Cardenas also made the mistake of consuming alcoholic beverages. Why is that wrong? We are told in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 NKJV, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” It is a fact that alcohol causes physical problems. When I was in the hospital last month for pancreatitis I was asked repeatedly if I drank, i.e. consumed alcohol, because alcohol is a known cause of the condition. Okay, I will confess. I did have one drink in 1980, and I did drink some beer my first year in the oilfield, in 1975. And, I did drink some while I was in high school. If I had it to do over, I would never have taken a single drink of alcohol. I still do not know for sure what caused my pancreatitis, but I do know that I never want to have it again.

The biggest mistake that Amado made? The biggest mistake that we can make? The biggest mistake that we can make is not knowing the Scriptures and the power of God (Mark 12:24; 27).

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01.30.12

No Escape Without Jesus

Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds.” - Romans 2:4-6 NKJV.

Clayton Senn was on the run from authorities in Albuquerque, New Mexico when he became trapped in the mud of the Rio Grande River. He was unable to free himself and was still trapped in the mud three days later when he was found. Senn was found by a group of high school students and their biology teacher who were on a field trip. The students heard the man calling out for help. Senn must have been thrilled that finally someone had found him. Finally, he would be free of the trap he had fallen into. The fire department and police officers were able to free the man with an air boat and a pulley system. However, Senn was not really free, as there was found a warrant for his arrest for Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon. (Associated Press 01.29.2012)

There was no escape for Clayton Senn, and there is no escape from the judgment of God for those who reject His mercy through Jesus. That sounds really depressing, doesn’t it? Even though, it is not a pleasant thing to consider, it is still the truth. Just because, we do not like to think about something, does not mean that it is not true. The Bible is very clear about this as we are told in Hebrews 9:27, “…as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.”

During the summer when I was 14 years old I attended a youth camp. One day I found myself all alone sitting on a picnic table contemplating my future life. I thought of the possibilities of marriage, children, career path, retirement, and finally I thought of death. When I thought of death there was nothing there, it was just a blackness that I could see in my mind. It was five years later after my wife shared her testimony with me and I talked with a pastor of a nearby church that I thought about what would happen to me after death. It was only then that I prayed inviting Jesus into my heart and life, asking Him to forgive me of my sins. It was only then that I passed from death into life. As Jesus says in John 5:24, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”

The Bible says in Romans 2:5, “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” You do not have to continue down the path of judgment, the path of no escape. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).” The way out is to receive the “gift of God” which is eternal life through Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “…Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18).” Jesus took the punishment that you deserve upon Himself and died on the cross for your sins. However, you must receive Jesus as your Savior, believe upon Him by receiving the “gift of God.” In John 1:12 we are told, “But as many as received Him (Jesus), to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”

There is no escape for those who reject Jesus as their Savior, and they will face the wrath and judgment of God. The Bible says in John 3:17-18, “God did not send His Son (Jesus) into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Pray and receive Jesus as your Savior today before it is eternally too late, and pass from “death into life.”

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01.27.12

The Anchor of the Soul

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. - Hebrews 6:19-20 NKJV.

As touched upon previously, there are potentially many disastrous things that could happen in our lives in the year 2012. For some of us, we may already be caught up in very difficult situations, and wonder whether we will be able to survive. What we need is an “anchor of the soul.”

Think for a moment of a ship and the ship’s anchor. The ship is tied by cable or chain to a heavy anchor made of metal or other material that rests on the floor of the sea. For the believer, we are not tied to the earth; no, our anchor is as the writer of Hebrews says, our anchor has entered the “Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus… (Hebrews 6:19).” As the High Priest in the Old Testament entered the Holy of Holies behind the veil, our High Priest forever, Jesus is in Heaven where He, as He says in John 14, has prepared a place for us. Our soul is tied, not to an anchor at the bottom of the sea, but it is tied to Jesus in Heaven above.

Again think of ships and of their anchors. Think of the chains that tie that tether the ship to the anchor. When I was a boy, my Dad made an anchor for our boat. It consisted of a can filled with concrete and a nylon rope that tied the boat to the can. Probably not the most secure anchorage for a boat. Think of the chain that links a battleship to its anchor. One such chain describes each link in the chain as weighing 120lbs and being about three feet in length. Now that is a chain!

The question I think for all of us as we face this New Year is this: What is the condition of the tie between us and our anchor of hope? Is the chain to our anchor a puny little rope that will break whenever a good wind comes along? Or, is it more like the chain of a battleship that connects to its anchor? How strong is the link between you and your anchor of the soul, Jesus Christ? I think you can see that here is where some work needs to be done in each of our lives. We need to have the strongest spiritual chain possible connecting us to the anchor of our soul. How do we do that? What are the nuts and bolts of having that stronger spiritual chain to connect our soul to our anchor?

First, we need the Bible. The Bible is not just a book. It contains the Words of God. According to the Gospel of John, Jesus is the Word which became flesh. Take a moment to comprehend that. You could say that Jesus consists of the words on the pages of the Bible. If you want to know Jesus. If you want to be more like Jesus, then you need more of those words. But you need to understand that when you read the Bible you are not just gaining information. When you read the Bible you are communing with God. When you read the Bible you are connecting with God. When you read the Bible you are feeding your soul, as Jesus says in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” When you read the Bible you are connecting your soul to a spiritual IV that infuses LIFE into your soul. Jesus says in John 6:63, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life."

Second, if you are going to keep from being swept away by the events of 2012, you are going to need a prayer life. Prayer, communication with God, talking with God is an awesome privilege.

Third, you need to be assembling, meeting with other believers every time you possibly can.

It is depressing to think of all the bad things that could happen to our world, to our country, and to ourselves personally. Is that what God would have us to think about all the time? No! Our focus, our thoughts, and our hopes, should be upon the Anchor of our soul. Hebrews 12:3, “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.” Instead of worrying about and thinking about all of the bad things that could happen, or might happen; instead think about Jesus. Read Jesus, the Word of God. Talk to Jesus, pray, pray, and pray some more. And, instead of thinking that you don’t need church, go and be where Jesus promises to be in the midst every time believers meet.

So, in the year 2012 you don’t have to be swept away because you have an anchor for your soul and His name is Jesus.

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01.09.12

Swept Away

Will you keep to the old way which wicked men have trod, who were cut down before their time, whose foundations were swept away by a flood? They said to God, ‘Depart from us! What can the Almighty do to them?’ - Job 22:15-17 NKJV.

Near the end of 2011, Cyclone Grant struck Australia, sweeping a large freight train off the tracks, and it also swept a car off a roadway. Passengers in the car tried to escape the waters at first by climbing onto the roof of their car. However, they were swept off of the car roof by the waters, but they were able to grab hold of a tree finding refuge there while waiting for rescue. Two men on the train were also injured, but thankfully all were rescued from the rushing waters. (ABC Online 12.27.11).

What happens when you leave God out of your life? When you leave God out of your life, you will be swept away by the challenges of life. Will 2012 be the year that you personally are swept away? Will you face a personal or a national disaster that will sweep you off of your feet?

There are a great number of bad things that could happen during this year. There is the end of the world thing with the Mayan Calendar with some believing the world come to an end on 12.21.12. My personal prediction is that the world will not end on 12.21.12. Another prediction that many keep making is that there will be a worldwide economic collapse during this year. Then there are the potential military threats like Iran trying to block the Strait of Hormuz. The threat of Iran developing nuclear weapons or taking over Iraq. The possibility of Iran basing missiles in Venezuela. Then we have China continuing to ramp up their military capability, and let us not forget about North Korea another friend of Iran. Still lurking in the shadows and posing a threat to most democracies is terrorism in one form or another.

Even though, the threats on a worldwide and national level are enough to cause concern; what about the possible personal disasters that can come upon us? What if you lose your employment? What if you experience a personal health disaster? We had a couple of health disasters last year with an unplanned trip to the emergency room and a few days in the hospital. My wife’s discovery of a cancerous tumor, surgery, and recovery is ongoing with chemo to start soon. A bad diagnosis can change your world in a hurry. Of course, the financial consequences of those health issues pile more stress on top of everything else.

What is it that we need to survive a disaster in 2012? What is it that we need so that we will not be swept away by the coming events of 2012? God tells us what we need in Hebrews 6:19, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil.” We need an “anchor of the soul.” In spite of what could happen, might happen, or will happen in 2012, we need to remember that God is still alive and that He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Jesus is, and will always be the anchor of our soul. Jesus held those early believers together through the tough times and He can do the same for us. Jesus can keep you from being swept away by the challenges of life in 2012. Hold on to the Anchor of your soul.

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12.12.11

Tamed

For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost. “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. - Matthew 18:11-13 NKJV.

It was several years ago now that I first encountered Big Daddy the cat. He was hanging around our house, and at that time we had a cat outside. Big Daddy would eat our cat’s food and so I tried to scare him away. I threw rocks at him. I yelled at him. I chased him. I shot at him with a sling shot and a BB gun. But he kept coming back. Big Daddy was a big (larger than any cat I had seen before), solid white cat, and you could tell that he had been in a lot of fights; one ear had been damaged, and he was just scary to look at. It took about three years before Big Daddy was able to tame me. He was able to tame me because I grew tired of trying chase him off, and so I finally let him eat our cat’s food. Before long he was up on our bench on our back porch waiting to be fed every night. One night I risked his tearing my hand off and petted him, he liked it and made some kind of noise. He apparently had been someone’s pet in the past, and just wanted some human attention. This lasted for a few months until he stopped showing up at night, and now I am sorry that I didn’t get to know Big Daddy sooner than I did. He was just a big baby in a scary cat’s body!

The illustration that Jesus gives of a shepherd leaving the 99 sheep to find one that is lost, gives us an idea of the lengths that God will go to so that the lost person might come to know Jesus. Our Lord is persistent. He is persistent much like Big Daddy was persistent in his pursuit of me. We try to scare away the Son of Man, but He doesn’t leave. We try to act like He’s not there, but He doesn’t leave. We flee from His presence like Jonah tried to do, but He follows us, He pursues us. He woos us (John 6:44 “draws” us). Jesus says in John 6:44 NKJV, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” This word “draws” comes from the Greek word “Helcuo”. Other verses where this word is used translates it as drag, or dragged. The picture is almost one of God dragging us kicking and screaming to salvation. In the end, we have a choice. However, if we choose to reject God, our rejection of God is not based on any lack of God’s exertion or effort at “taming” us.

We have the example of the Son of Man coming to seek and save the lost. What are we to do who know Jesus as our Savior? Jesus says, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me (Luke 9:23).” As believers, we should follow the example of our Lord. We should go to great lengths to win the lost that we know to the Lord. They will try to chase us away. They will try to scare us. They will try to act like we are not there, but we must not give up. We must keep on, no matter how many times they reject us. We must keep on until finally they have been “tamed” and know the Lord as their personal Savior.

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11.16.11

An Early Christmas

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! - 2 Corinthians 9:15 NKJV.

The word is that the “Black Friday” shopping day after Thanksgiving has been pushed back by some stores and will actually begin on Thanksgiving Day. Christmas decorating and shopping seems to come earlier every year. A few days ago, 44-year-old Terry Trent who lives in Ohio, was already putting up Christmas decorations in a home. Trent lit the Christmas candle and put out the Christmas wreath; then he settled in to watch a little TV, and enjoy his bath salts (what!?). According to the police report Trent, who was high on bath salts, broke into a home; put up Christmas decorations, and then relaxed on the family couch watching some TV. A family member discovered the man when he came home, and the man said, “I'm sorry. I didn't mean to scare you. I'll get my things and go.” Trent has been arrested. I am wondering what he has been charged with…maybe, unlawful and early Christmas decorating? (Orange News 11.14.11)

It is sad that the retail shopping season has intruded on families being together on Thanksgiving Day here in the United States. Last year, when I was paying for some things at a store, the clerk was almost in tears having just found out that she was scheduled to work on Thanksgiving Day. She was newly married and had been looking forward to spending her first Thanksgiving Day with her husband. Since I did not see her at the store after that day, I believe she must have decided some things were more important than her employer’s desire to make money. I do realize that the economic reality is that many of us simply must work on holidays, whether it is Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, or another day. In addition, protecting public safety requires that many be in their place of service to protect and serve on holidays. Doctors, nurses, EMTs and countless others give of their holiday time to serve others. However, I am certainly in favor of sparing as many people from having to do that as possible.

What is Thanksgiving really all about? It is about giving thanks to our God for all that we have. It is also about thanking God for a Savior, Jesus Christ. What is Christmas about, or should it be about? It is the celebration of the birth of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Maybe it is okay to celebrate Christmas early on Thanksgiving by giving thanks to God for Jesus. In fact, maybe it would be okay to celebrate Christmas early every day by giving thanks to God for our Savior, Jesus Christ. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”

However, that does not mean that I have to like “Black Friday”, or retailers forcing employees to work on Thanksgiving Day. So, instead of having employees work on Thanksgiving, perhaps the employer should trust God to provide the sales that they need on the other days before Christmas. Hmm? Maybe God would bless a decision like that? I think He would!! And, maybe those of us who have been participating in the mad scramble to buy Christmas gifts on Thanksgiving, and on Black Friday should just opt out this year. Maybe God would bless a decision like that? I think He would!!

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10.21.11

Children of God

But as many as received Him (Jesus), to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. - John 1:12 NKJV.

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. - Galatians 3:26-29 NKJV.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. - 1 Peter 1:3-5 NKJV.

Can you imagine being a 46-year-old woman, and at the bedside of your dying mother, learn that you were not even adopted; your “parents” bought you as a baby for $2500? That is the situation that Cyn Bird has found herself to be in along with many others. She is one of perhaps several thousand “Cole” babies. Dr. Katherine Cole of Coral Gables, Florida, naturopathic physician, sold babies along the Eastern Seaboard. The original birth certificates of those babies were all falsified showing the couples who bought them as being the natural parents. In addition, Dr. Cole actually placed birth announcements in newspapers stating the birth parents were the ones who bought the babies. There has been little success in determining who the birth parents were of these children because Dr. Cole did not leave a paper trail. (Daily Oklahoman 10.21.11)

It is hard to imagine the shock and emotional pain that Cyn Bird suddenly had thrust upon her upon learning of her origin. However, Cyn was blessed to have “parents” who loved her, and cared for her even though they were not her birth parents. Sadly, there are countless millions of orphans without natural parents, without adopted parents, and even without parents who bought them. Since Dr. Cole operated an abortion clinic, no doubt there were also thousands of babies who never had a chance to be bought. Cyn Bird was doubly blessed by having been given life by her birth mother and by having “parents” who loved her. If only all babies were able to have at least that level of opportunity.

Whether you were adopted or not, many people have had unfortunate, and difficult childhoods. For some people, it might have been better if they had been adopted, or even bought when they were a baby. No matter what your paternal situation there is good news. Your Heavenly Father loves you (John 3:16) and He wants you to be part of His royal family. What an incredible offer! The King of kings, and the Lord of lords wants YOU to be a part of HIS family. Not only that, YOU will be HIS heir and receive an inheritance. Is there a catch? The catch is that you must believe and receive JESUS as your personal Savior.

I really like the song “Children of God” by the Christian group, “Third Day”. Here are some of the lyrics:

A mystery is revealed to the universe
The Father above has proven His love
Now we are free from the judgment that we deserve
And so we are called the children of God

We are the saints
We are the children
We've been redeemed
We've been forgiven
We are the sons and daughters of our God

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10.20.11

LAMO

Now when one of those who sat at the table with Him heard these things, he said to Him, “Blessed is he who shall eat bread in the kingdom of God!” Then He said to him, “A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, ‘Come, for all things are now ready.’ But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.’ Still another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ - Luke 14:15-20 NKJV.

Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” Then He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” - Luke 9:57-62 NKJV.

A survey by CareerBuilder.com of employers and workers revealed some of the unusual (insert “lamo” here) excuses employees have given for missing work. Lamo is not in most dictionaries, but it is in the Urban Dictionary which has several definitions. Here are a couple: “Someone possessing the quality of lameness,” and “A situation, comment or person that is almost too stupid or odd for words.” Here are some of those lamo work missing excuses:

“Bats got in my hair.”
“A deer bit me during hunting season.”
“I fell out of bed and broke my nose.”
“I hurt my back chasing a beaver.”
“I ate too much at a party.”
“I have a headache after going to too many garage sales.”
“A refrigerator fell on me.”
“I caught a cold from my puppy.”
“I drank anti-freeze by mistake and had to go to the ER.”
“My brother-in-law was kidnapped by a drug cartel.”
“My child stuck a mint up his nose and had to go to the ER.”

(CareerBuilder.com 10.20.11)

When Jesus invited people to follow Him, many had excuses for not doing so. In these days, people still have excuses for not following Jesus, and many of those excuses are just as lamo as the “not showing up for work” excuses.

When does Jesus ask you to follow or obey Him? Jesus asks that you obey Him by receiving Him as your Savior. In Luke 14, we see the many excuses that some people have for not receiving Christ as their Savior. My favorite is the “I have a wife” excuse. After you know Jesus as your personal Savior, the obeying and the following of Him has not ended; that is just the beginning. When you hear the small, still voice of God speaking to you about witnessing to a friend, that is Jesus saying “Follow Me.” When the small, still voice of God speaks to you about giving financially to support the Kingdom of God, that is Jesus saying “Follow Me.” When you are asked in the church to teach a class, that is Jesus saying “Follow Me.” When you hear the small, still voice of God saying _________ (you can fill in the blank here), that is Jesus saying “Follow Me.”

We fight, we struggle, we resist, we make excuses to avoid doing what God wants for our lives. The strange thing is that after all of that resistance, and avoidance; when we finally do what God wants, we have such peace, such joy, and know that our lives have meaning. Why did we wait so long to do what we know God wanted us to do?

Can you hear Him? Jesus is saying to you, “Follow Me.” Will you follow? Or, do you have another lamo excuse?

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10.18.11

Bad to the Bone

Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes. And when He had come out of the boat, immediately there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him, not even with chains, because he had often been bound with shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him, and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him. And always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs, crying out and cutting himself with stones. - Mark 5:1-6.

Toni Silvey has a few problems, including charges of stalking her ex-boyfriend. Stalking is perhaps too mild of a word for the actions of this woman toward her ex, Peter Main. Over a three month period, Toni attempted 1,001 phone calls to Peter, sent him 700 emails, egged his house, and…crashed her car into his vehicle. Many of her stalking activities are documented in her blog. When police questioned her about the stalking, she responded with, “Read my blog.” Which they did. After police officers warned her against any further stalking activities, she immediately began behaving like any normal human being would. Peter Main can only wish that were true! Later on the same day, after police warned her, Toni went to Peter’s property with…eggs, and proceeded to egg things. (Houston Chronicle 10.11.11)

As with most situations, there are probably two sides to this story. However, Toni’s actions do appear to be a little over the top. I once had a woman tell me that she took a hammer, and used it on her ex-boyfriend’s new pickup truck. Having seen the woman, if I was her ex-boyfriend, I might have considered moving to another state, and assuming a new identity. Sadly, we know that many relational problems end in even more tragic ways. But what is it that make some go far, far beyond the acceptable norms of society in seeking revenge, and others in just their way of living life?

I believe there is a spiritual component, to the bad actions that we so frequently see. In the Bible, in the Gospel of Mark chapter five, we are told about a man that is completely out of control. If you want to talk about bad, this man was bad, he was uncontrollable; and the people had tried to control him, tried to stop his bad behavior. Concerned citizens had wrapped this man in chains, but he broke the chains, pulling them apart. The shackles they put on his arms and legs; he broke into pieces. He was always in the mountains crying out and cutting himself. Everyone that knew him had long ago written him off. There was no way this person could ever change. There was no way that anyone could ever help this person. There was no hope. You could say that he was just bad to the bone.

Everyone who wrote off the uncontrollable, bad to the bone man of Mark chapter five, were wrong! Enter Jesus to the scene. Jesus does what? Jesus made the thousands of demons who inhabited the man to leave. Then, this man who had been bad to the bone was “sitting and clothed and in his right mind.”

Is everyone who acts badly demon possessed? Not necessarily, but we would be wrong to dismiss the possibility. Some people are not necessarily demon possessed like the man in Mark chapter five, but are being influenced demonically. We are told in Ephesians 6:16, “above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.” The apostle Paul is not writing to lost people in this verse. He is writing to believers who know Jesus as their personal Savior.

Christians must be on guard against demonic influences, i.e. “fiery darts” being sent into their lives. We have our fleshly desires, but many also have compelling thoughts suggesting that they should do things like: abuse alcohol and drugs; look at p_rn, or indulge other s_xual addictions; gamble; cut themselves, like the man in Mark chapter five; and, many other things which are wrong for Christians to do. Let us “Put on the whole armor of God, that (we) you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil (Ephesians 6:11).”

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10.17.11

Stealing the Bridge

Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. - Ephesians 4:28.

So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; it takes away the life of its owners. - Proverbs 1:19.

He who is greedy for gain troubles his own house…. - Proverbs 15:27a.

Two men have been arrested in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania for stealing the Covert’s Crossing Bridge, and it was 50 feet long by 20 feet wide. Benjamin Arthur Jones, 24-years-old, and Alexander William Jones, 25-years-old used a cutting torch to cut the bridge up into sellable pieces. The men then sold the bridge, worth an estimated $100,000, as scrap metal for approximately $5,000. The men are in jail facing multiple felony charges. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 10.15.11)

Hard to believe that anyone would attempt to steal a bridge! I wonder how they arrived at the decision? Maybe, one day they were out driving around, probably drinking some beer, and drove over the bridge. One man said to the other, “Hey, we could steal this bridge. We could cut it up in little pieces and sell it for scrap.” The second man may have said, “But won’t someone miss the bridge?” Man number one says, “Yeah, they may miss it when they run off here and wreck, but we can get thousands of dollars out of this thing.” The second man must have said, “Where’s that cuttin’ torch at?”

The men not only had a disregard for property belonging to others; they also had a disregard for human life. It was apparently of no concern to them if someone was injured crashing because of a missing bridge. In addition, because of their greed, the men were blind to the consequences of their actions. They were blind to the possibility that the scrap they were selling would be recognized as being from a bridge, and reported. They were blind to the possibility that they could be arrested, and end up being sent to prison for years. They were blind to how much pain their actions would cause their families when they were arrested, and incarcerated. Their greed demonstrates the truth of Proverbs 15:27 and Proverbs 1:19. Greed is a life destroyer. Greed is a maker of a world of trouble for anyone who is greedy.

For anyone who is involved in making a living out of stealing, or who steals for the fun or thrill of stealing, it is made clear in Ephesians 4:28 that this is against the will of God. As we are told in Ephesians 4:28, “Let him who stole steal no longer….” If you are involved in this kind of the thing…stop now, before you destroy your life. Stop now, before your greed brings trouble to your door, and to your family.

So the next time, you are out driving around in the country, and drive over a perfectly functional metal bridge, just be thankful that Benjamin and Alexander Jones have yet to discover it.

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10.14.11

No Shortcuts

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. - Matthew 7:13-14.

Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know. Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” - John 14:1-6.

Rob Sloan was thought to have been the third place runner in the Kielder Marathon, in northern England. However, he has been stripped of his medal due to disqualification. During the run, he took a shortcut via a spectator bus. As event Director Steve Cram describes, “He’s the only runner in the whole of the race who ran the second half of the race quicker than the first half.” You can do that if you ride a bus! It makes the whole marathon thingy much more pleasant! (Reuters 10.13.11)

Rob must have thought that he would actually be able to deceive everyone about his marathon performance. He found out though that his great plan for an easy run had a few flaws in it. His plan was not allowed by the event officials. That’s why it’s called a marathon. You run every step, in every mile, without any shortcuts via buses. Rob tried to bluff his way through, denying what he had done, until he was finally forced to admit his attempted deception.

Many apparently believe that there is a shortcut to Heaven, to the “Father‘s house.” No need to include Jesus in this plan, just take the turn onto the broad way, through the wide gate, and it will all turn out fine. Because, everyone knows, that everyone is going to Heaven; some are just taking a different road. At least that’s what I seem to be hearing more and more in recent days. The Biblical spiritual fact is that Jesus is the only “way” provided by which we may travel to Heaven (i.e. “the Father”), or as King David says, the “house of the LORD (Psalm 23:6).”

Attempts to travel to Heaven by any other means than through Jesus will fail. The event coordinator of this Heavenly event is God Himself. God has given one prerequisite for dwelling in the “house of the LORD forever.” That most important prerequisite is Jesus. We are told this in Romans 10:9-13, “…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’ For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For ‘whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.’” In John 1:12, we are told, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”

Have you taken a ride on a bus down the broad road of destruction, or are you on that narrow road through Jesus that leads to life eternal?

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10.13.11

In His Image

For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. - Romans 8:29.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. - 2 Corinthians 3:18.

Herbert Chavez who lives in the Philippines is being transformed by plastic surgery to look more and more like Superman. He has had surgery on his chin, his nose, and plans to have surgery on his abdomen. He has also had silicone injections and implants. Chavez says, “I have been a life long fan of Superman after being given the costume when I was a child. As I am only 5 feet 6 inches and Superman is 6 feet 2 inches I wouldn’t rule out surgery to make me taller.” Chavez is also a collector of Superman memorabilia and his home is filled up with Superman collectibles. (Orange News 10.10.11)

If you know Jesus as your Savior, there is a change going on in your life. Herbert Chavez is changing himself to look more like he thinks Superman should look like. God is changing His children spiritually to be more and more like Jesus. We are not doing the changing. You are not doing the changing. God is at work in your life through the Holy Spirit, and you “are being transformed.”

I am far from being perfect, but God has been at work in my life chipping away at all the things that do not conform “to the image of His Son.” The lies that used to so easily flow from my mouth have been chipped away. My desire for riches has been chipped away. My selfishness is slowly being chipped out of my heart. My worldly lusts are being removed piece by piece. Sometimes this renovation project that God has going on in my life is enjoyable, and sometimes it is far from enjoyable; in fact, it is downright painful. Looking at the image of Jesus that I see painted in the Word of God, I can see that there is still a long, long way to go before this transformation project that God has begun will reach completion.

How can God ever change the wickedness of my heart, or the wickedness of your heart? I do not know, but as the apostle Paul told the Philippians (Philippians 1:6), “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” I do know that God will never give up on what He has begun in my heart and life. He will bring it to completion. God is not going to give up on what He has begun in your life either. He will see it through to the very end.

We have the promise of God that some day, some how, we will be like Jesus. We are told this in 1 John 3:2, “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” Let us hold onto this promise of God that some bright shining wondrous day “we shall be like Him.”

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10.12.11

On the Edge

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. - 1 Corinthians 10:12-13.

Nearly all of us saw the video, captured of a cliff in north Cornwall, England, that crashed into the ocean. Thousands of tons of rock unexpectedly split away and tumbled down into the water. A geologist estimated that 100,000 tons of rock fell down. (Orange News 10.10.11) I know that I had never even thought about the possibility of such a thing. Of course, we know about landslides, rock falls, and avalanches; but 100,000 tons of a cliff? Can you imagine being on a cliff like that, and hearing the rock suddenly beginning to fall away? That would be scary!

If you knew of the likely possibility of a cliff falling into an ocean, would you make it a practice to go, and stand on the edge of that cliff every day? Of course not! However, we know many who call themselves Christians who do engage in that kind of risky behavior. How do they do that? They do this by drinking alcohol, even though they know that some who drink become alcoholics, some damage their health, some become involved in violent behavior, and some who drink are arrested for drinking and driving. Others are out there standing on cliffs because of their abuse of legal drugs or use of illegal drugs. Some are on that unstable cliff because of flirting or worse with the opposite s_x. I probably left something out, but I think you understand how dangerous these things can be.

Yes, “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” However, we are told in Deuteronomy 6:16, “You shall not tempt the LORD your God….” Jesus said exactly this when He was tempted by the devil in the wilderness (Matthew 4:7). Now consider this: If you know that it is risky to do something, but you continue to do it again and again, are you not tempting God?

Yes, we are all sometimes tempted, but there is a way of escape, because God says there is one. You can refuse to walk out to the edge of that cliff. You can refuse to have another drink. You can refuse to do another drug, or pop another pill. You can turn away from those who would lure you into inappropriate behavior. Will this be easy? No! But “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

Make no mistake, when you are tempted, there is a way out. Ask God to reveal that way out to you. Ask Him for the strength you need to take the way out that leads off of that cliff you are standing on before you fall. As we are told in 1 Corinthians 10, “…let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” Get away from the edge of that cliff!!

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10.11.11

Limited or Limitless

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding (immeasurable - Amplified Bible) riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. - Ephesians 4:5-7.

Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite (limitless - The Message). The LORD lifts up the humble; He casts the wicked down to the ground. - Psalm 147:5-6.

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above (infinitely more - NLT; God can do anything - The Message) all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. - Ephesians 3:20-21.

Using Google to search for the word, “limitless”, there were nearly 100 million results. It appears that we human beings do not like limits, and would like to be free of them. At the same time that we would like to throw off our limits, we place our human limitations upon our God. Our human view of God is too often that God can do little more than most humans. In our area of the country, we have experienced a severe drought. We had a community prayer meeting to pray for rain several weeks ago. It rained some that evening. Last week we received more than two inches of rain. I know that this was in response to the prayers of many. However, I have heard some express that they never pray for rain, because they do not believe that God answers those prayers - or is it that they do not believe that God has the power to answer those prayers?

Limitless is defined by the Free Dictionary as: “Having no limit or limits; unrestricted: limitless authority.” That is a description of the power and authority of the One true God. Our God is unlimited in His ability. However, there are some limits upon our ability to tap into that power and authority for the living of our lives. Ephesians 3:20-21 describes the ability of God to do more than we can ever imagine. It also describes a limit upon how that power is used in our lives. We are told how God is able to do more than we can imagine in our lives, “according to the power that works in us.” If we believe, for example, that God is unable to answer a prayer for rain, then God will not answer that prayer for you. You have less of His power working in you than someone else who does believe God can send rain.

Another limit upon God’s power to answer our prayers is His will. If what we ask for is according to His will, there is no limit to what God can do. However, if what we are asking for is not according to His will it will appear that His power is limited. 1 John 5:14-15 says, “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.”

If we believe, the possibilities are limitless for God to work in, and through our lives. Jesus says in Matthew 17:20, “…I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” So let us believe in the limitless power and authority of God and “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened (Matthew 7:7-8).”

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10.10.11

The Real Reality

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. - 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. - 1 John 4:4.

Emergency services in England scrambled to help after receiving a call from a young man who was hanging from the edge of a sea cliff. Fire crews, coastguard, and police officers all responded and searched the coast for the man. After searching for several hours, an intoxicated 19-year-old man was finally found about a mile away from the coast on a slope next to where he had parked his car. (Metro.co.uk 02.23.10)

Customs in a Frankfurt, Germany airport temporarily confiscated what was thought to be a “blood diamond” worth 2.2 million pounds (3.4 million dollars). The wannabe smuggler from Angola was detained while what appeared to be an illegally mined diamond was examined. Everyone was surprised, especially the wannabe smuggler, when it was found that it was only a fake diamond worth at the most 18 pounds (28 dollars). The smuggler apparently had paid a substantial amount of money for the fake diamond. (Orange News 02.22.10)

How many times has it happened to you? You thought something was true, but later found out that it was not true; or something you thought was real, was not real. The young man in England was surely convinced that he was hanging from an edge of a cliff, and about to die. The Angolan smuggler thought he had a diamond that was worth millions; instead, he lost a fortune. What a shock when the truth is revealed!

There is another deception being perpetrated upon many of us right now. This world we are living in may appear to be very real. We are told that this is reality. However, this is not the real, reality. As we are told in 2 Corinthians 4:18, “For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” All of these things that are so very real to us right now on this earth will some day pass away. Our earthly worries will some day no longer be of importance. Because these earthly things are temporary.

In addition, we have so many things that cause us stress, cause us worry, and cause us pain. Much of this stress, worry, and pain is the result of perception. We perceive that we are all alone in the face of all these things that are pressing in upon us. However, that is not the real, reality for the believer. What is the reality for a believer? “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).” The Spirit of God resides in every believer (1 Corinthians 3:16) and “…we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Romans 8:27).”

Never forget as a child of God you are not by yourself. God lives inside of you, and through Him you are always more than a conqueror. Let us look beyond these earthly things surrounding us to the real, reality, to “the things which are not seen.”

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10.04.11

Found!

Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself, he said, “How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!” - Luke 15:15-17.

Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights. Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the fish’s belly. - Jonah 1:17 - 2:1.

Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. - Acts 9:8-9.

A scuba diver has been found in South Africa in the wrong place, at the wrong time. A rescue operation was mounted after a report from a friend of a scuba diver, that his friend was missing. The search was called off, after the mother of the diver, called to say that her son had been located. The diver had called his mother to let her know that he was in jail at a police station. He had been arrested, because he was diving “without a permit in a protected marine environment.” (Orange News 09.16.11)

The scuba diver’s problems began when he chose to dive illegally in a marine environment protected by law. While everyone was searching for him, he found himself locked up in jail. He was safe, but still in uncomfortable circumstances because of the choice that he had made to break the law.

In the Bible, there are several individuals who found themselves in difficult circumstances because of the choices they had made. The Prodigal Son chose to take his inheritance early, and went off to a “far country” to party it away. The Prodigal Son found himself in a condition so terrible that he was ready to eat what the pigs were eating if he could have done so. We all know that Jonah’s refusal to respond to God’s call resulted in his finding himself in the belly of a great fish. Nothing pleasant about that! Then, there is Saul, aka the yet to become apostle Paul, who found himself struck blind by the Lord Jesus.

The Prodigal Son, Jonah, and Saul all had decisions to make after finding themselves in these terrible predicaments. They could have chosen to remain as they were, and see things grow even worse. The Prodigal Son could have stayed there and eaten pig food if he could have found some. Jonah could have refused to change his mind, and rotted away in the belly of the big fish. Saul could have refused to give up his hatred of those who believed in Jesus, and remained blind for the rest of his life. Those would have been terrible decisions, but they could have decided to keep going in the same direction that had brought these terrible situations upon them. I think we all know people, or have heard of people who are just that stubborn, who are just that addicted to their drugs, or their beliefs, or their ideas, or their way of doing things; that refuse to change, even when they know they are wrong.

The thing that we see in the lives of the Prodigal Son, Jonah, and Saul is that people can change the direction of their lives. They may not want to change, but they can turn around anyway. The Prodigal Son surely did not want to go home, and face his father, or his brother. We know Jonah still hated the Ninevites, even after he preached to them. Saul had to turn his back on everything that he had believed, even his friends to change from the direction his life had been headed.

People can change the direction of their lives. You can change the direction of your life. It begins with a decision. A decision has to be made. A decision to be obedient to your Lord Jesus. If that decision needs to be made in your life, there is no better time than now to make it.

Where did God find you today?

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10.03.11

He Can Do It!

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. - Acts 1:8.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. - Philippians 4:13.

John Ortberg in his book “If you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat” tells of how he had a problem with fainting when he first began to preach. Eventually, the problem went away, but it did take courage to persist in preaching, when he never knew when this might suddenly happen again.

I shared with my church Sunday a secret that I have never told anyone. That secret is that nearly every Sunday since I began to preach I have thought to myself that “I can’t do this” before preaching. The reasons for that have varied. At first, it was in part because I am basically an introvert, and it was difficult for me to speak in front of crowds. It was also, because I do not have a powerful voice, and when speaking without a sound system it was difficult to project my voice. Other times I have been ill, but nearly always still preached in spite of whatever may have been going on with me physically.

In the last five years, I have developed a problem with my voice. It has improved substantially from how it was five years ago, although it has not gone away completely. The problem is that sometimes my voice cuts off, and I am unable to speak. Usually, it goes away in a minute or two, and I am then able to continue preaching. However, it is very uncomfortable to be standing before a room full of people who are listening attentively to hear your next word without having the ability to speak. Fainting might be more merciful! The fact is, and the truth is, that I cannot continue to preach in my own strength. I do not have the power in myself to preach another Sunday. However, my Lord Jesus does have the strength, and for the past twenty-one years He has been faithful, in providing the strength, and the courage that I have not had in myself. I can’t do it! But He can!!

The spiritual fact is that you cannot successfully live the Christian life in your own strength either. You can’t do it! But He can!! You can’t get out of the boat, and walk on water. But He can!! God wants to give you His power to live the abundant life that Jesus came to give you (John 10:10b). Jesus says in Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” Jesus is there knocking, and He wants to give you the strength, the power to really live life. However, He is not going to force you to receive His power. He is not going to make you walk on water. It’s up to you. Do you want His strength? Do you want His power? Then ask for it!

Remember you can’t do it in your own power, and strength. But He can!! I can’t do it! But the Lord continues to empower me every time I ask. He will do the same for you!

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09.22.11

Code Red

To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? Indeed their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot give heed. Behold, the word of the LORD is a reproach to them; they have no delight in it. Therefore I am full of the fury of the LORD. I am weary of holding it in. - Jeremiah 6:10-11.

To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. - Colossians 1:27-28.

Monday morning when we returned to the hospital to check on our grandson, we had an interesting experience. We had just entered into the hospital when an alarm began to sound, along with a voice announcing, “Code Red”, “Code Red”. Every few seconds the voice would announce, while the alarm, continued to sound, “Code Red”, “Code Red”.

As we entered an elevator, I asked a woman who got onto the elevator with us if she knew what “Code Red” meant. She said she didn’t know, but thought it couldn’t be anything good. Immediately after we left the elevator, the woman asked another woman who had a hospital ID what “Code Red” meant. The hospital staff member responded calmly and sweetly that, “Oh, it’s a fire alarm.” The other woman then asked her if it was a fire drill. The staff member said “No, it’s a fire.” And then she said, “It’s in the basement, and it happens all the time.” Since we were on the lower level, a fire in the basement was a little concerning to us. However, with the alarm still sounding, and with the voice still announcing “Code Red”, “Code Red”; everyone calmly continued on their way as if there were no alarm blaring in their ears!

The disregard of the people at the hospital for the warnings of the fire alarm reminds me of the disregard people have for the warnings of the Word of God. Not only do they disregard and dismiss God’s warning through His Word; they also disregard and dismiss warnings from His messengers. Jeremiah continually, at great personal risk, warned of the consequences of the immorality of the Hebrew people. The consequences were to be taken into captivity by a foreign country, which did finally occur.

The people of this world have not changed much from the people Jeremiah’s time. The people today are just as dismissive, and have just as much disregard for God’s Word and His messengers, as did the people of Jeremiah’s day. The only difference is that it may be worse today than it was in the time of Jeremiah.

At some point in time, for every person, we will come to the end of the road of life, and face the consequences for our decisions. As we are told in the Book of Hebrews, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).” We are told more about what is ahead in Revelation 20:11-15 where John says, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.”

Is your name written in the Book of Life? Have you received Jesus Christ as your personal Savior? If not, the alarm is sounding, and all of Heaven is shouting “Code Red”, “Code Red”. Can you hear the warning? “Behold, now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2).” I plead with you to receive Jesus today as your personal Savior before it is eternally too late.

The Burning Bush Devotional
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09.16.11

Transformed

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. - 2 Corinthians 5:17-21.

Six years ago Megan Ashton bought a beat up 40-year-old VW Beetle for $316 (200 GBP). Today that same car is worth an estimated $40,000 (25,000 GBP). What happened to that car? Megan was 20-years-old when she bought the car dreaming of one day being able to drive, not a VW Beetle to her wedding, but a Porsche 356. Megan is a Royal Navy engineering officer, and her father owns a garage. Over a six year period, the VW Beetle was stripped down and rebuilt into a replica of the Porsche 356. That ugly duckling of a VW Beetle has been transformed into a beautiful vehicle. The replica Porsche 356, was driven proudly by Megan to her wedding, as she had dreamed of doing for so many years. (Mail Online 09.15.11)

The transformation of Ashton’s VW Beetle into the now beautiful Porsche 356 replica is a picture of the Christian life. It is a picture of how God takes the ugly duckling worm of a sinner and transforms that person into an “ambassador for Christ”; an ambassador for the King of kings, and the Lord of lords.

There is a beginning point to becoming a Christian. We do not become a Christian by becoming a member of a church, or by being baptized. We do not become a Christian by being born into a family that happens to be Christian. We become a Christian by being “born again” as Jesus tells Nicodemus in John 3:3. We are birthed into the Kingdom of God by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:11) and sealed until the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30). We are “born again” into the family of God as spiritual babies (1 Corinthians 3:1) and are to grow to maturity (Philippians 3:15).

God will continue this process of transforming us from the sinners that we were into being like Christ as long as we are alive on this Earth (Philippians 1:6; Romans 8:29). Some bright shining day the ultimate transformation into perfection with our glorified bodies will be completed. In Philippians 3:20-21 we are told this, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform ou