In 1874, one of the first Baptist missionaries to minister to the Plains Indians arrived at what is now Anadarko, Oklahoma. On that day when the missionaries first message was preached (John 3:16 was the text.), some of those present still had human scalps hanging from their belts. Over the course of years many of those Indians received Christ as their Savior.
Bruce Catton, a great Civil War historian and scholar, once gave a speech entitled �What 1861 Has to Say to 1961.� The point was that the problem, the nature of people, was the same in 1861 as it was in 1961. It is the same today. We still have crime, violence, substance abuse, wars, starvation, and on and on which arise from the same source as in the past. Human nature has not changed. �All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.� Sin is not without consequence and we continue to see the reaping of its evil harvest.
The solution is the same today as it was in 1874. The answer has been the same for almost 2000 years. The answer is Jesus! The transforming, resurrecting, earthquaking power of Jesus is alive and well today in the hearts of all believers. The same power that transformed mighty American Indian warriors into gentle servants of God in 1874 is still available today. We must have the same courageous boldness of those early missionaries who risked their lives to tell the unlovable about the love of Jesus.
Have you shared Jesus with your neighbor, with your friend, with your relative, with someone God brings across your path? How about your enemies, have you shared Jesus with them, have you prayed for them, cried for them?
Jesus is the only hope, the only answer to the problems of this world.
How does someone become a pastor? First I would say that God must call that person to ministry. But beyond that I often ponder how God was able to transform my life into what it is now. Looking back thirty years it is beyond my wildest dreams or imaginations that I am a pastor now. Thirty years ago I would have been shocked at the suggestion.
Others have also found it strange that I would be preaching God�s Word. A high school classmate�s mother once told Jeanie (my wife) that of the people in her son�s class, she thought that I would have been the least likely one to become a preacher. I grew up on a farm, but in high school I became a lead guitarist in a rock group and continued until I was married. My goals in life at one point were very simple, I wanted to be a great guitar player and make a lot of money. Even after I was no longer in a rock group my primary goals in life were still materialistic.
Several weeks after I was married something happened that changed my life. I had an encounter with the living God, He saved my soul and began the process of transforming my life. This transformation process didn�t happen overnight, and is still far from complete. But I know that the hand of God has been upon my life and He has changed me. My goals are now very, very different than they were 30 years ago. Now I want to serve God and see the lives of others touched in the way He has touched me. Where God will lead from here I don�t know, but I do know that being in the center of His will is the very best place to be. Even if the center of God�s will for my life is to be a preacher.
What about you? Have you ever had an encounter with the living God? If not you can have! I know that God has a great and wonderful plan for your life. Why not let Him give you a life and an eternity beyond your wildest dreams? Jesus said, �I am come that they (you) might have life, and that they (you) might have it more abundantly (John 10:10).�
�But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13).�
Does cotton burn? That was the question my cousin and I were wondering about. We were both five years old, and while our mothers picked cotton for a neighbor we played in the cotton trailer. I knew where some matches were, and that day when we went to the field with our mothers we planned to find the answer to our question.
Our mothers were half way up the cotton row when I got the matches out and began to see if cotton would burn. Yes, cotton does burn, but you have to work at it. The trailer was almost full of cotton, and we were both working hard at our new game of burning cotton. Thankfully, someone drove by, saw the danger we were in and rescued us. The cotton and the trailer burned up. You know, I don�t remember my mother taking me with her to pick cotton again after our cotton burning experiment.
It has occurred to me that sin is much like the predicament I was in that day long ago in the cotton trailer. Sin looks like a lot of fun, and most of the time, nothing so bad happens in the beginning. Sin is a deceiver, just as the fire was that day in the cotton trailer. I worked so hard at starting something that could have painfully destroyed me. We work so hard at what we think is a good time and what we are really doing is working to destroy ourselves. I never realized the danger I was in while playing with fire. Most people involved in sin never realize the danger they are in until it is too late and their lives have been ruined.
Maybe you have been playing with fire in your life. Jesus is the only One who can put the fire out. Jesus is the One who can save you and put meaning and purpose into your life. I�m thankful today for someone who many years ago saved my life by pulling me out of a burning cotton trailer. But, I�m even more thankful to Jesus, who saved my soul from an eternal burning hell. I�m also thankful, that He keeps the fires of sin put out in my life as I walk with Him each day. Jesus wants to do the same in your life.
Isaiah 55:8-9 says, �For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith 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.�
Many years ago now the truth of these words were brought to me. We were in Oklahoma City having several things we had to do and things to pick up. One of our last stops was at a shopping mall. I was anxious to arrive there and to be out of the traffic. But it seemed I was continually delayed and nearly every traffic signal turned red just in time for me to stop and wait.
After arriving at the shopping mall we needed to go to the upper level and we headed for an escalator. Just before arriving at the escalator I watched as an elderly lady stepped onto it. She was only part way up when she fell. Her foot seemed to be caught and she was stretched out backward with her head being banged as each step went up. I was able to reach her, raise her back up, and hold her up until another man had arrived and was able to free her foot.
Now I knew why I had been delayed. Our God whose thoughts are higher than ours can see the future and could see this accident happening. He ordered my steps that day so that I would be there at the very precise time necessary. I understand more and more that delays may simply be God working to make the timing right in our lives. I understand too that God is able to order our every step.
Have you been delayed? Are you waiting? It may simply be the hand of God upon your life to protect you or to bring good into your life. It may also be so that you can be a blessing to someone else. �Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).�
In Mark chapter 5 the Bible tells us the story of Jairus and his daughter. Jairus was a ruler of the synagogue, an important man, a respected man, a wealthy and powerful man. Yet the Bible tells us (Mark 5:22) that Jairus fell at the feet of Jesus and pleaded with Jesus to come and heal his young daughter who was deathly ill. The daughter died before Jesus reached her but he spoke words of life �Talitha cumi� (little lamb, wake up) and the girl came back to life.
Jairus had to lose something before the hand of God moved in healing power. Jairus got rid of his dignity, his pride. Our dignity, our pride, keeps us many times from receiving the blessing of God. Consider Naaman in 2 Kings chapter 5. Naaman was the captain of the host of the king of Syria. In order for Naaman to be healed of leprosy Elisha the prophet said he needed to dip himself seven times in the River Jordan. Naaman was angry at first saying there were better rivers in Syria. But his servant said to him, �...if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing. wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?� Naaman dipped himself seven times in the river Jordan and was healed of his leprosy.
Is there something that God wants you to do but your pride, your dignity has gotten in the way?
This week we have been shocked again by a terrible act of violence in the United States. It has left two brave men dead and a bystander wounded at the Capitol building in Washington D. C.. We have to wonder is there any hope for the end of such violence? Is there any hope for the prevention of our becoming a fortress nation hiding behind alarms and barricades? Where is the hope in this world?
Where is it that we can place our hope? If we place it in government we will at sometime or another be disappointed. If we place our hope in medicine or science we will eventually find disappointment there as well. If we place our hope in people we will soon discover the frailties of human nature.
There is only one safe place to put our hope. Because this place is a never ending fountain of hope and the Bible tells about it in 1 Peter 1:3 - 4, �Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.�
There is only one �lively hope� which �fadeth not away.� That hope is in Jesus Christ. For Jesus is a fountain of hope for all who place their trust in Him.
My mother for a short period of time had a pet snake. She had caught it and put it in a cage outside. Whenever she fed the snake she would always have to wear leather gloves because the snake would try to bite her. It didn�t matter how long my mother kept the snake or how much time she spent with the snake it would still try to bite her.
We are told in Romans 6:23, �For the wages of sin is death.� Sin is much like my mother�s pet snake. It doesn�t matter how much time we spend with our pet sin it is still going to give us death. Actually the more time we expend upon our sin the more death that we will receive.
Payday for our sins does not begin upon our physical death. Payday for our sins begins immediately. With every sin we receive a wage. The deeper into sin that we go the more death that we receive. The more sin that we have the deader we are in every area of our life. Romans 8:5-6 is one of my favorites. I like the way the NIV puts it, �Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires, but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.�
�The mind of sinful man is death.� We have a choice each day. Let us choose life and peace!
In Philippians 3:13-14 the apostle Paul says, �Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.�
In verse 13 Paul says, �forgetting those things which are behind....� Paul refused to weigh himself down with the memory of the past. He resolved not to let the past slow him down.
Remembering past victories can be encouraging but they can also become an excuse for remaining where we are. Remembering what the Lord has done for you and those close to you can be strengthening. But much of the time the past can be a heavy weight dragging us down. For Paul, the time he spent in his life persecuting, damaging the church must have been an unpleasant thing to remember.
Paul says, those things are in the past - I�ve got to go on, I�ve got to move forward. For many of us there may be things that as Christians we don�t like to remember, that we did or were a part of, or defeats that we have experienced. We can think and dwell on those things until we begin to think, �How can God use me, because I did those things?�
We must not concentrate on that, instead whenever it comes up in our minds; thank God, praise God for His mercy and grace through Jesus. Then we must forget those things which are behind, and reach forth to those things which are before.
�But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:19).�
Two years ago we faced the prospect of the reduction of our income by $1000.00 a month. I planned to be bivocational and work at a secular job to make up for the reduced income (For the full story read Journey to Fruitfulness at: http://www.geocities.com/~theburningbush/10.html). However, my plan to be bivocational wasn�t God�s plan and I found that it is much more difficult to obtain secular employment once you are a preacher.
How do you survive financially a thousand dollar loss in income when you are barely making ends meet? Only through God�s provision. I can look back now and see how God has provided again and again. God has increased our income and reduced our expenses. Just when we think that the end has come a new miracle arrives. The result of this is that my faith has been increased and I have renewed confidence in the provision of God even for our material needs.
Maybe you are facing a mountain in your life. Your mountain may not be financial as mine was but whatever it is God has the resources that you need through His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
Be A Ruth
�And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me and more also, if aught but death part thee and me (Ruth 1:16 - 17).� Ruth, if you remember, had lost her husband and was facing a very uncertain future.
One of the people that has had a great influence upon my life is my step-grandmother (Ruth). After her first marriage ended she married my grandfather, and they had about seven or eight good years together until my grandfather's health deteriorated.
My grandfather was unable to work, essentially bound to the house, had a leg amputated with heatlh sliding downwards. Ruth continued to work and faithfully care for my grandfather during these years. She eventually remarried after my grandfather died but this only lasted for about a short time. Now she is in her nineties and living in a mobile home with her daughter (her daughter is a widow). She has had a tough life but, oh, what an example she has been to me, and to many, many others. An example of faith in spite of the bad, in spite of the storms of life, a faith that just keeps on shining through even now.
I don't know Ruth's real first name. When she went to school in the first grade she didn't like her name and told every one that she was "Ruth." How fitting!
Most likely if life is tough for you there are those who are watching, marveling at your faith. Your life is molding the lives of those around you just as the life of my step grandmother has molded mine.
Let�s talk about commitments, commitments to some of the Christian disciplines. My first commitment was to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It took a year and a half before I made another commitment. That commitment was to pray each day. Jesus says that, �men ought to always pray and not faint.�
It took some time, several years but I made a commitment that I was going to be at church for services whenever I was not providentially hindered. The Bible tells us in Hebrews 10:25, �Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.�
Eventually I became convicted of the need to spend time reading, studying and memorizing God�s Word. Another commitment. Jesus tells us in Matthew 4:4, �Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.�
It was during a revival service that I became convicted of my need to be a better witness. In Romans 1:16 we are told, �For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth....�
Commitments by themselves do not a Christian make. But can there really be a Christian without any commitments?
Sin. It was sin that destroyed Jerusalem and sent the people into exile. Micah 6:13, �Therefore, I have begun to destroy you, to ruin you because of your sins.�
In much the same way sin causes us problems too. Sin opens the door for the enemy to attack us and those around us. Once the walls of our lives have been torn down and our spiritual lives are in shambles how can we recover?
At that point we need a rebuilding project much as Nehemiah led the people in rebuilding the walls around Jerusalem. It was a struggle for the people then, it will be a struggle for us. Nehemiah 4:14, �And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.�
The people built with one hand and with the other held a sword ready for battle. We must take up our sword as well. Ephesians 6:17, �And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.�
The spiritual battle is raging and the enemy roars but �remember the Lord which is great and terrible, and fight....�
In the Old Testament book of Leviticus, detail is given to the Trespass Offering and other offerings. The Sin Offering is for sins committed knowingly and the Trespass Offering is for sins committed unknowingly against God. It seems to be a fine line between the two.
I have some experience with trespassing. You see my five great grandparents Samuel and Ann Rather were arrested for trespassing in Virginia in 1742 (These are also the ancestors of the newscaster Dan Rather. I thought you might find that interesting.). Samuel and Ann were trespassing on a neighbor�s land. Why? We don�t know but their explanation apparently did not satisfy the judge since they were found guilty.
Many today are trespassing against God. These people take great care to never read God�s Laws and they have nothing to do with anyone or anything Christian in nature. Someday they will stand, or should I say, bow, before God in judgment. What will be their excuse for trespassing?
Have you trespassed against God? Have you sinned against God? 1 John 1:9 give us the solution, �If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.�
Have you ever taken the scenic route? Actually it was going to be a short cut. We could cut through on this road to south of Cripple Creek (Colorado) and then over to Colorado Springs. It looked like only about 20 miles from the turn off to Cripple Creek. Probably only take us 30 minutes.
When we turned off on the scenic route we immediately noticed that it wasn�t paved but then it wasn�t that bad of a road. There was quite a bit of traffic too. But within a couple of miles the highway had narrowed and it was much rougher. I was beginning to wish that I had a four wheel drive (Knocked a muffler and tailpipe loose and finally lost it before arriving home.). It began to rain, and I began to pray that we wouldn�t slide off into one of the canyons. Four hours later we arrived in Cripple Creek, a little older and wiser.
Jesus says in Matthew 7:13-14, �Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.�
Before you take that beautiful scenic short cut, you just might want to check it out a little. Because you may not be able to turn around and go back the other way once you have entered in.
Isaiah 47:13,14: �Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee. Behold, they shall be as stubble....�
Colossians 2:8: �Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.�
Daniel 2:2: �Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to show the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king.�
When I was a new Christian I knew my astrological sign and my wife�s and I would read the astrological column in the newspaper everyday. But it wasn't long before I began thinking it wasn�t right for me to do that. In the newspaper that I read, Billy Graham also had his column and it was right next to the astrological column. It eventually became a choice for me each day: astrology, or God.
Astrologers are in the same category as sorcerers, and magicians! Astrology according to the Word of God cannot save us from the things to come. Astrology is an empty human philosophy which seeks to deceive. It seeks to have us place our trust in astrology rather than in God.
When we place our trust in astrology we are creating an idol. Because astrology is taking the place of God in our lives. When you must make an important decision do you turn to the astrological column or book? Or do you turn to reading of the Bible and to God in prayer?
It may not be astrology, it may be something else but the only good place to put our trust is in our God.
In Romans 3:23 the Bible says, �For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.� Before we can have salvation we must first realize our need for a Savior. Before we can be forgiven of our sins we must first realize that we have sinned.
One of my first experiences with sin that I remember was when I was four or five years old. My mother had brought us with her to do the shopping and I noticed a large glass bowl full of small knives. These knives were shiny and glittery. The green one was the one that I wanted. But it cost five cents and I didn�t have five cents and I knew my mother wouldn�t give me the money. So I reached into the bowl and took the green knife. I was a thief. I knew it was wrong but I did it anyway. It was definitely sin.
Usually I can tell that story to a group of people and ask them if they have ever stolen anything and most will hold up their hand. I can then ask if they have ever disobeyed their parents and usually the rest will hold up their hands. Or have they ever cheated, or lied, or deceived anyone?
I was a Christian but I still remember having a discussion with a man working with me. In this discussion I came to realize that it wasn�t just the things that I did or didn�t do that could be sin. I suddenly realized that I could sin through my thoughts. Taking those thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) was not an easy thing to do. At that point there was definitely a war raging between my old nature and my new nature.
Most of us can agree that we have sinned and if we have sinned we need a Savior because the apostle Paul also tells us in Romans 6:23, �For the wages of sin is death....� I�m glad that Paul goes on to tell us in Romans 10:13, �For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.�
Have you sinned? Have you called upon the name of the Lord? Do you know someone else that needs a Savior? Why not let them in on the Good News? I wish I had heard about it when I was a little boy with a green knife in my pocket.
In 2 Corinthians 2:14 we are told, �Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savor of his knowledge by us in every place.� The NIV puts this as, �But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.�
It�s true just being around or communicating with a committed Christian brings a touch of God or the fragrance of God into your life. As children of God we become used to the fragrance of goodness and it is unpleasant for us to be around those with a different aroma.
The world is constantly spreading a different fragrance, a foul smelling fragrance of death. I believe one of the worst smells of foulness on the internet are the newsgroups (At least for me, for you it may be something else.). I used to have a program to access them but have now deleted the program entirely because I believe that it was an entry point of evil.
We must be alert to the fragrances around us. Not only do we want to spread the aroma of life but we want to avoid being influenced by the fragrances of death. Sometimes we must do as Joseph did and flee the foul evil smell. We must guard our heart for it is the wellspring of life. We must maintain our own saltiness if we are to be the salt of the earth. We must keep the cover of evil off of our own light if we are to be the light of the world. But thanks be to God who, if we will follow, will always lead us in triumphal procession in Christ.
In 1991 at a pastor�s conference I had the opportunity to hear an elderly evangelist by the name of Oakley. I believe it was W. B. Oakley. He told of his salvation and call at the late age of 36. He was a farmer and had not even finished High School. But God called and so he left his family and farm and by bus went to where he could finish high school. When he arrived he was heartsick and planned just to get back on the bus and return home but the bus wasn't leaving immediately.
He looked up the street and saw the spire of a little church and so he went up there and tried the door and it was unlocked. So he went inside and at the altar began to cry out to God. He didn't know how long he had been praying but heard the sound of trailing garments and he heard a voice saying, "I will go with you." "I will go with you." W. B. didn't know how many times the voice repeated "I will go with you." But it was enough. He went to high school and then he went to college and then he went to seminary and then he traveled over the world the rest of his life as an evangelist.
Now when he tried to tell some of his fellow classmates at seminary about his experience and about other experiences he had while still on the farm (like walking around his corn field with his hand up in the air holding the hand of God.). The professor and his classmates said, �Brother Oakley you've been having hallucinations.� Now Brother Oakley didn't know what hallucinations meant so he just said, "Amen Brother!"
Now when Brother Oakley learned what hallucinations meant some time later he said he went back. He said he told that professor if he had been having hallucinations he was praying that God would give him some more.
I believe God would say to you as He said to Brother Oakley and as He said to Joshua, �Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest (Joshua 1:9).�
Jesus says in Matthew 18:19, �Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.�
In my first pastorate revival appeared to have come after about two years. Our attendance had nearly doubled and it appeared the church would keep growing. Life was good.
But then that old devil found a way to attack. An issue divided the community. Some neighbors wouldn�t speak to neighbors. Some brothers wouldn�t talk to brothers. There was no way to keep the issue from affecting the church. Because there were those on every side of the issue within the church.
Attendance dropped to its lowest level since I had been at the church as pastor. There was never anyone walking down the aisle to make a decision for the Lord. What could be done about this dismal situation?
The two other churches in the community were also seriously affected. I contacted those two pastors; one Baptist, and one Assembly of God. After prayer and discussion we agreed to meet once a week to pray together for our community and for revival. In our own churches we established prayer groups and those groups began to meet weekly as well to pray for revival.
Within weeks revival had begun. People were again walking down the aisle give their lives to the Lord. Healing the community took longer but it had begun. Neighbors who wouldn�t speak began speaking as well as brothers. Revival had come!
Do you need revival? Does your church need revival? Does your community need revival? Does your country need revival? We know what we need to do!
How does God speak to us? Of course He speaks to us through His Word, the Bible. But is God still able to communicate with us today in any other way? In 1 Kings 19:12 the Bible tells us about God�s communication with the prophet Elijah, �And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.�
I believe God is still able to communicate with us today. Certainly He does not speak to us as He did to the writers of the books of the Bible. But God is still able to communicate clearly in a way tailored to each individual. We, though, have to be listening in order to hear.
Truck drivers in this country communicate through flashing their lights. When one truck passes another and it is clear to pull in front of the truck passed the lights are turned on bright and then back on dim. If it is in the daytime the lights are turned on and then back off. The truck that is passing then knows it is safe to pull back over in front of the other truck.
A couple of years ago as I struggling with God�s will about what I was to do. Should I go to another church or stay where I was. It was about midnight and I had been praying for quite a while. �Why didn�t God tell me what to do!� I thought. I finally left the church building and just as I stepped outside the streetlight closest to the building went out. �Strange,� I thought. We will have to have that repaired.
Our home was across the street. Before going inside I looked back at the church. As I looked back the streetlight that had gone out came back on. It was as though God was saying it would be okay, it was going to be safe.
Are you listening for His �still, small voice?�
His name, let�s call him, AJ. AJ was on probation sitting in my office. If he had been in church you might have thought that he was the preacher�s boy or the deacon�s. Or you might have thought AJ would be delivering the morning sermon. AJ was clean cut, intelligent but he was also addicted. He had been addicted to various drugs since he was 14. This day AJ had all the right answers, he appeared to be fine but inside he was really a very desperate person.
That same night AJ used a gun to blow open the front door to a dentist�s office to steal the drugs he was addicted to this time. The police arrived before he could get away and he was arrested. AJ went to prison eventually was released and at the young age of 21 high on drugs and alcohol lost control of his car and was killed. He left behind a wife, and a daughter, and a mother, and a father, that loved him very much. They had all tried, I had tried. It could have been different. And yet this was the way a life of great promise and potential had ended.
I�m convinced that my life could have ended at a young age in a way similar to AJ�s. But something happened. My wife told me about a man named Jesus who had changed her life. I thought that I was a Christian but I had never met this Jesus. I talked with a preacher and he shared with me Revelation 3:20 where Jesus says, �Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.� I opened up the door and Jesus changed my life.
Is there someone you need to tell about Jesus before it�s too late?
�Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).�
�It�s a boy!!� Yesterday our first grandchild was born (Madison Cael Wrather, 8 lbs., 12 and 1/2 ozs., 22 inches). I marveled again at the miracle of birth. Before Madison was born he was inside the womb. Inside of his mother Madison heard her heartbeat, her muffled voice and the muffled noises of countless other things. But suddenly in birth he is no longer in the darkness, he can see, he can hear, he can smell, taste, and feel. He has begun to learn, to grow in this new world and hopefully will do so for the rest of his life.
Jesus compares the salvation experience to the experience of birth in John chapter 3. Paul describes this new birth in 2 Corinthians 5:17. Just as a child is delivered from the darkness of the womb, through believing upon Jesus we are delivered out of spiritual darkness. Just as a baby grows and learns we as Christians should grow and learn.
Someday there will be another birthing experience, some call it death but really it is another beginning. In 1 Corinthians 13:12 we are told, �For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.� As much as we are able to experience of God, of spiritual reality, of life now, it is only like looking through a dark glass compared to actually experiencing the wonders of eternity!!
(I have already shared this with a few but thought that there might be others that would like to read it.)
Think of the lame man in Acts chapter 3 who was laid at the gate Beautiful so he could beg. He was just begging for alms. He just wanted to survive. Just give me some crumbs he was most likely crying out to the people that passed. He had been doing this for years. I think that we all have a tendency to beg of God give me the crumbs Lord, give me the crumbs Lord and we're about ready to give up and we don't know how we can go on.
That's where this lame man was at. He was where you were, life couldn't get much tougher. He had no hope. No one like him had ever been healed if someone would just give him a few scraps he could live to beg again tomorrow. But there came a day, an ordinary day, a day like all the others when the servants of the Most High, Peter and John passed by. And the lame man heard these words from the mouth of Peter, "Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk."
You and I are out there much of the time begging for the crumbs and we have the tendency to think that God has forgotten about us that we might as well give up. It may only be tomorrow, it may only be an ordinary day begun as any other day when the day comes when God takes you by the hand and lifts you up.
The Bible says that if we humble ourselves under His hand in due time God will raise us up. Joseph humbled himself and he was raised up on what seemed like an ordinary day to become the prime minister of the most powerful nation in the world at that time. Moses spent 40 years wandering in the desert getting a graduate degree in desert survival and he became humble. According to the Bible, Moses was the meekest man on earth. But there came a day, an ordinary day, when he encountered a burning bush that did not burn and Moses walked on holy ground.
Your day is coming too!
In Galatians 5:22-23 we are told, �But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance....� The NIV translates gentleness as kindness.
Kindness can be a shocking thing when you are expecting the opposite. Before I was a pastor I was a parole officer. My job was to supervise people who had been convicted of a crime. I used different approaches with different people. Sometimes I was forced to be stern and tough. Other times it would be obvious that I was supervising someone that was broken and defeated. I�ve enjoyed seeing the broken and defeated come back to life as they have encountered gentleness, kindness, and goodness.
Our Heavenly Father enjoys touching lives with goodness as well (Romans 2:4). It could be that you may encounter some broken and defeated lives today. Why not follow the Father�s example and shock someone back to life today with kindness, gentleness, and goodness?
�Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness (Isaiah 41:10).�
Going to a dentist�s office is usually not something that most people look forward to, myself included. So when I needed to have my wisdom teeth taken out by an oral surgeon I was not looking forward to the event. But the day came and I was a little nervous. My way of coping with the waiting prior to being given general anesthesia was to repeat one of my memory verses over and over again in my mind. Isaiah 41:10 was the verse of that day.
As I was given the anesthetic I was repeating in my mind, �Fear thou not....� When I came out from under the anesthetic I was surprised to find myself still repeating Isaiah 41:10 over and over again. Since that day I have at times found myself facing much more difficult situations than oral surgery. Isaiah 41:10 has been there for them all. �Fear thou not, for I am with thee,� and I know that He is with me and He is holding me in His right hand. Through Isaiah 41:10 I have felt God�s presence and experienced Him.
Whatever it is that life may be throwing at you, God would say, �Fear thou not, for I am with thee....�
I grew up on a cotton farm and by the age of four or five I was ready to help out with some of the farming duties. The day arrived when I was to go to the field and �chop� cotton along with my mother and sister. Now I had heard about chopping cotton but had never really paid any attention and didn�t know how it was actually done. Because I was always too busy playing and having fun.
When we arrived at the field my mother assigned a row of cotton to me. The cotton plants were still small, planted in rows stretching a half mile. I began literally chopping cotton and had cleared out about twenty feet of the plants when my mother grabbed me. It was a definite surprise to me but chopping cotton didn�t mean chopping cotton, it really meant hoeing out the weeds around the cotton plants.
We can become caught up in our own lives and our own agendas to the extent that it causes misunderstandings. Someone meaning well tells us one thing and we interpret it as meaning something else. We think we�re �chopping cotton� but actually we may be destroying the crop. In Philippians 2:4 the Bible says, �Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.� The NIV translates it as, �Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.�
To keep from destroying the crop of spiritual growth in the lives of other Christians we must look beyond ourselves and consider what is best for them.
Our Lord teaches in Matthew 6:11 to pray, �Give us this day our daily bread,� and in verse 13, to pray, �...deliver us from evil.� I believe it is our responsibility to pray daily for protection from the enemy. Over the years I have prayed for the protection of my family each day and as the years have gone by others on my prayer lists have been added. Now I have a new list with all of those who receive this devotional that I include in praying for God to protect.
Several years ago I began to question whether or not this daily prayer for protection of those on my lists and their families was really necessary. So, I decided to drop this daily prayer task. God knew where we were anyway so why should it be necessary to pray about this every day. Within two weeks I had an answer to this question.
By the end of the second week I was driving to a hospital either in Oklahoma City or Amarillo every day visiting either a member of our church, a family member of a member of our church, or a friend, or one of their family members. By the end of those two horrendous weeks I had again began praying for the protection of those around me and will do so daily for the rest of my life.
Are you praying? It does make a difference!
Today in the USA we are celebrating the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. For over 200 years we Americans have enjoyed the privilege of freedom (Of course, some gained that freedom only later after a bloody civil war.). However, the vision of freedom seen in 1776 has become clouded and twisted in the minds of the majority of Americans today.
The majority of Americans see freedom as being the absence of any restraint. Much as in the time of the Judges the people did what was right in their own eyes. But this kind of freedom does not give true freedom instead it creates bondage. Yes we have freedom. We have the freedom to adopt an alternative lifestyle, obtain an abortion, buy/sell pornography, abuse alcohol/drugs and the list goes on and on.
In 1776 there was a boundary for our freedoms it was a moral boundary based upon Christian beliefs. In America as we near the 21st century we have declared ourselves free from that moral boundary. As a result we see the unraveling of our society and of our country.
It doesn�t have to be this way. We can again have true freedom. True freedom is the right to live according to the TRUTH! The Bible says in John 8:32, �And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.� True freedom in the boundary of God�s Truth will keep you free from addiction to drugs, will keep you free from lust, envy, greed, and guilt. True freedom in the boundary of God�s Truth would result in the healing of the great moral problems stalking America.
Whether you live in America or in another country we share the responsibility as Christians to fight for true freedom. In the midst of great spiritual darkness and wickedness it becomes an even greater responsibility for us to be the �salt of the earth� and the �light of the world.�
In Proverbs 22:6 the Bible says, �Train up a child in the way he should go....� And in Ephesians 4:29 we are told not to let any unwholesome language come out of our mouths but only what is useful to edify or build up those who are listening. In Hebrews 10:24 we are told to, �...provoke one another unto love and to good works.� When we think about training, when we think about building up, when we think about provoking we normally think about actions or words. Those things are necessary but there is another ingredient that we don�t want to leave out.
I shared in a devotional a few days ago about my pet crow that I raised and taught to fly. Interesting thing about my crow, he had a great dislike for my sister. Whenever she would come outside the crow would immediately dive bomb on her head trying to land and peck her. Of course, my sister had a strong dislike for the crow as well. I enjoyed it because at that young age I had a strong dislike for my sister and she didn�t care much for me. How did the crow know to dislike my sister? I believe he simply picked up on my attitude toward her.
If a crow can pick up on a human�s attitude toward another person how much more so should another person be able to know our attitude toward others. I believe part of training up a child must be our attitude about all of life. Part of the building up of others may be our attitude toward things when we are around them. Part of provoking one another unto love and good works may be our loving attitude that they can sense when they are near us. How is our attitude? Have we been dive bombing anything lately?
Today a friend wrote a note of encouragement to me along with the notation Psalm 91:1-2 which says, �He that dwelleth 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 will I trust.� My friend had no idea of the depth of the meaning that those verses have for me on a personal basis.
In 1993, it was late on a Saturday night, I was putting the finishing touches on a sermon and stopping occasionally for prayer. I�m not entirely sure now what I was praying about but I was somewhat distressed about my life at the time. I was standing at the pulpit when I noticed the shadow which was moving quickly across the sanctuary, something was blocking the light from above. It moved over my head and I thought I could sense something passing above. At that point I jumped off the stage and looked up to see what was causing the shadow but there was nothing there. I was frightened and fled the church building as fast as I could.
Even though I was frightened I believed that whatever I had experienced was of God and had been in answer to my prayers. I found these verses in Psalm 91 and also the verses in Psalm 57:1 and 63:7. It may be that it was a hallucination but God used it to reassure me that I was under His protection, under the shadow of His wings. He had not forgotten me and today my friend reminded me of that again.
Dear saint of God, our God has not forgotten about you either!!
Today I was run over by a truck. Not really, it just felt like it!! I thought I was looking after the interests of our church as a pastor should. I thought that what I had wanted was what would be in the best interest of those affected the most. It feels almost like a truck has run over you when a Christian brother or sister does something that is most uncharacteristically Christian and hurts you and others. It hurts even more when there is little that you can do about it at the time but still that human flesh wants to get even.
My first response was that I wasn�t going to let them get by with this, I can cause them trouble. But then that didn�t sound very Christian either. What was it Jesus said? Where was that? Matthew 5..verse...39, �...resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.� There�s more! �And if any man will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.� Here�s the one that gets to me: �But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.�
There is really an amazing thing about giving a situation like mine to the Lord along with all the anger, with all the pain. The amazing thing is you can almost feel the hurt, the pain drain away. I know that God will now use this situation to bring about good which maybe He is already doing through this devotional.
Is there a situation in your life that is causing you pain, distress, anger? Place all of that in the hands of Jesus. Allow the Lord to take care of it for you. When you do that you will find as I did that it makes life much, much easier!