The apostle Paul says in Colossians 3:14, �And above all these things put on charity (love), which is the bond of perfectness.� Now charity/love that Paul is talking about is Christian love which is defined in the 1 Corinthians 13. We know that we are to love but who is it that we are to love? Who do you love?
Jesus tells us in John 13:35, �By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.� So we know that a distinctive mark of a true disciple of Christ will be that we will love other Christians. But who else should we love? I believe that you can look at John 3:16 and see who God loved. �For God so loved the WORLD that He gave His only begotten Son....� Every person living upon this planet Earth is someone for whom Christ died.
As we demonstrate our concern for the non-Christians by serving them, ministering to them, caring about them, and loving them we become Christ�s hands and feet to demonstrate His great love.
Do you love everyone? If we really get right with God we will. We will even love our enemies. Because we want to follow our Lord�s example and our Lord died for us while we were still sinners, still the enemies of God.
Who is it that we can share the love of Christ with today?
Have you ever been to an event or even to church and found that you were overdressed or underdressed? Meaning you wore a coat and tie (or a dress) and everyone was wearing jeans and shorts. It is even more uncomfortable to arrive in jeans or shorts and discover everyone is wearing formal attire!
As a child of God we want to be properly dressed as well. We want to be dressed for success and the apostle Paul tells us some things to wear and some things not to wear in his letter to the Colossians.
Paul says, �Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry (Colossians 3:5).� Paul also says, �But ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds (Colossians 3:8-9).�
To be a well dressed Christian, Paul says we need to get rid of those old spiritual clothes. But he doesn�t stop there Paul says there are some new clothes we need to put on. �Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity (love), which is the bond of perfectness (Colossians 3:12-14).�
It may be time for us to do a little house cleaning and throw out those old stinking clothes. Jesus has bought us some new ones and they are already paid for! �But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).�
Today�s devotional is written by Mark Popkes - firstname.lastname@example.org. Mark is 17 years old, lives in California, attends Saddleback Valley Community Church, loves to surf, and is on fire for God.
"If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:10, 12).�
Have you ever noticed how important friends are these days? If you just think about it, friends are pretty important. They can always be there for when you are crying and need a hug, or even when you are totally excited!
Christian friends are truly important for other Christians and even non-Christians. For Christians, to have close friends who are Christians, can be such a great tool in our walk with God. In Ecclesiastes 4:10 it says, "If one falls down, his friend can help him up." How great is that? Two Christians who are friends helping each other out in their walk is so efficient.
At my church (Saddleback), we have something called SAG 5, which stands for Student Accountability Group. This is where two friends get together once a week and talk and pray about their walk with God and see how each other is doing.
Keeping someone accountable is helpful to yourself. Because both of you are bringing God into your lives. For me, it always feels good inside after talking about what I'd like to be kept accountable for and what needs to be prayed for. Bringing God into our everyday situations smoothes out life so much more, and God delights in it too, because we have a God who cares!
In 1 Samuel 23:16, Jonathan encouraged David to stay strong in his faith in God. This is setting an example of what God wants us to do with our other Christian friends. So think about someone you know who is a Christian and maybe you can create your own Sag 5. It will truly help your walk and your friendship.
�For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end (Jeremiah 29:11).�
The Amplified Bible has it this way, �For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace, and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome (Jeremaih 29:11).�
So many times I have found myself hurrying through life without including God. God is concerned about everything in our lives even the seemingly insignificant details. God also has a plan even for those little details.
Several years ago when we were moving to another city we had difficulty finding a house to rent. We had a certain amount of money that we could pay toward rent and we also knew the kind of house that we wanted. Jeanie and her mother had already made a trip looking for a house and had not found anything. We were down to the last weekend before we needed to move. This time I went with Jeanie and again it looked as if there would be nothing. But we found an ad for a house that hadn�t been there the weekend before.
When we drove up to this house the landlord was there showing the house to other prospective renters. But he didn�t rent it to them. We definitely wanted to rent the house and it was at the price that we could afford. The landlord agreed to rent us the house and said that he would take twenty-five dollars off the rent because we were Christians. We had not told him that we were Christians but the frame that held our car tag said: �Prayer Changes Things.� Prayer had definitely changed things for the better that day!
Maybe we ought to ask God what the plan is for today?
�And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth (Revelation 3:14-16).�
In our little city we have a state college and several thousand young people have just returned to begin classes. For a few days I was pleasantly surprised to find people waving at me that I didn�t know. Because many of the young people come from small communities where everyone knows everyone and you always wave. But their waves are gone now. We have taken away their waves and replaced them with ....?
When we first become Christians we are so excited and everything seems different. There is such enthusiasm in the new child of God. But it doesn�t seem to take long before that smile is gone. It doesn�t take long before they sometimes sleep in on Sunday mornings. It doesn�t take long before they try to hide their faith and try to be like everyone else. Sad isn�t it? But for many it is the sad, sad, truth.
The minister of education at a church I once attended was introduced in this way: �Our minister of education was a business executive saved later in life. He was on fire for God and became the Sunday School Director. He was still on fire for God and everyone thought he would get over it but he is still on fire for God.�
I hope and pray that you haven�t �gotten over it!�
�Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour; whom resist stedfast in the faith.... (1 Peter 5:8-9a).�
Have you ever bought a car that was a lemon? I have and it was not a pleasant experience. The car was for my oldest son and on the outside it was beautiful. I failed however to inspect it closely. It was raining on the day we purchased it and so I didn�t crawl underneath of the car. If I had I would have seen that the car had been a severe accident. Later I found out it had been totaled and sold for salvage or junk. Someone had bought it and rebuilt it enough for it to pass as a desirable vehicle.
This car was at the mechanics too many times to remember. I thought that eventually we could replace and repair what was wrong with it. We had too much money in it to just give up or at least that was what I was thinking. After sinking several thousand dollars more into the car a service manager told me that if it was his car he would get rid of it. Why? Because it was a lemon and it would never be a good car and it would always have problems. Now he tells me, right!
That old devil is constantly trying to sell us some things too. They all look good on the outside but if we look at them closely we will see that they are lemons. What harm will one snort of cocaine do? Ask the person who drops dead from a heart attack. What harm will a few minutes with a prostitute do? Ask the man who contracted HIV. What harm will a little gambling do? Ask the person who develops an addiction and loses his family.
Before we buy what the devil�s selling we ought to crawl underneath and take a good long look.
Today�s devotional written by Don Mundell - email@example.com
1st Corinthians 13:13, "But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love."
Do any of you remember the hit song titled "What's love go to do with it"? In this song the artist describes the word "love" as being "But a second hand emotion". Another artist wrote a song many years ago that claimed "Love makes the world go round". I think the second guy was pretty close.
I found that Webster�s uses the word "Trust" in the definitions of these three words, "Faith", Hope" and "Believe". So they all mean to "Trust". Right? These four words are used more than 1,100 times in the bible (NNAS). As I have said before, the more God uses particular words in His letters to us, the more important He must feel they are in helping us understand what He is saying. God Doesn't waste ink!
In Matthew 22:36 (TLB) a lawyer (It figures right?) asks Jesus: "Sir, which is the most important command in the laws of Moses?"
In Matthew 22:37-40 (TLB) Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. The second most important is similar: 'Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself.' All the other commandments and all the demands of the prophets stem from these two laws and are fulfilled if you obey them. Keep only these and you will find that you are obeying all the others."
The word "Love" is used over 900 times in the bible in various forms. And "To Love" is God's greatest command!
In John 3:16 Jesus tells us the basis of all we believe in as Christians: "For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son so that anyone who believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
So I think you would all agree that faith, hope & belief, which all mean too trust, and love must be pretty important words to us. Right? Here Jesus is telling us that these words are inseparable! All necessary ingredients in seeking the Kingdom of Heaven and Eternal Life! And just like baking a cake, leave out an important ingredient and you end up with something other than a cake.
Try to imagine what would happen to the divorce rates in this country today, where more than 50% of the marriages end in divorce, if only couples would practice the principles expressed in these verses!
So in your relationships, are you making crackers or a cake? And if it's not "rising" like it should, maybe you forgot an ingredient.
Today�s devotional written by Peggy A. Rains - firstname.lastname@example.org
Genesis 1:31, " And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. ..."
Have you ever marveled at how very good this old earth really is? When I was 18 I had the privileged of being able to work at the Grand Canyon . It was there I came face to face with the wondrous works of the Almighty, that for all my young life I had taken for granted. We seem to take for granted so often the simple beauty of a tree, and not see the incredible craftsmanship therein. When I went to the Grand Canyon, I expected to see a giant hole in the ground.
Needless to say I was very surprised, the grandeur and splendor of such a place cannot be described. It is truly a marvel of God. His hand touches that place, you can see it in the ever changing colors of vermilion, red, orange, and yellows of the canyon walls. You can feel it, It is always the same but always different, such majesty, could have only come from the hand of the Almighty, no matter how science tries to explain it. The sunrise over the canyon is truly an experience, to watch the omnipresent walls seem to move as the sun shines into the deepest crevice and chase the grays into brightness.
It is here on the rim of the canyon, when you look as far as the eye can see, that you sense a new meaning to the word Creator. You realize what a tiny thing you are, what a tiny piece of time you are, how insignificant we could be if our Creator had not loved us, and how immense God really is. To have created something so grand, so far reaching, so permanent, that has been in existence for so long, it is truly overwhelming. It made my spirit cry out to the Lord and profess how absolutely perfect He really is, to feel the perfect peace and be so overwhelmed at the same time.
I was so glad that I went, it was a humbling experience to see how truly wonderful my Creator is, to make me realize the wonderful things He has created and not to take the simplest flower in all it's complexity for granted. I hated to leave that place, it felt as if the very presence of God was there on the rim of that canyon, and for me, He was.
(Why not take a moment to pause and thank the Creator of the universe for caring about you.)
�Ye shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another (Leviticus 19:11).�
I grew up in a nominally Christian environment meaning we sometimes went to church at Easter and I attended Vacation Bible School. There was once a small circus that came through our little town. My dad told me about the owner of the circus losing his billfold and how someone had found it. The person that found the billfold returned it along with the several hundred dollars that it contained. My dad went on and on about how if he had found it he would have kept it. Certainly not what we as Christians are taught to do. Many who are not born again find our Christian values strange.
My parents and my sister still have problems with lying. Sometimes it is just enlarging the story. Sometimes it is creating some complete fantasy. I never really know whether to believe them or not. I actually think that they tell the lies so many times that they come to believe them to be true. Before I came to know the Lord I had a problem with lying too. It is true that the example that we are exposed to does tend to rub off on us. It does matter whether those in positions of leadership lie or they don�t lie. Whether they deceive or don�t deceive. We need to constantly be aware of the kind of example we are providing to our families and those around us.
I remember soon after becoming a Christian being confronted with my lying and deceptions. What I had thought was normal behavior I suddenly realized that according to God�s Word was not acceptable for a child of God. Those habits that took 20 years to develop didn�t immediately disappear. But within a few years I was a different person than before. I had a new set of values and those values have saved me from major problems in my marriage and in every area of my life. I can only marvel at what God has done!
�My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him (Hebrews 12:5a).�
About a year after I was saved (1971) things were definitely going downhill spiritually. I was working two part-time jobs and going to school full-time. Jeanie (my wife) was still working as a secretary. Within the space of a year and a half I had three car accidents and my insurance costs were spiraling higher and higher. We were not attending church, I wasn�t praying and I wasn�t reading the Bible. Instead I was becoming you could say more and more tempted by the things of this world.
What happened next is for the most part predictable for those who leave God out of their lives. Our marriage and everything else began to fall apart. I quit one part-time job and I dropped a class. I dropped a couple of more classes and quit my other part-time job. Before I knew it I had dropped all of my classes and wasn�t working either. I was just going to get on with life, start a career. There was a problem though with the plan, I couldn�t find a job. It wasn�t that I wasn�t looking, I was but nothing was happening. After about seven weeks of this I hadn�t even had a job interview. After seven weeks of this, and all of the weeks before, Jeanie had had enough.
While we were visiting Jeanie�s parents one weekend, as it was time to leave to go home Jeanie told me that she wasn't going that she was leaving me. It was a long drive home. The first thing I did when I returned home was to get down on my knees and pray. It was the first time I had prayed in about a year and a half. I asked God to forgive me, to bring Jeanie back and to help me to find a job. Then, I went bed and went to sleep.
The next morning I woke up to the telephone ringing. The call was about a job interview in downtown Oklahoma City with the Kerr McGee Corporation. I went to see about that job and then came back home. As I was walking in the door the telephone was ringing again, it was about another job interview. I went to the interview and I was working at 12:30 p.m. that day. Eventually, even though the job was full-time they allowed me to move my hours around and I was able to return to college and complete my degree.
I wrote Jeanie a long letter apologizing for any and everything I had ever done and sent her flowers every day. At the end of the week Jeanie came back home and we have been together ever since. I knew that God had answered my prayer. God had become very, very real and I made a commitment that I was going to pray every day. I�ve kept that commitment. Sometimes the prayers have been short, and sometimes they have been long but I have been praying every day since then.
The Burning Bush Devotional
�The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them (Psalm 34:7).�
Have you ever seen an angel? I believe it is possible for us to have seen angels and not known that we were in the company of them. Other times as Balaam found out (Numbers 22) angels may be invisible. But certainly I know without a doubt that I have experienced the benefit of the protection of angels even without seeing them.
Before I was a pastor I took a group of young people to Oklahoma City to the Youth Evangelism Conference in the church van. We prayed together before we began our trip and we prayed together before we returned home. We prayed for God�s protection.
While on the way home I was following a pickup pulling a trailer. The pickup was going just a little slower than the speed limit so I decided to speed up and pass it. Just as I speeded up it was as though a heavy weight had suddenly descended onto the top of the van. I felt the van sway to one side and then to the other. I slowed down but everything seemed fine so I again speeded up to pass the pickup. Again it was as though God has placed His hand on top of the van like a child would upon a toy and push down hard. I slowed down again.
This time shortly after I slowed down, just when I would have been beside the pickup passing it, the trailer came unhooked. The trailer was still attached to the pickup by the safety chain but still it whipped back and forth across both lanes with sparks flying. I pulled the van over to the shoulder and stopped. If �something� had not stopped me two times from passing the pickup I believe we would have had a serious accident resulting in injuries or death.
I don�t take God�s protection for granted and countless times God has protected me and my family. I still pray for God�s protection every day and praise Him for it!
�Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God (Isaiah 50:10).�
I still remember the first time I watched a color television set as a boy. Our neighbors had bought a color television and invited us to come and enjoy an evening with them. Amazing how things seem to come alive when they are in color.
Sometimes as a child of God we move from living in color to living in black and white. In this black and white kind of world everything is drab and dreary, life has lost its excitement, lost its vividness, the realness, and we just sort of go through the motions. That was a problem even in Old Testament times. There is something missing Isaiah says of these people �...that walketh in darkness.� There is no longer any light and it is a dim black and white world, you adjust the brightness control and it doesn�t become any brighter.
What�s wrong? Think for a moment.... As a Christian, where does your light come from? The Bible tells us in John 8:12, �Then spake Jesus again unto them saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.� Jesus is the light.
As the Bible says back in Isaiah, you may fear the Lord, meaning you respect Him, you reverence Him and you may be somewhat obedient. You�re not out there killing people left and right. But are you really following Him? Do you have your eyes upon Jesus throughout the day - practicing/realizing His presence in your life. What do you think about all day long? It is the difference between darkness and light and will bring color to a black and white world. Because Jesus says, �he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.�
Jesus says in John 5:45, �Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.� Just as Jesus watched to see where the Father was at work we must do so as well. We can do nothing of ourselves but only through His power.
Years ago while working in the oilfield I was often called out in the middle of the night. One of those times when I was called out around midnight I had to drive 80 miles to the job location. Once there I found that there was a part needed before we could begin our work. After contacting several people I was given directions to another drilling rig location 20 miles away on unpaved roads.
The road was rough and as I drove I wondered what the real purpose was for having all of these obstacles to getting the work done. When I arrived at the other location I found a man there with the part I needed. But I also found a man that needed to talk. He was going through some difficult times in his marriage. It was around three or four in the morning and I was tired and in a hurry. But I knew that this was the real reason I had traveled through the night. This man needed to hear about a Savior.
It was obvious that night where the Father was as work. Today, watch through spiritual eyes and it may be that you will see where the Father would have you join Him in His work.
In Proverbs 4:23 we are told, �Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.� The NIV translates it as, �Guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.� Here in the United States if we have watched television very much at all during the last few months our hearts have taken a beating. There is the constant barrage of unpleasant things being discussed and dissected from every possible angle. Several families that I know with children have simply chosen not to watch TV anymore. At least not while the current issue with the President is being focused upon.
The exposure of our hearts to the sinful seems to build up a tolerance for such things. The more we are exposed to them the more normal the abnormal becomes. Spiritually it costs us in that it reduces our spiritual sensitivities. Which makes it more and more difficult to hear that small, still voice of God. The further we are from that Voice the more likely it is that we will become susceptible to sin.
What can we do to guard our hearts? Limit our exposure to the bad and increase our exposure to the good things of God. We are the �salt of the earth� and as such it is not possible to completely isolate ourselves from the world even though we would like to. Because salt does it�s job by being in contact with what it is preserving. So let us become more salty for there is a lot of preserving to be done!
�Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Corinthians 2:12, 14).�
Before I knew Jesus as my Savior I had only read a few (very few!) bits and pieces of the Bible. But with my salvation came a hunger for God�s Word. The Bible somehow was just different, it was alive! The words were alive and as I read those words they would speak to me in words which were not even recorded on the paper. Not only was the Bible now alive but hearing someone preach was completely different than before. God somehow was able to communicate as He had never done so before.
The Bible, preaching, and even Christians were different than before. After I was saved the pastor (Finley Tinnin) introduced me to some of the church staff and other Christians that were at the church that day. I still remember the first Christian hand that I shook after receiving Christ. I remember it because it almost knocked me down. I couldn�t turn loose of their hand. It was my first experience with spiritual heartburn. In 1 John 3:14 the Bible says, �We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.� My heart was burning with a supernatural love that I had never experienced before.
As a natural man, before salvation, I could never have understood what I have experienced since being �born again.� Sadly there are many people in our churches today who are �natural� people. They will never be excited on a prolonged basis about attending church, or studying the Bible, or praying, or witnessing, or listening to a sermon. Because they are spiritually dead, they are �natural� people. But they can, however, get excited about their job. They can get excited about a football game, or some other kind of sports activity. They can get excited about a vacation or going out and having a �good time� drinking or doing drugs, or engaging in some other morally questionable thing.
So I would ask you, �What are you excited about?�
�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. For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power (Colossians 2:8-10).�
While in college I studied philosophy, sociology, and psychology. None of those things completed me. None of those things gave me satisfaction. In fact, many times in studying those things I would become more dissatisfied, and found less joy than before.
But with our Lord I have found the opposite to be true. The more I learn of my Lord the more joy and satisfaction I have found. It is because in Jesus we are made complete. Without Jesus it will be like a piece of our lives is always missing and nothing will ever quite work like it should. But with Jesus included in every area of our lives things just have a way of working out. Jesus. Only Jesus can make our lives complete!
Some things in life are virtually immovable or unchangeable. To even try to move or change these things will simply create problems and pain for us. Fire plugs are an example. When my oldest son was much younger we had bought a new house and it had a fire plug in the front yard on one side. While my son and I were playing catch I forgot about the fire plug and my shin had a close encounter with an immovable object. My close encounter resulted in an indentation in my shin and an ugly mark which is still there many years later.
Spiritually there are some things that really are immovable and unchangeable. The Ten Commandments are often thought of in a negative way. But they are really for our benefit. To attempt to �break� one of the Commandments is just as futile as my trying to run over a fire plug. The result will be even more damaging to us and we will gain an ugly mark, a wound upon our spiritual selves. The more we sin the more wounds that we will gain. But �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).�
My grandfather once told me about how he had came with his parents to Oklahoma from Texas to homestead in 1900. When they first came there was only one tree standing for miles around. Soon after arriving a neighbor hurried up to them to warn of an approaching prairie fire. It stretched across the horizon and he told them that their only hope was to start a backfire. The backfire was started and burned up the grass between them and the prairie fire. The backfire saved them from a horrible death.
The Bible says in Colossians 1:30, �And having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself by him....� The cross. The cross is where the wrath of God was poured out. The cross was where the perfect sacrifice was made. It should have been us on the cross suffering for our sins but God has provided at the cross a burned out area of safety. Christ Jesus is our backfire that will protect us from the wrath of God that should have been poured out on us for our sins.
As we walk through this life day by day here on planet earth. Sometimes we lift our eyes to the horizon and it seems as though a prairie fire is sweeping toward us. But we must remember there is safety in the backfire. We will find safety as we abide in our Lord. Jesus says, �If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you (John 15:7).�
�But I will tarry at Ephesus until Pentecost. For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries (1 Corinthians 16:8-9).�
There are great doors of opportunity for Christians to go through to service all over the world. But these opportunities do not come without opposition. Paul had some opposition at Ephesus. He was kicked out of the synagogue so he rented a hall and kept on preaching. On Paul�s first mission trip he was stoned and left for death (Probably was dead.). But those with Paul gathered around him in what must have been a prayer meeting. Then Paul stood up and walked back into the town from which he had just been drug out of and left for dead. When Paul and Silas were placed in stocks they sang praises at midnight and as a result of their witness many were saved. While Paul was in captivity in Rome he wrote many of the words of the New Testament and was a constant witness that reached into the palace itself. He did that while chained to a Roman soldier.
In the hands of God your opposition will become your opportunity!
�But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried (NIV: tested) me, I shall come forth as gold (Job 23:10).�
In 1989 I received the news along with a hundred or so other parole officers in Oklahoma that we would have to go through the police officer training course again. The reason being that the first time we had not received the week of training for traffic law enforcement. As you can imagine not everyone was happy about being away from their families and homes for two months. While I was at training I bought a poster that said, �It�s a test Lord, right?� As it turned out training was a test for me in many ways.
Throughout the Bible we see great men and women passing the test. People like Abraham, Noah, Job, Joseph, Esther, Daniel, Mary and Joseph and many more. When God tests someone they experience God, it is an encounter with God. A part of the nature, the character of God is revealed to the person being tested.
When God tests someone their faith is exercised.
When God tests someone their faith is developed.
When God tests someone their positive response will be a testimony to an unbelieving world of the existence of God.
�It�s a test Lord, right?� If it is, as James would say �count it all joy� because through the test you can experience God in a deeper way than you ever have before. And when you�ve been tried you will �come forth as gold!�
After I was saved, for awhile I believed that because I was a Christian I would escape all the problems. The problem with the �I�m a child of God and I�m living in a Rose Garden with only blue sky ahead� is this: If you believe that then you have nowhere to go with your pain and guilt. If you believe the Rose Garden, blue sky lie then: The result is that now, in addition to everything else, you have to be depressed about your being depressed.
Paul said, be ready when temptations come, and Peter preached in 1 Peter 1:6, �don�t be surprised at the fiery ordeal that befalls you.� All Christians have something in common, that is: trials and testings. Jesus said, �In this world you will have tribulations.� He was just being realistic about the nature of the human condition living in a corrupted world.
With all of the good things that we have been given there is also a down side. Because we have a heart we have the capacity to have a heartache. Because we can experience love, this means we can also experience loneliness. We have been blessed with wonderful bodies which are still beyond the capacities of the human mind to fully understand. Because of this we may experience illnesses and disease. If we are alive, we cannot avoid difficulties of one kind or another. This is inevitable.
James tells us, �...count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing (James 1:2).�
Paul in Colossians chapter one begins by saying he is thankful for the people who make up the Colossian church. He is thankful for their faith, for their love, and for their hope. In verse five he says, �For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel.�
Hope. It is hard to have hope in a world where we have just had two more senseless bombings resulting in over two hundred killed and thousands injured. It is difficult to have hope for a world where neighbors for hundreds of years in the Balkans are still killing each other. It is hard to have hope when a child dies, or your husband, or your wife leaves you. It is hard to have hope when you don�t have the money to pay the bills, or even to buy the food your family needs to survive.
Hope. And yet the people of God in spite of the most difficult circumstances imaginable have hope. Because some bright shining day we will be living in a place called Heaven. A place where we will be able to talk to our Lord and Savior face to face. A place where we will no longer see through a glass darkly but we will see clearly why all these things happened here. A place where we will no longer face temptations, trials, testings, sorrow and pain. And we will take our walks on streets of gold and we will rest our eyes by gazing out at that unbelievably beautiful crystal sea. And when we�ve been there 10,000 years times 10,000 years we�ll have no less time to praise His Name!!!
The Bible tells us in Hebrews 10:25: �Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together....� Has God ever given you a hint that you should be attending church? He has me!
The year was 1972, I was working full-time and going to college full-time. We lived in Yukon, OK in a little mobile home and didn�t have time for church because we were so busy (or so I thought). After dropping Jeanie off at work in Oklahoma City, I was on my way to class in Edmond. On the way, for some strange reason, I began to think about the possibility of having car trouble (The car had been running fine.). the thought crossed my mind that if I went home to Yukon on Edmond Road, instead of the interstate, it would be better. It would be better, because there was a little church out west of Edmond that I could stop at if I had trouble.
My classes were over, ready to head home. Should I go on the interstate or cut through the country on Edmond Road? I suddenly remembered my earlier thoughts about car trouble and decided to take the Edmond Road. The car was doing great, no sign of any problem, when, the engine began to make a noise. Ahead, about a mile, I could see the little country church. I thought to myself, if it doesn�t get any worse, I�ll try to make it there and call for help. The car did make it to the church, but it died right in front of the church and wouldn�t start.
I have no doubt that God gave me a hint that day that I needed to be in church. At the time I was too far away from God to realize what had happened. But God was just trying to get my attention. Is God trying to get your attention? It may not be about church attendance. Has God been giving you hints??
A few years ago I watched a group of women prison inmates being interviewed on a television talk show. Being a former parole officer I was interested in hearing what these women would say about their lives. Nearly every one of them held up her hand when asked if drugs or alcohol was involved in some way in her incarceration. When asked why they were in prison, they all said they had made the wrong choices.
I can think of hundreds of people who were at one time on my caseload while I was a parole officer who made the wrong choice. For many it was the choice of using drugs, drinking alcohol, or gambling and these choices resulted in addictions which destroyed their lives. Some of them, however, have begun to make the right choices and their lives are being rebuilt. The beginning of the right choices came with their commitment to God. They made the right choice of receiving Jesus Christ as their Lord and their Savior. As they seek to put God first in their lives by following Jesus each day their lives are being transformed.
The Bible says in Joshua 24:15, �...choose you this day whom ye will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.� Choices. Life is made up of choices. To continue making the right choices, each day we must continue to seek God first. A lifetime of right choices is made up of daily choices to follow Jesus through each minute and hour of every day.
�Would you be free from the burden of sin?�
�Would you o�er evil a victory win?�
�Would you be free from your passion and pride?�
The questions above are asked in the hymn, �There is Power in the Blood� which was written by Lewis E. Jones in 1899. Jones sets out the answer to those questions and others as being the �wonder-working pow�r in the precious blood of the Lamb.� That power is still available today!
The Lamb is the Lord Jesus Christ who became the perfect sacrifice for the sins of mankind through His living a perfect life. Jesus suffered and died on a cruel Roman instrument of torture we know as the cross. There on Calvary, Jesus shed His blood for all those who would receive the �gift of God.� Jesus died for everyone, and the cry of the Bible is �Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.� "Whosoever� means Jesus died for you and that He died for me. The sad, sad truth is that many slip through this life and never call upon the name of the Lord, and they never receive the �gift of God� which is eternal life.
Not only do many fail to receive the �gift of God� but they also fail to experience the abundant life available in Christ Jesus. Jesus is �the Life� and we can have real life only through Him. Through Jesus we can be set free from the burden of guilt and pain. Through Jesus we can find victory over temptations, addictions and every kind of evil. Through that freedom and victory we will then find life, and find it abundantly.
Why not be free from your burden of sin today? Why not have victory over evil in your life today? Why not live life with the supernatural power of the Lord Jesus Christ? The �wonder working pow�r in the precious blood of the Lamb� is still available today!
�I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ....� Paul says this in Romans 1:16 but indicates his being not ashamed of the gospel and his boldness several times in his writings (and through his actions).
It is hard sometimes to share the gospel with people. I remember a hospital visit I once made. The man�s son had been coming to our church for a while. But this man was an alcoholic. He and his wife had grown up in a different denomination.
I had a nice visit with the couple at the hospital and then it would have been easy for me just to have left. But instead, even though I thought it would be wasting my time, I asked if I could share my testimony and they agreed. They listened attentively and when I called for a decision they both prayed to receive Christ as their Savior (Much to my surprise!!).
Oh how easy it would have been just to have walked out and not risked anything. But I am so glad that I didn�t! We must not be ashamed of the only hope that this world has. We must not be ashamed of what will transform the bad into the good. We must not be ashamed of what will take away the misery of sin and replace it with the significance of God. We must not be ashamed of what will take away the eternal death sentence of Hell and replace it with the glorious eternal life of Heaven.
�But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6).�
The Bible is hard for our human minds to accept. Because when we read the Bible we are suddenly in a world where seas part and people walk across on dry ground. A world where bushes burn but are not burned up. In this world of the Bible, manna drops out of the sky to feed the people, not once but every day. In this world of faith people walk on water, the blind are able to see again, quadriplegics are made to walk and even the dead are brought back to life!!
And yet, somehow we believe, we know that the Bible is true and that God exists. �Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1).�
But what is even more amazing is when God�s people begin to exercise their faith. I once heard a sermon about faith and the pastor said the exercise of faith is:
Believing when you don�t see it.
Obeying when you don�t understand it.
Giving when you don�t have it.
Persisting when you don�t feel like it.
Praising before you receive it.
And trusting when you don�t get it (what you have prayed for).
The exercise of that kind of faith is a testimony to a faithless world. Is your faith being exercised?
The apostle Paul says in Philippians 1:20, �According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death."
Before the birth of my son Nick, who is mentally retarded, I really tried to block out of my mind and life those who were handicapped. But with the birth of my son suddenly I could see all of those people I had tried so hard not to see before. I could see not only the handicapped but I could see clearly the hurting, the lost as I had never seen them before.
Most of you at one time or another have looked through a microscope. Looking through a microscope things can be magnified hundreds even thousands of times. Through that magnification process things which we cannot see with the human eye alone are revealed.
To the world for the most part Christ is not known personally. Christ instead is viewed as an historical figure, a good man. The true Christ is as invisible to most people as a tiny microbe which is invisible to the human eye.
Paul�s purpose was to magnify Christ in his own body for all to see. To open their eyes to Christ as my son, Nick, has opened my eyes to all those hurting people out there. It is through how we live our lives that Christ moves from being an historical microscopic speck to being recognized by those around us as being the living God and hopefully their personal Savior.
That was Paul�s constant purpose, to magnify Christ and it should be ours too.
�But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel (Philippians 1:12).�
Paul was in chains in Rome when he wrote those words to the church at Philippi. Think back a moment to the tragic bombing of the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City during 1995. It was such a tragic, horrible thing which was meant to destroy, to consume lives and begin the destruction of this nation. After such devastation how could any good come out of it?
But there came a still small voice that said as He wrapped His everlasting arms of love and peace around all those touched by this tragedy. A voice that said: �...all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).�
Except through the power and grace of God it would be impossible. But looking back we have seen that it has happened. The whole world impacted and exposed to the gospel message. Through the television coverage of the prayer service and of interviews with many who expressed their faith in the Lord. We watched as newsmen and women suddenly came out of the closet with their faith.
A terrible, terrible tragedy and yet those children of God whose lives have been so hurt by this disaster - They can now say with the apostle Paul �...the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel.�
When Jesus was crucified on the cross it was meant for evil but God meant it for our ultimate good. Are you hurting, are you troubled, have you experienced tragedy? Place it all in the hands of the One who can bring good out of the bad.
Why do bad things happen to good people? It would be nice if there were an easy answer to that question. It is a question that I have considered many times in my life, and still I don�t know the complete answer.
On September 2, 1978, our second son, Nick was born. As with most parents, even before he was born, we had plans and hopes for his life. Those plans came to an end when the doctor called the night of his birth. The doctor wasn�t sure what was wrong but the baby was having difficulty and he had to be taken to Children�s Hospital in Oklahoma City. I followed the ambulance that night, praying all the way.
Within a few hours of arrival at Children�s Hospital the immediate physical problems were solved and Nick was released from the intensive care unit. He remained in the hospital for most of the week while many tests were performed. A doctor eventually explained that Nick had Downs Syndrome (Trisomy 21 which results in mental retardation.). The diagnosis was confirmed after chromosome testing.
Why did this bad thing happen? I struggled with it and prayed that God would change Nick. I still remember determining that I was going to pray all night if necessary until God healed Nick. On my knees by the crib I began to pray. In less than an hour the answer came. No, God wasn�t going to change Nick, but it was going to be okay. God was going to be with us. I haven�t questioned God since that night.
Almost twenty years later I can look back and see that Nick has been one of God�s greatest blessings in our lives. He has changed our lives for the better and taught us much about the real way of love. Not only has God through Nick touched our lives but the lives of many others as well.
No, things are not perfect in this world, but God is true to His promise in Romans 8:28 to bring good out of the bad for those who love Him and serve Him.
Have you ever felt as though you have lost your joy for life? Do you feel as though when Jesus was talking about the abundant life He must have meant someone other than you? It happens to most Christians at one time or another it has happened to me in the past. There can be a variety of reasons for it. However, the most common reason is a lack of repentance.
A friend of mine, Bob Schlauger, pastor of Bethel Baptist Church in Aztec, New Mexico wrote this: �1 Samuel 4 gives the account of the nation of Israel in battle with the Philistines. In the first battle Israel lost 4000 men and was defeated. They asked God why? They should have known the answer because both Moses and Joshua had told them that when they departed from God, He would depart from them and His power and presence would not be there for them. So instead of going home and repenting they did a religious activity. They brought the Ark of the Covenant into the camp. Now, talk about a positive attitude! They shouted thinking they now had the victory. The Philistines cringed and said we have lost already, but stand and die like men. The next day Israel lost the battle and the Ark was captured. Religious activity and positive thinking had just been mightily defeated.
Twenty years later in 1 Samuel 7 Israel finally repented. The Philistines heard that they were at Mt. Carmel and gathered for the kill. The Philistines thought the battle was theirs. The Israelites were sure all was lost. But the difference then was they had returned to God. He was their victory. The next day Israel mightily defeated the Philistines.�
Repentance, just the word sounds difficult. However, in the turning from the things of this world to God we will find joy, peace, and power to live the abundant life. Through repentance we will find that God is our victory. Why not turn to God today and give Him everything?