(The next devotional will be sent Monday, November 2nd.)
"The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light (Romans 13:12)."
Halloween was a holiday which I as a young boy was allowed to participate in. I remember trick or treating around my grandparent's house since they lived in town. The very first time that I remember going trick or treating on Halloween was when we were visiting relatives in San Francisco. When my sons were old enough I took them trick or treating. However, as I have grown as a Christian and learned more, my thoughts about Halloween have changed.
I have come to realize that at the very best Halloween is a pagan holiday and at the very worst it is the devil's holiday. I have read testimonies of people who claim because of Halloween experiences they were launched on the wrong course for a major portion of their lives. Halloween does seem to say that bad is good. It does seem to say that fear is good for you. It does seem to say that the devil's just a good old boy and not all that bad. But that is in direct contradiction of the Word of God.
The more we are exposed to evil the less we are sensitive to the evil of it. The more fear is put into us the more it seems good to put fear into others. The more bad is presented to us as being good the more likely we are to do bad. If we are honest, Halloween is a holiday of darkness, of evil. We are very familiar with the armor of Ephesians but there is another element of armor that we need to have. In a day of evil and darkness surely we need the armor of light. "...let us put on the armor of light."
�These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren (Acts 1:14).�
I wonder what it would have been like to have been in that prayer meeting? They were still all in one accord on the day of Pentecost. �And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them (Acts 2:2-3).� You have to wonder what the prayers were like that were being prayed at that point? What had they been praying? What had they been saying?
Too many times it seems as though prayers in our churches and prayer meetings are dry, repetitious, even monotonous. Maybe it reflects the prayers that we pray in our homes? Or possibly it reflects the lack of praying we do in our homes? Is prayer just something that we add on to our prayer meeting/Bible study because we know we are expected to do that? Is prayer just something that we tolerate in our churches today but if we didn�t have any no one would miss it?
I�ve been reading Jim Cymbala�s book �Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire.� Whether you agree with his doctrine or prayer method or not you have to be moved by the answers to prayer that they have received. The Brooklyn Tabernacle appears to be a church built by prayer. It seems to be a prayer driven church. But shouldn�t every church be a prayer driven church?
(This devotional is based on a message given last night by R.B. Mathis, pastor of FBC Cordell, Oklahoma, at the annual meeting of the Concord-Kiowa Baptist Association.)
�Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid (Matthew 5:14).�
�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 (John 8:12).�
The author Robert Louis Stevenson is reported to have watched a street lighter, light street lamps when he was a boy and to have said the words, �Look, Momma, there is a man out there punching holes in the darkness.� For us as Christians, light represents God and dark represents evil.
There are some ways for us as Christians to punch holes in the darkness. Number one is to reflect God�s nature. Jesus used five symbols to represent the church: light, salt, leaven, fire, and a key. These symbols all have one thing in common. They all have the power to penetrate. The church, and those of us who make it up, should penetrate the darkness of the world with the light of the gospel.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to penetrate and to punch holes in the very darkest regions of this world. If, if we as Christians will allow our lights to shine (Matthew 5:16).
�Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses (1 Timothy 6:12 - see also verses 13-19).�
There was a survey conducted by USA Today back in 1992 which is probably still accurate. In the survey they asked people what they wanted most. The majority of those that responded said, �peace of mind.�
I think that by saying �peace of mind� we want more than an abstract sense of serenity. To have real �peace of mind� we need a sense of satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment, and a sense of meaning/purpose. When we say we want �peace of mind,� we�re saying we want to get hold of life, real life.
That�s what Paul was telling Timothy in this passage of Scripture. In verse 19, Paul says, �...lay hold on eternal life.� Paul had some ideas about how Timothy was to take hold of life. First, we need to put our hope in God (v. 17). Second, do good to all people (v. 18).
There can be no true hope in God without having a Savior. We need Jesus as our personal Savior to have that true hope. Not only do we need a Savior but those around us do as well. What is the greatest possible good that we can do for someone else? Tell them about Jesus so that they too might have life, eternal life.
Let us �...lay hold on eternal life� today and we will find that we have found peace of mind.
�And they continued steadfastly in the apostles� doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers (Acts 2:42).�
This verse says much about what we need as Christians today. When our world comes crashing in and everything is going wrong what do we do? Where do we turn? We should follow the example of the early church and continue on. They �continued steadfastly.� This seems to indicate that there was at least some opposition to their doing what the remainder of the verse states.
When all seems lost, continue on. Continue on in the �apostles� doctrine� which was the Word of God. Continue on reading, studying and meditating upon the Word of God. Continue on memorizing and imbedding the Word of God in your hearts.
When all seems lost, continue on. Continue on in fellowship with other Christians. Continue on provoking and encouraging others to love and good works. Continue on and stand firm with your labor for the Lord because we know that it is never in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). Continue on in that fellowship of obedience to the Great Commission.
Continue on and you too will have �gladness and singleness of heart!�
�Delight yourself also in the Lord; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart (Psalm 37:4).�
Knowing God�s will about practical ongoing issues of life is faced by every child of God. God�s will has not been hidden from us. God wants us to know His will for our lives. So, why do many Christians have such a problem determining God�s will for their lives?
The problem has to do with what the Psalmist says in Psalm 37:4. Do we really find delight in the Lord? What does He mean when He says delight yourself in the Lord? God has given us many wonderful resources (Philippians 4:19). At the top of the list is the Holy Spirit. God has given us Himself. He has also given us His Word. He has given us the church made up of other Spirit filled believers. He has also given us the fantastic privilege of prayer. We can talk directly with the Creator of the Universe.
To delight ourselves in the Lord means that we are taking advantage of those resources. We are communing with God through the Holy Spirit and the fellowship of other believers. We are studying and searching the Scriptures and we are on a talking basis with our God. If we are delighting ourselves in the Lord, God the Psalmist says will give us the desires of our heart. If we are in a right relationship with God the desire that we have will be God�s will.
�Go to now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that. but now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil. Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin (James 4: 13-17).�
Early in our marriage, 24 years ago, Jeanie and I were both working at a cotton gin that my father-in-law managed. Our car needed a tune up and there was a garage close to the gin that I took it to. Not long afterwards Jeanie and I heard the sirens of fire engines. We all wondered where they were going since this was a small city. It wasn�t long before I found out. The mechanic came from the garage that I had taken our car to. He said that the fire had been my car! All the wiring and everything except the block under the hood had been destroyed.
We contacted our insurance agent and he tried to go to the garage to check out the damage. But he couldn�t because the garage was locked up. The mechanic had left and went to California for a week with our damaged car locked up in his garage. We did finally gain access to the car and after another week our car was finally repaired. Sometimes the cost of a tune up is higher than you might think.
Life seems to always have the potential to throw us a curve ball when we least expect it. We think we know what tomorrow will bring but we really have no control. We think we will have good health for many years to come but we know that tomorrow all that could change. We think that we have many years to live our lives for the Lord. But the end of our life could be today. We think that we have plenty of time to reach that neighbor, friend, or relative with the good news of Jesus. But the truth is we may never have another opportunity.
�And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him (Colossians 3:17).�
The Indonesian language has a word for responsibility �tanggung djawab.� It means literally, �to hold the answer.� This is to say that for anyone to hold the answer in any situation and not to share it would be out right irresponsibility.
What is the responsibility of the Christian? The apostle Paul sums up the Christian�s responsibility with one verse in Colossians 3:17. What does the Christian life include? The Christian life is everything you say, everything you do, and everything you are. The Christian life should be everything, every detail of what you are - nothing held back.
What does it mean to �do all in the name of the Lord Jesus?� In the time of the early church the name of a person indicated the person�s authority and power. To do something in the name of that person, or in relationship with that person. What is our relationship to Jesus? How do we see Jesus in our life? We must see Jesus as Lord of our lives, not as a Lord, or one of many Lords, but as the Lord.
Many Colossians, because of a false teaching called Gnosticism, saw Jesus only as a god (among many) and that there were more powerful spirit beings than Jesus. Today, few Christians would admit to having the same problem that the Christians at Colossae had. But the truth is that many of us do. We just have different names for the false gods we worship. Because if there is anything that we put before God then it is a false God, an idol.
The false gods we worship and serve today have names like: money, material possessions, careers, recreation, selfishness, alcohol, drugs, pornography, school activities, even our children or our spouses. Before we can ever fulfill our responsibility as a Christian we must deal with our false gods.
�Tanggung djawab.� We hold the answer for those around us but before we can ever reach them we must deal with our own lives. We are responsible to place Jesus on the throne of our lives so that we can fulfill our responsibilities as a child of God.
�Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work (John 4:34).�
Jesus has been talking with the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus has been �wearied with His journey� (John 4:6) when He arrived at Jacob�s well but now even before eating He has been refreshed. There are some laws for spiritual labor which go along with the sowing facts which I discussed yesterday.
The first law of spiritual labor is that it is refreshing. Jesus has been refreshed/energized by witnessing to this woman. We will be refreshed and energized for life when we are about the Father�s business as well.
The second law of spiritual labor is that there are seasons in the spiritual realm. There are sowing seasons and reaping seasons (John 4:35, 37). In the spiritual realm it was a harvest time then and the disciples were urged to go out and reap. In each person�s life there is a time for sowing and a time for reaping. The woman at the well, it was her time to be reached. Spiritual truths had been sown into her life (John 4:12, 20, 25). Every piece of spiritual information and contact you have with someone, however small, God will use it, it is a seed that has been sown.
The third law of spiritual labor is that those involved will have unity (John 4:37-38). Alone we can�t reach or meet all the spiritual needs around us but together empowered by the Holy Spirit the labor can be done.
The fourth law of spiritual labor is that it has rich rewards (John 4:36). Whatever we do for the Lord, God will use it and it is never in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58; Galatians 6:9).
Someday we will be glad we�ve sown those seeds. We will be glad that we gave the invitation to church, the telephone call, the tract given, the visit made, the small kindness done, the small gift of money to further the Lord�s work, the Christ like life, the prayers.........
Are you tired, weary, depressed? Remember spiritual law number one!
�Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap (Galatians 6:7).� (See also: Galatians 6:8-10; Matthew 13:3-9; 13:18-25; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 6:10-13.)
I used to be puzzled by what would happen after I visited people. Many times the people that I have visited do not ever come to church but the next Sunday other visitors that I have not visited sometimes show up. It has to do with sowing and the spiritual battle in which we are engaged. If you have ever lived on a farm you know about sowing seeds. When I was a boy I sometimes would be allowed to sow an area with seeds. Taking a handful at a time and throwing them out covering the entire area as thoroughly as possible. Before long I would be rewarded as the seeds bore fruit and the ground would be covered with the crop.
Here are some sowing facts:
Sowing can be bad (Galatians 6:8) when used by the enemy.
Sowing can be good (Galatians 6:8) when used by the Lord.
We can sow good or bad into our own lives (Galatians 6:8)
We can sow good or bad into the lives of the lost (Galatians 6:10).
We can sow good or bad into the lives of the saved (Galatians 6:10).
The enemy will resist our efforts and each seed sown is an attack on the enemy (Matthew 13). The enemy will try to snatch away the seeds (Matthew 13:19). The enemy will also be busy sowing bad seeds (Matthew 13:24-25). However, the enemy does not have unlimited forces. The is organized (2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 6:10-13). The more seeds that are sown, the more the forces of the enemy are stretched.
If we keep sowing and don�t give up, we will reap a harvest (Galatians 6:9). We can reap a harvest in our own lives (Don�t give up on yourself!). We can reap a harvest in the lost being saved. We can reap a harvest in the saved being moved closer to perfection. And the amazing thing is that we will always reap more than we sow (Matthew 13:23).
Why not sow some seeds today?
�Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7:21-23).�
When Bible translators went to Ecuador they had a most difficult time finding a word for �Lord� in the Colorado language. Nothing in the language of the tribe seemed to fit the concept of �Lord.� The Spanish word for mister did not communicate the meaning needed.
They did eventually find a word that might work. The word was �miya.� But when they used this word they would receive different reactions. Some would agree that Jesus Christ was their �miya� but many others would reject that term when applied to their relationship with Christ.
The translation team began to investigate more deeply the meaning of this word �miya.� Who was it that could be called a �miya?� Could a government official? Could the president of the country? Could an army officer? Eventually the meaning became clear and it also became obvious why some didn�t want to call Jesus their �Miya.� A miya is a someone to whom allegiance is given and obedience is pledged. No wonder some didn�t want to call Jesus, �Miya!�
Who is Jesus to you? Is he just a �mister� or is he the �Miya?�
�...knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed (Romans 13:11).�
Whoever created the �snooze button� should win a Nobel Prize! I love the �snooze button.� Jeanie, usually sets her alarm for an half hour earlier than she needs to get up and she can then hit the snooze button a few times. I love that luxurious feeling of semi-consciousness when you snuggle back under the covers knowing you have at least another ten minutes of blissful comfort. The challenges and hardships of the day can wait for another ten minutes.
The snooze button symbolizes the mentality of many of us. We would rather stay in bed than get up and face the day. We would rather eat anything we want than watch our weight. We would rather spend our money foolishly than invest it wisely. We would rather sit on the sofa and watch TV than do all those much needed chores around the house. We would rather sit in the pew than get involved in a ministry. We would rather use our finances selfishly than joyfully give to God�s work. We would rather be comfortable than accept a challenge.
The problem is, God always challenges us. He is like that alarm clock that buzzes in our ear. In the same way you make sure your children get up and meet the challenges that lay before them, God is ever poking, prodding and leading us from our comfortable slumber. God says, �...it is high time to awake out of sleep!�
�Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end (Hebrews 3:12-14).�
Do you ever feel like you�ve had all you can take, you�re at the end of the rope and your fingers are slipping? It happens frequently to Christians and to non-Christians. In Hebrews chapter three we are given a hint as to how to hang on and help others to hang on as well. The Bible says, �exhort one another daily....� Sometimes we forget that we are not Lone Rangers and that we need the help of other Christians and they need our help as well.
Dr. Karl Menninger a psychiatrist and founder of the Menninger clinic was once asked a question while giving a lecture. He was asked what he would do if he felt he was about to suffer a nervous breakdown. Menninger replied that he would find someone that needed help and he would do something to help them.
Encouragement has a way of coming back to us. As we exhort others, they in turn encourage us. As we help others we find others helping us. The Bible says we should do this �...while it is called Today.� Before we turn loose of the rope why don�t we reach out and help someone else to hang on a little while longer?
Here is a reason why some of us give up on life and some even appear to give up on God. What is it that we have �heard?� What is it that we have been taught? We know the importance of discipleship. We know the importance of church attendance. We know the importance of spending time in prayer and reading God�s Word. We know the importance of being obedient, of holy living.
�So that we do not drift away.� Drifting away. Drifting is a slow compromise of our commitments. Compromises are rarely satisfying. It is like the hunter and the bear who encountered each other. The hunter was ready to pull the trigger when the bear spoke. The bear asked for negotiations. They agreed. The hunter wanted a fur coat. The bear wanted a full stomach. They decided to compromise. The bear after a little while walked away alone. The hunter had his fur coat and the bear had his full stomach!
The world would have you to compromise on your commitments to what you know to be right. The world promises you a fur coat but neglects to tell you the full price.
Jesus says in Matthew 5:44, �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 a bumper sticker that I see occasionally which says, �I don�t get mad, I get even.� Our natural response to someone who hurts us is to �get even.� Usually we get mad too!
Driving in traffic we see the natural man constantly at work. People seem to take on another personality when they are driving. Or maybe it is the personality they really have with the mask stripped off. �Road rage.� This a term that we hear more and more of in the United States. Even in Oklahoma there have been instances of people being shot while traveling down the interstate for no apparent reason.
How can we �love our enemies?� Only through the power of God. Loving our enemies is in complete opposition to what the natural man wants to do.
Today, why don�t we surprise someone with an act of love. God may very well be able to use that love to change someone�s heart and take away their rage!
�For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, not perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him (Isaiah 64:4).�
There are over one hundred references to the word wait in the Bible. It seems that people in the Bible were to wait or that they were waiting frequently. Things haven�t changed very much because we are still waiting today. Waiting seems to be one of the more difficult things that I have to do. We catch a vision of what may be and we work and wait and finally that vision comes to pass.
Before I began to preach God�s Word, He had been calling me for several years. But the timing was not right. I began over the years to wonder if what I was waiting for would come to pass. The right time finally came. God was faithful to reveal His will to me and to Jeanie (my wife) so that we had no doubt that it was the right time. Now I understand that the waiting was important. It was during the waiting that God was teaching and training me for ministry. It was during the waiting that He was developing my character for what was ahead. It was during the waiting that my faith grew and I became more and more sensitive to His Voice.
Today I am still waiting but for different things to come to pass. But while I am waiting I know that He wants me to live life each day to its fullest. I think one of the biggest lessons that I have learned from waiting is that we must not let the waiting get in the way of the living.
Have you seen the billboards in south Florida? An anonymous person through an advertising agency has been placing statements as though spoken by God on billboards and sides of buses. Here are a few of them:
�We need to talk.� - God
�What part of �Thou shalt not� don�t you understand?� - God
�If you keep taking my name in vain I�ll make the rush hour longer.� - God
It would be easier wouldn�t it to live by sight? To visit with God face to face. Watch God on the television. Listen to His Voice on the radio. See His photo on the billboard.
But God has chosen for us to live by faith. And faith comes how? �So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).�
Remember the story of Lazarus? He had died and was buried but Jesus came and intervened in the situation. �...he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave clothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go (John 11:43-44).�
When Jesus first arrived in Bethany, Lazarus was dead. But when Jesus, the resurrection and the life spoke, Lazarus came forth. Lazarus was alive but bound in the grave clothes and sticky burial spices. But Jesus didn�t leave Lazarus bound. Jesus said, �Loose him, and let him go.�
The tragic thing for many Christians is that we have passed from death unto life but we keep trying to put the grave clothes back on and bind ourselves up again. Whenever we sin it is like trying to put on those stinking grave clothes again. Some Christians have bound themselves up with addictions. Others with various forms of sin.
What is important to know is that Jesus still has the power today to release you from those grave clothes. Jesus is the �same yesterday, and today, and for ever (Hebrews 13:8) Which means that you don�t have to remain in bondage because Jesus has the power. Because Jesus is still �...the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me though he were dead, yet shall he live (John 11:25).�
As Christians we should periodically examine our commitments. Our determination to be faithful to commitments make up the true Christian life. Before we can become a Christian we must commit ourselves to turn from sin (repentance) and commit ourselves to have Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Out of the continuation of those commitments flow the Christian life.
Too often after a few years of being a Christian (If not long before) we see people begin to back away from those original commitments. They begin to try to find a middle ground between the world and the Lord. We see many living exactly that way with their lives. They come to church just on Sunday morning. They put on their happy faces and know all the Christian things to say. But through the week their Christianity has very little real value to them.
There�s an old saying that is still very true: �If you sit in the middle of the road you will be run over!� If we sit in the middle of the road with our Christianity we will be run over by life. We may try to blame the Lord for it but we really have no one to blame but ourselves. The Bible often warns and challenges us to living completely, totally for God.
Joshua said, �Choose you this day whom ye will serve (Joshua 24:15).�
Elijah said, �How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow Him: but if Baal, then follow him (1 Kings 18:21).�
And our Lord says to many who make up His church, �I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art luke warm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth (Revelation 3:15-16).�
Has life run you over? Maybe it is time to get out of the middle of the road!!
�But as one was felling a beam, the axe head fell into the water: and he cried, and said, Alas, master! for it was borrowed. And the man of God said, Where fell it? And he shewed him the place. And he cut down a stick, and cast it in thither; and the iron did swim. Therefore said he, Take it up to thee. And he put out his hand, and took it (2 Kings 6:5-7).�
There is a message here for us in the miracle of the swimming axe head. Elisha the prophet cut down a stick and threw it in the water and the iron axe head came up from the bottom and floated. The man was upset for two reasons. First, he was troubled because the axe head was not even his and he would have to somehow repay the owner for this valuable property. Second, he was upset because he would no longer be able to cut down any wood. How could he cut down a tree with only an axe handle? Impossible!
Yes, it is impossible to cut wood with an axe handle but that is what many in the churches of today are trying to do. We see a picture of the axe handle representing the work that we can do in our own strength. We also see a picture of the axe head representing the work that can be done through the supernatural empowerment of our Lord.
We lament the spiritual condition of our world. We lament the spiritual condition of our churches. We lament the spiritual condition of our own lives. So, we try harder and harder in our own strength. We swing the axe handle faster and faster but we only succeed and burning ourselves out. What we must do is return to our Lord. We need the daily intake of the Word of God. We need the daily communication in prayer. Without it, the axe head will remain at the stagnant bottom of the lake of our lives.
�These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God� that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God (1 John 5:13).�
Have you ever struggled with whether or not you have salvation? The Bible says you can know whether or not you have eternal life. John says that he wrote his little book so that people would know if they have salvation through belief in Jesus Christ. So let�s consider what are some indications of salvation.
John says (1 John 3:14), �We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren.� If we know Jesus as our Savior we will love those who also know Jesus. If we have salvation we will love to be around those who also have the Spirit of God living within them.
John says (1 John 4:13 and 1 John 5:5-6), �Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.� �Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth.� The Spirit of God bears witness to our spirit that we belong to God. We know that we know that we know that we have salvation because of this witness of the Spirit of God.
John says in his gospel (John 5:24), �Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.�
So I would ask you today, do you have a love of the brethren and does the Holy Spirit bear witness with your spirit? Have you heard the Word of the Lord and believed? Have you passed from death unto life?
�Shew me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths (Psalm 25:4).�
What way is our life headed? What path are we really traveling? Are we going the way that we want to go? This is the way that our flesh, our natural man wants to travel. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 14:12, �There is a way which seems right to a man.�
There is also the way that others would want us to travel. The Psalmist says in Psalm 1:1, �...the way of sinners....� There is another way, a best way, that the Lord wants us to take: �This is the way, walk in it (Isaiah 30:21).�
I remember while working in the oilfield going to a job out in ranching country west of Canadian, Texas. My directions were to take the second fork in the road after leaving Canadian. We took the second fork in the road and drove and drove. We came back to the beginning and took another possible second fork in the road and drove and drove. I enlisted a deputy sheriff to help find the rig location we were to go to. I went back to Canadian and called in for more directions. We searched for most of the day and burned up a tank of gas before receiving the directions for the right way to the location.
Yes, it was the second fork in the road but the second fork turned onto a pasture trail with only tracks for the tires of vehicles. Where we were searching for an actual road traveled by many vehicles the road we needed was a narrow one!. After traveling this narrow road for about a half mile we went down into a valley where the oil rig was located. The drilling rig couldn�t be seen from the main road which we had traveled many times by then. By the time we arrived we were tired, frustrated, and still had a job to do.
How much simpler and easier life is when we have the right directions! But we have to be careful as to where those directions come.
�Then said he unto me, Son of man, hast thou seen what the ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the chambers of his imagery? For they say, The Lord seeth us not; the Lord hath forsaken the earth (Ezekiel 8:12).�
When we are alone with our thoughts, what are the images that we see flashed on the walls of our minds? What is it or who is it that we worship there in the privacy of our thoughts? Some worship there the material. Some worship there themselves. Others worship there the true and living God.
I can look at different periods of my life and think of my worship. Before I was a Christian I not only worshipped the material but I also worshipped myself. Strange how when Christ came into my life the self worship, the material worship has become harder and harder. Yes, I do sometimes think it would be nice to live in a nicer home and have the money to do what I cannot do now. But those material things are not what sustains me. Those things have become less and less important as Christ has become more and more important to me.
Henry Drummond once told a story about a mother who visited her son at college. She was shocked to discover pornographic images on the walls of his room. But she didn�t demand that her son remove them. What she did was to buy a painting of Christ. She gave it to her son and asked him to hang it on his wall. When she next visited her son she found the obscene images gone and the painting of Christ hanging on the wall instead.
Let us hang the image of our crucified Lord and Savior upon on the innermost chambers of our hearts!!
(This devotional is partly taken from a revival message by Dr. Carl Thionnet.)
�Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, if one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No (Haggai 2:11-12).�
God gives an unbreakable principle here much like two plus two equals four. The principle God gives us is holy plus unholy always equals unholy. If you allow unholy things into your life the result will not be holiness but unholiness. Are we allowing unholy things to have access to our lives?
The Psalmist says in the first verse of Psalm 1, �Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.� Are we receiving unholy counsel?
Every time we watch television we are receiving counsel.
Every time we listen to the radio we are receiving counsel.
Every time we read the newspaper we are receiving counsel.
Every time we read a book we are receiving counsel.
Every time we watch a movie or a video we are receiving counsel.
Are we allowing the unholiness of the world to contaminate our lives? Remember holy plus unholy always equals unholy.
�For in him we live, and move, and have our being (Acts 28:17).�
While my oldest son, Clark, was in high school he came close to death at a track meet. Clark was not competing but helping the coaches when a discus slipped from the hand of a young man practicing for his event. The discus hit Clark above his eye. He was immediately taken to the emergency room a short distance away. When I arrived he was awake and alert. The doctor sewed up the wound with several stitches and sent Clark home.
The frightening thing for us was that Clark said he had just turned his head toward the discus thower when he was hit. If he hadn�t turned his head at that exact moment the discus would have hit him in the temple and most likely ended his life.
I attended a funeral service today for the father of a member of our church. The preacher made a statement that I�ve heard before but it seemed to stick in my mind today. He said, �We are all just one heart beat away from death.� In a moment of time our lives can suddenly end. As true as that is, it is also true that �...in him we live, and move, and have our being.� I know that God turned the head of my son and spared his life.
As we go about our lives we should always be aware of the fragility of life. It is through the power of God that we walk through each day and each night. Each heartbeat is a heartbeat that God has given to us. With each heartbeat there is the assurance of God�s continued purpose for our lives in this world. What is the purpose, what is the reason God has given us this day? It is a question we should ask each day of our lives.
(My son has corrected my recollection of the discus event: "I liked the devotional, but your facts about the discus incident are a bit off. I was in jr. high, helping out at a high school track meet. I was at the thrower's box, with one end of the measuring tape and Bobby Price at the other. We were measuring the high school girl's discus event. Instead of rolling the discus back in from the field, Bobby decided to throw it. I did turn my head and if I had not, it would have hit the back of my head, which the doctor said is where the cranium is weak due to it fusing together there while it was being formed. He even said that if it had hit anywhere else than where it did (the hard, thick ridge above my eye) I would have died or had serious brain damage. *grin* Well, thought you would like to know. Clark")
�Now the word of the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord (Jonah 1:1-3a).�
Have you ever ran away from home? When I was five years old while my mother was taking a nap I went to visit my cousin. My cousin lived two and a half miles south of us on a country road. Now I knew that I shouldn�t leave our farm property but I left anyway. By the time I was two miles from home I was tired but still determined to make it to my cousin�s home. I was careful on my journey having been warned about strangers and whenever a car would approach I would go off the roadway and hide until they were gone.
Unknown to me by this time my parents had all of their neighbors out looking for me. One of the farmers who was plowing saw me and called my parents. Just as I was crawling through a fence to go to my cousin�s my parents found me. I never knew until later the anxiety I had caused them and their friends. That was the last little trip I went on by myself for several years!
Thinking about Jonah, he knew where God wanted him to go and went in the opposite direction. Sometimes we are at least a little like Jonah. We know what God wants us to do but we don�t do it. We know what God doesn�t want us to do and we do it. From Jonah�s experience we know that God is capable of getting our attention. It may not be with a big fish but it will be something very personal to us that we understand.
Even now I would sometimes like to run away but I understand the consequences better now. I understand much better the pain I cause my Heavenly Father when I take my little excursions outside of His will. I also understand His discipline just as I understood the discipline of my parents.
�And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou (Genesis 3:9)?�
Adam and Eve had sinned and God called unto them. God is still calling to those of us today with sin in our lives to return to Him. Our God seems to be constantly calling out. He calls us to salvation. He calls to us when we sin. He calls us to service.
I remember hearing Jeanie�s (my wife) testimony for the first time and God through her testimony issued His call for my salvation. I then began to hear a call to service. God�s call upon my life to preach His Word eventually became almost a shout. His call was so loud that it was impossible to ignore. I had to say, yes. Or, I had to say, no.
Once I had answered God�s call to preach His Word there were other calls that He began to issue. Where would I preach? Once I answered the call to a place of service is that the only time God will call me in that way? For me the answer has been, no. God has called me from one place to another. I have at times tried to analyze and examine the reasons God would do that. Usually at the time of the call I don�t have the understanding to know why, but I can understand enough to know that I must go. With the advantage of several years I can now look back and understand more of why God took me from one place and brought me to another.
Has God been calling you? Most likely He has about one thing or another. No, you may not fully understand His call. But to the extent that you know what He wants you to do you should take the steps that are possible. As you do so He will reveal more and more of His plan.
The call of God. The Bible begins with a call to Adam the first man and the Bible ends with a call to all, �And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely (Revelation 22:17).�
On the road to Emmaus after recognizing they had been with Jesus the two disciples said, �Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the Scriptures?�
Do you have a burning heart? If we have a quality devotional time it will always end with a burning heart. Why? Because our Lord will speak to us during that time. However, many times my quiet times do not result in a burning heart. It may be that some of your quiet times don�t either.
I have examined some of my own times with the Lord and found that some of the most meaningful ones have been when there was a balance. By a balance I mean that I have prayed. I have read a passage of Scripture and I have been �still� or quiet before the Lord. Some of my least profitable times have been when I have prayed and talked and talked about my problems. During those unprofitable times I was in too much of a hurry to include much Scripture reading or being �still� before the Lord.
If we examine the Emmaus road Scripture passage we find that the two disciples were at first busy doing all of the talking. But eventually they allowed this stranger who had joined them to share with them. This stranger expounded the meaning of the Scriptures to them in the current context of the crucifixion of Christ. Then the stranger broke and blessed the bread with them. That was when they finally recognized that they were with Jesus and that they had burning hearts. It was when the disciples were quiet, �still,� before the Lord that they developed their burning hearts.
When we have our devotional time with the Lord who is doing all of the talking?