�It was round about eighteen thousand measures: and the name of the city from that day shall be, The Lord is there (Ezekiel 48:35).�
Ezekiel could see a vision of a future city and in this place the Lord would be present. That was important and is vitally important to the Children of Israel and to us. The Children of Israel knew the importance of the presence of God because they had experienced what it was like for the presence of God to depart. Ezekiel tells of the departure of the glory of God in Ezekiel chapter 10 and 11.
While the Israelites were in exile in Babylon they came to realize that they didn�t need all of the things that they had used in worship previously. There in Babylon the Israelites learned to worship God without the vast amount of religious ritual that they had depended on previously. Those things including the temple had little meaning without the presence, power, and glory of God. Our worship has little meaning either without the presence, power, and glory of God.
We too can look forward to living in a city filled with the glory of God. John sees a vision of this place and describes it in the Book of Revelation. In Revelation 22:5 we are told, �And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.�
�Be careful (anxious) for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).
We Americans are so thankful that we have set aside a day to be thankful. But you have to wonder if during the other 364 days of the year we remember to be just as thankful on those days as well. We are thankful but we are anxious. We are anxious about everything from the mortgage payment to our job security. This anxiety is taking a toll on the health and well being of those living in the United States.
The apostle Paul prescribes a three part cure for this anxiety:
1. �Be anxious for nothing�
2. �Pray about everything�
3. �Be thankful in everything�
The first part of the cure is impossible by itself. The second part is good but does not complete the cure. The third part, thankfulness, completes the cure and brings about change from anxiety to peacefulness.
We usually think about thankfulness as being words which are said. But true thankfulness goes beyond words to deeds. The prophets in the Old Testament brought words of condemnation and judgment upon the people of Israel and Judah because they were not really worshipping God. Many of them still went to the temple, still made the sacrifices but they were like a lot of people today - the rest of the week they went out and lived like the devil.
God doesn�t want us to serve Him by just going through the motions on Sunday morning. In addition to that He wants us to serve Him by living a Godly/Holy life each day. That is demonstrating our thankfulness in a way that will bring about �the peace of God, which passeth all understanding� which �shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.�
Today�s devotional was written by Cyndie Pineda.
�For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth.... (James 1:11).�
I remember the first new car I ever bought; in fact I still drive it 6 years and 120,000 miles later. A bright red sports car. I saw it and thought, "Oh what a car to have," but I wasn�t sold on the idea of spending so much on a car until I test drove it. The engine purred, the speed picked up like a charm, and it handled so well on curves (Okay, now you know the truth, I drive like a maniac). Sure it looked good, but so had many of the others that I had seen, but this one just had something special inside it under the hood and in the way it handled. Now 6 years have passed, and it still looks okay, but not like it did when it was fresh off the delivery truck. It has more than a few pings, scratches, and even a place in the front where I hit a curb with it. Each of the marks on it, I can identify with some event occurring, and most all of them a learning experience in my life as well.
Looking at my car this morning as I took my daughter to school, I realized that in a way people are like cars. All too often the first thing we see is the outside. Sure some cars look nice, but there are some great looking cars sitting parked that don�t run at all. They have not been maintained on the inside, the engines are falling apart, or their owners have done things that they just would rather not take the time to fix.
And there are cars that are pulled out of junkyards by people and restored to the quality that they once had as new. When we choose friends, spouses, any relationships that we choose, God doesn�t want us to just look at the outside and say, "hey that one looks really nice, that is one I want." We have to look at the inside, and determine from there if it is really what we need in the long run.
God is the greatest of all "people mechanics." He has made us all to look different, each a unique "model" and all with good working parts. If we allow Him to be the mechanic, and keep us in good running shape, then we last out the years no matter how the outside really looks. But he wants us to be consistent in our care and upkeep. Coming to him not just when we have a "knocking sound" or "ping," but daily, and consistently.
Is it time you came to Him for a tune-up? Some of us (myself included) may just need a complete overhaul. But God is the best mechanic there is, and only He can renew us, if we allow it, and fill ourselves with Him and His Word. �Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts (Malachi 3:7).� He can fix up the worst of us, and keep others running like new. In the long run, the outside may fade, there may be scars of life showing, but the inside can be maintained like new.
Today�s devotional was written by Mathew A. Varnado
"My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." I John 2:1-2
Most of us have heard sermons all our lives to the effect that we had better not sin. Then we sin, and it makes us feel hang-dog for weeks of depression. Nobody ever tells us what to do when we DO sin. There are some practical DO's and DON'T's that I have discovered through hard experience. But the first thing that you have to do is admit that everybody sins in some form daily. This doesn't mean that we have a license to sin, since nobody can avoid it (See Romans 6:1-2). We are to fight to keep from sinning, but know that sometimes we will succeed and often we will fall.
When we fall, DON'T try to hide from God as Adam and Eve did, instead go straight to Him in the confidence that we are His children and He loves us. Confess that we sinned as did the Prodigal Son, and don't make any excuses or try to "pass the buck" like Adam and Eve did. Instead, take the full responsibility, and admit to God that YOU did it yourself and are worthy of death if God would do what the Law demands.
Don't try to cover it up like Cain did his murder of Abel. Go to God and admit that you were wrong and ask His forgiveness rather than complain about God's just punishment for sin if it is unrepented. Tell God you're sorry that you hurt Him, and then plead the Blood of Jesus as the only hope you have for even coming to Him. Ask Him to forgive you and accept Jesus' sacrifice on YOUR behalf. Then thanks Him that you have been forgiven and that He has forgotten it completely. It no longer exists.
All of this has to be done from the heart, and not a mechanical act, or as so many politicians nowadays, just so many words that seem like a confession and plea for repentance, but stop just short of calling it sin. After you have gotten it straight with God, go on living your life for Him the way you were before you fell. And know that God understands and He remembers that we are weak in some area or other, it's different for each of us.
Know that it isn't the end of the world for you, nor has He rejected you because you sinned. (I John 1-8-9). You are forgiven, so live in the light of that forgiveness and don't let satan ever bring it up again to beat you down. Of course, if someone else was involved, you have to get it straight with them, too. But you are free indeed. Praise God for that fact and then live from then on in an attitude of forgiveness, forgiveness and praise.
�Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matthew 5:13-16).�
On a television special on June 6, 1994, observing the D-Day invasion, General Norman Schwarskopf and Dan Rather were walking through the US cemetery on the Normandy coast. General Schwarskopf reflected on the sacrifices of the soldiers buried there. He said, �We should live to make this world worth dying for.� There seems to be doubt in those words as to whether or not this world is worth dying for at the present time.
There does seem to be a moral decay in this world that is ever increasing. The level of immorality reminds me of the statement made in the last verse of the book of Judges (Judges 21:25), �In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.� The book of Judges records the result of that kind of attitude.
The only thing restraining God�s hand of Judgment upon this world are those Christians who are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Just as salt acts as a preservative in meat and prevents decay and spoilage so do Christians. Christians sprinkled across this world act as a moral preservative preventing or slowing further decay and in some situations even bringing restoration. But sadly there seems to not be enough salt and the decay continues.
Why was Sodom and Gomorah destroyed? It was a wicked place, yes. But also because there were not even ten righteous people in the place. Not enough salt and what salt it had, Lot, seemed to have lost its savor, its effectiveness.
Does it make any difference how you live your life? Yes, it does! You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
Does it make any difference whether you come to church all the time or just when you happen to feel like it? Of course it makes a difference. Your neighbors know when they hear your car start up and drive by their houses on Sunday morning and when they see you come home with Bibles in hand, they know.
Does it make any difference whether or not you pray and read your Bible? Of course it does! You don�t want to lose your savor, your effectiveness, your influence for the Lord do you?
Does it make any difference whether or not you ever tell anyone about Jesus, give someone a tract, invite them to church? Of course it does! How will there ever be any more salt! How will there ever be any more light! If we don�t win more people to the Lord?
It makes a difference how each one of us live our lives. We should live our lives to make this world worth dying for. You and I are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
Jesus says in Mark 8:15 (Read also v. 14.), �Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.�
Jesus talks about yeast in describing the teachings of the Pharisees, the Herodians, and the Sadducees. The thing to remember about yeast is it has power. This power can be a source of good or of evil. In the parable of the leaven in Matthew 13 Jesus used yeast to symbolize the invasiveness of the kingdom which eventually transforms the world. This is the good use of yeast. In Mark 8 Jesus warns of a bad use. There are four obstacles to our faith which Jesus classifies as yeast. If the Christian accepts these they can work to destroy our faith.
The first one is the yeast of the Pharisees. Their yeast was traditionalism because they held their traditions to be above the law of God. Because of their traditions, teachings, they were unable to recognize Christ when He walked among them.
Secularism was the yeast of the Herodians. They believed the world could be changed by the Herods and their politics. Their faith was in government and not in God. They had the government so they did not need a Savior.
In Matthew 16, the Herodians are not mentioned but the Sadducees are. The Sadducees were known for their unbelief in anything supernatural (re: Mark 12 and Acts 23:8). The Sadducees were religious skeptics. They had a form of religion but it did not have any power. Jesus warns us against those who claim to believe in God and yet at the same time deny God is able to work in the supernatural. For example, many who claim to be Christians do not believe God created the world, the virgin birth of Christ, or His resurrection from the dead. Can we really have saving faith in a Savior who we believe was only a man? I don�t think so.
The last obstacle was pessimism. The disciples were pessimistic. They were upset because they had forgotten to bring any bread with them. And yet they had seen Jesus take a small amount of bread and feed an army of people. Pessimism is dangerous. Why? Because it tells Jesus there are things that He can do. When we do that He usually can�t because we are without faith.
Traditionalism, secularism, skepticism, and pessimism will rob us of the faith and power necessary for living the abundant life.
(Please note in yesterday's devotional Hebrews 9:27 refers to one physical death. However, their will be a second spiritual death (re: Rev. 20:14 and 21:8) for those who reject Jesus as their Savior.)
The Truth About REINCARNATION
In Hebrews 9:27 we are told, �And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.� The Bible makes it clear in Hebrews 9:27 that we only die one time not multiple times. We are judged one time not multiple times.
How do some people under hypnosis or some even awake recall events from past lives? It is simply a case of demonic suggestion. Satan through his demons will take advantage of those who have a desire to believe in reincarnation to reinforce their false belief. Satan is a deceiver and a liar. Demons are deceivers and liars too.
The Bible is in complete opposition to any suggestion of reincarnation. There is no mention of any person being reincarnated in the Bible. For any person to say that the Bible supports reincarnation is to attempt to deceive and to distort the truth of God�s Word.
The Burning Bush Devotional has been sent to many groups who forward the devotional on to others, however, one of those groups at the bottom of the devotional has been adding comments. I was astonished to recently read, �Those of you who are familiar with the doctrine of reincarnation....� There is no �Christian� doctrine of reincarnation. No �Christian� denomination teaches reincarnation. Here are some of the denominations I am familiar with: Southern Baptist, American Baptist, Independent Baptist (not a denomination), United Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Lutheran, Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Assemblies of God, Pentecostal Holiness, Evangelical Free, Four Square, Disciples of Christ, Church of Christ (If I left your �Christian� denomination out please forgive me.).
I believe that this is an example of an attempt to deceive and that in these times we must be constantly alert to the danger of false teachers.
�And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it (John 14:13-14).�
The greater works that Jesus promised we would do in verse 12 will be accomplished through the praying in verses 13 and 14. The book of Acts is filled with prayer meetings. Every move forward the early church took was immersed and brought about through prayer. They were following the example of their Lord Jesus. If Jesus could say and do only what He heard and saw the Father do, then He had to spend much time listening and seeing. There was a pattern to the life of Jesus. He would withdraw to pray and then go out to minister. We see this pattern in the life of Jesus being repeated over and over.
Usually prayer is not thought of as being part of the works that God would have His church to perform. When we think of works we usually think of witnessing, serving, ministering to others in some way. But Jesus indicates in John 14:12-14 that the �greater works� will be brought about through prayer. Prayer is not just a request to God to help us do the work. Prayer is the work itself. Prayer was not intended to be a labor saving program. Real prayer is real work which will bring about the �greater works� of souls being brought into the Kingdom of God.
�Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it (John 14:12-14).�
In John 14:12 is a promise which is to us who �believeth on me.� To those who believe in Him, Jesus promises that they will equal His works and they will exceed His works. Fifty days after Jesus made that promise, in the same city where Jesus was crucified the disciples did equal and exceed His works.
After 10 days in the upper room, the disciples emerged with the power of the Holy Spirit within them. After a short sermon by Peter, 3000 people were added to the church. The sad thing is that few churches and few people today seem to be living up to the promise Jesus gave us in John 14:12.
Why? It may be that in these days of great human technological achievement that we have things backwards. Back then, the disciples prayed together for ten days, Peter preached a ten minute sermon and 3000 were saved.
What do we do now? We pray for ten minutes (And that�s not very likely in the majority of churches!), have preaching for four days and very little happens. Don�t we have it backwards? No real revival has ever occurred without prayer warriors storming the gates of hell in spiritual hand to hand combat.
SOME THOUGHTS ABOUT DISCIPLES
�Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:31-32).�
The word disciple, comes from the word discipline. Most successful people in this world learn at some point in time that the disciplined life is the easiest life you can live. It is the easiest load you can carry. Who enjoys life the most? those whose life is out of control? Those whose freedom has been lost because of their freedom? Millions of dollars are made every day by casinos, liquor stores, bars, drug dealers, and porn sellers. These people are made rich by people who are out of control. Because they are out of control they are carrying a heavy burden.
Who is going to have the abundant life that Jesus talks about in John 10:10? It is those who take His yoke upon them. It is those who come under His discipline. It will be those for whom Jesus is Lord and not just a fire insurance policy.
To be a true disciple of Jesus we must come under His discipline. What are those disciplines?
1. Prayer is one of those Christian disciplines. Who has the lightest load? People who pray, or those who don�t?
2. Bible study is a discipline. Who lives with more peace? Those who know the promises of God or those who are ignorant of God�s promises and of the power of God�s Word?
3. Going to church is a Christian discipline. The Bible says in Hebrews 10, �...not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is.� When we assemble together, we know we have worshipped God and have established relationships with people of God who will be there when life�s burdens must be carried.
Isn�t our burden made lighter when we accept these disciplines and become true disciples of our Lord?
�Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).�
When life gets tough and we�re between a rock and a hard place what do we do? What do we do when the car is repossessed and the IRS wants the rest? What do we do when the doctor tells us there is no hope? What do we do when we are arrested for a crime we didn�t commit and no one will believe us? What do we do when unexpectedly we are given the �pink slip� and told to find another job? What do we do when we have an addiction that won�t let go and it is destroying our life?
What are we to do? Do we just �grin and bear it?� Do we �count our many blessings?� Do we �look on the bright side?� Do we put on our smiley face and tell everyone we�re fine when we�re really dying inside? Do we pop a few more pills, shoot some more dope, or go on a week long drinking binge?
Jesus says, �Come unto me...and I will give you rest.� How can Jesus give us rest? He can give us rest by taking away our burden of sin. He can give us rest by giving us �peace which passeth understanding (Philippians 4:7).� He can give us rest by giving us supernatural strength to endure our situation �through Christ (Philippians 4:13).� He can give us rest through His supernatural provision �according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).� He gives us rest through His Spirit, through His Word, through His people.
Are you between a rock and a hard place? Are you at the end of your rope and your fingers are slipping? Jesus is the answer. His yoke is easy. His burden is light. Only Jesus can give rest to your soul.
Today�s devotional was written by Ruth Harris.
The Gospel in Nerd Language
The Gospel in Nerd Language
One day, God decided to create the universe. Because there was nothing, He had to speak it into existence. In order to make things work smoothly and joyful, God created the Perfect Operating System. Because He knew that total obedience to the Program Manual with it's long list of FAQ's would produce infinite happiness, infinite peace and infinite joy and infinite love. Because love is not something that can be forced on someone else, God wrote a sub-routine that gave his people a choice. This sub-routine, if selected, would cause General Protection Fault errors resulting in ABENDS. Once exposed to an ABEND, the person would eventually die.
Because God loves His people so very much, something He can't demand back from them, he sent Jesus. The only way to fix the ABENDS was to live a perfect life and always follow the Operating System Manual. Since no person could do that, Jesus came to show us how to live the perfect life without causing ABENDS. Whenever Jesus was tempted to NOT follow the instructions in the Manual, He always chose what was right. Finally, as a last gift to His people, Jesus took all our ABENDS and accepted responsibility for them.
At that point, Glod wrote a new System Update, that people would have to use on faith. The results of the Beta Test would not be made known until the end when His Operating System's goal had been fulfilled. He told folks that if they would download the freeware of Jesus' Gift, that Jesus put on the Universe Wide Web when He took responsibility for our ABENDS, THEN THE FILES OF ALL OUR SINS WOULD BE PERMANENTLY DELETED. The best part is that once your sin file is permanently deleted, it cannot be recreated and people can enjoy the permanent love, peace and joy that God had in mind in the first place. That is when they would discover that the System Update had been there all the time and that God watches over us and disciplines us because He loves us.
As any programmer knows, if you do not use the language the way it was intended, you will not succeed in creating a successful program. You will always have ABENDS. Have you downloaded the freeware of Jesus' Gift? Would you like to? Then pray this prayer, "God, I am unworthy of your great and perfect love. I have caused You great pain by my disobedience and received pain, loneliness and this great yawning chasim of emptiness. I'm sorry that I have not followed Your Way. Please forgive me and fill my life with the freeware of Jesus' Gift. I promise to turn from my experiments in sin and learn your Way day by day. I give you my life as a platform for Your Freeware. In Jesus Name, Amen."
�Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16).�
After I made public God�s call for me to preach His Word I was surprised that it wasn�t a surprise to my great-aunt Carrie. It wasn�t a surprise to her because she had been praying that either me or my son would hear God�s call to preach. Her husband, Adair, had always felt that he had missed God�s call. She didn�t want us to miss our call.
I believe it was a surprise to me because I grew up in a nominally Christian family that rarely attended church. I never heard my mother or father pray. So to know that for twenty years of my life there had been someone faithfully praying for me each day was a shock. No one could give me a greater gift than to pray for me.
Is there someone in your life you could give the gift of lifting them up daily in prayer beginning today?
This devotional is based on message by Dr. Ronnie Floyd, pastor of First Baptist Church, Springdale, Arkansas which was given at the pastor�s conference in Oklahoma City 11-9-98.
�But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8).�
What kind of church should we have? Dr. Floyd insists that we should build the church the way Jesus wants the church built. Because we didn�t buy the church but Jesus did with His precious blood. So the church should be a Jesus church. Jesus is the ultimate model. What Jesus said will still work today so we need to build a Spirit empowered church. We need to concentrate upon those things that the Spirit will bless/empower. Here are some of them according to Dr. Floyd:
1. Jesus centered church - Preach Jesus, sing about Jesus, let Jesus be the center of everything.
2. A Bible driven church - Something is going to drive the church. Let the Bible navigate the church.
3. A praying church - The church was birthed in prayer. When we pray it shows we are dependent upon God. When we don�t pray it shows we are dependent upon ourselves. Dr. Floyd quoted Jim Cymbala of the Brooklyn Tabernacle as saying that Jesus never said to make His house a house of preaching/teaching but of prayer.
4. Worshipping church - Worship is an encounter with Christ that results in a lifestyle change. If you don�t leave changed you haven�t worshipped.
5. Witnessing church - A Jesus church is a strategically evangelistic church. The model is given in Acts 1:8. Reach all you can in your region, reach all you can in your country, and reach all you can throughout the world.
Jesus must be the focus of the church. And for Jesus to be the focus of the church as a whole than Jesus must be the focus of each believer that makes up that whole.
What is our focus? Is it Jesus?
This devotional is partially based on a message by Dr. Mark Brister, President of Oklahoma Baptist University given at pastor�s conference in Oklahoma City 11-9-98.
�For the Lord had said unto Moses, Say unto the children of Israel, Ye are a stiffnecked people: I will come up into the midst of thee in a moment, and consume thee: therefore now put off thy ornaments from thee, that I may know what to do unto thee. And the children of Israel stripped themselves of their ornaments by the mount Horeb (Exodus 33:5-6).�
This removal of the ornaments was not to be a one time thing but a continuous, ongoing removal. When I think of ornaments I immediately think of Christmas trees and the brightly colored ornaments with which they are adorned. But ornaments in this case was most likely similar to jewelry. This jewelry was associated with foreign gods or idols. It was a concern that the people would worship these things and probably already were.
Today our ornaments that God would have us to put away may not be jewelry. Our ornaments are those things that keep us from a deeper commitment to our Lord. It may be your career. God has been calling you but you would have to give up your career and the money that goes along with it. It may be your time. God would have you to be more faithful in attending church, more faithful in serving Him but you don�t want to give up your time. It may be your money. God wants you to give of your money but you have other plans for it. Or it could be many other things that would keep us from a right relationship and obedience to our Lord.
Are there some ornaments you need to put away. Does God look at us and see a stiffnecked person unwilling to change. I think the reason David was called a man after God�s own heart was that David always turned back to God when he became aware of his sin.
This devotional is based on message by Dr. Tom Eliff given at pastor�s conference in Oklahoma City 11-9-98. Title of sermon was �An enemy of the Call - The Curse of Words.�
�Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth (James 3:5)! (Compete text: James 3:1-12).
Words are powerful and can shape your life for good or for bad. While I was a parole officer I had clients whose parents and others told them that they would end up in prison. Those words were meant as a warning but became a curse in their lives. Small statements have a way of sticking with us and becoming reality in our lives. Words have power.
Yesterday, Dr. Eliff asked people to stand who had a statement/words operating in their lives that had become a curse. Over one third of the people present stood to their feet. We can break the power of words that have become a curse in our lives. Dr. Eliff shared with us that we have three instruments for battle:
#1 The Name of Jesus.
#2 God�s Word.
#3 The Blood of Jesus.
These instruments of battle have the power to break the curse of words in our lives.
�And the Lord said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into thine hand: and let all the other people go every man unto his place (Judges 7:7).�
God calls upon His people many times to do the unexpected. Gideon had 32,000 men but even this army was not enough to march the men arrayed against them. Judges 7:12 describes the opposing force as �grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels without number, as the sand by the seaside for multitude.� But God reduced instead of increasing Gideon�s army. He reduced the thousands to only 300 men. Yet we know that God gave Gideon and his 300 men complete victory over the Midianite army.
Joshua we know was called upon by God to attack Jericho in a strange way. They were to march around the city once a day for six days but on the seventh day they were to march around Jericho seven times. The seven priests were to blow the trumpets and the people were to shout. As we know the walls came tumbling down.
Jonah was called upon by God to do the strange and unusual as well. He was to go to Nineveh and preach to the hated enemy. Jonah thought that he would rather die than do that and headed in the other direction. He was swallowed up by a great fish and in the belly of the fish he had a change of heart. Jonah went to Nineveh with God�s message �Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be over thrown.� One of the greatest revivals in history broke out and these evil people got right with God.
The point is that when God calls He may sometimes want us to do what the world will laugh at. But make no mistake. If we are faithful to be obedient to God�s call, the world most likely won�t be laughing at the results of our obedience. The Midianites weren�t laughing after the battle was over. The people of Jericho were no longer laughing at those crazy Israelites when the walls came down. And the Ninevites called a fast and sat in sackcloth and ashes when they heard the one sentence sermon of Jonah.
�Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith: who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin (Hebrews 12:2-4).�
Have you ever considered the patience of God? He has such great patience with us. As the hymn says he could have called 10,000 angels to destroy the world and set him free from the cross but he didn�t. Instead Jesus �endured the cross,� �endured the contradiction of sinners against himself.�
Not only does God have great patience with us as sinners (And His mercies through Jesus are sufficient for every repentant sinner.) but he has great patience in guiding us.
Think for a moment about Gideon in the Old Testament (Judges 6:1 - 7:22). God finds Gideon hiding in an abandoned winepress, threshing wheat, but fearing for his life. God calls him to be the one to lead Israel in delivering them from the Midianites. From Gideon�s actions we know that he continues to have doubts about God�s call and how the deliverance is to be brought about. But God is patient! He gives Gideon six reassurances as He leads Gideon to victory over the Midianites.
God created us and He knows our frailties, our weaknesses. He knows that we need His guidance, His reassurances. When He calls us, He is not finished with the process. That�s the beginning. He is still there to guide us. When we have our doubts. He is still there to reassure us, to point us again in the right direction. He loves us as His children. He �endured the contradiction of sinners,� how much more so does he endure and have patience with us His children.
Not sure about where or what God wants in your life? Ask Him? He won�t be angry. Would we be angry at our own children if they asked us what we wanted? No, of course not! God is all powerful and all knowing. I think that He can handle a question or two (or three, or four, or five.......) from His children.
�It is of the Lord�s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).�
�Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).�
One of the first people that I witnessed to after becoming a Christian told me that he could never be good enough to go to Heaven. Not only do many people not believe they can be good enough to go to Heaven but they believe that those in the church are not good enough either. I�ve lost count of the number of times I have been told by someone that they would not come to church because of the hypocrites (They may not have used that word but that is what they meant.) that attend there.
The lost are busy examining the lives of those who claim to be Christians. They know when we fail to live up to the name Christian. They have heard about Jesus and of the �What Would Jesus Do� thing. They watch us with our WWJD bracelets. They watch us with the crosses around our necks. They judge us and have found we are wanting. They judge themselves and know they are lacking in righteousness as well.
I pray that God will lift the darkness from their eyes so they can see that �...all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).� I pray that they could understand Ephesians 2:8-9 which says, �For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works lest any man should boast.� None of us can work our way to Heaven. None of us can be good enough to merit Heaven. There was only one perfect man and His Name is Jesus.
I like what Don Mundell sent me today it seems to fit in perfectly with this devotional:
When I say..."I am a Christian" I'm not shouting "I am saved." I'm whispering "I was lost!" That is why I chose this way."
When I say..."I am a Christian" I don't speak of this with pride. I'm confessing that I stumble and need someone to be my guide.
When I say..."I am a Christian" I'm not trying to be strong. I'm professing that I'm weak and pray for strength to carry on.
When I say..."I am a Christian" I'm not bragging of success. I'm admitting I have failed and cannot ever pay the debt.
When I say..."I am a Christian" I'm not claiming to be perfect, my flaws are too visible but God believes I'm worth it.
When I say..."I am a Christian" I still feel the sting of pain I have my share of heartaches which is why I seek His name.
When I say..."I am a Christian" I do not wish to judge. I have no authority. I only know I'm loved.
�And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void of offense toward God, and toward men (Acts 24:16)
Paul says that he strives always to keep his conscience clear before God and man. A friend of mine has been having trouble knowing for sure if he has salvation. It has been a troubling thing over a period of years. He lives a very upright life and is one of the more faithful members of our church. He finally arrived at the conclusion that he did have salvation. However, we prayed and asked God to reveal to my friend if he had any unconfessed sin in his life. As far as he knew he didn�t.
This last week he woke up knowing that he had stolen from a former employer. This was many years ago. He had stolen by using the employer�s equipment for personal use. As he came to a realization of that, he knew he had to confess this to his former employer and pay for the cost using the equipment. It was a very hard and costly thing for him to do but he immediately made the confession and reimbursement.
This morning I heard on the news about a man that had confessed to murdering and raping a young woman 19 years earlier. A horrendous crime. The man responsible was living far away, is now married and has two children. He had started attending church and through his pastor contacted authorities and confessed to this crime. His conscience would not let him live with this unconfessed sin. Authorities say that most likely the crime would never have been solved without the confession.
A clear conscience is a precious thing. We as Paul should always strive to keep our conscience clear before God and man.
�He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given will he pay him again (Proverbs 19:17).�
Many of us are burdened with financial obligations and don�t know whether we will be able to pay the bills each month or not. Most of us in the United States, even though we struggle financially at times, we are not really poor. For the most part we have more than enough to eat and we live in houses that are heated and air conditioned. We drive in cars that have heaters and air conditioners. Many of us have two cars and some have three or four.
I have been struck by the devastation that has been caused by Hurricane Mitch in Central America. Thousands have been buried under mud slides. It is estimated that one million are homeless. One woman in today�s paper talked about how she was sleeping outside on a soggy mattress. She could see no end to her situation and said her brain needed rest. One million homeless there would be comparable to 37 million homeless in the United States. I think that we can say that these people are really poor.
It may be that we can help somehow. Maybe we can send a dollar or two. Maybe we can contact our representatives in Congress and urge the President to send more than token aid. I�m not sure what I can do but believe I should do something. Here are some addresses and telephone numbers for some relief organizations that were in the newspaper today:
Honduras Recovery Fund
4127 NW 122
Oklahoma City, OK 73120
405-752-9700 or 800-242-6387
Honduras Relief Fund
5420 Bradley Blvd.
Bethesda, MD 20814
Feed the Children
333 N. Meridian
Oklahoma City, OK 73107
2932 NW 122
Oklahoma City, OK 73120
Red Cross 1-800-HELP-NOW
P. O. Box 3000
Boone, NC 28607-3000
Southern Baptist International Mission Board
P. O. Box 6767
State "disaster relief" on check - 100% will go to
Your denomination or church may also have a way of sending assistance to the area. If you know of other agencies that are helping or plan to help please send me their contact information and I will send them out with tomorrow�s devotional.
Received this email from Keith and Marie Travis. They are Southern Baptist missionaries in Central America:
Thanks for your devotional today. I am a foreign missionary serving in Costa Rica. We are, of course, south of Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador where Mitch did most of its damage. I know that most people cannot imagine the daily poverty that most of these folks live in. When we read they lost everything in the newspaper, somehow that doesn't sink in. However, these people have lost everything. And believe me, to some of them, their most prized possession was their pressure cooker! That is how poor most of them are. The sad part about it is, Honduras is poorest of all the Central American countries. Where we live and serve in Costa Rica, the majority of the people earn around $350 a month. A mere pinnace to us, but a fortune to them. I have heard that in Honduras the average person earns about $100 a month. How can you eat on $100? I am not sure, but somehow they manage.
�The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe (Proverbs 18:10).�
One of the things that caused me to be hesitant about being a pastor was my wife having to drive many miles to work. We were living in the same city as her job and it took only three or four minutes for her to arrive at work. In my first pastorate she had to drive about 35 miles to her work place. I was concerned about the stress on her and also the danger if the car had mechanical problems. At that time cell phones had not arrived in the area. Later we had a cell phone for about a year but don�t have one now.
My fears about the possibility of my wife�s car breaking down in an isolated area have been unfounded because God has protected her. I remember well the times that her car has broken down because I have always been with her or driving her car. My wife had made it home safely one evening during a lightning storm. She told me how there had been one lightning strike that was really close to the car. The next morning we left in her car and made it about 50 feet before it died and wouldn�t start. The lightning strike had somehow ruined a circuit board and it had to be replaced.
My wife has been driving for over seven years now the longer distances to work. Now she drives about 45 miles to work one way. The Lord is our �strong tower� and He continues to amaze me. I have failed Him but He has never failed me.
Is the Lord your �strong tower?�
�Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia, After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not. And they passing by Mysia came down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us (Acts 16:6-9).�
Paul received very specific instructions from the Spirit about where he was to go and where he shouldn�t go. The Spirit is still busy today leading and guiding us. Sometimes He blocks us. Sometimes He warns us. Sometimes He sends us in another direction. Sometimes He says, �come over and help.�
As a pastor before I have moved to another pastorate I have always driven to the area and looked around. We have had some interesting experiences from these trips. On one trip when we had arrived in the area we stopped at a convenience store and when Jeanie came back out she said that she had become dizzy and almost passed out. We decided to drive on to the church facility and maybe she would feel better by then.
Jeanie was feeling better by the time we drove by the church building. But the car seemed to be having a problem. By the time we had located the parsonage and driven by it the needle on the engine heat gauge had red lined. The electric fan motor had burned out. After our excursion we decided that wasn�t really where God wanted us to go.
Before we came to our current pastorate another church was interested in us. We drove to their church facility and as we drove into their parking lot the car died and wouldn�t start. The alternator had stopped working. We were finally able to have the car repaired but we had the definite impression that God had given us a warning about that church.
The Spirit still leads and guides today. What is the Spirit saying to you?
�...we all do fade as a leaf (Isaiah 64:6).�
The leaves are turning colors and we used many of the brightly colored leaves as decorations Sunday in our church. The colors will eventually fade away and the leaves will fall from the trees.
The Bible states the obvious that we too will fade as do the leaves. Leaves fade gradually over time. For the most part we too will fade gradually over a lifetime. Leaves fade silently. The fading process for humans is not always silent but it still happens whether we make a lot of noise or not. Leaves always fade differently. As humans we each fade in our own way.
The cycle of life goes on and the fade is going to occur. We may be able to delay it but it will happen. Maybe we shouldn�t worry so much about what we cannot control. The fade is out of our control. But as with the leaves God can use us to demonstrate the beauty of His creation. We just need to place our lives in His hands each day.