�And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. And when they had done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes and their net brake (Luke 5:5-6).�
Peter�s fishing attempt had failed and they had caught nothing. But through the Lord�s miraculous intervention they tried again and had the catch of their lives. It is possible to come back from failure even when it seems impossible. Peter and his fellow fisherman knew that after trying all night to catch fish in the best fishing spots it would be impossible to catch anything on that day. But what man calls impossible God calls possible. It is possible for us to come back from failure through the power of God.
No one today thinks of Thomas Edison as a failure even though he failed 10,000 times before finally inventing the light bulb. Failure is not when we have been knocked down. Failure is when we stay down. Through failure we can gain an education. There is a country song that talks about a working man�s Ph.D.. As I was growing up I heard it mentioned from time to time about the school of life�s hard knocks. Proverbs 26:11 tells us, �As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly.� In other words we ought to learn from our mistakes.
Whatever the problems we face, problems force us to examine our lives. Peter and the other fishermen had caught nothing after fishing all night. Jesus doesn�t tell them it is time to put up the nets. No! Instead Jesus tells them in Luke 5:4, �...Launch out into the deep...� When we experience failure that�s what we need to do. Instead of giving up and refusing to try again we need to boldly �launch out into the deep.� In 1999 let us �launch out into the deep� and go boldly where no man or woman has ever gone before.
�I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14).�
Have you had a good year? Praise God! Have you had a bad year? Praise God (Romans 8:28; Phil 4:4) and press on! Some of us during 1998 have experienced problems, trials, tests, difficulties, heartache, and pain. The apostle Paul knew very will about those things and he was pressing on no matter what. Yes, for some of us 1998 may have been a bad year. Paul tells us in Philippians chapter three how to make 1999 a good year.
Paul says in verse 13, �...forgetting those things which are behind...� He refused to weigh himself down with the memory of the past whether the past was good or bad. He resolved not to let his past slow him down and by faith he blotted it out. Remembering past victories can be encouraging. Remembering what the Lord has done for you and those close to you can be strengthening. but much of the time the past can be a heavy weight dragging us down.
For Paul, the time he spent in his life persecuting, damaging the church must have been very unpleasant for him to remember. Paul says, those things are in the past, I�ve got to go on, I�ve got to move on. For many of us there may be things that as Christians we don�t like to remember; that we did, didn�t do, said, or were a part of in some way. We can think and dwell on those things until we begin to think, how can God use me. We must not concentrate on those things. Instead, whenever they come to mind let us thank and praise God for His mercy and grace through Jesus.
Also in verse 13, Paul goes on to say, �...and reaching forth unto those things which are before....� Paul was saying that whatever he saw to be done and if God wanted him to do it he was ready. As with Isaiah, Paul would say, �Here am I, send me.�
As we begin a new year let us not dwell on the past but let us reach �forth unto those things which are before� and �press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.�
�Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions (Matthew 19:21-22).�
There was just one thing standing in the way of this young man and eternal life - his money. You could say that this was his excuse. It wasn�t that Jesus wanted everyone to go and sell what they had and give it to the poor. No that wasn�t it at all. Jesus looks at a person�s heart. When Jesus looked at this young man�s heart he could see that he loved money more than he loved Jesus. Money was his excuse.
There are many other things that people use as excuses to not receive Christ as their Savior and to not attend church. One excuse that I have heard all my life and continue to hear is this one: �There are hypocrites in the Church.� Of course there are! Jesus said that there would be and that he would wait until Judgment Day to sort them out from the Believers (Matthew 13:24-30). Isn�t it interesting that hypocrites don�t keep us from doing anything else we want to do? It is like refusing to go to the doctor because we have heard that sometimes in the waiting room are people who are not really sick. They are called hypochondriacs. Of course we still can go to football games, basketball games, and other sporting events even though we know there will be some people there that are not really fans.
We must not let the world�s excuses keep us from being obedient to the Voice of our Lord during 1999.
What Time Is It?
�To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).�
With Christmas past and the year 1998 nearly through and only one year until the year 2000 we need to ask ourselves, �What time is it?� God said through the writer of Ecclesiastes that there is a season, a time for everything, for every purpose. What is God�s time now? What is God�s purpose now? What is His purpose and time in your life and mine at this point in time?
Timing has always been a very important ingredient in God�s program. Time had a beginning. In the very first verse of the Bible we are told: �In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.� But time will also have an end. In Revelation 10:5 we are told: �The angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and things which are therein, that there should be time no longer.�
So there was a beginning to time but there will also be an end to time. But what time is it now? Jesus in Matthew 24 has given us further information about God�s timing for the end of time. Jesus in Matthew chapter 24 is giving information needed by his disciples at that time but also He was looking forward, prophesying of the far off future just as did the OT prophets. From Matthew 24 we know that we are coming closer to the end of time.
So what time is it? We have just gone through another Christmas season. We have looked forward to the day when our families would gather. In preparation for that day we gathered presents and brought in provisions of food. During the Christmas season much of normal activity comes to a halt. But that time is coming to an end. Isn�t the time for sitting, and hearing, and getting over? In the season of God�s timing for this world and even for our individual lives isn�t it time instead for going, and doing, and telling? Haven�t we done enough of nothing? What have we done to tell the true meaning of Christmas to another soul? Isn�t it time, if it will ever be the time, to tell others about the true meaning of Christmas?
We pray all is well at your home and church. We have had an eventful year. Nick graduated from High School and as a graduation present we went to Branson to an Oakridge Boys concert which he greatly enjoyed. Nick is attending a life skills class in the mornings at the high school and working at the Weatherford Opportunity Workshop in the afternoons.
Our first grandson, Madison Cael Wrather (Named after Jeanie�s great and great-great grandfathers both named Madison Pruet.), was born July 9. Clark also graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary on December 12 with a Master of Divinity with Biblical Languages. Clark has been a pastor now for five years. First he was pastor at Little, Oklahoma near Shawnee and now at Little City Baptist Church at Madill, Oklahoma for three years. He has been driving twice a week to seminary at Ft. Worth and three times a week last summer.
Jeanie survived another tax season and driving to Elk City from Weatherford each work day which is a 90 mile round trip. At church Jeanie is staying busy and is now teaching a children�s Sunday School class and Mission Friends on Sunday nights plus all the other things that a pastor�s wife does. She also enjoys being a grandma.
On January 31, I launched a Christian website called The Burning Bush and since then there have been 7000 visitors. On June 8, I began writing a free daily email devotional with over 500 currently subscribing from 18 countries. Trinity Baptist is doing well and we are striving to reach people around us for the Lord. This month we had the opportunity to go to Capitola, California where I preached at the First Baptist Church. Jeanie, Nick and I greatly enjoyed our trip and visiting with the people there. We stopped off at the Grand Canyon on the way back where Nick and I had a snowball fight.
No one but the Lord knows what 1999 holds for any of us but we pray that we will be in the center of God�s will with our lives. We pray for you each day and ask God�s protection for you and your family. May God greatly bless you in 1999!!
With Much Love,
P. O. Box 67
Weatherford, OK 73096
Today�s devotional (The Reason for Christmas) was written by Frances.
The Reason for Christmas
The Reason for Christmas
Christmas season is a time of great joy;
But it's much more than Santa Claus, candy, and toys!
Celebrate the birth of Jesus the Christ,
For without His birth there'd be no eternal life.
Not long ago in a little square in town,
The Nativity scene with Jesus could be found.
Now in its place stands Santa and reindeer,
And laws stating "NO Nativity scene seen here."
As a man stood by Santa, I saw him smile;
I said, "Excuse me, sir, could I talk with you a while?
Why have they taken the Christ child away,
For without the Christ there would be no Christmas Day."
I was startled when I heard his cold reply,
He laughed,"Who needs Christ with gifts--with old friends stopping by?"
"You'll need Him one day, sir; seek Him before it's too late."
For in the Christ Child's hands lies our eternal fate."
As I said a hushed "goodbye" and sadly turned to leave,
I felt the stranger's hand gently tug upon my sleeve.
I turned around with joy as I heard him say,
"Will you lead me to this Christ Child of yours today?"
Joyfully we knelt where the manger scene had been,
And he asked our precious Lord to forgive him of his sin.
With a glad tear in his eyes I heard him say,
"We'll replace this Santa scene with the Christ Child today!"
The true meaning of Christmas now can be seen,
As we look on the Christ Child in each Nativity scene.
Remember Christ the Saviour upon this Christmas Day!
Feed the hungry, share His love with those you meet along the way!
Today�s devotional was written Valerie McDonald.
"But the Lord is in His Holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him.� Habakkuk 2:20.
Several years ago the Lord called me to minister to a friend dying of cancer in Payson, Arizona. We had been sisters in Christ for years, and although I was reluctant, I sold all and went.
Watching a beautiful 44 year old woman deteriorate under an illness is one of the most horrible things I have endured as a saint. But there I was called by God, knowing no one, working 20 hours 7 days a week, with little or no help; and raising a 10 year.
After 5 months or so, I became angry! Really angry! The hours were grueling, the pain ever increasing, the isolation looming, and on every side darkness trying to enter in. "How could God allow this," I thought. She's a lovely saint, she's brought many to Christ, and continued to surrender her life to you, Lord. Why??
While walking the dog later that day, I entered into the forest and began screaming at God. What's going on here! How can you allow this? Why won't you heal her? Where are you? Where are your people?? Why haven't you responded to our prayers! ....and on and on I went. While the final words of complaint were coming from my mouth the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart Habakkuk 2:20, "But the Lord is in His Holy Temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him". "What?" I thought, and instantly peace came over me like a flood. I stood there captured and silent in the peace and presence of God. It was lovely. I wanted to stay right there in that forest in that moment for hours; but I couldn't.
Did God's response answer my questions? No. Did God change the circumstances? No, as a matter of fact, they got worse. But what did happen to me in that moment was that God allowed me to be "in silence before Him" and He quieted my spirit and gave me the ability to rest in Him under great trial. Did that change anything? Yes! It changed me! From that point on, even though it continued to be painful and horrible; I understood God was there, and He was offering me rest in this place in life.
Knowing God is there; and that He is ruling over all the earth is a mindset we believers need to keep. It brings peace. Peace we so desperately need to endure this world while we continue to work for His Kingdom and the saving of souls. I want to encourage you, get silent before the Lord and enjoy His peace offered to you, his beloved child.
Today�s devotional was written by Jolie Leeann.
�LET NOT your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.� John 14:1-3
As I was walking from across the street back home, it was very cold outside and I was freezing. I knew that just ahead was my house, warm and comforting waiting for me. It didn't seem so bad knowing that my house was just up ahead, but if I had been out in the middle of that cold with no warm house to go into to warm up in, I would have become miserable and probably would have just gave up and froze!
This is the same as our lives as Christians. We may feel like we are out in the cold, with many trials and hardships, but if we just keep our eyes focused on our heavenly home that is waiting to welcome us in with open arms, full of warmth and comfort, then our trials and tribulations don't seem that bad, because when we get home, it will be worth it!
If we were wandering around in life with no expectations of a heavenly home with Jesus, we would want to eventually just give up because of all the hardships. But we have a home and it is waiting. Jesus has prepared a place for us. We need to keep ourselves focused on the Kingdom of heaven and we can get through anything.
�A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. by this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:34-35).�
This morning at the beginning of the hearings in the US House of Representatives Rep. Henry Hyde spoke of the rule of law. He noted that through the evolution of the rule of law we now have freedom from abuse of power by a king or dictator. God�s laws in the Old Testament primarily the ten commandments were meant for the good of the people. Keeping those laws were for your own good.
Law, however, can be cold and unbending. The law rolls on like a bulldozer with a life of its own. The law says you die for murder, you die. The law says you die for stealing, you die. The law says you die for rebellion against your parents, you die. The law says you die for adultery, you die. In the New Testament we are told in Romans 6:23 that, �... the wages of sin is death.� Also in Romans 3:23, �For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.�
According to the Law we should all die for our sins. I am thankful, however, that there has been an amendment to the Law. It is an amendment of Love. Through love we can have forgiveness of our sins. It was love that brought Jesus down from the glories of Heaven to the humbleness of a stables and a carpenter�s family. It was love that drove Jesus to and through the cross. That love will reach into the darkest of hearts and bring light and life if it is invited. The rule of love overwhelms the rule of law to bring life. Is the rule of love reigning in your life?
�There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day: And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores, and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man�s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores (Luke 16:19-23).�
The rest of the story tells us that the rich man (Sometimes the rich man is called Dives because that is the Latin word for rich.) died and went to Hell and Lazarus died and went to Heaven. We have to wonder what the rich man�s sin was? He didn�t do anything to deliberately make the life of Lazarus more difficult. He didn�t kick or yell at Lazarus. He did allow Lazarus to lay at his gate and receive the scraps from his table. It appears that Dives was simply too busy looking after number one to even notice Lazarus. To Dives, Lazarus simply blended in with the landscape.
Lazarus reminds me very much of the homeless we have in this country today. While I was in California there were many homeless living there on the coast. At the church where I preached there is a school that goes out and picks up homeless children every day. They teach the children, feed them, and clothe them. I read in the paper just today that the number of homeless children in this country has increased by 15 percent.
Let us not become callous and indifferent and allow these children to simply blend in with the landscape. Today to the homeless, we (the non-homeless) appear to be �living another day in paradise.�
�Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ... (Philippians 1:27a).�
�Conversation� as used here means much more than our speech. As it is used here the word means our total way of life which would include: words; thoughts; attitudes; and, our actions. Philippi was a colony of Rome and as such it mirrored the capital city. The government of Philippi, the dress of the people, the architecture, the very way the people lived was modeled after that of Rome.
Paul seems to be saying as the people around you pattern and identify themselves with the city of Rome - you need to do the same but after the people of the city of God. The city of God is the unseen city of Heaven which the book of Revelation calls New Jerusalem. That�s the way the great servants of God lived their lives. Moses lived his life in that way. The Bible says in Hebrews 11:27 about Moses that he endured by �seeing Him who is invisible.� That�s the way Abraham lived. In Hebrews 11:10 the Bible says about Abraham, �He looked forward to the city...whose builder and maker is God.�
The city of God right now is filled with people described in the book of Hebrews as, �the spirits of just men made perfect.� That must be our goal. That must be the pattern for our lives. As we model ourselves after perfection we will tend to become more like that model. As we remember our citizenship is in Heaven and that we are strangers and aliens upon this earth we will have strength to endure the hardships here. Let us look forward to that city whose builder and maker is God!
Today�s devotional was written by Dawn Braun.
�No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, and their righteousness is of me, saith the LORD (Isaiah 54:17).�
One night I had a dream. In this dream, I was sitting on my couch. I happened to see out of the corner of my eye, a shadow walking by my window outside. I thought to myself, �a robber is going to try to break in.� I went to investigate, and I saw nothing. I went outside and saw that my dog was barking and looking up towards the very top of my roof. I went to the front of the house and I looked up. When I did, I saw satan standing there. He had piled beside him some round things that resembled grapefruit, possibly small cannonballs. (I had absolutely no fear of him). When he saw me, he began to throw them at me. Every one of the cannonballs he threw missed me. They would go around me, hit the ground or would come as far as my forehead without touching me, and bounce back hitting Satan and knocking him down. I then went to the side of the house and prayed that the Lord would send an angel. When I prayed that prayer, immediately, an angel appeared and began to beat up the devil. At the end of the dream they were busy fighting one another.
About three years ago, the Lord gave me that dream. It was the beginning of trials and tribulations for me and my immediate family. Things have happened that I never dreamed would happen to me. I even fell into a very deep depression and contemplated taking my life. That had never happened to me before. I even questioned God's existence and my salvation.
All during this time, I knew one thing: God is on my side. I could have given up and turned my back on God and blamed him for it. I could have drowned myself in drugs, and booze. But I knew my God, that He delivers us, and helps us in a time when we can not help ourselves. I knew that the Word of God is truth and that he cannot lie, no matter what the circumstances held.
The Lord had told me during that time that "NO WEAPON FORMED AGAINST ME WOULD PROSPER" and that �BEHOLD I GIVE YOU POWER TO TREAD ON SERPENTS AND SCORPIONS AND OVER ALL THE POWER OF THE ENEMY, AND NOTHING SHALL BY ANY MEANS HURT YOU (Luke 10:19)�
There are times when we feel that God has abandoned us. Those are the times when he wants us to seek him. It seems like He is playing hide and seek sometimes, because those are the times, when He tests what is in our hearts. Tests and trials aren't any fun. But when you are being taught by the Holy Spirit, He will teach you what He wants you to know and give you strength to overcome obstacles that the devil tries to put in your way.
�For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again.... (Proverbs 24:16).�
What do you do when the deal you hoped for falls through, when the love of your life walks out and slams the door, when the house of your dreams burns down and you don�t have insurance, when the policeman comes to your door and tells you your child is in jail for selling cocaine or even worse? What do you do when your dreams fall apart and there�s no way to put them back together again?
The natural response after we lose a job, we lose a loved one or some bad thing happens in our life is to become angry with God or even to turn away from Him. Many, many have chosen that response. But the just person rises up again. When things are falling apart around us we must remember God�s love never fails and Jesus continued on even to and through the cross. Jesus rose from the dead, triumphant!
When our dreams fall apart we need to hold onto God�s love and believe that no matter what this old world may throw at us things will work out for the very best for us in the eternal end. The just man may fall, may encounter obstacles, may experience tragedies but the just man through Christ will rise again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again, and again (Seven is a number symbolizing perfection which would mean that no matter how many times a just man falls he will rise again.).
"To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:79)."
As a parole officer (before I was a pastor) I would often go into spiritually dark places. Sometimes it would be into bars trying to find someone or it would be into homes that weren't really homes. The darkness was so great and is so great in so many lives. But God knew that, He knows that. That is why Jesus came to be born in a manger. That is why God Himself came down from the glories of Heaven to walk upon this earth in flesh. So that light could come into the darkened and near death lives of the people on planet earth.
If you have ever worked all night the sun is such a welcome sight. The sun as it arises seems to give new strength and chases the darkness away. In Luke 1:78, Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, calls the unborn Jesus the "Dayspring." Jesus is the "Dayspring" that will chase away the darkness just as does the rising sun. In Malachi, Jesus is the Sun of Righteousness.
Have you been in the darkness, sitting in the shadow of death itself? Why not let the "Dayspring" forth in your life and allow the Sun of Righteousness to bring new light, new life into your heart?
Capitola, California is located on the Monterey Bay with the Pacific ocean stretching out to the west as far as the eye can see. But strangely enough when we were taking some photos prior to leaving we noticed that the early morning sun was rising in the west!?!?! It had to be the west didn�t it, because the sun was rising over the Pacific Ocean which had to be in the west didn�t it??
Jeanie had her directions confused the whole time she was in Capitola but I always knew which way I was going because the ocean was always in the west. Suddenly I realized that what I had considered to be west, what I felt to be west, could not be west. It had to be east! As I have looked at a map of the Monterey Bay the land wraps around so that in the area we were the ocean actually was to the east.
I felt like the ocean was to the west. It looked like the ocean lay out to the west. In my mind I knew that the ocean had to be in the west. But the truth was I was wrong. Even though it felt right. It looked right and my knowledge said it was right, but I was wrong. The truth was different from what my human emotions, sight and knowledge said was right.
Much of the Christian experience is similar. I may not feel like I am saved. I may not look like I have been born again and human wisdom would say that it is not possible but the Bible says in John 1:12, �But as many as received him (Jesus), to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.�
The Christian disciplines of prayer, Bible study and church attendance seem like a waste of time to the human non-Christian mind. To the non-Christian those things don�t look like they could possibly be of any value. The non-Christian doesn�t feel anything good when they think about praying, or reading the Bible or going to church. But for the children of God we know the truth is that in those resources of God we find immense value.
Even as Christians many times we feel like we can�t go on when faced with difficult circumstances. Those circumstances look overwhelming and our mind tells us there is no way so we might as well give up. The truth as Paul would tell us is, �I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.�
The next time east looks like west we best get out our compass, the Word of God, and determine what is the truth of the situation.
Today�s devotional was written by Jolie Leeann.
Visit Jolie's website at: http://servant.gentle.org/Jolie
�But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.� Matthew 6:33.
I received my bank statement in the mail and noticed at the top of the bank statement it read, "With Member Vantages, the stronger your relationship with us, the greater the rewards." The bank claims if you will come to them for your loans and financial business, then you will reap great rewards from them.
This reminded me of our relationship with God. If we seek a stronger relationship with Jesus and seek Him daily, putting Him first, His blessings begin to pour out to us. Trusting in Him with the smallest details of our lives and taking everything to Him in prayer brings God closer to us. Only through a close relationship with God will we be able to take part in all the rewards He has for us here.
�Come near to God and he will come near to you....� James 4:8
Never can we experience all God has to offer us in our lives until we put Him first and seek that close relationship with Him that He wants with us.
So the stronger your relationship with God, the greater the rewards!
Today�s devotional was written by Dawn Braun.
�The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower (Psalm 18:2).�
When you make the Lord your "high tower" there are several possibilities:
1. You are ABOVE your circumstances.
2. You can SEE beyond your circumstances.
3. You can SEE higher than your circumstances.
4. You can LOOK down on your circumstances.
5. Your circumstances are no longer bigger than you or over you, because they are UNDER YOUR FEET!
Many today are searching for a way out. They are under their circumstances and are being crushed by the weight of overwhelming problems. They do not know that there is a refuge in the "high tower" known as JESUS CHRIST. If they would run to that tower, that secret hiding place, then the problem they are going through would seem so much smaller.
In the "high tower", we can see things as God sees them. Let's all go to the RCCK where there is safety in times of trouble.
Copyright 1998. 1999. Ed Wrather. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for use of this material on a non-profit basis with source noted.