The Burning Bush Devotional
�Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.�
�Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, �Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.��
�And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: �Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!��
�So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, �Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.� And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.� - Luke 2:1-18.
Jesus Christ may not have been chosen as the man of the century by Time magazine but He is more than that. Jesus Christ is the man of Millenniums, the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He is the Alpha and the Omega and He loves you!!
In two millenniums there has been no more marvelous news given to mankind. We have a Savior!! I would submit to you that in the coming millennium there will be no news more important or marvelous than that given 2000 years ago.
A Change in Plans
�Come now, you who say, �Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit�; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, �If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.�� - James 4:13-15.
Just prior to the morning service yesterday I was reminded again of the providence of God. We had made our plans. It seemed as the date had been set that this would be the only time. So our choir had been practicing and the preparations had been made for the Christmas Cantata to be performed. I had also been preparing. I had prepared for a short devotional message after the program, which was along the same theme. Our plans and preparations had been made but God had other plans.
About 30 minutes prior to the start of the morning worship service I was informed that our worship leader was ill. Greg was so ill that he had to leave which I think is a first for him and us. Our assistant worship leader had called earlier and was also ill and would not be able to come to the church. The decision was immediately made to return to the normal order of service. A man who has rarely led our choir would direct it. I had been planning to preach a sermon for the Sunday after Christmas, which was suddenly the only choice for this day. All went well with our service except for a few minor glitches. We all knew that God was at work and there were those present who needed to hear the message that was presented.
Sometimes even our best plans and preparations may be overruled by God. We must be alert to what He wants to accomplish. The Bible makes it clear that we are only here on this earth for a short time. We have only one opportunity to see God�s will be done in our lives. Even though the world calls, the world beckons, the world allures, we must stay the course. The course is God�s plan, God�s will, God�s call upon our lives.
The Burning Bush Devotional
�Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one�s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one�s work, of what sort it is.� - I Corinthians 3:12-13.
Most of us have heard of the bonfire tragedy at Texas A&M University. We wonder how such a thing could happen and some have suggested poor supervision along with a lack of construction according to proven designs used in the past as the cause. Now there is new information that has been brought forward suggesting the entire structure was leaning. Doug Keegan, a senior applied mathematics major, superimposed a grid over the photos of the stack and discovered what he believes was a slack in the support cables on one side of the stack. There also appears to be a slight bow in the center pole. One student involved in the construction said that shortly before the collapse the stack did appear to be slightly leaning. The dean of Baylor University�s engineering and computer sciences school believes the uneven distribution of weight may explain the collapse. He also stated that the method and materials used in building the stack made it �a very complicated structure.�
Only a slight leaning of the stack appears to have resulted in its collapse. What is true of bonfire stacks is also true of the human life. We are instructed to build carefully upon the foundation (I Corinthians 3:11) our Lord has lain. �But let each one take heed how he builds on it (I Corinthians 3:10b).� If we do not use the proper materials and construction techniques our human lives will come tumbling down just as surely as did the A&M bonfire stack.
With what should we build our lives? The apostle Paul recommends �So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified (Acts 20:32).� Solomon says �Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established (Proverbs 24:3).� From where does wisdom and understanding come? The Psalmist tells us �The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever (Psalm 111:10).�
If your life was a building and the Lord was a building inspector would you pass the inspection? Or would He find some shoddy construction, which has resulted in a life that is leaning?
Time For God
�So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.� - Exodus 24:18.
Do you know what two people did for 34 hours, 11 minutes, and 37 seconds over the weekend? It is commonly known as a kiss but in their case there must be another name for maintaining lip contact for such a long time. Rotterdam�s Baja Beach Club organized the event in an attempt to break the world record. 13 couples competed with the goal of maintaining lip contact while standing and to do so longer than the rest. The first couple dropped out at the two-hour mark. The winning couple, Neli van der Hoeven and Wanderley Costa e Silva received 6,900 dollars (equivalent of) in prize money. The club spokeswoman Pitra van der Laar said of the contestants, �During the first few hours, they kissed out of love, but during the last few you could tell they were in it to win.�
Isn�t it interesting how we usually find time to do the things we want to do? Not only do we find the time but we also find the energy to do those things. One of the things many of us have a desire to do but seem unable to accomplish is the spending of more time with our Lord. We have a desire to have the quiet time, to pray and to study His Word more but we don�t seem to be able to fit it into our schedule. There are so many things we have to do. We have to work; there are the family responsibilities, church responsibilities, and community responsibilities. By the time we finish with everything else we have little energy for a quiet time unless it includes sleep.
How was it that Moses was able to spend forty days and forty nights on the top of Mount Sinai? How was Jesus able to spend forty days and nights fasting in the wilderness? Moses and Jesus were supernaturally empowered by God. God provides supernatural energy for seeking Him and serving Him. Reorganize your priorities. Wake up thirty minutes earlier and spend that time with God. God will then provide the energy you need for everything else during the day. It is a matter of faith. Do you believe God has the power? If so do you believe He can and will do it in your life?
Time For Action
�And the Lord said to Moses, �Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.�� - Exodus 14:15-16.
Pharaoh had allowed the Israelites to leave after the final plague of death upon the first born sons of Egypt. But then Pharaoh had a change of heart and decided he would reclaim his slaves. He has them trapped between his chariots and the Red Sea. Soon he will either have them as his slaves or will destroy them all. For Moses and the Israelites it is a time of urgency and Moses knows their deliverance lies in the strong arm of the Lord. Moses has been trained by God and given the instrument needed to bring about their deliverance. God in effect says to Moses, �Don�t waste time talking to me when you know what to do. Use the rod I have given you.� Some situations are so urgent that we must pray as we go. In some situations we do not have time for a week of fasting and praying. Instead we must depend upon the instruction in righteousness that we have been given and the leadership of the Holy Spirit as we move forward in action.
John Eliot (1604-1609) is called the �Apostle to the native Americans.� His translation of the Bible into Algonquin was the first Bible printed in the United States. He visited Native American tribes throughout New England. He preached, taught, and baptized. John Eliot once said, �We must not sit still and look for miracles; up and be doing, and the Lord will be with thee. Prayer and pains, through faith in Christ Jesus will do anything.�
Dwight L. Moody was another man of action. Once when he was discussing and idea for outreach with a church leader he asked the man, �What do you think?� �We�ve been aimin� to do it for two years,� the church leader replied. �Well now,� says Moody, �don�t you think it�s time to fire?�
Has God been speaking to you about something He wants you to do? Maybe it is time to do something!
Lover of Souls
�By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.� - I John 3:16.
Julia Hill has literally been up a tree for the past two years. The name of the tree is �Luna.� It is an old growth redwood 15 feet across and 18 stories tall. �Luna� is representative of the trees Julia and others want to see saved from the logging companies. Julia has endured much trying to save these trees. She cooks meals on a propane stove, takes sponge baths, uses a bucket for a bathroom, and is never completely warm during the winter. To deal with temperatures in the 40s this past week she was already wearing several layers of clothing. She communicates with the outside world through a cell phone. What she misses most is the ground beneath her feet. Many have come to the tree to talk with Julia including Woody Harrelson, Bonnie Raitt, and Joan Baez. For the love of a tree Julia has gone above and beyond what most have ever done before.
We now know what some will do for the love of a tree. What would someone do for the love of a soul? Would they give up the comfort of riches to live in poverty? Would they give up a pain free life to ultimately die an excruciating death? Yes, they would!! Jesus did exactly that because God �so loved the world (John 3:16)� that Jesus came �to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10).� True disciples of Jesus have been following His example ever since.
We may not love trees as much as Julia but we ought to have a love for the souls around us. What can we do? We can pray for those lost souls. We can pray for opportunities and make opportunities to witness to them. We can pray for more workers for the harvest fields. We can demonstrate our love through acts of compassion and kindness. We can pray and give to support those who are reaching the lost. Shouldn�t we have at least as much passion for souls as Julia has for trees?
The Silent World
The headline says �World Silent as Russia Hits Chechnya.� Many countries including Islamic nations have condemned Russia�s aggressive campaign against Chechnya. But none are threatening the immediate institution of sanctions or any other punitive measures. So far it has all been words as far as trying to stop Russia�s attack. We know there are reasons. Russia is fragile and has been attacked by terrorists. It is also about economics. Who is going to control the oil in that area of the world? Russia or this little Chechnya? If we let Russia get by with this; then, they will be on our side when there is an issue, which really matters to us.
How does this relate to you or to me? It is a picture of the individuals who make up the nations. We are a silent world when it comes too much smaller matters as well. At the current time there is a very aggressive campaign in the United States against the homeless. Much like Chechnya they are small and defenseless. Much like Chechnya there are few standing up to help protect them or to try and make life better for them. We throw out our crumbs and think we have done our part.
In your world it may not be the homeless it may be someone else. It may be that in your world there is someone who is handicapped who needs protection or help. It may be someone who needs that cup of water in the Name of Jesus. It may be someone who needs clothes in the Name of Jesus or is in prison and needs your visit. Will we continue to remain silent as the enemy devours victim after victim? Who are these victims? Jesus says: �For I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me: I was in prison and you came to Me (Matthew 25:35-36).�
The Burning Bush Devotional
We Know Why
�You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.� - Matthew 5:13-16.
We know why we continue to have school shootings, work place shootings, domestic violence and all the rest. The situation in the United States is symptomatic of its citizens. The United States says on its currency �In God We Trust.� Yet, at the same time the government tries to strip morality through the separation of church and state doctrine. In the place or religious morality is left some kind of bland humanist nonsense, which tries to justify the lack of morality in the name of human progress. But if we look at the citizens of this country we see much the same. The majority of the people of the United States say they believe in God. They just don�t live it with their lives.
As a result of our lip service to God we have millions of babies being murdered every year in the name of expedience. We call it abortion but God calls it murder. We have violence on television, in movies, in video games, in our homes, in our work places, on the streets, and even in our churches. Our national sport is football and basketball is a close second, which is sometimes like football without the pads. That�s not even to mention ice hockey, or wrestling, or boxing, or the martial arts! How could a nice boy who is an honor student and goes to church point a gun at his fellow students and begin firing? Wake up America! We know why! The question is when will we do something about it?
Edward Gibbon in �The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire� says there were several major causes for the decline and then the fall of the Roman Empire. Here are a few of them:
1. The mounting desire for pleasure and the brutalization of sports.
2. The breakdown of the family and the increase of divorce.
3. The decay of religion into many confusing forms, leaving the people without a uniform faith.
This country can change. This world can change. It begins with each one of us. We let our light shine. We become the salt that preserves. We begin with ourselves and branch out from there. What will you do today to make this a better world?
�In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence, and his children will have a place of refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to turn one away from the snares of death.� - Proverbs 14:26-27.
Ft. Gibson, Oklahoma was the scene of another school shooting yesterday morning. Four students were injured but none of the injuries is life threatening. A fourteen-year-old boy drove himself to school and with a 9mm handgun opened fire on the students waiting enter the school. He emptied the clip and was still pulling the trigger when the gun was taken away from him. Miraculous is a word that immediately comes to mind. Miraculous that none were killed. Miraculous that more were not injured. Mary Kay Henderson, a parent being interviewed by a news organization said, �...the prayers that those parents put up every morning protected those children.�
This morning counselors will be at the school to help the students and teachers cope with this horror that has overtaken them. But last night they were in the churches of the community receiving comfort and encouragement from the Lord. Many of the parents recognized that God is the One who is our refuge. He is the only One who can provide protection in the midst of this wicked and depraved world in which we live. We all need that protection. As the father of one of the victims said �if it can happen in Ft. Gibson it can happen anywhere.�
God is a refuge for those who fear Him. In the Old Testament, cities of refuge (Numbers 35:6) were set up for those who had unintentionally killed someone. If that happened they knew their only hope of safety was to run to one of those cities to escape that wrath of the victim�s family. Our only hope of safety for our families and ourselves today is to run to the place of refuge. God is the only place of refuge. We must run to Him each day. We must pray with our families, study God�s Word with our families, and be in church faithfully with our families. Sending our children to church is not enough. They need to see our example. They must know that we do indeed have a �fear of the Lord.�
�And Jesus answered and said to them: �Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, �I am the Christ,� and will deceive many.� - Matthew 24:4-5.
�For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.� - II Corinthians 11:13-15.
Moral deception is becoming more and more common. Instead of adultery we have an �affair.� Instead of homosexuals we have the �alternative lifestyle.� Drug addicts are �substance abusers.� Drunks are �intoxicated.� Pornographers are �movie producers.� Trash has become �art.�
To more fully understand the nature of deception here are some synonyms for deception and their definitions:
Fraud - Always implies guilt and often criminality in act or practice.
Double-dealing - Suggests treachery or at least action contrary to a professed attitude.
Subterfuge - Suggests the adoption of a stratagem or the telling of a lie in order to escape guilt or to gain an end.
Trickery - Implies ingenious acts intended to dupe or cheat.
I Peter 5:8 tells us to �Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.� We must be vigilant and aware that the devil uses fraud, double-dealing, subterfuge, and trickery to capture and devour his prey.
What should we do? �Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you (I Peter 5:9-10).�
�In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.� - I John 4:9-11.
On CBS morning news there is a feature that I have watched a few times about how everyone has a story. A dart is thrown at a map of the United States and then when the news crew arrives at the geographical spot they randomly pick a name from the phone book for their story. However, most of those interviewed do not seem to think anyone would be interested in their story. But it is interesting how the stories of the lives of these people picked at random are often so very moving. Each one could be made into a movie which would be just as dramatic as most of the ones on the screens today. As I have looked at those around me I know it is true, every one of us has a story. There is an importance, and significance about the lives we live.
You may think that no one cares about your story or about what you are going through. But you are wrong! God cares! Not only does He care; He knows exactly what you are going through. Your story is important to Him. Your life matters to Him. He knows your thoughts and your feelings. He knows the number of hairs on your head. He feels the beat of your heart. He cries when you cry. He rejoices when you rejoice. He hurts when you hurt. Through Jesus Christ, God is not only watching your story but He is involved. He�s part of the story line as he walks with you through the scenes of each day of your life.
The next time you are hurting, the next time you think no one cares, the next time someone stabs you in the back, the next time.... Remember that God cared so much that He allowed His only Son to suffer and die so that you might be a part of His family. Your story is important to God. You are important to God. Your life is greatly treasured by God. He loves you. God, the Creator of the Universe, loves you!
The Kingdom of Heaven
�The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Therefore go into the highways, and as many as you find, invite to the wedding. So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.� - Matthew 22:8-10.
The wedding feast of the Lamb is drawing closer and closer. In Revelation 19:9 we are told, �Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!� Who will be in the Kingdom of Heaven? All those who respond to the invitation and are clothed with the wedding clothes will be in the Kingdom of Heaven. What are the wedding clothes? In Matthew 22:11-14 is the description of a guest who refused to put on the wedding clothes: �But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, �Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?� And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, �Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.� For many are called but few are chosen.�
It was the custom of royalty during the time of Jesus to give beautiful robes to those attending their parties or feasts to wear while in attendance. The robes were luxurious and when they left the robes would be collected. In the parable Jesus tells the king has passed out the robes so everyone would be properly dressed. One man even though he wanted to attend the party refused to put on the proper clothes. What is the King�s robe? It is the Robe of Righteousness that can be ours through the turning from sin and receiving Christ as our Savior. Isaiah says, �I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a Robe of Righteousness (Isaiah 61:10).� In Revelation chapter three we are given a view of those whose names are written in the Lamb�s Book of Life and everyone is wearing a white robe.
Perhaps life�s greatest question is have you accepted the King�s invitation and been clothed with the Robe of Righteousness?
Times of Tribulation
�These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.� - John 16:33.
Scenes similar to the years of Vietnam protests were flashing on our television screens yesterday. The setting was the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle Washington. Most of the protestors were peaceful, however, there were still those involved in destruction of property. Pepper spray, tear gas, curfew, city police, state troopers, and national guardsmen appear to have restored order. Thousands of teamsters were there protesting. Cab drivers struck in sympathy along with longshoremen. (Please note many are protesting and were there because their legitimate concerns about the WTO have not been addressed.) London, England also experienced a smaller version of the civil disobedience, which was taking place in Seattle.
With the Y2K problem nearly upon us we begin to have a sense of the potential for disruption of normal life. We begin to ask the �What If� questions. What if it is not just Y2K but other disruptions as well, which begin occurring? What if the marking of a new millennium brings out those who have been on the sidelines looking for an opportunity to cause problems? We could see yesterday that there are many groups just waiting for an opportunity. An opportunity for what? An opportunity to grab a little power, an opportunity to vent their frustrations, an opportunity to have a forum for their views, an opportunity to get even, and I am sure there are many other reasons as well.
With the approach of the new millennium we face the most uncertain period the world as a whole has faced in many years. With all of the assurances of our leaders and others in regard to Y2K we still do not really know what is going to happen. Most of us think that we will go to sleep in 1999 and wake up in the year 2000 with little or anything happening. We pray that will be true. But still there is the uncertainty. I for one am glad and rejoice that I do not have to face these uncertainties by myself. For I know that whatever else may happen one thing will still be true on January 1, 2000. That one thing is that God will still be God. We who know Jesus, as our Savior will still be His children and His precious Word will still be true. In a time of uncertainty let us live out our faith before those around us. This may very well be a time of great opportunity to win souls into the Kingdom. Let us not forget.
Your Real Age
�Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.� - Psalm 42:11 KJV.
A question we sometimes have asked and sometimes avoid is: How old are you? What is the actual numbers of years you have lived and breathed? Another question we are hearing more these days is: What is your real age? How old are you in terms of health? If you are 50 is your �real age� 40 or is it 60 or 70? Real age dot com has a questionaire which they claim will give your real age. I was a little healthier than I thought at 4.1 years below my actual age. Real age dot com also will help you plan to improve your real age by increasing healthy habits and reducing bad ones. I haven�t gotten that far but I suspect they would also like to sell us some products.
Our society is health and beauty conscious in every way. We are bombarded with information about how to stay healthy and how to be beautiful. Realage and Drkoop are only a few of the more recent entries providing such information. It is easy in the midst of trying to live a healthy lifestyle and present an acceptable appearance to lose focus. The greatest beauty and health secret of all is available for free and seems to be continually neglected. The Psalmist knew that God was the health of his countenance. Solomon knew about this health secret as well. In Proverbs 3:7-8 we are told, �Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones.�
What is your real age? In terms of eternity if we have been born again it does not matter whether we are 20 or 90 because when we�ve been there ten thousand years we�ll have no less days to sing His praise.
Love Overcomes All
�This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.� - John 15:12.
It always warms my heart when I hear of how love overcomes. The title of one article in the paper today is �Daughter�s love unites husband, father.� The daughter fell in love and married, Sean, who is a paraplegic because of a motorcycle accident. She says he reminded her of her father who has health problems as a result of a wound received in Vietnam. Chanda�s parents initially resisted the relationship but now there is an increasing bond of love between them. It may have something to with Sean and Chanda�s Dad both being new Christians.
Dwight L. Moody the great evangelist of the latter part of the 19th Century said, �I took up that word Love, and I do not know how many weeks I spent in studying the passages in which it occurs, till at last I could not help loving people. I had been feeding on love so long that I was anxious to do everybody good I came in contact with. I got full of it. It ran out my fingers. You take up the subject of love in the Bible. You will get so full of it that all you have to do is to open your lips, and a flood of the Love of God flows out.�
Have a relationship problem? Try filling up with the Love of God.
The Burning Bush Devotional
�In whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?� - Job 12:10.
Some of us have a hard time remembering names, or important dates, or a lot of other things as well. But some people seem to have a memory problem when it comes to God. And that can be dangerous. What is it that we do approximately 18 times a minute, 1,080 times an hour, 25,920 times a day and barely even notice? We breathe. It is dangerous to forget about God but I�m not saying He won�t give you your next breath if you forget about Him. He could but that is not what I am saying. I liked what Billy Graham said in this month�s Decision magazine. He pointed out the real danger of forgetting about God when he said, �Nothing turns us into bitter, selfish, dissatisfied people more quickly than an ungrateful heart.� How very true!
In the United States we celebrate a great holiday tomorrow, Thanksgiving. I really am surprised in all the worldliness of this country that we still have a national holiday of the religious significance of this one. It must be a difficult holiday for some. Dante Rossetti said, �The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank.� Today I am thankful and I am so very thankful that I have a Divine Creator who is such a loving, merciful, gracious God to thank. We praise you Lord!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
�So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three-day journey in extent. And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day�s walk. The he cried out and said, �Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!� So the people of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them.� - Jonah 3:3-4.
When I was in the eighth grade I had the unpleasant experience of attending shop class with a bully. He was a head or two taller than any of us. He had failed a couple of grades and moved to our little school from a large school in California. His name was Gene Bass. Gene�s entertainment consisted of making life miserable for others. Each day he would pick on someone. My turn finally came when he had me down on the ground hitting me and there was absolutely nothing that I could do. Gene moved after that year and I have not heard what became of him. For several years even after becoming a Christian I could have cared less about what had happened to Gene.
Jonah had a problem with an even larger bully. The bully was the evil place called Nineveh. We know the story. The word of the Lord came to Jonah to go and preach in that evil place. Jonah we know refused until he had a little attitude adjustment in the belly of the great fish. The word of the Lord came to Jonah again and the second time Jonah went to Nineveh and there was a great revival. Jonah only had a one-sentence sermon but it was enough to bring the city to its knees.
What was the biggest obstacle to revival in Nineveh? Jonah was the biggest obstacle. One self-righteous person stood in the way of the greatest revival of the ancient world. The word of the Lord came to me about my bully. He has been on my prayer list for many years now. I do not know where he is but God does. Any old bullies, antagonists, Nineveh�s you�re still having bad thoughts about?
Stir It Up
�Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you....� - II Timothy 1:6.
Another translation renders II Timothy 1:6 as, �Fan into flame the gift of God which is in you.� I am reminded of the fire on the altar of burnt offering. In Leviticus 6, God instructed five times that the fire on the altar of burnt offering was never to go out. It was a continuous process to keep the fire burning. The tendency of fire is to go out as the fuel necessary for burning is used up. God provides the fire, but we have to keep it burning.
If you were to take a look at your life was there a time when you were more on fire for God than you are now? Looking at my own life I know that in the past I have been more on fire for God than I am at this point. God always is faithful to provide the empowerment necessary for serving and living the Christian life. However, we are not always faithful to keep the flames stirred up. We are not always faithful to use fully the gifts that God has bestowed upon us.
Charles Finney said that personal revival for the Christian is a �new beginning of obedience to God.� He says, �Just as in the case of a converted sinner, the first step is a deep repentance, a breaking down of heart, a getting down in the dust before God, with deep humility and a forsaking of sin.� Do you have a desire for obedience to God? Do you have a desire to have the fire blazing as it once was? Then, there is still a spark of God�s fire. A few small embers are enough to spark a tremendous fire. Stir it up! Let us fan that spark into a roaring fire of personal revival.
�Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.� - I Peter 5:8-9.
There has been a new Christian scandal, which has surfaced in the United States. The president of conservative Hillsdale College in Michigan has resigned. He resigned after his daughter-in-law confessed a 19 year long affair. She has since committed suicide. It is shocking and at the same time so very sad for this family and for this college. This scandal is only the most recent of a continuing saga of well-known Christians to have their immoralities publicly exposed.
Billy Graham has done some research, which reportedly shows at least 90 percent of Christians in the US are living defeated spiritual lives. The scandal at Hillsdale is shocking but does it really surprise us? It should serve as a warning of our own human weakness and fallibility. 90 percent living defeated spiritual lives? Most likely this includes some of us and if so how long before we crash and burn as well?
We must be constantly vigilant of our own spiritual condition. We must be constantly alert against the advances of the world into our lives. We must make a stand. We must put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:11). We must take full advantage of all the resources of God (Jesus - Philippians 4:19). We must not neglect the Word, prayer, and the church. To do so is to invite spiritual disaster. To say that we are not susceptible is spiritual pride. Maybe that is why just prior to I Peter 5:8 we are told in verses 5 through 7, �God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.�
Change Your Life
�Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think (imagine), according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.� - Ephesians 3:20-21.
In prison Rev. Dr. Hristo Kulichev of Bulgaria says he had no right to read the Bible. His watch and pen were confiscated along with every tiny bit of paper. The only thing they could not take away from him was prayer. He says, �In prison I realized how cunningly Satan works in our lives when we have freedom, keeping us busy with all kinds of things that give us less time to pray.� (From �What I learned in prison about prayer� - Light, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, 901 Commerce, #550, Nashville, TN 37203-3696)
How true Dr. Kulichev�s observation is! Prayer does not just happen. There must be a conscious effort on the individual�s part to pray. Usually, in order to pray something else must be given up to make time for prayer. For us to have a �Sweet Hour of Prayer,� as the hymn describes prayer, what would we have to give up? What would be necessary in our lives for us to have an hour of prayer? What priorities would need to be rearranged?
I read a story in Reader�s Digest (I think the year was around 1984.) written by a woman who began to pray for an hour a day. She had to begin her day an hour earlier to spend the hour in prayer. Her testimony was that it had completely changed her life and the life of her family for the better.
What would it take for you to make a radical decision and commitment to spend an hour a day in prayer? Prison? Some terrible calamity? Dr. Kulichev says, �In prison I realized that we have the mightiest weapon given to us by God. Prayer.�
Want to change your life? Want to improve your life? Want help for your family? Need to overcome a problem, or addiction? If you will begin to pray regularly, over a sustained period of time you will find God will do, �...exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think (imagine), according to the power that works in us.�
Fear No Evil
�Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.� - Psalm 23:4.
The first medical missionary assigned to Nigeria was Dr. George Green. In 1906, Dr. Green made his way in a small ship up the Niger River. The war drums were sounding. The captain of the ship told Dr. Green, �I can�t let you continue. The different villages are threatening one another with cannibalism. The drums say, �we will kill you and eat you.� Dr. Green, you are a white man and a missionary. If I let you off the boat your life will be in great jeopardy.� Dr. Green�s response to the captain? �I have hundreds of friends in America praying for me. God has called me to this place. I have planned and prayed for this day for many years. I will proceed.�
God protected the life of Dr. Green over the next four decades. During that time he founded dozens of clinics and hospitals. He trained hundreds of medical personnel including 250 surgeons. He lost track of the numbers of people he led to Christ but the total was in the ten�s of thousands. In 1944 Dr. Green furloughed to America for the last time. He said goodbye prior to his final return to Nigeria. Finally he steamed up the same river he had come up 40 years before. As he sat on the deck he quietly thanked God for the many years of protection and blessing. But suddenly he heard a sound he had not heard in many years. War drums! He remembered the war drums of 40 years before. Dr. Green stood and listened. Tears ran down his face. From the villages along the shore he could hear the drums playing, �All hail the power of Jesus name, Let angels prostrate fall...�
The next time the cannibals are about to eat you alive remember to ask for the Lord�s protection. He can take you through the �shadow of death.� He can give you peace for �fear.� He can give you victory. His rod and His staff will comfort you.
�And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him, And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.� - I John 3:23-24.
It happened in Debary, Florida last Saturday. Drivers could see her as they drove by. She seemed to be stuck in the mud. There was so much concern that it tied up traffic for miles. They called the police wanting something done. Monday commuters were again looking for her to see if she was just laying out there or was she okay now? There was so much concern that again traffic was tied up and backed up for miles. The Florida Transportation Department knew something had to be done. They put up a lighted, flashing sign to communicate to all of these concerned drivers the following, �The Cow is Okay.�
We have to wonder if it had been a human being would there have been the same amount of concern? Now God is concerned about cattle (Jonah 4:11) but they are not made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Our concern for animals and disdain for humans may come from our experience with them. There is usually a good reason when an animal attacks and few of us have been on the receiving end. I have been chased by a cow but most people in Florida have probably not had the experience. However, nearly all of us have been on the receiving end of verbal or physical attacks from other humans.
I believe there is something in us that wants to show concern, that wants be kind, that wants to love. It is because we were made in the image of God and God is love (I John 4:8). It may be difficult (It was difficult for Jonah.) but it is God�s will and His command for us to be kind to each other and to love each other. We will never really be able to experience love until we begin to love each other. The next time we see someone stuck in the mud let us give them some help and demonstrate that we are truly made in the image of God (I John 3:18).
Flies On The Wall
�Now the king of Syria was making war against Israel; and he consulted with his servants, saying, �My camp will be in such and such a place.� And the man of God sent to the king of Israel, saying, �Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Syrians are coming down there.�� - II Kings 6:8-10.
Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley are building a tiny robot. Known affectionately as ``robofly,'' the gadget is a flying robot about the size of a housefly. It even looks a like a fly, although it will have four wings instead of two and one eye instead of two. The US government is funding the project with $2.5 million and they want to see robofly dodging flyswatters by 2004. Teresa McMullen of the Office of Naval Research said, ``the potential application of a robot based on a fly might be, in an urban environment, clandestine surveillance and reconnaissance.'' We would never have guessed Teresa! In other words, that fly might be a spy. Just the thing for keeping tabs on terrorists or citizens.
What would we do if we had to worry about the flies on our walls? The King of Syria had a problem, which was much worse. Elisha the prophet was listening in on what the King said even in his most private moments and sharing the information with the King of Israel. One of the Syrian King�s servants finally let him in on what was going on, �...Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom (II Kings 6:12).� Now this really ticked off the King of Syria and he sent his army to exterminate the prophet Elisha. But Elisha was protected by the Army of the Lord and the Syrian army was struck with blindness. The Bible states, �So the bands of Syrian raiders came no more into the land of Israel (II Kings 6:23b).�
Even if the government sends a fly to monitor our private lives God is still God. Elisha�s servant was shaking in his sandals when they were surrounded by the Syrian army until God opened his eyes and then he saw the Lord�s Army, �the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (II Kings 6:17b).� Perhaps we should be less concerned with flies on our walls and more concerned with the One who has �chariots of fire.�
Change of Course
�Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, �Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?�� - Acts 9:1-4.
Yesterday at a neighboring church there was a lady who had some car problems. Her car caught on fire as she was traveling down the highway. She made it to the church parking lot and some people called the fire department. The fire department was able to save the back tires and the gas tank but everything else was burned. She seemed to have no reason to be in the area and you have to wonder if God was involved with a car suddenly catching fire just in time to make it to a church parking lot. Could be that she was on her way to somewhere she shouldn�t have been. It may be that God stopped her. He�s been known to do that before.
Saul, soon to be known as Paul, had a similar experience. Saul was on his way to cause some major damage to the early church. Being blinded by the Lord changed his mind and the course of life. From Saul the persecutor to Paul the apostle/missionary. Quite a change! If you need a change of course in your life what would it take to bring it about? Blindness? A car fire? Illness? Would God do such a thing? I know that he has done things like that in the apostle Paul�s life. He has done things like that in my life.
Really, I don�t know whether the lady yesterday was off course with her life or not. Could have just been a coincidence. But why wait for God, or a coincidence, to change the course of your life? If you are off course with your life, and know it why not change course now?
�For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and for the Greek.� - Romans 1:16.
Southern Baptists are in trouble again. Can you believe it? They have published a booklet that urges Southern Baptists to pray for the deliverance of Hindus from the power of satan. The Southern Baptist Convention�s International Mission Board has distributed prayer guides of a similar nature in the past. Other prayer guides have asked Baptists to pray for the conversion of Jews and Muslims. More than 100 people picketed outside of Second Baptist Church; one the countries� largest Southern Baptist churches in Houston, Texas last Sunday. A Houston attorney and Hindu, Amit Misra, said �we want all people to understand that religious intolerance is rearing its head in this country.�
Can we be completely tolerant and non-offensive toward all other religions? Yes, we can be but in the process of doing so we will demonstrate that we are ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Peter said about Jesus (Acts 4:12) �Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.� If we are truly concerned about those of other religions we will love them but will be unmoved by their arguments of intolerance. There will be a price to pay. Stephen (Acts 8:58) could tell you about the cost. Paul could tell you about the cost (Acts 14:19; 2 Corinthians 11:25-27). James, the brother of John could speak of the cost (Acts12:2). There are many others who could speak of the cost (Hebrews 11:26-38) but they could tell you also of the glory of faithfulness (Hebrews 11:40).
Let us not be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ by remaining silent. Let us make it clear to all nations and peoples that �there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.�
�For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.� - Romans 8:5-6.
Stuart Briscoe tells a story about the cuckoo bird. Now the European cuckoo bird is much larger than the cuckoo birds in the United States. The mother European cuckoo bird has forgotten how to build a nest. It flies around until it sees another nest with eggs in it and no mother bird around. The cuckoo quickly lands, lays an egg there, and flies away.
The mother thrush, whose nest has been invaded, comes back and gets to work hatching the eggs. It apparently does not bother her that there is an extra egg in the nest. What happens? Four little thrushes hatch, but one large cuckoo hatches. The cuckoo is two or three times the size of the thrushes. When Mother Thrush brings to the nest one large, juicy worm, she finds four tiny thrush mouths, and one huge cuckoo mouth.
Guess, which bird, gets the worm? A full-sized thrush ends up feeding a baby cuckoo that is three times as big as it is. Over time, the bigger cuckoo gets bigger and bigger, and the smaller thrushes get smaller and smaller. Stuart says that when he was a kid he could always find a baby cuckoo�s nest. You just walked along a hedgerow until you found dead little thrushes, which the cuckoo throws out one at a time.
Spiritually we are similar to the thrushes and the cuckoo. We have two natures in one nest (i.e.: in one body). James says in James 5:19, �Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth....� I would submit to you that the primary cause of wanderers from the truth is the feeding of the sinful nature and not the spiritual nature. If we would grow spiritually then the spiritual nature must be fed. At the same time we must stop feeding the sinful nature. The sinful nature is just like the baby cuckoo. If we keep on feeding it the sinful nature will destroy us.
Which nature have you been feeding?
�And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; and they did not love their lives to the death.� - Revelation 12:11.
Last night I listened again to the testimony of evangelist Kim Schmidt. Kim tells of waking up one morning with a desire to go to church after a several day binge of drugs, alcohol, and huffing. He was frightened that he would return to a mental institution. He had imagined that a baby was being birthed in the palm of his hand. It was enough to get him to a church. He didn�t clean up and you can imagine what he looked and smelled like when he arrived at a nearby church. He didn�t know what time the services started so he arrived in time for Sunday school. Once in the class the Sunday School teacher did not condemn him. No, he just shared with Kim his own testimony of how God had saved him and taken the alcohol out of his life.
When the worship service started Kim was sitting on a back pew and a 70 year old deacon came and asked if he could sit by him. Before the service had ended Kim had given his life to Christ. Wasn�t long before his wife had given her life to Christ as well. Why did Kim go to church that day? Maybe it was because a friend sometime before had gotten saved and shared his testimony with Kim. When it had gotten bad enough Kim remembered that God had changed his friend.
Do you have a testimony? Why not share it with someone?
�I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.� - John 10:10a.
There do seem to be some moments in time when I have been more alive than other times. Visiting with a young family and the wife does not know Christ but wants to know Him. Seeing and hearing her pray to receive Christ as her Savior, I was definitely alive. Being on top of a little mountain at pre-teen camp with a group of campers. Each one shared when they had been saved. But one had not come to know Jesus as their Savior but wanted to be saved. I was alive leading her to Christ. Receiving a letter from a prison inmate thanking me because he had prayed to receive Christ and how much it meant to him. I was alive with joy.
Jesus came that we might have life. He says in Luke 19:10, �For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.� The bringing of life was not automatic. Jesus was on a mission to seek out and bring life to this world. We as His modern day disciples should have the same mission. Indeed we have a command to do so in Matthew 28:18-20. It is called the Great Commission. Maybe we should call it the Great Command, or the Great Order from the High Commander. The more obedient we are to that command the more life we will have. The more we join with Jesus in the seeking and the saving of the lost the more life we will have.
Want life? Want the abundant life? Jesus says, �The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few (Mt. 9:37).� Let us join Him in reaping the harvest and gain the abundant life.
Having A Day Seizure
�Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.� - I Thessalonians 5:16-18.
Carpe Diem meaning to seize the day seems to be a popular theme and I have written about it at least once. This morning things just were not going as I had planned and my mind seemed to be a blank as far as an idea for a devotional. Suddenly it dawned on me that I had not seized the day; instead I had been seized by the day! The day had me in its grips and was using up the minutes.
Usually that is all that happens when we are seized by the day. Time is just wasted or used in good ways but not the best ways. Sometimes the day reaches out and touches us in more frustrating ways. One day this last week a woman in Oklahoma City returned to her parked car to find a ticket on her windshield. Every car in Oklahoma is required to have an inspection sticker. On the sticker are two numbers. One number represents the month and the other represents the year. Her sticker had two zeros instead of one to represent the year 2000. She received a ticket for having two zeros. It wasn�t her fault. She had the car inspected and the inspector had placed two zeros there. She refused to pay the fifty-dollar fine and took off a morning of work with her son to go to court. She won but it was a major hassle including the lost time at work.
We�ve all had days when the unexpected and the abnormal intrude on our lives in unpleasant ways. I have heard it said many times when life gives you a lemon make lemonade. Or, in my case write a devotional about it. �Rejoice always,� Paul says. Even when the day may have you firmly in its grips there is most likely something you can rejoice about. As Christians we can always rejoice about having a Savior so wonderful as Jesus. We can rejoice, we can pray, we can thank God for the day that He has made. When you experience a day seizure take a moment to praise your God.
Fear Of The Dark
�You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.� - I John 4:4.
At Evanston, Illinois there is now a ghost cam. The web cam is located in the basement of the Willard Library where the �Lady in Gray� has reportedly been seen. One photo generated from the web cam appears to show the gray form of a woman placing a book on a shelf. Another photo appears to show a shadowy head partly hidden behind a computer terminal. So we face again the question about whether or not there are ghosts and goblins. Personally I do not believe in the existence of ghosts, i.e.: dead people haunting. However, I do believe that demons are very real and possibly the source of many ghost stories.
For awhile when I was growing up my grandfather, my mother�s father, lived with us. One evening when we were there alone I heard something outside and my grandfather could tell that it had frightened me. He said something to the effect that you didn�t have to be afraid of the dark. He got a flashlight and we then went out to see what had caused the noise. It was apparently just the wind blowing some bushes around. I�ve been much less afraid of the dark and unknown since that time.
Is it really a ghost on the web cam at Willard Library? Even if we have to go and study there we do not have to be afraid if we know the Lord. Because the One who lives within us is greater than anything the forces of the dark may possibly throw at us. Whenever you are frightened allow your Heavenly Father to take you by the hand and walk with you through the night. You see I've learned my grandfather was right and you really don�t have to be afraid of the dark.
Put On Jesus
When I was in the sixth grade I had been doing fine back in the back of the classroom. All of that came to an end one day when Mr. McCall looked back at me and wanted me to answer a question he had written on the blackboard. It wasn�t that I didn�t know the answer. It was just that I couldn�t see the words he had written. I was suddenly transported to the front row for the rest of the year and soon I had those dreaded things called, glasses. The law of nearsightedness had disrupted my life and learning experience.
Thank God, another law overcame the law of nearsightedness in my life. The law of corrective lenses overcame it. You would think that I would have more freedom to live life without being hindered by glasses. After all you have to keep them clean, wear them, and it is very hard to swim in them unless you wear goggles. Actually, I am truly free to live my physical life only if I wear those glasses. When I am wearing my glasses I am free to drive, to read, to see faces clearly and so many other things that would not be possible without them.
In our spiritual lives we are overcome and held captive by sin. But just as glasses are able to overcome nearsightedness so can sin be overcome. To overcome sin we must put on the Lord Jesus Christ. When we do that we are still slaves. Instead of being slaves to sin we have become slaves of righteousness. Jesus says, �My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:30).� The yoke of Jesus cancels out and overcomes the sin in our lives. By taking on the yoke of Jesus we can be free to live life to its utmost.
Each day we have a choice. We can choose to put on the Lord Jesus Christ or we can make provision for sin. We can choose life, or we can choose death (Romans 8:5-6).
�My times are in your hands.� - Psalm 31:15.
We rush and hurry trying to do everything. With the rush and the hurry our adrenaline level increases causing blood pressure to increase along with other harmful effects to our health. Many are so busy they just do not seem to have time for God. Most of us have been there at times. Rushing to get ready for work. What to wear? Thinking about the day ahead. Getting the kids ready for school. How do you fit in a quiet time when things are so far from being quiet? Of course, evenings could be the solution with the kids asleep and problems all solved for the day. But it is hard to have a quiet time when you fall asleep from exhaustion or have thoughts constantly roaming your mind from the day you have gone through. We sing the hymn, Sweet Hour of Prayer, and sometimes I don�t know whether to cry or laugh. How many really are praying for an hour a day much less �pray(ing) without ceasing?�
So, what is the solution or is there one? I don�t have it but there is One who does. Who invented time? In whose hands are the times of our lives? God! How can God possibly do anything to improve my schedule or organize my life? God is the master scheduler, the master organizer. Why do I say that? He created the universe, world, all creation on a schedule that would be a nightmare for anyone else. Six days and rested on day seven. Right on schedule and everything worked! How can God do anything with our lives? You may be thinking it would take a miracle but you have to remember our God is a God of miracles. He is used to making the impossible into the possible. How? I don�t know He just does.
The bottom line is that if we trust God with our time by investing in prayer, bible reading/study, church attendance, and service the time will not be lost. Instead, God will add time back to our lives by organizing and improving our lives. Quality will be increased. God was an expert at quality time long before it became popular. Our energy level will be increased and our health will improve from what it would have been without God. When you are too busy to pray, too busy to read His Word, too busy to go to church some would say you are too busy. The truth is those are the times when you need to pray even more, read His Word more, be even more faithful in church attendance. Try it. He will not disappoint you!!
�I will never leave you nor forsake you.� - Hebrews 13:5b.
Where I live we have been getting the run-around from our Internet provider and others. Poor service coupled with a monopoly situation makes for even poorer customer relations. When we have tried to contact government agencies to alleviate the situation we have also gotten the run-around. �We will check into the situation,� they say. Then there is never a response. At least the state Corporation Commission did have a one time response. The FCC just never responded at all. Who should we try next? The governor? Our congressman? (I called my congressman, Frank Lucas, this morning.) And if we do will we receive the same result? The run-around?
Life has a way of giving us the run-around as well. We have dreams, plans, ambitions, hopes. Many times those dreams, plans, ambitions, and hopes are destroyed by the realities of life. It may be an economic collapse in our industry. It may be a failure of our health. It may be countless other things which prevent the realization of what we had longed for, worked for, strived for. Just when we are recovering from one disaster another strikes. The proverbial light at the end of the tunnel but it�s another train coming.
Is there anything, or anyone we can count on? There is only One who won�t give you the run-around. Only One who will be there when your hopes are dashed and your dreams are ruined. The Lord �will never leave you nor forsake you.� The Lord will never give you the run-around!
Put Off The Old
�...if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.� - Ephesians 4:21-24.
Harry Truman while president of the United States in 1948 made a shocking discovery of the condition of the White House. When the honor guard marched him to a state dinner the crystal chandelier in his study swayed. When the butler walked in with breakfast Truman could feel the whole floor wobble. He called for engineers to examine the structure. The chief engineer reported the ceiling in the state dining room was only staying up from force of habit. Truman made a tough decision. He had the entire inside of the White House gutted. It was all torn out and rebuilt with only the shell remaining. When it was rebuilt it was with a steel framework which makes it as strong as any modern building.
There are many of us who wonder about the history that must have been lost in such a drastic reconstruction. Many were attached to the well worn floors with the smells of decades of momentous occasions. In much the same way we grow attached to our old lives, our old sins, our old circumstances, and habits. So when we are born again (John 3:3), becoming a new creature in Christ with old things passing away and all things becoming new (II Corinthians 5:17) it is a drastic change! Our old lives have been gutted and a complete reconstruction has taken place.
We still have choices after becoming a new creature in Christ. Truman as President of the United States could have chosen not to live in the White House after the reconstruction was completed. He could have lived in a tent on the grounds but that would have been foolish. It would be foolish for us as well to live as we used to live when we don�t have to any more. Paul in verse 22 says to put off all that old stuff and to begin to live as the new person that we are. In verses 25 through 32 he gives very specific ways of putting off the old and putting on the new. Paul finishes by saying in verse 32, �And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.�
Have you been living in a tent? Why not get out of there and try out the new place!?
�Then his servants said to him, �What is this that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive, but when the child died, you arose and ate food.� And he said, �While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.�� - II Samuel 12:21-23.
This was the text used at a funeral I attended yesterday afternoon. I will never forget it. Pastor Gerald Biswell preached the message at his own 18 year old son�s funeral. Josh Biswell was returning home from seeing friends when he was in a traffic accident. Pastor Biswell recounted how his son at the age of eight had prayed to receive Christ as his Savior. He told of how on the way to the hospital he had pleaded with God, as did David for his son, to spare his son�s life. But as with David the son was taken to be with the Lord.
David knew his baby son was not coming back to be with him. But David knew something else as well that made life bearable. David knew that some day he would go to be with his son. Pastor Biswell knows that too. Josh is in a place so wonderful that it is beyond human description and even if Josh could come back he wouldn�t want to. The pastor extended an invitation to those attending to receive Christ as their Savior so that some day they too could be reunited with Josh and their loved ones.
During the invitation many young men came forward to make public their decision to receive Christ. One young man I talked to said, �This has changed my life!� Just looking at his face you could see that it had. Has Jesus ever changed your life?
�When a man�s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.� - Proverbs 16:6-7.
�But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.� - Luke 6:27-28.
What do you do when you have an enemy? Keep on living for the Lord, pray for your enemy, and do good things to your enemy (Luke 6:29-36). I have had few enemies in my life, however, I know when I have retaliated it simply escalated the problem to a new level of hostility. But when I have refused to respond to evil with evil but instead responded with good my enemies have been neutralized. God has a way of redirecting the attention of our enemies. Some people just enjoy causing trouble and problems for others. It makes them feel powerful and in control. When we fail to react as they had hoped over time they grow tired of their game and look for others to trouble.
Praying for your enemy is a powerful weapon. It was through prayer that Jacob knew it was time to return to the land of his fathers (Genesis 31:1-13). As a result of obedience to God�s direction Laban was neutralized. Laban it seems had a dream warning him not to harm Jacob (Genesis 31:24). We know Jacob had left his homeland because Esau his brother was planning to kill him. However, after Jacob had wrestled with the Lord all night (Genesis 32:24-32) Easu was neutralized (Genesis 33).
God says, �Vengeance is Mine, I will repay (Romans 12:19).� We should let God take care of it. Pray for our enemies and do good to them. God may appear to them in a dream telling them to leave us alone. Or, God may give them a change of heart toward us. Or, God may give them some other things to occupy their attention. When your enemy comes to destroy send God to the door. Your enemy will be surprised and God will overcome him.
Free Speech Infringement
�A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.� - Matthew 12:35 NKJV.
The National Security Agency in the US reportedly is using technology to monitor keywords contained in emails. There apparently is a campaign to send so many emails with the offensive keywords that NSA computers will crash. Of course, it has been believed for many years that telephone conversations are also monitored for keywords which would indicate threats against the country or president. We see the progression: telephone conversations; email communications; and next? It may be that spy satellites can nearly read the lips of those in its sights but how long before they can listen in? or are they already?
We fear the ability of government to intrude on our most private moments. Sometimes we think out loud and don�t really mean what we say. Or, maybe we do and we wouldn�t want others to hear! Sometimes we click the send button when we haven�t really thought carefully through every word we have written. The possibility of someone, somewhere, monitoring every written and spoken word does appear to be a suppression of free speech. However, as Christians we should always be careful as to what we say, and as to what we write, and even what we think. Because we know God has had the technology for a long, long, time to listen in all He wants and it�s all recorded! �But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned (Matthew 12:36-37).�
�Is anything too hard for the Lord?� - Genesis 18:14a NKJV.
Nicholas White had a long, long weekend. He was trapped at work from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon. Nicholas went out for a little cigarette break and the elevator stalled after a fraction of a second voltage drop. No one noticed Nicholas was gone. Probably thought he had left for home a little early. No one noticed until Sunday afternoon when he was spotted on a security camera. It�s not like he didn�t try to gain some attention. He screamed, he banged on the walls, he pushed every button, and he tried to climb through the ceiling of the elevator. After his release he said he was relieved and a little shaky. He refused medical attention and said he just wanted to go home.
Have you ever been trapped? Not in an elevator but by life? Many people feel as though they are trapped by life. It may be financial, or it may be their health, or it may be their marriage, or their job, or family, or an addiction, or so many things that seem to get in the way of the enjoyment of life. 40 hours seems like a slight inconvenience compared to the lives which some are living year after year. We may very well feel like Nicholas. We bang on the walls of heaven, we scream, we push every button we can find, we try to climb out but no one seems to notice; not even God.
What can we do? How do we escape? Somehow our focus must go beyond our situation. We must look beyond our temporary circumstances of this world to the eternal circumstances of the Kingdom of God. Abraham and Sarah were trapped in their old bodies of 100 and 90 years of age. But God said they would have the promised child. Sarah laughed at the possibility. We would have laughed too. The spiritual reality, however, was that there was nothing too hard for the Lord. We must put our focus on and our trust in Jesus (Hebrews 12:3). We must deposit our fears, worries, cares, anxieties, situations, circumstances all upon God (I Peter 5:7). When we give it all to the Lord we will find through His power we have been translated from our prison of circumstances into the freedom of eternal life.
Preach The Gospel
�...woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!� - I Corinthians 9:16b NKJV.
According to Mission India young people are preaching the gospel in India. India is becoming younger and younger with almost half of their population teenage or younger. Children are reaching children with the gospel. Religion Today also reports that the young people of India are responding to the gospel in large numbers. In the USA we have seen some movement among our young people as well. See You At The Pole continues to be an important event especially in light of the school and other shootings across the country. Young people have been responding spreading the gospel further and further.
How about the rest of us? Are we preaching the gospel? Are we spreading the gospel? In response to violence have we become more isolated or have we moved out to minister to those who are hurting and terrified? What can I do? What can you do? All of us can be a part of the harvest. It may be sowing seeds or it may be the reaping of those seeds. Henry Blackaby in his Experiencing God study says we should look to see where God is at work and then join Him in that work. In the life of those around you where is God at work? If it is not immediately obvious; pray, asking God to reveal how He is working, and how you can be a part of what He is doing.
Woe to us if we preach not the gospel!!
Some Are Falling
�Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins.� - James 5:19-20 NKJV.
The Russian space station Mir is leaking air and gradually falling toward the earth. However, neither problem should cause the station to immediately fall or become uninhabitable. It is hoped the air leak will not prevent the pressure from falling too low to prevent the return of a final crew of cosmonauts in March or April of 2000. If the air leak falls too low there is nothing that can be done to bring the pressure up high enough for them to enter. Once inside the cosmonauts may adjust the pressure to what is needed. But something can be done if the Mir falls too much. Rockets can be fired which will increase the height of the orbit.
Many Christians are like the space station Mir; they are gradually losing altitude. Many seem to be slowly drifting in a downward spiral toward the world. Spiritual life seems to be seeping out of them each time they exhale. Their only hope for revival may be a brother or sister in Christ who will enter into their lives with love and prayers. They may not have the strength to push the button to fire the spiritual rockets and regain their heavenly altitude. Someone may need to help them. You may need to help them.
�In You, O Lord, I put my trust....� - Psalm 71:1 NKJV.
�I will go in the strength of the Lord God; I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only.� - Psalm 71:16 NKJV.
It seems we are always searching for an easier way. We know the way to physical strength and energy is a commitment to exercise and proper diet (The Bible seems to indicate that attention to the Word of God and holy living is necessary for sustained physical health - Proverbs 3:1-8. To balance this we must also note the apostle Paul who certainly was living a holy life but also had a "thorn in the flesh."). We know the way to spiritual strength and energy also involves commitment. To have spiritual strength and energy we must commit ourselves to time in the Word, prayer, and holy living. But intake alone is not enough we must also have an outflow of the spiritual strength and energy through service or we will grow stagnate.
This search for an easier way may be the fascination with the latest fashion craze of power beads. It would be nice to slap something on our wrists and have energy to burn. Put the right bead on and we will think clearer and feel like we are 20 when we are 60. Anyway that seems to be the hype surrounding the power beads. It is a New Age craze based on �feng shui� the ancient art of Eastern Spirituality which says if you place things in certain places on your body you will have well being and energy. The latest craze was touched off after Zoe Metro, a New York designer, noticed the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama wearing beaded bracelets. The psychosomatic factor seems to be in full swing as people believe the beads are affecting them and therefore they are.
It may be that it really comes down to what we want to put our faith in. We can put our faith in beads or we can put our faith in God. What is going to be our anchor in life? What is going to be the guiding factor in our life? From where will our strength come? Beads? Or, God? Which one do we trust with the spiritual well being of our lives? I think the answer should be obvious to us just as it was to the Psalmist many centuries ago.
What Do You "Think" You "Really" Want?
Today�s devotional was written by Don Mundell.
"Don't you understand?" Jesus asked him. "Don't you see that anything you eat passes through the digestive tract and out again? But evil words come from an evil heart and defile the man who says them. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery ,fornication, theft, lying, and slander." - Matthew 15:16-19 TLB.
What do we think we want? What do we really want? Same questions? Not at all! The difference that those two simple words make in these questions, is as great as the difference in "Joy and Despair" or "Life and Death."
Ask most people these two questions and you would likely get a weird look followed by the same answer. Ask the same people these questions at different stages in their lives and you would surely get vastly different answers. Does what we "really" want ever change? Or does what we "think" we want change as we discover how our minds can trick us into believing untruths and lies? When we discover that one "desire" didn't keep us happy for long, we try the next. On and on we go through life, thinking this or that will bring us peace, joy and happiness.
Ask most people and they "think" they would want to win the lottery. But studies have shown that about 80% of lottery winners were happier before they won their millions. What they "really" wanted was to be able to truly enjoy life and not worry about paying the bills.
Ask most "addicts" that are in recovery and they will tell you that they have tried everything they could think of to make themselves happy, only to lose everything. They have lost loved ones, jobs, homes, and health. All for the sake of following the desires of their minds!
This is really about "mind games". Our minds, tainted when Adam and Eve, tricked by Evil, disobeyed God and ate the fruit from the tree of Conscience, giving knowledge of Good and Bad. Evil had tricked them into thinking that, even with all God had provided them, they would be happier if they ignored God and ate the fruit.
I like the advice the writer of Numbers offered to the Israelites as they were seeking the truth about a happy life (God is speaking to Moses with instructions for the Israelites - Ed): "Speak to the Israelites. Tell them this: 'Tie several pieces of thread together. And tie them to the corners of your clothes. Put a blue thread in each one of these tassels. Wear them from now on. You will have these tassels to look at. They will remind you of the Lord's commands. Then you will obey them. And you won't follow what your bodies want and what your eyes wish for (Numbers 15:38-39 ICB).��
So, what do you really think can bring you the happiness you really want?
�Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, �Why could we not cast it out?� So Jesus said to them, �Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, Move from here to there, and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.�� Matthew 17:19-21 NKJV.
Excuses, many of us have them. We have a reason why God cannot do something in our lives or in some place. Some can�t go to church because they don�t have time. Some can�t read their Bibles or pray for the same reason. But then what would be the point they reason? because they have too many problems for God to help them. Or, it may not be the number of problems, it may be the size of their problem that is too much for God. The result? Little prayer and even less godly living.
We see the same excuse being used in churches of smaller numbers and communities in rural areas. We can pray for revival and expect revival to come in places like Malawi or New York City. But there is no point in asking God to do anything in our small community because it is not possible. I love the story about Blunt Baptist Church in a rural area of eastern Oklahoma. A few years ago they had dwindled down to six members and were planning to soon close the doors of the church for good. They called a retired pastor to help them through these last days of their church. Their new pastor, Leroy Reid, had a different vision. His vision was of 100 people being saved in a year. In six months 100 were saved and in a year 140 people had been saved. Blunt Church still has its doors open.
Do you want to have revival in your life? Do you want to have revival in your church? You can! It all begins with you. The great English evangelist Gypsy Smith was once asked how to have revival. His response: �Do you have a place where you can pray?� �Yes.� �Tell you what you do, you go to that place, and take a piece of chalk along. Kneel down there, and with the chalk draw a complete circle all around you - pray for God to send revival on everything inside of the circle. Stay there until He answers - and you will have revival.� We can have revival or we can have our excuses.
�Then Philip said, �If you believe with all your heart....�� - Acts 8:37a NKJV.
Last Saturday I went to a youth event and heard Todd Roberts speak. He told about how he was �saved� at the age of eight and baptized. But then he described how in his early teens he began drinking, using inhalants and using illegal drugs. By the time he was 14 he had been to Falls Creek, a summer youth camp, three times. There was a youth minister who kept asking who finally convinced Todd to go to the camp one more time.
At the camp Todd went to a class on alcohol and drugs in the mornings. He said everyone was laughing most of the week at the speaker who was a burned out hippie with long gray hair. They kept on laughing until the last day. That day the old hippie began describing all the drugs he had tried. He said none of them worked to give him peace. He then said he had even tried Jesus but He didn�t work. Todd said there was a long pause as everyone began to think surely he didn�t really say that. But then the old hippie said, �He didn�t work until I meant it.�
Todd Roberts knew exactly what the man was saying because that was where he was at. He hadn�t really meant it when he was eight years old. He hadn�t really meant it when he had rededicated his life or the times he had acted like he was going to change before. That night Todd Roberts, �meant it,� for real and God took all the garbage out of his life and began to use him to reach others.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is life changing, life transforming, life empowering but only if you �mean it.� Just saying some words will not change you. Getting wet through baptism will not change you. Joining a church will not change you. Changing your outward appearance or the way you talk may deceive some but the only way for the Gospel to really make a difference in your life is to �mean it� in your heart. Have you ever really �meant it?"
�For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.� - John 3:16.
Several years ago my Dad gave me a small New Testament that had belonged to my great grandmother (Frances Elizabeth Raynes Campbell Wrather). The Testament was very worn but still in one piece. As I looked through it I noticed that verses had been underlined with a pencil. I began to look for and to read the verses that she had underlined. As a result I have a much better picture of the faith and life of my great grandmother (Lizzie). One of the verses she had underlined was John 3:16.
As I found out more about the life of my great grandparents their faith has come to mean more to me. Lizzie and my great grandfather (Draper) knew about tragedy. Lizzie�s first husband had passed away only a short time after their marriage. Draper�s first wife had also passed away a short time after their marriage. After Draper and Lizzie married they had a large family. But because of tough economic times in the early 1900s trying to scratch a living out of the earth; part of their family had to live with relatives. Draper�s daughter who was from his first marriage died when she was 16. Lizzie�s son who was from her first marriage died when he was 19.
John 3:16 has stood the test of time as has the entire Bible. For as long as the Word of God has been available people have been turning to it for strength to sustain them during the tough times of life. There is nothing this world has to offer that can give us what the Word of God can give us. It gives us in the midst of trouble: strength; peace; joy; love; hope; patience; kindness; goodness; temperance (self-control); and, much more. The faith of our fathers and mothers is a proven faith. Their faith is a faith that carried them through tough times and will carry us through as well if we will put our trust and hope in the Lord Jesus. As John 3:16 says we must believe in Him.
I Have Hope!
"Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of this age.� - Matt. 28:20.
Today�s Devotional was written by Mathew (Mat) A. Varnado who lives in Thailand.
"Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of this age.� - Matt. 28:20.
I may not have the finances to get any of the luxury items I see around me daily in TV and billboard advertisements. I many even have only enough for food for this month, this week, this day. My job situation may be bad and I may not have the training to do the kind of job that pays "a decent wage" or that is "suitable for me." Maybe no one will hire me. But I have hope!
My health may be broken, or I may be housebound or bed ridden in pain. The prognosis may be "incurable" and I have to adjust my lifestyle to the brokenness, suffering and pain. Medication may be hard for me to come by and at best only marginally effective. Doctors may be impossible to afford. But I have hope!
My family may be dysfunctional to the point that everyone is against me and nobody even wants to live for good. They may all be unsaved, and I the only one who knows the Lord. They may be persecuting me severely for my stand and belief, inflicting untold mental and physical tortures on me to try to shake me from my belief. Or they may totally ignore me and my needs. But I have hope!
I have hope that the sunshine will outlast the clouds of the storm around me and flood my world with its warmth and light. I have hope that there will be tomorrow, regardless how dismal and hopeless today is in my life and in the world. I have hope! My hope stems from two promises that Jesus made in His last days on this earth. "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of this age (Matt. 28:20).� and "In my Father's house are many mansions.... I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I'll come again to receive you to Myself; that where I am, you may be also (John 14:2-3).� I also have hope that "Weeping may endure for a night/ But joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5).�
I have hope and it's my prayer that you have that hope, too. It's there for you and it's free.
�But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.� - II Corinthians 11:3 NKJV.
Yesterday a family in Oklahoma City lost their little dog, �Furby,� to a ten foot long python. The family came home to find the snake wrapped around the little dog. What a shock!! Where had the snake come from? They had heard from neighbors that it was rumored the previous residents of the house had a snake. But no one had seen it. The family had lived in the house for about a year and had no indication the python was living with them. One local expert said it was likely the snake was simply in hiding during all this time because of the noise the family would make. But eventually it became desperate enough for food that it attacked. This was indicated by the skinny condition of the snake.
The apostle Paul speaks about another kind of snake that is lurking, waiting for the right opportunity to strike. Just as that old snake, the devil, deceived Eve; he is continuing to look for opportunities to deceive others. Paul speaks of false teachers in the church who deceive by pretending to be apostles of Christ. In other words: they look like Christians; they act like Christians; they talk like Christians; but they do not worship the same Jesus we worship. Paul says we should not be amazed that people try to do this because satan did it: �And no marvel; for satan himself is transformed into an angel of light (II Corinthians 11:14).�
The Galatians were also having trouble with false teachers and Paul says: �But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed (Galatians 1:8).� There are many today who present themselves as Christians and yet are preaching another gospel. An example of this deception on a large scale is The Church Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or Mormons.
From the website �Recovery from Mormonism� I found this statement: �Joseph Smith said that the Book of Mormon contained the "fulness of the gospel." However, its teaching on many doctrinal subjects has been ignored or contradicted by the present LDS church, and many doctrines now said by the church to be essential are not even mentioned there. Examples are the church's position on the nature of God, the Virgin Birth, the Trinity, polygamy, Hell, priesthood, secret organizations, the nature of Heaven and salvation, temples, proxy ordinances for the dead, and many other matters.� (� 1998 Richard Packham Permission granted to reproduce for non-commercial purposes, provided text is not changed and this copyright notice is included)
On the surface Mormons appear to be Christians, they claim to be Christians, and they want to be called Christians but they do not worship the same Jesus that true Christians worship. Mormons preach what the apostle Paul would call an �other gospel.� Let us us be watchful of that old serpent who is always lurking around.
(For more information about the deception of Mormonism and testimonies of those recovering from Mormonism visit this excellent site: �Recovery From Mormonism� http://www.exmormon.org
The Burning Bush Devotional
The Time Of The End
�'But you, Daniel, shut up the words and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.'� Daniel 12:4 NKJV.
Many of the theological interpretations, predictions, theories, guesstulations about the return of Christ have for a century been centered around the year 2000. This does seem to be a pivotal point in human history. We are reaching a point in technology where we can do what only God could do before. Super computers have not yet reached the ability of the human mind in the power to reason but our ability to hold memory and sort data has been surpassed.
Today I learned that it is projected that within the next five to ten years it appears probable that human organs will be grown in the laboratory. A liver for a rat has been grown and functioned as it should. The building blocks for heart muscle have been grown and can contract or beat as the heart does. Although an entire human brain cannot be grown individual brain cells can be. These cells can be used for replacing portions of the brain which become damaged by disease or injury. When these discoveries come into wide spread use it is hard to even imagine how our lives will be revolutionized. Will the result of disease be eliminated and death occur only as a result of accident or violence?
People have been running to and fro across the earth for some time now and the running seems to be more frequent and faster as time passes. Human knowledge continues to increase beyond even our ability to comprehend. When we view the future as being so radically different from anything mankind has known before it would seem that the �time of the end� must be near. However, we must temper this anticipation with the Words of our Lord in Matthew 24:36: �But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.� �Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect (Matthew 24:44).�
The Desert Phone
�Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.� - Romans 5:1 NKJV.
Just in case you don�t have anything to do today you can call the desert phone at 760-733-9969. It is a windowless phone booth located 14 miles from the nearest paved road in the Mojave Desert in California. I had never heard about it until last week when the national news networks reported the story. One network actually sent a crew out to the phone booth and answered a few calls. It seems the telephone is continually ringing with calls from all over the world. Usually it is a man named �Charlie� who lives about six miles from the phone who might occasionally answer the calls. If the telephone is ringing when he is driving by in his old pickup he will stop and talk a while. According to one website it is a woman named "Lorene" who answers the phone. Of course, some people do drive out there so that they can be the one answering the phone. Two women drove all the way from New York City.
Why? There have been a number of suggestions made. All of the suggestions are plausible since we as human beings are capable of doing about anything. One man heard about it from his pet skunk email list and said he was just crazy enough to call the number. A sociologist suggests a lot of people have nothing to do and calls it the �get-a-life� factor. Others say they want to find out what it is like living in such a remote area totally different from anything they have known. Those are just a few of the theories.
Here�s my theory: Calling a phone booth in the middle of nowhere is a way of escape. A moment of escape from the crowded busy world in which so many live to a world of unhurried days and isolation. It is an escape to a world where the only sounds heard are those of the few varmits you encounter or the ones you make yourself. Peace. Escape from the pressures of life to another world, another place. It is a search for something better, for something missing in their lives. �And the way of peace thy have not known (Romans 3:17).�
Most likely if you try to call the desert phone the line will be busy. However, you can place a call to an even better place called Heaven where the line is never busy simply by bowing your head, and closing your eyes. �Dear Father in Heaven....� In the midst of the pressures of life travel to another world and allow your Heavenly Father to touch your life with Peace.
�For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.� - Romans 10:13 NKJV.
The summer after I turned 14 years old was the only time I went to a church camp before becoming an adult. It was a great experience and I know God was speaking to me while I was there. I remember being off by myself sitting on a picnic table. The camp is located in a canyon and is beautiful in the summer. As I was there on the picnic table I began to think about the future. What would happen? Graduate from High School. Was not thinking about going to college then. Probably get a job. Get married. Have children. Make a lot of money and retire early. Then, I would be old, and finally I came considering death. I could not see anything after death it was just all black.
As I look back on my picnic table experience at church camp it is almost frightening. Why? Because it was five years later before I even seriously thought about what would happen to me after death. Then, I only thought about it after my wife (Jeanie) shared her testimony with me one night. What if she had not shared her testimony? What if no one had? What if I had not thought about eternity again?
When we think about salvation many times we say the word, �saved.� Or, �I got saved.� In Romans 10:13, the Bible does say that if we call on the name of the Lord we will be �saved.� Being saved infers being saved from something. If someone is drowning and rescued they are saved from death. Spiritually being �saved� also means being saved from something and in particular spiritual death. I am thankful today that I know that I am �saved.� I am thankful that I can look back to a moment in time when in a state of repentance I called upon the name of the Lord and asked Him to come into my heart and life. Now when I think about death it is not all black out there. Instead I can see the blinding glory of my Lord whose sacrifice has given me eternal life. I know, as did the psalmist, that: "I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever."
There are still two signs standing on the side of the highway between where I live and Elk City, Oklahoma. The signs along the road are nearly covered up now by trees and the paint is growing dim. The signs say: �After death what then?� �Eternity where?� I remember on the back of one of the signs it says, �Heaven or Hell.� Do you know?
Berteve1@aol.com just sent me this site. It illustrates how Jesus bridges the gap between sinful man and a holy and rightious God:
�For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.� - Hebrews 12:3 NKJV.
Ernst Mikkelson in Oregon has recently been covered up with phone calls to his business. But they are not calling for any of his business services. They are calling for permission to perform surgical procedures and administer medication. Each call to Mikkelson�s toll free number costs him 12 cents per minute. It all started when the Oklahoma Health Care Authority changed their telephone number. Their new local number has the same last seven digits as Mikkelson�s. The Health Authority also has a toll free number which is announced first followed by the local number. Apparently people are mistakenly assuming the local number is also a toll free number which has resulted in the barrage of calls to Mikkelson�s business. The Health Care Authority has changed the phone number to include the local area code. However, as of Wednesday the calls were still coming with 45 new calls.
Most of us can endure for a few minutes unpleasant situations without a problem. It is when the unpleasant stretches into hours, days, weeks, months, and years that we begin to have problems, doubts, discouragement, weariness. It is when the pain does not end and the costs continue to mount that we have a problem. Of course it is difficult. Life can sometimes be difficult because we do not live in a perfect world. It has not been perfect since Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden. Hebrews 12:3 is one of my favorite verses. It provides the only way for true endurance during the worst life can give us. �For consider Him....� We must focus in on our relationship with Jesus. We must remember again how much He endured for us. We must remember at what great cost our salvation was purchased. It was purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ. He is our Lord. He is our Savior. He is our God. He has gone before us and He is walking with us each step of the way. When we are weary we can rest by resting our minds on Him. When we are discouraged we can be encouraged by His victory and presence. When all seems too much we can �consider Him� and have peace which is beyond understanding.
�A quick-tempered man acts foolishly.� - Proverbs 14:17a NKJV.
If you have ever wondered about how applicable the Bible is to practical daily life, wonder no longer. In Herndon, Virginia a man apparently had a quick temper. The neighbor�s lawnmower blew grass cuttings onto his driveway and he became upset. In fact he became so upset that he acted foolishly. What did this man, Robert Arena, do during his temper tantrum? He attacked his neighbor with a board which had nails sticking out of it. Arena was arrested for malicious wounding. Do you know when all of this happened? It happened on a Sunday morning!!
Got a quick temper? Don�t wait until you do something foolish to deal with it. Begin now to ask the Lord to help you. Begin now to memorize Scriptures speaking specifically about this problem. Ask those who love you and care about you to pray for you. Don�t wait until it is too late and you are arrested for doing something very foolish or worse.
(For information about how to prepare a cassette tape to help in this battle, with verses specific to anger, look at part two of Journey to Fruitfulness:
If you have trouble accessing the site I can email you the information and it is free.)
�Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.� - Ephesians 6:10-11 NKJV.
Coping with anger and with mean people can be extremely difficult. Brenda wrote this about the difficult situation she is in: �I am working so hard. My stomach hurts all the time, blood pressure up. Getting health problems. I am upset, very late, cannot sleep. Some times go to work with as little as 2 to 3 hours sleep.� (Please pray for Brenda in Alabama.) If you have never experienced anything like this you can praise God for many of us have. There are many mean people in this world who enjoy making life miserable for others.
What do you do when you are in the pressure cooker and you have angry thoughts rolling through your mind? Here are some suggestions:
Saturation of your life with the Word of God is vital!! This cannot be stressed too much. When under stress you need to stress the Word of God. (Matthew 4:4 - �Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.)
His Word will give you strength to continue to go to the job you have to have. (Philippians 4:13 - �I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.� And Christ is what according to John 1:14? �And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us....�)
His Word will take away the angry thoughts. (Luke 6:45)
His Word will give you self-control in volatile situations with your boss and others. (Galatians 5:22-23 �temperance/self-control� is one of the fruits of the Spirit. The Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God - Ephesians 6:17.)
His Word will keep you from self-destructing physically. (Proverbs 3:1-2,8 - �My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.�)
As a pastor I can leave off the Word, and time with the Lord, and quickly find I am overwhelmed with stress and physical problems. The more stress, the more I must have supernatural strength to withstand and overcome it. Strength will only come through the Lord, His Word, and prayer.
You need to begin to memorize God's Word and then when the angry thoughts come you can begin to recite in your mind those verses and they will defeat the enemy.
(For information about how to prepare a cassette tape to help in this battle, with verses specific to anger, look at part two of Journey to Fruitfulness:
If you have trouble accessing the site I can email you the information and it is free.)
�Then Peter came to Him and said, �Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?� Jesus said to him, �I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.�� - Matthew 18:21-22 NKJV.
On the ABC morning news they are doing stories this week on how forgiveness can really help you psychologically!! I just caught the end of today�s story and it was great! How wonderful it would be to live in a society which practiced forgiveness. We can help to bring that about by beginning to practice forgiveness ourselves each day. Jesus certainly recommends and commands that we forgive. Jesus after being placed on the cross said, �Father forgive them; for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34a).� If we would follow in the steps of our Lord, then, we too will forgive others.
How many times should we forgive someone? Peter wanted to know and we need to know. The �seven times seventy� (490) is not the limit on the number of times you should forgive someone. Instead, Jesus is saying there is no limit to forgiveness. We should forgive and keep on forgiving. Let go of the hate. Let go of the anger. Let go of the bitterness. Let go of the desire for revenge. Forgive and you will find that your soul will be soothed. The anger, the hate, the bitterness, the desire for revenge will be replaced with love and peace. Forgiveness and healing will begin.
It may be that it is very difficult for you to forgive. You may not have the strength to forgive. You are not alone. Your Lord knows that. Ask Him for the strength, for the desire, for the willingness to forgive. He will empower you to forgive even the unforgivable. Ask Him.
Love Never Fails
�Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil....� "Love never fails." - I Corinthians 13:4-5, 8a NKJV.
Love, �thinks no evil.� Here is what the Matthew Henry Commentary says about this phrase: �...it does not suspect evil of others, ou logizetai to kakon - it does not reason out evil, charge guilt upon them by inference and innuendo, when nothing of this sort appears open. True love is not apt to be jealous and suspicious; it will hide faults that appear, and draw a veil over them, instead of hunting and raking out those that lie covered and concealed: it will never indulge suspicion without proofs, but will rather incline to darken and disbelieve evidence against the person it affects. It will hardly give into an ill opinion of another, and it will do it with regret and reluctance when the evidence cannot be resisted; hence it will never be forward to suspect ill, and reason itself into a bad opinion upon mere appearances, nor give way to suspicion without any. It will not make the worst construction of things, but put the best face that it can on circumstances that have no good appearance.�
I don�t know about you, but I am finding it harder and harder not to be more and more suspicious. We have mothers and fathers killing their young children; then, they look into the camera and say someone else did it. As Internet users we know there is an abundance of false information being passed around. Some of the recent ones are: toilet spiders; free M & Ms by forwarding an email; receive a free computer from IBM by forwarding an email; free clothing from the Gap for forwarding an email; and there are many more. Some of the more malicious are the false prayer requests made by people in the hopes of receiving money. (There is a website called Urban Legends which tries to keep up with all of these: http://www.snopes.com ).
What should our response be in the face of such deception and fraud? Having received all of the false information mentioned above and many more I have become more suspicious. I have become hesitant about passing on some information and prayer requests. However, the Biblical approach seems a little different from the one I have been taking. Yes, I must be somewhat cautious but I must still be �kind,� and �suffer(s) long. Yes, I may be cautious but I must still �not behave rudely.� Yes, sometimes I may get burned by some of the misinformation, however, I should �not behave rudely,� and I should �not (be) provoked.� Even though it sometimes hurts us and hurts others we should still continue to �endure(s) all things,� and �bear(s) all things.� Why? Because �love never fails.�
�Pray without ceasing.� - I Thessalonians 5:17.
The unthinkable has become reality for America and for so many other places. We now have shootings at schools and churches. We have seen the bombing of public buildings and now random bombings of apartment buildings in Moscow. Who would even think of doing such things? We keep thinking this one will be the last one. But each shooting, each bombing seems to fuel the lust for more violence and bloodshed. Will the shooting at the church in Ft. Worth, Texas be the last? Not if we look at how things have progressed over the last couple of years. The shooting at the church only means that not only can people be shot while they work, at schools, daycares, and restaurants but now churches as well.
We seem to be rapidly progressing toward a point where there will be no area of life safe from violence. We do not want to think about it. We do not want to talk about it. We don�t want to read about it. We would like for it all to just go away. But the fact is that it is not going away. We are in the midst of a violent spiritual war which is manifesting itself in the physical. We can take away the guns, bomb making materials, and everything else associated with violence and it will not stop. It will not stop as long as we are losing the spiritual war. We talk about prayer. We sing about prayer. We read about prayer. We hear sermons on prayer. But do we really pray?
We prayed at the flagpoles across this country and many other countries yesterday morning. We prayed for the protection of students across the world. But it was not enough. One morning a year for a few minutes of prayer will never be enough. This war is going on 24 hours a day every day. We must be in continual prayer. Every day must be a day of prayer. If we seriously want the violence to stop then we must have a revival like this earth has never seen before. Revival will only come as each of us take seriously our responsibility in prayer each hour of the day. We must pray harder and more than any have prayed before. Why? Because next time it could be where we work, it could be our church, our school, our home.... Let us pray before it is too late.
�For You have been a strength to the poor, A strength to the needy in his distress, A refuge from the storm, A shade from the heat; For the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall.� - Isaiah 25:4 NKJV.
Almost two million people are evacuating their homes in the United States. It is the largest evacuation during peace time in US history. Hurricane Floyd is a monster of a storm. Some who have never evacuated for a hurricane before are leaving this time. It is simply too big of a storm to ignore. Many have found a place of safety but others have been caught in traffic moving only a few miles in several hours.
With advance warning and advanced knowledge of the dangers of hurricanes people are trying to do the right thing and find a place of refuge. Our knowledge of hurricanes and storms have come a long way since the early 1900s. In the early 1900s there was an unnamed hurricane that came ashore at Galveston, Texas. Thousands were killed on the beach because they had left their homes and gone to the shore to see this huge storm close up. It was exactly the worst thing they could have done. By the time they saw the storm surge it was too late and there was not enough time to find safety. A few lived to tell of seeing their families die that day.
There is another storm which is sweeping across this world. It is a spiritual storm of sin and destruction. We have advance warning and we have advanced knowledge about the devastating effects of sin. We can ignore those warnings and see how close we can get to the storm of sin. If we do there may very well come a time when the storm we are admiring will sweep us away just like the Galveston hurricane swept away so many. It does not have to be that way. There is a place of refuge from the storm. God, through Jesus Christ is the only refuge. Please don�t ignore the storm warnings!!
�Remember how short my time is....� - Psalm 89:47a NKJV.
The Psalmist was very aware of how short his time was on this earth. He says in verse 48, �What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his life from the power of the grave?� No, the answer is obvious. Our time is short and valuable. The Psalmist is concerned about the waste of life and asks: �For what futility have You created all the children of men?� He, along with most of us, did not want to waste his life in doing futile things. Instead he wanted and we want to live fruitful and fulfilling lives.
To live fruitful and fulfilling lives begins with life lived in the present. Lives lived second by second, minute by minute, hour by hour, and day by day. As many have so beautifully said: carpe diem, seize the day. Seizing the day involves prioritizing according to the eternal value our activities. There is an excellent little booklet which I once read called �The Tyranny of the Urgent.� As I remember the booklet points out the trap many of us fall into. We become trapped by the urgent but not necessarily the most important things which are constantly demanding attention.
How do we escape the trap of the urgent and futile things? First, we need to remember who has put a time limit on our physical life. God has done that. So, within the framework of the total number of days each of us have been given it is possible to accomplish all that God would have each one of us to accomplish. It is possible in the days we have been given to be all of what God would want us to be. You could call each day a mini lifetime. Each day begins with a birth at dawn and gradually grows older until we go to sleep in the evening. To escape a lifetime of futility we must escape futility each day.
To know God�s plan for each day we must put the urgent on hold long enough to enter God�s presence seeking His direction. God has a perfect plan for your life and this means that He has a perfect plan for each day. How can we know that plan without prayer and the Word? How can we seize the day when we do not know the right things to seize? Failing to give God this time will only result in lives of growing futility. Let us remember �how short� our �time is,� as we prioritize our days.
Doing Your Best
�She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial.� - Mark 14:8 NKJV.
Have you ever done your best and been criticized? Have you ever done what you thought was the right thing and been criticized? Maybe you even went the extra mile and turned the other cheek but still there were some who thought it wasn�t good enough. You may have even thought to yourself at the time that it was not enough but it was all you could do. Not only have others criticized but you have criticized yourself as well. It is a common cause of burnout. Always feeling you could have done more, or better, or otherwise. Sometimes you wish you had not done anything because of all of the criticism.
Mary, the sister of Lazurus may have had some days like that. We do not know how Mary responded but we do know she received some criticism for her actions. Mary was criticized by her sister, Martha, when she listened to Jesus instead of helping prepare the meal. If that was not enough now Mary has anointed the feet of Jesus with very costly perfume. Judas complains this perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor. It seems so obvious. You ought to help get the meal ready and you need to feed the poor. But to Martha, Jesus said: �Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her (Luke 10:41-42).� In response to Judas Iscariot�s complaint about the perfume, Jesus said: �Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always (John 12:7-8).�
It seems there are always some people who have an ax to grind who appear to be right but really are simply acting out of selfishness. Martha was more concerned about Mary not helping her than with Jesus. Judas was upset because as it is pointed out in John 12:6, he was a thief and had missed out on getting his hands on more money. Before you beat yourself up, ask Jesus what He thinks about it all. Before you beat someone else up with words of criticism examine your motives. Would the Lord come to your defense as He did for Mary? Or would He have some words of correction for you as He did for Martha?
Facing A Brick Wall?
�And Jacob their father said to them, �You have bereaved me: Joseph is no more, Simeon is no more, and you want to take Benjamin. All these things are against me.�� - Genesis 42:36 NKJV.
Have you ever felt like you were facing a brick wall in life? Felt like you were between the proverbial rock and a hard place? At the end of your rope and your fingers are slipping? It happens to most people in the course of a lifetime at one point or another. It may be finances. It may be an illness. It may be our children. It may be something else and most likely it will be a combination of things that brings us to the point of colapse.
The pressure on Jacob had been building for some time. His beloved wife had died. His sons were rebellious. He thought his next to youngest son Joseph had died a tragic death at the hand of a wild animal. There was a famine threatening to wipe out his entire family. Jacob had heard there was grain in Egypt and had sent his sons, all except Benjamin, to go and bring back some of the life saving food. Now they had returned without the grain, and without Simeon. Jacob had come to expect the worst and believed he would never see Simeon again. Not only that, but the Egyptian in charge of the grain wanted his beloved Benjamin as well. How could Jacob go on? �All these things are against me.�
Jacob could not know what God knew. He could not see what God could see. God knew Jacob�s son, Joseph, was alive and well. Joseph was now the second most powerful man in the most powerful country of the world. Joseph controlled the food supply for all of that area of the world. Joseph�s brother was also alive, well, and safe. As Joseph later pointed out to his brothers: �Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive (Genesis 50:19-20).�
Jacob and his family could tell you that Romans 8:28 is true. They did not have the promise written out as we do today but they experienced the truth of the verse lived out in their lives. All things did appear to be against Jacob and his family. But to �those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose,� �all things work together for good.� The next time �all these things are against� you, keep on loving God. When all appears lost, keep on following, and seeking, and pursuing His will, His purpose to be done in your life. It may be the brick wall is just a mirage. It may be that when you let go of the rope that the solid rock is only an inch below. When you are between a rock and a hard place, the hard place may turn out to be the greatest blessing of your life!
�But He said to them, �Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?� Then He arose and rebuked the winds and the sea and there was a great calm.� - Matthew 8:26 NKJV.
It is pronounced Tris-kai-da-ka-phobia and it is the fear of numbers. I had never heard of it until this morning when I did a little research. In the past it has mostly been associated with the fear of the number thirteen. The fear of the number thirteen is a wide spread fear. Many high rise buildings do not have a floor with the number thirteen. In one country the national lottery has eliminated thirteen. In another country people will not live in a house with a street number of thirteen. Race car drivers prefer not to race in car numbered thirteen. Many airlines do not offer a row of seats numbered thirteen.
Today seems to be a reversal of fortune for the number nine. Nine in the past seemed to have a good reputation. �Nine Lives.� �Dressed to the Nines.� Who would have suspected nine would turn bad? Everyone has been on �pins and needles� awaiting nine, nine, ninety-nine. Would the four number date equal a stop code for computers? Would the world shut down? Apparently not, we seem to still be moving along today. Some in Japan are booking package tours for 99 people for 99,999 yen. In Malaysia, lottery numbers with 9999 seem to be doing extremely well. So maybe the reputation of nine is making a comeback.
But what about the Y2K? Let�s see a fear of letter and number combinations. I tried to find it but the search engine didn�t come up with anything. So maybe we can be the first to name this new psychological phenomenon. How does Alpha-Triskaidekaphobia sound? Or, maybe AlphaOmegaTriskaidekaphobia? Whatever happens with the numbers, or the letter-numbers one thing is for sure. Jesus Christ will remain the same. God will still be God. Hebrews 13:8-9a tells us, �Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines.� Why are we fearful? Is it because we have so �little faith?�
�But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.� - Matthew 5:44 NKJV.
�A wrathful man stirs up strife, But he who is slow to anger allays contention.� - Proverbs 15:18 NKJV.
Have you ever worn your �feelings on your sleeve?� Got a �chip on your shoulder?� It seems as though more and more people are doing exactly that. It does not take very much to offend people anymore and the chip on their shoulder is balanced very precariously. To avoid hurting the feelings of others is becoming more and more difficult. It may be the high tech world in which we live. In a Gallop Poll released Monday, 64% of workers find getting equipment (computers, copiers, printers, faxes, etc.) to work properly is a frustrating task. Another part of the poll found one out of six were made angry by someone they worked with during the past year. The poll also found that 22% of those under age 35 working in office, sales, or clerical jobs felt like hitting someone.
I would like to see a poll of those using the Internet. How many using the Internet would like to hit someone they are communicating with? Maybe it is because we are somewhat anonymous and feel freer to express how we really feel. Since being online I have lost track of the number times I have received emails cursing me with obscene language. One man has even threatened to kill me. I would submit to you that being slammed by someone online hurts some of us just as much as it would in person. Words printed out are far more permanent and longer lasting than spoken words.
The apostle Paul shares some excellent advice with us in Romans 12:18-21: �If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, �Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,� says the Lord. Therefore, �If your enemy hungers, feed him;
If he thirsts, give him a drink;
For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.�
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.�
Children Are From??
�Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.� - Romans 5:12
We are familiar with the books Men Are From Mars and Women Are From Venus. Many of the observations contained in the books seem to be helpful and are based on author John Gray�s counseling experiences. John Gray has now written another book. His new book is Children Are From Heaven. The basic premise of the book according to a television news interview is that children are inherently good. Out of this premise flows the instruction to parents that they are to treat children as their nature dictates and that is that they are good. Gray says if we treat children as if their nature is inherently bad then the result will be that children will be bad.
As with many things John Gray�s premise sounds good and his logic flowing from his premise sounds good. However, his premise is flawed. How can it be flawed? Just look at a tiny newborn baby and you see the innocence. Look at a young child and how could they ever do anything wrong? Sadly, we know the truth. The truth is that we are born with a nature that is inherently corrupt. We are born with a nature that is capable of sin and that will enjoy sinning. All of creation was corrupted by the actions of Adam in the Garden of Eden.
Based upon John Gray�s flawed premise we should never warn children about the consequences of behavior because such a warning will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Children, however, cannot fully benefit from a parent�s life experience if the possible consequences of actions are not shared with them. One of the most effective deterrents to improper behavior is a warning of the consequences of the behavior. As a parole officer when clients began to have behavior which was risky and in violation of their rules of parole something had to be done. I could not simply hope their good nature would prevail over their bad nature. No, it was necessary to point out to them the way their behavior was improper. It was also necessary to go beyond identifying bad behavior to identifying the consequences for such behavior. Then, with each violation of the rules those consequences were enforced. As parents we must do the same.
The Burning Bush Devotional
MIND OVER MOUTH
Today�s devotional is by Patti McConatha.
"If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but decieveth his own heart, this man's religion is in vain." - James 1:26
My sister recently related a story to me concerning her grand-daughter. This grand-daughter is a step grand-daughter, 5 years of age. She has been a part of the family only a few months, and is just now beginning to get to know her new nana and papa. Not knowing that her new papa is a very big kidder, and is forever teasing everyone, both young and old, the new grand-daughter quickly took him at his word when he teasingly told her he beat little kids, and he was a mean papa. This granddaughter immediately began to relate to everyone that her new papa was mean, and that he beat little kids....that he beat her! When she was asked if he had indeed beat her, she said no, but if he does I'll call the police. She insisted that papa was mean. After it was pointed out to her what all papa had done that was good, and loving. She sat quietly for a short while, thinking. Then she began a chant..."papa good, papa good, papa good.". The little grand-daughter has since come to know when papa is teasing, and now it seems he has a new shadow. She is papa's biggest fan.
Hearing this story, I could not help but relate it to the way that people everywhere, so often are. How often do we accept new Christians into the family of believers, only to end up saying something that gives them the completely wrong idea about us, or who we are? Or.....how often do we hear something a person says, and draw a complete conclusion about what kind of person they are? Then, not only is the thought, thought...or drawn to a conclusion.... it is most likely spoken as well. The Bible tells us that we will be accountable for every word that we speak. Matthew 12:36,37-"But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account there of in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned."
Let us not fall into the trap of the devil, to speak so quickly. Proverbs 6:16-19 says: "These six things doth the Lord hate: yea seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren. Of seven things listed as being an abomination unto the Lord, two of them have to do with speaking. Lying. This the Lord surely hates. Of which can, and most likely will lead to the seventh abomination. If we do not know for sure, the best course is to choose silence.
The complete devotional may be viewed at:
Copyright 1999. Patti McConatha.
The Burning Bush Devotional
�Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.� - Ephesians 4:29 NKJV.
Ephesians 4:29 has also been translated in this way: �Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.�
In Texas a 16 year old beauty queen has resigned her Miss Lubbock Teen USA 1999 title and is now attending another school. It all happened after she failed to make the cheerleading squad and apparently verbally threatened the girls who did make the squad. The beauty queen says it was only words. Some of the students believe she was unfairly singled out. One student said, �I don�t think anyone thinks she really meant it.� Another said, �You�ve got to watch what you say, even if it�s just a joke.� How true!
The Bible says, �Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth.� �Do not let any unwholesome communication come out of your mouths.� In the current atmosphere in which we live we can see immediately how helpful these words are. To avoid running down other people verbally, to avoid saying hurtful things obviously will save us and others a great amount of grief. You have to wonder how many fights have been started because of words? How many suicides have resulted because of words? How many marriages broken because of words? How many parents and children are not talking because of words? How many wars because of words? As James said in James 3:5b-6a, �See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity.�
In Ephesians 4:30 the apostle Paul infers it grieves the Holy Spirit when our words are unwholesome or corrupt. Then, Paul goes on to say (v. 31), �Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.� As Christians we must remember that we are �Ambassadors of Christ.� We must go beyond simply not saying bad things. We must go beyond not starting wars to preventing them. How do we do that? We must choose our words carefully just like an ambassador from one country to another country would do.
The Bible has much advice about what to say. Here in Ephesians 4:29 we are told to speak only �what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.� (Or, �only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.� ). Paul goes on to say in Ephesians 4:32, �And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.� If we have an attitude of kindness, of being tenderhearted, of forgiveness it is much easier to say the right thing. Saying, the right thing or the wrong thing, whether you mean it or not does matter, and can make an eternal difference in the lives of some. It may also very well determine your success or failure in life.
Copyright 1999. Ed Wrather. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for use of this material on a non-profit basis with source noted.