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What Kind of Voter?

This devotional was written by my son, Clark Wrather, who is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Yukon, Oklahoma.

I have seen some commercials running about the election where people claim they are an energy voter or a peace voter. The commercials are an attempt to motivate people to vote based upon a personally held value instead of voting based upon the likeability of a candidate. The ads did cause me to think about which primary value I would carry with me to the polls. In this election, I will be a religious freedom voter.

Religious liberty is the cherished principle behind most of our nation's founding documents. It is seen throughout the pages of the Bible, but was not articulated well in the secular sphere until Martin Luther in the 1500s. His book, On Secular Authority, was a passionate expression of the principle: Liberty of Conscience. "Liberty of conscience" is the principle that forbids human authorities from coercing people's spiritual beliefs. We might call it religious freedom. In this book, Luther insisted that God requires voluntary religious beliefs. Compelled or coerced faith is insincere and must never be allowed. Luther insisted that "liberty of conscience" was one of Jesus Christ's principles. According to Luther, the civil government's role is simply to keep outward peace in society. The civil government has no business enforcing spiritual laws. "The laws of worldly government extend no farther than to life and property and what is external upon earth," Luther insisted.

Luther continued, "God has ordained the two governments: the spiritual, which by the Holy Spirit under Christ makes Christians and pious people; and the secular, which restrains the unchristian and wicked so that they are obliged to keep the peace outwardly...The laws of worldly government extend no farther than to life and property and what is external upon earth. For over the soul God can and will let no one rule but himself. Therefore, where temporal power presumes to prescribe laws for the soul, it encroaches upon God's government and only misleads and destroys souls. We desire to make this so clear that every one shall grasp it, and that the princes and bishops may see what fools they are when they seek to coerce the people with their laws and commandments into believing one thing or another."

The greatest assault upon religious freedom since our nation's founding is happening as we speak. Provisions in the Affordable Care Act mandate and require people to violate their deeply held religious beliefs and spiritual convictions. This is an encroachment upon the realm of the King of Heaven. Civil government has overstepped its bounds. Religious companies and institutions will be required by the Affordable Care Act to provide insurance to employees that make contraceptives, sterilizations, and abortifacients freely available. Religious universities, parachurch ministries and Christian family owned business are affected by this legislation.

While we may differ on our beliefs with Catholics, they are being required to ignore their deeply held religious beliefs and provide contraceptives and sterilizations. If this was as far as the legislation went, I would have a problem with it for causing some people to violate and deny their religious convictions, but the legislation goes even lower. It requires employers to provide the morning after pill and the week after pill that causes a pregnancy in its initial stages to terminate. The federal government's own birth control guides say, the drugs prevent implantation of a fertilized egg in the womb. This is abortion by any definition, not contraception.

A prominent company from Oklahoma, Hobby Lobby, is also affected by this legislation. The family has deeply held Christian convictions that will have to be violated in order to meet the requirements of this mandate. This is soul tyranny and it is why our forefathers fought a bloody revolution. The company has filed a law suit against the federal government and their attorney had this to say, "What the petitioners need to hear immediately is that the government cannot use health care reform as an excuse for trampling on religious rights."

In this election you can be an education voter, an energy voter, a peace voter, an abortion on demand voter, a free birth control voter, and many other things. I will be a religious freedom voter and stand with my forefathers against tyranny of the soul.

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How to Really Live Large

Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; do not spare; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes. - Isaiah 54:2 NKJV.

For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. - 2 Corinthians 5:2 NKJV.

Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. Moreover I will be careful to ensure that you always have a reminder of these things after my decease. - 2 Peter 1:13-15 NKJV.

And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, "Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory...." - 1 Chronicles 4:10a NKJV.

In Warsaw, Poland, a new house is being built between two existing buildings. The architect for the project is Jakub Szczesny. The house will be a temporary home for various artists and writers beginning with Israeli writer Edgar Keret. What's so unusual about this house? The Architect said, "It's the most challenging project I ever had. The living conditions in it will require a spaceship like adaptability." Why is that? At the narrowest point, the house will be two feet, four inches wide. At the widest point, the house will be slightly less than four feet wide. The reason for building the house? To provide a living space that has a restrictive feel to the inhabitant's surroundings. I think that would do it for me! (Orange News 09.12.12)

Jabez prayed asking God to "...bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory." Just moving from a smaller home to a larger one, you do have a sense of enlargement. The first home for our family was a small apartment where we lived for a few months, and then we bought a small mobile home that was our home for about four years. It did seem as though the longer we lived in the mobile home the smaller it became. Maybe that was why the next home that we bought was an old two story house with about 3,000 square feet. It was not in the best of shape, but we did enjoy our enlarged area for living. We only had the house for a year and a half, but we enjoyed our time there.

Another way to enlarge your territory (coast - old KJV) appears to be as Jabez was suggesting with a land area. This would fit in with the idea of a merchant having additional markets for his goods. It also fits with a larger ministry area. When I changed careers from being a parole officer to that of a pastor, my ministry area increased dramatically. With the advent of the Internet, my ministry area had an exponential increase.

A third way that our territory can be increased is in a personal way. Isaiah speaks of enlarging the place of your tent. The apostle Paul and the apostle Peter speak of their human bodies as being a tent. More specifically, they are speaking of their earthly lives as being like a tent. Your earthly tent can be enlarged by an increase of margins. When you have less debt, and more savings you have a financial margin. When you are in a good relationship with your spouse and your friends, you will have an increased emotional margin. When you are in a good relationship with your God by spending devotional time with Him, as in time, in the Bible, prayer, fellowship with other believers, and serving the Lord, you will then have spiritual margin. When you have spiritual margin, you will find it results in your having increased margin, an enlarged tent, for every area of your life. And that, is how you can really live large.

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Pretty Faces

For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. - Galatians 1:10.

Venus, the cat, appears to be a Photoshop creation, although she is not. Venus is simply the result of being born the way she is. Her face is split perfectly with one side being black. On the black fur side of her face, she has a green eye; on the other side of her face, she has a blue eye and ginger fur. The cat's human (aka owner), Christina, said, "This is just the way she was born, that's it." You can see a photo of Venus, on the cat's facebook page at www.facebook.com/VenusTheAmazingChimeraCat The page has more than 61,000 likes, and there are photos of other two faced cats and dogs on the page. There are also videos of Venus the cat on YouTube. The National Geographic Magazine does have an excellent article online about the science behind what happened to bring about a two-face cat like Venus.

The Online Dictionary defines two-faced (As related to us humans) as being: "deceitful; insincere; hypocritical." Also as being: "marked by deliberate deceptiveness especially by pretending one set of feelings and acting under the influence of another." We now know what a two-faced cat looks like. If a cat is two-faced, you can easily identify the creature simply by looking at the face of the cat. However, two-faced humans are often much harder to identify, because outwardly their faces do not appear to be two-faced. Marilyn Monroe identified the problem when she once said, "If you are going to be two-faced, at least make one of them pretty." That is the problem with identifying two-faced people, because their faces are often pretty, and often appear very innocent while beneath the surface in their hearts there is a much darker side.

The apostle Paul could have acted and could have spoken in a two-faced way. He could have said one thing to the new Gentile believers and another thing to the Jews who wanted Christians to continue to obey all of the old rituals that Jews had observed in the past. Paul chose to speak the truth in love. The Jews did not like it, but that did not make it any less truthful. Paul chose to obey God, and not the men who were pressuring him to compromise the truth. The fact that Paul chose to obey God and not men was evidence that Paul belonged to Christ, that he was "a bondservant of Christ."

What about you? Do you profess faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior? But at the same time, there is little evidence displayed in your life of your actually belonging to Christ, of your actually being "a bondservant of Christ?" Do you put on your "pretty" face on Sunday for church, but the rest of the week the darker side of your heart rules supreme? When you are with your friends, and you encounter some of your "church" friends, do you have to switch faces and put on your "pretty" face?

Life is psychologically much easier to live when we only have one face to put on in the morning. The apostle Paul gave us an example of living a life of truth, of always seeking to please God, and not men. Let us strive to do the same!

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Do It Yourself Dentistry

Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has contentions? Who has complaints? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger long at the wine, those who go in search of mixed wine. Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, When it swirls around smoothly; At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart will utter perverse things. - Proverbs 23:29-33.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. - James 1:5.

In Decatur, Alabama, a 61-year-old man had a toothache that had been bothering him. Now most people if a toothache is bad enough they will eventually go to a dentist. However, this man had another idea, and as a result, police were called to the home of the man and his brother. When the police arrived they found a 61-year-old man that was bleeding profusely from his mouth. His brother was trying to administer first aid and had a towel pressed onto his brother's face trying to stop the bleeding.

What in the world would happen to someone trying to treat their own teeth that would cause such a severe injury? As the man's brother explained to the responding officers, his 61-year-old brother had been drinking, and he had also been complaining about a tooth hurting before going to his room. The uninjured brother said that he heard a loud noise, and when he entered his brother's room he found him sitting on the bed with a small caliber handgun in his hand. The injured brother told his brother that his tooth had been hurting, and he tried to shoot it out. The injured man was taken to a local hospital where he was treated for his injuries. He may have also been told that this is why dentists don't use guns to remove teeth! (Decatur Daily 06.02.12)

Which drug is it that causes people to commit the most violence? Alcohol is the most dangerous drug of all, and it is legal. Alcohol interferes with our decision making abilities and you see people like the man in Decatur, Alabama making what can only be described as a stupid decision. Nothing good can come from substance abuse, including the use of a legal drug like alcohol.

Part of having wisdom is to know not to partake of anything that would reduce your ability to make wise decisions. Who in their right mind would attempt to use a gun to shoot out a tooth that is hurting them? Who in their right mind would shoot and kill their best friend? But that is what one of my clients that I had while I was a parole officer did while drinking. Who in their right mind would shoot and kill their brother whom they loved? But that is what one of my clients that I had while I was a parole officer did while drinking.

Let us remember to seek after God's wisdom that is found in the Bible. Let us remember to pray and ask God for His wisdom every day. So, the next time your tooth is hurting; instead of picking up a gun, you might want to pray and ask God what is the wise thing to do in the situation. Most likely God will tell you to pick up the phone, call and make an appointment to see a dentist who will know how safely to care for your tooth.

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Don't Let It Get Away From You

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. - 1 Corinthians 15:58.

In 1997, we moved from one side of town to the other (We were living at that time in Weatherford, Oklahoma.); from a duplex to a small house. My parents had just bought a new pickup truck, and so I asked my Dad if I could borrow it for the move. He agreed, and gave me this word of advice, "Don't let it get away from you." After I had driven the pickup some, I understood what he meant. Just a little pressure on the accelerator would make the truck take off as if you had pushed the accelerator to the floor on many vehicles. If you were unprepared for the sudden thrust of acceleration, you could lose control. Thankfully, I never let the pickup get away from me! Now since my parents have both passed away I still drive the pickup some and frequently remember my Dad’s words of advice about driving that old truck.

As I was thinking about this phrase, about not letting it get away from me, I used a search engine to see how often the phrase had been used. Surprisingly, there were more than two and half million results! Apparently, a lot of us have been letting a lot of stuff get away from us. Aretha Franklin even has a song with the phrase in it. Here, are a three lines from the song:

Gotta be strong, gotta be strong, gotta be strong
Don't let it get away from you
Do whatcha gotta do

A couple of other lines in the song seem to be so very true:

Taking care of home and family
Sometimes it's hard to keep your sanity

Just living life, making a living, raising children, keeping a marriage strong, and holding a family together can be enough to push some over the edge, or I guess we could say, let life "get away from us."

How do we keep from losing it? How do we keep from letting life "get away from us?" I love this verse in 1 Corinthians 15:58, just reading the verse you receive a sense of strength, power, and determination. We as Christians are able to keep it together and prevent life from getting "away from us" by keeping first things first. How can we be steadfast in the Lord? Remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:33, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."

If life has gotten away from you, if one thing after another keeps going wrong, God has the answer for how you can keep things together and be "steadfast" and "immovable". What is the answer? The answer is Jesus! Listen to God's Word:

Isaiah 26:3, "You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You."

Hebrews 12:3, "For consider Him (Jesus) who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls."

Philippians 4:6-7, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

So, before life gets away from you, put Jesus first in your life. Every morning, before you do anything else, pray (Mark 1:35) and read God's Word (Matthew 4:4). Every week allow time, give the time necessary for your family to assemble with other believers (Hebrews 10:24-25). Give a part of what God has blessed you with (Proverbs 3:9-10; 2 Corinthians 9:6-7), and be the servant of God serving others by following the example of Jesus (Mark 10:45).

Don't let it get away from you!

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Super Vision

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. - 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.

The normal human being is able to see one million different colors. However, a woman in England has been discovered who has the potential to see 100 million different colors. According to Gabriele Jordan, who is a neuroscientist at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom, this ability is only present in women. Jordan has estimated that as many as 12 percent of women may have the ability to see in colors beyond the imagination of most people. Most of these people, like the one known woman with the supervision, do not know that they are able to see beyond what other humans see. We normal humans are unable to describe what we see to them, and they are unable to describe what they see to us. (Orange News 06.22.12; Discover Magazine July/August 2012)

Who would have thought anyone could see so many colors! I didn't even know that the normal non-color blind person can see one million colors! Amazing! What other amazing things can some obscure human being on this planet do? And, just like the super color seeing person, they may not even know it. Just in case you are wondering, the woman with super color vision is a doctor in England referred to in scientific literature only as cDa29. So, will cDa29 ever come out of the closet and reveal herself to the world?

As amazing as it is that someone can see 99 million more colors than most of us, there are some people among us that have an even more amazing ability. There are millions of these people with an extraordinary gift, perhaps even a billion or more who have it. What is it that they can do? We probably ought to be careful about revealing this and assigning a number to each one to assure their privacy. However, number one billion and one might be a little cumbersome. Okay, I’ll let you in on this secret. These people with this superhuman ability are able to see...the unseen!

The Bible tells us about this amazing ability to see the unseen in 2 Corinthians 4:18, "while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal." It seems that the apostle Paul is writing about not just some select group of preachers, deacons, and teachers; but, here is the really strange thing, he is saying that all believers in Jesus have this ability. Although, it is somewhat like the superhuman ability to see multiple millions of colors, in that even though people have the ability to see the unseen they may not use it.

What are these unseen things that believers in Jesus should be able to see? God, Heaven, Angels, God's will, God's plan, God's purpose, and all eternal things. 2 Kings 6 tells us of when Elisha's servant was almost frightened to death because of the huge mass of the Syrian army that was sent after Elisha. The Bible tells us this, "And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, 'Alas, my master! What shall we do?' So he answered, 'Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.' And Elisha prayed, and said, 'Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.' Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (2 Kings 6:15c-17)."

May God open our eyes so that we may see the unseen, and every day look beyond the temporary things of this world to the eternal.

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On Christ We Stand

For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. - 1 Corinthians 10:4.

Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall. - Matthew 7:24-27.

Three people looking for a place to pitch their tent ignored a few warning signs, drove around barriers, and found what they thought was the perfect campsite. Now why would someone put up warning signs and road barriers to prevent access to an area? In this particular situation, the restricted area happens to be on the Swedish military Alvdalen Firing Range. The range was being used by an amphibious regiment practicing firing grenade launchers. The live fire exercise was ongoing when the campers arrived, but thankfully for them, it was discontinued until they could be removed from the restricted area. The Swedish military is said to be planning to sue the campers for $4,200 for the cost of the disruption of the exercise. (The Local, Sweden’s News in English - May 14, 2014)

I love the old hymn, "The Solid Rock." Some of the words of the hymn are:

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand

Thinking of the clueless Swedish campers, their choice of campsites is a picture of the "all other ground" of the hymn. It is also a good example of the "sand" foundation of Matthew 7.

What was the reasoning of these campers? How did they arrive at the conclusion that, in spite of the warnings and barricades that it would be okay for them to camp in that area? I was intrigued by one of the comments posted on the article: "If the campers really were 'from (a city in Sweden*)' they probably thought quite reasonably for (residents of that city) that the military exercise should be postponed until they had finished camping - nothing should get in the way of what a 'resident of that city' wants to do." Now I don't know anything about people who live in that city; however, a sense of entitlement could explain their disregard for the warnings. (*Name of the city in comment about article has been omitted.)

Some people appear to have a sense of entitlement when it comes to doing whatever they may want. Why should they do what some archaic book called the Bible says they should do when they are rich, or famous, or powerful, or whatever? Because of their "status" they believe they have a right to sin.

In addition to the sense of entitlement view toward authority, there is another method that some use in justifying their actions. They somehow think that if they ignore what authority says that; therefore, those rules promulgated by those authorities do not apply to them. Ignore God, ignore the Bible, ignore what is right, ignore the warning signs, ignore the barriers, and somehow in their minds those things do not exist.

Just because through some warped thinking you can somehow justify doing what God says is wrong; does not make it right. Build your life on sinking sand, on ground other than the solid rock of Christ, and your house, your life will fall.

Let us drink of that spiritual Rock, let us build our lives on that spiritual Rock; because Christ is the only foundation that a life can be safely built upon. On Christ we stand!

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Special People

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name. - John 1:12.

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. - 1 John 3:1-3.

"...do not get the idea you're anything special. Because you're not." - David McCullough Jr. speaking to the 2012 Wellesley High School graduating class in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Sadly, I agree with David McCullough Jr. somewhat; in that it appears that students in these days whether graduating from an exclusive, private school, or from a public school have a sense of entitlement. However, is this worse today than it was thirty or forty years ago? Maybe we are just better at identifying and communicating about this issue than we were in the past. In part, we are better at this because we experienced it ourselves.

For the majority of students in schools, in the United States, they live in a some what protected environment. The egos of these students have been protected to some extent from the reality of what it will be like to live in the real world making a living. Even though, I grew up on a farm, and had my share of work on the farm; I still was not as prepared for life on my own as I would have liked to have been. I know what McCullough was trying to do, because I have tried to do the same thing in baccalaureate messages I have given. In other words, these students, maybe all students need to wake up to the fact that life is not a bed of roses; and it will be a shock, a challenge beyond anything they have faced, to leave their protected environment and face life in the real world.

What I found out, after I had left my protected home environment, was that my own abilities, my own intelligence, my own resources were not enough to survive in the real world. What I needed was something, no someone, bigger than me to enable me to live life. That someone that I needed was and is, Jesus Christ. I would not be alive today without Jesus. I would have long ago been crushed and defeated by life without Jesus walking with me through each day.

The truth is that without Jesus you are not all that special, but with Jesus you become a very special person. Receiving Jesus as your personal Savior makes you a child of the King, and not a child of just any king, but a child of the King of kings, and the Lord of lords. When you are "born again" by receiving Jesus as your Savior, the Creator of the universe takes up residence within you (1 Corinthians 3:16). By yourself, in your own strength, life can be very difficult. However, when God Himself lives within you, when the Creator of the universe lives within you, your resources for living life are exponentially greater than anything you can imagine. That is why the apostle Paul was able to say in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

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Then He said to him, "A certain man gave a great supper and invited many, and sent his servant at supper time to say to those who were invited, 'Come, for all things are now ready.' 'But they all with one accord began to make excuses. The first said to him, 'I have bought a piece of ground, and I must go and see it. I ask you to have me excused.' And another said, 'I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to test them. I ask you to have me excused.' Still another said, 'I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.' So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, 'Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in here the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind.' And the servant said, 'Master, it is done as you commanded, and still there is room.'" - Luke 14:16-22.

Have you ever "accidentally" robbed a bank? I haven't either. But that is what Navey Skinner claims that she did back in January. She "accidentally" wrote a note that said, "Put the money in the bag now or die." She then "accidentally" went to a bank where she "accidentally" handed the note to a bank teller. It may not have been the best excuse for robbing a bank, but it has to be an original excuse! Navey says she spent part of the money from the robbery to buy meth. Police were able to identify the woman, which led them to contacting Navey's mother. Navey's mother is now raising Navey's 12-year-old daughter and told police that the last time she had seen Navey was on Christmas day. While visiting her mother and daughter, Navey stole her own daughter's Christmas presents. I wonder if that was an accident too? (The Herald, Everett, Washington - January 30, 2012)

Have you noticed how for some people, they are never at fault? It must be great to never make any mistakes! And if they do "accidentally" make a mistake they always have an excuse for doing what they did. Personally, I gave up on being perfect a long time ago. The fact is that I do make mistakes. Looking back over what I have just written I have already noticed several errors. Hopefully, I have corrected all of them.

In case you did not know, God is aware of our human tendency to give excuses for our failures. In Luke 14, Jesus talks about several excuses that God knows about. Actually, when we are communicating with God it is useless to try to make an excuse. Why? Because God can see very clearly what is in our heart, regardless of what our lips may be saying.

Over the centuries, there have been some whoppers of excuses told to God. Moses comes to mind. Moses who was educated as a prince to become pharaoh of Egypt claimed that he could not speak well. Jonah had a pretty good excuse he just did not like those Ninevites. Of course, that did not keep Jonah out of the belly of the great fish! Then there was Gideon who claimed that his tribe was the smallest tribe, and his family was the smallest family in the tribe, and that he was the smallest, weakest, most unlikely person in his family to be chosen by God. Ha! In spite of that excuse, God chose Gideon and he became a great leader.

If you are fearful about being obedient to God's will for your life, then share your fears with God. Making excuses for why you do not want to do what God wants you to do is an insult. God knows exactly what is in your heart and what is coming out of your mouth before you speak it. Allow God to speak to your heart, and take away your fears about following Him. Because God's plan is always the best plan for your life, even if you do not fully understand it at the time.

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But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. - Matthew 24:37-39.

And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. - Romans 13:11-12.

In La Crescenta, a suburb of Los Angeles, California, a man had an unexpected close encounter with a four or five hundred pound black bear. After hearing a helicopter (which was tracking the bear), Vaz Terdandenyan walked outside his apartment to see what was happening. Vaz was also texting his employer at the same time. He later shared this: "I was walking down the stairs, and I looked up and saw the bear coming up the stairs towards me. So I turned back and ran for my life." (Orange News 04.11.12; Syracuse dot com 04.11.12)

Vaz Terdandenyan was preoccupied with thoughts of his day and of life when he nearly walked into the paws of a bear. We have all seen videos of others who have been focused on texting while walking and experienced unpleasant consequences. I remember the video of a woman texting and walking into a hotel swimming pool. I read recently of a woman texting while walking down a pier, and then she walked into a river. According to the New York Times (01.08.12), more than a thousand people seek emergency treatment resulting from texting while walking.

The Lord Jesus will return for those who know Him as their Savior. It is called, the rapture, when Jesus returns in the air for His followers, and the apostle Paul writes about this in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord."

The apostle Paul tells believers in Romans 13, "it is high time to awake out of sleep." In other words, we need to stop our preoccupation with the trivial things of life because the Lord could come at any time. "Therefore," Paul says, "let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light."

For those who do not know Jesus as their Savior, the days prior to the flood are a warning when the people then, "were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark." So many people are just as preoccupied with the trivial, mundane things of life, as was the man who nearly walked into the bear. If a person does not know Jesus as their Savior, it will be much worse than walking into a bear, to be left behind here on this earth.

Open your eyes! Open your heart! Open your mind! Jesus is coming again, and that time is closer than ever before!

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Lay it Aside

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares (besets - KJV) us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. - Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV.

Elizabeth Smart, who was kidnapped and held captive for nine months, has married and is moving on with her life. Elizabeth’s mother had some advice for her daughter as to the kidnapping and captivity, “He (David Mitchell - the kidnapper) has already taken nine months your life. Don’t give him any more of your life.” (CNN Headline News 03.12.12)

Elizabeth lived a nightmare for nine months enduring unspeakable horrors, and then had to relive those horrors recounting them in a courtroom at the trial of her abductor. She is an amazing woman whose courage has given encouragement to many. May the rest of her life be blessed!

As I listened to the words of Elizabeth Smart’s mother, it occurred to me that those with addictions are being held captive. If you have an addiction, you are being held captive by a cruel master who has completely disrupted your life. If you have an addiction, your life is off course from where God would have it to be. If you have an addiction, you are being robbed, robbed of life. If you have an addiction, you are continually in danger of losing any life that you may have left.

The writer of the Book of Hebrews gives encouragement to those with addictions. We are told that we must “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us.” The old KJV refers to this as sin which “besets us.” Besetting sin, or ensnaring sin, is sin which holds us captive. Dictionary dot com defines an addiction in this way: “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.”

We are told in Hebrews 12:1 that we should “lay aside” our addiction. All of Hebrews chapter 11 leads up to this statement that we should “lay aside every weight, and the sin….” The first word of Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore”, refers back to Hebrews 11. What does Hebrews 11 tell us? Hebrews chapter 11 is the great roll call of the faithful. Hebrews 11 recounts the deeds of many who through faith endured to the end. Those heroes of the faith were overcomers. They overcame their fears they overcame their cruel masters, they overcame because they could see beyond the here and now to eternity. Hebrews 11 begins with this statement, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible (Hebrews 11:1-3).” The writer of Hebrews is telling us to look beyond the temporary, look beyond the need for the temporary fix of comfort that our addiction may provide. Look beyond this day, look beyond this moment to eternity. Look to Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) and “lay aside” that addiction that has us ensnared.

How much time, how much life has the cruel master of your addiction taken away from you? How long have you been enslaved? Your addiction has already robbed you of years of your life. Don’t give away any more of your life to it! Lay it aside, as you look beyond the need for some temporary comfort, looking to eternity. Jesus is the “author and finisher of our faith” and He has come to give you life. Allow Jesus to put your life back together, and restore the years (Joel 2:25) that the locusts of your addiction have eaten away.

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Growing Up

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. - Hebrews 5:12 NKJV.

Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. - 1 Peter 2:1-3 NKJV.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. - Philippians 2:5-7 NKJV.

In the United States, AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) has a TV commercial aimed at recruiting new members. You can join AARP when you are 50-years-old, and they have been regularly sending me invitations ever since before my fiftieth birthday. The TV commercial asks the question of those who would be old enough to join AARP, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” In the commercial, several responses are given, including these: fix up old houses; run a marathon; and start a band. On the AARP website, they have many other responses from people about what they want to be when they grow up, including: be the oldest surfer in the world; be an architect and build affordable housing; sail around the world; be a Radio Music Hall Rockette dancer; college professor; travel in RV; yoga instructor; backup singer for Tina Turner; registered nurse; diva on a soap opera; write a romance thriller; and, be the person I was before I had to grow up. AARP finishes their commercial by saying that they believe, “you’re never done growing.”

From the Book of Hebrews and from the epistles of the apostle Paul we know that some early Christians had not yet grown up. The early Christians referred to in the Book of Hebrews should have grown in the faith, and had time to grow in the faith, to become teachers; however, they were still just babies in the faith. Before we condemn them, we need to remember that those were tough times to be living life as Christians. I watched a video Sunday detailing some of the historical records of Jesus. One record from 102 A.D. was of a Roman commander writing the Emperor to determine if Christians should still be put to death. Their crime? They had met together and sang a song referring to Jesus as God.

What about you? What about me? What is your excuse, what is my excuse, for not reaching our growth potential as disciples of our Lord? The apostle Peter indicates some of the things that slow down the growth process: malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and evil speaking. Peter says those things must be laid aside. The writer of the Book of Hebrews says we need to, “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us.” The apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 3 encourages that we avoid worldly wisdom, and we are told that, “the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God (1 Corinthians 3:19).” Of course, there are many other things which slow down our growth as children of God. I am sure that you know very well what they are in your own life, just as I am in mine. Whatever is slowing down our growth to our maturity in Christ, let us lay it aside.

What do you want to be when you grow up as a child of God? Personally, I want to be like my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ when I grow up. As we are told in the epistle to the Philippians, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”

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Empty Words

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. But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. - 1 John 3:16-18 NKJV.

The Chinese communist party newspaper, the People’s Daily, says that the government will remove the current harsh slogans about enforcement of China’s one child policy in force since 1979. The policy will remain the same, but the words will change. Here are some of the slogans that will be removed: “If you don’t receive the tubal ligation surgery by the deadline, your house will be demolished!” “Kill all your family members if you don’t follow the rule!” “Once you get captured, an immediate tubal ligation will be done; should you escape, we’ll hunt you down; if you attempt a suicide, we’ll offer you either the rope or a bottle of poison.” Instead of the harsh slogans there will be softer, kinder messages used such as these two: “Caring for the girl means caring for the future of the nation.” “Please get rid of the alcohol and cigarettes before you plan to be a father.” However, the policy will not change, only the words. (Orange News 02.28.12)

There has been an increasing outrage from the world toward the Chinese one child policy, and their harsh enforcement of that policy. Now that the Chinese have changed their words, will that be enough to soothe world opinion? Will continued harsh enforcement of the one child policy only with kinder, gentler words, be enough?

The apostle John is speaking about those who through their words are kinder and gentler without any change in their actions. The apostle John is talking about people who act like the Chinese government. They change their words, but keep on doing what they have always done.

When we have it within our abilities, and resources to help others, are words enough? For the one who needs the help, words alone are useless. To make a difference in this world, words are nice, but actions are what are needed. Our actions, demonstrate our love, or lack of love. Jesus has given us an example. Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us Jesus did not say one of His followers ought to die for the sins of others, instead; He “died for us.” The actions of Jesus, prove that His words of love toward us are not empty promises.

Are your words, are my words, empty words, empty promises? Will you do what you say? Will I do what I say? If you have failed to follow through with what you have said, maybe you should do so now. If you have failed to follow through with what you know God would have you to do, maybe you should do so now. Jesus told this parable of two sons in Matthew 21: “But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father? They said to Him, ‘The first (Matthew 21:28-31).’”

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Dead Living

But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives. - 1 Timothy 5:6 NKJV.

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. - Ephesians 2:1-3 NKJV.

But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.” - Ephesians 5:13-14 NKJV.

95-year-old Li Xiufeng had been in her coffin for six days when she crawled out. A neighbor had found Li not breathing and not moving in her bed. Chen Qingwang was unable to wake Li and believed that she had died while she was asleep. Chen said, “She didn’t get up, so I came up to wake her up. No matter how hard I pushed her and called her name, she had no reactions. I felt something was wrong, so I tried her breath, and she was gone, but her body is still not cold.” The day before the funeral, Chen went to Li’s house and found her coffin was empty. Chen said, “We were so terrified, and immediately asked the neighbors to come for help.” They found Li sitting in her kitchen cooking! Li told them, “I slept for a long time. After waking up, I felt so hungry, and wanted to cook something to eat. I pushed the lid for a long time to climb out.” (Orange News 02.29.12)

You could say that Li Xiufeng was dead, but still living. Her body was still alive at some very low level of existence; however, who would want to live like that? How wonderful it must have been to awake from her almost dead existence, crawl out of the coffin, and begin to really live!

We have heard about people who text while driving, who drink while driving, who are high on drugs while driving, and who do all kinds of other things while they are driving. Even more scary are those who are dead living while driving!

If you do not know Jesus as your personal Savior, if you have not been “born again (John 3:3)”; you are dead in your “trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1).” In addition, those who know Jesus as their Savior who “lives in pleasure is dead” while living. To be “carnally minded (mind of sinful man - NIV) is death (Romans 8:6)” and everyone who puts their focus, their desires upon the things of this world, or human, fleshly desires are dead living.

The Bible makes it clear what we must do to stop our dead living. We must “awake!” We must “cast off the works of darkness” and “put on the armor of light.” We must “walk properly.” We must “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts (Romans 13:11-14 NKJV).”

So, if you have been dead living, crawl out of that coffin, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and find out what it is like to really live!

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A Hot Potato

See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh. - James 3:5-12 NKJV.

A talebearer (gossip - NIV) reveals secrets, but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter. - Proverbs 11:13 NKJV.

Hot Potato is a children’s game, with those playing standing or sitting in a circle. Something small like a potato, ball, or a beanbag is tossed from one player to the next while music is playing. When the music stops the player holding the “hot potato” is out of the game. The game continues until just one player is left. The game is sometimes played without music, and someone shouts out “hot” instead of the music stopping. I can remember playing the game a few times when I was a child.

The Chinese military appears to have their own version of the “Hot Potato” game. There is a video that originally appeared on state owned Chinese television showing soldiers passing around a live explosive device. Each soldier holding the device counts to six prior to passing it to the next soldier. The soldiers are standing around a hole in the ground and just before the device explodes the last one holding the device throws it into the hole. All of the soldiers than dive away from the hole to protect themselves when the device explodes. The device in the video does appear to explode, and all of the soldiers survive without injury. (Chinese state television, Daily Telegraph, Huffington Post, Youtube 01.24.12)

There is another type of “hot potato” that we sometimes pass around called gossip. Gossip is defined by Dictionary dot com as being, “idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others.” Gossip, just like the Chinese device can sometimes explode causing tremendous damage. However, unlike the Chinese explosive device, gossip is much more unpredictable. No one knows when gossip may suddenly explode, and no one knows all of those who may be hurt by it. Sometimes, just the person the gossip is about is hurt, although usually the last person passing the gossip is also harmed. Just as in a war, when an explosive device goes off, there will nearly always be collateral damage caused by gossip. Once we speak the words with our mouth there is no way to bring them back. Once we speak the words with our mouth there is no way of knowing who will eventually be hurt whether the gossip is true, or whether it is not.

Have you ever been the person responsible for spreading the gossip? Nearly everyone has been at some time or another including me. Have you ever been hurt by gossip? Nearly everyone has been at some time or another; I know I have been. What should you do when you hear some juicy bit of news about someone else? Drop it! And run, because it may go off at any time! It’s a “hot potato!” We are told in Ephesians 4:29 NKJV, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” The New Living Translation says, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” May my words, may your words, always be encouraging to those who hear them…or hear of them.

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End of the Road

But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. - 1 Peter 4:7 NKJV.

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last. - Revelation 22:13 NKJV.

Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. - 1 Corinthians 15:24-25 NKJV.

And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment. - Hebrews 9:27 NKJV.

There is a new highway being built in southern China in the Fujian Province. For those of you driving around in Fuzhou, China, the key words here are, building, new highway, and unfinished. Wang Lu and the two passengers with her found out what that meant when they came to the end of the road. The road ends, with an unfinished elevated bridge 40 feet above the ground. Wang Lu drove off the end of the road in her Nissan. She drove off the bridge at the end of the road, because there were no warning signs, no barriers, no warning of any kind to mark the coming end of the road. Thankfully, and surprisingly all three of the occupants of the Nissan survived with no major injuries. One witness, Chen Hen, said this, “I kept thinking, the car would stop, but it sailed straight off the edge.” (Orange News 02.22.12)

We here on Planet Earth are hurtling toward the end. The end of the road is coming just as rapidly as a speeding car approaches the end of an unfinished highway bridge. We are coming to the End, and the End is Jesus Christ who is “the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.” When we all reach the ultimate End of the road, every knee will bow, and every tongue will “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:11).” All of the enemies of Jesus Christ will be put under His feet, because at the very End is Jesus.

A couple of weeks ago I was saddened to learn of the death of a friend. Eldon had been a good friend through grade school and through our junior year in High School. His senior year his parents sent him to a private school in another state. Some years ago, I did make contact with him and exchanged a letter or two. I always thought that we might be able to get together and have a good visit about what had gone on in our lives. However, that will never happen now in this life. Hopefully, from what I know of my friend’s beliefs, he knew Jesus as his Savior. Yesterday, I learned also that the husband of a High School classmate had passed away. From what I know, I believe that this man also may have known Jesus as his Savior.

This human life that we are now living is coming to an end, and the Bible is very clear about that. We are told that, “it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” The Bible is also very clear about the brevity of life, “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 4:14-15 NKJV).’” The Bible is also very clear that none of us have any guarantees about the length of our lives; or what will happen tomorrow, or in coming days in our lives as we are told in James 4:13-14a, “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.”

The End is rapidly approaching for every one of us. Will we sail off the end of this life into eternity not knowing Jesus as our personal Savior? Will we go out into eternity doomed to eternal torment? It does not have to be that way! Before you sail off the end of the road of your life “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29)!” Jesus is the Lamb of God, and He can take away your sins too. Let Him!

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Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise, which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest. How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep - So shall your poverty come on you like a prowler, and your need like an armed man. - Proverbs 6:6-11 NKJV.

When He rose up from prayer, and had come to His disciples, He found them sleeping from sorrow. Then He said to them, “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray, lest you enter into temptation.” - Luke 22:45-46 NKJV.

But his lord answered and said to him, “You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed.” - Matthew 25:26 NKJV.

Most of you know who Larry the Cable Guy is. His name is actually Daniel Lawrence Whitney, and he’s a comedian whose motto, whose theme is Get-R-Done. The History Channel, beginning last year produced a series that starred Larry the Cable Guy as he traveled the country, and experienced working at different jobs. I have watched a few of those History Channel shows and enjoyed them. If there is a motto, theme, slogan for the farmer, the oilfield worker, or blue collar workers in other industries, I think it is the motto, the theme of Larry the Cable Guy: Get-R-Done.

I grew up on a farm, and my Dad farmed, drove a truck, worked at the air base, and did basically what he needed to do to support his family and survive. He was able to support himself by farming alone for only a period of five or six years. On the farm, you don’t have a bunch of other people there to help when something goes wrong. It is up to you for the most part to take care of whatever the problem is. You’ve got to Get-R-Done.

My Dad always had a lot of scrap metal, and collected more of it whenever he could. Because whenever a plow or something on the tractor broke; he was going to try to fix it with some of that scrap metal, a welder, a cuttin’ torch, and whatever else he could find. Because when you live on a farm, you have to Get-R-Done, and that’s the way it has been for thousands of years.

When you are in the oilfield, it’s the same way. The first drill pipe inspection unit that I operated (Later I would operate tubing and casing inspection units.) by myself was a brand new one brought up to Oklahoma from Odessa, Texas. The first job that I went on with that unit was in December, and the temperature was ten degrees. I had a two man crew to run the air jacks. My boss, the owner of the company, and the customer were setting in a car watching. The only problem was that the air jacks that we used to jack up the drill pipe, so the inspection buggy could run down it, would not work. The air system was rigged up all wrong.

I had never looked closely at the air system before, but when you have everyone standing around looking at you, and your job is on the line - you have to do what? Get-R-Done. So, you remember it’s ten degrees, and I have a bunch a people standing around watching while I pull everything apart in a compartment on the side of the truck. I tried to figure out what was wrong, and put it all back together. You can probably guess what else I was doing? I was praying! Thank God it all worked, and we got the job done. Because in the oilfield and in life, you have to do what? Get-R-Done.

God will give us the strength, the energy, the wisdom to Get-R-Done in our lives. However, this does not just automatically happen. Instead of sleeping in, we need to do what? We need to pray so that we do not “enter into temptation.” We need to read God’s Word because we do not live by bread alone (Matthew 4:4). We need to assemble with other believers so that we will be stirred up unto love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). We need to be good stewards of what we have been given, so that God will bless our work (Matthew 25:14-30). So, instead of sleeping in, instead of having a pity party, instead of getting depressed, let us rise up in the power of God and Get-R-Done!

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Not Giving Up

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart (give up - NIV). Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. - Galatians 6:9-10 NKJV.

Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart (give up - NIV). - Luke 18:1 NKJV.

Robert “Choc” Thornton has had a few injuries during his career. At the age of 33-years, he has already been injured from 367 falls. During his career, he has had all of his ribs broken, lost several teeth, nine times his collar bone has been shattered, and he has experienced torn ligaments and tendons. What kind of job does Thornton have? He is a National Hunt jockey. According to Wikipedia, National Hunt Racing “is the official name given to the sport of horse racing in the United Kingdom, France and Ireland in which the horses are required to jump over obstacles called hurdles or fences.” Because of his injuries, Thornton has temporarily had to stop racing 42 times, and is currently in one of those racing delays with a broken arm. Thornton commented on his injuries by saying, “I haven't thought about giving up, and the day I do will be the day I retire. You can't ride with thoughts like that in your head.” (Orange News 02.16.12)

If there were a hall of fame for the toughest people who ever lived, Choc Thornton ought to be in there somewhere. Because Choc has proven his toughness. I think that the apostle Paul ought to be near the top of the list, and at the very top of the list should be Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul endured being stoned, whipped, shipwrecked, snakebitten, imprisoned, and more; but he never gave up. Jesus endured the ultimate in physical punishment with a Roman scourging, the crown of thorns, carrying of his cross, and finally execution on a Roman cross. Jesus endured it all even though He could have called legions of angels to come to His aid. Jesus endured it to the end. He endured it until He could cry out from the cross “It is finished.” Jesus not only bore the physical pain, but he also bore the sins of all people past, present, and future to become the “once for all” sacrifice (Hebrews 7:26-27).

It is possible to endure great physical pain and emotional torment without giving up. It has been done before. In addition to those already mentioned, we are given the roll call of the heroes of the faith in Hebrews chapter 11. Those men and women of God remained faithful to the end. They had their hearts and minds set on being faithful; they were not giving up.

Jesus gives us instruction about how to keep from giving up in Luke 18, “Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart (give up - NIV).” Why do we want to pray when we are thinking of giving up? Because Jesus can help us. We are told this in Hebrews 2:18 NKJV, “For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” The Amplified Bible translates Hebrews 2:18 in this way, “For because He Himself [in His humanity] has suffered in being tempted (tested and tried), He is able [immediately] to run to the cry of (assist, relieve) those who are being tempted and tested and tried [and who therefore are being exposed to suffering].” Jesus “is able” to help you when you are thinking of giving up. He will “run” to your “cry” for help. However, we need to remember the instruction of Jesus in Luke 18. We must remember to ask for His help, and not give up on asking for His help.

Let us live life confidently knowing that whatever we may face, whatever comes our way, we can be faithful to the end. Jesus will give us all that we need (Romans 8:32) so that there will never be a need for us to give up.

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Not Crushed

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed - always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. - 2 Corinthians 4:7-10.

Ludovic Maciave was driving his 4x4 in the French Alps’ Arly Gorge near Albertville when he came to a sudden stop. What stopped Ludovic was a 20-ton boulder that smashed his vehicle. Emergency responders did not expect to find anyone alive inside of the smashed vehicle; however, Ludovic did survive with flattened lungs, damaged ribs, and assorted other injuries. Ludovic says, “When I came to, I realized that there was a huge rock in the car. I was stuck between the rock and the bottom of the door…space was very restricted…could be measured in centimeters…I was completely compressed. It’s a miracle I’m alive. Although I’m not a believer I do think this was a miracle. The chances of it happening were very small. Now I will see life differently.” (Mail Online News UK 02.10.12 - Here is a link to the article where there are photos posted: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2099167/Now-THATS-lucky-escape-Miracle-driver-survives-4x4-flattened-20-tonne-boulder-French-Alps-road.html)

Ludovic Maciave knows what it is like to be hard-pressed physically on every side, and yet not be crushed. He experienced it in a very literal way! I agree with Ludovic; it can only be described as a miracle that the man is still living. Hopefully, he will move from his belief in a miracle to a belief in the One who brought the miracle about in his life.

The apostle Paul writing through the direction of the Holy Spirit in 2 Corinthians describes the pressure of life that was upon him. Paul had not been literally crushed with a 20-ton boulder; however, Paul had an emotional and spiritual weight of a huge boulder resting upon his shoulders. In 2 Corinthians 6, the apostle Paul writes of these pressures saying, “But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings…(2 Corinthians 6:4-5).” Paul says that even though he and other believers are going through these difficult things they are “not crushed.”

Why are the apostle Paul and other believers “not crushed” by the pressures of living life? Because Paul says, “…we have this treasure in earthen vessels.” What treasure is that? It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The earthen vessels are the bodies of the believers indwelt by the Holy Spirit by whose presence we have the living presence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

How can we be crushed when we have Jesus living within us? How can we be crushed when the power that created Heaven and earth resides within us? Let us do what Ludovic Maciave cannot yet do; let us believe! Believe, as did the apostle Paul. Believe, as have countless others since the resurrection of Christ Jesus. Believe, and you will never be “crushed” by anything upon this earth. Believe it!

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Broken Hearted

And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last. - Mark 15:37 NKJV.

Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. - John 19:31-34 NKJV.

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. - Hebrews 4:15 NKJV.

I never knew that having a broken heart is an actual medical condition. A TV station in my state (newsok.com; news9) mentioned the condition today. A Google search led to information about the condition at Mayo.com and to an article dated 01.26.12 on About.com by Richard N. Fogoros, M.D. The condition used to be called takotsubo cardiomyopathy, but is now called stress cardiomyopathy. It is a serious condition with symptoms similar to a heart attack with shortness of breath and pressure in the chest. It occurs when part of the heart suddenly balloons resulting in a less effective pumping action. It is usually caused by being emotionally traumatized in some way. The good news is that the person experiencing the broken heart usually recovers within a few days or weeks.

The article on About.com indicated that the incidence of broken hearts increases substantially on and around Valentine’s Day. If you have ever had a relationship suddenly end, or even had a sudden disruption of a relationship you know that this can be traumatic. My wife and I celebrated our 42nd wedding anniversary last month. For most of our marriage, we have enjoyed a wonderful relationship, although there have been some brief periods of stress and trauma. Although I have never had stress cardiomyopathy, whenever there has been stress in my relationship with my wife it has felt like my heart was broken.

Without Jesus in my life, my marriage would have ended long ago. The very best thing that I have ever done to sustain my marriage was a commitment to Jesus Christ. My marriage has grown even stronger as I have made commitments to pray, to read the Bible, and to attend church.

We have a High Priest, Jesus Christ, who has experienced the worst that this world can thrust upon a person. As the Bible says, Jesus “…was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus knows what it is like to have a broken heart because that is what He died from; a broken heart (Because of the sudden cry, and bowing of the head of Jesus, many doctors analyzing the Biblical record believe that He died of a cardiac rupture.). Because Jesus has successfully endured terrible emotional and physical trauma without surrender to the demands of the world, He is able to help us.

What is the spiritual cure for a broken heart? Look to Jesus! “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls (Hebrews 12:1b-3 NKJV).” Lay aside the weight, the trauma of that broken heart, by turning your eyes upon Jesus. As the old hymn says:

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

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Finding Lasting Love

God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. - 1 John 4:16b NKJV.

Which statement best expresses your impression of Valentine’s Day: 1) Valentine’s Day is…a day for those in love? Valentine’s Day is…dumb and you’re wasting your money? Personally, I have always had a good impression of Valentine’s Day from the time I was a little boy to the present. I have great memories of receiving Valentine cards and candy when I was a boy. I have great memories of giving Valentine cards and candy. As an adult, I have enjoyed being able to express my love for my wife in some tangible way on Valentine’s Day. However, as I found out today, not everyone shares my enthusiasm for the day. There is an article today on the street dot com by Jason Notte with the title of, “Valentine’s Day is Dumb and You’re Wasting Your Money.”

Jason Notte begins his article with this statement: “Valentine's Day is best illustrated in one series of actions: Withdraw from an ATM what you'd usually spend on date night, withdraw that amount again, show it to the person you love most and then flush the entire sum down the nearest toilet.” Notte as you can see has a very jaded view of the day. I will concede that Valentine’s Day has become commercialized, but no more so than Christmas, or maybe even Easter. It may be that your sense of value of and meaning of this holiday is based on your own experience with love. If at the current time you are not in a relationship or have had a bad relationship, your view of Valentine’s Day probably mirrors that of Jason Notte. However, if you are in a happy relationship, a long and happy marriage you most likely view Valentine’s Day in a more favorable light.

There is an old saying, and that “Love is fickle.” Dictionary dot com defines “fickle” this way: “likely to change, especially due to caprice, irresolution, or instability; casually changeable: fickle weather. Not constant or loyal in affections.” Fickleness in love mirrors our humanness. We humans frequently change our minds about nearly everything, including love. Contrast this characterization of humans with the character of God described in Numbers 23:19 NKJV, “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent (change His mind - NIV 1984). Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” God remains the same (Hebrews 13:8). God does not change His mind as we humans do.

One of the character traits of God is that of love. We are told this in 1 John 4:16 NKJV, “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” Also, in 1 John 4:8 NKJV, “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” In what we know as the Love Chapter in 1 Corinthians 13 we are told this about God’s kind of love, “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; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a NKJV).” The entire chapter is summed up with this statement in verse 13, “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

With the character traits of God in mind, we can make better choices as to relationships that will succeed. No guarantees, but you will have greater success in relationships that are based on a mutual respect and love for God through Jesus Christ. This is why the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 6:14, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?” As I always say in marriage ceremonies that I perform, “The greater your love for Jesus Christ, the greater the love you will have for each other.”

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Fight Back

Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. - James 4:7-8 NKJV.

It was in a Bremen, Georgia, Wal-Mart that 25-year-old Thomas Woods attempted the abduction. Brittney Baxter was looking at toys in the toy aisle with her mother nearby when the attack occurred. Woods grabbed Brittney and attempted to carry her away, but he was unprepared for a seven-year-old second grader to fight back. Brittney said this about how she fought back, “I was kickin' and screamin' and then he put his hand over my mouth, but I kept kicking.” Woods dropped Brittney and fled from the store. Brittney said that she was thankful that her parents and teachers had taught her how to fight when a stranger attacked. Woods is a parolee on parole for manslaughter, and he was arrested a short time later. (thewiregrassnews.com 02.09.12; Fox News 02.09.12)

A little seven-year-old girl gives all of us an example of what to do when we are experiencing a spiritual attack. Brittney did what she had been taught to do and was being obedient to her parents by fighting back. The first step in winning a spiritual battle is to be obedient to God. “Submit to God.” Do what God would have you to do and not what the devil, or the world, or your flesh may want. If you have sin in your life, the place to begin your battle is on your knees in confession as we are told in 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” That is how you do what the apostle James tells you to do when he says, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

The next step in fighting a spiritual battle is to “resist.” Your resistance has already begun when you submit yourself to God. However, there is more to it than that. Jesus gives us a couple of examples of how to resist and overcome the devil and his demonic minions. When Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness (Matthew 4), Jesus responded with the Word of God. When Jesus was tempted by the devil to use the power of God to give Himself food, Jesus responded by saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” When the devil tempted Jesus to demonstrate His power, Jesus responded by saying, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’” When the devil tempted Jesus with the kingdoms and riches of this world if Jesus would worship him, Jesus responded by saying, “For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’” As we are told in Ephesians 6:17b to, “take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

Another example given by Jesus in fighting spiritually is given when He cast out demons His disciples were unable to cast out in Mark chapter 9. When Jesus was asked by His disciples why they could not cast the demons out, Jesus responded by saying, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29).”

In addition, to the examples given to us by Jesus in the Gospels, we are told in Ephesians 6:11 to “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” The apostle Paul then describes the “armor of God” in verses 12 through 18.

So, before you give up and wave the white flag of surrender to the temptations of the devil and his demons…in the words of Brittney Baxter try some “kickin’ and screamin’”. Do some screamin’ and quote the Word of God out loud and in your mind. Do some kickin’ and pray in the Name of Jesus for God to come to your aid. Because if you “resist the devil” he will “flee from you.”

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Chasing Yourself

The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it arose. The wind goes toward the south, and turns around to the north; the wind whirls about continually, and comes again on its circuit. All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; to the place from which the rivers come, there they return again. - Ecclesiastes 1:5-7 NKJV.

An undercover police officer in Sussex, England was notified by a CCTV operator that there was a suspect in his area. This is an area that has been hit hard by burglars. The CCTV operator gave instructions to the officer, and the chase was on. The officer chased and chased the suspect for more than 20 minutes until a supervisor realized that the CCTV operator had made a mistake. The operator thought that the officer, who was in plainclothes, was a possible burglary suspect; and had been instructing the officer to chase himself. (Orange News 02.08.2012)

What was the point of a police officer chasing himself? What is the point of anyone chasing themselves? That is the point. It is pointless. It is purposeless. It is meaningless to chase yourself. “The wind goes toward the south, and turns around to the north; the wind whirls (circles - Amplified Bible) about continually, and comes again on its circuit.” The Book of Ecclesiastes is all about how to find meaning in life, or maybe a better way of stating it would be of how not to find meaning in life. Solomon tried about every possible way to find meaning and for a portion of his life just ended up chasing himself. Solomon kept going in circles like a cat or a dog chasing its tail, just chasing himself. Have you ever felt like that? You just keep doing the same thing over and over again, and you wonder if there is any real purpose, real need to keep on going? How do you find meaning, purpose, in life?

Solomon sums up his miserable attempts to find meaning in the pleasures of this world with a summary statement of what he finally realized by saying, “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 NKJV).” What about us what are some practical ways that we can find meaning and purpose in life and stop chasing ourselves? In response to the question about what is the greatest commandment, Jesus said this, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:37-40 NKJV).”

You can know Jesus as your Savior and still end up chasing yourself if you do not love God by putting God first in your life. As Jesus says in Matthew 6:33 NKJV, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” This is a prescription for purpose, for meaning, for joy to be added to your life. Serving God, being obedient to God, has to be at the very top of your list of priorities or you will just continue on chasing yourself around and around in circles. You make God first by giving Him your time. You give God time when you pray, read the Bible, attend church, when you give, and serve Him in any way. You make God first by not just talking about these things but by actually doing them.

You do not have to go through the misery that Solomon went through and that so many others have gone through. You can begin now to live your life for God in every possible way that you can. Then, you will find peace. Then, you will find joy. Then, you will find meaning. Then, you will find purpose. Then, you will have stopped chasing yourself.

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Our Hiding Place

You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. - Psalm 32:7 NKJV.

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.” - Psalm 91:1-2 NKJV.

When sheriff’s deputies in Oklahoma City tried to serve a search warrant on a suspected drug dealer, he ran out of the house. Carter Hickerson, 28-years-old, ran to another house and hid. Someone saw the man run into the house and told the deputies who then entered the second house and found Hickerson hiding in a clothes dryer. (Daily Oklahoman 02.04.12)

In Clark County, Ohio deputies were searching for an escaped inmate Kelsey Litteral. They found her in a basement of a house hiding in a clothes dryer. (whiotv.com 12.15.11)

In Amarillo, Texas, authorities were searching for 34-year-old Candida Pacheco because of her suspected involvement in a drug ring which was operating out of the Potter County Detention Center. They found Candida inside of a house, hiding inside of a…clothes dryer. (Amarillo Globe News 03.11.2010)

What do you do if you don’t get the job you always wanted? What do you do if you’re in debt so deep that you have to file for bankruptcy? What do you do if your doctor gives you some bad news? What do you do if you fail? What do you do if the worst thing that you can imagine, actually happens? What do you do if the police has a warrant for your arrest? You can run and hide in a clothes dryer, but it’s not going to do you a lot of good is it?

The spiritual truth is that, at one time or another, we all need a hiding place and that clothes dryer isn’t going to do us very much good. We can run, and we can run from the bad things in this life, and still never escape. Where do we turn, what do we do, when our world falls apart? Some people hide in a clothes dryer. Back in the time when King David lived they didn’t have clothes dryers, but they did have caves. David hid out in, and lived in a lot of those caves, while King Saul and others chased him.

David learned from that experience that even while hiding in a cave you still need a better hiding place. The cave was only a very temporary solution. The cave could not really protect him from the reality that there were those who wanted to kill him. The cave could not give him peace in his heart. David learned what we also need to learn, and that is that there is only one real hiding place in this world. That hiding place is in the arms of God. As David put it, “the Secret Place of the Most High…under the shadow of the Almighty.” There we will live in a “refuge” and a “fortress”.

When the worst that can possibly happen in our life happens, we need to remember that God is still God. When the worst that can possibly happen, happens; we need to remember that God still loves us. He loved us so much that Jesus suffered and died for our sins. He took our place on the cross. No matter what may happen or may have happened, know this: God loves you. God loves you and nothing can change that.

When the worst that can possibly happen, happens; we need to remember that God can change things. No, He will not undo what has happened. However, God can bring good out of the very worst that this life may thrust upon us. Romans 8:28 KJV is true. “…we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” But the promise of Romans 8:28 is not automatic; it is conditional. It is dependent upon our loving God, and our seeking to be obedient to what he wants in our lives.

So, when the worst that can possibly happen, happens; let us remember that God loves us and let us continue to love Him seeking to be obedient to all that He wants in our lives. That is where we will find our hiding place “under the shadow of the Almighty.”

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Avoiding Mistakes

Jesus answered and said to them, “Are you not therefore mistaken, because you do not know the Scriptures nor the power of God? For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. But concerning the dead, that they rise, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the burning bush passage, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living. You are therefore greatly mistaken.” - Mark 12:24-27 NKJV.

Amado Cardenas was upset with his former girlfriend which led to his mistakes. Amado broke into what he thought was his ex-girlfriend’s apartment and did what burglars do. He went through her stuff taking the money he found along with medications. He tried to pry a flat screen television from the wall and then drank some alcoholic beverages he found in the fridge. However, unlike most burglars, Amado Cardenas then took a nap on the floor. That is where he was when Amado’s former girlfriend’s neighbor came home discovering him on the floor still asleep. Amado had broken into the wrong apartment his ex-girlfriend‘s neighbor‘s apartment! She called 911 and Amado was arrested, and hauled off to jail. (Broward Palm Beach New Times The Pulp Blog 12.02.11)

Cardenas made several mistakes. He began by making the mistake of trying to obtain revenge against his ex-girlfriend. What does God say in the Bible about revenge? In Romans 12:19 NKJV we are told, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Instead of trying to get back at someone God says this, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head (Romans 12:20 NKJV).” In other words, when someone is mean to you, be nice to them because God will take care of it.

The next mistake that Cardenas made was in deciding to break the law by breaking into an apartment to steal and to destroy. The command that God makes against stealing is one of the Ten Commandments which says: “You shall not steal (Exodus 20:15 NKJV).” When you steal you are hurting yourself, the Bible says in Proverbs 1, “So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; It takes away the life of its owners (v.19 NKJV).” And “…they lie in wait for their own blood, they lurk secretly for their own lives (v.18).”

Cardenas also made the mistake of consuming alcoholic beverages. Why is that wrong? We are told in 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 NKJV, “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” It is a fact that alcohol causes physical problems. When I was in the hospital last month for pancreatitis I was asked repeatedly if I drank, i.e. consumed alcohol, because alcohol is a known cause of the condition. Okay, I will confess. I did have one drink in 1980, and I did drink some beer my first year in the oilfield, in 1975. And, I did drink some while I was in high school. If I had it to do over, I would never have taken a single drink of alcohol. I still do not know for sure what caused my pancreatitis, but I do know that I never want to have it again.

The biggest mistake that Amado made? The biggest mistake that we can make? The biggest mistake that we can make is not knowing the Scriptures and the power of God (Mark 12:24; 27).

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No Escape Without Jesus

Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds.” - Romans 2:4-6 NKJV.

Clayton Senn was on the run from authorities in Albuquerque, New Mexico when he became trapped in the mud of the Rio Grande River. He was unable to free himself and was still trapped in the mud three days later when he was found. Senn was found by a group of high school students and their biology teacher who were on a field trip. The students heard the man calling out for help. Senn must have been thrilled that finally someone had found him. Finally, he would be free of the trap he had fallen into. The fire department and police officers were able to free the man with an air boat and a pulley system. However, Senn was not really free, as there was found a warrant for his arrest for Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon. (Associated Press 01.29.2012)

There was no escape for Clayton Senn, and there is no escape from the judgment of God for those who reject His mercy through Jesus. That sounds really depressing, doesn’t it? Even though, it is not a pleasant thing to consider, it is still the truth. Just because, we do not like to think about something, does not mean that it is not true. The Bible is very clear about this as we are told in Hebrews 9:27, “…as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.”

During the summer when I was 14 years old I attended a youth camp. One day I found myself all alone sitting on a picnic table contemplating my future life. I thought of the possibilities of marriage, children, career path, retirement, and finally I thought of death. When I thought of death there was nothing there, it was just a blackness that I could see in my mind. It was five years later after my wife shared her testimony with me and I talked with a pastor of a nearby church that I thought about what would happen to me after death. It was only then that I prayed inviting Jesus into my heart and life, asking Him to forgive me of my sins. It was only then that I passed from death into life. As Jesus says in John 5:24, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.”

The Bible says in Romans 2:5, “But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” You do not have to continue down the path of judgment, the path of no escape. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).” The way out is to receive the “gift of God” which is eternal life through Jesus Christ. The Bible says, “…Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18).” Jesus took the punishment that you deserve upon Himself and died on the cross for your sins. However, you must receive Jesus as your Savior, believe upon Him by receiving the “gift of God.” In John 1:12 we are told, “But as many as received Him (Jesus), to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”

There is no escape for those who reject Jesus as their Savior, and they will face the wrath and judgment of God. The Bible says in John 3:17-18, “God did not send His Son (Jesus) into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Pray and receive Jesus as your Savior today before it is eternally too late, and pass from “death into life.”

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The Anchor of the Soul

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. - Hebrews 6:19-20 NKJV.

As touched upon previously, there are potentially many disastrous things that could happen in our lives in the year 2012. For some of us, we may already be caught up in very difficult situations, and wonder whether we will be able to survive. What we need is an “anchor of the soul.”

Think for a moment of a ship and the ship’s anchor. The ship is tied by cable or chain to a heavy anchor made of metal or other material that rests on the floor of the sea. For the believer, we are not tied to the earth; no, our anchor is as the writer of Hebrews says, our anchor has entered the “Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus… (Hebrews 6:19).” As the High Priest in the Old Testament entered the Holy of Holies behind the veil, our High Priest forever, Jesus is in Heaven where He, as He says in John 14, has prepared a place for us. Our soul is tied, not to an anchor at the bottom of the sea, but it is tied to Jesus in Heaven above.

Again think of ships and of their anchors. Think of the chains that tie that tether the ship to the anchor. When I was a boy, my Dad made an anchor for our boat. It consisted of a can filled with concrete and a nylon rope that tied the boat to the can. Probably not the most secure anchorage for a boat. Think of the chain that links a battleship to its anchor. One such chain describes each link in the chain as weighing 120lbs and being about three feet in length. Now that is a chain!

The question I think for all of us as we face this New Year is this: What is the condition of the tie between us and our anchor of hope? Is the chain to our anchor a puny little rope that will break whenever a good wind comes along? Or, is it more like the chain of a battleship that connects to its anchor? How strong is the link between you and your anchor of the soul, Jesus Christ? I think you can see that here is where some work needs to be done in each of our lives. We need to have the strongest spiritual chain possible connecting us to the anchor of our soul. How do we do that? What are the nuts and bolts of having that stronger spiritual chain to connect our soul to our anchor?

First, we need the Bible. The Bible is not just a book. It contains the Words of God. According to the Gospel of John, Jesus is the Word which became flesh. Take a moment to comprehend that. You could say that Jesus consists of the words on the pages of the Bible. If you want to know Jesus. If you want to be more like Jesus, then you need more of those words. But you need to understand that when you read the Bible you are not just gaining information. When you read the Bible you are communing with God. When you read the Bible you are connecting with God. When you read the Bible you are feeding your soul, as Jesus says in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” When you read the Bible you are connecting your soul to a spiritual IV that infuses LIFE into your soul. Jesus says in John 6:63, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life."

Second, if you are going to keep from being swept away by the events of 2012, you are going to need a prayer life. Prayer, communication with God, talking with God is an awesome privilege.

Third, you need to be assembling, meeting with other believers every time you possibly can.

It is depressing to think of all the bad things that could happen to our world, to our country, and to ourselves personally. Is that what God would have us to think about all the time? No! Our focus, our thoughts, and our hopes, should be upon the Anchor of our soul. Hebrews 12:3, “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.” Instead of worrying about and thinking about all of the bad things that could happen, or might happen; instead think about Jesus. Read Jesus, the Word of God. Talk to Jesus, pray, pray, and pray some more. And, instead of thinking that you don’t need church, go and be where Jesus promises to be in the midst every time believers meet.

So, in the year 2012 you don’t have to be swept away because you have an anchor for your soul and His name is Jesus.

The Burning Bush Devotional
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Swept Away

Will you keep to the old way which wicked men have trod, who were cut down before their time, whose foundations were swept away by a flood? They said to God, ‘Depart from us! What can the Almighty do to them?’ - Job 22:15-17 NKJV.

Near the end of 2011, Cyclone Grant struck Australia, sweeping a large freight train off the tracks, and it also swept a car off a roadway. Passengers in the car tried to escape the waters at first by climbing onto the roof of their car. However, they were swept off of the car roof by the waters, but they were able to grab hold of a tree finding refuge there while waiting for rescue. Two men on the train were also injured, but thankfully all were rescued from the rushing waters. (ABC Online 12.27.11).

What happens when you leave God out of your life? When you leave God out of your life, you will be swept away by the challenges of life. Will 2012 be the year that you personally are swept away? Will you face a personal or a national disaster that will sweep you off of your feet?

There are a great number of bad things that could happen during this year. There is the end of the world thing with the Mayan Calendar with some believing the world come to an end on 12.21.12. My personal prediction is that the world will not end on 12.21.12. Another prediction that many keep making is that there will be a worldwide economic collapse during this year. Then there are the potential military threats like Iran trying to block the Strait of Hormuz. The threat of Iran developing nuclear weapons or taking over Iraq. The possibility of Iran basing missiles in Venezuela. Then we have China continuing to ramp up their military capability, and let us not forget about North Korea another friend of Iran. Still lurking in the shadows and posing a threat to most democracies is terrorism in one form or another.

Even though, the threats on a worldwide and national level are enough to cause concern; what about the possible personal disasters that can come upon us? What if you lose your employment? What if you experience a personal health disaster? We had a couple of health disasters last year with an unplanned trip to the emergency room and a few days in the hospital. My wife’s discovery of a cancerous tumor, surgery, and recovery is ongoing with chemo to start soon. A bad diagnosis can change your world in a hurry. Of course, the financial consequences of those health issues pile more stress on top of everything else.

What is it that we need to survive a disaster in 2012? What is it that we need so that we will not be swept away by the coming events of 2012? God tells us what we need in Hebrews 6:19, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil.” We need an “anchor of the soul.” In spite of what could happen, might happen, or will happen in 2012, we need to remember that God is still alive and that He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Jesus is, and will always be the anchor of our soul. Jesus held those early believers together through the tough times and He can do the same for us. Jesus can keep you from being swept away by the challenges of life in 2012. Hold on to the Anchor of your soul.

Copyright � 1998 - 2019. Ed Wrather. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for use of this material on a non-profit basis with source noted.