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What Would It Take?

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. - Hebrews 10:23-25 NKJV.

...Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. - Ephesians 5:23b NKJV.

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. - Matthew 28:18-20 NKJV.

Casey Wagner is thankful that he is still alive after being hit twice by lightning. It occurred while he was at an off-road racing event at Saint Jo, Texas. Casey was under a tree when he was struck, which knocked him to his knees; then he was struck a second time. Casey says, "It dropped me to my knees and then it hit me again. When I got hit, it was just two big ol' flashes and then sparks went everywhere." Casey says he could feel the electricity shoot through his body from his right foot out through his arms. He did lose feeling in his right leg and left arm for a time but had no other significant injuries other than his heart skipping a beat. Casey says now, "I've got all the feeling back. It's just like my whole body is waking up from... like if your arm falls asleep, that's how my whole body feels." Casey does believe that it was God that protected him keeping him alive. And…Casey plans on going to church more now. (FoxNews 10.28.13; CBS 10.28.13; New York Post 10.28.13)

In past devotionals when I have mentioned attending church services I have always received comments from some saying that they believe in God; but want no part of organized religion. So what is a church? W. A. Criswell, a great Bible scholar, writes "A 'church' (ekklesia, Gk.) is a group of people who, having been called out of sin and unbelief to faith in Christ, have given witness to that faith through believer's baptism and have banded themselves into a voluntary fellowship. The church is made up of all those who have been regenerated by faith in the atoning work of Christ." Criswell also writes that ekklesia means literally, "...the called out ones." Criswell also says, "The word itself implies no more than simply 'assembly.'" Criswell writes further, "The universal Church is manifested in the world by a series of individual local churches, each of which is to be a microcosm of the whole, with N.T. Christians under the leadership of the Holy spirit banding themselves into local independent assemblies and operating democratically under the sovereign rule of the Holy spirit to carry on the ministry in that particular locality."

From this passage in Ephesians 5:23 we see how the work (Matthew 28:18-20) of Christ upon this Earth is to be done is through the "ekklesia", the "assembly" i.e. the church. The "head", the leader of this "church" is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Church, assembling together with other believers, is God's idea and His command.

What would it take for you to be obedient to God's command for you to be faithful in assembling with other believers? For Casey Wagner, it took being struck by lightning twice.... What about you? What will it take in your life?

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Just Wasting Time

Hear, my son, and receive my sayings, and the years of your life will be many. I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hindered, and when you run, you will not stumble. Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; keep her, for she is your life. Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn away from it and pass on. - Proverbs 4:10-15 NKJV.

The Message translates the passage in this way:

Dear friend, take my advice; it will add years to your life. I'm writing out clear directions to Wisdom Way, I'm drawing a map to Righteous Road. I don't want you ending up in blind alleys, or WASTING TIME making wrong turns. Hold tight to good advice; don't relax your grip. Guard it well - your life is at stake! Don't take Wicked Bypass; don't so much as set foot on that road. Stay clear of it; give it a wide berth. Make a detour and be on your way. - Proverbs 4:10-15 The Message.

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. - Matthew 6:33 NKJV.

PointlessSites dot com has a list of 100 "all-time favorite sites for wasting time." The list begins with the "Falling Sand Game" and continues with such favorites as "Cows go moo" and "Watching Grass grow"!! Those are all good time wasters; however, I believe the ultimate time wasters are our addictions. Whether your addiction is alcohol, meth, cocaine, heroin, porn, or something more innocent like food - they are all time wasters. Think of the time that you spend trying to find your addiction of choice and then all of the time you spend consuming that addiction. Not to mention, the time you use earning the money you need to acquire and consume the addiction.

The Bible has great advice and instructions for us as we see in Proverbs. We can avoid wasting time by avoiding those wrong turns in life. Our addictions are wrong turns. To avoid making the wrong turns the solution is simple. What is it? "...seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness...."

The Prophet Joel speaks of the years the locusts have eaten up in Joel chapter two. Our addictions are the locusts of today, and they are consuming the years of our lives. The good news is that if we will make a right turn toward God seeking Him first with our lives we can make up some of the lost time. The Bible tells us in Joel 2:25 NKJV, "So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten...." Never stop seeking first the will of God in your life, and with each right turn God will continually restore more of the time you have wasted through your addiction.

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Help Me!

But You, O Lord, do not be far from Me; O My Strength, hasten to help Me! - Psalm 22:19 NKJV.

O God, do not be far from me; O my God, make haste to help me! - Psalm 71:12 NKJV.

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. - Hebrews 4:16 NKJV.

What would you do if you were kidnapped at gunpoint and were in a speeding car being carried away? It happened to a 25-year-old woman who was forced into the kidnapper's vehicle at gunpoint in downtown Dallas, Texas. Two teenaged boys noticed the woman in the car and then saw her mouth the words, "Help Me!" Aaron Arias and Jamal Harris were the two young men who saw the plea for help. Aaron called 911, and they followed the kidnapper's vehicle until police officers arrived and were able to stop the kidnapper and rescue the kidnapped woman. A 37-year-old man, Charles Atkins Lewis, was arrested for kidnapping. As for the two young men, they did receive a thank you and a hug from the rescued woman. (ABC News 09.05.13)

What would you do if you were kidnapped at gunpoint? Would you ask for help if you had the opportunity? Of course! Of course, you would ask for help from everyone that you possibly could. According to a Beliefnet poll 64% say that they pray more than once a day. Another poll says that only 20% of Americans 45-years-old or older who are somewhat religious cite prayer as their most satisfying spiritual or religious experience (Foster Letter, 2/05). As a pastor, I have found that it is difficult to inspire people to be excited about prayer. Having been a pastor of three churches (and a member of four churches while a layman) the level of excitement about prayer was about the same in all of those churches.

I fully believe that your prayer life shapes the world in which you personally live. Some think that being a mature Christian means that you only pray for others, and we ought to pray for others; we need to pray for others. However, we have the example of the Psalmist and many throughout the Bible who asked and received help from God for their personal situations. God still answers even when it only consists of those two words, "Help me!"

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Up a Tree

Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, "Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house." So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, "He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner." Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold." And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." - Luke 19:1-10 NKJV.

Laddy was missing, and of course the family was upset. Cynthia Weeks said this, "I was beside myself. We went around calling for him, and I drove around. I put it on my facebook pages, and we put fliers out around the neighborhood." Two days later Laddy showed up, literally up, as in up a tree! Ron Stevenson was doing some yard work when he heard the border collie barking, and whining, and he found the dog ten feet or more up in a tree! (Orange 08.14.13)

We once had a dog named Ernie (Named after Ernie of Bert and Ernie of Sesame Street fame.) that could climb, he was an escape artist. He could go over or under the fence. I buried chicken wire around the bottom of the fence and thought that would keep him in. We took a weekend trip, and when we came home we found our names on the front page of the local newspaper as owners of a dog (He had a collar and tags) that had scratched a little boy. The dog didn't really bite the boy just jumped up and scratched him. The dog was at the pound, and it was as if we were criminals and they were looking for us. But it got worse as a day later the escape artist escaped from the pound, apparently climbed out. However, the second newspaper article, also on the front page, made it sound like we had staged a jail break and broke the dog out of the pound!

All of our families began the search for our little furry escape artist and finally Ernie heard us calling his name. We took him back to the pound, and after a few days Ernie was granted his release into our custody.

Zacchaeus climbed up a tree of his own free will; however, you have to think that even though he was rich, he was already up a proverbial tree. Zacchaeus was somehow up that proverbial tree and like the collie was unable to find a way down. Jesus was the answer that Zacchaeus had been waiting all of his life for; he found Jesus, but Jesus was already looking for him because, "...the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." I think you could say that Zacchaeus finally heard Jesus calling his name.

Life has a way of putting us up a tree at times. Who would think that you could go away on a little weekend trip and come home to find that you are public enemy number one of the entire community! But it happens...life happens, and the way out, the best way out is to look to Jesus, and He will help you down out of whatever tree you may have found yourself in. If you listen, you may just be able to hear Jesus calling your name, telling you to come down out of that tree!

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Sometimes the Answer is No

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. - 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NKJV.

David has had a terrible experience and his friend Jessica I'm sure also has had a terrible experience. David invited his girlfriend Jessica to a minor league baseball game in Connecticut planning to propose to her. It was all setup to be a memorable experience that the couple would remember for a lifetime. The couple was brought out onto the field by the stadium announcer telling everyone that David had something to ask his friend. David kneels on one knee in front of Jessica and asks, "Will you marry me Jessica?" As the crowd is cheering, Jessica responds, "David, I'm sorry, I can't" and she then ran off the baseball field. (Orange 08.06.13)

We now know that the marriage proposal was a hoax and that David and Jessica were two employees who were part of a performance, a skit. Of course, the video went viral on the Internet with huge numbers of people seeing the video who will never know the failed proposal was not real. The same is probably true for some who were present at the ball park that day.

I don't know how many marriage proposals have been rejected or how many have backed out prior to the marriage. I think it would be heart rending to have that happen in your life. The thing to remember here is this: It is not the end of the world. It may seem like it, but good can come from it if we will allow God to use it in our lives. Romans 8:28 is true where we are told, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." This is not an automatic promise, but it is a true promise for those who love God and seek His will to be brought about in their lives.

The apostle Paul had some kind of physical ailment, and many of us have attempted to suggest what it might have been. We do know that he had a problem with his eyesight, but it could have been any number of things in an age without having access to the medical treatment that we have today. Paul says, "...I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me." Now when Paul says he pleaded three times it would not have been a causal short one sentence prayer. It perhaps would have involved fasting and prayer for many days. However, the answer was still no; even for the apostle Paul.

We can see the evidence of the truth of Romans 8:28 in the apostle Paul's life. Paul tells us there in 2 Corinthians, "Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong." Through God giving Paul daily strength to endure his affliction, his inner strength grew as the Lord was able to work more powerfully through the apostle. Whenever God or even some person says "No" in your life, remember God can do the same for you as he did for Paul.

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Life Has Surprises

So Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother, and came to the vineyards of Timnah. Now to his surprise, a young lion came roaring against him. And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he tore the lion apart as one would have torn apart a young goat, though he had nothing in his hand. - Judges 14:5-6 NKJV.

Jenna Krehbiel was enjoying the Isis Shrine Circus that had come to Salina, Kansas when she visited the ladies' restroom and...had a surprise she will never forget! Jenna says: "I went in to use the bathroom, and a lady came in to get her daughter out and said there was a tiger loose. I didn't know it was in the bathroom, and I walked in the door, which closed right after I had walked in. I saw the tiger; it was at most two feet in front of me, and I turned around calmly and walked back toward the door. Someone opened the door and said, 'Get out'. You don't expect to go in a bathroom door, have it shut behind you and see a tiger walking toward you. Looking back, it was a scary ordeal... My daughter wanted to know if it had washed its hands. That was her only concern." The tiger had escaped during the circus and had entered an open bathroom door. Security was able to move people out and barricaded the door. But Jenna entered a door at the other end of the restroom. Chris Bird, manager of the center hosting the circus said, "Once she saw the tiger, I'm sure she knew to go the other way. Overall, it was a scary, surreal moment. I am glad no one was hurt or injured." (Orange News 04.24.13; CNN 04.23.13; Salina.com of the Salina Journal 04.22.13)

You never really know what life will bring your way. We are told in James 4:13 NKJV, "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit'; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away." One thing we do know about tomorrow is that it may not turn out exactly as we plan. I have always liked a statement made by Tom Hanks' character in the movie Castaway written by William Broyles, Jr., "So now I know what I have to do. I have to keep breathing. And tomorrow the sun will rise, and who knows what the tide will bring in." Sometimes, life sends a tiger into our path, and sometimes, life sends what we need to escape from a desperate situation. Whatever happens, we need to keep on breathing, keep on living for the Lord.

Whatever life sends your way you have a choice as to how you will react. Jenna Krehbiel could have collapsed in shock and became a tiger’s lunch; instead she did what she knew to do and left the place of danger. God calls upon us to do the same when possible, as is pointed out in 1 Corinthians 10:13 NKJV, "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” When there is a way of escape, take it!

In life, we may, however, have situations thrust upon us that provide no immediate way of escape and must be met head on with all of the resources that we have available to us. Samson faced one of those situations when "...a young lion came roaring against him." There was no way of escape except through the lion. The resources of Samson included, "the Spirit of the Lord" which "came mightily upon him." We may believe that we are totally inadequate to meet the roaring lions and tigers of life that come upon us, and we are. However, we have the same resource that Samson had; we have the Holy Spirit living within us if we know Jesus as our Savior. "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you (1 Corinthians 3:16)?"

Whatever life brings your way this day, or tomorrow, as a child of God you are not alone. Rise up in the power of God and meet the challenge of life, because you can surely overcome whatever it may be!

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Not Our Home

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. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven. - 2 Corinthians 5:1-2 NKJV.

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. - Philippians 3:20-21 NKJV.

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims (aliens and strangers and exiles - Amplified Bible), abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. - 1 Peter 2:9-12 NKJV.

On my new route to civilization (McDonalds, Wal-Mart, lumber yard, etc.) these days, I frequently pass by an acreage where a llama is peering over a fence. Invariably, the llama is always next to the fence looking toward the south. I've come to believe that the llama knows that this is not his natural home. Somehow he knows that he was meant for more than a few acres of grass surrounded by a fence in Oklahoma. No, this llama knows that his true home is far to the south. He knows it is down there somewhere. Far to the south on another continent there are herds of llama that roam the mountains of Peru and Ecuador. This llama has never seen that far away land, but he knows that he was made for more than the life he is living now.

As Christians, we often feel somewhat out of place in the worldly world in which we live. We hunger for more than what this world has to offer. We feel out of place because when we are "born again" our citizenship is transferred from this world to Heaven. Similar to the llama, we have not seen that far away place, but we know it is there. We somehow know that in Heaven, life would be so much better than it is here on earth below.

The Christian singing group Thousand Foot Krutch has a song called "Be Somebody." A couple of lines from the song are:

We all want to Be Somebody
We just need a taste of who we are

We push and strive upon this earth to "Be Somebody" when the truth is that if we know Jesus as our Savior, we already are "Somebody." If we know Jesus as our Savior, we are part of a "chosen generation." If we know Jesus as our Savior, we are part of a "royal priesthood." If we know Jesus as our Savior, we are part of a "holy nation." If we know Jesus as our Savior, we are part of Jesus' "own special people." If we know Jesus as our Savior, we have eternal life because the King of kings and the Lord of lords died for us. The Creator of the Universe knows your name and loves you! You are "Somebody!"

Some bright shining day you will arrive in your eternal home. Until that day, be assured that you are somebody who has been temporarily placed upon this earth to represent the eternal Kingdom of God. The full authority of Heaven above has been placed in your hands. God Himself, through the Holy Spirit resides within your body. Rise up and be somebody! Be a child of God! Be an Ambassador for Christ! "...abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation."

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Good Intentions

Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. - Mark 14:38 NKJV.

For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God - through Jesus Christ our Lord! - Romans 7:19-25 NKJV.

It has been said "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." Maybe that is true because it is hard to translate intentions into actions. A Harvard economist, Dr. David Laibson has been doing some behavioral research about how to turn good intentions into actions. Dr. Laibson found that when people were given a choice between eating chocolate or fruit it depended on the time frame as to what they chose. If they had to wait a week to receive the food they would choose the fruit. However, if it was the same day they would usually choose the chocolate. Dr. Laibson stated that: "The problem is the difference between good intentions for the future, and the reward today. If you get the reward today, you give it full weight. A reward in the future gets half the weight." He also found that when working toward a goal you will always be more successful if you start out in the right place. Those people who were signed up for an automatic payroll deduction for a 401(k) savings plan were much more likely to continue than someone who had not actually completed the paperwork for the plan. Dr. Laibson says: "It makes all the difference if you start out in the right place." (Seattle Times 03.04.13; NewsOk.com 03.12.13)

To most Christians, Dr. Laibson's research findings are obvious. We know how hard it can be at times to turn good intentions into reality. As Jesus said, "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." The apostle Paul in Romans 7 confesses of the spiritual war that rages within him, and indeed in all Christians. As with Paul, the good that we would do sometimes we do not do. As the apostle puts it, "For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice."

In this war with sin, with evil, there are some things that can help us to turn good intentions into spiritual reality. Dr. Laibson's finding, "It makes all the difference if you start out in the right place", is helpful. How do you rid yourself of a habitual sin? Hebrews 12:1 says, "...let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us...." To start out in the right place with sin, we must lay it aside. The sin must be cut off, and no more provision or thought should be given to fuel the sin (Romans 13:14).

Jesus gives us more insight into battling this spiritual war by saying to His disciples, "Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation...." We should be aware of those things that can cause us to stumble, and we should be praying for the Lord to lead us, not into temptation; but to deliver us from evil (Matthew 6:13).

The most important thing that we need to turn good intentions into reality is not a thing but a person. The apostle Paul comes to this conclusion when he tells us, "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God - through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Jesus is who we need. As Paul says in Romans 13:14, "...put on the Lord Jesus Christ." Put on the Lord Jesus by spending time with Him in prayer, through reading His Word, by serving Him, and spending time with His followers.

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A God Thing

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. - 1 Corinthians 1:25 NKJV.

You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas. - Psalm 65:5 NKJV.

It was 40 years ago today, when our oldest son was born. At the time, we were living in a 12' by 50' mobile home at the Gaslight Village mobile home park lot #125 in Yukon, Oklahoma. My wife was a secretary in the land department for Union Oil Company. I had just completed my undergraduate degree and was working as an accounting clerk for Robberson Steel Company in Oklahoma City. We were not attending church and had not been for some time. A couple of the ministers from the First Baptist Church in Yukon had visited us, and we talked about attending there, but never did. If someone had told us back then that someday our son would be the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Yukon, Oklahoma, we would have thought it was the craziest thing we had ever heard. Soon after our son was born we moved back to western Oklahoma.

What God has done with our son is typical of how God moves upon our lives. It is like God wraps everything up in a beautiful package, tying it all up with a bright red ribbon on top. He does that just so that we know that it was God that made it all happen. There is no way things like this could have ever been planned and brought about by man. It is another of God's "awesome deeds of righteousness." It is a God thing!

God has such great wisdom, far greater than any of us living here upon this earth. Knowing this, why is it that we do not trust God more? Why do we worry about such small and insignificant things when we serve such a magnificent God? The Bible urges us always to pray and not to lose heart (Luke 18:1). The Bible tells us not to be anxious about anything, but to take all those worrisome things to God in prayer (Philippians 4:6-7). The Bible tells us to focus in upon Jesus so that we will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:3). God is continually telling us that He has this and we can trust Him with whatever may be going on in our lives.

What "God thing" has God done in your life? What would God do in your life if you placed your life in His hands? Think about some of the great servants of God in the Bible. Joseph of the Old Testament was sold as a slave by his brothers, but God used it for good eventually bring Joseph's family to safety as a result of this bad thing that had happened. However, it only happened because Joseph persisted in trusting God in spite of what seemed like terrible things that occurred in his life. Eventually, we know what happened. It was like God wrapped everything up in a beautiful package tying a bright red ribbon on top just so everyone would know that this was a "God Thing." Only God could have done what was done in Joseph's life bringing great glory to God.

I want to encourage you to place your life into God's hands. Allow God to perform "awesome deeds of righteousness" in your life. Some day you will look back and say, "That was a God thing!"

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The Right Place at the Right Time

Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, "Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza." This is desert. So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet. Then the Spirit said to Philip, "Go near and overtake this chariot." So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah, and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?" And he said, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" And he asked Philip to come up and sit with him. - Acts 8:26-31 NKJV.

Kraai McClure and Scott Beautler were in the right place at the right time to rescue two little girls. McClure and Beautler were driving on a state highway near Naselle, Oregon when they just happened to notice some damage to a tree and decided to stop to check it out. Scott says that something "struck him as weird" about the tree damage. What they found was an accident scene and two little girls who survived. Jessica Rath, the mother of the two girls had apparently fallen asleep while driving; struck the tree and was killed. The 4-year-old girl was able to get her 2-year-old sister who was injured out of the vehicle and covered them both with a blanket. The overnight temperature was in the lower 40s and the girls could have died from exposure in the cold and rain. The girl's father is now caring for them.

Was it just luck or coincidence that McClure and Beautler happened to be in the right place at the right time noticing "something weird" about a tree? I choose to believe that it was an act of God directing their attention to the tree damage, enough so that they stopped to check it out.

The story about Phillip and the Ethiopian in the Book of Acts gives us instruction about the right time and right place thing. There was nothing accidental about Phillip being there when the Ethiopian passed by. It was not accidental because God placed Phillip at that exact place and time so that he could be a witness to the Ethiopian. There was nothing accidental about McClure and Beautler being in the right place at the right time either.

How often do events occur and we pass them off as just being luck or coincidence that we are there in the right place at the right time? How often do we fail to take advantage of opportunities to witness or to help even though God has supernaturally placed us where we will be able to witness or help?

The next time you appear to be in the right place at the right time, look around, and see what it is that God would have you to do.

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And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me." And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things." - Luke 10:39-41.

A funny thing happened to a woman on the way to pick up a friend 38 miles away. She became "distracted" and drove through Germany, Austria, Slovenia, and to Zagreb, Croatia. 38 miles became, two days later, 901 miles. Sabine Moreau claims she noticed her GPS was taking her on a strange route. She says, "I saw all kinds of traffic pass. First in French, then in German; Cologne, Aachen, Frankfurt. But I asked myself no questions. I was just distracted, so I kept my foot down." When Sabine arrived in Zagreb, she says she suddenly realized she was no longer in Belgium and phoned home. Good thing! Her son had reported the 67-year-old woman missing, and police were gearing up for a full scale search. (Telegraph.co.uk 02.13.13)

Those pesky GPS units! Amazing how far off those things will take us sometimes! As with most technological innovations, a human brain is usually required for them to function properly. My GPS unit has led me onto dead ends more than once. True, on the other side of the dead end I could see the street that I needed to be on, but it was impossible to access from there. You have to think, it was a major distraction to drive 901 miles through three countries prior to thinking that this cannot possibly be the correct route!

Martha and Mary were both devoted followers of Jesus. We can certainly sympathize with Martha. Because Martha is having to do all of the work and Mary is just sitting around doing nothing but listening to Jesus. Martha had to be shocked at the answer of Jesus. Martha, had become "distracted" through her "much serving." She was distracted from the main thing being the main thing. That main thing was Jesus.

Have you ever become distracted from your devotion to Jesus? I know that I have, and it can happen in completely innocent ways. For example, you have a hobby that you enjoy. You spend more and more time with your hobby. You spend more and more money on your hobby. Before long you are traveling around the country going to meetings with others who love your hobby. You stop going to church, you stop reading your Bible, you stop praying; because you only have time for your hobby. Your hobby becomes the main thing and the focus of your devotion.

The apostle Paul in a discussion about being married or not being married in 1 Corinthians 7 says in verse 35 NKJV, "And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction." This appears to be the key to knowing whether or not we are on the right course with our lives. Is what we are doing or not doing of a proper nature and allowing us to "serve the Lord without distraction?"

What about you? Are you serving the Lord without distraction?

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How Times Have Changed

...scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, "Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation." For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. - 2 Peter 3:3 NKJV.

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. - 2 Peter 3:10-13.

Recently, I began reading through a diary that my great aunt Carrie Wrather kept for the year 1948. Her husband Adair Wrather was working on a railroad ballast machine mostly in the Texas panhandle. Apparently, each worker on the machine had their own car that they lived in, which traveled with the ballast machine. If the worker was married, the worker and his wife were allowed to live in a private railcar, and that is what my Aunt was doing in 1948. I want to share a couple of the entries that my Aunt made during the year. The first diary entry is from Tuesday, February 3, 1948: "Granville went to get married this morning. He only met the girl Sat. My what funny things do happen and how time has changed since Adair and me married seventeen year ago today." The second diary entry is from Tuesday, February 24, 1948: "We learned this morning that Granville’s wife has left him."

My great aunt passed away several years ago, and I'm sure that she would be shocked at how the world has changed in these last few years. What happened to Granville back in 1948 rarely happens now (i.e. needing a divorce), because people rarely bother with the formality of marriage. Why is this happening? It is happening because there is no longer a fear of God. Because, as the apostle Peter said "scoffers will come", and they have surely come! Today, huge numbers of people are scoffers, doubting that whether they live as God wants them to or not makes any difference.

Does it make a difference whether you live as God wants you to or not? In response, the apostle Peter tells us, "But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up (2 Peter 3:10 NKJV)." It will be shocking when God demonstrates the reality of His existence and power. How shocking? More shocking than the sudden fiery disintegration of the meteor as it streaked across the sky near Chelyabinsk, Russia last week, unleashing nearly 500 kilotons of energy, which is more than 30 times the energy of the Hiroshima atomic bomb.

"Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation...since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:14-15a; 17-18)."

There is a clear choice for each of us to make. We can choose to live like the world believing that there is no God. Or, we can choose to live life believing that God is real and that He is coming again in power and glory.

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Ever Make a Mistake?

For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin. - Ecclesiastes 7:20.

The Good News Translation puts Ecclesiastes 7:20 in this way: There is no one on earth who does what is right all the time and never makes a mistake.

Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. - Matthew 5:23-24.

In Anna, Illinois, police officers raided a suspected methamphetamine lab and secured the area. However, upon closer examination what they had found was not a meth lab; it was canisters and tubes collecting maple sap from some trees to make homemade maple syrup. The Benson family gave the officers some of their syrup, and invited their neighbors who had reported the suspected meth lab to come on over for some pancakes with maple syrup. (kfvs12.com 02.14.13; news-leader.com 02.15.13)

The story reminds me of a glaringly similar mistake that I once made while I was a probation and parole officer. During a home visit with a new client I noticed a large plant with just part of it in view sticking up over a backyard fence. I wasn't sure, but it looked like a marijuana plant. To make sure that the case was not thrown out for any reason I decided to obtain a search warrant. One of the detectives at the police department where I had my office drove by and took a photo of the plant that was in view. Looking at the photo it surely appeared to be marijuana. The Judge agreed, and signed the warrant. We raided my client's house and property taking possession of the plant. My client told me that the plant only looked like marijuana and we found nothing else of an illegal nature. Tests soon confirmed that the plant was indeed not marijuana. I apologized to my client, and continued on having greater wisdom than before. Just one more of my many mistakes!

The spiritual fact is that we do all make mistakes in one form or another. When we have harmed our brother like I did, our response should be immediate as we seek to mend the relationship. Mending that relationship is even more important than bringing a gift to the Lord and worshiping Him. This is because when we have this wound in our hearts we are unable to worship in the way that we should. Once we have experienced reconciliation, we will be at peace with our brother, and with our God.

When we make mistakes the example in Scripture is that we need to turn around and do the right thing. When Jonah came to his senses in the belly of the great fish, what did he do? What he did was to do what God wanted him to do at the beginning. Jonah went to Nineveh. When the prodigal son came to his senses in a far country what did he do? He went back home to his father where he should never have left.

Some mistakes are unfixable, and reconciliation is not possible. When that is the situation, we can only do what David did in Psalm 51. After David committed adultery with Bathsheba, and had her husband killed, there was no way to undo what he had done, or make reconciliation at that point.

David prays:

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me (Psalm 51:1-3 NKJV). Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit (Psalm 51:10-12 NKJV).

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Bearing Fruit

Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, "Let no fruit grow on you ever again." Immediately the fig tree withered away. And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, "How did the fig tree wither away so soon?" So Jesus answered and said to them, "Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, 'Be removed and be cast into the sea,' it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive." - Matthew 21:18-22 NKJV.

Fruit trees are expected to eventually bear fruit. The age of trees before they actually do bear fruit varies. Apricot, peach, plum, and cherry trees usually begin to bear fruit at three years from planting. Pear trees take even longer to bear fruit with it sometimes taking six or seven years before they will bear fruit. Apple trees can take even longer, taking as much as ten years before one of those trees will produce fruit. (umaine.edu - cooperative extension)

Just as, fruit trees are expected to eventually bear fruit, so are Christians. Maybe this is one of the lessons we learn from Jesus and the fig tree. It seems to be a strange scene, Jesus apparently is hungry, but when He finds a fig tree He finds no figs. Jesus responds by supernaturally zapping the tree and it instantly withers away. If nothing else, it should be a warning to all fruitless Christians that God expects you to bear fruit, and it appears that there may be consequences if you do not bear fruit.

Why do fruit trees fail to bear fruit? Again from the helpful University of Maine website I found that there are four general reasons for failure to bear fruit. Trees may fail to form flowers, there may be flower bud death from cold injury or frost, lack of pollination, and insect damage to fruits. We can relate this to why Christians sometimes fail to bear fruit.

First, the failure to form flowers. Why does this happen to fruit trees? It can happen from a lack of the proper nourishment. Trees need fertile soul and some water. Christians fail to form flowers for the same reason through a failure to maintain proper nourishment. The nourishment that Christians need comes from the Word of God. As Jesus says in Matthew 4:4 NKJV, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'"

Second, bud death from cold or frost. In trees, it simply happens when the bud freezes, or becomes cold enough to cause damage. A similar thing can happen to baby Christians. An older Christian, or someone that has been a Christian longer can have a damaging impact upon a new Christian. Discouragement can happen any many ways. One of the most frequent is hearing Christians being hypercritical of others. A fruitless, heartless, mean-spirited person that presents themselves as being a faithful Christian can cause immense damage to the young children of God.

Third, lack of pollination. There has to be interaction between the trees with the spread of pollen between them. It occurs through the wind, bees, and birds. For Christians to grow we need to have interaction with other Christians. That is why the Bible tells us in Hebrews 10:24-25 NKJV, "And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching."

Fourth, insect damage to the fruit. Insects can wipe out a fruit crop; wrecking immense damage. False teachers can do the same to young Christians. In 2 Peter 2:1-2 NKJV we are told, "But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed."

Are you bearing fruit in your life? If not, check for how the fruit in your life may have been damaged. Then begin to make repairs by giving yourself what you need to produce fruit, and protect yourself from what will damage the fruit in your life.

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Close Calls

Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying, "Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, who sent His Angel...." - Daniel 3:28c NKJV.

My God sent His angel and shut the lions' mouths, so that they have not hurt me.... - Daniel 6:22a NKJV.

Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the fish's belly. And he said: "I cried out to the Lord because of my affliction, and He answered me." - Jonah 2:1-2a.

So He said, "Come." And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!" And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, "Truly You are the Son of God." - Matthew 14:29-33 NKJV.

But he shook off the creature into the fire and suffered no harm. However, they were expecting that he would swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But after they had looked for a long time and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god. - Acts 28:5-6 NKJV.

Xiao Li a 20-year-old college student had a close call with an express train traveling at 90mph in Shaodong, China in Hunan Province. Li asked a friend to take some photos of her with her hair blowing while the train zoomed by in the background. Somehow, Li stumbled, or came too close to the train, and the train hit her shoulder; which knocked her down. Li described what happened by saying, "I felt this sudden bump and I was flying sideways. The train stopped, and the driver thought he must have killed me. I didn't realize I was so close. My shoulder was badly bruised, but I'm lucky to be alive." (Orange News 02.08.13)

There are some really close calls recorded in the Bible. There is the close call of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego with the fiery furnace. Daniel had the close call with the lions in the lions' den. Peter had his short hike on the water which ended when he began to sink. The apostle Paul had the close call with a shipwreck, a poisonous snake, a murderous mob, and others. Of course, we all remember Jonah's close call with that big fish.

There is a striking difference between the reaction of Xiao Li to surviving a potentially deadly event as compared to those who survived them, or witnessed them in the Bible. With the close calls in the Bible, there is no reference to those survivors being "lucky." But in these days it is increasingly common to hear someone say that they were "lucky" to survive or escape injury from something. I know that I have said it myself without even thinking. It is a common saying. Many people say it. The problem is that when we credit our survival or good fortune to "luck" we are robbing God of the glory that should be His.

It is not "luck" which has allowed me to be still be alive. It is only through the power of God. How many times has God protected me? How many times has He protected you? I know that the times and the ways of God's protection, support, help, empowerment in my life are incalculable. I can only praise Him for His mercy, and give Him all the honor, glory, and praise for anything good in my life! Luck, has had nothing to do with it.

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Kindergarten Love

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. - 1 John 4:7-8 NKJV.

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.

And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. - 1 Corinthians 13:13 NKJV.

Picture the scene, 100 brides and grooms in wedding dresses and suits all gathered to give rings and make wedding vows. This huge wedding took place in Zhengzhou, China in Henan Province. The brides and grooms, had each carefully chosen their own husbands and wives. They had each wooed their new husband or wife with a chocolate or a ...toy. The toys were important because all of these brides and grooms were between the ages of three and six! The head of the Kindergarten program Li Wang says that "This teaches them about relationships and how to maintain them and what they should be working towards. They're taught to be kind and thoughtful." The wedding did take place before a government registrar, but parents were assured that the ceremonies were not binding in any way. Of course, each bride and groom had to have their parent's permission to participate in the event. (Orange News 01.15.13)

Robert Fulghum wrote the book "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten". I have never read the book, but I have never forgotten the title. Some life lessons that Fulghum says that we learn in Kindergarten are: Sharing, being fair, cleaning up your messes, don't hurt people, and apologizing when you hurt someone. Robert Fulghum can add a new chapter to his book now: How to Get Married.

Love is a wondrous thing. Love can make everything beautiful, and the lack of love can suck the life out of anything. Maybe that is because God is love, and God is life. The opposite of love is hate, and opposite of life is death. Herein is the key to life, love, and marriage.

How can we make our marriages better, and how can we live life better? We can make marriages and life better by having more love. But, you are going to have to go to the true source to find that true love. The true source, the primary source of love is God, because God is love.

We are told in James 4:8 that if we draw near to God that God will draw near to us. We must get closer to God to have more love. How do we get closer to God? Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:33 to "Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness." We have to make God the number one priority in our lives. Jesus also tells us in Matthew 4:4 quoting from the Old Testament, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'" To become closer to God we need more of His Word in our lives. We also need to be in greater communication with our God, asking Him to grow our love. We are told in James 4:2c that "...you do not have because you do not ask." Ask God to increase your love and to strengthen your marriage.

Whether a marriage works or not comes down to one important thing. That one thing is whether both the husband and the wife are truly committed to following their Lord. The marriage will work, and the love will continue, if you love each other as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25). How did Jesus do that? He died for it. You must continually die to self to make your marriage be filled with love.

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Falling the Right Way

So Gad came to David and told him; and he said to him, "Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or shall you flee three months before your enemies, while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days' plague in your land? Now consider and see what answer I should take back to Him who sent me." And David said to Gad, "I am in great distress. Please let us fall into the hand of the Lord, for His mercies are great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man." So the Lord sent a plague upon Israel from the morning till the appointed time. From Dan to Beersheba seventy thousand men of the people died. - 2 Samuel 24:13-15 NKJV.

I had never heard of this, but apparently in Boston a construction company wraps their scaffolding in bubble wrap until the work is completed. One of the construction workers is very thankful for that bubble wrap. He is thankful because when he fell 30-feet he landed on some unused bubble wrap laying on the ground. When the worker landed on the wrap, he became embedded in it, and firefighters had to cut him out of it. He did experience some shoulder and back injuries, but will survive. And...suddenly, a new use for bubble wrap has been found! In 1957, when Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes created bubble wrap while trying to make a 3D wallpaper they must have had little idea of how their creation would someday be used. (Orange News 02.06.13; WCBV.com 02.06.13)

How did David sin in numbering, taking a census, of his armed forces? His motivation appears to be one of pride. David is now an old king who has experienced the power of God over many years. David does not need to know the strength of his armed forces; instead, he needs to trust in His God. The king knows this, because in Psalm 20:7 NKJV David wrote, "Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God."

Because of his sin, God gives David a choice, which is communicated to him through the prophet Gad. All three choices are bad, but David makes a wise choice. He chooses to depend upon the mercies of God and not upon the mercy of any man. The consequences of David's sin are devastating; however, it does give us a picture of the destructive nature of all sin. All sin is destructive. All sin is terrible. All sin brings death, because "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)."

What is it that you are trusting in? Your money? Your health? Your job? Your business? Your family? Some bubble wrap? All of those earthly things can be taken away in a moment of time.

When it comes to sin, people choose to deal with it in different ways. Some of us choose to live with it. Some of us choose to ignore it. Some of us try to hide it. Some of us blame others for it. It all comes down to a matter of trust. Can we trust God to treat us fairly? Can we trust God that He will do what He says? If we trust God, we will choose to fall in the right way. If we trust God, we will make the choice that David made. We will choose to fall into the hands of our God. 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Fall at the feet of Jesus, agree with Him about the destructiveness of your sins seeking His forgiveness...and you will have it.

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It Will Never Happen

And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven you." And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, "Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, "Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Arise, take up your bed and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins" - He said to the paralytic, "I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house." Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, "We never saw anything like this!" - Mark 2:1-12 NKJV.

Back in December (2012), Scot and Wanda Denhalter moved into a new home that they had rented in St. George, Utah. Scot was somewhat concerned about a ridge above the back of the home that was covered with boulders. Wanda was not concerned. However, only a few weeks later Wanda barely escaped being killed by a 12 foot wide boulder that crashed into their house. The boulder hit the bed Wanda was sleeping in and caused injuries, including a gash to her leg, which required four hours of surgery to repair. Scot was not at home when the boulder hit, but said he had told Wanda before they moved in that, "...you could have a big boulder snap and come down and come right through the house, but she said that would never happen." (FoxNews 01.21.13)

The incident recorded in the Gospel of Mark, when Jesus heals a paralyzed man is fascinating. What great faith the friends of the man who was paralyzed must have had! To get their friend to Jesus they tore up the roof of someone's house, and interrupted the sermon Jesus was preaching in a most dramatic way. Can you imagine sitting in your pew at your church, peacefully listening to your pastor preach God's Word...when suddenly debris begins to fall from the ceiling as a hole opens up. Then, a stretcher with a man on it is lowered through the hole to the floor! If you had been sleeping in church, that would probably wake you up! However, the most amazing part of the event was that Jesus forgave the man his sins, healed the man, and the formerly paralyzed man picked up his bed and walked out of the house! What a Sunday service that would be!! And we would all be saying just like the people that day, "We never saw anything like this!"

If you could have interviewed the people present prior to the event recorded in Mark chapter 2, and asked them if they thought Jesus would forgive a man's sins and heal a paralyzed man during the service what would they have said? They would have said, "It will never happen!" However, there were four men that day who believed that it would happen, and it did!

We must be careful not to discount the power of God. If anyone had told me, or even told those who knew me when I was a teenager that I would spend more than 20 years of my life as a pastor; we all would have said, "It will never happen!" Here is what God says, "...if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you (Matthew 17:20)."

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And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son (molded into - Amplified Bible), that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. - Romans 8:28-29.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters. - Psalm 23:1-2.

Anita Mann had a frightening few hours early last Wednesday morning around 3:45am in Portland, Oregon. No one appears to know exactly how it happened; including Anita and her husband. Maybe she was out sleepwalking, some people do. However, it happened, Anita slid between two walls into a spot where she was squeezed, sandwiched, into only an eight inch wide area. Anita screamed and pounded on the walls with her fists until someone did hear her, and rescuers were finally able to cut into the wall and free her. Thankfully, Anita is okay with some scrapes and minor hypothermia. (OregonLive.com 01.17.13; FoxNews and many other news venues)

Once we have been born again (John 3:3) God begins the process of moving us from being baby Christians to mature Christians. The goal is for us as Christians to become like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This process of molding us into a likeness of Jesus varies from person to person. For some of us it takes a much longer time to be conformed to the image of Christ than it does for others. God takes us where we are and begins to work in our lives.

The maturing, conforming, molding of our lives by the hands of God does not always feel like a pleasant experience. However, God always wants the very best for our lives. At times the conforming may feel like we are being squeezed between two walls that are only eight inches apart like Anita Mann experienced. I can remember some times like that, but from the distance of several years I can see that it was a merciful God who kept the pressure on me bringing about the changes that I needed.

The 23rd Psalm is perhaps one of the most beloved passages in the Bible. I read it often at funerals, and during times of stress I have meditated long upon those words. However, did you catch the words just prior to that beautiful vista of green pastures. What does it say there? It says, "he makes me to lie down in green pastures." Why does God have to make us "lie down in green pastures?" Because at times we are unable to recognize what is a green pasture and what is not. At times, we do not want to lay down in a pasture, especially when we can see all of the dangerous glitter and charm of worldly pleasures. That is why, if we are a child of God, we sometimes experience that squeeze of God's molding hand upon our lives. It may not be exactly what we want, but have no doubt that it is the best thing for our lives. Maybe this is one of the reasons we are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:18, "in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

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Determined to do Wrong?

Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn away from it and pass on. For they do not sleep unless they have done evil; and their sleep is taken away unless they make someone fall. For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence. - Proverbs 4:14-17.

It happened in the parking lot of an Oceanside, California store. What happened? A wannabe carjacker failed three times. With his first attempt the carjacker threatened a woman with a knife, but she was able to drive away. In the second attempt, the carjacker used a gun to threaten a woman who ran inside the store for help. The carjacker hit pay dirt with his third attempt. He ordered a woman from her car with his gun, and he was able to enter the vehicle on this third attempt. However, the car was equipped with an anti-theft device which disabled the vehicle and locked the carjacker inside. He was able to smash through a window and escape. The wannabe carjacker is reportedly still at large. (4NBCSouthernCalifornia 12.14.12)

Sadly, some people are determined to do wrong. In fact, as the Book of Proverbs points out there are some people who greatly enjoy doing what is wrong, what is evil. Because, "...they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence." At some point in time, they entered "the path of the wicked" and began to "walk in the way of evil." What great darkness has come upon their lives! Jesus says in Matthew 6:22-23, "The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!" The admonition of Proverbs is that we do not travel on the "way of evil" and that we "turn away from it and pass on."

As much as some people are determined to do wrong, there are some who are determined to do what is right. Their eyes are good, and their whole bodies are full of light. As the Bible says in Proverbs 4:18, "But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day." What powerful contrast! What a great choice is given to us in the way to live our lives! We can choose great darkness, wickedness, evil; or, we can choose the path of light, of the shining sun, that shines ever brighter.

Which path have you chosen for your life? Are you determined to do wrong? Do you love the darkness? Or, are you determined to do what is right? You love the light, because you love the Lord? And God says through the Book of Proverbs: "My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you. Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil (Proverbs 4:20-27)."

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