JANUARY - DECEMBER 2014
BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONALS

The Burning Bush Devotional

12.19.14

Boiling the Ocean

I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. - Matthew 17:20 NKJV.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. - John 3:16 NKJV.

While I was waiting for a haircut today, I read some magazines, and learned a new phrase or saying that I had not heard before: "Boiling the Ocean." The Urban Dictionary defines "boiling the ocean" as: "To attempt something that is way too ambitious, effectively impossible. An idea too broad in scope to accomplish." They also had this to say about usage of the phrase: "Jargon often used by self-important corporate middle managers prone to bloating their speech with meaningless and unnecessary buzz-words." An example of someone using this phrase according to the Urban Dictionary is, "Herb, buddy, you're really 'boiling the ocean' on this one. We can't manufacture and nationally distribute fifteen-thousand widgets in ten minutes."

In these days of the 21st Century, more and more things appear to me to be like trying to "boil the ocean." If I had known that phrase this morning when I was attempting to move an old sleeper sofa out of the house, I would have said that would be like trying to "boil the ocean." Jeanie has wanted to do this for two years, and today was the day she wanted to "boil the ocean." Really, things do appear far more difficult than they did a few years ago having so many technological advances in such a short period of time. Synching your phone with your car - I'm not sure I can do that. My new phone should be synched now, but it still doesn't work right. Some houses are so technologically advanced that you probably have to synch your phone with your house. For me that would be like trying to "boil the ocean!"

Even though things may appear difficult, with God it may be as easy as telling a mountain to move from here to there (Matthew 17:20). If you look back through the pages of the Bible, you will find that there was a lot of ocean boiling going on. Noah built the ark to save mankind and every animal species. Abraham left his home only knowing God wanted him to leave, not knowing where he was going. Moses and the Israelites walked across the Red Sea on dry ground, while the Egyptians were pursuing them. Water coming out of rocks, and the walls of Jericho falling down after the people walked around it several times and they all shouted. Caleb conquered a mountain full of giants when he was 80-years-old. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego made it through the fiery furnace, and Daniel survived a night sleeping with the lions in their den. David killed Goliath, the giant, with a slingshot. Peter walked on water and Paul survived being stoned almost to death, being drug outside of Lystra and left for dead; but he rose again after they had a prayer meeting and went back into the city (Acts 14:19-20).

The greatest of all ocean boiling moments occurred when God in His audacity came down from the glories of Heaven to be born as a tiny baby into a lowly carpenter's family. What ocean boiling that was, to think that a tiny baby could become the Savior of all who would seek Him. But that's what God did because "God so loved the world". So the next time someone tells you that you need to stop trying to boil the ocean, tell them that sometimes even greater things happen. And that is what Christmas is all about; a Savior was born because our courageous God loved you and me. Let us follow His example, attempt those great things for God, because sometimes mountains do move.

The Burning Bush Devotional

12.18.14

Christmas Gift Ideas

So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. - Luke 2:6-7 NKJV.

...wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him." - Matthew 2:1b-2 NKJV.

...behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. ...they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. - Matthew 2:9; 11 NKJV.

Heavy dot com has a list of unusual Christmas gifts for Christmas 2014. Here are some of them: An extendable selfie stick with Bluetooth remote, $25.99. Place your cell at the end of the stick and extend it out to 40 inches. You too can take the perfect selfie! Then there are the Zombie Cajun Hot Sauce Sampler, Pressed Flower iPhone6 Case, and the Japanese Candy and Snack Pack.

The DoDoBurd has a list of 100 of the most unique Christmas gifts for 2014. Here are some of them: A 60-hour candle for $30, Live Video Camera Drone $1300, Sunrise Simulator Alarm Clock $139.99, Staple-less Stapler $16, 3D Printing Pen $100, Authentic Pac-Man Arcade Game $3500, Automatic Cordless Tire Inflator $90 (I'd like to have one of those), Automatic Home Canning System $299.95, Polaroid Camera $180 (Photos come out the side now.), 3 Wheel Folding Electric Scooter $1800, and the Giant Piano Mat $90.

What do you give to the man, or in the case of the Magi, the babe (Or, toddler depending on when the Magi actually visited.) who really does have everything because He made everything? John 1:3, "All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made." The Magi brought three gifts, and we can understand the gift of "gold." The family of the King of kings might need some gold to take proper care of Him. Then there is the "frankincense." What kind of a store do you go to when you want to buy frankincense? Wikipedia gives this information about it: "Frankincense was one of the consecrated incenses (HaKetoret) described in the Hebrew Bible." Frankincense in modern usage is believed to have many health benefits. "Myrrh" has many medicinal uses even today as well, but it was also used in embalming. While there were likely practical uses for these gifts there was the symbolism representing the true identity of Jesus. Gold was for His being the King of kings (1 Timothy 6:15). Frankincense was for His being our High Priest (Hebrews 4:14), and Myrrh pointed toward His death once for all on the cross (Romans 6:9-10).

We know what the presents were that the Magi or wise men gave to Jesus. But what can we possibly give to God Himself who made everything and owns everything? If you think of the night Jesus was born fully man and fully God upon this earth there was something that He needed. That something He needed was a place to be born, because there was no room in the Inn. Jesus is seeking a place to dwell in your life, to make your body His Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16; Revelation 3:20). This Christmas, give Jesus a room in your Inn, give Him your heart.

The Burning Bush Devotional

12.17.14

Don't Burn the Goat!

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!" - Luke 2:8-14 NKJV.

Since 1966 in Gavle, Sweden, a huge straw Christmas goat 42 feet tall (13 meters) weighing 3.6 tons has been erected in the town square every December. The Yule Goat is one of Scandinavia and Northern Europe's oldest traditions. Sadly, vandals have burned down the straw goat at least 24 times before Christmas during the years since 1966. In 1977, the goat only lasted six hours before burning to the ground. In 2012, the goat only made it to December 12th when it was burned down. Last year, the goat was treated with a flame retardant and it was thought that it would solve the problem; however, it was still burned down again.

There is a live cam which I looked at this morning of the Christmas Goat and it is a pretty sight that is apparently still standing so far this year. It is reported that the Goat has Twitter and Instagram accounts and provides updates about itself in Swedish and English. To deter future goat arsonists let's be clear, it is against the law to burn the goat, and at least one American has been arrested for setting fire to it. (Yahoo News; Huffington Post; The Report; Wikipedia; and numerous other news venues)

Making it to and through Christmas without burning down the goat can be challenging for most of us. Putting up the Christmas tree and decorations can be challenging. How many have been injured falling off of a ladder or slipping down the roof? Shopping for those Christmas gifts can sometimes be more like a full contact sport fighting the crowds and rushing from store to store. There is the yearly ritual of sending out the Christmas cards. In addition, the Christmas season usually has the most events that families must attend. Schools always have Christmas programs as do churches that families must attend. It is also a time of many sporting events which children are involved in along with band events, choir events, and on and on. Then there is the scheduling of Christmas gatherings with all the families, driving there, or flying there, just getting there. The cooking, the eating, and did I mention the credit card bills?

The Christmas season can be so frustrating that it can make the most kind and peaceful person want to burn down the goat. Let us remember the reason for Christmas is not the giving and receiving of presents. The reason for Christmas is not the gathering of families and fellowship with friends. The reason for Christmas is not even the helping of the unfortunate. What is the reason for the Christmas season? The short answer is, JESUS! The reason for the "good tidings of great joy which will be to all people" is as the angel of the Lord said to the shepherds, "For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." So, whenever we become so frustrated that we could burn down the Christmas goat, let us remember what the real reason for the season is, and that reason is JESUS. Instead of frustration, place Jesus in the center of your heart and of your Christmas celebration; and He will give you, "great joy."

The Burning Bush Devotional

12.11.14

Turning Green

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. - James 3:13-16 NKJV.

Also, if a garment has a leprous plague in it, whether it is a woolen garment or a linen garment, whether it is in the warp or woof of linen or wool, whether in leather or in anything made of leather, and if the plague is greenish or reddish in the garment or in the leather, whether in the warp or in the woof, or in anything made of leather, it is a leprous plague and shall be shown to the priest. - Leviticus 13:47-49 NKJV.

And he shall examine the plague; and indeed if the plague is on the walls of the house with ingrained streaks, greenish or reddish, which appear to be deep in the wall, then the priest shall go out of the house, to the door of the house, and shut up the house seven days. - Leviticus 14:37-38 NKJV.

There is a new tourist attraction in Varna, Bulgaria which is a seaside resort. The new attraction has nothing to do with fun in the sun on the sea. Instead, the new attraction is all about a cat, which is apparently friendly because it purrs. What makes this cat so special? The cat has turned green! Emerald green! It was thought at first that a cat hater or a group of cat haters had dyed the cat's fur. There was even a facebook page set up seeking the perpetrators of this hateful action. Now it is known that the cat's fur has become greener over time discounting the possibility of someone actually dying the animal. I'm wondering now how long it will be until the people of Varna begin to turn green too? That ought to be a real tourist attraction! (The Independent 12.08.14)

Green, as a color, has a better reputation in these days than it has had in past days. The "Hanging of the Green" is a frequently attended service at many churches in the United States at the beginning of the Christmas Season. I have been present at a few of those services and it can be very beautiful and meaningful. One church on their website actually says it is their most meaningful service of the year.

It was not long ago when the phrase "turning green with envy" was heard often. Why has there been a reduction in its use? "Green with envy" shows up in a Google search 790,000 times. The Urban Dictionary defines "green with envy" as: "Wishing very much that you had what someone else has. A longing to possess something awarded to or achieved by another." But where did the phrase originate? I believe it came about because envy is a sin. In the Old Testament, there would often be a physical manifestation of sin called, leprosy (Having leprosy in these times does not mean that the person has sinned.). Leprosy, in the Old Testament was a vivid picture of the damage sin causes to a person and even to the possessions of a person. There was not only the leprosy of people, but also of clothing and of houses. Clothing with leprosy, and even houses with leprosy would sometimes turn, GREEN.

The Christmas Season, in some ways is also the envy season. When we see others who are able to give so much more to their families than we are, we envy. When we see others with homes more brightly decorated than ours, we envy. When we hear others tell about everything they are giving or have received in the way of Christmas presents, we envy. If our clothing or our houses could still turn green with leprosy, how many of us would be living in green houses wearing green clothes? Perhaps those of us who have so much, should be careful about how we show off what we have and what we give. Maybe it would make the Christmas Season, a little less GREEN, and a little less painful for those who do not have quite so much.

The Burning Bush Devotional

12.10.14

Courage Through Faith

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 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.

Manon Ossevoort has finally made it to the South Pole, and it only took nine years! Manon used a Massey Ferguson MF 5610 tractor to drive there. I'm wondering when John Deere will step up to the plate here? Because it looks like Massey Ferguson may have the best tractor? Manon is now 38-years-old and a mother of a young daughter. The adventure began in 2005 from her hometown in the Netherlands. She drove the tractor 23,612 miles (38,000 km) from Europe to Cape Town in South Africa, but missed the ship because of delays that would have taken her to Antarctica. Manon then had to wait four years before making the final 1,553 mile (2,500 km) part of the journey across the Antarctica land mass.

Manon's expedition was named Antarctica2 honoring Sir Edmund Hillary, who made the journey in 1958 on a tractor which had tracks. Manon's Massey Ferguson has inflated tires. The Antarctic part of the journey was the most difficult traveling 23 hours and sometimes more every day. The seven member team faced -56C temperatures, crevasse fields, solid ice-waves, and altitude sickness. Manon said this after arriving at the South Pole, "Wow! I've made it! To have dreams is beautiful but to see them realized is the most extraordinary feeling. I'm inspired." She says this about this amazing feat, "Fear holds people back from pursuing their dreams, and many believe that putting them into reality is as impossible as driving a tractor to the South Pole. The tractor for me symbolizes this very down to earth fact that if you want to do something, maybe you will not be so fast but if you keep going and keep your sense of humor you will get there." Manon is also an actress, which makes me wonder if maybe John Deere can have an actress like Angelina Jolie make a trip down south too? (Orange News 12.10.14; Daily Mail 12.10.14)

What is it that Jesus told Mary? "For with God nothing will be impossible (Luke 1:37 NKJV)." It was a tremendous statement of courage that Mary responded with her statement of faith, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word (Luke 1:38 NKJV)." God called Mary to put aside her fears. Just as Manon said, fear does hold back many from pursuing their dreams. God called Mary, and I believe God calls every child of God to put away the fear, and to face life with courage.

When you respond to the call of God, it is not necessarily an easy life that He will lead you through, and it will require endurance as you run the race of life. The call of God for most will be in some ways as challenging and difficult as driving a tractor to the South Pole. We have a choice in life. We can choose to allow the emotion of fear to rule us, or we can choose to act in courage. Fear is an emotion, but courage is an action. We can decide as Mary did to act with courage even though we may be "troubled (Luke 1:29)" by what we are facing.

How can we have the courage to act when the fear of the known and of the unknown is so powerful; even overwhelming at times? We can have courage by having faith. How do we have faith? "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17)." Mary responded courageously because of the faith that was instilled in her upon hearing the Word of God spoken by the angel, "For with God nothing will be impossible." You can have that same faith, because our God has not changed. "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8 NKJV."

The Burning Bush Devotional

11.20.14

Doing Good

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. - Galatians 6:9 NKJV.

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. - Acts 10:38 NKJV.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. - Ephesians 2:8-10 NKJV.

Then He said to His disciples, "The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest." - Matthew 9:36-37 NKJV.

Lucas Patchett and Nicholas Marchesi who live in Australia have created a mobile laundry service for the homeless. They have installed an industrial washer in dryer in the back of their van. (Yahoo News 11.10.14) A millionaire from Korea living in Bahrain wakes up before dawn every morning to-clean the streets. He says he has been doing this for 11 years because there is a lot of garbage and it makes people sick. (Elite Daily 11.06.14) Mark Bustos a hair stylist in New York uses his Sunday day off to give haircuts and shaves to the homeless. In eastern Zhejiang Province of China passers-by banded together to lift a car off of a woman trapped in an accident. Give, the United States and Myanmar have a 64% generosity rating, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand and Australia also are generous in their giving (Yahoo News 11.18.14).

Searching for stories about people doing good things, I quickly realized there are far more stories about people doing bad things than good things. This points to the need for us Christians to be more proactive in following the example of our Lord by going about doing good in every way that we can. I like the motto of Charles Wesley and think that it should be the motto of every child of God: "Do all the good you can: By all the means you can; In all the ways you can; In all the places you can; At all the times you can; To all the people you can; As long as ever you can."

Sadly, before many of us can do good to others we need to stop doing bad to others. Jabez recognized this problem and we are told this in 1 Chronicles 4:10 NKJV, "And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, 'Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!' So God granted him what he requested." If you have been causing more pain than good in the lives of others, pray the prayer of Jabez every day and it will change your life. If you want to increase the amount of good that you are doing in the lives of others, pray the prayer of Jabez every day and God will enlarge your territory empowering you to do more good.

Doing good things will not save your soul as Ephesians 2:8-10 makes clear; however, we become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:10) in Jesus to follow His example of doing good. What is the greatest good that you can do in another person's life? Share Jesus with them! There is nothing wrong with the harvest, just a lack of workers.

The Burning Bush Devotional

11.11.14

Finding Inner Peace

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. - Isaiah 9:6 NKJV.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. - John 1:14 NKJV.

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 (passeth - KJV) all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. - Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV.

Leanne aka Shyanne is a 40-year-old website designer living in Australia. Leanne has a completely unique way of finding inner peace, she becomes a pony! She dresses up as a pony even with a bit in her mouth and a saddle on her back! Her method of finding peace is not cheap and the pony outfit costs at least $8,000. Leanne is not worried about what others think as she experiences freedom acting like a horse and a sense of peace. She says, "For me, it's spiritual, it's a different realm. You're not worried about bills, you're not worried about going to work." (Mail Online 09.26.14, 10.09.14; Dmax 09.30.14; wearechampionmag.com 10.06.14; and various other news venues)

How do you find inner peace? Many people seek an inner peace and serenity through spending hours in the practice of yoga. Michael Grab seeks that inner peace through balancing rocks. Damian Aspinall says that he finds peace by raising gorillas. In South Korea some people are checking into a prison to reduce stress and find peace. It is a privately owned facility with a prison theme. Dan Price has been living in a tiny underground hole in Oregon for twenty something years to reduce stress and find peace. A social club in Tokyo says that they reduce stress and find peace by cleaning public toilets together on the weekends. Jodi Rose says that she has found peace by marrying a 600-year-old bridge. Luo Dan says he has found inner peace by wearing a deer head mask which releases his inner deer. One thing is clearly seen here and that is that people are stressed, anxious, and are seeking relief in whatever possible way they can to find peace in their lives.

This morning I awakened from an unpleasant dream about our shed being damaged by the wind. There has been an artic front blowing into our state with winds in the 40 to 50 mph range. Hearing those winds while I was asleep may have triggered the anxiety I felt early this morning. After praying briefly, I began to read the Bible in the Psalms, and in only a few brief minutes my anxiety was gone, and I was blessed with the peaceful presence of my Lord. You see, there is a much easier more effective, and surefire way to reduce stress and obtain inner peace.

It is not the Christmas season yet, but Isaiah 9:6 reveals several truths that we need year around. One of those truths we need to remember and hold onto when we are stressed, anxious, and about to lose it, is that Jesus is the "Prince of Peace." In Philippians, we are promised "the peace of God, which surpasses (passeth - KJV) all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" when we bring our anxieties to our God in prayer. In John 1:14, we see that Jesus is the Word of God become flesh. When we pray, when we read God's Word, the Prince of Peace shows up and anxiety is defeated by His increased presence.

Throw off the pony outfit, the deer mask, and leave the prison behind, because the Prince of Peace can give you real peace anywhere, and every day of your life in just a few moments of time.

The Burning Bush Devotional

11.10.14

Fish or Cut Bait

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. - Matthew 7:13 NKJV.

And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. - Joshua 24:15 NKJV.

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. - Acts 1:8 NKJV.

Fish or cut bait is an old colloquial expression dating from at least the mid-1800s in the United States; although, even then the meaning was not entirely understood by some. What does it mean? Yesterday, as I was talking about this at our church we found that all of us had heard the term used by our parents when we were growing up, and there were two apparent uses. One use of the term was to decide whether to continue fishing or cut the fishing line with the bait and go home. The other apparent use would be to decide between whether to continue cutting up bait to use in fishing or to begin to actually start fishing. So, it appears that the term is used in relation to decision making. I liked the definition I found in Wiktionary, "To make a decision, especially after a period of delay; to either take action now or forgo the opportunity." Wiktionary gives the following as a use of the term, "It's time to fish or cut bait: either we buy this house now, or we must start looking for another one."

Why am I writing about this term, fish or cut bait? Because, I believe that God has been bringing it to my attention over the last couple of weeks. Am I really giving my all in service to my Lord? If not, God is calling me to a time of decision and commitment.

Jesus warns of the "broad" way as compared to the "narrow gate" in Matthew 7:13. This is a fish or cut bait kind of decision. Will a person enter the "narrow gate" through receiving Jesus as their Savior or will they instead continue down the "broad" way that leads to destruction? Joshua called the Israelites to a fish or cut bait kind of decision, would they worship false gods or follow the one true God? Joshua made his decision, and commitment very clear, "as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

The disciples had followed Jesus for three years and then they fled for their lives when Jesus was arrested and crucified. When the resurrected Christ Jesus appears to His disciples He once again calls them to a fish or cut bait kind of moment. In Acts 1:4, "And being assembled together with them, He (Jesus) commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, which, He said, "you have heard from Me." The disciples confronted with the truth of the resurrection are obedient as they wait in the upper room for power from on high to come upon them (Acts 1:8).

God is continuously calling us daily (Luke 9:23) to either fish or cut bait. Our part is to make the decision to follow, to make the commitment. God's part is that He does not throw us to the sharks, but provides us with the empowerment (Acts 1:8) as we see demonstrated with Peter becoming the awesome preacher of Pentecost. God is still calling, will we fish or cut bait today?

The Burning Bush Devotional

10.29.14

The Last Straw

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. - 2 Peter 1:2-8 NKJV.

The Free Dictionary defines "The Last Straw" as "The last of a series of annoyances or disappointments that leads one to a final loss of patience, temper, trust, or hope." The dictionary says the saying comes from an old proverb, "It's the last straw that breaks the camel's back." It appears that quite a few people have experienced that "Last Straw" considering some of these headlines:

Great Grandmothers Fist Fight in Hospital Maternity Ward

Golfer Attacks Partner with Putter after Dispute over Marking Ball

Man Arrested After Stabbing Watermelon

Man Jailed After Fight Over Church Pew

Irate Man Walking on Boardwalk with Chainsaw Yelling at People

Math Teacher Faces Termination for Cussing out Students

High School Principal Charged with Trying to Burn Down School

TSA Officer Arrested, Accused of Making Terrorist Threat

Seattle Man goes Nuts Destroying Several Homes with Bulldozer

Bus Driver Accused of Choking Student

Those headlines were found on Drudge Report and there were many others far worse than these of people who experienced that Last Straw.

Have you ever lost it? Have you been down to the proverbial Last Straw and someone piled more onto your back? Many of us have been, and most of us are not proud of our actions when it occurred. Once when I lost it, I attacked a cousin, had him on the ground choking him, threatening verbally to kill him. It happened at school during recess when I was in the fourth grade. No, I did not kill him or even really hurt him, but I am still ashamed of the way I acted.

As Christians, we do not want to ever come to the point in our lives when there is a Last Straw that breaks our back resulting in our acting in an inappropriate manner. To assure that we never arrive at our Last Straw back breaking point we must tap into the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). Through being "partakers of the divine nature" we can "...add to (your) faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love (2 Peter 1:5-7 NKJV)."

If we are to be "partakers of the divine nature" as the apostle Peter says, we must do what? We must have contact with the divine, with God. If you never pray, never read the Bible, never assemble with other believers, never even think about God -don't be surprised if that proverbial Last Straw that breaks the camel's back, breaks yours!

The Burning Bush Devotional

10.13.14

Inadequate

For with God nothing will be impossible. - Luke 1:37 NKJV.

Contemplating my life, I have decided that it does not matter what task I have done during my lifetime, I have always been inadequate. Let me list how pitifully inadequate I have been. I was inadequate when I was working as an auto parts salesman, so much so that the owner of the business sent me to a Dale Carnegie course to try to help me. Maybe it did, I’m not sure. In the oilfield, as operator of pipe inspection units supervising the crews, I was inadequate. There were always others better; more qualified than me, but the job still had to be done. As a parole officer, I was inadequate to make decisions that would alter the lives of those I supervised. I was inadequate to make the recommendations in pre-sentence investigations that judges would usually follow. But I still had to make those decisions that affected those lives. As a pastor, there are so many others that have been much better pastors of their churches. As a pastor, I have been inadequate and as a preacher I have been inadequate, and as a writer I have been what? Inadequate. Let’s see what else have I been inadequate at? I have been an inadequate father, grandfather, husband, and worst of all, an inadequate Christian.

Have you ever felt like you were inadequate? Most likely all of the saints of God who have gone before us have felt like they were inadequate at times, although there may be some exceptions. Moses had some excuses for not being the one to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt including this one: "O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue (Exodus 4:10)." Gideon had a great excuse basically saying that he was the weakest and least qualified in the entire country for the job that God had for him. When God called Gideon here was his excuse: "O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house (Judges 6:15)." When God called Isaiah to be His prophet, Isaiah voiced his inadequacy by saying, "Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts (Isaiah 6:5)." Jeremiah had his own excuse of inadequacy saying, "Ah, Lord God! Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth (Isaiah 1:6)."

Moses, Gideon, Isaiah and Jeremiah all believed that they were inadequate for doing what God was calling them to do. What did God do with his inadequate servants who felt so very unqualified to do what they were being called to do? God qualified His unqualified inadequate servants empowering them to become heroes of the faith. Even though the apostle Paul was known to have great learning, he did not as an apostle depend upon his education alone. It was Paul who said in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Even Paul, needed the strength that only God could provide to be the great missionary of our faith and the writer of a large portion of the New Testament.

You may feel that you are inadequate, unqualified, and incapable of doing what God has placed before you. It does not matter! Because, God is very experienced at qualifying the unqualified and making the inadequate, more than adequate. I am still inadequate in so many ways; however, I know that if God calls me to do something, His power will be upon me to make possible what seems impossible.

The Burning Bush Devotional

10.09.14

Why?

Recently while listening to a Christian radio station I heard that it is illegal to go fishing on the back of a camel in Idaho. Strange, right? I did Google that, and did find some clarifying information, but not what prompted the law in the beginning. There is an article that appeared in the St. Petersburg Times in Florida on Wednesday, October 4, 1944. The very brief article states: "If you bring your camel to Idaho don't expect to go trout fishing on it. It's illegal. Attorney General Bert H. Miller said so in reaffirming a previous opinion for the benefit of Sgt. Gordon A Ray, Idahoan now in New Guinea, who said buddies 'ribbed' him on finding the state statute in a list of odd laws. The Idaho law makes it a misdemeanor ‘to fish for trout from the back of any animal." So, we now know that the powers that were in Idaho did not single out the camel for special non-fishing privileges, but it is still not clear why a law from fishing from back of animal was enacted. Perhaps it was for sanitary reasons? Hard to say why from our perspective today.

Why did Jesus come down from the glories of Heaven to walk among us in human flesh? God says it is because He loves the "world." Even though, God tells us His why, it is still hard to understand from our human perspective today. A man in Oklahoma is questioning tonight why his only daughter was shot and killed by a man. He talked about how he had heard many times how these things had happened to other families, but this time it has happened to his family.

Why, we ask? In the Bible, we read of Job a very righteous man whose entire family, except for his wife, was wiped out by a natural disaster. Job’s seven sons and three daughters were all killed by what sounds like a tornado. King David, a man after God’s own heart, had a son become sick and die when he was only seven days old. Why? Countless people over the ages have asked that question of God, why?

God had some questions for Job and for us:

Who set the wild donkey free? - Job 39:5.

Have you given the horse strength? Have you clothed his neck with thunder? Can you frighten him like a locust? - Job 39:19-20.

Does the hawk fly by your wisdom, and spread its wings toward the south? - Job 39:26.

Does the eagle mount up at your command, and make its nest on high? - Job 39:29.

Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it. - Job 40:2.

Are you able to contend with God, to rebuke God, to correct God? God says in Isaiah 55:8-9, "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," says the Lord. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts."

We ask why about so many things, but from our perspective as created beings it is difficult for us to understand. Because God is not like us, His thoughts are not like our thoughts, and His ways are not like our ways. We only have to look at the heavens, the infinite numbers of stars above our heads every night to know we can never really understand the whys while clothed in human flesh. Someday God promises that all will be made understandable for us. God tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:12, "For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known." Meanwhile, here on earth where the whys are not always answered God through the apostle Paul says to us, "Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work (2 Corinthians 2:15-17)."

The Burning Bush Devotional

10.07.14

Lost Something?

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. - Romans 12:9-13 NKJV.

The NIV translates Romans 12:11 as "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord."

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 NKJV.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. - Matthew 5:16 NKJV.

There is an annual Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany and every year the people attending the two-week festival lose some things many of which are turned into the lost property office. This year, the festival had a reported 6.9 million people that visited and this year the visitors lost a lot of stuff just like every other year. The lost property office reported that a live grasshopper had been turned in, wonder how they knew it was lost? Maybe it was in a little cage or a box? Then, there was the Viking helmet, an electric wheelchair, camping chairs, more than a thousand items of clothing, hundreds of wallets, mobile phones eyeglasses, a thousand identity cards, 90 cameras, jewelry, watches, hundreds of keys, a set of dentures, and a partridge and a pear tree. Just kidding about the partridge and pear tree.... Charles Reinbold, who has worked in the lost property office for almost 20 years said, "The year I started I remember we had five or six sets of false teeth in, and a pensioner walked in and tried them all on. Unfortunately, his weren't among them." Reinbold credits improved adhesive for the reduction in the number of lost dentures. (Oktoberfest.de 2014)

Maybe you have lost something too? Have you lost your spiritual fervor, zeal, steadfastness? Have you let go of what is good? Has your shining light lost its shine? Many have. Bob Harrington, known as the Chaplain of Bourbon Street, lost his, but he came back and now says, "Let's make every minute count for Jesus by living our lives every day seeking that opportunity to share Him with a hurting and dying world that thinks there is no hope (the chaplain dot com)." Aaron and Samson in the Old Testament lost their way, but they both came back. Jonah ran from God, but he came back. The Prodigal Son came back.

If you have lost your way, or fervor, or zeal, or steadfastness, or shining light, how can you come back? The Message translation of Romans 12:11 says, "Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality." You can come back by fueling up on the resources of God: His Word (Matthew 4:4); Prayer (Luke 18:1); Assembling with other believers (Hebrews 10:24-25); and Service (John 12:26). If you want to be on fire for the Lord, God has what you need to come back! "Do not let your heart envy sinners, but be zealous for the fear of the Lord all the day. For surely there is a hereafter, and your hope will not be cut off (Proverbs 23:17-18 NKJV)."

The Burning Bush Devotional

09.25.14

Alone

Jesus answered them, "Do you now believe? Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." - John 16:31-33 NKJV.

I had probably only been a Probation and Parole Officer for about a month when I was assigned a pre-sentence investigation of a murderer. The interview took place in an old county jail, in a windowless room, with a small wooden table in the middle. I was somewhat surprised when the murderer was led into the room without restraints and was seated across from me at the table within arm reach. I was told to knock on the door or yell when finished with the interview. I was then locked inside of the small room with the murderer.

Having worked in the oilfield supervising crews of men I had worked with several who had been in prison on a variety of offenses ranging from drugs to bank robbery. This, however, was a first; alone, locked in a room with an unrestrained murderer who was much larger than me. The situation was uncomfortable and unnerving. I did have an out though if I needed help I could yell and hope they could hear me through the wall. Since that time in many other jails and prisons I never again had to interview a prisoner who was unrestrained or that I was not separated from by bars or glass. I do still remember that interview, and the feeling I had of being so alone with the threat of danger being so close.

My exposure to the threat of danger when I interviewed the murderer was very small compared to what millions of others have faced. The Book of Daniel provides us with two extreme examples, with the fiery furnace and the lion's den. After Daniel had spent the night down in a hole with the lions, the king asked Daniel if the God he served had been able to save him. Daniel responded by saying, "My God sent His angel and shut the lions' mouths, so that they have not hurt me... (Daniel 6:22a)." Because Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did not worship the golden image they were placed in a fiery furnace heated seven times hotter than usual. To the king's surprise the three men not only survived, but the men were not alone in the furnace. The King said of this amazing sight, "Behold, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt! And the form of the fourth is like a son of the gods (Daniel 6:25)!"

Once we know Jesus as our Savior, we are never really alone. Proverbs 18:24b says "...there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." We are told how close that friend sticks with us in 1 Corinthians 3:16, "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?" Living inside of every believer is the Holy Spirit! The importance of this is seen in Hebrews 2:18 NKJV, which says, "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]." When you cry out for God to help you, He will "run to the cry." How far does He have to run since He lives within you? Not far at all!

Jesus knew there was a time coming when His disciples would run for the hills and He would be alone. Jesus also knew that He would not really be alone because as Jesus says, "the Father is with Me." If you know Jesus as your Savior, you are never really alone, just as Jesus was not alone. Your "friend who sticks closer than a brother" will run to help when you cry out for Him. You are not alone!

The Burning Bush Devotional

09.10.14

Be Careful What You Eat

But He answered and said, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'" - Matthew 4:4 NKJV.

Moreover He said to me, "Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel." So I opened my mouth, and He caused me to eat that scroll. And He said to me, "Son of man, feed your belly, and fill your stomach with this scroll that I give you." So I ate, and it was in my mouth like honey in sweetness. Then He said to me: "Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with My words to them." - Ezekiel 3:1-4 NKJV.

Veterinarians have entered the "They Ate WHAT?!" contest since 2006 which Veterinary Practice News says is "to showcase the humorous situations veterinarians and pet owners can face as well as the clinical advances available through digital radiography." Apparently, all kinds of animals eat all kinds of things and now with radiography veterinarians can identify and remove what those animals should not have eaten. The first place winner was a frog which had eaten more than 30 ornamental rocks. The rocks were successfully removed. The second place winner was a German shorthaired pointer. The dog had eaten a shish kabob skewer and the vet was able to remove it successfully. The third place winner was a three-year-old Great Dane that had eaten 43 1/2 socks! The socks were successfully removed and we have solved the age old question of what happens to the socks that disappear. 4th place was a bearded dragon that had eaten a toy banana about the size of a nickel from a Barbie‘s Dream House. Other winners had eaten a fishing hook, a toy alien figure, a light bulb, five rubber duckies, nine sewing needles, 104 pennies, closed pocket knife, and Norris, the rat terrier, ate 14 inches of a bra and bra strap. Norris has been banned from the laundry room. (Veterinary Practice News 08.27.14; Orange News 09.08.14)

Of course, we humans have been known to eat weird stuff too. For example, the woman who confessed to having a habit of eating her own hair after a ten pound hairball was removed from her stomach. Then there was a woman in China who after a quarrel with her boyfriend did what anyone would do, she gobbled down 20 cobblestones! Then there are the inmates in North Carolina who have been known to swallow batteries and bedsprings to gain a brief freedom from prison by going to the hospital.

In these days, most of us know how important a good diet can be. This is also true of spiritual nourishment. Jesus makes it clear in Matthew 4:4 that we need God's Word just as much as we need any physical food to live a meaningful life. God tells Ezekiel to eat the "scroll" which contained the words of God and Ezekiel said, "So I ate, and it was in my mouth like honey in sweetness." Ezekiel was then empowered to be the prophet of God delivering God's message to God's people.

Spiritually we have a problem with eating the wrong kinds of things. We read books we know have very little redeeming qualities. We watch movies, and TV shows, we know are offensive to God, but we watch them anyway. When we watch things like that, the spiritual strength we have is diminished. To increase our spiritual strength, we must have a regular diet of God's Word, spend time in prayer, and be with God's people. So, if you have been eating the wrong things spiritually...stop it!

The Burning Bush Devotional

09.09.14

Good Out of the Bad

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. - Romans 8:28 NKJV.

Joseph said to them, "Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones." And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. - Genesis 50:19-21 NKJV.

Nineteen months ago 22-year-old Ben McMahon of Australia was involved in a severe car accident, and he was in a coma for a week before he finally woke up. Soon after he awakened, he spoke to his nurse in Mandarin Chinese! He had studied the language in school, but it was only a basic knowledge of the language, and he was far from being fluent in speaking Mandarin. It took several days before he could again speak in English, however, his fluency in Mandarin has remained. Ben said this later about what has happened to him, "It was like a dream. It was surreal. It was like my brain was in one place but my body in another. I just started speaking Chinese, they were the first words that left my mouth." A new world has opened up for the man with his new found language ability. He has led Chinese tours of his hometown of Melbourne. He has become one of the hosts for a Chinese language variety show called "Au My Ga" which means "Oh My God." The show tries to bridge the gap between Australian and Chinese culture in Australia. Ben has now started college in Shanghai to study commerce with his newfound language skill. (NY Daily News 07.16.14; Orange News 09.05.14)

Good can come out of very bad things and Ben McMahon is at the very least a worldly example of that occurring. Ben had an accident so severe that it left him in a coma for a week and it took him some time to recover from it. The bad thing opened up a new world of opportunities for the man, which would never have happened without the accident.

In the Old Testament, we have the story of Joseph, who at the hands of his brothers was nearly killed, but instead was sold into slavery. While in slavery, Joseph was unjustly put in prison until he was able through the power of God to interpret the dreams of the Pharaoh. Joseph surely experienced some very bad things before being released from prison to become the second most powerful person in the kingdom, and perhaps the world. Joseph stored the excess grain from the harvests and by this provision the Egyptians, Joseph's own family, and other nations were able to survive the years of famine. Joseph's brothers did mean evil by their selling Joseph into slavery; however, God meant it for good.

No matter how horrific some thing may be, God can bring good out of it. I say, "can" because the promise of Romans 8:28 is not automatic. God can bring good out of the bad for who? For "those who love God," and for "those who are the called according to His purpose." We see in the life of Joseph that in spite of the bad things that happened to him, he continued to "love God," and he sought to see the fulfillment of God's will in his life and in the lives of others. May we do the same!

The Burning Bush Devotional
Classic from 2002

08.26.14

Abuse of Authority

Now the sons of Eli were corrupt; they did not know the Lord. ...before they burned the fat the priest's servant would come and say to the man who sacrificed, 'Give meat for roasting to the priest, for he will not take boiled meat from you, but raw.' Therefore the sin of the young men was very great before the Lord, for men abhorred the offering of the Lord. ...Now Eli was very old; and he heard everything his sons did to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who assembled at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. So he said to them, 'Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all the people.' - 1 Samuel 2:12,17,22-23 NKJV.

The General Medical Council of the United Kingdom had to deal with an almost unbelievable problem of bad conduct on the part of a surgeon. The Council said, "Dr. Mohannad Al-Fallouji's conduct has rightly been described as bizarre." The news media described the doctor as "a walking terror in a white coat." The doctor once told a patient, "you have cancer, I have asthma, we all have to die sometime." He would occasionally grope female colleagues and make lewd remarks. He tried to arrange a date with an underage female patient without her parents finding out. To the credit of the General Medical Council they have barred the doctor permanently from practicing medicine.

Have you noticed how often people who are given authority or power over others abuse it? The sons of Eli were entrusted with a sacred position of authority just as many priests and pastors are today. The sons of Eli used their position to intimidate and take advantage of those who sincerely came to worship the Lord. Many priests and pastors today are doing the same. Sin is still sin and the Bible describes this sin as being "very great" because they "abhorred" the offering to the Lord. Not only did they abhor the offering of the Lord they did many other evil things taking advantage of those in vulnerable positions. God was not deceived and judgment came upon them.

It is terrible that some priests and pastors take advantage of the weak, but they are not the only ones. Many doctors, bosses, CEOs and those with a little bit of power (including politicians) have abused their privileged positions using those positions to take advantage of others. The sins of the sons of Eli were and are shocking! No less shocking were the abuses of Dr. Mohannad Al-Fallouji. But even those abuses of power, which are not shocking, are still wrong and harmful.

If you are in a position of authority to any degree, and you are abusing that power be warned that God is not mocked. God knows exactly what is going on and judgment is coming. For those of us who may be on the receiving end or have knowledge of the abuse of authority - what do we do? If we have within our power what is necessary to stop an abuse of authority or power and do not do so, we are enabling that abuse to continue. God held Eli responsible for the abuse of authority by his sons. God warned Eli, "In that day I will perform against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end. For I have told him that I will judge his house forever for the iniquity which he knows because his sons made themselves vile, and he did not restrain them (1 Samuel 2:12-13.)."

The Burning Bush Devotional

08.15.14

Sometimes We Need Help

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. - 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 NKJV.

As Jason and Jenna Weigner were traveling near Santa Cruz, Bolivia they came across something they had never encountered before. What they found was a Brahman calf draped over the top of the guardrail and the heifer was stuck unable to go backwards or forward. Jason went over to the heifer and was able to push it off the guardrail backwards. The calf rolled down the hill behind the guardrail but was able to stand and then rejoined the rest of the herd. (Orange News 08.14.14)

Yesterday, we received some help in clearing away some old buildings we have. One of those buildings was an old chicken house that had partially collapsed. Over the past year, we have spent many hours tearing down that building, but still two of the walls were still standing. It was amazing to watch a large track hoe demolish the remainder of that building in only a few minutes of time. Sometimes you just need a little help!

We are all aware of the savage advance of ISIS in Iraq although the name was changed to ISIL and now they are just calling themselves IS, short for Islamic State. There are more than a million refugees from IS savagery and they need help. Some of the refugees are Christians, and some of the thousands still trapped on Mt Sinjar are Yizidis. There are Kurds and Muslims that are also refugees. All of these refugees need a little help! Actually they need a lot of help, but have been receiving very little.

It appears that the primary reason those refugees who desperately needed and still need help have not received or received it very slowly was of a political nature. Here is one of the definitions of the word, politics: "use of intrigue or strategy in obtaining any position of power or control." Another definition that is often heard is that "poli" means many and "tics" means ticks. So, instead of providing immediately the help refugees needed in Iraq there was a lot of blood sucking going on. I hope that political posturing for whatever reason ends soon.

When we see someone in need of help and know we have the ability to meet that need, how do we respond? In Luke 10, there is the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself." There was a lawyer who then stood up and "tested" (NKJV) or "tempted" (KJV) Jesus by asking "And who is my neighbor?"

Jesus responds to the lawyer testing him in Luke 10 with the Good Samaritan parable. A man from Jerusalem was the victim of robbers "who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead." There was a priest that came upon the man, but he moved to the outside of the road to pass by the victim. Another religious leader "a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side." Were both the priest and Levite afraid of being robbed too, or did they just not want to become involved knowing that it would be costly in terms of time, effort and money? Jesus says that it was a Samaritan who actually did stop and help the robbery victim. Jesus asks the lawyer, "So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?" The lawyer replies with the right answer by saying, "He who showed mercy on him." Jesus then instructs the lawyer and us by saying, "Go and do likewise."

The Burning Bush Devotional

08.13.14

The ISIS Death Cult

In those days I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks. I ate no pleasant food, no meat or wine came into my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled. - Daniel 10:2-3 NKJV.

Suddenly, a hand touched me, which made me tremble on my knees and on the palms of my hands. And he said to me, "O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you." While he was speaking this word to me, I stood trembling. Then he said to me, "Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia. Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come." - Daniel 10:10-14 NKJV.

Here are a few of the well-known death cults that are included in a tour that someone has put together to visit where these groups committed some of their murders: The Charles Manson family who killed more than 27 people in the late 1960s; Yahweh ben Yahweh and the Temple of Love in late 1980s and 1990 are linked to dozens of murders as an initiation rite; The Order of the Solar Temple is responsible for the murder and suicide of dozens of people. These death cults were all in a minor league compared to what the world is facing with ISIS/ISIL.

This is a sick, very sick subject to have to deal with; however, the alternative is to stick our heads in the sand and pretend everything is wonderful in the world. Why talk about it? Because there is a new death cult stalking the world on a larger scale than has been seen in many decades. Lt. Colonel (Ret) Ralph Peters is a strategic analyst and on Fox News this morning said that ISIS or ISIL is a new kind of threat, "This has gone beyond Islam. This is a new, apocalyptic death cult that’s burst out of Islam. Even the Nazis didn't film public beheadings and broadcast them. ISIS is beyond Islam, it's beyond any religion, it's a blood cult, a death cult." A blurb on Amazon about one of Peters' books describes who he is by saying, "For three decades, Ralph Peters has been the most provocative and visionary American writer on strategy, security, intelligence, and military affairs, predicting every major trend that has plagued the post-Cold-War world. A career military officer and acclaimed author, he has always faced the issues others shunned until it was too late."

On the Anniversary of D-Day this year I wrote about how evil must sometimes be confronted (Confronting Evil 06.06.14). Evil was confronted and temporarily defeated in World War II. Prior to the nations confronting the evil represented by Hitler and the Axis powers (Germany, Italy, and Japan) huge numbers of people were massacred. Finally, it was realized by all that if nations didn't want to be under the horrific thumb of Hitler and his minions they would have to go to war. Nations have done the same thing with the evil represented in the death cult of ISIS/ISIL. This growing evil and threat has been ignored even though it is estimated ISIS had already horrifically slaughtered 170,000 mostly Christians in Syria before they got to Iraq.

ISIS/ISIL is the physical manifestation of Satan here on Planet Earth. Knowing the true nature of this evil helps in knowing the way to fight it. There will have to be a physical confrontation of ISIS, but for that battle to be won there will have to be a supernatural victory won through prayer. That is why I am writing today, it is to call the world to prayer to pray down this death cult. Christians, we need to be on our knees in prayer! We must get serious about the evil that is now stalking us and beseech our God to intervene to defeat and destroy this horrifically evil group. The passage of Scripture in Daniel 10 gives us a look into the spiritual warfare that is raging continually in the heavenlies. Daniel's prayers were answered only after three weeks of fasting and praying. Let us pray for God to defeat this ISIS death cult!

The Burning Bush Devotional

08.11.14

Pure Evil

Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand all. - Proverbs 28:5 NKJV.

For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' sake. - Romans 13:3-5 NKJV.

Pure Evil is a term that I have been hearing more frequently these days with so much evil abounding in our world. What would be the definition of Pure Evil? I never really found an actual definition in the sense of how it is being used in recent days. Here is my definition for Pure Evil: A person, or group of persons who are completely absent of any good, without even a tiny sliver of anything of a good nature, with absolutely no redeeming qualities. All that a Pure Evil person or group of Pure Evil persons think and do is evil.

There is actually a listing of the top Pure Evil people of all time. Of course, it is just an arbitrary list from an individual, but they all sound very evil to me. Here are a few of them: Adolf Hitler, Ivan the Terrible, Adolf Eichmann, Pol Pot, Mao Tse-tung, Idi Amin, Joseph Stalin, Genghis Khan, and Tallat Pasha. There are thousands of lesser well known people who would appear to qualify as also being Pure Evil.

On the march in the world today is a group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The group is also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and of the Levant (ISIL). Whatever their name, they would appear to qualify for my definition of Pure Evil. They had slaughtered an estimated 170,000 people in Syria before they even began their rampage in Iraq. They have possibly as many as 40,000 men, women, and children trapped on a mountain top in Iraq without food or water. The specialty of ISIS appears to be the beheading of any Christian, Yizidis, Kurd, or even some Muslims that do not convert to their brand of Islam. However, it is known that some who claimed to convert were killed anyway. The group seems to take great pleasure in beheading even children. The rumors of their atrocities include things that even the top ten list of Pure Evil people did not think of doing.

Should our government or any government try to stand up to ISIS and stop their rampage of evil? Why should we even ask that question? Doesn't Jesus say this: "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also." There is a difference between how God sees actions of the individual and of a nation. Are police officers or soldiers who are sometimes forced to kill committing murder? They do "not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil." Of course, there is a difference between evil empires ruled by evil dictators and other nations. You could rightfully point to ISIS and think of them as an evil empire and that all nations opposing the evil as being on God's side. Some would say that the Roman empire was an evil empire, and to some extent it was; however, God used the Romans to bring order, peace, and justice to much of the known world during the time that Jesus walked upon this earth. There is no justice in the atrocities ISIS is committing or in the atrocities committed by other evil empires.

Doing or committing evil acts is sinful and perhaps one of the more shocking things found in the Bible is this: "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all (James 2:10)." We also know that the Bible says, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)." Yes, members of ISIS have sinned, but we have sinned too and this is why all of us are in need of a Savior. Do you know Jesus as your personal Savior? Have you opened up the door of your heart (Revelation 3:20) and invited Jesus to come in? Have you "believed" upon Jesus for forgiveness of your sins (John 3:16)?

Let us all pray that the evil represented by ISIS will be pushed back into whatever hole it came out of and that all nations not supporting this evil will "not bear the sword in vain." May the justice of God prevail and ISIS be destroyed. If you live in the United States please call today your Congressman or Congresswoman and Senator and ask for a more robust response to the evil empire of ISIS.

The Burning Bush Devotional

08.08.14

In His Steps

...there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. - Proverbs 18:24b NKJV.

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: "Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth"; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore (carry - MSG) our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness - by whose stripes you were healed. - 1 Peter 2:21-24 NKJV.

"China's most beautiful student" is beautiful because she has a beautiful heart. The student is He Qin-Jiao, and she is just a 13-year-old little girl living in the Hunan Province. Her heart is beautiful because of what she has been doing for her friend He Ying-hui for three years. Qin-Jiao has been carrying her friend, who has polio, to and from school, which is a four mile round trip. She says, "Ying-hui is my best friend and school would not have been the same without her. If that meant, I had to carry her then that's what I had to do. I didn't mind it at all. It gave us a chance to have a good chat before and after school every day." In a creative writing project Ying-hui described the most important person in her life as she wrote, "He Qin-jiao uses her little young shoulders to prop up my sky. I wouldn't have been to school at all if it hadn't been for her. She is the best friend anyone could have." (China.org; Shanghaist 08.07.14)

For today's students in the United States just walking one way two miles to school, would be beyond difficult. Now we have all heard stories, some true, of our parents or grandparents walking five miles to school in the rain and snow. That kind of difficulty in attending school is hard for students today to really understand. It is almost beyond belief that a young student would make the sacrifice to carry a disabled friend those many miles for those many years. He Qin-Jiao truly is a very beautiful child inside and out! May the Lord bless her and heal her friend!

Think for a moment about that friend that sticks closer than a brother, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus' sacrifice on the cross is hard to wrap our minds around, why did Jesus, the Creator of the Universe die for our sins? Jesus "bore (carry - MSG) our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness." Jesus left the glorious comforts of Heaven to come down to this earth and walk among us for some 30 years. Jesus did not come in this modern age where so many have so much that makes life easy. Instead, Jesus was born into this world, fully God, fully human, in a time without the modern conveniences we have now. The world Jesus was born into was a cruel world where bad things happened at a far greater frequency than they do for many of us today.

We are told that the suffering of Jesus was an example in 1 Peter, "...leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps." The most beautiful student in China, He Qin-Jiao, is an example of someone knowingly or unknowingly following the example of Jesus. Jesus carried our sins, "bore" our sins on the cross. He Qin-Jiao has carried her friend with polio four miles round trip back and forth to school for three years. Qin-Jiao has been "a friend who sticks closer than a brother" to her friend. May we too follow in the steps of Jesus!

The Burning Bush Devotional

08.07.14

Teamwork

but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ - from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. - Ephesians 4:15-16 NKJV.

For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them - Romans 12:4-6 NKJV.

There was an amazing rescue yesterday in Perth, Australia. You may have seen the video of the rescue because already 2.4 million have watched it and likely even more have seen the video on news reports as I did. A man somehow managed to get his foot stuck between a commuter train and a passenger platform. The video shows a huge number of fellow travelers working together to push the train over so the man's foot could be freed. The spokesperson for Perth Transport David Hynes said this about the incident, "There were lots of them (people), off the train, and we organized them to sort of rock, tilt the train backwards away from the platform so they were able to get him out and rescue him." (FoxNews 08.06.14; Orange News 08.07.14)

Teamwork in prayer with others works better than prayer by ourselves. Jesus makes this clear when He says, "Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them (Matthew 18:19-20 NKJV)." Worship is also always better with others, as seen here in Matthew 18:20 and in Hebrews 10:24-25.

Teamwork in witnessing and bringing others to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ is necessary. Now we may witness to someone and they may immediately pray and receive Christ as their Savior. However, it is likely that our effort is simply the harvest of the planting of the seed of the Word of God in their lives and the watering of that seed by many others. We see the effectiveness of teamwork in the story of the four men who let nothing stop them from taking a paralyzed man to Jesus in Mark 2:1-5 where Jesus says to the paralyzed man, "Son, your sins are forgiven you."

Teamwork works in the world as seen with the rescue in Perth. Most of the time you can do more with others than without them. Teamwork in the church is mandatory, essential, and necessary. Believers are all part of one body and if we are not working with other believers, it is likely that we are working against them. Jesus warns against this in Luke 11:23 NKJV where He says, "He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters." I don't know about you, but I want to be a gatherer and not a scatterer.

The Burning Bush Devotional

08.06.14

A Kind Word

What is desired in a man is kindness, and a poor man is better than a liar. - Proverbs 19:22 NKJV.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. - Galatians 5:22-23a NKJV.

Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. - Colossians 3:12-13 NKJV.

The people of the land have used oppressions, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger. So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. - Ezekiel 22:29-30 NKJV.

Australian Don Ritchie has been called the "Angel of the Gap." From 1964 until Don passed away two years ago he was able to prevent 160 people from jumping to their deaths at "the Gap." Sadly, there have been far more than that who did successfully jump to their deaths. An article in the Sydney Morning Herald in March 2010 says an estimated 50 people jump to their deaths every year at "the Gap." The article also reports that suicide "is the leading cause of death for Australians under the age of 44. In 2007, 1881 suicides were registered in Australia, with a further 65,000 attempts recorded." Suicide is a problem worldwide and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention states, "In 2011, 39,518 suicides were reported, making suicide the 10th leading cause of death for Americans."

Don Ritchie tried his best to stop people from committing suicide. In his early years, he would actually tackle people who were on the verge of jumping and drag them away from the cliff. Over the years, Ritchie perfected a better method for preventing those deaths. Every morning he would look out his window to see if there were anyone standing there who might be contemplating ending their life. If he did see someone he would walk out to them with his palms facing up smiling and say, "Is there something I could do to help you?" Ritchie says, "I'm offering them an alternative, really. I always act in a friendly manner. I smile. Over the years, I've spoken to many, many of them - just a way of saying, 'What are you doing over here? Please come and talk to me. Come over and have a cup of tea, come and have a beer.' To get them away from what's on their mind, to get them away from going over while I'm here." His daughter Sue Ritchie Bereny says, "And that was all that was often needed to turn people around, and he would say not to underestimate the power of a kind word and a smile." Don Ritchie was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2006 for his many rescues. May God raise up many more like Don Ritchie! (The Sydney Morning Herald; Gawker 08.06.14)

Often, it does not take that much to stand in the gap for those around us who desperately need help. Sometimes all it takes is a smile and a kind word to prevent a tragedy. Sometimes all it takes is a prayer and God moves mountains to bring peace into the lives of hurting people. Sometimes all it takes is to share the truth of God's Word that Jesus loves them and wants to be their Savior to bring healing to a hurting heart. Are you standing in the gap? Can you say a kind word to someone today?

The Burning Bush Devotional

08.04.14

The Survivor

And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. - Ephesians 4:31 NKJV.

Soon after the Survivor was born he was relocated to a new land along with his mother, two brothers and a sister. Not long after their move the mother died from a heart condition. While the Survivor was growing up his sister disappeared and was never seen again. The Survivor suffered a life threatening accident and both of his brothers also died, but the Survivor lives on. Who or what is the Survivor? The Survivor is a cat and his name is Batman. Batman is a large long haired mostly black cat with some white around his face and belly. This cat is a survivor having lived outside in a dangerous environment for four and a half years. He has survived having a broken leg. He has survived threats from owls, hawks, coyotes, bobcats, and dogs along with attacks from other male cats.

Batman has a strategy for surviving in his relationships with other cats that has been effective. It is a somewhat strange strategy. Batman survives in his relationships through extending forgiveness and demonstrating kindness. A large male cat outside has at times viciously attacked Batman, but yesterday I saw him go up to this cat and rub on him and begin to give him a bath. Batman now comes inside on our patio at night where it is safer. However, we have an inside cat, George, who is a bully. Also, yesterday I saw George jump on Batman, who at first hissed in response, but then went over and began to rub on George and purred. Now Batman is a large male cat who is all muscled up from his years outside and he could make short work of either of those other cats, instead he chooses to forgive and act kindly toward them.

Jesus gives us a strategy for surviving in our relationships with other people. What is that strategy? Forgiveness and kindness. In Matthew 18:21-22 Peter asks Jesus a question about forgiveness: "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?" This is the answer Jesus gives to Peter: "I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven." The point is not to forgive 490 times. The point Jesus is making is that the extending of forgiveness toward others should be never ending. If you have ever been on the receiving end of receiving forgiveness from another person you know that this is something that is not soon forgotten. Forgiveness goes far beyond words extending deep into our hearts.

What does Jesus have to say about being kind: "But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil (Luke 6:35)." Extending unexpected kindness is always fun, because you can see the surprise and joy etched on the faces of the recipients. Just like it is etched on our own faces when we are the recipients of unexpected kindness.

The Jesus strategy for winning friends and influencing people begins and ends with extending forgiveness and extending kindness even toward your enemies (Matthew 18:21-22; Luke 6:35). If you haven’t tried the Jesus strategy for relational survival lately, try it. Living as a forgiving and kind person will not only extend your life, it will make your journey through this world a far more pleasant one.

The Burning Bush Devotional

08.01.14

Crocodile in the Shower

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. - Psalm 32:1 NKJV.

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. - 1 Corinthians 11:28 NKJV.

Can you imagine going to take a shower in your home and finding a six or seven foot long crocodile? That is what Kalpesh Patel found in his home in India. Kalpesh says, "At first I didn't even know if it was alive, I just stood there staring at it in my bathrobe and then suddenly I saw it blink, and I turned round and ran off as fast as I could, slamming the door behind me. I have no idea how it got into the house or even why it went there, but we weren't prepared to let it out again." He warned his family about the crocodile and had some neighbors come take a look confirming that he was not hallucinating and that the croc was real. They called the police, and some forestry officers captured the croc and took it away. Here is another reason why when you go to the bathroom at night you ought to turn on the light to see what is in there! (Orange News 08.01.14)

There is something on a spiritual level just as damaging, if not more so, than a crocodile can be to your physical body. What is that something? Unconfessed sin. Strange as it may sound, some of us are carrying around unconfessed sin that we are not even aware is there. King David is an example the Bible gives us. Even though, he had committed adultery and had arranged the murder of Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba; he was able to ignore his responsibility before God until confronted by the Prophet Nathan. Here is a description of what it is like to know you have unconfessed sin and to fail to repent of it and confess it, "For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer (Psalm 32:4)."

It is a strange spiritual fact that God knows us better than we know ourselves. As David says in Psalm 139:1, "O Lord, You have searched me and known me." The Holy Spirit continually searches our hearts and knows the real us. We are given a word of warning against participating in the Lord’s Supper (Communion) with sin in our hearts. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 11:28 about this, "But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup." In other words, if there is a crocodile of sin inside of your heart it would be unwise to partake of the Lord’s Supper.

In 1 Corinthians 10:1-11 a warning is given concerning those in the Old Testament who because of their sin were not pleasing to God. 1 Corinthians 10:12 then says, "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." If you do search your heart and find a crocodile in there please do not feed it with more sin. Instead, repent of it and confess it. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9 NKJV)."

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.29.14

Covered with the Robe

Now Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up, and struck the water; and it was divided this way and that, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground. - 2 Kings 2:8 NKJV.

Then he took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, and said, "Where is the Lord God of Elijah?" And when he also had struck the water, it was divided this way and that; and Elisha crossed over. - 2 Kings 2:14 NKJV.

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. - Isaiah 61:10 NKJV.

Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads. - Revelation 4:4 NKJV.

Ojo Obaniyi, who lives in Ibadan, Nigeria, has found a unique way to attract people to his raffia palm cane weaving business. He uses his pickup truck to gain the attention of people to his artistic ability to weave the raffia palm cane. What he has done is to weave a covering for every surface of his vehicle. Inside and out of Ojo’s pickup there is a beautifully weaved cane covering. The seats, the steering wheel, the dashboard, and the body of the pickup are all covered with a beautiful raffia palm cane weaving. Ojo has 20-years of experience in cane weaving and says, "I wanted to prove a point that it is not only the educated elite that can make positive changes in society. We, the artisans also have talents to effect a change and make a positive impact in the society." (African Spotlight 01.14.13)

How would you like to have a car or a pickup covered in raffia cane weaving? Or, even better to have a suit of clothes made of cane weaving to cover your body? Our Lord and High Priest, Jesus Christ, wore a one-piece robe which covered his body (John 19:23). The high priests of the Old Testament wore a one-piece garment, the robe of the ephod, which covered their bodies (Exodus 28:31-32). The Old Testament prophets, at least Samuel, Elijah, and Elisha all wore a one-piece covering of their bodies too called a "mantle." The Hebrew words for the Robe of the Ephod and the word for mantle are different, but there does appear to be great similarity between the two garments.

The mantle that Elijah and Elisha wore was not only their clothing, but it was a symbol of God's power. The symbol of the power of God given to Moses was the rod (Exodus 4:1-4). The mantle and the rod, however, in the hands of these men of God were not just symbols. Through the mantle and rod these men of God were empowered with the supernatural power of God. When Moses stretched out the rod, the waters parted. When Elijah and Elisha struck the waters with their mantle, the waters parted.

The prophet Isaiah was clothed with a Robe of Righteousness. Although this is not a physical robe or mantle which covered Elijah and Elisha, Isaiah is still a God empowered mighty prophet. We are given a brief view of the church in Heaven in Revelation 4-5. The family of God is symbolically represented here in the 24 elders who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and are clothed in "white robes." If you are a believer in Jesus Christ you too have been clothed in a "Robe of Righteousness." Your "Robe of Righteousness" is just as powerful if not more so than the "mantle" of Elijah and Elisha. Why? How? Jesus says, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it (John 14:12-13)."

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.28.14

Precious

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the Lord your God is giving you. - Exodus 20:12 NKJV.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise: "that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth." - Ephesians 6:1-3 NKJV.

Ding Liang, a 63-year-old grandmother in China has a problem, the problem is that she is too ugly! At least that is what her son has said. The issue has been a continuation of a long-standing problem that the Mother has encountered with her son. The son, basically, is just embarrassed to have Ding as his Mother. One of the first indications of a problem occurred many years ago at her son's wedding. Ding's son at the time was moving in a higher social stratum than his Mother and was embarrassed when she came to the wedding dressed as a peasant.

Since the wedding of her son, the Mother and son have become more estranged with the son rarely making contact. Ding says, "I don't mind, I know he has his own life now, so I understand that he doesn't call and only speaks to me when I ring him. But when he rang me the other day to say that he had had a baby, I wanted to visit him and bring my grandchild some gifts." But, "He said I would embarrass him because I'm too ugly." Ding and her husband have always tried to be supportive of their son and borrowed money so he could go to college. They also borrowed money when her son was getting married to help them. But now the son says to his Mother that he would be embarrassed for her to visit because she is too ugly. (China Smack 07.21.14)

"Honor your father and your mother" not only is one of the Ten Commandments, it is also a commandment with an attached promise. The promised result of obedience is, "that your days may be long." It appears that a potential curse has been added to the commandment by the writer of Proverbs 30:17 which indicates mocking and scorning your parents will result in bad things. Here is what Proverbs 30:17 says, "The eye that mocks his father, and scorns obedience to his mother, the ravens of the valley will pick it out, and the young eagles will eat it." Every child should be made to memorize it and repeat it daily (ha!). For the child of Ding there appears to be some truth in this as publicity about his bad behavior toward his parents is having some ugly consequences for him.

The 5th commandment says to "Honor" your mother and father. W. A Criswell, a great Bible scholar, says that to "Honor" your mother and father means to consider them "precious." Indeed, your parents are precious, in that through them God has given you life. You can call your parents names, and you can treat them like dirt, but here is one thing that you can take to the bank: God will not "honor" you if you act in that way toward your parents. You can be a possible beneficiary of the promise of the 5th Commandment by honoring your parents "that your days may be long upon the land." Or, you can mock and scorn your parents and receive the ugly promise of Proverbs 30:17.

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.22.14

Bad Endings

Do not be overly wicked, nor be foolish: Why should you die before your time? - Ecclesiastes 7:17 NKJV.

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

Evgeniy Tankov, a 35-year-old attorney, is in trouble and could spend the next ten years in prison. Evgeniy is in trouble with the judge in a Kazakhstan inheritance case because things were not going well for his client. You have to wonder how the attorney for a client in a civil case ends up facing those many years in prison? Here's what he did, he approaches the judge and says, "Let's not hang about arguing the law here, let's decide this with flyswatters." Evgeniy then holds up a flyswatter and proceeds to slap judge with it three times. The judge does nothing at first until the opposing attorney joins the fight by punching Evgeniy. That is when the judge leaves the bench and helps to wrestle Evgeniy to the floor. (Orange 07.18.14)

There are some things that you just know are going to end badly! Here is an example, don't ever hit the judge with a flyswatter! Here are a few of the foolish things I have done that ended badly. Just because on the Dukes of Hazzard and other TV shows and movies drivers can jump their cars over ditches and other things...does not mean that you can. It really was a small ditch, four, five, six feet wide and my car did jump the ditch...but it shoved the fan through the radiator and bent the frame. That car seemed to have a problem with that, because when I drove it off a dead end it pushed the fan through the radiator and bent the frame that time too. Those events occurred my senior year in High School. Another foolish thing that will end badly is having a blowtorch fight, at least it ended badly for me because the back of my hand was burned. I think that happened my junior year in High School, and yes, I probably did something equally foolish every year, although thankfully I've been able to blot most of them out of my memory.

Having fools as friends who do foolish things can cause problems for you too. My freshman year in college one night I walked with my roommate and another guy downtown. Before I knew what they were doing, they had pulled down some Halloween decorations that were on a business building. I had not walked over to the store with them for some reason, but it didn't matter what I did or didn't do at that point. A police car came zooming into the parking lot, and suddenly I was on the run from a crime I didn't commit. It is not much fun hiding under cars and climbing over fences. We escaped without a really bad ending, and I learned a lesson, which I think maybe my friends learned too!

There does appear to be an appointed time for us to die as it says in Hebrews 9:27, "as it is appointed for men to die once." However, Ecclesiastes 7:17 warns that we can die before that time if we act foolishly. Jump off the top of a ten-story building and it is likely that you will die before your time. Step in front of a train traveling 60 miles an hour, and it is likely that you will die before your time. To guard our lives against foolish actions, let us continually seek the wisdom of God. "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)."

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.21.14

Build

As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a loyal heart and with a willing mind; for the Lord searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever. Consider now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong, and do it. - 1 Chronicles 28:9-10 NKJV.

So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. - Acts 20:32 NKJV.

For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, you are God's building. - 1 Corinthians 3:9 NKJV.

Hu Songwen was faced with an impossible situation, at least it would appear to be impossible to most people. Hu experienced renal failure in 1993 and began to receive dialysis treatments. The procedures at the time each cost $80 and in six years all of his and his families' savings had been exhausted. The alternatives were stark in that he could do nothing and simply die from renal failure or was there something else that he could do?

Hu decided to build his own dialysis machine and build it he did. He somehow found a textbook and using things from their kitchen and medical supplies he was able to obtain he built it. Hu says, "As long as you have a high school degree, understand the principle of dialysis, follow the operational instructions and keep a close watch during the process, nothing should go wrong." For the past 13 years, Hu's home built dialysis machine has kept him alive. Instead of paying $80 for each treatment, it now only cost him $10 per treatment, with the added benefit of not having to travel a long distance each week. One study revealed that one in ten in China who needs dialysis cannot afford treatment. Wow! How many lives and millions of dollars could be saved if everyone who needed dialysis could build their own machine, and use it in their own home? (The Telegraph; China Daily; Southern Weekly Magazine 01.29.13)

God chose Solomon to build the Temple in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, we know that God does not now dwell in a physical, literal building. Instead, God has chosen to dwell through the Holy Spirit within every "born again" believer in Jesus Christ. We are told this 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."

Believers now have been given an awesome responsibility to build with God (1 Corinthians 3:9) a New Testament temple in which the Spirit of God dwells. Your own body, your own life, is where as a believer that God dwells. How are believers to build a New Testament temple for the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 3:16)? Jesus tells us, "Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock (Luke 6:47-48)." Have you ever considered what God thinks of the temple you are building for Him? Here is the word of encouragement and commandment that God gave to Solomon and to all believers now, "be strong, and do it."

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.18.14

Give It Up!

Jesus said to him (The Rich Young Ruler), "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. - Matthew 19:21-22 NKJV.

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. - Matthew 6:24 NKJV.

For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? - Luke 9:24-26 NKJV.

At one time, German Sterligov was one of the richest men in Russia. He was an oligarch who was rich, powerful, and famous. Sterligov was the first legal Russian millionaire since the Revolution in 1917. He began the first Russian commodities exchange in the early 1990s and had more than 2500 employees. He ran for President in Russia but only succeeded in creating a lot of debt and sold his four-story mansion in Moscow to pay it off. An idea then took hold of Sterligov, what if he were to give it all up? He then proceeded to sell off and give away all that he owned. He sold his penthouse in New York, sold his retreat in Geneva and castle in Burgundy, sold his offices in Wall Street, London and in Moscow. He also gave away shares worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

What did Sterligov do after he had gotten rid of all of his riches? He took his family, consisting of his wife and five kids and camped out in the middle of some woods about 60 miles from Moscow. With the small amount of money they had left, they built a little log cabin with no electricity. Only a few days after they moved out of the tent and into the cabin their fifth child was born there. Sterligov says this about his new life, "Not in a million years do I want to be a businessman with these silly, shiny badges of success; the Rublyovka houses, swanky yachts, Bentleys and so on. I’m happy with my peace in the countryside, and my sheep, along with my wife and kids. Being super-rich is a kind of slavery from which we're free, thankfully."

Sterligov does claim to be part of the Russian Orthodox Church although there was no clear statement that his faith led him to the decision that he made to leave his riches behind. However, it may be that his faith is part of why he and his wife have such peace with their decision now. Sterligov's story is somewhat similar to what the Rich Young Ruler from the Bible would have had to give up to follow Jesus. It would have been difficult, but possible.

What about you? Have you given up anything to follow Jesus? Many in ministry have given up careers and comfortable lives to launch out into the unknown world of an uncertain future not knowing where they will end up or even how they will survive financially. Many have left behind their addictions to follow Jesus. Many have left behind lives of crime to follow Jesus. Many have left behind their sinful lifestyles to follow Jesus. Many have left behind the faiths of their parents and ancestors to follow Jesus even though some of them were killed because of leaving the Muslim faith. What about you? Have you given up anything to follow Jesus?

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.17.14

No Clothes

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation. - 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 NKJV.

At a gas station and convenience store combination in Poland, there was an unexpected incident which occurred. One of the customers, Cezar Zawadzki, was present and recorded the event using his phone. For most people, it would likely be a memorable occurrence in that it is not often that a young woman without clothes walks into a store. According to Cezar, everyone tried to act as though there was nothing strange about what was happening. The woman walked to a display and picked out some food and something to drink, and then walked to the counter. Cezar says, "She completely ignored me and she didn’t seem drunk or on drugs, she just stood patiently waiting in the line to be served so that she could pay for her drink and sandwich. It was a really surreal experience. After she paid she just left the shop and went back down the road as if it was the most normal thing in the world." (Orange News 07.16.14)

Why would someone do something like the young woman in the above incident? There are multiple possibilities; however the one most likely is mental illness. A study from the National Institute of Mental Health indicates that in any year, one in four adults suffers from a diagnosable form of mental illness. It is common for some unknown reason for people who are mentally ill to disrobe. Some of the possibilities are schizophrenia, catatonia (resulting from schizophrenia), and psychosis. In addition, medications and illegal drugs can be a causal factor. In older people with dementia, disrobing is sometimes seen, but it is more related to confusion in thinking.

Personally, I have heard many reports of people disrobing at inappropriate times and read many articles similar to the young woman in Poland. My own Mother who had been unable to walk by herself for several months had a strange incident of this behavior. In the middle of the night, she jumped out of bed ran out of the house without clothes, ran down the road for more than a quarter of a mile before collapsing in the middle of the road before my Dad could catch up with her. My Mother did suffer from mental illness at times during her life. At times, she was very well and at other times she had trouble functioning at all. During the time that she had the incident of running down the road, she was on several types of medications that could have caused an adverse psychotic reaction. Of course, not all disrobing incidents are caused by mental illness, some are the result of...how can I say this...unwise behavior. Also, some incidents like this are simply an attempt to gain the attention of others, but maybe that is a type of mental illness too?

The truth is that the mentally ill sometimes do far more shocking things outside of the societal norms than simply disrobing. It is tempting, when confronted with this type of behavior to run, not walk, away from it as fast as we possibly can. We do not want to see it and we do not want to talk about it. However, what we need to remember is that for whatever reason, people exhibiting these types of behavior are hurting. People acting in these ways likely need medical treatment, but even more they need the consolation of God and the compassion that we Christians can extend toward them. God has comforted us "that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God."

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.16.14

Do It Yourself

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:9 NKJV.

Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. - Matthew 26:41 NKJV.

Jacob Rogers of Smyrna, Georgia was the victim of a hit-and-run driver. Thankfully, his injuries were minor as the vehicle struck the left side of the bike injuring his left foot and damaging the left pedal. One of the witnesses called 911 and the police arrived at the scene of the accident soon afterwards. Jacob was advised by the police that it would likely be one or two days before a detective could be assigned to investigate the hit-and-run accident.

Jacob decided to perform his own accident investigation because he says, "I was not so much upset about the accident because accidents happen. I was upset that she pushed her way through and it was a hit and run." Knowing the vehicle had driven out of the entrance to an apartment complex, the next day Jacob began a search for the silver Volkswagen. The first silver Volkswagen found by Jacob was the one involved in the accident. In the grill of the vehicle was stuck part of the pedal that had been broken off of Jacob’s bike in the accident. Jacob contacted the police and 20-year-old Pablynne Silva was arrested for a misdemeanor hit and run offense. She could face up to one year in jail and a $1000 fine. (USA Today, Maxnews, WXIA-TV Atlanta and other news venues 07.16.14)

There are some things in the Christian life that you have to do yourself as in you cannot have another person do it for you. For example, another person cannot confess your sins and expect that you will receive forgiveness for their confession. If you want your sins forgiven you must confess those sins in a state of repentance yourself. Another thing that another cannot do for you is to be baptized. Now someone else can be baptized for you, but it will have no meaning. You, yourself will have to be baptized if you want to be obedient to God. Partaking of the Lord's Supper is another thing that someone else cannot do for you. You will have to partake of the Lord's Supper yourself for it to have meaning in your life.

There are other things in the Christian life that others can do for you, but you are the one primarily responsible for doing them. Prayer is an example. Jesus tells His disciples, "Watch and pray, lest YOU enter into temptation." We know that Jesus Himself was praying for His disciples, but the disciples themselves still are told to pray for themselves. Philippians 4:6 says, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let YOUR requests be made known to God." "Let YOUR requests be made known" makes it clear that you should be praying personally about everything in your life that makes you "anxious." Even though, your pastor or other prayer warriors are praying about situations in your life that does not mean that you are not to pray yourself.

Studying God’s Word is something you must also do yourself (2 Timothy 3:16), however you can benefit from others who have studied the Scriptures, through their sermons, and writings. Others can witness to your relatives and friends, but this does not remove the primary responsibility for sharing the Gospel with them from you (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8). Jesus tells us that the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few (Matthew 9:37-38). Maybe the workers are few because we expect others to do what we should be doing ourselves? Sometimes you have to do it yourself.

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.15.14

Living in the Past

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world.... - Ephesians 2:1-2a NKJV.

Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles-when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. - 1 Peter 4:1-4 NKJV.

A 35-year-old man in England is living in the past, as in the 1940s. Ben Sansum is working hard to make the past become real in his life. He has a bought small Victorian cottage (four rooms) and has decorated and furnished the house in 1940s furniture and decor including appliances. His fascination with the past time period began when a great uncle gave him an old radio from the 1940s. Now Ben dresses as a man in the 40s would dress, cooks as they cooked then, surrounds himself with everything he possibly can from the past. He even has a view from his home that he says has not changed in a thousand years. Ben says about his way of life, "I couldn't live in a modern house now with modern interiors. I like this period, I like the community spirit. I don't want to glorify the war, I like all the things that took people's minds away from the war, the music and the fashions and the cars." However, Ben does have a girlfriend now who has her own home. The girlfriend’s home is completely modern and Ben says they are just in a relationship that happens to have two homes. I am wondering though, about how much longer Ben's girlfriend is going to allow him to live in the past? (BBC, Huntspost 07.10.14)

There are at least three ways that believers attempt to live in the past. Believers sometimes live in the past by acting as they did prior to knowing Christ as their Savior. The apostle Peter is warning believers against this type of behavior and says in 1 Peter 4:7 NKJV, "But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers." Surely the "end of all things" is drawing near as we view all that is happening across the world in these days.

Another way that believers live in the past is continual dwelling upon what has happened in our lives. This goes beyond just thinking about the past to a focus upon those days as being the most important without any concern for the present. Yes, we must not forget the lessons we have learned in the past God makes that clear throughout the Bible and Hebrews 11 is a New Testament example. The point being that as long as we are here in this flesh upon this earth God has more for us to do. Our focus should not be upon past deeds, but upon the present with the work and plan that God has for our lives.

The third way that believers are living in the past is by the dwelling upon our sins, our failures prior to becoming children of God. Yes, we did all those bad things, and we are sorry for them, but they are in the past. We cannot, as much as we would like to, undo those past sins. Now we can try to restore those we have hurt and seek forgiveness, but the sin itself cannot be undone. The great news is that if we know Jesus as our Savior, God has washed away those sins with the sacrificial blood of the perfect Lamb of God on the cross. God has forgiven us and remembers those sins no more (Hebrews 8:12; Jeremiah 31:34; Micah 7:19), so forgive yourself, choose to forget as God has, and move forward with how God would have you to serve Him now.

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.14.14

LOL

Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, "Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us." HE WHO SITS IN THE HEAVENS SHALL LAUGH; the Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure: "Yet I have set My King on My holy hill of Zion." - Psalm 2:1-6 NKJV.

Several people driving home from Las Vegas, Nevada to Primm, Nevada viewed a strange cloud in the sky. The cloud spelled out the letters "LOL" which if you have been on the Internet using chat or been texting for very long, you know what it means. LOL is short in text shorthand for "Laughing Out Loud." Many people were stuck in traffic the day the cloud appeared as they traveled the 44-mile commute from Las Vegas to Primm. One person posted that it had taken them two hours to make the drive on that day. A man with the Reddit user name of "Waymoe" posted the photo on the social media site. Waymoe posted this "Stuck in terrible traffic and look up to see this, it's like the sky is laughing at us." After the photo had been seen by thousands Waymoe posted, "Just woke up to see this on the front page! I hope clouds are jerks to me more often." (Orange 07.09.14; Mirror.co.uk 07.08.14)

Did God place the LOL in the sky? Good question. Would God have been able to arrange clouds in the sky to spell out letters? Of course, God could do that if He wanted to. God can do whatever He wants to do. I think it would be great if God were to begin to send us text messages in the sky through clouds. Suppose you are driving along thinking about how you are going win millions in the lottery and God spells out with clouds NGH, which is short for "Not Gonna Happen." You would then know not to waste your time or money buying that lottery ticket! Or, how about you are praying for the traffic ahead of you to part like the Red Sea did for Moses and God spells out in the clouds NIMY which is short for "Never In A Million Years." Or, you are praying as you drive along and confess some of your sins to Him and suddenly in the sky appear the letters YS which are short for "You Stinker." Then, in the sky appears this long string of letters YMYBNYCSII which are short for "You Made Your Bed Now You Can Sleep In It."

It would be nice if God communicated with us by text messages in the sky, wouldn't it? However, the Bible tells us this in 2 Corinthians 5:7, "For we walk by faith, not by sight." But some day if we know Jesus as our Savior, and we are present with the Lord, everything will become clear as we are told in 1 Corinthians 13:13 NKJV, "For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known."

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.11.14

Spiritual Orientation Phenomenon

But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. - 1 Corinthians 2:14 NKJV.

But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. - 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 NKJV.

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:31-32 NKJV.

Do you have "Spatial Orientation Phenomenon?" Bojana Danilovic from Serbia is one of the very few known to have this odd condition where everything appears to them upside down from the rest of us. Bojana is 29-years-old living in Serbia and is a college graduate with a degree in economics. Nothing is wrong with her intelligence or her eyes, it is just that her brain interprets the data from her eyes upside down. She has lived with this all of her life and has been backwards about nearly everything. She was born feet first, crawled at first going backwards, the same when she first began to walk, and she wrote backwards too. She watches a TV that is turned upside down, turns her mobile phone upside down, turns her computer monitor and keyboard upside down and her newspaper upside down. (NY Daily News; Daily MailOnline; International Business Times 03.15.13)

Spatial Orientation Phenomenon is a very rare condition that only a very few in all of history have had, at least that have been documented. I have discovered another condition that is not so rare and the truth is that maybe a few billion people suffer from it. What is this condition? I have named it "Spiritual Orientation Phenomenon." Those with this condition (SpOP) see spiritual things backwards and are able to more easily believe a lie than they are able to believe the spiritual truth. People with SpOP often suffer from the delusion that everyone goes to Heaven or that there are multiple ways or paths that one can take to arrive in Heaven. The Bible is very clear that there is only one way to Heaven and that is through Jesus as He tells us in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." Other often suffered spiritual delusions with SpOP are the belief that there is no God, and that if you do more good things than bad things you will go to Heaven. There are likely additional SpOP delusions, but all have in common rejection of the spiritual truths as revealed in the Bible.

The Bible identifies a person with Spiritual Orientation Phenomenon (SpOP) as someone who is a "natural man" who has not been "born again (John 3:3)." All those suffering from SpOP have been "blinded" by the "god of this age (the devil)" and will perish eternally if they continue in their state of delusion. The cure for SpOP consists of confronting spiritually delusional people with the truth because the truth will set them free (John 8:32). In addition, sharing your own personal testimony of how God freed you through Jesus can be helpful as we are told in Revelation 12:11, "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony...." In order to reach the spiritually deluded with the truth, we must remain spiritually strong ourselves. "But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life (Jude 1:20-21)." By staying spiritually strong ourselves, we will then be able to help those suffering from SpOP, pulling them from the fire of eternal death. "And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh (Jude 1:22-23)." We know the truth that someday all will face judgment so as the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:11a, "Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men...."

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.10.14

Cross Carriers

Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me." - Luke 9:23 NKJV.

Lindsay Hamon, 61-year-old man from England, for almost half of his life; has been carrying a literal cross 12 ft long with a crossbeam of 6 ft. Lindsay has carried his cross across 19 countries and uses his cross as an evangelistic tool providing him opportunities to tell people about Jesus. He began his effort of cross-bearing in 1987 carrying the cross for as much as 12 hours a day never knowing where he would stay during the night. Lindsay says, "I find people often want to talk, but if people don't want to know I walk on. The love you get from it all is amazing, people will just stop and ask you questions, offer you food and sometimes a place to stay." There have been some difficult times like when he was in Bangladesh and was attacked and the attackers tried to shoot him. Lindsay says about the possibility of danger, "There is fear there sometimes because I have a wife and kids and you don't want to put yourself in danger. It is really trusting in God, knowing He will protect you."

According to Hamon he has had the opportunity to visit with thousands of curious people and he has prayed with many of them. Somehow God overcomes the language barrier that is there at times as Lindsay shares, "Sometimes you get people who translate for you, I had one young boy who came out of nowhere when I was talking to around 20 or 30 people and he just translated everything. When it was done he just disappeared, I never knew who he was or where he came from, it's amazing." When people ask why he is carrying a cross he tells them, "The cross is the greatest symbol of how much God loves them." He has so far traveled across these countries: Belarus, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Belgium, Germany, France, Holland, Ireland, India, Hungary, Nepal, New Zealand, Italy, Russia, Romania, Poland, Sri Lanka, Slovakia, Latvia, Denmark and the UK. (MailOnline.com 03.21.13; LindsayHamon.com; Lindsay‘s book, "When God Takes Over" is available on Amazon.)

Did Jesus mean for us to literally take a cross and carry it on our shoulders on a daily basis? No, He is making it very clear that living the Christian life is not a piece of cake. Instead, living the Christian life is more like carrying a cross to the place of your execution. The cross is something that the hearers of Jesus were very familiar with, but this is the first mention of the cross in the written record in the Gospel of Luke (9:23). Those listening to Jesus knew that when the Roman government condemned someone to die on the cross the condemned person was made to carry the crossbeam to the place where he was to be executed. Luke adds one word to the statement made in Luke 9:23 that Matthew and Mark did not have, and that word is "daily."

When Jesus says in Luke 9:23, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me," it is a cautionary statement for those who would be followers of Him. Jesus is making it clear there are costs involved in being His disciple. If you would be a disciple, a follower, a believer in Jesus, you must be prepared even to die for your faith in Him. "For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels (Luke 9:24-26)." May we daily be cross carriers for Jesus!

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.09.14

Life Without Fear

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. - 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV.

And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him! - Luke 12:4-5 NKJV.

Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, And the Lord listened and heard them; So a book of remembrance was written before Him For those who fear the Lord and who meditate on His name. - Malachi 3:16 NKJV.

But to you who fear My name The Sun of Righteousness shall arise With healing in His wings; And you shall go out And grow fat like stall-fed calves. - Malachi 4:2 NKJV.

In Russia, Valery Bochkarev and Alexander Blagov have created a two-day course to help people to overcome their fears. The idea is to confront people with extreme challenges and by completing those challenges their confidence is increased and fear is reduced. The fear reducing course is a hands-on type of thing. If you participate in this course, you will experience: walking on burning hot coals, walking and lying down on broken glass, lying and standing on a bed of nails, winter swimming, staged fights, stopping a falling knife with your stomach, large bugs crawling over your body, breaking wooden sticks with your necks, being buried alive and much more. Sounds like a lot of fun doesn’t it? However, there was no mention of snake charming. (Prafulla.net)

Fear can be crippling, so much so, that some people will not leave their homes (agoraphobia). It is just one of a huge number of fears identified by psychologists and psychiatrists called phobias. Those suffering from phobias can become withdrawn, depressed, and socially incapacitated. Anyone suffering severe symptoms from a phobia should seek professional help and treatment.

It is not God's will for us to live in fear as 2 Timothy 1:7 says believers have not been given a spirit of fear; "but of power and of love and of a sound mind." It is not God's will for you to have so much fear that you are unable to leave your home. It is not God's will for you to have such a great fear of germs or simply of social interaction that you refuse to have contact with others.

How can fear be overcome? We know that it is not God's will for us to be fearful of our environment, our surroundings that we live in, or of what other humans may possibly do to us. The Bible tells us that instead of fearing these things we should fear God. We should reverence and respect God by being obedient to Him. The result of such reverence, respect and obedience to God will be a reduction in the amount of abnormal fear we have toward any and everything else. You could say that as you grow your faith in God your fears will shrink. How can you grow your faith and reduce your fears? "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Hebrews 10:17)."

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.08.14

Finding Peace

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. - Romans 13:14 NKJV.

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. - Romans 13:14 NIV.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. - Romans 8:5-6 NKJV.

It all started in 2009 for Luo Dan, that was when he found inner peace and released his inner deer. What? Luo Dan lives in Chonqing, China and 2009 was when he began to wear a large deer mask that completely encompasses his head every day. Dan wears the mask, not just in his home, but everywhere that he goes. As to why Dan wears the mask he says, "The deer is a tame animal. Wearing its mask, I could find a long-missing inner peace. When I wear the mask, I feel I am a deer from within." (Metro.co.uk 04.12.13)

You have to admire Luo Dan for seeking after a good thing, peace. In his own way, Dan seems to be seeking God. If only someone could share with him about the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) who through the Holy Spirit will live within (1 Corinthians 3:16) those who know Jesus as their Savior. Peace, appears to be a fleeting thing for so many with the pressures of modern life. In the 21st Century, there are so many distractions, so many worries, cares, and problems that drain away our peace.

Thinking about Luo Dan wearing his deer mask and releasing his "inner deer" can give us insight as to the application of Romans 13:14 and also Romans 8:5-6. As believers, we do not have to put on a deer mask and wear it around every day; instead, we are to "put on the Lord Jesus Christ." We are to "put on" or "clothe" ourselves with Jesus and do what? Release our inner deer? No, we are to release Jesus through the Holy Spirit so He is displayed in our lives. As we live clothed in Jesus, acting as Jesus would act, thinking as Jesus would think; we will be "spiritually minded" and the result will be "life and peace."

In 2 Peter 3:10-13, we are told of the coming "day of the Lord" that will come as a "thief in the night." Then we have 2 Peter 3:14 which says, "Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him (Jesus) in peace, without spot and blameless." Are you "in peace" in your life now? If not, you can be by putting on, clothing yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ. Allow the Holy Spirit who lives within to be released; displaying the attributes of Jesus in your actions and in your thoughts, and you will have "life and peace."

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.02.14

Searching for Life?

All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. - John 1:3-5 NKJV.

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. - John 5:24 NKJV.

But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. - John 5:40 NKJV.

Danielle Davis is living a make believe life with celebrity, Bradley Cooper. Danielle is 39-years-old married with two children, and she is living her make believe life by taking a life-size cutout of Cooper with her everywhere she goes. Danielle takes the cutout of Cooper with her when she goes shopping, when cooking, just about everywhere! Danielle says, "I picked Bradley Cooper because I went to college with him for one year and we were in a play together, so I've watched his career from the get-go. My kids think it’s fun but get a little impatient with it sometimes, especially if they think I'm not doing something they want me to do. Then they're like 'It's Bradley Cooper this and Bradley Cooper that!' My daughter is young enough to not realize it might be embarrassing - I even took him to her school. My son would be mortified if I did that to him!" The motive for all of this craziness may be the promotion of a future book and her Instagram account reportedly now has 10,000 followers. (Today.com; MailOnline; and other news venues 07.02.14)

Let's see, if I began carrying around a cardboard cutout of a movie actress everywhere I went, posting photos of the two of us on my facebook profile...what would happen? I think there would likely be an involuntary commitment for a mental evaluation in my future! You have to wonder if the cardboard cutout is one step short of actually stalking the actor. It does seem a little creepy, well maybe a lot creepy! There is a movie about a man who lives with a life size doll (Lars and the Real Girl -not a celebrity though) and he takes her everywhere with him.

If someone were actually trying to live an alternate life through a cardboard cutout or life-size doll, it would be indicative of a life that they want to have in reality. Maybe Danielle Davis really would like to be the wife of Bradley Cooper and thinks, fantasizes continually about what that life would be like. The man in the movie with the life-size doll, appeared to want to have a wife and family, and instead settled for life with a doll.

What kind of life have you settled for? You may not carry around a cardboard cutout of a movie star or a life-size doll, but are you living a life without real meaning, without real purpose, and without experiencing real life? Jesus came that we might have real life (John 10:10b), life with meaning and purpose. How do we have real life? Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:33 NKJV, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." Jesus tells us in Luke 9:23, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me." Jesus tells the woman at the well, and us, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life (John 4:13-14 NKJV)." If you are willing (John 5:40; John 5:24), Jesus can give you real life.

The Burning Bush Devotional

07.01.14

Go to the Source

He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. - Isaiah 40:29 NKJV.

It is God who arms me with strength…. - Psalm 18:32 NKJV.

Bob Renning, 52-years-old, and his girlfriend were traveling on a Minnesota Interstate highway when they noticed a car on fire. They tried to attract the attention of the driver with no success. Soon afterwards, the burning car drove off the highway because of mechanical failure and died. Bob stopped his car and ran back to the burning vehicle. The driver of the stopped car, Johannes, was unable to open the doors or power down the windows after the car had lost power. Bob, as he was running toward the burning car, could see the flames and smoke filling the interior of the vehicle. As Bob was at first unable to open the door, he then was somehow able to force his fingers around the top of the car door and bend the door in half shattering the window. Johannes, after the car window was shattered and the door bent, was able to escape from the burning car. Trooper Zachery Hill, who responded to the scene of the incident, says about Renning, "He did an extraordinary deed, bending a locked car door in half of a burning car to extricate a trapped person." Bob Renning said, "I'm still not sure exactly how I did it." Johannes says that, "30 seconds more and I would have been done. He saved my life." (Star Tribune; USA Today; TwinCities.com; FoxNews 07.01.14)

In one article I read, Bob Renning, is referred to as a superhero. No doubt the rescue involved superhuman courage to run toward a burning car, which we all know can sometimes explode. It also required superhuman wisdom to know how to attack the problem, and then superhuman strength to bend the door down, and shatter the car window. It is well known, that the body and mind are capable of extraordinary feats of strength, wisdom, and courage. However, not everyone demonstrates those extraordinary attributes during times of trial and crisis.

Most of us will never encounter a situation like Bob Renning did of a man trapped in a burning car. However, we will encounter situations in life that require superhuman courage, wisdom, and spiritual strength. As believers we know where to go for that courage, wisdom, and spiritual strength. The apostle Paul is an example of a person God empowered with the abilities needed to face the challenges of life. Paul was (2 Corinthians 11:22-33) persecuted, whipped multiple times, beaten with rods, stoned, imprisoned, shipwrecked, and even bitten by a poisonous snake. He endured riots, hunger, thirst, cold, and dangerous journeys. Paul says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13 NKJV)." King David also endured and overcame extraordinary challenges. David praises God for being the source he needed to meet those challenges, "The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold (Psalm 18:2 NKJV)."

Do you need superhuman courage? Do you need superhuman wisdom? Do you need superhuman strength? There is a source that has been found and proven to exist by countless servants of God. As David says, "It is God who arms me with strength."

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.30.14

Scorpion Eaters

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. But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day. - Proverbs 4:16-18 NKJV.

"For they are impudent and stubborn children. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, 'Thus says the Lord God.' As for them, whether they hear or whether they refuse-for they are a rebellious house-yet they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them nor be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns are with you and you dwell among scorpions...." Now when I looked, there was a hand stretched out to me; and behold, a scroll of a book was in it. Then He spread it before me; and there was writing on the inside and on the outside.... - Ezekiel 2:4-6; 9-10a. NKJV.

Moreover He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” - Ezekiel 3:1 NKJV.

A farmer in Iraq says that he eats a live scorpion on a daily basis. Ismail Jasim Mohammed says that he develops withdrawal symptoms if he goes a few days without eating a scorpion. Ismail is 34-years-old and has been eating scorpions for 15 years. He decided one day to try to eat one of them and liked the taste. Ismail admits that he has been stung several times inside of his mouth but has developed resistance to the scorpion venom. (NBC; Aleqt 05.29.13)

Hard to believe that anyone would attempt actually to eat a scorpion! Even harder to believe that someone could become addicted to eating scorpions! I know many people have scorpions in their homes at times and have to be watching for them. Ismail says that he keeps scorpions in his home so that he will have a supply even though his wife and children are terrified of them. That would be an unpleasant way to have to live your life.

Ezekiel may not have been eating scorpions, but God told him that he was living among them, meaning the rebellious Israelites. Ezekiel was given the difficult task of trying to witness to hard-hearted people. He did not have to go to a foreign land where people spoke a different language. Instead, Ezekiel was given perhaps an even harder assignment of trying to reach people speaking his own language.

Christians today are living among rebellious people somewhat like Ismail Jasim Mohammed, who refuse to stop eating scorpions. What am I talking about? We live among people like the Israelites who persist in eating, not scorpions, but evil (rebellion against God - Ezekiel 2 and 3). They are addicted to eating the scorpions of evil. As the writer of Proverbs 4:17 says, "For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence." Let us refuse to eat the scorpions! Instead, let us eat the bread of righteousness. As Ezekiel was told to "eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel" let us eat of the "bread of life (John 6:48)," and go witness to the people of our own nation.

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.27.14

The Good Fight

But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. - 1 Timothy 6:11-12 NKJV.

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. - 2 Timothy 4:6-8 NKJV.

A Utah man attacked another man, who was a visitor, at a church service over the seat where he usually sat. Reportedly the man who was attacked was trying to save three rows of seats which included the seat where Wayne Dodge usually sat. Dodge and the visitor had a few words later in the parking lot where Dodge punched the other man in the face. Also, as Dodge was driving away, he tried to hit the other man with his vehicle. (Salt Lake Tribune 07.03.13; KPRC-TV 07.03.13; and various other venues)

The fight over church seats occurred in a Mormon church, but they have occurred in other churches for many reasons. Another church fight occurred in the choir of a Missionary Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee. Two families had a brawl right in the choir loft. Reportedly the Wednesday before there had been a verbal confrontation when someone told someone to "stop sleeping with somebody." (WMC-TV 12.07.11)

A new phenomenon is "fight church" with churches sponsoring brutal MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) matches. As one person asked, "Can you love your neighbor and knee him in the face?" It just doesn't seem like the right thing for believers to do.... MMA church fights may have the right goal in that they want to win people to Christ, but they are not going about it in the right way. It appears, at least to me, that they are leaving out the "gentleness" which the Holy Spirit through the apostle Paul instructs Timothy to have.

The apostle Paul moved by the Holy Spirit instructs Timothy to "Fight the good fight of faith," and "to wage the good warfare (1 Timothy 1:18)." Paul in 2 Timothy also says that he has "fought the good fight." Now this is the kind of church fight that believers need to be involved in.

Living the Christian life according to the apostle Paul is a fight, it is a war. Ephesians 6:10-18 describes the weapons available for the battle. In 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 we are given more information about these weapons and what they can do, "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." Our weapons are not of this world, and we do not fight as the world fights, when we fight the "good fight of faith."

Instead of fighting over who sits where in a church, or over some gossip that someone has told, we should be busy wielding the supernatural weapons we have been given. Prayers are far more powerful than a fist. The shield of faith has given us the ability to overcome the fiery darts thrown by the enemy. Faith results in courage, instead of the fear the enemy wants us to have. Instead of our fists we fight the "good fight" with "righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness." These are the most powerful weapons of all!

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.26.14

Soldier On

Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. - Colossians 4:1-4 NKJV.

Surely he will never be shaken; the righteous will be in everlasting remembrance. He will not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. His heart is established; He will not be afraid, until he sees his desire upon his enemies. - Psalm 112:6-8 NKJV.

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. - 2 Timothy 2:3 NKJV.

Phillip Coon, a survivor of the WWII Bataan Death March of April 1942, has passed away. 75,000 men who surrendered to the Japanese were forced to march 60 miles through the jungle to prison camps. Only 54,000 survived the punishing march. Coon says that if he slowed down, or looked behind, or stopped, a soldier with a sharp stick would jab him in his side. He said that he could hear the screams of men behind him who could not keep up or had fallen that were either bayoneted or shot. After reaching the prison camp, he was forced to work in a copper mine and lost 55lbs during the three years of being a POW weighing only 90lbs when he was freed. How did Phillip Coon survive those horrific conditions? Coon says it was "Because of his faith and because he knew people back home were praying for him." Coon was a Native American and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Principal Chief George Tiger said this about Coon, "He certainly had a tremendous amount of faith." (Tulsa World 06.25.14; Daily Oklahoman 06.26.14; New York Daily News 10.22.13; Indiancountrynewsmedianetwork 09.07.11)

The things that some people have endured are, I think, almost beyond belief for those of us who have lived our lives in safety and some degree of comfort. We hear the stories of people who have endured persecution for their faith. We hear the stories of those who have endured harsh captivity during war. We hear the stories of those who have endured severe mistreatment even during peacetime. Do we really understand, comprehend, what these people have gone through and that many are going through? I am amazed at how God has given so many the strength to endure horrific things and situations, even for years. But I know that I do not really understand, do not really perceive the true level of suffering that these people have suffered.

Psalm 112:6-8 could have been words penned by Phillip Coon. Phillip and others that went through the horrific Bataan Death March surely received "evil tidings." Those "evil tidings" kept on coming for three years. How was Phillip able to continue on? Reportedly he had a "tremendous amount of faith." He was a man of prayer and he could feel the prayers of many lifting him up, sustaining him.

The apostle Paul while chained to a Roman soldier knew the value of prayer, of his prayers and of the prayers of others. The captivity of Paul was not as severe at the time of his writing Colossians as that endured by some, but Christian tradition indicates that Paul later was martyred for his faith by beheading. Through the apostle Paul, God gives us instructions for dealing with the "evil tidings" and suffering we may encounter in life. Prayer is of vital importance, our own prayers and the prayers of others. Paul, I think, would say to believers suffering today what he said to Timothy, "You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." The Psalmist would add that the believer should not be afraid, being steadfast and trusting in the Lord while waiting for God’s deliverance to come. No matter what "evil tidings" may come let us soldier on!

The Burning Bush Devotional
Classic from 2007

06.25.14

Out of the Dust

But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand. - Isaiah 64:8 NKJV.

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, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. - Romans 8:28-29 NKJV.

For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. - Colossians 1:16 NKJV.

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. - Genesis 2:7 NKJV.

Scott Wade is the "Dirty Car Artist." His masterpieces are drawn in the dust of his car window. His drawings are more than simply the words, "Wash Me." No, his drawings are great works of art created out of only dust. He has drawn, for example, the Mona Lisa, superimposed over his drawing of Van Gogh's, "The Starry Night." He has drawn dogs playing poker and Bottelcelli's, "The Birth of Venus." To see these works of art created out of nothing but dust is to think that this is amazing, magnificent, impossible, fantastic.... Wade says, "I've always drawn pictures on dirty windows. It wasn’t a conscious decision to develop a new art form, it was just looking for art in everything." You can view some of Scott’s works of art at dirtycarart dot com.

It is hard to imagine that someone is able use just the dust on a car window to create a work of art. I first saw this story on Fox News and was amazed at seeing Scott transform dust into a thing of great beauty. After contemplating this for a moment, I realized that this is exactly what God does with our lives. God created mankind out of the dust. We are all made of the same material, as was the first man, Adam.

We are just dust, but God is busy working in our lives to transform us into His own personal works of art. We are the clay, and He is the potter. His hands are upon the life of every believer molding, shaping and transforming. God never lets anything be wasted in a believer's life. It may be a horrific experience, but God will use it if allowed to further shape, mold and transform. If we love God, and seek His will, and plan to be done in our lives all is used to bring about the ultimate good, the ultimate work of art. The ultimate transformation, the ultimate in artistry for God is that we would be changed into, conformed to "the image of His Son."

Yes, sometimes His hands upon our lives can bring pain but if we submit to His will it will all be for our ultimate benefit. The dust will be transformed into a wondrous work of art and we will be like Him!

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.24.14

Pretend Christians

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? - Matthew 7:15-16 NKJV.

Tim Lambesis, who was the leader singer for a Christian heavy metal band, has been convicted of trying to hire someone to kill his wife and sentenced to six years in prison. During interviews, Lambesis has revealed that he is not a Christian and that he is an atheist. He claims he was the third member of the group to become an atheist and he thinks that the other two group members also are atheists. Tim says, "I remember one Christian festival where an interviewer wanted one of the guys to share his testimony, and he just froze up, and let one of the guys who was still a Christian at the time answer the question. We laughed about it afterward, but we were only laughing because it was so awkward." When rumors circulated that the group was Satanist he says, "I was afraid it would affect sales, which would affect my overall income. I was trying to put out the fire by saying the easiest thing, 'I'm not a Satanist!' Truthfully, I was an atheist." Lambesis claims that only one in ten of Christian groups is actually Christian and that the rest are just pretending to be Christian. (06.19.14 Washington Post; Alternative Press; 06.23.14 Religion News Service; and various other news venues)

One of the problems with saying anything about whether some Christian music groups are actually made up of Christians or not is that we have to take the word of a man who has been convicted of trying to hire someone to kill his wife. For all we know he may have also wanted to hurt the other members in his band and by making these statements he was hoping that he could. However, it does appear that there was at least one pretend Christian in the group based on the statements of Tim Lambesis about himself. I surely hope that it is not true that many Christian group members are only pretending to be Christians. Sadly we have seen many supposedly Christian individuals over the years confess to some very unChristian things.

Jesus gives us words of instruction as to how to know who may be a false prophet and who may be a wolf in sheep's clothing. First, Jesus tells us to "Beware" of fake prophets who will appear to be sheep but who are actually "ravenous wolves." This means that we do have permission from the Lord Himself to be cautious about giving a blanket acceptance to everyone who claims to be a Christian. We have permission to dig a little deeper into a person's background when we encounter them in our church or our lives.

How do we discern whether someone is a sheep or a wolf? Jesus says, "You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?" Tim Lambesis, who claims as a member of a Christian heavy metal group that he was actually an atheist, demonstrates clearly the fruit from his life. The fruit from his life is the attempt to hire someone to kill his wife for which he has received six years in prison. He also says that he pretended to be a Christian so that he would make more money. Let us be aware that there are wolves like Tim in sheep's clothing that will take advantage of Christians if they have the opportunity.

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.23.14

Stop Digging

Therefore, putting away lying, "Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor," for we are members of one another. "Be angry, and do not sin": do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil. Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need. Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. - Ephesians 4:25-32 NKJV.

It all began in Salem, New Hampshire, that's when a police officer made a traffic stop. Robert Zygarowski from Pennsylvania was very uncooperative and the result was that Officer Adam Pearson had to use his stun gun to try to subdue Robert. The next thing that happened was likely a complete shock to the officer because Robert pulled out the stun gun barbs and attacked the officer. Then, Robert was able to get back into his car and drive away from the scene of the traffic stop. Of course, that was not the end of the story! Officer Pearson chased after Robert until the man's car had a tire blow out. Officer Pearson ordered Robert and two others out of the car, but the officer was again surprised as the man charged toward him and was able to escape in the officer's vehicle. When more officers arrived they began to chase after the man once again, however, they found the stolen police vehicle a short distance away. Not long afterwards the man was seen entering a gas station threatening the clerk who called police. Police converged on the area and Robert was found on a nearby trail where he once again resisted arrest but was finally taken into custody. (WMUR.com 06.21.14)

Let’s see what are some of the charges Robert Zygarowski may face? Some of the possible charges are: disobeying lawful orders, three counts of resisting arrest and assault, reckless driving, theft of a motor vehicle, and probably many others. It appears likely that the man was under the influence of drugs or alcohol as well. Robert has dug himself a hole filled with some serious law violations which will result in prison time. The first law of holes is attributed to a British politician Denis Healey and also to Will Rogers. That law states: "If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging." Robert just kept on digging. He could have stopped at the first traffic stop and simply been arrested for a possible under the influence charge, but Robert kept on digging going deeper and deeper into trouble.

God, through the apostle Paul, lists a bunch of things that we as Christians should avoid doing. Don't lie, don't hold onto your anger, don't steal, don't let bad words come out of your mouth, don't do this and don't do that. Why? Because when you persist in doing those things, you are digging yourself into a hole spiritually. "And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption." What's the first rule of holes? This is a test...and the answer is: stop digging! Because if there is one thing you don’t want to do it is to "grieve the Holy Spirit of God."

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.19.14

Just One Person

The woman then left her waterpot, went her way into the city, and said to the men, "Come, see a Man who told me all things that I ever did. Could this be the Christ?" Then they went out of the city and came to Him. - John 4:28-30.

And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, "He told me all that I ever did." So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His own word. - John 4:39-41.

And when He got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him. However, Jesus did not permit him, but said to him, "Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you." And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled. - Mark 5:18-20.

Yacouba Sawadogo of northern Burkina Faso is known as the man who stopped the desert. Yacouba used an ancient practice known as Zai to plant trees. The practice worked and in 20 years he successfully grew a forest of 30 acres where before it had been a completely barren area. Others took notice and began to use the same techniques for planting trees as Yacouba used. Chris Reji, a natural resources management specialist says, "Tens of thousands of hectares of land that was completely unproductive has been made productive again thanks to the techniques of Yacouba." The determined efforts of one man have halted the advance of the desert and saved the livelihoods of countless families. (Wikipedia, National Geographic Magazine, Permaculture Magazine)

One person helped to stop a desert. One person can point many others to Jesus and hold back the barren desert of spiritual darkness. The woman at the well of John 4 did exactly that. Once she understood and believed nothing could stop her from telling others about Jesus. The people of her city knew this woman's life had been transformed and they poured out of the city to find Jesus for themselves. The former demoniac of Mark 5 and Luke 8 was left behind by Jesus. Jesus had to leave, but he left behind a man determined to tell everyone he possibly could about the great things that Jesus had done in his life. This one man went through the ten independent city states of Decapolis proclaiming Jesus, "and all marveled."

One man, Jonah, after being in the belly of the great fish, was a man determined to proclaim the message God had given him. It was enough to turn thousands upon thousands of people to God and spare an entire nation from God’s destruction. Saul, who became the apostle Paul after being struck blind on the road to Damascus, would let nothing stop him from sharing the truth about Jesus.

The woman of John 4, the man of Mark 5, and the apostle Paul were absolutely fearless in delivering the good news of Jesus. Jonah was absolutely fearless in delivering God's message of the coming destruction that was planned for Nineveh. Nothing could stop them from sharing God's truth. Just one man, just one woman can transform the world around them when they are empowered by the Spirit of God. What about your world? Is the world around you different, better, since Jesus came into your life?

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.18.14

Life is Not Fair

The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. - Psalm 19:9.

Then I returned and considered all the oppression that is done under the sun: and look! The tears of the oppressed, But they have no comforter - On the side of their oppressors there is power, but they have no comforter. Therefore I praised the dead who were already dead, more than the living who are still alive. Yet, better than both is he who has never existed, who has not seen the evil work that is done under the sun. - Ecclesiastes 4:1-4.

Yanyan is a homeless seven-year-old girl who lives under a bridge in Nanchang City, China. However, things could have been even worse for the little girl. Xiong Jianguo who is, 50-years-old now, was searching for plastic bottles to recycle when he lifted the lid of a trash dumpster seven years ago. He heard a baby cry and found Yanyan in a box with a blanket which also contained a note that stated: "Was born on October 15, 2007." Xiong had pity on the little baby and took her home to a tiny room he lived in with his wife. He says, "No matter how hard it is, I intend to make sure that I raise her until she is old enough to stand on her own two feet. I don't believe she would have had a good life in an orphanage."

Life has not been fair to Xiong either. Because his parents died when he was young, he had very little education. Since finding Yanyan, his wife has left him, and their home was demolished so they now live homeless under a bridge. Yanyan says about her life: "Whatever happens, every year on my birthday, which is the day he found me, I get a small cake and a trip to a photo studio so that my picture can be taken when I get my birthday present, and so I can have a memory of the day. As long as it is my father's place, I'm home." (China, 21 News 06.18.14)

If you needed proof, Xiong and Yanyan are proof that life is not fair. Some people live under a bridge while others live in $100 million dollar mansions. We remember the story of the rich man and Lazarus that Jesus tells us in Luke 16, "There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and fared sumptuously every day. But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man's table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores (Luke 16:19-21)." The lives that some have lived and are living are hard to imagine for some of us. Phil Collins song "Another Day in Paradise" somewhat describes it:

Oh think twice, it's another day for
You and me in paradise
Oh think twice, it's just another day for you,
You and me in paradise

Oh lord, is there nothing more anybody can do
Oh lord, there must be something you can say

You can tell from the lines on her face
You can see that she's been there
Probably been moved on from every place
'Cos she didn't fit in there

The fact is that life is not fair and it is likely that every one of us has encountered unfairness in some way in the past. We know what it is like, at least to some degree to be treated unfairly. Ecclesiastes gives us a depressing commentary on how unfair life can be by saying, "Therefore I praised the dead who were already dead, more than the living who are still alive. Yet, better than both is he who has never existed, who has not seen the evil work that is done under the sun."

It is true there is much evil work being done under the sun as Ecclesiastes tells us! What hope do we have when life is so unfair? What hope did Lazarus have? In the case of Lazarus we know what happened: "So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham's bosom (Luke 16:22)." And Abraham says about Lazarus, "he is comforted (Luke 16:25)." What hope does the little girl in China have? Yanyan says, "As long as it is my father's place, I'm home." We have a similar, although much greater hope if we know Jesus as our Savior. "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know (John 14:1-2)." Life is not fair, but God is more than fair.

(Please pray for Yanyan and Xiong that they may come to know Jesus as their Savior.)

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.17.14

My Way or the Highway

The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways, But a good man will be satisfied from above. - Proverbs 14:14 NKJV.

We lie down in our shame, and our reproach covers us. For we have sinned against the Lord our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even to this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God. - Jeremiah 3:25 NKJV.

Say to the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. - Isaiah 3:10 NKJV.

Rolf Steiner, while passing by a home on his bicycle, was amazed to see a cow on top of the steep roof of the house. It happened in the Swiss Alps and Rolf says, "I couldn't believe my eyes and had to look three times to make sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing. A cow on the roof." Apparently the distance to the roof was not as great in the rear of the house and the cow was able to jump onto the roof. The cow created a mess of the roof breaking tiles with its hooves. The cow's owner says, "She always was one of my most cantankerous beasts, always wanting to do it her way, not mine or the herd's. I tried to chuck a broom at her to get her off, and put a ladder there, but I didn't use it, as I was worried she'd fall on top of me. She would have stayed up there for eternity if she had wanted to. I tried to coax her off when I first saw her, but she wouldn't budge. She had to do things in her own sweet time. And I am left with the bill for replacing the tiles she smashed." The cow was able to go back the way it had come, and jump back down from the roof. (Orange News 06.16.14)

From looking at the photo of the cow on the steep roof, I was impressed as to how nimble that cow had to be! It is a wonder that she didn't fall off, or even fall through the roof, or fall onto someone or something as the farmer feared. As I was reading this story, I began thinking about the backslider, a person who has decided to go their own way, instead of God's way. The backslider causes damage not only to themselves, but to all those around them. I have thought in the past of how a backslider is somewhat like a "bull in a china shop," but I'm tired of that comparison. So, now I am going to think of a backslider as being like a "cow on a roof" causing damage and with the potential of causing damage to everything around it.

We have choices in this life. We can choose God's way or the highway. "My way or the highway" is another old phrase that even a song or two has been written about. Relient K a Christian rock group has a song with the title "My Way or the Highway," and here are a few of the lyrics:

He said, "It's my way or the highway to hell."
It's your decision, choose it well.
He said, "It's my way or the highway to hell."
Decisions we make; life's an election.

But we've got a guide - a really thick handbook.
No one around to help you decide.
It's time to make up your mind.
It's time to make up your mind.

You got to choose our side and live, or their side and die.

I don't remember ever hearing the song, but it does have a message.

Is your life filled with your own ways without any consideration of what God wants for your life? Are you like a "cow on a roof" punching holes in the roof and a danger, a threat to everyone around you? Then, maybe you are a backslider, and it is time for you to make up your mind which side you are on. Are you on God's side or the Devil's side? You can make the choice to exclude God from your life. However, to go your own way is simply asking for trouble, and trouble for everyone around you. Instead, choose life! Choose to live and "be satisfied from above (Proverbs 14:14)."

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.11.14

Strength from Weakness

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.

For 25 years, Station 17, has been making music. Station 17 is a somewhat obscure and unusual band from Hamburg, Germany. The band is obscure because not a lot of people know about it, and it is unusual because it consists of members who are physically or mentally disabled. The band was formed by Kai Boysen, a social worker, who had been the lead singer in the Painless Dirties, a punk rock group. Boysen may have settled down, but the desire to make music never left him. As a social worker, he found that music therapy was a wonderful tool for use with the disabled. Within the weakness of the disabilities of Station 17, has come the strength of their amazing creativity with a completely unique sound. Here is the link to a YouTube video about the group: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STA7abbXkoo&feature=player_embedded

From those society would deem of little value has come great value. Station 17 is just one of countless times that society, the world, has been wrong about people. Who would have thought that someone deaf and blind from birth could earn a college degree and write 12 books? But that is what Helen Keller did. How could anyone with muscular dystrophy contribute to society? But that is what Ralph Braun did. In 1966, Ralph created the first wheelchair accessible vehicle with hand controls. Through continued innovation, he has brought mobility to millions of people. Although Abraham Lincoln suffered from bouts with severe depression and grew up in the backwoods of Kentucky, Ohio and Illinois, he was still able to become one of the greatest presidents of the United States. The list of people with disabilities in one form or another that have lived successful lives is endless.

Weakness in the hands of God, can be an overcoming power. God said to the apostle Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Paul had a thorn in the flesh that he pleaded with God on three separate occasions to remove. Those prayers were not answered in the way that Paul thought that he wanted. However, Paul discovered a great secret. What was that secret? Here is how Paul described it, "when I am weak, then I am strong." Many believe that his thorn in the flesh was a problem with his eyesight. Possibly a disease he contracted on his first mission trip. But that did not stop Paul from writing. He just spoke the words and another recorded them for us to read.

Think about the strength and the good that has come from weakness. Consider the weakness of a shepherd boy named David. David was the smallest and youngest of the family, but he was the one who had the faith to believe he could sling a stone and slay the giant Goliath. The ultimate example of strength from weakness is given in Jesus. Jesus, the Creator of worlds who could have called legions of angels to take him down from the cross, instead He became the helpless lamb and through weakness became our Savior. If you have a thorn in your flesh that has made you weak, remember that in the hands of God when you are weak, you can be strong. As we are told through the apostle Paul, "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."

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.10.14

Your Life Focus

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

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 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 12:1-3 NKJV.

You shall have no other gods before Me. - Exodus 20:3 NKJV.

In the world today, we see many different things that people focus on with their lives. I want to share with you just a few.

David Avner is focused on making himself look like a tiger and he has spent more than $200,000 on plastic surgeries in an attempt to do that. And, there is a man in South America having plastic surgeries to make himself look like a Korean. And, a South Korean woman has had plastic surgeries to make her look like Miranda Kerr. And, I've read about a woman having plastic surgeries to make herself look like a Barbie doll. And, Rodrigo Alves has had 20 plastic surgeries to make himself look like a Ken doll. I don't have $200,000 so I guess I will just have to keep on looking like me.

Ruan Tang is focused on helping her community in eastern China by killing flies. For the last 14 years she has been killing flies eight hours every day. Someone please buy them some of those bug zappers.

Three men from Dublin, Ireland have quit their jobs and are doing Irish dances across the world and want more people to join in. I might join in since I have some Irish ancestors, but none of them passed down the dances.

John Brooker spent 13 years turning a 150-foot long hedge into a 20-foot tall dragon because he thought his hedge was boring. Now, he does have a really cool looking dragon hedge.

We have to be careful or what we really enjoy doing can become an idol. What is an idol? An idol is anything that we put before God. For example, when I was younger my guitar was the focus of my life. It had become an idol, although it took some time after I became a Christian to recognize the danger it represented. Nothing wrong with playing the guitar, but it had become my focus in life instead of God. We may really enjoy fishing, hunting, water sports, winter sports, and other sports; but if those pursuits are placed before God, they are idols. We love our families, but if we place them or a family member before God they can even become idols.

The danger of placing our focus upon anything other than God is that it will rob us of peace, rob us of joy, and rob us of blessings. We may, as Hebrews 12:3 indicates, become "weary and discouraged in our souls" when our life focus is not upon our God. Our motto, our plan, our purpose, our focus should be as we are told in Matthew 6:33, "...seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness." As we are told in Hebrews 12, we must lay all of that other stuff aside and look to Jesus, focus on Jesus, because He is "the author and finisher of our faith."

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.09.14

Looking Backward

Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O Lord; let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me. For innumerable evils have surrounded me; my iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of my head; therefore my heart fails me. - Psalm 40:11-12 NKJV.

Remember Lot's wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. - Luke 17:32-33.

But his wife looked back behind him, and she became a pillar of salt. - Genesis 19:26.

I can remember doing basketball drills and having to run backward, I never enjoyed that! But can you imagine having to always walk backward while often looking over your shoulder to see where you are going? That is what Mani Manithan of Tamil Nadu state in India has been doing for...25 years! I have to say it, that is just crazy! However, according to Mani, it is all for a good purpose. Some people pray for world peace, Mani walks backward for world peace. It all began in 1989, when there were many violent acts which took place that year in India. Mani says, "On the international level, terrorism has increased, so many blasts are happening, the youth are misguided. To condemn such incidents I have been walking backward for 25 years. My only agenda is world peace." He has perfected the art of looking over his shoulder while walking backward and has been walking backward for so long that he says, "Walking normally is more of a challenge, my mind has forgotten how to do it. I have become very comfortable walking like this." (Caters News 06.09.14)

There are some ways of looking backward in our lives, and of going spiritually backward. We remember the story of Lot's wife. Lot and his family were living in Sodom and Gomorrah but because of the wickedness of the place God destroyed it. However, God sent His angels to save Lot and his family. They were warned not to look back...Lot’s wife looked back anyway and we know what happened to her; she turned into a "pillar of salt." She is an example of someone attached to material things. She wanted to see what was happening to her home and the sad result was that she lost everything.

The Israelites experienced a little difficulty soon after escaping from slavery in Egypt and wanted to go back to their chains (Exodus 16:3). In the New Testament we find Ananias and Sapphira, who lied about how much they sold a property for so they could keep part of the money, but still look good in the eyes of other believers. Peter told them they didn’t just lie to men, but to God, and we know what happened to them. They like Lot's wife were looking back at material things instead of forward toward what God had for them. The Rich Young Ruler of Matthew 19 did the same as he was looking backward at all the riches he would lose if he were to go forward with following Jesus.

Mark may give us an additional way of looking back with our lives and a way of actually turning back from God’s will as did Ananias and Sapphira. Mark we know from Acts 15:38 while on a mission trip with Paul left the work at Pamphylia and went back home. Some think he had grown fearful, others think he may have been missing a girlfriend back home; Mark not only looked back, he went back. However, that was not the end of the story because from 2 Timothy 4:11 we find that Paul now considers Mark to be "profitable," or "useful" in ministry and Paul wanted him by his side. We can see that we can look backward in our lives to all of our material things. We can also look backward for other reasons like people (i.e. Mark possibly missing a girlfriend), and safety. We can also go backward spiritually by returning to the way that we lived prior to becoming believers in Jesus.

The Psalmist speaks of another backward way of looking (Psalm 40:11-12). We can become overwhelmed by thinking of how we have sinned in the past, of our past failures. This kind of backward thinking can paralyze us to the extent that we are unable to move forward in service to our Lord. In this kind of situation, we do not need to remember Lot's wife; no, we need to remember 1 John 1:9. We need to look to the example of Mark, who returned to the work, after a dismal past failure. Stop looking backward, and instead look forward to all of the glorious riches that we have in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.06.14

Confronting Evil

Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai: "Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!" - Esther 4:15-16 NKJV.

The Jews gathered together in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus to lay hands on those who sought their harm. And no one could withstand them, because fear of them fell upon all people. - Esther 9:2 NKJV.

Thus the Jews defeated all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, with slaughter and destruction, and did what they pleased with those who hated them. - Esther 9:5 NKJV.

Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. - Acts 12:1-3 NKJV.

Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church - Acts 12:5 NKJV.

Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, "Arise quickly!" And his chains fell off his hands. - Acts 12:7 NKJV.

Today, June 6th, is the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion with some 150,000 allied troops taking part in the attack at Normandy, France. Allied casualties were 12,000 with 4,414 confirmed dead. German casualties have been reported at around 1,000. D-Day was a horrific part of World War II, but the horror was far greater than a single day. We can begin to understand a little of the horror of World War II by considering the total deaths during that war. Battle deaths are listed at 15 million. Battle wounded 25 million. Civilian deaths 45 million although in China alone civilian deaths are thought possibly to have been as high as 50 million people. These numbers are from www.nationalww2museum.org There are 41 countries reported as having suffered people being killed during the war; although, every country was affected to some degree. There was a very high horrific cost in confronting the evil Hitler had planned for this world. However, it is clear that the cost of not confronting that evil would have been far higher.

Evil did not disappear after World War II ended. There have been countless wars and conflicts across our world since then. There are still wars and conflicts today. The enemy has morphed into new faces and has new tactics of operation. Terror is the new face of evil which we have seen up close and personal in the many horrific bombings and other types of attacks like 9/11. However, evil is insidious, evil is sneaky, evil is evil and is lurking everywhere just below the surface. We have seen evil surface with the school shootings in the United States and other countries too, but in China they have had knife attacks. We have had the Tylenol poisonings, the Unabomber, and the rise of the cults. Just this week we learned of Slenderman and of the two 12-year-old girls stabbing another 12-year-old girl in an attempt to please this imaginary character that someone made up. Evil it appears is alive and well on planet Earth.

How do we confront evil? Sometimes evil must be physically confronted as with home invasions, carjackings, kidnappings, robberies, terror attacks, and in war. But I would submit to you that there was a supernatural war raging at the same time the physical war was raging during World War II. At the beginning of the war the Germans had better planes, batter tanks, better machine guns, they had rockets and were working on "heavy water." They had better everything than the Allies had. In the Pacific, the war began with a devastating attack on Pearl Harbor. The Japanese had the advantage with better planes and a much large fleet of ships. While the physical fight was being fought with guns, bullets, and blood the supernatural fight was being fought by millions of people on their knees in prayer.

Just because we do not see a physical manifestation of evil does not mean that evil does not exist and that it is not a threat to us personally and all that we love. We must engage in the battle against evil every day. We must pray, and pray hard every day for God to protect us from the evil that is lurking in the background waiting for an opportunity to pounce. Evil may not be as visible as it was during World War II, but it is perhaps an even more dangerous threat to us today. New weapons, new diseases, new avenues of temptation and new tactics are being used by a supernatural enemy. We must respond with the ageless weapon of prayer. Does prayer make a difference? Yes! Prayer has always been and still is a difference maker. Let us pray, and pray hard for all that we love and is good upon this Earth.

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.05.14

Are You Izikhothane?

Again, I saw that for all toil and every skillful work a man is envied by his neighbor. This also is vanity and grasping for the wind. The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh. Better a handful with quietness than both hands full, together with toil and grasping for the wind. - Ecclesiastes 4:4-6.

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like. - Galatians 5:19-21a.

There is a somewhat strange youth subculture in South Africa called Izikhothane. It basically means something like, "brag it." Young people gather together, which is not that unusual, but what they do is...weird! When they meet up with other Izikhothane, they have encounters with other similar groups. No, they don't pull out their guns, and switchblades and start shooting and cutting. No, they have dance-offs! While they are dancing the night away, they burn cash, spill alcohol and expensive food out on the street, tear up their clothes, and break cellphones. One of the Izikhothane explains, "To be Izikhothane, you have to be like us. Buy expensive clothes, booze, fame, girls, driving, spending. And when you are dressed in Italian clothing it shows that you're smart." It appears that they do what they do to show off as in they have more money, clothes, alcohol, and food than anyone else. The point is to demonstrate how much they have, so much, that they can burn it. Strangely enough, most of these gang members do not have wealthy parents. Most of the Izikhothane come from working class families. One of the mothers of an Izikhothane said, "They tear up their clothes and money, forgetting that we are poor and struggle for money. What the he_l is this Izikhothane business?" In 2012, the gangs gained much attention when one of the members committed suicide because he was unable to keep up with the others. Cedrain Wambe, who has researched the Izikhothane, "Young people tell me they're prepared to do anything, including hitting their parents to get money." (Vocativ, VICE, France24 05.26.14)

When I read about the Izikhothane, I was wondering how could anyone just burn up money and other expensive stuff to get some attention? The truth is that it is an extreme form of what adults across the world do to a lesser degree. It is called "Keeping up with the Joneses (Insert any name here.)." Our neighbor buys a new car, and then we buy a new car so we will still be on the same social level with our neighbor. Our friends buy a new house, that is bigger and better, and we feel like we have to buy a bigger and better house to keep up with them. Our friends and neighbors have parties and drink a lot of expensive alcohol and so we have a drunken party too. A woman's best friend buys a purse that costs a few thousand dollars, and she thinks she has to do that too. A man's best friend buys an expensive suit or some new toys and he tries to keep up. Is this so different from just taking money and burning it? A well-known member of a Iaikhothane gang, She-Ra, says, "People must see that when you walk out you are worth thousands. I can’t be caught wearing sneakers and jeans. That would be the joke of the year. People admire me. Everywhere I go, people scream, 'She-Ra! She-Ra!' I love dressing up in expensive clothes so that's why people know I'm Izikhothane."

It is a "selfish ambition" to spend money to make yourself look better in the eyes of the world. When you envy your neighbor and all that he has, Ecclesiastes says this is "vanity." Trying to keep up with the Jones (insert any name here) family, trying to gain attention by what you have and by what you spend is like "grasping for the wind" and the result is similar to consuming your own flesh. The better course, and use of your efforts in life is summed up by Solomon in Ecclesiastes 12:13, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man's all." Honoring and obeying your Creator, this alone, will provide you with happiness and fruitfulness on earth and beyond in eternity.

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.04.14

The Best Laid Plans

Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit"; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that." - James 4:13-15 NKJV.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. - Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV.

By now you have probably seen the video of the wedding party on the collapsing dock. It was on virtually every news program yesterday. The soaking of most of the 29 members of the wedding group occurred in Crosslake, Minnesota. Prior to the wedding ceremony, the photographer took several staged photos and videos. One of them was on an older dock, which could not take the combined weight of all 29 people. But the show must go on, and an hour later the mostly dry group did participate in the actual ceremony. It was reported that after the drenching the bride was laughing and smiling and was asking the videographer if she had gotten the dock collapse on video. Megan Fritze, the videographer, said that "An hour later, you couldn't even tell that anyone had gotten wet." And about the bride's attitude Megan said "This is a really cool bride. The bride was absolutely stunning, in and out of the water." (ABC; NBC; FoxNews and other news venues 06.03.14)

From my personal observations, few weddings are perfect. Many glitches occur around the wedding rings. In one wedding I officiated, the rings were forgotten, but we simply acted as though we had the rings. In another wedding I read about, that took place in the 1940s in an unfinished church, there was a problem with the rings too. The rings were somehow dropped by the pastor, and they fell through a gap in the unfinished floorboards. After the ceremony, they searched in the dirt of the unfinished basement until the rings were found.

It is not just wedding plans that end up being changed or going awry. In the Chinese city of Zhengzhou, the city officials wanted something nice for their city. They planned, and attempted to create an artificial lake nearby to be filled by a known underground water source. However, the water dried up, and the instead of a lake there is a large sand pile covering an area the size of four football fields. (People.com 05.19.14)

You can probably think of a few of your own plans that have been changed or gone awry, I know I can. From personal experience, I know what it is like for a profitable business to suddenly be lost due to changing market and political conditions. Many others lost their businesses too. I know what it is like to have a job thinking it will last for many years and to suddenly be told that the business can no longer afford to have me as an employee. But those things are not as painful as the emotional turmoil of shattered marriages ending in divorce, or the tragedies that many have faced.

As God points out through James, we don't know what is going to happen tomorrow, much less farther down the road of time. Plans do change, and they do go awry through no fault of our own simply because life is like that. How we choose to deal with those situations is something we do have some control over. An excellent example is given to us by the bride, who with her wedding party, were all soaked when the dock they were posing on collapsed. Her response was one of smiling, laughing and wanting to know if the videographer had gotten the video of the dock collapse. As James says our lives are like a "vapor," but we don't have to let a change in plans blow us away. Remember if you know Jesus as your Savior you are not alone. Psalm 70:4 tells us what to do when things change unexpectedly: "Let God be magnified!" Make much out of God, and little out of what has happened.

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.03.14

Don't Do That

The Ten Commandments - Exodus 20:
1 - You shall have no other gods before Me.
2 - You shall not make for yourself a carved image.
3 - You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
4 - Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.
5 - Honor your father and your mother.
6 - You shall not murder.
7 - You shall not commit adultery.
8 - You shall not steal.
9 - You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
10 - You shall not covet.

A Silver Valley, North Carolina home, has been destroyed by fire. It is tragic whenever that occurs even if there is no loss of life, and no one lost their life this time. Officials report that the fire was avoidable. Why was the fire avoidable? Because the man who started the fire did something that you shouldn't do. He blew his nose while he was smoking and the tissue he was blowing into caught fire. The burning tissue caught other things on fire and while the man tried to stomp out the fire he was unsuccessful. The blowing nose incident occurred at 3:00 a.m. the fire department responded and the fire was out by 5:00 a.m. although the house was destroyed. Thankfully, no one was injured. I wonder if a firefighter may have told the man who tried to blow his nose while he was smoking something like this: "Don't do that!" (WGHP FOX8 06.02.14)

There are some things that you just shouldn't do as detailed in the lyrics of "Don't Mess Around with Jim" by Jim Croce:

You don't tug on Superman's cape
You don't spit into the wind
You don't pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger
You don't mess around with Big Jim Walker

And, now we can add to the list: Don't blow your nose while you are smoking!

We can learn from the lives of those mentioned in the Bible other things that you don't want to do. Take the example given to us by Adam and Eve, God told them just one thing they were not to do: "But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat...(Genesis 2:17a)." What did Adam and Eve do? They ate the fruit of that tree and there were consequences. God made them leave the Garden of Eden and all of creation was corrupted. That was the very first object lesson to all of mankind. When God tells you not to do something, don't do that!

The Ten Commandments in the minds of many have very negative connotations and it looks just like a list of dos and don'ts and they don't like being told what to do, and what not to do. The Ten Commandments, also known as The Law; are, even though it is hard for some to believe, for our benefit. It is a matter of faith, since we believe God is the Creator of everything, He knows what is good and what is bad for us. Makers of electrical and electronic equipment will tell you water and electricity do not usually mix well. In fact, you can be severely harmed by getting into a bathtub with a toaster that is plugged in! Who would do such a thing? Not anyone in their right mind! God is the Father who tells the child not to touch a hot stove, why? Because it will hurt! Don't do that! The Ten Commandments are given by a loving Father to His children so that we don't get burned.

The Burning Bush Devotional

06.02.14

Who Would have Thought?

For with God nothing will be impossible. - Luke 1:37 NKJV.

But Jesus looked at them and said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible." - Mark 10:27 NKJV.

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. - Hebrews 11:6-7 NKJV.

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. - Romans 10:17 NKJV.

In the UK, 50% of those surveyed take photos of their food. Nine percent do so every day! I've noticed on facebook it does not matter where people live because people from all over the world take pictures of their food. Birds Eye, a large frozen foods company, has decided to take advantage of this obsession that we have with our food. The result is "The Picture House" where you can take a photo of your food, upload it to Instagram, and eat for free! No Joke! It's true! Take a picture of your food and it's free! It is also great advertising for Birds Eye. Who would have thought that you could ever pay for the food you eat by taking a photo of it? Amazing! (Mailonline 06.02.14)

The Picture House made me think of some other things that are mind boggling. Who would have thought that crazy guy building the enormous ship on dry land was right? Noah probably took a lot of criticism right up to the day the rains came and kept on coming. Who would have thought a man sold into slavery by his brothers would eventually become the second most powerful person in Egypt, and probably the world, and save his family? Who would have thought that 80-year-old Hebrew guy hiding out from the Egyptians and herding sheep would lead a couple of million of his people from slavery to freedom? Who would have thought marching around the city of Jericho blowing horns, and shouting would make the walls of the city fall down? Who would have thought the 85-year-old Caleb could still fight battles against giants (Joshua 14) and win? Who would have thought the Christian persecutor Saul would become the apostle Paul?

There are so many stories in the Bible that boggle the mind and we have to think that the people during the time they occurred were saying, "Who would have thought...?" I can look around today and say the same thing about some great, but unknown servants of God and say "Who would have thought...?" I talked with a man last week who said that while in prison he started a Bible study with three men and ended up before he was released with 27 men in his Bible study. He is still attempting to reach people for the Lord in whatever way that he can. There are several young men and women today that while I was their pastor I did not have high hopes for, but who are now living their lives for the Lord.

Not even I would have thought that I would someday preach the Word of God and that people across the entire world would read my words. Who would have thought...? The mother of a fellow classmate of mine while I was growing up once told my wife that she thought I was the least likely of any in my class to become a preacher. It is likely that many others have thought the same thing, but have not said it. There was very little indication in my early life that God was calling me. However, I was having long talks with God long before I invited Him into my heart in a pastor's study in Oklahoma City. Unknown to me I had a great aunt who was praying that I would be saved and that I would not miss God's call as her husband believed he had missed his call (She was praying the same for my son, Clark, after he was born). My parents and others knew about her prayers, but no one ever mentioned it to me until after I had publicly announced that God had called me to preach. What is God calling you to do? I am praying that you will not miss His call upon your life!

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.30.14

Appearances can be Deceiving

But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." - 1 Samuel 16:7 NKJV.

And Samuel said to Jesse, "Are all the young men here?" Then he said, "There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep." And Samuel said to Jesse, "Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here." So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the Lord said, "Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!" - 1 Samuel 16:11-12 NKJV.

You have probably never heard of the Hemeroplanes Triptolemus. It is a caterpillar that can transform itself into what appears to be a poisonous snake (Eyelash Viper). Looking at photos of the caterpillar while it is posing as a snake, you would think that it was a snake. The caterpillar is able to give itself reptilian scales and is able to snap at anything coming close which makes the imitation more believable. The Hemeroplanes can be found in parts of Central America, South America, and Africa. These snake posing caterpillars are actually moths and they feed on vine leaves. (WDRB.com 12.23.13; Wikipedia)

I have always loved the story of David, who was the youngest of his brothers and appeared to be just a shepherd boy. All the other brothers were rejected by God until finally the shepherd boy was brought to the prophet Samuel. Everyone thought David was just a shepherd boy, but he was actually the man chosen by God to be king.

People often put forward a facade when interacting with others. At times, they may appear to be a snake or a bully; at other times they may seem to be a kind loving person. I have been surprised more than once by television news personalities, celebrities, and by politicians who projected a kind Christian appearance, but were actually far from being kind or Christian. However, it is not just people on television, or facebook, or other social networks whose appearances can be deceiving. It is likely that all of us have encountered those whose real personalities are far from what they appear to be at first glance. Our own facade that we present to others may not be what is really deep down inside either.

One thing that we can be sure of when interacting with others and it is that God knows the truth about all of us. God knows because He does not just look at the outer appearance, the outer facade, but instead God looks at our hearts. What is really inside of our hearts? The truth is that we may not even know ourselves what we are capable of until we face some kind of a test.

Consider Gideon, who said this about himself, "Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house (Judges 6:15)." In other words, Gideon considered himself to be the weakest and most unlikely person in the entire nation to be used by God. In contrast, here is how God thought of Gideon, "The Lord is with you, you mighty man of valor (Judges 6:12)!"

Do you consider yourself to be unworthy of being used by God? Do others consider you to be unqualified or incapable of being used by God? Do you think because of your appearance that God cannot use you? Do you think because of what has happened in your past that God cannot use you? Or do you think those things about someone else because of their appearance or whatever it may be? The truth is they are wrong and you are wrong because "…man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.29.14

Finding Treasure

I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure. - Psalm 119:162 NKJV.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it. - Matthew 13:44-46 NKJV.

Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. - Matthew 6:10 NKJV.

Many have begun searching for treasure in San Francisco as part of the Northern California Treasure Hunt. An anonymous donor is giving away money in a somewhat novel way. The man is hiding envelopes with usually about $100 and then posting clues from his Twitter account, HiddenCash. As you might expect, the number of followers of that Twitter account has grown exponentially. As of this morning the account has 256k followers. The man giving away the money claims to have made a lot of money in real estate and wants to give back. The anonymous donor says, "I want the spotlight on what I'm doing and trying to do. I have no plans to stop any time soon. I'm planning to continue this indefinitely into the future." Envelopes of cash have been found taped in various places like dumpsters, stop signs, and fire hydrants. The anonymous donor plans to expand the treasure hunt to Los Angeles in the near future. (FoxNews; CNN; Reuters; 05.28.14)

Have you ever found a treasure? Have you ever found any money or something else of value? I remember when I was in our school's high school band and after marching in a parade I found a five dollar bill in the street. Since I only had a dollar or two in my pocket, it was a very welcome surprise! A few times I have found an Indian head penny and was always excited when I found one. Years ago I bought a metal detector and thought I would find a lot of treasure. I don't think I ever found anything of value with the thing. However, I have found great treasure.

What is the treasure I have found? I have found the Kingdom of Heaven! Although it was actually the Lord Jesus who found me because He came to "seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:10)." What is this "Kingdom of Heaven" aka "Kingdom of God" and where is it located? From Matthew 6:10 of the Lord's Prayer we find the location of this Kingdom. Where is it? The Kingdom of Heaven is located wherever God reigns. I found the Kingdom of Heaven and Jesus found me when He began to reign in my heart some 44 years ago.

Once the Kingdom of Heaven is reigning in our lives, we will see that there are more treasures to find. The treasures of the Kingdom of Heaven are beyond our imagination and will never run out. One of the greatest treasures of the Kingdom of Heaven is the Word of God, the Scriptures. What great riches we find through God's Word! God's Holy Word gives us the daily spiritual sustenance we need (Matthew 4:4). The Word of God is the "Sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17)" and is sharper than a two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). The Scriptures will keep us from sin (Psalm 119:11). This great treasure of God's Word will never run out because it is "settled in Heaven (Psalm 119:89)."

How is your spiritual treasure hunt going? Have you found the Kingdom of Heaven? I pray that you have. Are you storing up the treasure of God's Word? I pray that you are.

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.28.14

Stealing the Chocolate

...above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. - Ephesians 6:16 NKJV.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought (every loose thought and emotion and impulse - MSG) into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. - 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 NKJV.

Luis Augusto Mora of Bogota, Columbia has been given five months in prison. Those five months will be served in La Picota, one of the worst prisons in the country. What terrible thing did Luis do to merit this punishment? He shoplifted two boxes of chocolate bars with a value of eight dollars from a supermarket in Bogota. Luis admits that he is a chocolate addict, but has expressed regret. He says he will, "never touch a chocolate again in my life." To the credit of the President of the Columbia, Juan Manuel Santos, he says that prosecutors should not waste their time with misdemeanors similar to Luis Mora's. (KTRK-TV; CBS46.com and various other news venues 05.27.14)

Certainly, even stealing eight dollars of chocolate is a criminal and spiritual offense. It is likely that this was not the first time Luis had stolen chocolate, and probably not the second, or third, or fourth time either. Will five months in one of the worst prisons in Columbia change the heart of Luis and stop him from ever stealing chocolate again? It is doubtful but possible. While I was a parole officer, a man told me that he had served a few years (1930s or 1940s) of hard labor in prison at Oklahoma State Reformatory (OSR). Most of the time after serving time at hard labor in OSR the man was able to stay out of trouble. This was back during the time when the inmates were chipping away at a granite mountain making it into a small mountain. They were also picking cotton and doing other farm labor. For some people though, the threat of punishment is not a deterrent. It has been reported that during colonial times while pickpockets were being hung, in the crowd were other pickpockets still picking pockets.

What is needed is a true change of heart which will only come through a spiritual transformation. A fruit of the Spirit is "self-control (Galatians 5:23)." Growth from being a baby Christian into a mature believer will result in the all of the fruit of the Spirit being manifested in the believer's life. If we have "self-control" we will not be controlled by our fleshly impulses. Instead, we will be free of momentary impulses that can wreck our lives.

In addition to fleshly impulses, there is another spiritual threat that we face. That threat is from the "fiery darts" of the devil. I believe that those "darts" include thoughts that are sometimes placed into our minds. At times, those evil thoughts can be almost overwhelming, and many succumb to their evil intent. Any thought, which urges you to do anything evil, contrary to what you know God wants could be a thought straight from the pits of hell. You can fight those thoughts with God’s Word. Memorize at least a few verses so that when those thoughts come you can say those verses out loud, or in your mind, and it will defeat the "fiery darts." This is the example given to us by our Lord Jesus when He was tempted in the wilderness (Matthew 4). When the devil tempted Jesus, He responded with Scripture. That is what we need to do too! "For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God...."

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.27.14

Don't Hold Your Breath

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. - Titus 2:11-14 NKJV.

For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world - our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? - 1 John 5:3-5 NKJV.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. - 2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV.

Near Manning, Oregon is a the Highway 26 tunnel and it takes about ten seconds to pass through the tunnel at the 55 mph speed limit. Daniel J. Calhon, however, didn't make it through the tunnel. He had an accident, and it resulted in himself and three other people going to the hospital for non-life-threatening injuries. What caused Daniel to have an accident? He told police officers that he was holding his breath as he went through the tunnel and passed out. State Police Lt. Gregg Hastings said that people sometimes hold their breath through tunnels as part of a game or superstition. Hastings also said that investigators did not believe drugs or alcohol were involved. Daniel Calhon has been charged with reckless driving, three counts of reckless endangerment and fourth-degree assault. (The Oregonian; AP; various other news venues 05.26.14)

One person that commented on this article noted that holding your breath for ten seconds does not usually cause a person to lose consciousness. He said this: "Do a search on 'huffing driving' to see what I'm talking about, and I'm assuming the police looked for bottles of compressed air? I have second hand experience on this one - a friend's now deceased wife was a huffer and passed out several times while inhaling air and driving (as well as other places). She drowned after huffing, passing out in the bathtub." It is shocking to think that people could be driving around doing that!

Holding your breath for a Christian is like trying to live a sinful, worldly life after you have been "born again." You can hold your breath for 30 seconds or so, but you cannot do it for days or even hours at a time. Your nature, once you have been "born again," has been changed, transformed (2 Corinthians 5:17) and you cannot continue on the same path of life you were on before. You may be able to do it for a while, but your new nature will have to come up for a breath of air at some point. If you persist in holding your breath, there will be consequences. Physically, holding your breath can have consequences, some severe as we see with what happened to Daniel Calhoun. Spiritually, holding your breath will have consequences too, because "the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)," and those wages must be paid.

Why do people try to hold their breath spiritually? I think the number one reason is succumbing to temptation. There is a continual spiritual pressure upon Christians from the world, the flesh, and the devil. However, God will provide a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13), but we must choose to take God's way. Another reason is that people become angry with God and they throw a temper tantrum by spiritually holding their breath. Little children sometimes have temper tantrums. Here are the top five things that have been reported that children do when having a temper tantrum: Scream, stomp, kick, cry, and hold their breath. I have seen kids do all of those things. To stop children from holding their breath, some parents have resorted to throwing cold water on them to break the habit.

If you think that you will gain God's attention by throwing a spiritual temper tantrum, it may happen. Jonah (Jonah 1:17) threw a spiritual fit and what happened to him? He ended up in the belly of a great fish. Lot's wife (Genesis 19:17, 26; Luke 17:32) looked back, and turned into a pillar of salt. Ananias and Sapphira ended up dead (Acts 5), and it didn't work out very well for Adam and Eve either (Genesis 3). So if you are thinking about not doing what you know God wants you to do or doing what you know He doesn't want you to do, here's my advice to you and to myself: Don't hold your breath, DO WHAT GOD WANTS!

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.23.14

Blue Days

And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, "So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time." And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, "It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!" - 1 Kings 19:1-4 NKJV.

In the city of Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, taxi drivers have found a solution to non-paying fares. Although it does seem a little harsh.... Drivers force the non-paying fares to disrobe, and then they pour blue paint over them. In defense of the drivers, they say they have repeatedly taken the non-paying fares to the police and that the police do nothing but give them some "harmless" punishment. Of course, customers have a very different view of the treatment. One non-paying fare was made to run across the city without any clothes smeared with blue paint. The man said, "They pushed me out of the car, started beating me. Threatened me that if I do not find the money, they will put me on the counter. One minute equals 100 rubles. They threw me into a pit and doused me with blue paint. After that, I was made to run the streets of the city, looking for money." Sounds like he had a very blue day! (Sumitra 05.23.14)

Feeling down? Feeling blue? Feeling depressed? It is part of the human condition that sometimes occurs. Great servants of God are not immune as we see with Elijah. Elijah had just defeated the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. He had just seen the power of God demonstrated in an awesomely powerful way. Then word comes to him that Jezebel plans to have him killed, and Elijah forgets all about how powerful the Almighty God is, and just wants to lay down and die. Because, the evil queen is after him. How could Elijah believe that any human being could do anything to him with God on his side? Yet, Elijah is having a seriously blue day and just wants to die.

God sent an angel to minister to Elijah and encourage him. But Elijah is still feeling blue, even after hearing the still, small voice of God speak to him. Elijah says to God that he is the only one left, the single solitary servant of God left in the whole wide world and so there is no reason for him to keep on living. God then makes it clear to Elijah that he is not alone and says to Elijah, "Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him (1 Kings 19:18)."

God knew exactly where His servant Elijah was at, and where all of His other servants were. When Hagar fled from Sarai after she was treated severely, God appeared to Hagar (a theophany, an appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ) and she said this in response, "Then she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, 'Have I also here seen Him who sees me (Genesis 16:13)?'"

So when you are having a blue day, remember that you serve the Almighty God who sees you, who knows you, who has bought and paid for you with the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). God has not forgotten about you, and He knows and sees exactly what is happening in your life. During these times when you are feeling down and blue, these are the times to draw closer to Him than ever before. You are of great value to Him, pray and seek the comfort of your God.

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.22.14

The Treasure Inside

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. - 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 NKJV.

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. - 1 Corinthians 2:12 NKJV.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. - Galatians 5:22-25 NKJV.

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.

Heather Andrews and a childhood friend, Jillian Pozzi, have been giving to each other for a few years, statues of garden gnomes. The gifting of the gnomes is an ongoing joke between the two of them. Heather accidentally dropped one of the gnomes when she was unloading the three from her car. As she was picking up the pieces of the one that had fallen she noticed that there was something inside of the broken gnome. Inside the gnome, was another statue of what appears to be an armless angel with intricate detail inscribed or carved onto the statue. The gnome was made in China and one of the commenters on the article said it was common to find other statues inside of statues made there. Heather says about the beautiful figure of white she found, "People have told me that gnomes represent guardians of treasure, and that may be his treasure just inside him." (yahoo news; The Tennessean; AL.com 05.21.14)

It is always a sickening feeling that we have when we break something that is valuable to us. Heather had the pleasant surprise of having her sadness replaced by joy with the finding of a treasure inside of her broken gnome. We live in bodies that are in a state of continuing degradation. Yes, the body repairs itself, but there is always more repairs to be done than it can do. The result is an aging, and the breakdown of our bodies. However, inside of the fragile human bodies of believers in Jesus Christ there is a great treasure. That treasure is God Himself in the form of the Holy Spirit. W. A Criswell, a great Bible scholar, writing about 1 Corinthians 4:7 says, "Reflecting on the strange, incongruous phenomenon of the indwelling Holy spirit of God, Paul surmises that God indwells 'earthen vessels,' giving His power to men, so that the excellency of His power might be magnified in otherwise weak, human vessels."

In 1 Corinthians 2:12, we are told we have been given the Holy Spirit, "that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God." Some of those things given to us by God are the fruits of the Spirit as listed in Galatians 5, "...love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." Galatians 5:25 says, "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." If we want truly to discover the awesome value of the treasure inside of us, we must not only exist as believers with the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us, but we must "walk in the Spirit." The apostle Paul says that we do that by, "crucifying (crucified) the flesh with its passions and desires." You are the guardian of the treasure inside of you, will you allow the "excellency of His power" to be magnified in your life?

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.21.14

Facing Our Fears

Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. - Luke 12:6-7 NKJV.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. - 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV.

So we may boldly say: "The Lord is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?" - Hebrews 13:6 NKJV.

Have you ever been afraid to leave your home? Some people are and it is a well-known psychological phobia called Agoraphobia. The Mayo Clinic website has some good information about the phobia and says this, "People with agoraphobia often have a hard time feeling safe in any public place, especially where crowds gather. You may feel that you need a companion, such as a relative or friend, to go with you to public places. The fears can be so overwhelming that you may feel unable to leave your home. Agoraphobia treatment can be challenging because it usually means confronting your fears."

Personally, I've had a fear of getting out of bed on a few mornings. It wasn't Agoraphobia, it was just what I knew was waiting for me at work that day! If you have experienced that, you're okay and it's not Agoraphobia. However, those who do actually have the phobia may experience panic attacks, rapid heart rate, excessive sweating, feeling shaky, numb or tingling, chest pain, or pressure, dizziness, and a lot of other unpleasant symptoms. Check the Mayo Clinic site for a more complete list.

The word fear is mentioned 359 times in the NKJV of the Bible and 385 times in the KJV. The phrase "fear not" is in the NKJV ten times and in the KJV 63 times. Fear is common to the human condition. Every person ever living upon this earth has experienced fear to some degree. So how do we cope with something that we all must face?

Fear can be overwhelming to the extent that it paralyses our lives making any kind of action almost impossible. I read a story this morning about crossing the street in Vietnam. If you want to cross the street in Vietnam you will have to forget about your fears and "charge straight ahead." A Vietnam Travel Guide says this about it: "You want to get to the other end of the street, but it does not look quite feasible. Unless you try it. Crossing over the jam is actually not that bad. You will just have to do it. The magic is that no one will ever run into you." (Vietnam Online; Sumitra 05.20.14)

The way you have to cross the street in Vietnam is somewhat similar to how we Christians must face our fears in life. Knowing that God is with us and that we in God's eyes are of great value we too need to "charge straight ahead." As it has been noted by many, if you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat. If we want to experience the abundant life that Jesus came to give us (John 10:10) we have to climb out of bed in the morning, put on our game face, open the door of our home, and face our fears. Remember this: "You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4)."

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.20.14

The Daily Battle

Give us this day our daily bread. - Luke 11:3 NKJV.

Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me." - Luke 9:23 NKJV.

I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. - 1 Corinthians 15:31 NKJV.

Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my door. - Proverbs 8:34 NKJV.

If you do a search on google for "'daily battle' depression" you will find 38,000 results. Here are the search results of other topics:

"'daily battle" porn" 105,000 results.
"'daily battle" alcohol" 173,000 results.
"'daily battle" meth" 47,700 results.
"'daily battle" heroin' 54,600 results.
"'daily battle" cocaine" 34,500 results.
"'daily battle" crack" 181,000 results.
"'daily battle" hydrocodone" 33,700 results.
"'daily battle" oxycontin" 8,010 results.
"'daily battle" inhalant abuse" 16,900 results.
"'daily battle" anger" 374,000 results.
"'daily battle" pain" 463,000 results.
"'daily battle" anxiety" 215,000 results.
"'daily battle" finances" 223,000 results.
"'daily battle" relationships" 404,000 results.
One thing is for sure and that is that there are a lot of battles in this life being fought every day. It appears that many have discovered that just because you win the battle one day, it does not mean the war is over. Because tomorrow, there will be another battle with whatever your personal antagonist may be.

Why do we fight these battles? Because we know that to give in to our opponent will result in our destruction. If you have an addiction there is never a point where your addiction will be content with your consumption. If you have an addiction to a substance whether alcohol or crack or something else there will always be a desire for more. There will be a desire to have a bigger, better high, or at least a high as good as it was the first time. Those addicted to porn will always want to view more. If you give in to those addictions they will destroy you. That is why the battle must be fought every day.

Then there are the other battles many are fighting like depression, anxiety, anger, mental illness, finances, and relationships. If you give into depression what happens, nothing good that is for sure. Depression can be fought, and there are many fighting it and winning day by day. The same with anxiety, and anger. How do you fight mental illnesses like Schizophrenia? You can take your meds, seek the treatment that you need, and step by step go through each day. How do you fight a relational problem? You fight to hold on to your marriage. Nothing easy about that. You can let go, you can give in, or you can refuse to do that. You may not win, but you can try. Then there are struggles with finances, debt is overwhelming many, but there are strategies for overcoming it. Restraint in spending, increasing income where possible can be a daily battle.

The fact is that God knows what you are going through. He knows every day people across this world are facing a battle to continue even to exist. We don't know what will happen tomorrow, but we know today it is possible to win the battle. At least we can try. As Jesus says in Matthew 6:34, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." It is a daily battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil. That's why the apostle Paul says "I die daily." We must be dead to sin, dead to whatever your personal antagonist may be, and alive to Christ each day. That's why Jesus says to take up your cross daily, meaning execute your fleshly, worldly desires every day. That's why in the Lord's Prayer we are told to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread." We must seek God’s help not once, but every day. As we are told in Proverbs, "Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my door." If we want to win the daily battle, we need God’s help, and...He wants to help us.

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.19.14

Playing Dead

We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes; we stumble at noonday as at twilight; we are as dead men in desolate places. - Isaiah 59:10 NKJV.

For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. - Romans 6:10-14.

Chuck Lamb found a new occupation in 2005. His occupation? Chuck's dead, as in he plays dead. It all began one night when he and his wife were watching Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Chuck had always wanted to be an actor and he suddenly realized that he could be even though he never thought he had any special talent. He decided that he could be "dead guy Chuck" and made some videos and photos of himself. Viola! "Dead Guy Chuck" now makes as much as $1500 a day playing dead for TV shows and movies. Chuck says, "I look like a dead body. If you're going to get somebody to play dead you might as well get the palest most normal looking guy you can find. No one's ever going to call me and ask me to be the leading man heart throb so I thought I'd put what God gave me to good use. I thought outside the box by putting myself in the box." (Mail Online 05.05.14; Today.com 10.28.13)

In Isaiah 59, the people were as good as dead because of their turning away from God and their sinfulness. The people were like "dead men in desolate places." Today, there are people like them although they are not really dead, they are just playing dead. The apostle Paul is talking about these people in Romans chapter six. Apparently, there were those who knew Christ, but were not living like it, they were playing dead. Paul says in Romans 6:4, "...we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."

Sad, isn’t it? We who are alive in Christ are playing dead by letting "sin reign in" our "mortal" bodies (Romans 6:12) and by "present(ing)" our "members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin (Romans 6:13)." The result of this acting like we are dead is described in Isaiah "We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes; we stumble at noonday as at twilight." In other words, we wander around in spiritual darkness never knowing which way to turn, making bad decision after bad decision; never accomplishing anything.

Romans chapter six gives us the solution to spiritual deadness. The solution is this: "...present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God (Romans 6:13bc)." "...reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord." Please, stop with the playing dead act and make this be your mantra, your motto for life, real life: Dead to sin, alive to Christ. Dead to sin, alive to Christ. Dead to sin, alive to Christ.

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.16.14

Ask for Help

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. - Matthew 7:7-8 NKJV.

If you shot yourself accidentally in the head what would you do? Personally, I would either call 911 or somehow go to the nearest emergency room and ask for help. But, no, that is not what a 43-year-old Alaskan man who lives at Anchor Point did. He self medicated the wound with Neosporin for five days until he finally decided to ask for help at the South Peninsula Hospital Emergency Room. Beth Ipson a spokeswoman for the Alaskan State Troopers said that the "Investigation revealed the man had shot himself in the head while negligently handling a firearm. The gun the man accidentally shot himself with was a .22 long rifle. He was playing around with it and shot himself. No treatment before today other than he put Neosporin on the wounds." (ktuu 05.15.14)

Now we understand why the man did not want to go to the ER, because with a gunshot wound it would have to be investigated by authorities. Also, it would be revealed that he was playing around with a gun. However, we don't know whether there were other things involved. Was the gun stolen? Was he a convicted felon in possession of a firearm? Was he high on an illegal substance? All of those things would make a person reluctant to seek help for a self inflicted gunshot wound.

We sometimes use reasoning similar to what the man in Alaska may have used before we seek help from God. Things like, I haven't been in church for 20 years so why would He help me now? I've done all these bad things, this, and this, and that; so there is not much use in praying now. I did this stupid thing which I know is a sin, that caused all of this trouble, so how can I ask God to help me? If I really got right with God, what would all of my friends think?

This is what the Bible tells us:

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).

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him (1 John 5:14-15 NKJV).

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him (Matthew 7:11 NKJV)!

Now it is true that if you have wandered away from God and refuse to ask Him for help it is unlikely that He will help. But the first step back is to admit that you need help and that you want God to help you. Sincerely ask God for His forgiveness (1 John 1:9), and then these promises of help become God's promises to you. Or, like the man in Alaska you can keep on putting Neosporin on your gunshot wound to the head. But it is not going to do you much good!

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.15.14

Do the Impossible

...assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. - Matthew 17:20 NKJV.

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 21:21-22 NKJV.

But Jesus looked at them and said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible." - Mark 10:27 NKJV.

As a pastor, and having taken many groups to youth camps, I've played my share of table tennis; although just about anyone can beat me. I think that I'm playing good if I can successfully return the ball when it is hit toward me. There are, however, some very good table tennis players in the world, and it is considered a serious sport, especially if you watch some of the world class players playing. Ibrahim Hamato is one of those world class players, and he is very good. So good that he has been invited to the 2014 World Team Table Tennis Championships in Tokyo.

Ibrahim Hamato lives in Egypt and he is a little different from the rest of those competing in Tokyo. The difference is that Ibrahim has no arms! He lost both of his arms in an accident when he was ten years old. His favorite sport was and is table tennis so he learned how to play by holding the paddle in his mouth. Ibrahim gives this encouragement to everyone, "I hope this shows people that nothing is impossible as long as you work hard." (New York Daily News; ESPN; USA Today; Christian Post 05.13.14)

One man that I knew and went to church with early in my Christian life only had one arm. I asked him once how it happened and he said that his brother accidentally shot him with a deer rifle when he was ten years old. Joe Clark was a mechanic, which now with all of the great tools available would be much easier. But back then, I always wondered how he could do the impossible....

From withering fig trees to saving people, nothing is impossible with God, even the moving of mountains from one place to another. I think we can agree on that. God can do whatever He wants to do, whenever He wants to do it. Most of us don't have a problem with that. However, what we have a problem with is when God says we can do the impossible too when we ask in prayer for God to do it. That through prayer we can move mountains too.

The literal moving of mountains used to be impossible, but now with earth moving machines and explosives they can be moved, flattened. In China, there are plans to remove 700 mountains for additional space for the city of Lanzhou (NTD TV 12.07.12). It should be easier for us now than ever to believe, but we still have a lack of faith. Faith, that appears to be the missing ingredient that we need prior to seeing mountains move in response to our prayers. What is it that we need for our faith to increase? "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17)."

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.14.14

Enraged!

But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath (rage - NIV), malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. - Colossians 3:8 NKJV.

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath (rage - NIV), selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like. - Galatians 5:19-21a.

Let all bitterness, wrath (rage - NIV), anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. - Ephesians 4:31-32.

More and more people are expressing their rage and here are just a few of the many stories I quickly found this morning:

Bevalente Hall a 37-year-old woman in Gastonia, South Carolina was enraged when a Subway didn't put pizza sauce on her Flatizza. According to Bevalente, Subway workers had put marinara sauce on the Flatizza and refused to refund her money. So, the enraged Bevalente called 911. She has been charged with misuse of the 911 system. (WSOC-TV News; Gaston Gazette 05.13.14)

Ana Folch (62-years-old) was enraged with her neighbors so she called a demolition company and had their trailer and septic tank demolished. Folch said she did it because "people who had lived there were unsavory and she suspected they had broken into her car. She said she considered it a favor to her neighborhood." Folch caused about $25,000 in damages and has been charged with criminal mischief. (Jacksonville.com 05.08.14)

Alec Baldwin was peacefully riding his bike the wrong way on a New York City street when he was stopped by police officers. Deputy Police Chief Kim Y. Royster said this about the incident, "He got belligerent and started arguing with them and using profanity." Baldwin had no identification and was arrested for disorderly conduct. (CNN.com and various other news venues 05.14.14)

How could we ignore the story and video of Beyonce's sister Solange Knowles attacking Jay Z in an elevator? Do a search for that and you get 143,000,000 google results. I think we could say that Solange was a little enraged!

There was also a road rage incident with a video being reported yesterday. I think it is likely that some of those people expressing their rage would consider themselves to be Christians. The Bible makes it very clear that rage and the expression of rage are not something that believers should be doing.

There are many things in this world today that are very frustrating and can quickly make us enraged. Coping with rapidly changing technology is something that our ancestors never had to do. Knowing whether or not you were biking on the wrong side of the street is new to recent generations. In the past, road rage was unknown because it was hard to cut off another horse driven carriage and race away. Monday a car cut me off by coming into my lane on a curve and I had to hit my brakes and swerve to avoid a collision. I'm sure the driver in the other car blissfully drove on not knowing they had almost caused an accident.

How do we keep from becoming enraged and having "outbursts of wrath?" The apostle Paul gives us some direction in Colossians 3:1-4 where the Bible says, "If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory." You see there are some things more important than all of these things that can frustrate us here on earth. Instead of having "fits of rage (NIV)" when something doesn't go our way, or we are frustrated, or people do something completely human and upsetting, let us set our minds "on things above."

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.13.14

Moral Failure

But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. - Matthew 5:28 NKJV.

For a righteous man may fall seven times And rise again, But the wicked shall fall by calamity. - Proverbs 24:16 NKJV.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:9 NKJV.

Statement issued by Calvary Chapel of Fort Lauderdale, Florida: "On April 3, 2014, Bob Coy resigned as Senior Pastor of Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, effective immediately, after confessing to a moral failing in his life which disqualifies him from continuing his leadership role at the church he has led since its founding in 1985. The media ministry of the Active Word that distributes his Bible teachings through radio, television, and digital media has also been suspended." Bob Coy is not the only pastor who has resigned because of a moral failure. Three additional megachurch pastors in Florida have resigned because of having confessed to extramarital affairs. Isaac Hunter, pastor of Summit Church, later committed suicide. (Christianity Today 04.07.14; also the Blaze, Religion News; Huffington Post and various other news venues)

The four Florida pastors are certainly not the only pastors who have had a moral failure of the same magnitude. Some of those other pastors were well known, but far more were not so well known. I've known some of those lesser well known pastors personally and they did recover from their failures. Although those failures marked their lives in traumatic ways, but they were able to continue in ministry after some time had passed. Their later ministries were on a smaller scale than they had previous to the moral failing.

Seeing great men of God fail it causes most to give pause to their own ability to overcome temptation. The majority of pastors, and of married men, have not had extramarital affairs and have not been tempted to have one. However, I doubt there is a single man who has ever lived (except for our Lord) who can truthfully say they have not violated Matthew 5:28. It is not just the outward actions, it is also the thoughts of our hearts.

For those who have actually committed physical, visible known acts of immorality it is traumatic, and for all those in their circle of relationships. As with Issac Hunter the pastor who committed suicide in Florida, the damage from an adulterous affair can be overwhelming. He is not the only pastor or Christian man to have committed suicide after a moral failure. Even for those who have failed in their thought life, their heart life, it is also damaging. Some men have had suicidal thoughts even while trying to cope with what lies in their hearts that are in violation of Matthew 5:28. Those pressures upon men and even women are perhaps greater today than ever before.

The truth is that many great servants of God have experienced moral failure in one form or another. Adam and Eve were not sinless and their failure corrupted all of creation. David, the man after God's own heart, committed adultery with a married woman and arranged for the murder of her husband. Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, did some very unwise things. Samson also had his problems. The truth is that none of us human beings are perfect and we all sin (Romans 3:23) to one degree or another.

When we sin, it can make you miserable to the extent that you no longer want to live. Is that what God wants? No! God wants you to fall on 1 John 1:9 and to rise again to walk with Him and serve Him. Does God condone sin? No, Romans 6:23 says that the "wages of sin is death." Sin, to whatever degree brings deadness instead of the abundant life that God wants us to have. If you do experience moral failure, it does not have to be the end of the road. It will likely not be easy to recover, but there is hope. That hope is based on the Word of God. As seen with King David, when there is true repentance (Psalm 51), a turning from sin and to God, restoration can occur.

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.12.14

Balancing Act

Be sober, be vigilant (Be well balanced - Amplified Bible); because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. - 1 Peter 5:8 NKJV.

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. - 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV.

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (of cowardice, of craven and cringing and fawning fear), but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control. - 2 Timothy 1:7 Amplified Bible.

Cui Juguo has a skill that is unique, he can balance eggs on the point of needles. Cui says, "Ostrich eggs are the largest in the world, and I can balance them on a pin. No one else could do this. I set a Guinness World Record on August 19, 2011, and I am still the record holder." Cui is able to balance several eggs on needles in only about ten seconds. He developed his skill while trying to stay awake while he was a truck driver. When he became sleepy he would stop for a while and balance eggs. Cui says, "I would often take several eggs with me on the road. Once I felt sleepy, I would pull over and start to stand the egg on the needle point." Juguo is from Changsha in China‘s Hunan Province. (ecns.cn 11.09.11)

Living the Christian life in an increasingly immoral world can feel at times like we are attempting to balance eggs on the tip of a needle. The world, the flesh, and the devil are all trying to pull us off of a tiny needle tip we are balanced on while the Holy Spirit living within us is trying to keep us from falling off. Those forces can counteract each other, but if we fail to make right decisions our lives can become out of balance.

What kind of decisions can we make that would cause our lives to become out of balance? We are told in 1 Corinthians 10:13, "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." Sometimes we choose not to find a way of escape from temptation.

In Galatians 5:25 we are told, "If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit." If we are walking in the Spirit then the fruit of the Spirit, "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)" will be demonstrated in our lives. However, sometimes we choose not to walk in the Spirit and instead walk in the flesh and the result is, "adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like (Galatians 5:19b-21)."

What do we need to do keep from going out of balance by making bad spiritual decisions? What we need is more of God, more of the presence of the Holy Spirit manifested in our lives. Jesus says this in John 14:21, "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him." How do we have more of God? James 4:7-8 says, "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." Draw near to God by reading, studying, memorizing His Word (Matthew 4:4). Draw near to God by spending time in communication with Him (Luke 18:1). Draw near to God by assembling with other believers (Hebrews 10:24-25). Draw near to God by joining Him in His work (1 Corinthians 3:9; Matthew 28:19-29; 2 Corinthians 5:20).

You can have spiritual power and love, along with a sober, and vigilant mind...spiritual balance. You can live the Christian life, but you cannot live it without God which is what far too many Christians are trying to do.

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.09.14

Don't Give Up!

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. - Isaiah 41:10.

Kristin Hopkins can be thankful that an unknown man stopped along a highway in Colorado to take some photos and somehow spotted her wrecked car. The man apparently thought that whoever was inside the vehicle was dead, reported it to the local Sheriff's Office and left. Kristin, a 43-year-old mother, was still clinging to life after a horrific accident. For whatever reason, her car flew off the roadway for about 120 feet and then rolled another 200 feet into a clump of trees. The crash alone should have killed her, but she survived for five days without food or water.

Kistin somehow near the end of her ordeal found the strength to push a red and white umbrella through a small opening. She had written on the umbrella, "Six days, no food, no water; please help me; need a doctor." It sounds like from most recent news reports that Kristin will survive although both of her feet have been amputated. One of the emergency responders, firefighter Jim Cravener, said: "She really had a strong will to survive." (05.07.14 CNN; NBC News; USA Today; ABC News; New York Daily News and various other news venues)

Life can be challenging to say the least! Most of us will not have to face a challenge as horrific as Kristin Hopkins faced and is now facing as she recovers. However, we will all face challenges of one form or another in life, to one degree or another. Many of us have faced difficult health issues, others have suffered the death of a loved one, others like Kristin have faced the challenge of recovering from severe accidents. Then there are financial challenges, job challenges, and multitudes of other challenges that we humans may suddenly encounter.

Kristin Hopkins has given us an example of what to do when faced with an extreme life challenge. The example she gives is this: DON'T GIVE UP! Keep on living, keep on surviving, keep on breathing, until help arrives.

God gives us in Isaiah 41:10, a great promise. God says, "Fear not..." Why should we "Fear not?" Because God says, "I am with you...." If that is not enough God affirms that we should "fear not" because, "I am your God." But knowing how weak we are God goes even further and says, "I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." God would say to you who are struggling, who face overwhelming difficulties in life, through Isaiah 41:10 this one thing, DON'T GIVE UP!

The Burning Bush Devotional

05.01.14

The Wedding Garment

I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban. - Job 29:14 NKJV.

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. - Isaiah 61:10 NKJV.

But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, 'Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?' And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, 'Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' - Matthew 22:11-13 NKJV.

Xiang Junfeng is free! But she knows what slavery is like having been kidnapped from Jimo in China when she was 18-years-old. She was sold to an elderly man and forced to marry him. It wasn't much of a marriage as she was forced to work like a slave in the fields every day. Finally after 15 years she was able to escape to a little town where a woman there helped her. Xiang Junfeng married the woman's brother in 2004. Xiang is so happy with her freedom and marriage that she has been wearing wedding clothes for the past ten years. She continues to wear the wedding dress that she was married in and has had three more dresses made so that she has a dress for each season. Xiang says about her new life, "I had only ever known a violent and abusive man and I avoided men until I met my new partner who brought me truly out of my shell and treated me so differently. I couldn't believe it when he asked me to marry him." (Mail Online 04.01.14)

Can you imagine being so grateful for your freedom that you wear a wedding dress every day? How wonderful it must be after being kidnapped and treated like a slave to be wondrously free! Xiang Junfeng knows what that is like!

Those of us who are believers in Jesus Christ actually do know what it is like to have been slaves and then to live in freedom. In John 8:34-36 Jesus says, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." We were slaves to sin, but now through Jesus we have been set free! We no longer need fear that we shall be "cast into outer darkness" where "there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" because we have put on the "wedding garment."

When Jesus set us free from being slaves to sin, He not only set us free, He also gave us some new clothes. The clothes we wear now are not of this world, and they never wear out. Jesus has, "clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10b)." Once we have been clothed with "the robe of righteousness" we will never want to take it off. Once we have put on our "wedding garment" we will wear it every day forever and ever.

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.30.14

Do Good

Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rebuke the oppressor; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. - Isaiah 1:16c-17 NKJV.

Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. - James 4:17 NKJV.

For he who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. - 1 Peter 3:10-12.

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. - Galatians 6:9

How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. - Acts 10:38.

In 2001, I wrote a devotional about a woman causing a traffic jam because she was threatening to jump off of a bridge (Over the Edge 08.30.01). Many people yelled ugly things at the woman because of the delay including telling her to go ahead and jump. Sadly, the woman did jump and it was last reported: "She is alive in critical condition with chest and abdominal injuries at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle." Since I don't know the woman's name I have not heard about what has happened in her life since.

This week we have a more encouraging story with Jill Hewitt in Milwaukee keeping a man from jumping off a highway overpass. Jill saw a man on an overpass who appeared to be preparing to jump. She held onto the man while another person called for help. The man kept repeating "I want to die. I want to die." Hewitt said, "I told him I wouldn't let him go. God meant for you not to take your own life." Jill shared with the man some of the struggles that she had faced in her own life. (WTMJ; UPI; New York Daily News 04.29.14)

Doing good and not evil definitely appears to be God's will for His children. Of course, that is God's nature. God is holy. In Revelation 4:8 we are told, "The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: 'Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!'" While Jesus was walking upon this earth He gave us an example. Jesus who "went about doing good." "Doing good" and not evil, is the example we have been given by Jesus. Seems simple enough, if we want to follow Jesus, we are to do the same.

In Isaiah we are told, "Cease to do evil, learn to do good." One of the best ways to learn is by doing. To learn to do good, we should begin to practice doing good in whatever way that we have the opportunity. There is an obvious spiritual benefit to doing good, and not evil. Here it is from 1 Peter 3, "For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil." If we want our prayers to be answered we must cease from evil and go about doing good just as Jesus did. I don't know about you, but I don't want the "face of the Lord" to be "against" me!

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.29.14

Sinful Mistakes

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 6:23.

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:9.

Atari made a costly mistake back in 1982, which resulted in a $75 million dollar loss and the downfall of the gaming industry. ET was a hit movie, and to try to cash in on the favorability of the movie Atari rushed into production the ET video game. Wikipedia quotes author Steven Kent as saying the game was "infamous with primitive graphics, dull game play and a disappointing storyline." Wikipedia also cited an editor for The Miami Herald as saying the game was difficult to learn to play. The Atari ET game crashed and burned! The game was originally put on the market with a price of $49.95, but was discounted so many times it was finally selling for less than a dollar. What did Atari do? Atari literally buried their mistake at an Alamogordo, New Mexico trash landfill. Rumors had circulated about the burial for years and recently they were proven true when an excavation found 782,000 game cartridges buried in the landfill. (Orange News 04.29.14; Wikipedia)

Atari is not alone in the making of mistakes. Here are a few of the more famous or notorious historical mistakes: The leaning tower of Pisa took 177 years to build and was not meant to lean. It was built on unstable ground with a foundation of only three feet, and the result was that less than a decade after construction was finished the tower began to lean. Then there was the "unsinkable" RMS Titanic which did sink due to design flaws and with a huge loss of life because of the inadequate number of lifeboats. In 1961, Decca Records auditioned a group, but decided they wouldn't be marketable. Not long after the turndown by Decca, the Beatles signed with EMI. Albert Einstein's teachers thought that he was a really bad student. Western Union in 1876 turned down Alexander Graham Bell's telephone saying, "This telephone has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication."

Have you ever made a mistake that you wish you could bury? Have you ever made a mistake that you are so ashamed of that you never mention it? I have made some mistakes that are that bad. Actually, these mistakes are not just mistakes, they are sins I have committed. I am not proud of these moral failures. I don't want to talk about them; I don't want to even think about them, and I try not to. I just want to bury those sins.

The spiritual reality is that God doesn't want to think about your sins. He doesn't want to see your sins, and He doesn't want to remember your sins. What does God want to do with your sins? He wants to bury them! Micah 7:19 tells us where God wants to bury your sins, "You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea." This has often been called God's Sea of Forgetfulness. Then God says in Hebrews 10:17 (Also Isaiah 43:25), "Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more."

What must happen before God buries our sins? 1 John 1:9 tells us, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." Confession as used in 1 John 1:9 involves more than just saying what we did or didn't do. According to W. A. Criswell, "The idea of confession is to view sin as God views it and to identify with His judgment against sin." In other words, we agree with God that what we have done or not done was a sin, that it was bad, and we repent of it, turn from it, we want to change from doing what we have sinfully done or not done in the past. God can forgive our sins because the penalty of those sins has already been paid by Jesus on the cross. We just need to receive the "gift" of forgiveness that God freely offers.

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.28.14

All Things

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. - Romans 8:28.

November 1982, was the beginning of a difficult time in our lives. I had an established business in the oilfield, but the bust had come to the oilfield. One month I had a good income, the next there was no income. After a couple of months, I was able to go back to work for a previous employer. However, because of the slowdown in the oilfield that job only lasted for about four months. We made the decision for me to go back to college. My wife had to go back to work. I worked part-time at a Love's convenience store. The equipment owned by our business was sold for about a fourth or less of what it was worth. We sold our home, and after a year of college moved away from the area we had lived in all of our lives. A year later we were able to move back, buy another house, and start a new life.

I’ve learned that Romans 8:28 is true, but that doesn't mean that the "all things" is going to be easy. In fact, it can be downright hard. But I realize that if our business had continued on as it was the hard choices of change would never have been made. It is possible, maybe even likely, that I would never have become a pastor and that my son would have followed in my footsteps working in the family business and never becoming a pastor either. In those months of change, I learned to swallow a lot of pride. I had to ask for a job from an employer that I had already left two times before and had been sure I would never return to again. But I did. Instead of being the proud owner of a business that was making a lot of money, I was cleaning toilets, making sandwiches, and being a clerk in a convenience store. We sold our beautiful home and moved into a much smaller place. But through it all we continued to pray, continued to seek God's direction, continued to stay in church, and God led us through it all step by step.

The "all things" has not been easy for many of God's servants. Consider Joseph in the Old Testament. He was nearly killed by his own brothers, but still was sold into slavery. Things were going well for him there in Egypt even in slavery when it suddenly got worse, again, when he was falsely accused and thrown into prison. However, from the very worst place he could be in Egypt, God raised Joseph up to be the second most powerful person in the known world. The "all things" in Joseph's life were used of God so that his own family, the Egyptian people, along with many people from other lands could all be saved from the famine that God knew was coming. The "all things" in Joseph's life were not easy, but they were necessary to bring about the end result of "good."

If you think about it, Jesus experienced the ultimate in "all things" being difficult. Jesus came down from the glories of Heaven to be born into a family with few of the luxuries of what most of us are used to these days. The King of kings and the Lord of lords gave it all up to walk through the "all things" of being tempted at all points, and of experiencing the pains and trials of human existence. The "all things" of Jesus included suffering the torture and humiliation of execution on a cruel Roman cross. But the "all things" were necessary to arrive at the "good" of our having a Savior.

I don't know what you are going through, but Romans 8:28 is true. Whatever it is, Jesus can help carry you through it, because you see, He has gone through even worse Himself. He knows what it is like, and He can help you to make it through the "all things" until you arrive at the "good." So keep on step by step, day by day "looking unto the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1a)." Keep on going because eventually you will arrive at the "good!"

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.25.14

Finding Peace

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

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. - Philippians 4:6-7 NKJV.

Early in my ministry while I was at a children's camp with a large group of kids I found myself in the middle of a nightmare. It was the last night of the camp with a special feature of groups of children hiding out with a sponsor while other sponsors attempted to find them. The last group to be found would be the winner. I was not a fan of this, but the children did enjoy it. Some of our children hid in a small room and it triggered a seizure in a girl named Meagan. She had never had a seizure before, but she had one then. Camp leaders quickly located me and since the camp is in an isolated area about 17 miles to the closest hospital it was determined to send her in my vehicle along with a nurse.

During the entire trip, Meagan kept having seizures and I kept thinking the entire time that she might die before we made it to the hospital. I had seen others have seizures in the past and what Meagan was going through seemed far worse. I had thoughts going through my mind that she could die. I could imagine having to call her parents and trying to tell them that their daughter had died at a children's camp. Even after we arrived at the hospital it was an hour or more before we were finally told that Meagan was going to be okay. Of course, by then I had already been in contact with the child’s parents and they were on their way to the hospital.

It is easy to talk about the peace of God and how we can pray and have God's peace. It is another thing altogether to actually experience it. The entire trip from the camp to the hospital I was praying for God's help. God did help us. He kept Meagan from dying and the last I heard she has grown up and is married. God also gave me peace in the midst of a nightmare, an assurance that He was with us. God brought healing to Meagan, held me together, and protected us while we were on our way to the hospital. As far as I know, Meagan had never had a seizure before, and she has not had one since that night.

It doesn't matter what you are going through or how bad it is, God can help. No matter how bad a nightmare it may be, if we will put our focus on our God if we will seek His help; He will give us peace. He will hold us together, even though we may feel like we are falling apart. In the midst of a nightmare, God can give us peace which "surpasses all understanding."

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.23.14

Fantasy vs. Reality

As I urged you when I went into Macedonia-remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith. - 1 Timothy 1:3-4.

The Message translates 1 Timothy 1:3-4 as: "On my way to the province of Macedonia, I advised you to stay in Ephesus. Well, I haven't changed my mind. Stay right there on top of things so that the teaching stays on track. Apparently some people have been introducing FANTASY stories and fanciful family trees that digress into silliness instead of pulling the people back into the center, deepening faith and obedience."

In France and across the world there has been an ongoing search for two-year-old Chayson Basinio who reportedly disappeared from a store parking lot. After the boy's great-aunt reported the missing boy the police worked hard at finding any clue and even dredged a lake trying to find him. As police officials prepared to break the bad news to the family that the boy had not been found they came to a realization. That realization was that Chayson and his father were only real on facebook. Public prosecutor Eric Mazaud says about their search, "It was long and complicated, but we can now say that the young Chayson has never existed and nor have his father or mother." The "great aunt" who is also not a real "great aunt" is in jail for inventing a crime. Others involved who helped to create the false facebook profile are also being questioned and may be charged. (theguardian 04.17.14; and many other news venues)

Fake profiles on facebook are abundant although facebook has become more vigilant in trying to remove the fakes. It is strange that someone would report a crime and go to all of the trouble to invent fake people to make it believable when there is no apparent motive for doing so. But then people have been making up things for a long, long time.

From what we see in 1 Timothy and other New Testament passages people have been inventing spiritual fantasies since the beginning of Christianity. Some of the older ones have fallen into disfavor, but there always seem to be new ones that are being invented. Let's look at some of the more popular Christian fantasies of today.

The Fantasy: There are many paths to God. I hardly go a day without reading or hearing that it doesn't matter whether you believe in Jesus or Budda or Islam's Allah because there are many paths to God.

The Reality: Jesus says in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." John 3:18, "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."

The Fantasy: If you do more good deeds, good things, than bad deeds or things you will go to Heaven when you die.

The Reality: Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." Titus 3:5, "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit."

The Fantasy: If you are a member of a church that will assure your entrance into Heaven.

The Reality: John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."

The Fantasy: If you sin after believing and being "born again" you will lose your salvation.

The Reality: Believing in this theological position means that you can never know for sure whether you are lost or saved. This is in direct contradiction of 1 John 5:13, "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God." John 10:27-29, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone (includes you) snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand."

There are many spiritual fantasies that some believe and teach today. How can we know what is real and what is just a fantasy that someone has made up? By searching the Scriptures until, the truth is revealed (Acts 17:11). If you have been deceived and have believed a fantasy, give it up. Sometimes, like the police searching for a missing boy who was never lost, we need to admit we were deceived and look for the truth.

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.22.14

Warn Them!

To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily. - Colossians 1:27-29.

By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. - Hebrews 11:7.

Undergraduate student Diane Hartley may have saved the Citicorp Center building in Manhattan from falling down and taking with it other buildings in a domino effect. The Citicorp building is built on huge stilts placed at the center of the sides instead of at the corners as conventionally done. It is a weaker construction and to compensate for the effect of winds a damper was constructed on top of the building. Hartley called the chief engineer LeMessurier warning that quartering winds, winds striking the corners of the building, could cause a collapse. LeMessurier did his own calculations and concluded that if the building did lose power the damper on top of the building would not be able to function. It was determined that each year there would be a one in sixteen chance that the building would be hit by a storm causing the 59 story tower to potentially fall causing a huge disaster. Construction was begun in secret after normal work hours to repair the flaw and was completed by the end of 1978. (Yahoo News 04.21.14; Damninteresting.com 04.12.06)

Diane Hartley made one phone call that potentially saved thousands of lives and blocks of devastation. Noah was warned by God of the coming disastrous flood. The apostle Paul exhorts all believers to warn non-believers of the coming disaster they face.

How many have avoided an eternal disaster called Hell because one person cared enough to make one phone call to warn them. A man that had ignored my own warnings to him in the past received a phone call when he was near death in a hospital. I was very much surprised to learn after the man died that he had believed on Jesus before his death. A woman in our church had made one last phone call and the man was saved.

Jesus came that we might have life and so that we would have it more abundantly (John 10:10b). So that we might have eternal life, Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:20). Jesus did not stay in one place, in one building waiting for the lost to discover Him. Instead, Jesus during his three years of ministry here on earth was continuously on the move going from place to place. He has given us an example. The example is that the lost are to be actively sought by whatever means are available. Jesus gave up the glories of Heaven to come down to earth with all of the tribulations, temptations, and eventually crucifixion. To seek the lost, for Jesus was very costly. Has it cost you anything to seek the lost?

How are you seeking the lost? Can you make a phone call? Can you send an email? Can you send a text? Can you make a facebook post or post to another social media site? Can you get in your car and drive to your neighbor or friend's home, knock on the door, and tell them about Jesus? Or, can you just walk a few feet to your neighbor or friend's house or across the hall to their apartment and share Jesus with them? Will you warn them of the coming disaster they are facing?

The Burning Bush Devotional

04.21.14

The Armor of God

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints. - Ephesians 6:10-18 NKJV.

Russian troops seen in action in the Ukraine appear to have been equipped with a new generation of body armor. Their armor is reportedly made of titanium and hard carbide boron ceramics. (Washington Times 04.20.14) The Russians may have missed out on a cheaper body armor option. Rickey Wagoner is a believer in this other armor option. Rickey is a Dayton, Ohio bus driver, and when his bus developed an electrical problem he stopped the bus to investigate. It was then that he was attacked by three men and shot three times. Two of the bullets were stopped by the New Testament that Rickey carried in his shirt pocket. As Police Sgt. Michael Pauley says, "There was obviously some kind of intervention involved in this incident, because he (Rickey) probably should not be here." Rickey fought back even after he was shot in the hip and it felt like a sledgehammer had hit him in the chest where he was shot twice. He was stabbed in his left arm, but he still managed to take the gun away from his attackers. The attackers then fled. A friend said about the attack that it proved that God was on Rickey's side. The friend also said, "Rick is a great guy, you couldn't ask for anybody better than Rick. He's a great friend and terrific dad." (Dayton Daily News; New York Times; CBSnews 02.24.14)

Here we see the world's armor and God's armor. Rickey Wagoner is an example of how to put on the armor of God. Apparently, Rickey is a believer who puts the Word of God to work in his life by actually doing what God says to do. Another way of saying it is that Rickey lives the Word of God. He has wrapped the truth of God around his life. He has determined in his heart to live a life of righteousness in obedience to his God. He is prepared to share the Gospel of Peace whenever and wherever he can. He carries God's Word because he is prepared to use it to share the peace of reconciliation that can only come from God. The sword of the Spirit is ready to be used. His faith is so strong because he wears the helmet of salvation and the fiery darts of the enemy were stopped.

There is a spiritual truth about the "armor of God" that we need to understand and apply to our lives. We can read and read and read God's Word, and we can pray that the armor of God be upon our lives, and we ought to do that. However, if we never apply God's Word to our lives by actually doing and living what God says we should do, than all of our reading and praying are of no effect. Have you truly put on the armor of God by applying God's truths, His Words to your life? If not, there is no better time then now to begin. As the Psalmist says, "I will never forget Your precepts, for by them You have given me life (Psalm 119:93)." Let us remember God's "precepts" by doing them! Let us put on the armor of God by living the Word of God!

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04.18.14

A Living Faith

Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. But the angel answered and said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you." So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. - Matthew 28:1-8.

People do sometimes come back to life and many have had what is called "near death experiences." Velusamy an 80-year-old man in India was thought to have died of old age. His sister-in-law tried to wake him for supper and found him to be lying on the floor "like wood." She received no response to her frantic yells or when sprinkling his face with water. However, when Velusamy was bathed with cold water prior to his body being burned, he woke up! He said, "It’s very cold" and got up from the ground. His family rejoiced at having, "got back grandpa back from the other world."

Performing a search on Google for "back to life" found 897,000 references for the phrase. A vast multitude of things are said to be brought "back to life" including books, programs, furniture, machines, radios, stocks, lakes, frozen lobsters, Inca canals, schools, bands, and nations. There were a few instances of people like Velusamy who were thought to be dead being brought "back to life." However, the reality is that Velusamy will eventually die and not be brought back again to physical life. We as human beings can restore usefulness to inanimate objects and through science restore, sustain usefulness for human beings to a certain extent. There is, however, no way by scientific methods to bring a person back to life that is actually dead. When person has been dead and buried for a year or so there is no record of such a body being raised to physical life.

Easter is not just a holiday or a time to have fun with our family and friends. Easter is important because what happened 2000 years ago represents our only true hope for eternal life after death. Easter is important and mind boggling because it represents God Himself intervening in the course of human events at great cost to provide us a way of salvation. Easter means that we have a living faith and not a dead faith. We do not worship a dead god. We worship a God who is alive and has proven that He has the power over death. God has proven that He has the ability to give life.

This Easter let us rejoice that He has indeed risen! Let us rejoice that we have a living faith in the living God who loves us so much that He died for us!

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04.17.14

Alive in Christ

Jesus said to her (Martha), "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" - John 11:25-26 NKJV.

Stig Kernell planned ahead for when he would die and wrote his own obituary. Stig was 92-years-old when he passed away April 6th. As planned, the obituary written by Stig was published by the local funeral home. Here is his obituary in its entirety: "Jag ar dod." In English, "I am dead." You might think that Stig's life was an unpleasant one;
however, his family says that it was far from being dull. Stig was a pilot, a flight instructor, an aviation historian and once made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest aviation book collection. His son, Lars, says about his father, "He was a special man with a very particular sense of humor and a twinkle in his eye."

Jesus actually wrote His obituary far in advance of His physical death and here it is: "I am the resurrection and the life." A shorter version would read: I AM ALIVE! Jesus lived a far shorter life than did Stig Kernell and yet accomplished all that had been planned. As Jesus makes His sixth statement from the cross saying (in John 19:30) "It is finished!" Jesus rose triumphantly from the dead on the third day and appeared to many before ascending into Heaven.

What will your obituary say? Have you already written it? If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, God has already written your obituary; at least the one that matters, and here is what it says that you are: "Alive to God in Christ." Here is the shorter version: I AM ALIVE! Romans 6:11 says, "Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord." 1 Corinthians 15:22 says, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive." In Ephesians 2:4-6 we are told, "But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us ALIVE together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." 1 Peter 3:18 tells us we are ALIVE because of the sacrifice of Jesus, "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit."

Now that we know where we are going if we have Jesus as our Savior we just need to live life now. We have a choice. We can choose the life Jesus came to give us (John 10:10b) or we can choose the life the devil wants us to have while here on this earth (John 10:10a). We have a choice between a life full of life or a life full of dead things. Romans 8:5-6 makes this more clear, "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded (governed by the flesh - NIV) is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." How do we make the right choice? The Bible tells us in Romans 13:14, "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts."

Thanks be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ that we are ALIVE eternally if we know Jesus as our Savior! And, that we can have an abundance of life while we are walking on this earth if we will "put on the Lord Jesus Christ." Are you alive eternally? If so, are you living the abundant life?

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04.15.14

Spiritual Amnesiacs

“You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. - Matthew 5:43-48.

The Message translates Matthew 5:48 in this way: "In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you."

John Smith has finally been identified! John was discovered in a snowdrift in Norway four months ago. An Oslo Police press release says, "the man did not possess any form of identification, and did not remember his name, origin, how he ended up in Norway or any other details of his life." As the police worked to identify the man it was found that he could speak English well and understood at least four other languages. John said that he had been assaulted and from his wrists it appeared that he had been tied up with plastic ties. Finally, because of the efforts of many law enforcement agencies, a family in the Czech Republic has identified John as being their son. Even though John has been identified, he does not want his identity to be released. (04.10.14 NBC.com; Agence France Presse)

I have always been fascinated by amnesiacs and how the brain somehow blocks out the true identity of a person. Not knowing who you really are, as with "John Smith," prevents you from moving forward with your life. Not knowing who you really are, prevents you from forming meaningful relationships with others. Not knowing who you really are, prevents you from having a life; it puts everything on hold. John has been at a standstill with his life these four months while waiting to discover is true identity. Although now that he has been identified, he does not want to release that information.

Once you come to know Jesus as your personal Savior, you have been "born again (John 3)," you have a new identity. But is just having that new identity enough? No, God has more for you; however, it requires a public release of your identity to others. The very first step in that public identification is to tell someone else about your new belief in Jesus. The second step given by God for identification as a "born again" child of God is to follow Jesus in public baptism. The third step is given to us in the words of Jesus in Matthew 5. What is that third step of identification of being a Christian? The third step is a continuing step which is to begin to live, to act, as Jesus would live and act.

Do you know your spiritual identity? Are you a child of God? Have you received Christ Jesus as your Savior and been "born again" by being birthed into the Kingdom of God by the Holy Spirit? Have you then allowed all others to know of your new found faith by following Jesus in baptism? And, are you now living as Jesus would want you to live? Have you identified with Jesus? Don't keep it a secret! If you know your spiritual identity, don't become a spiritual amnesiac; tell everyone you can about who you are as a believer in Jesus.

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04.14.14

I Thirst

After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, “I thirst!” Now a vessel full of sour wine was sitting there; and they filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on hyssop, and put it to His mouth. - John 19:28-29 NKJV.

For human life to exist there must be water because more than half of the human body consists of water. According to About.com, “The average adult human body is 50-65% water, averaging around 57-60%.” In Dala, Myanmar, lines of people form every afternoon to obtain a couple of buckets of drinking water from a reservoir near Yangon. For each bucket of water the cost is 10 kyats, about 10 cents (U.S.). People walk for miles for the water, but they hope in a year or two the government will install pipes to provide them with water closer to their homes (NewsOk.com; FoxNews 04.12.14). In the United States, we still have drought conditions across much of the country. Parts of Australia have also experienced a drought along with other places in the world. If we want to live, we must have water.

I have been preaching through the last seven statements of Jesus from the cross. “I thirst” is the fifth statement. “I thirst” speaks to the humanity of Jesus and we can all understand it. Most of us have been thirsty before. We have perhaps worked out in the hot sun becoming so thirsty that our bodies begin to rebel until we find some water to drink. With this statement, Jesus is identifying with all of humanity because He not only is fully divine, but also fully human.

One of the early heresies of the Christian faith was Docetism. Those believing this heresy agreed with the deity of Christ, but rejected his humanity. Their view was that Jesus only appeared to be human denying that Jesus suffered while on the cross. Jesus’ fifth statement from the cross confronts this heresy allowing all to see His humanity.

Why was it necessary for Jesus to suffer as a human being on the cross? Hebrews 2:14-18 explains, “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” Without the human suffering of Jesus, we would not have a Savior. Jesus became the perfect sacrifice, the Lamb of God, by being tempted in His humanity at all points like we are, yet without sin. As we are told in Hebrews 4:15, “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.”

In this Easter season, we can have hope when we feel pain whether that pain is physical or mental. We can have hope when we feel alone, because God Himself has suffered. He knows what it is like to be human, to be like you and me. He knows what it is like to experience the very worst that life can send a person’s way.

Because Jesus experienced thirst, He has become the Savior who alone can satisfy our spiritual thirst. In Revelation 21:6 Jesus shouts to all that would hear and believe, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who THIRSTS.” Come to Jesus and receive forgiveness for your sins! Come to Jesus and find meaning, purpose, peace, and eternal life! “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).” Will you allow Jesus to quench your thirst?

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04.04.14

Slimed!

For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. – 1 Thessalonians 4:7.

Yin Min Tai, a woman who lives in Fuzhou, Fujian Province of China, had the unpleasant experience of being SLIMED! When Lok Wan, the woman’s boyfriend, slowed to make a U-turn a cement truck following could not stop in time. The result was a load of cement flowing onto and into the car Yin Min was inside. Lok Wan was able to escape from the vehicle before the cement forced its way inside, but Yin Min was trapped. She was covered in cement and it took rescuers 40 minutes before they were able to pull her out of the vehicle. After rescuers were able to wash the cement slime off of Yin Min they surprisingly found her to only have very minor injuries. (Orange News)

Can you imagine being completely covered with sticky icky heavy slimy cement? Can you imagine being trapped in that slime for 40 minutes? What would have happened if the slimy cement had not been removed? The cement would have begun to dry, and to harden. For the woman, it would have become increasingly harder to move, perhaps even to breathe, until all movement ceased; causing death.

The physical effect of slimy cement covering a person is similar to the spiritual effect of the filthy evil slime of the world. What is the slime of the world? In the time of Noah, the earth was filled with wickedness and violence; the thoughts of all except for Noah and his family were “only evil continually (Genesis 6:5 NKJV).” Another example of the world’s slime the Bible gives us is of the homosexuality in Sodom (Genesis 19:4-5). The Bible speaks of those covered in the world’s slime in Romans 1:28-32 NKJV in this way: “…God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”

The world is continually trying to slime us through every kind of media; from television to Internet the slime is raining down upon us. In addition, those who have been slimed are continually trying to slime everyone else because they want everyone to be like them…covered in slime. The more slime we have in our lives the harder it is to hear God, the harder it is to do anything for Him. The more slime we have in our lives meaningful spiritual activity decreases until we have turned completely away from God.

How are we to cope with this flood of slime the world continually pours out upon us? Colossians 3:5-7 NKJV tells us, “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.” Colossians 3:2 NKJV says, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Romans 12:1-2 NKJV says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind….” In 2 Corinthians 6:17 we are commanded to, “…Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.”

Is your life covered in the slime of this world? If so, and you want to be cleansed 1 John 1:9 tells us how to be cleansed, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Then, turn off and turn down the world’s immoral messages and instead fill your life with good things like God’s Word; think about good things as we are told in Philippians 4:8; and fill your life up with, “whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure….”

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04.03.14

Are You Weary?

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

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

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30.

A man in Lawton, Oklahoma, dropped a $20.00 bill, which fell into a storm drain. It was the only money the man had so he climbed down into the storm drain to find the twenty dollar bill. The storm drain pipe has a diameter of only 42 inches which forced the man to crawl along through the pipe. City workers say that there is a vast network of underground pipe and that they have to use maps to keep from becoming lost. This is what happened to the man who was trying to find his money; he lost his way in the network of pipes. Two days later, a group of students heard the man yelling for help. Police officers said the man was about 15 feet below street level. He had a bump on his head, was dehydrated, disoriented, and weary; not sure of the time or the date. And…he never found his twenty dollar bill. (KWSO-TV 03.08.14)

Can you imagine crawling in a pipe for hours and hours in the dark? Then, you have no idea how to crawl back out and so you begin to call out in the dark for someone, anyone to help you. You bump your head, you become weaker as you go without food and water having no idea as to where you are…Sounds like the setting for a Stephen King novel.

The Lawton man’s ordeal in a way is a picture of what happens when we have the wrong focus in life. His focus was the twenty dollar bill, money. Now if we were down to our last twenty dollars we would probably be crawling down into that storm drain too. In life, as we focus in on making money, or gaining fame, or power, or other worldly goals it can become a maze leading to nowhere. We try this, we do that, we go there, we turn left, we turn right, and become so unhinged that we don’t know which way is up, and which way is down. We cry out for help and wonder if there is anyone there.

If you have grown weary of crawling through the maze of the world’s goals seeking what the world says you ought to seek, there is a solution. There is someone listening. The solution is actually very simple, you need to have the right focus. That is what the Bible is saying in Hebrews 12:3 when it says to “Consider Him.” The Him, is Jesus. Change your focus in life to Jesus and then you will not “grow weary and discouraged.”

The world has a way of driving us crazy, making us weary, making us angry, of giving us the opposite of what God can give us. If we put our trust, our focus on God, “stay” our minds on Him, we will find “perfect peace,” which the goals of this world can never give us. Jesus tells us what we need to do, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

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04.02.14

Looking for Yourself

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? – Matthew 16:24-26 NKJV.

Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. – Psalm 37:4 NKJV.

A tourist group on a tour bus in Iceland was on their way to Eldgia Canyon when they made a rest stop near the Canyon. One of the women on the tour took the opportunity to change clothes and freshen up a little. When the group had reassembled to resume their trip to the Canyon for some unknown reason the group did not recognize the woman who had changed clothes and instead thought that she was missing. A search party was then made up of 50 people from the group (This included the missing woman who didn’t know they were searching for her.) and others which began searching the area. The Icelandic Coast Guard began to mobilize to help in the effort. Finally, many hours later someone in the group realized that the one they were looking for was actually helping them look for herself. The missing woman had finally found herself! (Orange News 03.11.14)

For most of my life, I have heard about people who leave home traveling about trying to find themselves. It is said to be an adventure in self-discovery. What is it that they find when they finally find themselves? What is it that they are really searching for? When you join a search party looking for yourself what are you trying to find?

From my own observations, it would appear that we would all like to have a meaningful life. We would like our lives to count, to make a difference in someway. We have a built in desire for something. Our hearts desire what? This is what we are really searching for when we begin to try to find ourselves, the desires of our hearts.

Blaise Pascal may be the first who wrote about the God shaped hole in our hearts when he said, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every person, and it can never be filled by any created thing. It can only be filled by God, made known through Jesus Christ.” Although I believe King Solomon was speaking of this same thing when he said, “I have seen the God-given task with which the sons of men are to be occupied. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in their hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end. I know that nothing is better for them than to rejoice, and to do good in their lives (Ecclesiastes 3:10-12 NKJV).” The Amplified Bible translates a portion of verse 11 as: “He also has planted eternity in men’s hearts and minds [a divinely implanted sense of a purpose working through the ages which nothing under the sun but God alone can satisfy]….” As we are told in the Acts 17 the apostle Paul noticed that the people of Athens were worshiping an “unknown god.” The people of Athens also had a God shaped vacuum within their hearts.

How do we “find ourselves?” What we are really saying and wanting when we begin to look for ourselves is that we want to find the desires of our hearts (Psalm 37:4). How do we find the desires of our hearts? Jesus tells us in John 7:37, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” Jesus, is how we find ourselves. He will fulfill our heart’s desire. He will fill up the vacuum, the God shaped hole in our hearts. As Jesus says, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will FIND IT.”

If you have been looking for yourself you don’t need to take a walkabout, you don’t need to take off on a survival trip into the wilderness, you don’t need to wander the world in search of your life; you don’t have to do any of those things. Because, you see, you just need Jesus!

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03.31.14

Old Solutions for New Problems

Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’” For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. – Matthew 6:30-34.

In a world with exponential technological advances occurring daily, we are finding new solutions to old problems. Consider the parental problem of pulling a child’s tooth. When I was a child there was the Slamming Door Method. To extract a tooth using this method tie one end of a string around the tooth, and the other end to the doorknob of an open door…Then, slam the door. My sister, as I remember it was the one who performed my tooth extraction in this way. What great memories…ha! Another method some used in the past was to have the child bite into an apple or a piece of hard candy.

There is now a new home method of tooth extraction developed by a father in Dublin. It is the Remote Control Helicopter Method. It may become popular as some 80,000 people have watched the video of Adam Swan’s tooth being jerked out by the remote control helicopter. (Orange News 03.27.14) As I was reading about this today, I found that the majority believe the best method is to wait for the tooth to fall out on its own or to take the child to the dentist. The problem occurs as I remember when the tooth is not yet ready to come out and the door is slammed it can be quite painful. I did read about one child who after a home extraction procedure had to go to the emergency room for treatment.

As we can see there are new solutions to old problems, but that does not necessarily mean that they are the best. Even with all of our technology there never seems to be enough time to do what we need to do. In fact, it appears that the technology has reduced the amount of time that we have. Why? Because we have to check our facebook, tweet, check email, and respond to messages that we consider important. Then there is Instagram, Pinterest, and a bunch of other social media that is now available.

There is an old solution to this new problem of technological time draining that we are experiencing. The ages old solution to technological time draining is putting first things first. I recently read this quote by E. M. Bounds (1835-1913) who was a Methodist Episcopal pastor, chaplain during Civil War, Attorney, and author of nine books on prayer: “I feel it is far better to begin with God, to see His face first, to get my soul near Him before it is near another. In general, it is best to have at least one hour alone with God before engaging in anything else.” Perhaps this is why Bounds was able to write the material that is now available in 11 books (Many of these are available online free of cost – search for E. M. Bounds).

The old solution of putting God first before everything else is still the best solution for whatever this 21st century world may throw at you. Try it! It still works!

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03.27.14

While You Are Waiting

Then Midianite traders passed by; so the brothers pulled Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt. - Genesis 37:28.

So Joseph made ready his chariot and went up to Goshen to meet his father Israel; and he presented himself to him, and fell on his neck and wept on his neck a good while. - Genesis 46:29.

This morning I am waiting, waiting while my computer performs some checks and installs updates. It is taking far longer than I thought and I am not happy about that! So while I am waiting, I am writing this devotional on my kindle. Waiting, no one really likes to wait unless you are waiting for something bad to happen. Even if you are waiting for something bad to happen, often you would like to hurry up time so the waiting would be over. The waiting for Mary Virginia Jones is finally over after 32 years in prison. Mary was wrongly convicted, but now she is free, free, free at last!

While Mary was incarcerated she quickly became a spiritual leader and gave those in prison with her much hope. One of the women that she gave hope to shared this, "She taught us how to walk the walk and keep the faith. She had a light that just shined." Mary's daughter, Denitra Jones-Goodie said that her mother always believed she would be released, and says "She's got strength on top of strength."

Mary's story reminds me of Joseph who was also wrongly imprisoned. Joseph's captivity began when his brothers sold him into slavery, and did not end until many decades later. It ended when Joseph was finally reunited and reconciled with his family.

Taking these two stories into consideration, when was the work of God, the serving of God being done? It is obvious in both situations that the serving and the work of God was being performed during the waiting. We know with Joseph that God had more for him to do, and I am sure that God has much more for Mary to do too, during her freedom.

This brings us to you and me. Does God have you in a spiritual holding pattern? You know there will be so much joy when the waiting is finally over, why doesn't God make this time go faster? Maybe God doesn't make the time you are waiting shorter for the same reasons that He didn't for Joseph and Mary Jones. While Mary was waiting, God has used her to point many women that the world would have said were worthless to new lives in Christ of immeasurable value. Those lives that God has touched through Mary will touch countless other lives with God's transforming love. While Joseph was waiting, what did God do through it? God through Joseph made the preparations necessary to save both the Egyptians and the Hebrews.

What is it that God is doing through your life while you are waiting? While I was waiting this morning, I wrote this devotional, and I pray that God will accomplish His purposes in the lives of all who take the time to read it. May God speak to your heart...

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03.04.14

Wedding Vows

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. – Ephesians 5:25-33.

Sadly, I learned recently that one of my facebook friends had actually passed away August 13, 2013. I am very glad that Larisa, the sister of Tina Nedelcu Carruthers, messaged to let me know. Otherwise, I might never have known the rest of the story.

Tina lived cancer free for nine months after her marriage to Neil Carruthers. Tina had fought cancer once and not only survived but recovered. She had the determination to learn again how to walk and talk. She had in the past sung in church, and she regained her singing voice and sang again. Tina demonstrated courage in the face of a fearsome disease. When the disease returned she fought again and this time her husband fought by her side.

Tina was 29-years-old, and Neil was 34-years-old when they died 46-hours apart last August. Neil had no apparent physical problems when he collapsed, and suddenly died just 46-hours before Tina, the love of his life passed from this world to the next, as well. (BostonGlobe.com 09.27.13; Larisa Chapman; Tina Carruthers facebook profile) I hope you will read the rest of this beautiful love story at http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2013/09/26/neil-carruthers-and-tina-carruthers-stoneham-couple-paths-converged-before-they-died-hours-apart/CgRlMo2kB5GmcssvOiOyxK/story.html#

In wedding ceremonies I often use the following vows after the exchange of rings: “…you are each given to the other in times of happiness and of sorrow; in times of plenty and of poverty; in times of sickness and of well being; to love and enjoy till death shall separate you.” Death only separated Neil and Tina from each other for 46-hours!

Vows, wedding vows, consider the vow to be faithful to each other even in sickness; Neil and Tina lived out that vow. What a beautiful love they demonstrated for each other and for all those who encountered their lives! Rarely do younger couples encounter the challenge of caring for a physically or mentally ill husband or wife. Much more often the challenge comes at a much older age. However, many couples never face such a challenge even if they live long lives.

Does it make any difference whether or not you live together or if you marry? I believe it does, and that standing before others; and God, reciting vows of faithfulness will hold many couples together for their entire lives. It does make a difference when couples put Christ first in their lives (Matthew 6:33), and demonstrate His love toward each other. It makes a difference now, and eternally!

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03.01.14

Testimony of Jennifer

God has done a phenomenal work in my life. Jesus truly saved me from myself. About 12 years ago I was a floundering, scared, anxious, often depressed alcohol dependent bulimic diagnosed with ptsd who found my worth and value in sexual intimacy with men. I had been in and out of a roller coaster relationship with a drug addicted man who abused me physically, emotionally, and mentally for nearly 9 years and I was absolutely emotionally devastated. I was so lost and hurting, my world was a dark place to put it mildly.

I was saved when I was 12, baptized in water and had a wonderful experience with our God for a very short time. Then when I was 15 I met a man who introduced me to new age spirituality and that fit the life that looked so appealing to me, so the enemy began to dominate my world. From that age all through my twenties I worshiped alcohol, partying, and men all the while struggling deeply with an eating disorder, which were all significant of the true issue, my lack of self-worth, self-esteem, self-confidence and most of all self-love. I had no value as a person until God moved in a big way in my life back in 2002.

I went to a Christ centered treatment facility that year, the Salvation Army treatment center in Harrisburg, PA and when I reflect back that is the year I called on God in dire desperation, at a bottom I had never dreamed I would experience. While I did not complete my treatment there it had a big effect on my life. Later that same year God paved the way for a geographical move from my home town of Johnstown, PA with a bar on every corner, to the place I live today, Zebulon, NC with a church at every country mile. While I continued to struggle with the old habits of alcohol, bulimia and men for a few years, I clearly see that God was working in my life all along the way.

I hit another bottom in 2005, at which time I fully surrendered my life to Jesus, in utter knowing that the alcohol and bulimia owned me, fully assured that, that behavior would bring me to a certain and untimely death. I will never forget calling out to Jesus once again in absolute desperation, like only a dying woman would do. It still amazes me to see how He answered! He wrapped his arms around my life and my world and guided me as I held onto Him for dear life every step up that mountain of healing.

I stand on top of that proverbial mountain today, still leaning on Him so completely, all the while He shines so brightly in and through me! Today I am 9 years free of bulimia, 7 years, 1 month and 15 days sober and going strong. I am fully committed to celibacy as I date at 40 years old. I am at this place, instead of being 6 feet under, all because of the phenomenal redemption power of a loving relationship with our most perfect savior, Jesus Christ. I have a very stable life as a single mom of two beautiful daughters, ages 7 and 21 and an amazing 2 year old grandson. My relationships with my oldest daughter, mom, and my siblings have experienced the love of Jesus and are fully repaired; while my youngest daughter has had an entire life of the benefits of a mother who knows how much she is loved by Jesus Christ. I have a very good and stable job in my accounting career. I am in the process of buying my very first home in a gated lake community with lots of wonderful amenities, none the less. I am working on my degree in Psychology with a dual major in Christian Counseling and Addiction and Recovery at Liberty University Online. All of these amazing blessings for a woman who 12 years ago was homeless, living in a recovery center, while my oldest daughter was being cared for by one of my older sisters.

With tears in my eyes and unspeakable gratitude in my heart, I am alive and abundantly well to testify that my life today in the loving embrace of our most perfect savior is like having a piece of heaven right here on earth, while I continue to hold onto Him, embracing Him so very tightly through this now beautiful, faith filled journey. Our God, through Jesus Christ, changed me on the inside, in a phenomenal way! He loved me so very completely when I could not love myself and that changed everything for me. Today I am a humbly confident lady who knows her worth and value in the Lord. I am the righteousness of Christ and for all the amazing work our God has done in me I stay forever grateful. Thank you Jesus!

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


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