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The First Burning Bush Devotional was sent June 8, 1998.

DEVOTIONAL OF THE DAY

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2013

05.11.22

How Times Have Changed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2004 plus Website Update

04.20.22

Here's a Clue

Update: Progress is being made on creation of a new website with the address of burningbush.com. I have copied and pasted most of the devotionals into the new site. The two other websites are still accessible theburningbush.net and theburningbush.org. It is no longer possible for me to update the .net website. I can still update the .org website and will be posting there new content.

Hopefully, the new website will soon be completed! Please pray for that... Please remember that the welovgod.org email list service is going to go away soon. Possibly as early as the first of May although an extension may be granted for it to continue until the end of September. When this happens I will try to add you to a new list service. Information will be posted on the websites.

Praying for you,

Ed Wrather

Here's a Clue:

In Sweden, there has been a sensational murder trial, which has finally concluded. Helge Fossmo a minister in Knuby was found to be guilty of inciting Sara Svensson to kill his next-door neighbor, Daniel Linde and also Fossmo's second wife, Alexandra. Fossmo sent cell phone text messages to his lover (also the family nanny), Sara Svensson, telling her to kill.

Fossmo wanted Sara to think that God was sending her these messages and that was exactly what Sara thought. Fossmo wanted Linde killed because he was also having an affair with Linde's wife. The verdict of the court states, "Helge Fossmo ruthlessly made use of Sara Svensson's love for him and her dependency on him as a religious leader." Helge was sentenced to life in prison and Sara was sent to a psychiatric institution.

The tragic misuse of authority by some ministers is vividly seen in this situation. Some people do not have even a clue when it comes to determining the will of God. The people of God must always be alert to the abuse of authority and there are some ways to identify this when it happens. Sara Svensson appears to have had psychiatric problems, but even she could perhaps have avoided this terrible thing if she had been more aware of how to determine God's will. Helge was, in effect, saying, "God says you are to kill these people."

There are some things that God will never have you to do or tell you to do through any person even a minister. If someone tells you that God wants you to do one of these things you should immediately separate yourself from that person and find safety. What are these things? God will never tell you to do something that He has told you not to do in His Word (the Bible).

The Bible says in Exodus 20:13, "You shall not murder." It is one of the Ten Commandments. In the New Testament, we are told in Romans 13:9-10, "For the commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not bear false witness,' 'You shall not covet,' and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." Just in these verses, you can clearly see there are some things that God will never tell you to do, and a minister of God should never tell you to do. God will never tell you to: murder, steal, lie, or participate in sexual activity outside of marriage.

We are also given a general rule to apply when in doubt, "…all summed up in this saying, namely, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." If you are told to do something that will harm someone else that you would not want done to yourself this is most likely a violation of the rule of love.

Sadly, we do live in a world where some try to manipulate and abuse others for their own personal benefit. Knowing the Word of God will give you a clue as to whether or not what you are doing, or someone wants you to do is really the will of God. To protect yourself, you should, and every child of God should read and study the Bible. Then, when someone tries to manipulate you into doing something in violation of God's Word, you can tell them that they ought to "get a clue" and read the Bible sometime.

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2005 plus Update

04.15.22

Easter is Coming

But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death. – Philippians 3:7-10 NKJV.

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. – Romans 5:8 NKJV.

Where do we find hope when tragedy suddenly comes upon us? Do we blame God... or do we turn to God? When bad things happen to good people, is God responsible?

In 2005, when I originally wrote this devotional it had been a week of sudden tragedy coming upon unsuspecting and innocent people. There were several people killed and more injured as a man on trial for rape made his escape in Atlanta. In Wisconsin, seven people were killed at a church service and others injured with the shooter then killing himself.

Now here we are in the year 2022 and we have a war in Ukraine where Russia is committing genocide and we have had a shooting on a subway in Brooklyn, New York.

In the midst, of tragedy, trials, and the difficulties that sometimes come upon us in this life there is a Christian holiday that gives hope. Easter is about the hope that we have in Jesus Christ. Easter is about God's great love for us human beings. Easter is about the difference between Hell and Heaven. Easter is about the greatest friend that we will ever have and the worst enemy that we could possibly have.

(Some believe that the word Easter comes from a pagan holiday, it doesn't, but even if it did God has redeemed the word. God has redeemed the cross from being an instrument of execution to being a symbol of hope. Christianity Today has an excellent article about this mistaken idea about the word Easter. Here is the link: http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2009/april/was-easter-borrowed-from-pagan-holiday.html)

Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10b). Our enemy has come to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10a). All of creation was corrupted when Adam and Eve succumbed to the temptation of the enemy in the Garden of Evil. Since that time, bad and good things have happened on Planet Earth to all people. Just as, God sends rain upon all people the corruption of creation has resulted in bad things being possible for everyone that lives upon this planet.

When bad things happen in our lives, we should always remember that Jesus came that we might have the abundant life. We should remember that Jesus suffered and died on the cross so that we might have eternal life. We should remember that God through Jesus has experienced the very worst that life can do to anyone. Why was Jesus allowed to suffer such a cruel death on the cross? Because if you will seriously consider what Jesus went through for you, you can have no doubt about God's love for you (Romans 5:8).

When bad things happen to us, we need to remember that it is not the end of the story if we are children of God. Just as the death of Jesus on the cross was not the end of the story. No, God had the last word about that terrible thing that happened on the cross. God turned that terrible thing into the most wonderful thing that had ever happened when Jesus defeated death by rising from the dead. When that bad thing happens to you, remember that Easter is coming, some bright, shining, day you will know the rest of the story. Some day in eternity you will see how God took that terrible thing that happened to you and then brought the most beautiful and wonderful things out of the bad things that happened (Romans 8:28).

While here on this earth we will as with the apostle Paul have the fellowship of the sufferings of Jesus (Philippians 3:7-10), but praise God! Easter is coming!

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL

03.11.22

Be Still

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear,
Even though the earth be removed,
And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea. - Psalm 46:1-2 NKJV.

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has made desolations in the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariot in the fire.
Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our refuge. Selah. - Psalm 46:8-11 NKJV.

Livae Nanjikana and Junior Qoloni of the Solomon Islands planned to make a trip about 129 miles south along the coastlines of a couple of islands as their guide. They were in a small boat with only a small motor, but they had made the trip before and thought it would be safe enough.

Not long into their trip they ran into blinding rain which made it where they could not see the islands that they were following. Then, their GPS went out. They survived on just the little bit of food they had brought with them and rainwater. They drifted 250 miles north instead of south, ending up being rescued near Papua New Guinea.

Nanjikana said about their misadventure, "I had no idea what was going on while I was out there. I didn't hear about Covid or anything else. I look forward to going back home but I guess it was a nice break from everything." (Thanks to "The Guardian" for this great story; also, MSN 10.11.21; Sibconline 10.06.21)

As I look out my window this morning all is white as we have had a little snowstorm. All the imperfections are gone, all is pure as God has sent this snow upon us. It may be the last one before the spring rains and storms come. But wouldn’t it be nice if God could paint the whole world in a white splash of purity wiping out all of the ugliness that is so obvious in these days. It would be beyond wonderful if God could make the whole world, "white as snow (Isaiah 1:18)."

In their unintended adventure the two Solomon islanders found a little of a separate world, a godly world, emptied of fear of covid or any news of war. I do not know if these men know the Lord as their Savior, but I pray that they do. As I was reading a commentary about this verse this morning it said, "The way to know God is to be still, and the way to be still is to know God."

On a plane coming back home from Hawaii 27 years ago I was sitting next to a young woman from the Solomon Islands. She was going back to college in Enid, Oklahoma. She shared with me that she had been a party animal until she has received Jesus as her Savior. She said that there had been a move of God on the islands and one of the men responded to God's call and came to the United States to reach the islanders here. He first went to the college at Enid, and many were saved and then some from that college went out to other colleges to reach more of the islanders. God can change your life if you will let Him, I know that He has changed mine!

As verse 1 of Psalm 46 says, "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." This is where we will find our safety, not in governments; and nations will not find their safety in alliances either. The best place of safety whether for a person or a country is in the hands of God, trusting in Him. The Psalmist had experienced this for himself and for his nation and knew it to be true.

Let us dig deep into the great riches of God through His Word, through prayer, through fellowship with other believers, and through serving those who are hurting. As we do, we will discover the stillness of a refuge that takes us beyond the troubles of this world.

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL

03.10.22

Whatever Happens

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. - Philippians 1:27-28 NKJV.

The NIV puts Philippians 1:27-28 as: "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved - and that by God."

The letter to the Philippians was written by the apostle Paul while he was under house arrest for two years in Rome. Paul is wanting those believers in Philippi to be faithful in living according to Christian principles whether he could visit them again or not. Being a Christian and practicing their faith in a city that worshiped Caesar and several other false deities was difficult. Paul says to them, and I believe to us "Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ...."

In Ukraine, believers are facing horrific situations where simply surviving to live another day is difficult. Yesterday, the Russians targeted a maternity hospital, one of 18 hospitals they have attacked since the war began. The Russians agree to a ceasefire and to an evacuation route and then they bomb or shoot those trying to evacuate. This is what the Nazis did during WWII.

As I shared on Facebook, my wife's aunt Blondine Pruet (Married Jeanie's uncle who was in the US Army.) told her about when she, her mother and sister were trying to leave Belgium for a safer place in France. The Nazis announced a safe evacuation route for civilians and then the Nazis bombed and strafed them. Blondine was shot in her foot and eventually made it to a hospital in France. Her mother was shot in her stomach and taken to hospital in Belgium. They never saw her sister again. It took months, but Blondine and her mother were finally reunited by the Red Cross.

Putin and his army are just as bad as Hitler and the Nazis! Putin claims they are denazifying Ukraine when the reality is that the Russians are the ones acting like Nazis. For the Ukrainian's "conduct (to) be worthy of the gospel of Christ" must be challenging.

The NIV begins Philippians 1:27 as: "Whatever happens" and Paul is talking about whatever happens to him, but he is saying the same as to how the Philippians are to live their lives. "Whatever happens" they are to let their "conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ...." The apostle has an additional word for the Philippians believers, and I believe for those in Ukraine today, that they should live as God wants them to live "without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved - and that by God."

The fact of the situation in our world today and in your world today is that we do not know what is going to happen today, much less tomorrow. Only the Lord knows. So, let us determine now that "whatever happens" that we are going to live as God would want us to live regardless of the good or bad that comes into our lives.

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL

03.09.22

Comfortable People

Now in my prosperity I said,
"I shall never be moved."
LORD, by Your favor You have made my mountain stand strong;
You hid Your face, and I was troubled.
I cried out to You, O LORD;
And to the LORD I made supplication:
"What profit is there in my blood,
When I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise You?
Will it declare Your truth?
Hear, O LORD, and have mercy on me;
LORD, be my helper!" - Psalm 30:6-10 NKJV.

We have to admit in the western world that we are comfortable people in many ways. We are free for the most part to move around as we like, to work where we want, and to live where we want. For the most part we have been free from the fear of rogue nations suddenly disrupting our lives. Ukraine, however, has shattered our illusions of safety and is putting our comfortable lives at risk.

Today we hear of cities in Ukraine being under siege with water, food, and power cut off during wintertime. Russian forces continue to shell civilians, including hospitals. Power has been cut off to Chernobyl which if it continues for a lengthy period could result in the airborne release of nuclear material. There are several nuclear power plants in Ukraine that could be at a similar risk. In addition, there are about two million refugees with millions more expected who also need help. May our God help the people of Ukraine!

In these verses in Psalm 30 there is described three states or situations for us humans. The first situation is that of all of us comfortable people described as the Psalmist says, "Now in my prosperity I said, 'I shall never be moved.'" We have been under the illusion that our comfortable situation in life will continue forever, but that illusion has been shattered. The Psalmist had experienced this in his life and in this situation many rarely if ever think of God or of their need for God.

The second situation the Psalmist describes is when he says, "You hid Your face, and I was troubled." That is occurring in the lives of far too many in these days. It is so easy for our earthly things that we trust and value to suddenly disappear. The question at this point is what will we do spiritually. Will we begin to think of God? Will we let God into our lives? Of even greater loss than material things and a comfortable life is of our future with God in Heaven. Will we remember God?

Here we come to the third situation the Psalmist describes as he does turn to God, "I cried out to You, O LORD...." "Hear, O LORD, and have mercy on me; LORD, be my helper!"

This is a critical time spiritually in the lives of countless people across this world. Will they turn to God? Will you turn to God if you have never received Jesus as your personal Savior? Let us pray for the millions that are at the point of making that eternal life and death decision.

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL

03.08.22

Freaking Out!

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. - Philippians 2:5 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.

On the same day that Putin launched Russia's murderous invasion of Ukraine it caused some people to "freak out" across the world. I cannot imagine the horror that the people of Ukraine experienced on that day and are still experiencing. It is beyond maddening what is happening in Ukraine! So, today in one Ukrainian city because of the Russian shelling they are unable to collect the bodies from the street and dogs are tearing apart the bodies. Russians are killing civilians including women and children reducing cities to what looks like a tornado hit their homes!

In Flagler County Florida on the day that Putin invaded Ukraine a deputy observed a man run a stop sign and he was speeding 50 mph in a 30 mph zone. The man had several excuses for why he ran the stop sign and was speeding. However, he finally told the officer the truth, "I just found out that Putin said he's going to launch a thermal nuclear war against the world and I was trying to get back to my house to find out what is going on. I'm freaking out." (TitlePress 03.03.22; fox35orlando 03.04.22; FoxNews03.03.22.)

Personally, I do not believe that even Putin is crazy enough to fire off a nuke. Even if it was a very limited attack using a nuclear weapon it would bring a severe response. Putin is a bully and bullies love to threaten and bluster. He also said that if you impose any sanctions on Russia it would be an act of war. So far Putin has not launched any attacks on western nations for imposing sanctions. For those of us outside of Ukraine we need to view what is happening with horror, but with resoluteness that we will oppose this evil in whatever way that we can.

How do you cope with situations like this that cause you to want to "freak out?" If you know Jesus as your Savior, remember that you belong to Him. Jesus has you in His hand and the Father's hand as we are told in John 10:27-30, "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 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. I and My Father are one." We are secure in Jesus, and we need to consider how He would react to situations like what we are seeing today. As the apostle Paul says we need to have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5), thinking as Jesus would think.

Although, most of us are unable to go to Ukraine and fight the Russian invaders we do have another option. We can fight them with prayer and at the same time experience the peace that transcends, passeth understanding, replacing fear with a supernatural peace. "...in EVERYTHING by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God."

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL

03.07.22

Mistakes

Who can understand his errors?
Cleanse me from secret faults.
Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins;
Let them not have dominion over me.
Then I shall be blameless,
And I shall be innocent of great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer. - Psalm 19:12-14 NKJV.

American Airlines Flight 4817 was forced to make an emergency landing in New York City's LaGuardia airport at about 3pm on a Saturday afternoon. An alert woman passenger noticed a fellow passenger scrolling through photos and videos of some type of a device. He then pulled out an odd-looking device and appeared to be setting a timer. The alert passenger alerted a flight attendant to the possibility of a bomb being onboard and the pilot decided to make the emergency landing.

The bomber was escorted off the plane, placed face down on the tarmac, searched, and then interrogated for several hours until the truth was revealed. The truth was the man was an antique camera enthusiast! On the plane he had been looking at videos and photos of antique cameras and when his luggage was searched, they found... antique cameras! I don't know what happened at that point. Did they offer the man an apology? Did the airline reimburse him somehow? What happened with the woman who reported the man to the flight attendant? (PetaPixel 10.11.21; MSM 10.11.21; Inside Edition 10.11.21)

We all make sinful mistakes (Romans 3:23), and we also make unintentional mistakes like the woman who reported the antique camera enthusiast as being a bomb maker. Then there are mistakes and sins that we are unaware that we are committing. I certainly have made my share of mistakes and likely many that I am not even aware that I have committed. While I was a parole officer, I once raided a client's home and seized a plant that I believed was a marijuana plant. It certainly looked like a marijuana plant, but it wasn't. Embarrassing! And I did apologize.

Another mistake that I remember well during that time in my life was when visiting a young woman with a baby that had just been placed on my caseload. It appeared that the baby had been abused with bruises all over its body. I contacted the Department of Human Services and took a social worker experienced with these situations back to the woman's home. We thought the baby would have to be taken into DHS custody. However, I was mistaken as what appeared to be bruises was an unfortunate congenital condition. Embarrassing! And I did apologize.

Governments can also make mistakes. It looks like a horrific mistake that Putin has made invading a peaceful country. It looks like the United States and European countries have made a mistake depending upon Russia for oil and natural gas.

The United States has enough oil and natural gas for more than a hundred years. However, it looks like the government of the United States has made a mistake in imposing so many regulations that this country is no longer energy independent and unable to export natural gas to Europe which now needs it to replace Russian gas.

Almost unbelievable is the mistake the United States is making in continuing to buy Russian oil which results in funding the Russian attack on Ukraine. Will these governments admit their mistakes? Possibly, but it is taking far too much time for them to decide to do that and change course while innocent civilians are being murdered by the Russians. But, I digress.

King David says, "Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults." David is talking about those errors, mistakes, sins that we commit unknowingly. David wants to stand before his God without fault because he is the man after God's own heart. David knows that God knows everything and sees everything in his life and our lives.

I like the way that the Message puts this verse: "There's more: God's Word warns us of danger and directs us to hidden treasure. Otherwise how will we find our way? Or know when we play the fool? Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh! Keep me from stupid sins, from thinking I can take over your work; Then I can start this day sun-washed, scrubbed clean of the grime of sin. These are the words in my mouth; these are what I chew on and pray. Accept them when I place them on the morning altar, O God, my Altar-Rock, God, Priest-of-My-Altar."

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL

03.04.22

When You Fail

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

The NIRV (The New International Reader's Version) puts this as: "Even if godly people fall down seven times, they always get up. But those who are evil trip and fall when trouble comes."

While I was a probation and parole officer I conducted and wrote many pre-sentence investigations of people who had been convicted of a crime or crimes. This was usually performed prior to the sentence or penalty for their crime being given. I have interviewed murderers and murderer accomplices, armed robbers, burglars, embezzlers, alcohol and drug related offenders and probably more that I don't remember. It was not always a pleasant task talking with them and their victims, along with digging into their life histories with every tool available.

I want to mention this because by committing a crime or crimes they were societal failures. Most of those that I interviewed you would consider to be broken people. Their spirits had been broken, and many had little hope left for anything good in their lives. After they were sentenced by the court, I would have the ones not going to prison under supervision. While investigating them, and during the intake process I always tried to determine their spiritual condition. Those with a relationship with God were always more successful in completing supervision and restarting their lives.

Too many times I have seen people who have committed a moral failure in some way and are unable to face the consequences of it commit suicide. I do not remember any of my clients doing that and there is a reason for that. The reason is that all of them had reached a point where they had realized what the worst thing would be as a consequence of their actions and had decided that they could live with those consequences.

There are so many things that can happen in our lives that sometimes make it hard for us to keep living. I believe that decision to live is always easier to make when we have a relationship with the Lord. Not all of those heart-rending things are the result of a crime or necessarily even a sin. Early in my marriage I was laid off from three jobs in a period of about a year. It was difficult to go home and share that with my wife even though she always supported me.

After the last one of those three job layoffs, I was without work for several months while my wife began to work again. We were living in a mobile home on my parent's farm and our oldest son was still a baby. I was emotionally depressed and that is something that my Mother had been hospitalized several times for while I was in high school and later my sister was also hospitalized for depression.

During that difficult emotional time for me I read through the New Testament for the first time and God gave me strength. God gave me the strength to continue on with life and to make the right decisions of what to do from that point.

I have done some things in my life that I am not proud of, you could call them sins. How many have I committed, I have no idea. However, I know what to do in order to rise up again. I fall upon the mercy of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 1 John 1:9 tells us what to do, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

No matter how bad the situation may be in your life, no matter what your failure may be, God can give you the strength to go on, to continue to live and to live life well. Please allow God the opportunity to do that for you!

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL

03.03.22

The End of the World

Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. - Genesis 6:8 NKJV.

When will the end of the world occur? For many Ukrainians the end of the world is already upon them. For a couple of thousand Ukrainians, they have already left this world for the next because of the Russian onslaught targeting civilians. Genocide does appear to be what is currently ongoing in Ukraine.

The end of the world scenarios are of a couple of types. One is from the actions of human beings. A full-blown nuclear exchange would probably make it happen. Of course, the madman Putin has indicated the possible use of nukes. I think he might use tactical nukes, but is even he crazy enough to fire off a nuke at the United States or other western countries that have nuclear capability? I doubt it, but only God knows.

The second end of the world scenario will come from God Himself, and it is described in detail in the Biblical book of Revelation. The question is what will trigger the return of Jesus in the sky rapturing believers to go with Him to Heaven and the beginning of the Tribulation?

The end of the world has occurred once before in the past and we have a record of the causal reason for it. Here is what we are told in Genesis 6:6-8, "Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, 'I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.' But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord." I do not think that it is quite that bad on Planet Earth right now, but if we are honest with ourselves, we know it is getting closer.

There is one thing that we do see in this Biblical record that is encouraging for those of us who believe there will be a rapture - a rapture where believers will be taken from this world prior to the horrific Tribulation. What we see here is that God did protect and safeguard the only people on earth at that time who were not wicked evil people. "Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord."

Who are the people on this earth today who are similar to Noah and His family? Believers! Those who have believed upon Jesus Christ and been "born again - John 3:16)." Who are those today like those who perished in the Noahic flood? All those who do not know Jesus as their Savior. As we are told in Romans 3:23, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." And we are told this in James 2:10, "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all."

All of us would perish if not for God's gift. What is God's gift? Jesus Christ! Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came down from the glories of Heaven to walk upon this earth for some 30 years. Jesus who was tempted at all points without sin so He could become the perfect once for all sacrifice for all sins past, present, and future for those that believe upon Him. Receive the gift! "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23)."

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL

03.02.22

A Sudden Change

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. - 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 NKJV.

For those of us who were not alive during Hitler's blitzkrieg and reign of terror we are now seeing an example of it with Ukraine. Peaceful people going about their lives without a threat to any other nation suddenly having their lives upheaved with numbers approaching a million now fleeing for their lives. Others have taken up arms and are now facing life and death situations that they never thought they would face. To those of us looking on from outside it is shocking and horrifying to see that such a thing is even possible in the time in which we live.

A shocking and sudden change has happened in Ukraine. In some ways it will be like that for those who are left here on earth when the rapture occurs. Those who are left behind and who refuse the "mark of the beast (Revelation 13:17)" will at times find their lives at risk. Those without having the "mark of the beast" will be unable to buy or sell. In Revelation 13:16-18 we are told, "He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name." All of those refusing the "mark" will be likely hunted and put to death if they are found.

The truth is that not everyone believes there will be a "rapture" prior to the seven years of tribulation. Also, the word "rapture" is not in the Bible. However, for many of us it is clear that Bible speaks of the "rapture," which will be a time when Jesus will return as He promised in John 14:1-3, "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."

How can we miss that horrific time the Bible calls the "tribulation" in Revelation 7:14? Jesus tells His disciples and us how to miss out on that horrific "great tribulation" in John 14:5-6 as Jesus responds to the question of Thomas one of the disciples, "Thomas said to Him, 'Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?' Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.'"

There is only one way to Heaven and that way is through placing our belief and trust in Jesus Christ. We must believe in Him as we are told in John 3:16. Jesus offers the great invitation in Revelation 3:20, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me."

How do you respond to that invitation? You respond through prayer which is simply talking to Jesus. You ask Jesus for forgiveness of your sins, the bad things you have done and ask Him to be your Lord and Savior. It is not so much the words that you say, but whether you mean it in your heart.

Seeing all of the death and destruction in Ukraine along with the pandemic it does make us think that the "rapture" could come at any time. Jesus says in Matthew 24:36, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only." One thing I do know is that I do not want to be here on this earth during the "tribulation" and neither do you.

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL

03.01.22

Playing with Fire

Who among you fears the Lord?
Who obeys the voice of His Servant?
Who walks in darkness
And has no light?
Let him trust in the name of the Lord
And rely upon his God.

Look, all you who kindle a fire,
Who encircle yourselves with sparks:
Walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks you have kindled -
This you shall have from My hand: You shall lie down in torment. - Isaiah 50:10-11 NKJV.

The Message puts Isaiah 50:11 as: "But if all you're after is making trouble, playing with fire, Go ahead and see where it gets you. Set your fires, stir people up, blow on the flames, but don't expect me to just stand there and watch. I'll hold your feet to those flames."

On a Sunday afternoon in Provo, Utah a science experiment went wrong. A student says he was just attempting to make some rocket fuel on his stove when it blew up. The massive fireball that resulted caused 22 residents of the apartment building to be evacuated. Thankfully, the student and other residents did not suffer any injuries. Why was the student wanting to make rocket fuel? Did he have a rocket he needed fuel for? No one knows and so far, he has not been charged criminally although it has been referred to a prosecuting attorney. At least he wasn't trying to build his own nuclear reactor in his apartment as one man in Scandinavia once tried to do. (USA Today 02.22.22; New York Post 02.21.22)

Isaiah 50:10-11 sets before us a choice in life. The choice is that of believing there is a God having reverence for Him or to seek our pleasures from the world "playing with fire" as the Message puts it. There is no question that temporary comfort can be derived from worldly pleasure just as in the days of Isaiah standing near a fire could give you relief from the cold. It is a temporary relief from the pains of life.

Sadly, there are those who choose to play with fire, to enjoy wicked pleasures and ignore the will of God. There are those who value money above anything that God has to offer. There are those who hate any thought of God and attack anyone who reverences Him. On two of the Facebook pages that I have there are always those who feel the need to mock God.

In a category almost of their own are the murderous dictators like Putin, Hitler, Pol Pot and all the rest down to the Roman Caesars, Egyptian pharaohs and more. It seems like civilization has always been plagued by these evil people who insist on "playing with fire." They have and are committing their evil deeds as it were standing over the open pit of the fires of hell where some already are and soon Putin will be too. As Isaiah says about them, "You shall lie down in torment."

What are we to do when we are faced with the evil deeds of these people? Isaiah tells us, "Let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely upon his God."

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL

02.28.22

The Lord Never Panics!

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 NKJV.

But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint. - Isaiah 40:31 NKJV.

I have never been on the battlefield as a soldier, but I have been on the battlefield of life. Working in the oilfield facing difficult situations I knew where to turn when the situation looked impossible. I turned to the Lord. In my inspection unit cab, I kept a plaque which said, "The Lord Never Panics!" The Lord never failed to deliver me!

In 1982, when the oilfield suddenly died with businesses going bankrupt, and my own little oilfield inspection business, no longer had any business, I knew where to turn! I turned to God to lead me through another difficult time in my life. The Lord did not fail me!

As a parole officer walking into many dangerous situations my prayer every day was for God's protection and the Lord did not fail me!

As a pastor, during times of stress because of ministering to hurting people, I have often cried out to the Lord for help. I needed help to give comfort and peace to those who had such emotional pain. The Lord has never failed me!

The world is in such turmoil today as we have had two years of the pandemic, and now there is a war that threatens to spread far beyond Ukraine. During this stressful time the temptation is for us to seek help, to seek safety from others and from other things and to leave God out of the equation.

These two verses in Isaiah are a reminder of our need for God. God has the power to hold you together during the most difficult of times. He has the power to change the impossible into the possible. He has the power to heal, to protect, and to renew your strength.

F. B. Meyer in his commentary says this about these verses (and I have updated the language):

"Now, troubled soul, look unto these words. They are spoken by one who cannot lie, and spoken for you. They are as much meant for you as though they had never been claimed by another; and God is prepared to fulfill them in your life to the brim. He is with you at this moment, while you are pondering these words. He is your God, and will never act unworthily of your trust.

Where you are weakest and most easily overcome, He will strengthen you. Where you need help, He will give His, so that your difficult task shall be easily mastered. And when you are too weary to walk; when no more strength remains in you; where you are sinking on the battlefield or the steep hill - He will uphold you. Do you doubt? Behold at his right hand, Jesus sits, your Lover and Savior."

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL

02.25.22

Words

Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. - Ephesians 4:29 NKJV.

The NIV puts this as: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

The Message has it as: Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.

In Freeport, Pennsylvania with a population of 1,700 they were finally able to hire a new police chief. The person hired was the only one who applied for the position. His first duties were to hire two police officers. Apparently, the entire force had left for some reason prior to this. The next morning after the new police chief was hired, they found a handwritten letter along with keys stating his resignation. It is not clear as to the reasons for the resignation.

I had a friend who was the pastor of a nearby church many years ago. It was his first pastorate. The people arrived for worship one Sunday to find a note on the pulpit simply stating that he quit. I am not sure what has happened to him.

At a church I was at some years ago I was told about a previous pastor who announced in an evening service that he was leaving. The next morning, he had rented a U-Haul truck and was loading up everything out of the parsonage.

In the oilfield in the 1970s it was a frequent occurrence to hear of an entire drilling crew or sometimes just an individual walking off from the job. It was said that they had "twisted off." Personally, I have only "twisted off" from a job one time and that was while I was in the oilfield. It was not on a drilling rig location, but prior to leaving to take an inspection unit to a rig.

A new salesman cussed me out in front of my crew, why? I didn't know at the time except that I thought that they wanted me to leave for some reason. So, I left. I was 30 years old at the time. I borrowed some money with my Dad's help and started my own company.

The truth is that you can push people too far and they may "twist off" or worse. In my situation I believe God used it for good to eventually lead me in another direction with my life.

In every area of interpersonal relations our words matter. As the Message indicates, as it translates Ephesians 4:29, words can be a gift. It is also clear that words can be a curse.

Words are especially important between parents and children and in Ephesians 6:4 we are told "And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord." I do regret some of the words that I have said to my sons and if I could take those words back and replace them with kinder gentler words I would. But that is the thing with words, once said, they have been said and there is no way to unsay them. However, we can apologize. We can ask for forgiveness. We can pray and ask for help to do better in the future.

Before you say the words that will push someone off of a figurative cliff, see if there might be a better choice of words. Because words can be a gift, and they can be a curse.

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL

02.24.22

Welcome to the War

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. – Ephesians 6:10-12 NKJV.

A man tells the story about his father who shipped out for boot camp on the day after Christmas 1943. By early June, when the allied forces were storming the bloody beaches of Normandy, his dad was on a troop ship crossing the Atlantic. He landed on Omaha beach the first week of July 1944. He was only 21 years old and fresh off the farm. He says what he remembers most about his first days in northern France were seeing the casualties of terrifying engagements on the beaches, in the pillboxes and in the hedgerows. He became a casualty himself just a few days later.

I had an older friend, who is gone now, whose story was similar, he went ashore on D-Day. He survived that, but then was captured by German forces, and he was fortunate that they didn't kill him as they did many captives. A video of a young Ukrainian soldier this morning shows him saying, "We are under heavy bombardment, Mom...Dad I love you!" Welcome to the war, young man. In a sense, that is what this passage of Scripture is, it is a welcome to spiritual warfare, a briefing on the battle that has been raging since the beginning of time.

We can bring all of our troops home from everywhere. We can let Russia and China divide up the rest of the world. But you know what? They will still not like us. They will still come after us. The Nazis and the old Soviets would have gotten us if they could have.

What we are really talking about here is not physical, opposing armies and nations. The war that we are seeing today and our potential for becoming more involved is an age-old spiritual war. The devil is that kind of enemy. We may decide that we are not going to fight but guess what the enemy has not declared a truce and we are in this spiritual war whether we like it or not.

1 Peter 5:8 says, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour." If you are seeking to live your life according to godly principles. If you are seeking to be obedient to the Lord in all areas of your life. If you are praying for yourself, your family and for others. If you are, you can be sure the devil and his demons are after you.

So, what are we to do? The apostle Paul then tells us: "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 6:13-18)."

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL

02.23.22

Having a Dumb Attack

And David's heart condemned him after he had numbered the people. So David said to the Lord, "I have sinned greatly in what I have done; but now, I pray, O Lord, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly." - 2 Samuel 24:10 NKJV.

Ever since the trucker convoy and protest in Ottawa, Canada many have tried to support the truckers. After emergencies powers were granted to the Canadian government resulting in the trucks and protestors being cleared out, the anger about the situation has grown.

One of those people upset about the situation was a 20-year-old man living in Akron, Ohio. The unidentified man decided to strike back and called in a bomb threat to Ottawa. There was a problem, however, since he called law enforcement in Ottawa, Ohio and not Ottawa, Canada. He has been arrested with pending charges. Capt. Brad Brubaker of the Putnam County Ohio Sheriff's Office made this statement about the cause of the 20-year-old's actions and said that the man was suffering from a "20-year-old dumb attack." (Lima Ohio dot com 02.10.22; Daily Mail 02.23.22)

I don't know if you have ever had a "dumb attack" but many of us have. Humans have been afflicted with this malady of having "dumb attacks" ever since the Garden of Eden.

Adam and Eve eating the fruit of the tree that God had specifically told them not to eat - it was a dumb attack.

Cain killing his brother in a fit of jealousy - it was a dumb attack.

Some of the Hebrews rising up against the God given authority of Moses - it was a dumb attack.

King Saul deciding to make the holy offering himself and not to wait for the prophet - it was a dumb attack and cost him the kingdom.

Jonah heading the opposite direction instead of going to witness to the wicked Ninevites - it was a dumb attack and Jonah can tell you it was really dark in the belly of a big fish! Probably smelly too....

Ananias and Sapphira lying to the apostles about the amount of money they received from the sale of property - it was a dumb attack, and they went directly from this earth to Heaven above as they were struck dead on the spot.

King David who had more than one "dumb attack" but was still a man after God's own heart shows us what to do if we do have one of those attacks. What do you do? You fall to your knees and confess to God that what you did was dumb, stupid, foolish and ask His forgiveness. It worked for David, and if we are serious about it the Lord will forgive us too.

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL

02.22.22

God's Kingdom is Coming!

Daniel's description of the king of Babylon, King Nebuchadnezzar's dream:

You, O king, were watching; and behold, a great image! This great image, whose splendor was excellent, stood before you; and its form was awesome. This image's head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze, its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. - Daniel 2:31-35 NKJV. Daniel states to King Nebuchadnezzar the details of the dream he appears to have forgotten. Then, Daniel proceeds to give an interpretation of the dream. The image seen in the dream pictures the current kingdom and three coming kingdoms with historical accuracy.

Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom represented by Gold.

Medo-Persian kingdom represented by silver.

Greece represented by bronze.

Rome represented by Iron.

The Roman Empire's armies have been described by historians as iron legions as they crushed all those who opposed them. The Roman Empire in the western world was the longest lasting empire.

Commentators believe that iron also represents the tribulation empire since the empire during the tribulation will have similar characteristics as the Roman Empire.

Now seen on the world stage are the Russian army's hundreds of tanks preparing to roll across Ukraine. Will they be the instrument through which the tribulation empire is eventually established after the rapture?

The good news is that Daniel's interpretation foresees the destruction of the tribulation kingdom by the "stone", or you could say "rock." This "stone" is Jesus Christ, and at the end of the seven years of the Tribulation, He will win victory at Armageddon establishing the forever kingdom of God.

Daniel 2:44-45: And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold - the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and its interpretation is sure."

Matthew 6:10, "Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL

02.21.22

Within and Without

Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside (them that are without - old KJV), redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. - Colossians 4:5 NKJV.

It is clear that the apostle Paul is speaking in these verses about those who are outside or without a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Why are there those who do not know Jesus as their Savior? Some have still not heard the truth about eternal life that Jesus is, as Jesus Himself says in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." That is at least one reason for us to be sure that anything that we say in the presence of unbelievers should be of a nature that is beneficial to their turning to Christ. That is why Paul adds, "Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt...." As Ephesians 4:29 says, and I like the way the NIV puts this, "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."

Another reason that there are still those who are outside or without a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ is they do not find what Jesus has to offer attractive. To them the offerings of the world are far more attractive and is what they desire to seek.

Once after sharing my testimony with a young couple, they rejected Christ. The reason they gave was that they would have to give up dancing because the church they would attend did not believe you should dance. (Although, I don't remember "Thou shalt not dance" as being one of the Ten Commandments, but of course, dancing with someone other than your husband or your wife in an immoral way would be sinful.) Dancing was far more important to them than what Jesus was offering. I pray that at some point in time in the 30 something years since, that they have come to know Jesus as their Savior.

Some people reject Jesus because they find alcohol or drugs or sex outside of marriage more attractive than Jesus. Some people are too busy making money to be bothered with the distraction of putting their faith in Jesus. The world has a whole arsenal of attractions that many consider to be better options than living a life for Jesus.

Another reason that I have encountered for rejection of Jesus is that they could never be good enough to be saved. Ephesians 2:8-10 tells us that this is not true, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Yes, as Romans 3:23 tells us "we all have sinned" and fall short of the perfection of God.

The truth is that if we had to be sinless in order to be saved, none would be saved. Only Jesus has lived a sinless life as Hebrews 4:15 says, "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." No, we just have to come as we are, sinful creatures, and fall upon the mercy of Jesus to forgive us of our sins. Jesus takes us just as we are and then begins to change and transform us to look more and more like Him (Romans 8:29).

If you are outside of faith in Jesus, meaning you have never prayed for Jesus to forgive you of your sins and be your Lord and Savior. God is calling you! As Jesus says in Revelation 3:20, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." Open up the door of your heart, pray and ask Jesus to come in; ask Him to forgive you of your sins, and be your Savior and Lord. I did exactly that nearly 52 years ago and I have never regretted the best decision I have ever made in my life! And you won't either!

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL

02.18.22

Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, "Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish." - Luke 13:1-5 NKJV.

Yesterday, in Oklahoma City there was a fire on a Putnam City School Bus with four children on board. Thankfully, the bus driver, Bob Olmstead, noticed the smoke coming from the battery compartment underneath his seat and was able to evacuate all of the students before the fire erupted. It could have been a very tragic situation, but Olmstead who had been driving school buses for 29 years knew what to do and all of the students were kept safe.

It reminded me of my short career of driving a school bus for Taft Junior High School in Oklahoma City when I was 21 years old. I had driven a school bus for our little rural school my senior year in high school and still had a commercial chauffer's license. Going to college and needing income from a part-time job I took the job and kept driving for a total of three months.

In 1971, I was driving a 66-passenger school bus taking kids home and one day I counted 110 kids that got onto the bus. I'm sure that wouldn't be allowed now! But it was a different time, and I had no choice but to drive off with the aisle filled with kids and kids standing all around me. At that time with a bus that long it was difficult to make some turns and one of those turns was at Pennsylvania Avenue and turning onto 10th street. That was when some boys in the back set some seats on fire, although it was mostly smoke, and I had to evacuate all of those kids off of the bus. The stuffing in the seats were of a fire retardant material which kept the bus from being engulfed in fire, but it did fill the bus with smoke.

As I said, it was a different time, so I kicked about six boys off the bus that I thought were involved (They only had a few blocks to walk.) I then reloaded the bus and continued the route taking kids home. I guess that some of the kids could have had some problems from the smoke inhalation, but they were tough, and were all back at school the next day.

When those boys started the fire, it was at exactly the worst place for them to do that, at the worst time, with heavy traffic and an overloaded bus. But isn't that the way it usually happens? Instead of things happening at the right place and the right time, too many times it is at the wrong place and the wrong time. Often, at the very worst possible time!

Jesus talked about a couple of those wrong place at the wrong time tragic occurrences in the Gospel of Luke. It does not sound like any of the Galileans that Pilate murdered had committed any crimes. No, they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time to be caught up in Pilate's murderous rage. At least that's what it sounds like. Then, Jesus gives another example of a tower suddenly falling down on 18 people striking them dead. Again, they were in the wrong place at the worst possible time. Well, Jesus seems to be saying that bad things just happen in this old world ever since all of creation was corrupted when Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden.

We know bad things do happen, but what do we do about protecting ourselves from it? Jesus indicates that the primary thing that we ought to do is to make sure that we are in a right relationship with God. He says, "...unless you repent you will all likewise perish." If you don't know Jesus as your personal Savior, I plead with you to fall to your knees right now, confess your sins to the Lord Jesus Christ and ask Him to come into your life and save your soul!!

What else can we do to keep from being at the wrong place at the wrong time? Every day we should pray and ask God to protect us and to protect our family and friends. Every day we should ask God to lead us and guide us through each step of the way, because only God really knows where those Tower of Siloam's are located.

(If you were one of those students that were in the school bus that day when there was the fire while I was driving, please contact me. I would like to know what God has done in your life, because I've been praying for you!)

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL

02.17.22

Right Place at the Right Time

For he says,
"In the time of my favor I heard you,
and in the day of salvation I helped you."
I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation. - 2 Corinthians 6:2 NKJV.

Citrus County, Florida Sheriff's Office and marine units were in the right place at the right time for a pilot whose plane was sinking. The pilot had landed in the water and was seen crawling out of the plane and then standing on top of the sinking plane. Deputies were able to rescue the pilot. Thankfully, they were all in the right place at the right time. (ABC News 11.12.21; Florida News Times 11.12.21; and various other news venues.)

For that pilot in Florida, it was a time of "God's favor" with his surviving a forced landing in the ocean and with rescuers there in the right place ready to assist. Things like this simply do not "happen." If the pilot had not already been a believer, this event should have at least made him think about God.

I messaged back and forth last night with a person who lives in San Francisco. He had just followed me, and I had just followed back on one of the social media platforms. I rarely engage in messaging like that, but believed it was important last night. I was eventually able to turn the conversation to spiritual things and found that this person is from Macao, China and that his parents are Buddhists and that he is an atheist. He eventually said that we should take a little of the best of all religions and make one. I then shared with him that there is only one religion, Christianity, through which a person can have eternal life. As Jesus says in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." I gave him a link to my website and to my testimony.

Last night was a time of "God's favor" for that man. It was no accident that I was able to share with Him about Jesus and the way of salvation. That could have been "the day of salvation for him. I may never hear from him again, but at least He was able to receive a message of truth about God that I don't believe he had ever heard before.

Years ago, when I was working in the oilfield, I was called out at night to go to a drilling rig location where one of our inspection units was located. When I arrived there, I was told that it was at another location where I was needed and was given complicated instructions as to how to find it. It was still in the night when I finally found it out in the middle of nowhere. But it was at the right place and the right time for one man that I was able to share Jesus with that night.

If you are ever in the right place at the right time - it is likely a divine appointment. Don't miss it!

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL

02.16.22

Worldliness - Pt 2

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, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. - Romans 12:1-2.

When the radio became readily available some Christians refused to listen to radios. When television became readily available many Christians refused to buy TVs and some that had them turned them off because of the programming. When the Internet became available many Christians refused to listen or watch anything on computers that was on the Internet. Now we all have cell phones that we carry around that are Internet capable with friends sending us cute little videos.

If you have a radio, TV, computer, and a cell phone it is easy to become very saturated with the world's messages. The truth is that it is harder now than ever before to protect ourselves spiritually from worldliness. We are bombarded with the world's messages and at times it seems they are coming from every direction.

How do we protect ourselves from worldliness? What we are really asking is how do we protect our hearts, guard our hearts from the evil of the world? Proverbs 4:23 says, "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life." The NIV puts this as "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it." How do we do this? Here are some suggestions:

1. We must be in a right relationship with our Lord. Romans 12:1 and 1 John 1:9 tells how to do that. Sometimes it is not enough to do this privately and we need to publicly rededicate, recommit our lives to the Lord.

2. We need to fill our hearts with so many good things (And Philippians 4:8 gives us a list.) that there isn't room for the world to takeover. Remember Matthew 4:4 where Jesus rebukes the devil while quoting the Old Testament, "It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'" Just as you have two or three meals a day you need the Word of God just as much. Your heart needs to be filled up with it.

3. Do not seek out or store up the world's messages in your heart or make them easily available to you. Romans 13:14 speaks of that, "But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts." The NIV puts this as: "Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh." So, do not provide or store up the world's filth and do not even think about it. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, be dead to sin and alive to Christ (Romans 6:11). Strive to have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthains 2:16) and reject the messages of the world. Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1).

Don't forget: 1 John 4:4, "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."

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL

02.15.22

Worldliness

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

I have been reading a book by Vance Havner entitled, "Holy Desperation." As I was reading this morning, he shared about hearing Billy Graham make a confession about worldliness. Graham said, "I heard Kenneth Cansler preach the other day on worldliness, and I got under conviction, and I've got to do something about what he talked about. I find myself laughing at things on television that I wouldn't have laughed at ten years ago. And I've got to do something about it."

Havner says that he knew what Graham was talking about. Havner says he used to watch tennis tournaments on Sunday afternoons. He says, "You wouldn't go to hell for looking at things like that, but as I sat there one afternoon, a voice, not my own, said, 'You're preaching tonight to people who are standing between life and death, between heaven and hell, and there's a better way to get ready for it than what you're doing now.'" Havner says that was the end of watching tennis tournaments on Sunday afternoons.

Jim Elliott who died a martyr for the Lord Christ in South America once said, "A friend of mine invited me over to his house to watch television, and God spoke to me with Psalm 119:37, "Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity." The NKJV puts this verse as: "Turn away my eyes from looking at worthless things, and revive me in Your way."

Who among us can say that we don't need to repent of looking at worthless things? I know that I do. I read what these godly men have said about worldliness and far too many of us, myself included, need to drop our heads in shame and ask the Lord to "revive me in Your way."

Quoting one of my own devotionals: 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...."

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2004

02.14.22

Valentine's Day

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have 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. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. - John 3:14-17.

The history of Valentine's Day is shrouded by the centuries of time. The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints with the name of Valentine or Valentinus all of whom were martyred. One story tells of when Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage for young men believing that they made better soldiers when they were not burdened with wives and families. According to the story, Valentine, seeing how unjust this was defied the Emperor, and in secret continued to marry young lovers. When the Emperor found out, he had Valentine executed.

From these ancient legends which all involved great trauma and demonstrations of love Valentine's Day has taken on a life of its own which centuries ago would never have been thought about. In the Philippines, the day was celebrated setting a new world's record with 5,122 couples all kissing at the same time.

Thousands viewed the event and cheered as they kissed at the stroke of midnight on Friday. The Philippines has many problems including a massive budget deficit, crime, and corruption. The world record kissing event along a 1.2-mile highway by Manila Bay was a nice break according to Mayor Lito Atienza who said, "Let's take a break from the troubles we have been having, from our work, from political bickering, after all, it's Valentine's Day."

Love is still alive and well in the 21st Century although love probably had little to do with the record kiss in Manila. Love is still alive and celebrated most likely because real love is motivated by a love for God and by His great example of sacrificial love. Real, Christian love, once experienced is unforgettable and has the power to change the course of lives. Perhaps the origin of Valentine's Day really goes back to the sacrificial love of Jesus who died so that we would have a Savior.

What better way to celebrate Valentine's Day then to in some way follow the sacrificial example of Jesus, give up something in our lives, to show that love, demonstrate that love to someone else. As Jesus says, "A new commandment I give you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35)."

Happy Valentine's Day!!

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2004

02.11.22

Pursued

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.

When I was 18 years old, I was out with some friends and made a decision to do something that, I've regretted much of my life. The Lord has forgiven me, and I have forgiven myself; but it was still a bad decision, and a bad thing to do. God knew that too, and He tried to stop me.

After leaving my friends, I decided to drive to another town. While traveling on the interstate between the towns there was a heavy rain, and I was at the tail end of a line of cars maybe a mile long going 75 to 80 mph. Halfway to my destination a highway patrol car zoomed past and when he reached the head of the line of speeding cars, he turned on his lights and succeeded in pulling two cars over to the side of the road. This was a determined man, because he must have jumped out of his patrol car with his slicker suit on, and a flashlight. He then began trying to flag all the cars down, so he could give them a ticket too. All of us in the remaining cars, including mine, just moved to the outside lane; and continued on. But God had tried very hard to change my course.

Looking back now, I can see that it was a warning, and an attempt by God to save me from myself. I'm not sure what the change in course would have brought about, but I know it would have been better.

Noah was "divinely warned" and he heeded the warning, resulting in salvation from the flood for himself, and his family. Noah, for decades, was the one God used to try to change the course of mankind. Mankind laughed at Noah, and at his attempt to warn them. If only they had listened, this world might be a much better place. At least it would have been a different place than it is now.

So often, when we are on the wrong course, the wrong path, headed in the wrong direction, God sends warnings into our lives. God is like a highway patrol officer speeding by us, and then trying to flag us down before we destroy ourselves - warning us of the canyon we are speeding toward.

Has it ever happened to you? You knew what you were going to do, or where you were headed, was wrong? Not only that, but God sent warnings into your life, and you refused to listen? Maybe you are in that very situation right now? If you are, I would encourage you to listen, and take the time to consider the consequences. God's great love is speeding after you, pursuing you, trying to catch you, trying to get your attention. Stop, before it is too late.

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2004

02.10.22

Treadmill Living

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.

How would you feel about running a marathon on a treadmill? Think about it. The scenery would never change with only the digital readout revealing how many more miles were ahead. Michael Wardian has set a world record time running a 26.2 mile marathon on a treadmill. He beat the previous world record by seven minutes. Wardian said about the two hours and almost 24 minutes of running on a treadmill that, "It's difficult just because you always know where you are so you can't trick yourself. You just look down and you know where you are." Christopher Farley, owner of a new running store where the record was set said, "The monotony of a treadmill - the idea that you have to stay balanced for almost two-and-a-half hours - is a lot harder. It really becomes claustrophobic."

Some of us know exactly what Wardian and Farley are talking about. Why? Because we have been running on the treadmill of life with the scenery never changing and the years passing by. The weight of the world's demands, and the continued participation in habitual sin have us running in place never moving forward in the Christian life.

The writer of the book of Hebrews urges us to lay aside "every weight." In training for athletic events, weights are sometimes worn to gain stamina and to warm up for an event. The writer of Hebrews is saying that this is the real thing, this is the race of your life, and it is time to put aside everything that would slow you down. Lay aside the demand of the world to buy the clothes worn by friends, or fellow employees. Lay aside the desire to own or lease a vehicle equivalent to that of your friends. Put down the idea that you have to live in the best neighborhood, send your kids to the best schools, and have the best vacations. Lay aside the idea that your husband or your wife must resemble the actors, actresses, and models, which appear in the media. You must grab hold of the fact that you must live in the real world where everything and everyone will not always be perfect.

The writer of Hebrews also encourages us to lay aside the "sin which so easily ensnares us." These are besetting sins; habitual sins, which once they have gained a place in our lives, are difficult to overcome. These ensnaring, besetting sins include alcohol/drug addictions, and sexual sins. Here we see an important spiritual fact and that is that it is possible to lay aside even these sins, or we would not be told to do so. How can we lay them aside? We must follow the instructions, which follow verse 1. We must look to Jesus who has the power to enable us to lay aside these things. The apostle Paul in Philippians 4:13 said, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." You too, through Christ Jesus, can do all things the Christian life requires including the laying aside of the weight of worldly things and ensnaring sins.

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2004

02.09.22

When Blessings Don't Act Like Blessings

Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. So he said to them, "Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf." And his brothers said to him, "Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?" So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, "Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me." So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, "What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?" - Genesis 37:5-10.

While walking to my car this morning in a store's parking lot God reminded me of an important truth. In the parking lot I observed a mother with three children trying to calm down a six- or seven-year-old girl who wasn't getting her way. The girl was crying and screaming at the top of her voice. Later my wife shared she had viewed a young mother with several children that were out of control. The mother would tell the children to stay still in one spot and it was as if they had not heard anything at all. Even though the mother said it several times the children were still running wild! Sometimes blessings don't act like blessings.

Without any doubt, Joseph was a tremendous blessing, which came straight from the hand of God. However, Joseph appeared to be a spoiled young man with delusions of grandeur. His father was shocked, and his brothers were angered by this dream that Joseph supposedly had. What hope could there be for a child like this? How could such a child be a blessing? Israel did have a small glimmer of the truth as the Bible records, "And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind (Genesis 37:11)."

Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and ended up in Potiphar's house in Egypt. In Joseph's life, we also see some blessings that did not appear to be blessings: How could being thrown into a pit be a blessing? How could being sold into slavery be a blessing? How could being falsely accused of rape be a blessing? How could being imprisoned unjustly be a blessing? How could correctly predicting the death of a man be a blessing?

At the very end of the Book of Genesis, we see why these things, which do not appear to be blessings, were indeed wonderful blessings from God. Joseph in Genesis 50:20 says to his brothers who fear him after the death of their father, "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." Even disobedient, prideful, spoiled children are blessings from God. Of course, we are responsible before God to properly discipline them and train them in the admonition of the Lord. Through seeking the Lord's strength and wisdom for the proper discipline and training of our children we will find that, God is also training and blessing us (Ephesians 6:4; 7-8).

Even some of the most terrible things that can happen to a person in life may actually be blessings as the life of Joseph gives testimony. The next time some bad thing happens to you, don't be so quick to assume that it is a bad thing. It could actually be a tremendous blessing from God because, "...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)."

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2004

02.08.22

Razzle Dazzle

But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works. - 2 Corinthians 2:11-15.

Michael Schwartz has been arrested for running a con game down in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Schwartz is a master safecracker and also has a criminal record dating back to 1930 (Schwartz in 93 years old). The con game Schwartz has been running is called "Razzle Dazzle" and is also known as "Cajun Bingo". Razzle Dazzle is a board game and players try to roll marbles into numbered holes. If they are able to roll the marbles correctly, they win a $1,000 jackpot. However, winning is virtually impossible the way the board is set up. It is described as a board game where players roll marbles into numbered holes in hopes of winning a $1,000 jackpot. The board is set up in such as way that winning is virtually impossible. Assistant U.S. Attorney Al Winters said about this, "But if you even come close to winning, these guys talk fast, miscount numbers and everything else. It's a gambling game and it's also a scam."

The devil aka satan also has a "Razzle Dazzle" game going and he has many assistants to help him. Paul says there are, "false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ." Sadly, there are many who are busy trying to win people not to Christ but to false religion. At least one false religion claiming to be Christian has their own Bible with many words changed and deleted. This goes beyond translation to deliberate deception. They are busy drawing the naive and gullible into "Bible studies" of their perverted version of the Bible. How can they find the truth when the truth has been altered? It is not possible, and many have and are being deceived by this "Razzle Dazzle" game of the devil's henchmen.

There is a call across the United States to join together with other denominations and religions in unity. How can we join with them when they are against everything that we love? The apostle Paul makes it clear who we are fighting against when he says, "For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness...." It is a travesty for non-Christian chaplains to be permitted to minister to those in the armed forces of the United States. How can someone who is a devil worshipper be made a chaplain?

There are a lot of "Razzle Dazzle" games being run in the world in which we live. Before you join a Bible study, you might want to ask if your Bible is okay to use. If they insist that you have to use their special Bible - run don't walk to the nearest exit. If Jesus to them is just a god among many gods - flee before it is too late. If they have predicted again and again the exact date of the end of the world (So far we know they have not been right) - the Bible calls that being a false prophet because their prophecy did not happen. If someone tells you that you can become a god like Jesus, ask them where in the Bible it says that and hand them your Bible.

The devil's "Razzle Dazzle" games are just like Michael Schwartz' games; you can never win and in the devil's game the stakes are your eternal soul.

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL

01.24.22

The Right Path

God said this to Joshua just prior to the children of Israel entering the promised land:

Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. - Joshua 1:7-8 NKJV.

The Message in part puts Joshua 1:7-8 as: Don't get off track, either left or right, so as to make sure you get to where you’re going. And don't for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you'll get where you're going; then you'll succeed.

When I was about 13 years old my Dad had to go work for the day. If I remember right, he was still working at the Clinton-Shermon Air Force Base near us doing some maintenance work. Our land was already prepared for planting cotton but since the wind was really blowing the dirt was blowing. My Dad wanted me to use a little Ford tractor that we had with a spring tooth plow and streak sections of about 80 acres to keep the dirt from blowing so much. Simple enough for me to do and it took several hours. I was almost finished when I saw a coyote and I started chasing it with the tractor. That was when I ran into a bunch of old discarded barbed wire and got the tractor and the plow all tangled up in it. It took a long time to cut the wire off of everything and I'm sure even the coyote was laughing at me!

It is entirely too easy to wander off the right path of life and become all tangled up in things far from what God wants. It probably won't be a coyote that we begin to chase, but it may be a career choice that is good, but not the best that God has for us. We also may wander off the right path of life because of the attractions of sinful things - you know what they are. There are so many little things that can grab our attention and lead us astray.

It took me hours that day to be able to cut out of the barbed wire and finish up with the plowing. Once we have gotten off the right path in life it may take us years to turn back to the way that God has for us. Sadly, some may never make it back to that path God had originally planned for their lives. It is all too easy to become all tangled up in things far from the will of God.

God's instructions to Joshua are still His instructions to us today. If we want success in life, we must include time in the Word of God. We need to read it, meditate upon it, and memorize it. As Jesus told that old devil when He was being tempted in the wilderness: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4)."

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL

01.19.22

Sin's Wages

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.... - Romans 3:23 NKJV.

For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 6:20-23 NKJV.

The long arm of the law has finally caught up with 30-year-old Jorge Navarro. Jorge was the head teller at the URW Federal Community Credit Union and he used his position to enable him to embezzle $617,000 from his employer. He was successful in getting away with it for a couple of years in part because he replaced the money with counterfeit bills. That allowed him to have time to take off with it all. He did send a text a day or two after he took off to the CEO of the credit union saying that he had taken the money.

Jorge apparently used the money to set up a cocaine and marijuana trafficking operation. He was arrested after reports of gunfire from his neighbors and police found blood, guns, cocaine, marijuana, money counting machines and $74,000 in cash. Jorge claimed he had been robbed of $200,000. No word as to where the embezzled money went. He has been charged with counterfeiting and embezzlement.

Jorge was charged with one count of embezzlement and one count of counterfeiting along with possession of firearms during commission of a felony. He has pleaded guilty to those charges. Criminal penalties for counterfeiting can be as much as 25 years in prison and $250,000 in fines, but the penalties can be enhanced with fines being doubled. Criminal penalties for embezzlement can be 10 years in prison and fines as much as the embezzled amount. (CBS17 Durhan NC 12.20.21; U.S. Attorney's Office News Release; News and Observer 12.20.21 and various other news venues.)

Just as there are criminal penalties for our bad deeds here on Planet Earth there are spiritual penalties for doing bad things in violation of the spiritual laws God has given to us. In Romans 6:23 we are told of one of those spiritual penalties as it is plainly stated: "For the wages of sin is death...." The ultimate penalty for sin is to spend eternity in hell. We are told about this in Revelation 20:11-15, Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. Those are some really high wages!

The truth is that as Romans 3:23 states we have all sinned and the only perfect person who ever lived was Jesus Christ, God's Son, who was tempted at all points without sin (Hebrews 4:15) and became the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Thank God that the second part of Hebrews 6:23 can become our testimony if we receive Jesus Christ as our Savior "...but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Romans 6:23 sets before us two ways of living and dying. We can reject Jesus as our Savior and live and die for the things of this world suffering the second death that we are told about in Revelation 20:15. Or, we can live for Jesus now and forever by receiving Him as our Savior. Jesus says in 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." Jesus also says in Revelation 3:20, "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." And we are told in 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

If you haven't already done so, what better time than now to pray and invite Jesus into your heart and life asking Him to forgive you of your sins, the bad things you have done. You can pray a prayer similar to this one: Dear Lord Jesus, I believe you died on the cross for my sins and rose again on the third day. Please forgive me for the sins, the bad things I have done, I want to change and be like You. Please help me to change, be my Lord and my Master and my Savior. In your Name, Lord Jesus, I ask You to come into my heart and save me.

Just saying the words will not save you, you will only be saved if you truly mean what you say in your heart. Romans 10:13 says, "For 'whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.'"

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2017

12.27.22

Ask for Help

Our help is in the name of the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. - Psalm 124:8 NKJV.

I rise before the dawning of the morning, And cry for help; I hope in Your word. - Psalm 119:147 NKJV.

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

We often hear advice such as if you fall down, get back up, or if life throws you off, get back on the horse. If you do a google search for the phrase "get back on the horse" you will find more than three million results. Recently, talking with a friend I recalled the first time I rode a horse. It was a very short ride!

When I was about eight years old my family was visiting at my Aunt and Uncle's home. They had several horses on their farm; and my two cousins who were older, saddled up horses for them, my sister, and for me. The cousins and my sister did not want me to go with them, but my Aunt and Uncle made them saddle another horse for me. As soon as we were all on our horses the cousins and my sister took off at a gallop, and my horse took off too. My horse, instead of following the others, headed directly for a tree and for a low hanging limb where my ride abruptly ended with me falling to the ground. The horse took off, and there was no way for me to get back on the horse again.

December is the time of the year when many are thrown off the horse of life. Merle Haggard says in one of his songs, "If we make it through December, Everything's gonna be all right." December can be difficult with what should be a joyous Christmas season instead bringing to mind painful memories and failures of the past. In Haggard's song he has been laid off from a job at a factory. Early in my marriage I was laid off three different times from jobs in a year's time. One of those times was just a few days before Christmas. An elderly man recently shared with me about how his Mother had suddenly passed away when he was only ten years old. His parents had already bought the Christmas presents and they were under the tree. This is a sad memory that comes around every year in December. Many have similar memories, or memories of family squabbles that occurred during times when families were together for the holiday.

The point of all of this is that it may not be possible for us to get back on the horse unless we have some help. It's okay to ask for help! It's okay to ask for help from a friend, or from a doctor, or a counselor. And, certainly it is okay to ask for help from God!

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM THE WRATHER FAMILY!!

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL

12.20.21

No Santa

Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! - 2 Corinthians 9:15 NKJV.

Bishop Antonio Stagliano of the Roman Catholic diocese of Noto, Sicily has had a little problem. The problem? He told some children that there is no Santa Claus. A spokesman for the diocese stated: "On behalf of the bishop, I express my sorrow for this declaration which has created disappointment in the little ones, and want to specify that Monsignor Stagliano's intentions were quite different."

I can sympathize with the Bishop because soon after I became a pastor in a children's sermon, I said there was not a Santa Claus. Word soon got back to me that some of the parents were upset about that!

Personally, I learned that there was no Santa Claus when I was in the first or second grade when a friend shared with me the shocking news that he had just found out. It really didn't upset me because I kind of already knew there couldn't be a Santa Claus, but I thought it would be nice if there were one.

The reality is that there is no Santa Claus, but God has given us something far better. God has given us a Savior, Jesus Christ, and through Him we can have forgiveness of sins and eternal life. As John 3:16 says "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."

Jesus truly is the indescribable gift This Christmas let us give Jesus the one thing that He wants, our hearts.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL

12.13.21

How to Stop a Pandemic

Here's how the trouble began for David and his kingdom:

Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel. So David said to Joab and to the leaders of the people, "Go, number Israel from Beersheba to Dan, and bring the number of them to me that I may know it." - 1 Chronicles 21:1-2 NKJV.

What would be the penalty for this sin?

Then the LORD spoke to Gad, David's seer, saying, "Go and tell David, saying, 'Thus says the LORD: "I offer you three things; choose one of them for yourself, that I may do it to you." ' "

So Gad came to David and said to him, "Thus says the LORD: 'Choose for yourself, either three years of famine, or three months to be defeated by your foes with the sword of your enemies overtaking you, or else for three days the sword of the LORD - the plague in the land, with the angel of the LORD destroying throughout all the territory of Israel.' Now consider what answer I should take back to Him who sent me." - 1 Chronicles 21:9-12 NKJV.

Here was David's choice:

And David said to Gad, "I am in great distress. Please let me fall into the hand of the LORD, for His mercies are very great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man."

So the LORD sent a plague upon Israel, and seventy thousand men of Israel fell. And God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it. - 1 Chronicles 21:13-15a NKJV.

Why did the plague stop?

Then David lifted his eyes and saw the angel of the LORD standing between earth and heaven, having in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem. So David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell on their faces. And David said to God, "Was it not I who commanded the people to be numbered? I am the one who has sinned and done evil indeed; but these sheep, what have they done? Let Your hand, I pray, O LORD my God, be against me and my father's house, but not against Your people that they should be plagued." - 1 Chronicles 21:16-17 NKJV.

The indication is from David and his officials being "clothed in sackcloth," is that the were already in a state of repentance. They were likely headed for the tabernacle at Gibeon when they saw the death angel and "fell on their faces."

And God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it. As he was destroying, the LORD looked and relented of the disaster, and said to the angel who was destroying, "It is enough; now restrain your hand." And the angel of the LORD stood by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. - 1 Chronicles 21:15 NKJV.

The contemporary plague, the pandemic that is now continuing to cause death and misery across our world continues to spin out new variants. Is the pandemic a result of sin? As we look across the world, sin appears to be reaching a crescendo beyond any time since the Noahic flood.

The solution to our plague is the same as it was for King David. We too must repent of our sins and fall on our faces before the Lord. No doubt the reason the plague has not grown any worse and God has not said "Enough!" is because of men and women that are on their knees in prayer. We need to join them, pleading with God to end this horrific pandemic.

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL

11.23.21

God's Amnesia

He will again have compassion on us,
And will subdue our iniquities.
You will cast all our sins
Into the depths of the sea. - Micah 7:19 NKJV.

"Come now, and let us reason together,"
Says the LORD,
"Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool." - Isaiah 1:18 NKJV.

As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us. - Psalm 103:12 NKJV.

Have you had the measles? Most of us who are older had the measles when we were children. Thankfully, 25 years ago the Vaccines for Children program was initiated which included the MMR Measles Mumps and Rubella vaccine which is 97% effective at preventing measles after two doses. However, measles is making a comeback in the United States with 839 cases last year.

Measles is a very dangerous illness for a little known reason. It is called immune amnesia. The American Society for Microbiology states in an article: Measles virus is especially dangerous because it has the ability to destroy what's been earned: immune memory from previous infections. It then takes two to three years for the immune system to recover and begin making memories of new infections as it did prior to the measles.

What measles does for your physical body wiping out memory of the previous attacks via infections is in a way what God can do for your spiritual being. Jesus says in Revelation 3:20: Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. When you open up the door of your heart through prayer inviting Jesus into your life asking forgiveness of your sins - when you do that, God develops amnesia. God develops amnesia of your past sins and your future sins.

When God forgives you of your sins, He puts those sins as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12) casting them into His sea of forgetfulness (Micah 7:19) and remembers them no more (Hebrews 8:12). God's amnesia about your sins begins when you are birthed into the kingdom of God. At the same time, you are clothed in a robe of righteousness: Isaiah 61:10, "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."

After God's amnesia occurs, when the Father looks at you, He no longer sees the sinner that you were. Why? Because you are now clothed in the righteousness of His Son.

We have so very much as children of God to be thankful about!

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2003

11.17.21

Living in Beulah Land

You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. - Isaiah 62:4. (Hephzibah means literally, my delight is in her. Beulah means literally, married.)

Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.' - Revelation 21:1-3.

Looking out my back door I can see calves grazing on the green wheat pasture. It is a peaceful setting, an idyllic setting. The calves have no worries about their future because their immediate need of food is cared for by the expanse of wheat available for them to eat. However, the calves cannot see that at some point in their future they will be loaded up and taken to be sold. The calves will become neatly packaged meat in some grocery store.

The lives of many people resemble that of cattle. Many become absorbed in their day-to-day activities of work and play. They have little desire to hear about the future because the present is fulfilling. But we are not cattle. We have the capacity of mind to look forward in time with imagination to our ultimate end. What is it that you see when you look toward that time? Do you know what is waiting for you there? Do you look forward with anticipation or dread?

I can remember one of the first times I looked forward in time to the end of my life. It was a frightening experience because in my mind it was dark and unknown. I didn't know what would happen when I reached the end of my physical life. Five years later after I received Christ as my Savior I could then look ahead to the future and the darkness was gone because I knew what lay ahead. What lay ahead would be Heaven - living in a perfect place where the Lord God will be the very light. The marriage will have been completed in New Jerusalem and we will be living in Beulah Land.

The Bible says at the end of Revelation 21, "But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb's Book of Life (v. 27)." Is your name written in the Lamb's Book of Life?

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2003

10.29.21

Salvation Then Works

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.

Marine Lance Cpl. Jose A. Gutierrez of Lomita, California was a "green card soldier" who had volunteered to fight for his adopted country. Sadly, Cpl. Gutierrez died during the first three days of the Iraq war in 2003. The United States has now granted posthumous citizenship to Cpl. Gutierrez who was from Guatemala where he was orphaned as a young boy. He entered the U.S. illegally in 1997. Why would someone not even a citizen join the Marines? According to Gutierrez' foster brother, Gutierrez joined the Marines "to pay back a little of what he had gotten from the United States." There are now (2003) 37,000 non-citizens serving in the armed forces of the U. S.

The Bible makes it clear that you cannot be good enough or do enough good things to make you worthy for Heaven. Why? The Bible says in effect that if we could do that then we would all be boasting about all the good things we had done when we arrived in Heaven - "it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."

Why then would anyone want to do good works as a Christian if it does not save you or work to facilitate your entrance into Heaven? It is much like the story of Lance Cpl. Jose A. Gutierrez. Gutierrez was not serving in the United States Marines because he was compelled or because of a legal obligation. Gutierrez was serving in the Marine Corps because of his great gratitude for what the United States had done for him - "to pay back a little of what he had gotten from the United States."

After receiving freely, the gift of eternal life from our God through Jesus and being adopted into the family of God with all of the privileges of belonging to the royal family of the King of kings we feel great gratitude. As a result of that great gratitude of the unmerited favor we have been granted - good works begin to flow out of our lives. We have a new nature (2 Corinthians 5:17) that desires to please our Lord. It is not forced labor. Instead, it is a labor of great love and gratitude for the sacrifice of our Lord that resulted in our salvation.

Have you been trying to work your way to Heaven? It will never happen. Have you been trying to do more good things than bad things so the scales will tilt in your favor bringing you salvation? You have been deceived. Turn to the Lord Jesus and receive the free gift of salvation and then do your good works out of the great gratitude for His wondrous mercy toward you.

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2003

10.15.21

If You Are Lost

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. Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh...that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. - Ephesians 2:8-20.

Luc Goguen had the most unpleasant experience of being lost for four days. Not only was he lost but he was lost in the dangerously cold environment near his home in Cocagne, New Brunswick. Luc lost control of his all-terrain vehicle and was forced to try to walk out of the backwoods. Along the way back he fell in a swamp and lost his boots. Because of being soaked from his fall and the bitter cold in the snow-covered environment he suffered severe hypothermia, frostbite and was disoriented when he was found. Luc said about the experience, "I believe it's a miracle. I never stopped praying."

All who are without a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ are spiritually lost and are living in a most dangerous environment. Their lives are out of control and the longer a person is spiritually lost the more dangerous their condition becomes. 98% of all professions of faith in Jesus come before the age of nineteen. 68% of all professions of faith occur between the ages of 9 and 14. It is not impossible to be saved as an adult but as age increases it becomes more and more unlikely.

The Bible clearly describes the pitiful condition of those who are lost spiritually:

The lost are without life. "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life (1 John 5:12)." We have eternal life only through Jesus.

The lost are without true peace. "'There is no peace,' says my God, 'for the wicked (Isaiah 57:21).'" Only through Christ can we truly have peace. "For He Himself is our peace (Ephesians 2:14a)."

The lost are without spiritual strength. "For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly (Romans 5:6)." We have strength through Christ as the apostle Paul says in Philippians 4:13, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."

The lost are without hope and without God. "...having no hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:12c)." Our God, however, is a God of hope. "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:24)."

The lost are without excuse. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation (Hebrews 2:3a)." "For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse (Romans 1:20."

So, if you are lost let me suggest that you do as Luc Goguen did - PRAY! Pray and ask God through Jesus Christ to save you. Jesus is saying even now to you, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me (Revelation 3:20)." Why not pray right now? Open up the door of your heart and invite Jesus to come in.

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2003

10.12.21

The Fool's Way

For he sees wise men die; likewise the fool and the senseless person perish, and leave their wealth to others. Their inner thought is that their houses will last forever, their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names. - Psalm 49:10-11.

On September 1st in Denver, a man told friends that he had been planning to jump from a moving car. He was not planning to commit suicide but wanted to feel some pain so that he would have the courage to have a tattoo. The 20-year-old during rush hour jumped from a car moving at about 40 mph and he was killed as a result. Another foolish and dangerous stunt was done by a teenage boy in Missouri. For some reason he felt like he needed to demonstrate his pain tolerance and he did this by hitting himself in the head with a skateboard. He then invited a friend to hit him in the head too, which resulted in his being knocked out with one blow, and sadly, he died just a few days later.

What is it that makes a person a fool? Is it the doing of what every sane person knows a person should not do? Is it the saying or writing of words every sane person knows a person should not say or write? Why do they do such things? For young people it is easy to say that they feel invulnerable and that they have a sense because of their youth that they will live forever. For those older as the Psalmist indicates some even in the face of much evidence to the contrary believe they will never face death. Ultimately, whether young or old it is the belief that they will never have to face any consequences for their actions. This belief comes from a lack of a fear of God.

The Book of Proverbs, which contains so much wisdom in the first chapter, says, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction (Proverbs 1:7)." The lack of knowledge and wisdom, which results in foolish actions come from a person's contempt for wisdom and instruction and ultimately contempt for the Lord.

How do you avoid being and acting like a fool? The Bible is very clear about this in many passages of Scripture. In Proverbs 9:10 for example we are told, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." To be wise and act with wisdom it is necessary to have a respect and reverence for God. King Solomon indicates that this is the beginning of all wisdom.

Are you a fool? Most of us have been fools at one time or another to some extent. We can avoid foolishness by having true respect and reverence for God and in doing so we will begin walking on the path of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding.

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2003

10.11.21

Out Of Control

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; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 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 5:19-15.

Students in France are upset. They are upset that smoking has now become a target of the government. The law does allow for smoking in schools in designated areas, however, the government is now encouraging schools to be smoke-free zones. Students are upset and some have gone on strike. 17-year-old Melodie Gambero says, "We're not allowed to smoke anywhere on the school grounds any more. They treat us like babies."

According to one student, about half of his fellow students are smokers. But the crack down by the government and schools does not end with smoking. Schools are also attempting to put an end to girls showing off thongs and stomachs above their low-cut pants/trousers. The fashion trend along with the smoking does not just affect young people in France but it is very prevalent in the USA as well.

Why would the governments of France, the USA, and others be concerned about students smoking? Because habits begun at a young age tend to become lifelong habits and smoking is a particularly unhealthy habit. Smoking is high on the list of unhealthy habits contributing to much greater health care costs.

Why would teachers be concerned about the overexposure of their student's bodies? Perhaps they have seen too many become pregnant out of wedlock and too many contract sexually transmitted diseases. Of course, just because someone dresses in a certain way does not necessarily mean that the improper behavior will follow. However, many with years of experience with young people know that the tendency is for the behavior to follow the way they dress.

The Biblical view of smoking is that it harms the body, which is the temple of the Holy Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 3:16 we are told, "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are." It could also be argued that smoking because of the unhealthy aspect is "uncleanness" which is a work of the flesh.

Sexually provocative dress is obviously "lewdness." The dictionary defines "lewdness" as, "Preoccupied with sex and sexual desire; lustful. Obscene; indecent." "Lewdness" is a work of the flesh.

The apostle Paul makes it clear that what we should have instead of the works of flesh in our lives is the "fruit of the Spirit." The "fruit of the Spirit" that seems to be most missing in the lives of many is that of "self-control." We see that there is a choice that must be made. We can choose to participate in the works of the flesh, or we can "walk in the Spirit." Crucify the flesh with Christ and rise up each day to live for Him.

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2003

10.07.21

Boring

It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. Then it happened one evening that David arose from his bed and walked on the roof of the king's house. And from the roof he saw a woman bathing, and the woman was very beautiful to behold. So David sent and inquired about the woman. And someone said, "Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" Then David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her, for she was cleansed from her impurity; and she returned to her house. - 2 Samuel 11:1-4.

A 25-year-old woman in Germany became a little upset over the Saturday night television viewing options. She was angered because of the slate of boring programs and even more boring reruns. Her solution? Probably what we all ought to do - she threw the television out of her fifth-floor apartment window. Veronika K. told newspaper reporters, "There was nothing decent on so I just threw the thing out the window." Thankfully, no one was injured as a result of the falling television set and Veronika later calmed down and watched another television with her family.

Veronika's real problem is not with boring television programs and reruns. Her real problem is that she is so bored she relies on what the entertainment industry happens to provide to give her enjoyment in life. Boredom is a dangerous condition as King David found out. David's boredom was a result of his shirking his responsibilities. How did he shirk his responsibilities? His army along with his mighty men were out fighting battles during "the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to battle...." It was during this time that David grew bored and found some adulterous entertainment with Bathsheba. David was in the wrong place at the wrong time and apparently so was Bathsheba. Maybe they were both bored. Bathsheba may have been bored because her husband was out fighting battles and was exactly where he was supposed to be.

It has been said that "idle hands are the devil's tools" and there is much truth in the saying. Allowing yourself to become accustomed to the boring and non-productive activities of the world is just asking for trouble. The world sees nothing wrong with laying around all day every day and doing nothing. Unless you miss work or cause someone else some inconvenience and then the world does care.

How can we avoid the trap of boredom and unproductiveness? The Bible says, "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Galatians 5:16)." How do we "walk in the Spirit?" In Romans 6 we are told, "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 (Romans 6:12-13)." The key thought for avoidance of boredom and for walking in the Spirit is presenting yourself or submitting yourself to God. Instead of allowing sin to reign in your life give yourself to God - walk in the Spirit. If we have given control of our lives to God and are walking in the Spirit, we will not be bored.

There are always choices in life, and we can choose to be bogged down in the worldly choices for entertainment or we can step outside of the world's boring box. We can willfully submit ourselves to the will of God and in doing so we will find that we have been given the cure for boredom. We will have life!

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2002

10.05.21

The Benefits of Giving

Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. - Philippians 4:15-16.

Some of the top givers this past year were John D. Hollingsworth who when he died at 83 years of age left an estimated $400 million to several institutions and charities. Lucille Stewart Beeson, who died at the age of 95, bequeathed $161 million to organizations in her hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. Henry Melville Fuller dying at age 87, left a large portion of his $89.68 million estate to several New Hampshire organizations. Herbert Block, who was an editorial cartoonist for the Washington Post, died at the age of 91, and gave $53 million to the establishment of a foundation in Washington D.C. Having a giving heart apparently helps many to live a long life.

If we would please God, we must give, because God's nature is to give. "For God so loved the world that He gave... (John 3:16)." "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9)." By giving, we please God as we follow the example of our Lord.

The unconscious thought is that if we give, we will have less, and how will we then meet our own needs? As Jimmy Carter says, "When it comes to giving, some people will stop at nothing." I like what Martin Luther said, "I have tried to keep things in my hands and lost them all, but what I have given into God's hands I still possess." Only through eyes of faith can we see that by giving, we actually bless ourselves, and when we fail to give, we are hurting ourselves (Luke 6:38; 2 Corinthians 9:6-7; Proverbs 3:9-10; Malachi 3:8-10). As Augustine puts it, "Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure; Where your treasure is, there is your heart; Where your heart is, there is your happiness."

When we think of giving, we automatically think of money, but the example of our Lord is that of giving His very life for us that we might have life. Certainly, we should give of our money, but we should not hold back ourselves in the process. As Jesus says, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21)."

Where is your treasure being stored up?

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 1998

10.04.21

The Still Voice

How does God speak to us? Of course, He speaks to us through His Word, the Bible. But is God still able to communicate with us today in any other way? In 1 Kings 19:12 the Bible tells us about God's communication with the prophet Elijah, "And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice."

I believe God is still able to communicate with us today. God is still able to communicate clearly in a way tailored to each individual. We, though, have to be listening in order to hear.

Truck drivers in this country communicate through flashing their lights. When one truck passes another and it is clear to pull in front of the truck passed the lights are turned on bright and then back on dim. If it is in the daytime the lights are turned on and then back off. The truck that is passing then knows it is safe to pull back over in front of the other truck.

A couple of years ago as I was struggling with God's will about what I was to do. Should I go to another church or stay where I was. It was about midnight, and I had been praying for quite a while. "Why didn't God tell me what to do!" I thought. I finally left the church building and just as I stepped outside the streetlight closest to the building went out. "'Strange,' I thought. We will have to have that repaired."

Our home was across the street. Before going inside, I looked back at the church. As I looked back the streetlight that had gone out came back on. It was as though God was saying it would be okay, it was going to be safe to go where God was leading to a new pastorate.

Are you listening for His "still, small voice?"

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 1998

10.01.21

Hallucinations

In 1991 at a pastor's conference, I had the opportunity to hear an elderly evangelist by the name of Oakley. I believe it was W. B. Oakley. He told of his salvation and call at the late age of 36. He was a farmer and had not even finished High School; but God called, and so he left his family and farm, and by bus went to where he could finish high school. When he arrived, he was heartsick and planned just to get back on the bus and return home, but the bus wasn't leaving immediately.

Oakley looked up the street and saw the spire of a little church and so he went up there and tried the door, and it was unlocked. So, he went inside, and at the altar began to cry out to God. He didn't know how long he had been praying, but heard the sound of trailing garments, and he heard a voice saying, "I will go with you." "I will go with you." W. B. didn't know how many times the voice repeated "I will go with you." But it was enough. He went to high school, and then he went to college, and then he went to seminary, and then he traveled over the world the rest of his life as an evangelist.

Now when Oakley tried to tell some of his fellow classmates at seminary about his experience, and about other experiences he had while still on the farm (Like walking around his corn field with his hand up in the air holding the hand of God.). The professor and his classmates said, "Brother Oakley you've been having hallucinations." But Brother Oakley didn't know what hallucinations meant so he just said, "Amen Brother!"

Now when Brother Oakley learned what hallucinations meant sometime later, he said he went back. He said he told that professor if he had been having hallucinations he was praying that God would give him some more.

I believe God would say to you, as He said to Brother Oakley, and as He said to Joshua, "Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee "whithersoever thou goest (Joshua 1:9).”

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 1998

09.30.21

The Good News and the Bad News

For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. - Romans 3:23 NKJV.

Before we can have salvation, we must first realize our need for a Savior. Before we can be forgiven of our sins, we must first realize that we have sinned.

One of my first experiences with sin that I remember was when I was four or five years old. My mother had brought us with her to do the shopping and I noticed a large glass bowl full of small knives. These knives were shiny and glittery. The green one was the one that I wanted. But it cost five cents and I didn't have five cents and I knew my mother wouldn't give me the money. So, I reached into the bowl and took the green knife. I was a thief. I knew it was wrong, but I did it anyway. It was definitely sin.

Usually, I can tell that story to a group of people and ask them if they have ever stolen anything and most will hold up their hand. I can then ask if they have ever disobeyed their parents and usually the rest will hold up their hands. Or, have they ever cheated, or lied, or deceived anyone?

I was a Christian, but I still remember having a discussion with a man working with me early in my Christian life. In this discussion I came to realize that it wasn't just the things that I did or didn't do that could be sin. I suddenly realized that I could sin through my thoughts. Taking those thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) was not an easy thing to do. At that point there was clearly a war raging between my old nature and my new nature.

Most of us can agree that we have sinned, and if we have sinned, we need a Savior because the apostle Paul also tells us in Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death...." I'm glad that Paul goes on to tell us in Romans 10:13, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."

Have you sinned? Have you called upon the name of the Lord? Do you know someone else that needs a Savior? Why not let them in on the Good News? I wish I had heard about it when I was a little boy with a green knife in my pocket.

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 1998

09.28.21

Where is Your Trust

You are wearied in the multitude of your counsels;
Let now the astrologers, the stargazers,
And the monthly prognosticators
Stand up and save you
From what shall come upon you.
Behold, they shall be as stubble,
The fire shall burn them;
They shall not deliver themselves
From the power of the flame. - Isaiah 47:13-14 NKJV.

Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. ' Colossians 2:8 NKJV.

Then the king gave the command to call the magicians, the astrologers, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans to tell the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king. - Daniel 2:2 NKJV.

When I was a new Christian, I knew my astrological sign and my wife's and I would read the astrological column in the newspaper every day. But it wasn't long before I began thinking it wasn't right for me to do that. In the newspaper that I read, Billy Graham also had his column, and it was right next to the astrological column. It eventually became a choice for me each day: astrology, or God.

Astrologers are in the same category as sorcerers, and magicians! Astrology according to the Word of God cannot save us from the things to come. Astrology is an empty human philosophy which seeks to deceive. It seeks to have us place our trust in astrology rather than in God.

When we place our trust in astrology, we are creating an idol. Because astrology is taking the place of God in our lives. When you must make an important decision do you turn to the astrological column or some book? Or do you turn to reading of the Bible and to God in prayer?

It may not be astrology, it may be something else, but the only good place to put our trust is in our God.

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2010

09.27.21

Hell's Gate

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. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it. - Matthew 7:13-14 NKJV.

Then one said to Him, "Lord, are there few who are saved?" And He said to them, "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open for us,' and He will answer and say to you, 'I do not know you, where you are from.'" - Luke 13:23-25 NKJV.

There is a huge flaming crater in Turkmenistan's Karakum Desert, which is about 60 yards wide that is called "Hell's Gate" or "Hell's Door" by people in the area. The crater is the result of a blow-out caused by a drilling accident back in 1971. Soviet petroleum engineers decided to burn off the gas, and it has been burning ever since. Hell's Gate is a tourist attraction for the foreign tourists that actually make it to the country, and it is said to be a beautiful sight to see (You can see photos of it on the web.). However, Turkmenistan's president would like to put out the fire so that development of natural gas reserves in the area will not be hindered.

It would be great if the actual gate to enter hell was located in the Karakum Desert then we could just avoid the place, and never go to hell. Hell's Gate, however, is much closer and much more personal than that. We enter Hell's Gate in more subtle, unsuspecting ways. Life has a way of keeping us busy with things other than the vital spiritual ones. Our attention is placed on work, family, our home, and we seldom think about God and eternity.

The path to hell is more of a slide than a walk. The busier we are with our worldly affairs the closer we slide to the gaping mouth of the Gate of Hell. We ignore our spiritual condition, we push aside any thoughts about God, or church, or Jesus, and we slide closer and closer to that Gate of no return. When we do think about spiritual things, we think of how we are not any worse than many religious people that we know. We think that a good God would never send anyone to hell. We think of all the religions in the world and think they probably all lead to the same place. We slide closer to the gaping mouth of hell as we focus in on more pleasant thoughts. It becomes a habit to avoid thinking of spiritual things, and only of worldly things. It becomes a habit never considering, and to avoid considering, what will happen after you die.

The spiritual truth is that there is only One way to avoid the Gate of Hell, and that way is a very narrow way, because that way is only through Jesus Christ. Jesus says this in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." We can only enter the narrow gate by believing upon Jesus as our Savior, as Jesus explains to Nicodemus in John 3:14-17, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness (Numbers 21:9), even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have 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."

Are you sliding closer and closer to the gaping mouth of the Gate of Hell? Or, have you already entered into eternal life through the "narrow gate" of believing upon Jesus Christ? Jesus says in Revelation 3:20, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me."

Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart! Let Him in!

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2001

09.21.21

When Two Agree

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.

I remember hearing about my uncle, Levi Taliaferro, starting to attend a Baptist church some 35 years ago. I thought it was strange and my family thought it was strange. But even stranger was that they said my uncle had stopped drinking. I didn’t even know he had a drinking problem but was relieved to hear that it was apparently now under control.

Today I visited with my uncle, and he shared with me the rest of the story. After a church service he and my Aunt Bea went up to the front pew of the church where Bro. Jess Rowley and his wife sit down together and prayed with them. Levi said when he sat down, he wanted a drink and when he got up the desire to drink was gone and never came back.

Have a problem? There is nothing like having a little prayer meeting to change your life and solve your problems. Jesus says, "if two of you agree." Get together with a friend, or your pastor, or someone and pray.

(2021 Update: The church that my Uncle became a member of was Fairview Baptist Church in Elk City, Oklahoma. It is the same church where I am now the pastor. My Uncle passed away soon after our visit.)

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2001

09.20.21

Trouble

Yet man is born to trouble. - Job 5:7a.

Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble. - Job 14:1.

A recent letter to a business columnist states: "Recently I messed up a really important project. I'm so embarrassed in front of my co-workers that I hate going to work." It was signed, "First-time failure."

I think the writer has it right when they indicate it is only the first time that they will fail. I am just surprised that they are only now having their first failure. In regard to trouble, you are in one of three areas. You have just gotten out of trouble. You are in trouble right now, or you are headed for trouble.

Job had more than his share of trouble. His family was destroyed along with all of his possessions. From there it became even worse with his physical body being attacked by disease. Job says in Job 5:7, "man is born to trouble." But after going through even more trauma Job repeats this and adds to his previous statement in Job 14:1 where he says, "Man who is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble." Man did not just have trouble in life, but it was "full of trouble"< according to Job.

Even the apostle Paul had his share of problems (2 Corinthians 11:23-28). If Paul had problems, you can be sure that every Christian is going to have problems as well. But the difference between the child of God and the non-Christian is that God promises to go with us through the problems of life. The Psalmist says, "God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in the time of trouble (Psalm 46:1)." Jesus says in John 16:33, "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."

Yes, we will have trouble, problems, trials, and difficulties in this world. However, we must not focus on them but upon the problem solver. David said in Psalm 73:16, "I tried to think this problem through, but it was too difficult for me, until I went into Your temple." When the day of trouble comes let us take them to the Lord.

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2001

09.15.21

Little Known Dangers

But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, till there was no remedy. - 2 Chronicles 36:16.

In December 1998 Kevin Mackle a 19-year-old student in Quebec tried to shake loose a soft drink. Instead of receiving a soft drink Kevin was crushed to death when the 920-pound machine tipped over on to him. Who would have thought that a coke machine would be dangerous! But since 1978, 35 people have died in the United States alone from vending machines, which have tipped over.

The people of Judah must have been just as incredulous about the danger involved in ignoring God. Judgment did come upon them in a devastating way when they were carried into captivity. Who would have thought that God was that serious about it? But He was and He still is serious about it.

Do you despise God's Words? Do you mock or misuse the messengers of God? Why would anyone want to do that? We despise God's Words when we know what He wants us to do but we do something else with our lives. We mock God's messengers when we hear the Word of God preached and fail to respond as God has spoken to our hearts. Little known dangers but spiritually just as dangerous as a falling coke machine.

Judah waited so long that they ran out of time and God's judgment came upon them. Why risk another day outside of God's will? Determine in your heart that you will no longer despise God by the way you live your life. "Behold, now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2)."

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2001

09.14.21

Name Above All Names

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. - Philippians 2:9-11.

Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name." - Luke 10:17.

The seventy that had been sent out by Jesus returned and there apparently was some surprise that there was such power in the name of Jesus. We pray in the name of Jesus, but do we really comprehend the tremendous power that is still available to us today through His name? The early church clearly understood this because the name of Jesus is frequently referred to in the New Testament. But what about today? Is the name of Jesus still the name above all names? Is there still power in the name of Jesus?

Every two or three years we see news reports of someone in a crisis situation using the name of Jesus in order to survive. Sometimes they are in out of the way places and do not even make it to the national media. In December 2000 I cut out an article of such an incident which occurred in Ardmore, Oklahoma.

Barbara Rhodes, the owner of Bobbie's Outlet Store in Ardmore suddenly came face to face with a robber pointing a gun at her. Barbara's response was to say, "I rebuke you in the name of Jesus." Several times the robber demanded her purse. Each time Barbara responded, "I rebuke you in the name of Jesus." The gun at one point made a click as if he had tried to fire it. Barbara laid the magazine she was holding onto the counter and started walking toward the door. The man fled.

Why did he leave? Barbara says, "It was the Lord that made him take off."

"And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus... (Colossians 3:17)."

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2001

09.13.21

Symbol of America

2021 UPDATE: I wrote this two days after 9/11 - 09.13.01. America is being tested again with the pandemic the past year and a half which continues. We are being tested with the Afghanistan disaster and the leaving of Americans behind, Afgans who helped our troops left behind, our allies left behind, leaving women and children to the mercy of savages, and the arming of a terrorist regime with $85 billion dollars worth of the latest weaponry.

The morality of the country has continued to decline. Two of the most recent things that come to mind are with the Evangelical Lutheran Church installing a transgender bishop and Harvard University having a chaplain that is an atheist. Just the latest of a very long list of the downward spiral of morality in the United States.

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. - 2 Chronicles 7:14.

The World Trade Center Towers were in many ways a symbol of the United States of America. The Towers represented the strength and financial power of the USA. They were very visible symbols towering above the skyline of the New York City metropolis. How could those powerful towers ever fall? The United States was invincible. Nothing could shake the foundations of those towers or of this country. Sadly, we know the towers have fallen and those who make up the USA are being tested once again.

As a symbol of America what has happened to those towers is a symbol of what has happened to this country. God has removed his protection and blessing from us as a country. Why? Because the majority of the people in America no longer have a fear of God. The majority of the people in America no longer want God's blessings. The majority of the people in this country have been growing further and further away from God. There are more people in America living lives of degeneracy and immorality than there were in Sodom and Gomorrah. It is not really a surprise that God has removed His blessing and protection from us.

Let us turn again to our God. Let us awake from how complacency. We must not deceive ourselves into thinking that we are invincible. Only through the power of God has this country been blessed and protected. If this country is to turn again to God, this is the time. Tomorrow may be too late. The attacks upon this country are like the preaching of Jonah to Nineveh. God told Nineveh through Jonah, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" It may not be forty days but America will be overthrown if we do not turn to God in repentance. Even the wicked Ninevites turned to God, and they were spared from the destruction.

We have seen reports of prayer vigils across this country since the attack occurred. Last night was a time when a large number of churches have regularly scheduled prayer meetings. I was disappointed to see a handful of people come to our prayer meeting. We have scheduled prayer meetings and held prayer meetings all across this country. But how many people have actually attended those meetings? We must turn to God before it is too late. Will you humble yourself, pray, seek the face of God and turn from your wicked ways? If you will, God promises to hear, forgive and to heal our land.

Please pray for those who are still trapped but alive in the rubble of the World Trade Center Buildings and the Pentagon. Please pray for the strength and safety of the rescue workers.

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2001

09.10.21

Strong Towers

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. - Proverbs 18:10.

We are still in shock and horrified after the destruction of the terrorist attacks upon the United States yesterday. The World Trade Center had already withstood one terrorist attack in 1993. Who would have thought that those towers could have so quickly been destroyed?

Yesterday, I listened to two architects who discussed the construction of the World Trade Center towers. According to them the towers were designed to withstand the crash of a Boeing 707. What the towers were not designed for was the crash of a plane still loaded with most of the jet fuel. The steel had been treated to withstand fires of paper and wood but not the thousand-degree prolonged fire of jet fuel. The buildings withstood the initial crashes well but could not withstand the extreme heat, which caused the steel to lose strength and collapse.

According to the architects it would be possible for a building to be built with the steel coated in such a way that would enable it to even withstand the jet fuel fires which caused so much destruction yesterday. However, even if the World Trade Center Towers were to be rebuilt to be resistant to jet fuel fires they could still be destroyed. They could be destroyed through atomic attack or even by an earthquake. The fact is that there is not a building that man can build that cannot be destroyed in some way. There is no place completely safe in this world from every kind of danger or enemy.

There is only one place of ultimate safety for the human race. That place of safety is a Strong Tower not made with human hands. That place of safety is the Strong Tower of the Lord. The only way of entry is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Let us run to the Strong Tower of our Lord.

Personal Note Concerning Events of September 11, 2001: I had been at the church praying and had just walked back over to the parsonage when I started watching the news this morning just in time to be shocked to see the second plane crash into the World Trade Center. That was just the first of many shocks this day has held so far as I watched with horror the events that have unfolded. Once again we have been forced to take our minds off of our little petty problems and think of the agony of life and death. We pray for those who are still alive but trapped. We pray for those who have been injured but struggling to survive. We pray for those whose loved ones have been killed or injured. Let us look to our Lord during this time. Isaiah 26:3 comes to mind. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee." - Ed Wrather 09-11-01.

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2003

09.09.21

Wavering

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. - Hebrews 10:19-25.

In the United Kingdom, one of their largest power generating stations was virtually shut down because of a chimney problem. An old, unused chimney smokestack started swaying in the high winds. A spokesperson said of the situation at that point, "Only the most essential staff are at the plant, we are carrying out a risk assessment." 150 of the plant’s 200 employees were sent home during the crisis. But thankfully, after the winds died down the chimney had stabilized by the next day and the plant was again operating under normal conditions.

The writer of Hebrews is speaking to Christians when he says, "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering...." It seems there was some wavering going on in the early church much like a chimneystack wavering in a high wind. In our modern culture, and a world of increasing danger, it appears that there is more and more of the wavering going on. We think, will there be another terrorist attack? Will they detonate a dirty bomb in our country? Or, do they have a suitcase nuclear device? Or, will it be a biological attack using smallpox before we can all be vaccinated? Maybe it will be anthrax? Maybe it will be VX gas or some other deadly chemical agent that they will use? Others of us are more worried about our financial situation, and whether we will be able to continue putting food on the table. Others are concerned about their health situation, which is growing worse.

There is a multitude of winds blowing against our lives. There are the winds of drug abuse and the winds of lust. Some of the winds threaten to blow us apart, and it seems like we are being assaulted by a tornado or a hurricane. But whatever it is, it is not that much different than some of the storms the early Christians faced. The writer of Hebrews assures them and us that, "He who promised is faithful." We must remind ourselves that we are no longer what we once were but have, "boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us...." He is faithful, and we may come to Him boldly through the blood of our Savior. He who has saved us has the power to hold us, sustain us, and keep our wavering faith standing even through these storms, which keep coming upon us.

The "day" is approaching when our Lord will return and surely that "day" is closer now than ever before. As we see the "day" approaching let us stand through His faithfulness provoking, encouraging and loving one another "and so much the more!"

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2003

09.08.21

Your Mission

For we are God's fellow workers.... - 1 Corinthians 3:9.

Over the past several days (in 2003) we have mourned the loss of the Columbia astronauts. They were all brilliant and courageous with so much more to offer in service to the world if they had lived. The commitment and dedication of those astronauts is an inspiration to all who aspire to greater service. Their mission of conquering and learning more about space, which included expanding all human knowledge, was a part of every aspect of their lives. Their mission was a continual focus moving them forward to greater heights. Sunday morning CNN newscaster Paula Zahn spoke with awe about their "devotion to the mission" and their "sense of discipline."

It may be that in the background of our thoughts we are thinking if we had such a great mission, we too would have devotion to the mission and great discipline in achieving that mission. But the fact is that every child of God, every Christian has a great mission. In many respects our mission, your mission, is a greater mission than that of the shuttle astronauts. No, you are not going out into space to go boldly where no human has gone before. No, you have a greater mission. Eternal destinies hang in the balance and your "devotion to the mission" and your "sense of discipline." will make the difference.

What is your mission? It is an amazing thing. We are to join God Himself in His work! We are to follow the example of Jesus who said, "the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel (John 5:19-20)." We are to look to where the Father is working and join Him in that work. The apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians makes it clear that we are co-laborers with God when he writes to the Corinthians, "For we are God’s fellow workers (1 Corinthians 3:9a)." Paul was a fellow worker in Christ and often greeted others such as Priscilla and Aquila in that way.

After the resurrection of Jesus and before He ascended to Heaven He left some last important instructions to his followers. "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:18-20)." Those instructions, actually commands, are still in effect for us today. That is your mission. And, God has not changed His mind.

Will you join God in this great mission? Will you blaze the trails so that others will follow in the future? Will you have great devotion, courage, and discipline in fulfilling the mission that God has given to you? Look around and you will see that your Father is at work and is calling you to join in this great work of eternal purpose. Remember the great example of devotion to mission and discipline that the shuttle astronauts have given you and move forward in the power of God (Acts 1:8) to complete your mission.

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2003

09.07.21

Suddenly

(2021 update: We have all been shocked by the sudden appearance of the covid-19 virus and now we have been shocked by what has suddenly happened and is happening in Afghanistan. This devotional is about coping with those sudden interruptions in our lives whether they are bad or good.)

My son, let them not depart from your eyes - keep sound wisdom and discretion; so they will be life to your soul and grace to your neck. Then you will walk safely in your way, and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden terror, nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes; For the LORD will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught. - Proverbs 3:21-16.

Police radios echoed with a strange alert in Espelkamp, Germany one afternoon, "Be on the lookout for a wild boar wanted in connection with a breaking and entering and felonious assault. The boar is of medium stature and build." An older German couple had their afternoon nap rudely and suddenly interrupted by a wild boar, which crashed into their apartment building through a glass door, and then rammed its way into the couple's apartment. The boar left a trail of blood behind while exploring the apartment, before finally jumping into bed with the couple. The boar bit the man, and then fled the scene of the crime. Ute Bort, spokeswoman for the police department said, "The boar expended considerable criminal energy in committing this act." Thankfully, the man was not seriously injured by the attack.

Many things good and bad occur suddenly in our lives. The couple in Germany were certainly shocked to find a wild boar in bed with them as would any of us. We were shocked yesterday (in 2003) to have a small tornado hit the school in our community. Thankfully, only one person in a mobile home near the school was injured, and he has been released from the hospital. Tornadoes have a tendency to follow a similar path, and I have been told many times about a tornado that hit the school in the past. The tornado, which hit the school years ago, struck as the superintendent was taking a shower, and it blew the roof off his house. It must have been a shock!

Good things also happen suddenly and often unexpectedly. When God speaks and tells you about His call upon your life, for example. When it happens, how you respond, will define the rest of your life. It was a great shock for Moses, at 80 years of age, to encounter a bush that did not burn. It must have been a shock for Noah, to learn that there would be a great flood and that he would be the one to build a boat to save the remnant of mankind. Abraham must have been shocked, when he heard the voice of God call him to leave his civilized country and go to a place he had never been. Jonah was not only shocked, but offended, when God called him to that wicked country of Nineveh. The disciples of Jesus must have been shocked at their call, but they all followed.

God, through the writer of Proverbs, tells how to handle sudden changes, whether they are good or bad. "Keep sound wisdom and discretion." He is talking about the wisdom and discretion that can only come from God. If we are walking closely with God, reading His Word, praying daily in a meaningful way, assembling regularly with other believers, and seeking to serve God as He directs; then we will be ready to respond rightly.

The response we make to sudden changes in our lives will define the remainder of our lives. If we are walking with God, we will not be afraid, but will have His "confidence" as we move forward in the assurance of His power. We will then have "life" no matter what life brings our way.

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2003

09.03.21

Mistaken Identity

Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him. And He said to them, "What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?" Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, "Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?" - Luke 24:13-18.

Have you ever said "hello" to someone thinking they were a certain person, but they were not? It creates one of those embarrassing moments! Some people are so kind that they never say a word and only later you suddenly remember that they were not the person you thought they were. However, mistaken identity can be a quite serious matter. Nona Cason found out exactly how serious when she was mistaken for a fugitive from France (Nadine Tretiakoff) who had kidnapped her children from their father. Not only was Nona misidentified but the children were also misidentified as being the children of Pierre Fourcade. Pierre stood only three feet from Nona in court and swore that she was Nadine Tretiakoff.

Even though Nona had birth certificates, passports, and other records to prove she and her children were not fugitives she was still held in jail for six nights. The children were placed in state custody during the ordeal. She was finally released, along with her children, after DNA tests revealed that the children were not related to Fourcade. Cason said as to the reason for the misidentification, "Apparently, I look like this other woman."

On the road to Emmaus two disciples of Jesus make a misidentification. They assume the man that has joined them in their travel is a stranger from another area. The disciples almost miss out completely on this resurrection appearance of Jesus. But finally, when, "He sat at the table with them...took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight (Luke 24:30-31)." It was then that they remembered, "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us (Luke 24:32)?"

If Jesus were to knock on your door - would you recognize Him? While you are in church assembled with other believers would you recognize His Voice if He were to speak to your heart? The disciples on the road to Emmaus were not expecting Jesus to join them in their travel. But He did. How many times do we spend time in prayer alone and with others not really expecting to hear God speak? How many times do we sit singing in church and never really expect God to speak? How many times do we daydream through sermons not expecting God to have anything to say to us? How many times do we sit through invitations hoping all those other people will respond because we think, "God wasn't speaking to me?"

Could it be that we have misidentified that still, small voice as being our conscience, or a bad memory, or just heartburn when really Jesus has decided to travel with us for a while along our way? What blessings have we missed out on because we have assumed that God would never speak to us? The next time that voice in your heart speaks remember it could very well be the Voice of God.

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2003

09.02.21

The Immovable Principle

Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. - Matthew 5:17-19.

Matthew Layman had a little problem with the Law, as in the 10 Commandments. He was driving while intoxicated and rammed his car into a monument to the 10 Commandments in Fremont, Nebraska. He received a jail sentence of 60 days in jail, a fine of $400.00, and his driver's license was suspended for six months.

Even though, we are under grace (Romans 6:14; Hebrews 8:6) and not the Law, the Law cannot be ignored. Salvation is not found through obedience to the Law ("Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law." - Hebrews 8:6). Yes, we can be forgiven when we sin and violate one of the Ten Commandments, or other admonitions of morality contained in the Bible (1 John 1:9). However, there will still be consequences for our actions, because the "wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23)." Ignoring God’s commandments are like driving your car into a stone monument - it is going to hurt! If we lie, steal, or commit adultery we will eventually encounter problems, and those problems will be painful.

Obedience to God's moral principles will not bring salvation (Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 3:5), but it will spare us from many problems. Obedience to God's moral principles will not necessarily bring His blessings, but will make our lives better, and in many cases easier.

Have you been having problem after problem? It could be that you have been crashing into an immovable object - God's Laws. God's moral principles are still in effect, and to ignore them is to invite disaster.

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2003

08.30.21

Hold Your Horses!

Teach me Your way, O LORD, and lead me in a smooth path, because of my enemies. Do not deliver me to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and such as breathe out violence. I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD! - Psalm 27:11-14.

In Kansas, a while back, the cities of Lawrence and Dodge City experienced runaways. In Lawrence, the stagecoach, which they use as a tourist attraction, crashed when the horse pulling the stage veered into a ditch. In Dodge City, a horse pulling the stage slipped; and when it got up it was frightened and took off like a runaway. As a result, the stage slammed into a parked car, overturned, and injured five passengers. They should have held their horses.

Horses have a tendency to do the unexpected, even those that have been around people for years. My great-grandmother's nephew was killed, and his father injured when the horses pulling their wagon took off, and control was lost of them. "Hold your horses" used to be a term with serious meaning. Whoever was holding on to the horses had control, and it meant the difference sometimes, between life and death. Sometime in the 1800s "hold your horses" began appearing in print in reference to humans. As applied to people, "hold your horses"means to "be patient and wait."

When you read the word "wait"in the Bible; God is saying, "hold your horses!" When God says to wait, it is serious business. King Saul found out the hard way that to launch out when God says, "wait" can be very costly. In fact, it cost him the kingdom (1 Samuel 13), which God then gave to an unknown shepherd boy named David.

An example of what can happen when you are obedient to the Lord's command to wait, can be seen with the disciples, just after the ascension of Christ. In Acts 1:4 we read, "And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father...." They waited and we know what happened! "When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit...(Acts 2:1-3a)." They waited, and the Holy Spirit came upon them, empowering them to be the Lord's witnesses as He had promised (Acts 1:8). On the day of Pentecost alone, about 3,000 people came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:41).

When God says to "wait" there is always a good reason. When God says to "wait" it will always be to your benefit. When God says to "wait" it will always be better later. "Wait on the LORD; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the LORD!" It may be that God is saying, "Hold your horses." It may be hard to do, but it is a very important, and at times courageous thing to do. So, "hold your horses!"

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2003

08.27.21

Facing Fear - Absolute Faith

This devotional was written in 2003 just before the "shock and awe" attack on Iraq. It was also a time when the SARS virus was beginning to become a worldwide problem.

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.

Today there is another reason for fear, in addition to the approach of war, and the increased likelihood of terrorism; health experts suspect there is a new disease stalking humanity. The new disease is now known only as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). At least ten people have died from the illness, and many more are ill with symptoms of SARS. With the rapidity of world travel, diseases can spread at frightening speed, and SARS has struck with deadliness in mainland China, Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Canada. Some are also ill with the disease in Singapore, and there are suspected cases in the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom. The disease is similar to pneumonia, beginning with a high fever and dry cough, which may lead to breathing difficulties.

Does God care when we experience fear? Yes! Reassurances from God are plentiful throughout the Scriptures. Peter writes, "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:6-7)." But the greatest statement of God's concern, and care for you, is found in the sacrifice of His Son on the cross for your sins (John 3:16). You should never doubt that God loves you, and cares for you. His direction to you in the midst of fearful, and terrifying circumstances will always be, "Fear not." Why? Because God answers, "I am with you."

I read just this morning about a missionary who was wounded in Yemen, and his three fellow missionaries who were killed. The wounded missionary spoke of the moment he knew he could not escape from the gunman. He knew he would be shot, but he spoke of the peace that surrounded him, as he faced the possibility of death. That peace stayed with him, even after being shot twice, and he was still facing the possibility of death.

King David knew what it was like to stare death in the face, as King Saul hunted him like an animal. David writes, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil (Psalm 23:4a)." Why does David not fear death? Why does he not fear evil, and all that could happen to him? "For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me (Psalm 23:4b)."

I cannot imagine what it would be like to be living in Iraq at this moment, knowing that a massive assault will soon begin just as it did during 1991. Knowing also, that it is being said the bombardment will be more ferocious than it was before. The only thing I have to relate to something like that is being in the path of a tornado. Hearing the tornado sirens go off and seeing on the radar that a tornado is headed for you but having nowhere to hide except in a closet has given me great fear. It is a fearful thing, and only God can bring you peace and assurance during such times. Only God provides the possibility of your being spared destruction.

When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship the golden image set up by king Nebuchadnezzar, they faced death in a fiery furnace. The answer of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego is the answer that we need to give, and believe, whenever we face fear "our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up (Daniel 3:17-18)." They had an absolute faith that no matter what happened, life or death, they would still trust in their God. That is the faith we must have as we face the fearful things of the 21st Century.

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2003

08.26.21

Facing Fear - With Fear

A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, on Shigionoth. O LORD, I have heard Your speech and was afraid; O LORD, revive Your work in the midst of the years! - Habakkuk 3:1-2a.

When I heard, my body trembled; my lips quivered at the voice; rottenness entered my bones; and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble. When he comes up to the people, He will invade them with his troops. - Habakkuk 3:16.

How would you react, if you were a believer living in a country that would soon be attacked by a powerful force, knowing there would be no escape? Habakkuk responded with fear when he understood the Lord's message, because the force attacking Judah to deliver God's judgment, would be the Chaldeans. It was difficult for Habakkuk to understand why God would use the Chaldeans, because they were a wicked, and cruel people. Habakkuk's fear was understandable in such a circumstance.

Habakkuk pleaded with God to "remember mercy (Habakkuk 3:2b)." He then reminds himself, and God, of the mighty acts of rescue that God has performed in the past for His people (Habakkuk 3). God is the mighty Deliverer. In chapter 2 of Habakkuk states what holds him together through his fear, "Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; but the just shall live by his faith (Habakkuk 2:4)." Yes, Habakkuk is fearful of what the Chaldeans will do to Judah, but his fear, his respect, his reverence; his faith in his God, is much greater.

What are we to do, when faced with fearful, alarming circumstances? We should first remind ourselves of Whom really has the ultimate power. The One, with the ultimate power and capability, is not a physical enemy that we may face on this earth. The One, with the ultimate power and capability, is God Himself. To God alone, will someday every knee bow, and tongue confess (Philippians 2:10-11). Our faith in the One, with the ultimate power, gives us strength to move forward through whatever may come our way. Habakkuk is just one of countless millions who can testify to this spiritual fact.

What fear, what danger, and what threat are you facing? Is it greater than your God? Strengthen yourself in the Lord your God. Live by your faith in the One, who is greater than all others. Your reverence for Him, will empower you to face whatever you may encounter in life.

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2003

08.25.21

Life Goes On

This devotional was written back in 2003 as an Easter devotional during the Iraq war. I believe it has an important message for us now with the situation in Afghanistan and the pandemic. But Mary stood outside by the tomb weeping, and as she wept she stooped down and looked into the tomb. And she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. Then they said to her, 'Woman, why are you weeping?' She said to them, 'Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.' Now when she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there…. - John 20:11-14a.

Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that He had spoken these things to her. - John 20:18.

USA Today reports that "Life Goes On In The USA." Apparently life also goes on in Iraq. Ordinary people still go about their lives coping with the normal challenges of living life each day. Even in the midst of war people are still people. Some on both sides fear for the safety of loved ones who will be fighting in the battle. Some on both sides wonder how they will go on if something does happen to their loved ones. But life will continue to go on.

This is a war unlike any other in our ability to see live photos. From those photos, and videos we see vehicles moving across the desert. We can also see that vehicles are moving around in Baghdad and even see people walking on the roadways. The people in Baghdad have fear from the possibility of bombs and missiles raining down upon them from above. But still, they must continue to live life. In the USA there is a fear of terrorism and the possibility of bombings, chemical, biological, or even some form of nuclear attack. But still, we must continue to live life, because life goes on.

Even when terrible things are happening or have the potential of happening life requires for the most part taking care of some things. Except for some unusual periods we must continue to eat and drink. We must at some point continue to sleep at least for some period of time. There are the mundane requirements of making a living and the necessity of a job or some way to have an income. The income is necessary for most of us to be able to pay the bills and have at least the necessities for life. Life goes on.

After the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ, life was still going on. Funeral arrangements had to be made along with preparation of the body for burial. Some of the disciples returned to making a living being the fishermen that they had been most of their lives before being called by Jesus to follow Him.

How did the followers of Jesus break out of the depression and defeat they were experiencing to really live life? Life was going on for them, but they were just going through the motions, they were not really living life. The difference came when they realized and truly comprehended that life did not just go on in the physical existence that they could see and feel in this world. The difference came when they realized that life really did go on - life would go on eternally. When Jesus appeared to them after the resurrection their lives changed forever.

The words of Jesus now had new meaning as they remembered and realized the truth of what He had said, "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)." It is time for us too to hear, really hear the words of Jesus. Life does go on. Let us realize and comprehend that life goes on eternally and that life begins and should be lived starting here on this earth no matter what may be happening around us.

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2003

08.24.21

Hope and Vision

This devotional was written during the war in Iraq but I believe it still has a very important message.

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope. - 1 Timothy 1:1.

Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. - Acts 26:18-20.

Retired military officers and planners have been stating over and over again that "hope is not a plan." They say this in regard to the hope that large numbers of enemy forces would surrender, mutiny, or fade away into the desert. They also say the same thing about the "hope" that Iraqi civilians will rise up against the current Iraqi regime making an assault in the streets of Baghdad, and Basra unnecessary. The phrase "hope is not a plan" is apparently a favorite saying of military planners along with "Imagination is not a strategy."

The apostle Paul prior to his encounter with the risen Christ was a rising star among the Pharisees. He was "circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless (Philippians 3:5-6)." Paul had the very best of training that was available as he says, "I am indeed a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our fathers' law, and was zealous toward God as you all are today. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women (Acts 22:3-4)."

The Pharisees had a plan for ridding their world of the plague of Christianity. Their plan was to use their best man, Saul, to lead the attack against those of the "Way." They would begin in Jerusalem and follow the tentacles of this belief wherever it might lead. Their strategy was to use their political power as cover for their ruthless and brutal attack, which would include putting even women and children into prison and executions of those who opposed them.

The plan and strategy of the Pharisees was working well. The Christians who were vocal in their beliefs had been dispersed from Jerusalem and had spread even to Damascus. Saul in carrying out the next step of the plan for eradication of Christianity proceeded with following the believers to Damascus. He fully intended to continue the Pharisee’s strategy of brutality to destroy all who believed in this Jesus called the Christ. There was only one thing wrong with their plan and strategy. The more they persecuted the Christians the further those of "the Way" spread.

For the Christian, "hope" is more than a plan - it is a way of life and "vision" is more than a strategy - it is a driving force. Saul who became the apostle Paul traded in his zeal of persecution and brutalization for hope and vision. Paul through his personal encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus came to have "hope." With Paul's encounter of Jesus came the realization and understanding that this world is not all that there is and that Jesus represented the entire eternal world beyond the physical. Hope of what was to come became Paul's way of life as he lived his life in view of what were the eternal realities. The "heavenly vision" became the driving force changing not only his life but the lives of countless others as Paul preached, taught, and lived the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

In order to truly live the Christian life we too must have "hope." We must have our own encounter with the risen Christ (Romans 10:13; John 1:12; Revelation 3:20; John 5:24; John 14:6) and when we do we will understand with Paul that there is an eternal dimension to life. We will then understand that there is so much more to life than what we can see with our eyes. Our own "heavenly vision" will drive us forward in love and service to our Lord.

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL
Classic from 2003

08.23.21

The Heavy Pile

Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. - 1 Peter 5:7.

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.

I do love books but maybe not as much as a teacher in Croatia. DK is a 60-year-old math teacher living in Zagreb. DK's wife had been in the hospital, and she became concerned that he had not been to visit her in three days. She called their neighbors who then heard "muffled groans" coming from the apartment. The police found DK trapped under a pile of books in his bedroom. Which makes one wonder how many books it took to trap him?

Most likely you are not trapped under a pile of books and never will be, but it may be that something else has you trapped. Are you trapped under a pile of problems? Worries? Concerns? Anxieties? Pain? Heartache? Have your burdens slowed your life to a standstill? Are you having more and more difficulty just taking care of the normal daily routines of life? It may be that you have been trapped under a pile of life’s burdens.

Notice when Jesus says for those who are heavy ladened to come to Him that he does not condemn them. He also does not offer a lecture about how foolish it was for them to become so burdened. What Jesus does is offer relief. He offers to lighten your load and it is free! There are no strings except that of having Jesus as a traveling companion along life’s road. Without Jesus there can be no relief but with Him the burden is transferred to Him. Why would Jesus be willing to do this? Because as the apostle Peter notes "He cares for you." You may have never cared for God but He still "cares for you."

Is the pile of worries and problems growing larger and larger and more and more likely to fall? Has the pile of worries and problems fallen on you and the weight is pressing you further and further down? Call to Jesus and ask Him to lighten your load. Cast your cares and burdens upon Him and He will give you rest.

THE BURNING BUSH DEVOTIONAL

08.20.21

An Outrage!

This is a rewrite of a 2016 devotional in an attempt to address the situation we find ourselves in today.

The mouth of the righteous is a well of life, but violence covers the mouth of the wicked. Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins. – Proverbs 10:11-12 NKJV.

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 NKJV.

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. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. – James 3:13-18 NKJV.

What has happened and is happening in Afghanistan is an outrage! It is awful, horrible, a travesty! It was so preventable! The U.S. Embassy was evacuated leaving all of the records for the Taliban. This could not have been an accident giving the Taliban the records they need to target all who have helped America in the past. Leaving Bagram airbase to the Taliban prior to all Americans and Afghans who have been helping us being taken to safety could not have been an accident. All American troops leaving Afghanistan with all of the weapons left behind could not have been an accident. It had to all have been a very evil plan which benefits our enemies: the Taliban, ISIS, China and Russia. It is an outrage! But all of us Americans bear some responsibility.

What is the problem that has created such a racial divide, hate and violence in the United States? What is the problem that now appears to have given us a plague of bad leaders? Leaders who appear to be acting in concert with our enemies. John Adams, the second president of the United, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence long ago identified the problem we now see in the United States. Adams said this: "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion... Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." Franklin Graham in his essay "America the Beautiful?" in a 2016 issue of Decision Magazine writes, "Wherever Christianity flourishes, freedom flowers. Wherever it is marginalized, tyranny, despotism, and eventually anarchy will inevitably follow."

The solution to the hatred, the racial divide, and the violence is obvious. The solution to this plague of bad leaders is obvious. The people who make up these United States of America must turn to God; we desperately need a spiritual awakening to sweep across America. No presidential change, no amount of new laws, no amount of great speeches will change the hearts of Americans. Only God is able to change and renew the hearts, lives, and attitudes by writing His law upon our hearts.

The Bible tells what we must do in multiple places similar to Galatians 5:16 which says, "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." It will take all of us, turning from the godless evil that threatens our freedom, and turning to a real walk with God to bring to an end the outrages we now see destroying our nation and really the world. Let it begin with me; let it begin with you, as we seek to daily obey the law of our God which He has written upon our hearts.



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