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

DEVOTIONAL OF THE DAY

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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