�Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for �God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.� 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.� - I Peter 5:5-7.
This week a federal appeals court in the United States ruled that reciting the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools is an unconstitutional "endorsement of religion" because of the phrase "under God" that was added in 1954 by Congress. However, the court that made the ruling is already having second thoughts because of the tremendous outrage expressed by the American people, the President, legislators, and other officials. I liked what Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa said and I hope it is true, "This decision is so much out of the mainstream of thinking of Americans and the culture and values that we hold in America, that any Congressman that voted to take it out would be putting his tenure in Congress in jeopardy at the next election."
�Under God.� Only two words but they obviously have tremendous meaning for millions of people. Not only should our nation be �under God� but also hopefully every Christian should consider themselves to be under God. To receive Jesus as our Savior we must humble ourselves to the point of realization and acknowledgement that we cannot save ourselves. We are therefore �under God� if we know Jesus as our personal Savior.
As Christians we should also be �under God� in every area of our lives. Each day we make many decisions, do we consider God�s will or do we exclude Him? Are those decisions �under God� or are they under our own personal desires. This thought can be extended to everything in our lives from our marriages to our careers.
Joshua addressed this very well bringing the people to a time of decision as he said, �And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Joshua 24:15).�
We too have a choice to make. Will we choose to serve the One True Living God humbling ourselves under His mighty hand or will we serve ourselves? But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.
Better Than Life
�So I have looked for You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory. Because Your loving kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You.� - Psalm 63:2-3.
When David wrote the 63rd Psalm he was in the wilderness fleeing for his life. I am amazed at how David even in the most difficult circumstances continues to turn to God, continues to trust God, and continues to praise God. I also marvel at Christians today in the midst of their own trials, tribulations, and even persecutions who continue to praise and serve God. I receive emails nearly every day from people who are going through very difficult things in their lives but still they persist in praising and serving God.
The apostle Paul who also knew a little about serving under difficult conditions tells us in I Corinthians 15:57-58, �But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.� What a wonderful testimony of faith is given when those who from outward appearances have little reason to praise God but not only praise Him but continue to serve Him. Paul gives us the assurance that our �labor is not in vain in the lord.�
Why do Christians continue on in praising God and serving Him during difficult times? Because they have the witness of the Spirit within (I John 5:10a), and as Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God (John 6:68)."
So today if you are under pressure from the world, and thinking about giving up, or giving in remember the great example we have of those who have gone before us. Keep on praising and serving God because as David says, �Your loving kindness is better than life.� Keep on praising and serving God because as Peter points out there is nowhere else to go because, �You (Jesus) have the words of eternal life.� Finally, keep on praising and serving God because as the apostle Paul says, �your labor is not in vain.� So my much beloved brothers and sisters in Christ continue to �be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.� �Let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name (Hebrews 13:15).�
"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might." - Ephesians 6:10.
The Federal Aviation Administration publishes a monthly aviation safety newsletter written by Fred P. Harms. I stumbled onto their December 2001 newsletter entitled �Almost Stupid� in which Fred says, �In any given year fuel mistakes by pilot�s account for roughly 10% of the accidents by general aviation. There are usually two distinct types of errors leading to either fuel starvation or fuel exhaustion. Fuel starvation occurs when there is fuel aboard the aircraft, but it does not reach the engine, either because of mistakes in switching fuel flow controls, or because of contaminants in the fuel, or blockage in the supply lines. The second type is fuel exhaustion, when all usable fuel is expended.� Fred sums up his article by saying, �Pilots don�t intend to have accidents. When they occur they are usually the consequence of human factors, not stupidity. Running out of gas however is almost stupid.�
A frequent cause of the loss of spiritual power is not an empty fuel tank but some type of blockage. Blockages can come about through a variety of ways including: failing to treat our wife with honor (I Peter 3:7), grieving (Ephesians 4:30) or quenching (I Thessalonians 5:19) the Holy Spirit, failing to confess our trespasses or faults (James 5:16), and through being prideful (I Peter 5:5).
The classic reason for a lack of spiritual power is a lack of fuel. How do we fuel up spiritually? By praying (Luke 18:1), by having an intake of God�s Word (Matthew 4:4), by assembling with other believers (Matthew 18:20; Hebrews 10:24-25).
The fact is that most of us know that there are some things that we need to avoid spiritually, and to do spiritually. Fred Harms says, �One reason pilots run out of gas is that they don�t know how much (fuel) they have even when it is full.� That can be our problem as well. Losing power, using up our spiritual fuel occurs gradually and we may not even know we are sitting on empty until the crash comes.
What�s the solution for us? Don�t wait until you crash, fill up every day so you will know you have the spiritual fuel needed to face the challenges of each day. Remember Fred P. Harms says, �Running out of gas�is almost stupid.�
�Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight. ...And in a window sat a certain young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep. He was overcome by sleep; and as Paul continued speaking, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. But Paul went down, fell on him, and embracing him said, �Do not trouble yourselves, for his life is in him.�� - Acts 20:7,9-10.
It can be dangerous to fall asleep in church or even in a courtroom. Danielle Davidson found out about the hazards of sleeping in court when she dozed off after staying up late several nights studying for college exams. The judge found her sleeping to be disturbing because the people in the courtroom were laughing at her and he sentenced her to spend two days in jail. I�ve done my share of sleeping in church (Never in court - usually too much tension.) and I think it is because it is such a peaceful place. But some preachers especially in generations gone by were intolerant of people sleeping while they were preaching. At the church where I pastor a previous pastor one morning had just started his sermon and noticed some people were already asleep. He must have been a little upset because he stopped preaching and went home telling them if they were going to sleep they could just sleep. One of those who was there said that it was such a shock that he woke up after the preacher said that.
Eutychus and Paul had the ultimate sleeping in church experience. Can you imagine falling asleep during a sermon, dying and coming back to life with the apostle Paul lying on top, hugging you? And depending on whether you went to Heaven or Hell while you were dead it could be even a greater shock! You have to think that Eutychus resolved never ever to sleep in church again!
Of far greater consequence than falling asleep in church or even in a courtroom is that of falling asleep to the spiritual realities of life. The apostle Paul writes in I Thessalonians 5:6; 8, �Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. �But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation.� We should be constantly aware that there is a spiritual side to all of life.
Our Father is at work and we should be constantly seeing if we might somehow join Him in that work. There are those who are going out into eternity without a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. We should be standing in the gap through prayer, through witnessing, through giving, and through service holding back the lost from perishing. ��watch and be sober� be ready for action, be ready to �warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you (I Thessalonians 5:14-18).�
Have you been asleep? Wake up! There is much to do!
�Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.� - Hebrews 4:7b.
Living in the country does have some drawbacks as we have been plagued by the invasion of tiny bugs and now that they have been beaten back we are now swarmed with countless grasshoppers. Soon it will be time for bagworms and wasps but we are spraying early for the bagworms this year. I sometimes have to almost laugh when I think how insignificant our little bug problems are compared to those of the Egyptians (Exodus 7-12). The Egyptians were plagued with frogs, lice, frogs and locusts (And also plagues of blood, cattle pestilence, boils, hail, darkness, and death of the first-born came upon them.).
Why did God send plagues upon the Egyptians? He was trying to get their attention and specifically the attention of their Pharaoh. God was also demonstrating in a very spectacular way His superiority over the false gods of the Egyptians. You would think that Pharaoh after the third or fourth plague would have gotten it that he would have understood that there is a real God and that he, Pharaoh, was just a man. But nothing is able to gain Pharaoh�s attention and eventually great disaster descends over the Egyptian people as a result of his denial of the spiritual realities and refusal to obey the demands of the One True God.
Pharaoh had a heart-hardening problem (Exodus 7:14) but people today still have the same kind of problem. How often do we know God would have us to do some thing or not have us do some thing and we do what we want even though we know it is wrong? We have hardened our heart when we do what we want instead of what God wants. Has God been speaking to you? Have you been ignoring Him? God in the past has spoken to people in a wide variety of ways including: a direct and audible voice, through another person, through plagues, visions, dreams, circumstances, prayer, His written Word, promptings of the Holy Spirit, and a donkey.
God defines hearing differently than we do. If we hear a voice audibly or even read something we would say that we have heard what someone is trying to say to us. However, just knowing what God says is not hearing. Hearing God means we do what He says (Matthew 7:21-27). Have you �heard� God lately or are you waiting for a plague?
�I will meet them like a bear deprived of her cubs; I will tear open their rib cage, and there I will devour them like a lion. The wild beast shall tear them. O Israel, you are destroyed, but your help is from Me.� - Hosea 13:8-9.
Growing up on a farm one thing I learned quickly was that you do not want to appear to be a threat to a cow�s calf. Very docile cows that previously have let you pet them will become out of control monsters trying to destroy you if they believe you are trying to harm in any way their calf. Motherhood at times will also make a cow unreasonable and angry for no apparent reason. As dangerous as a cow may be when her calf is threatened a bear is much more dangerous. God describes Himself as being just as dangerous to Israel.
God had repeatedly demonstrated His love and forgiveness for Israel but the people repeatedly shunned His love by their evil actions. Eventually God disciplined Israel while at the same time reminding them (Hosea 13:4-6; 14:1-2) of His great love for them. We must not think that we are better than Israel. We are told in Hebrews 12:5-8, �My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives. If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.�
We should learn from what happened to Israel. Israel had many loves (Hosea 13:1-2) and God was not at the top of the list. We tend to move toward that which we desire and love the most. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:33, �But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.� God must be at the top of our love list. When we have God in the proper place in our lives then everything else will fall into place, as it should be. When God is in the proper place in our lives then we will have no reason to fear the bear.
Where is God at on your love list?
Growth Through Confession
�And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, �God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." - Luke 18:13-14.
�If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.� - I John 1:9.
It is always necessary for us to confess to God our sins, if we have sin in our lives, before further growth can occur. But before that confession can occur in a meaningful way we must understand and agree that we have sinned. If you remember King David�s sin with Bathsheba (II Samuel 11-12) you will also remember that God did confront him with his sin through the prophet Nathan. As a result of that confrontation and David finally comprehending that he had sinned we have his Psalm of confession, Psalm 51. David pleads, �Have mercy upon me, O God, According to Your lovingkindness; According to the multitude of Your tender mercies, Blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight�(Psalm 51:1-4).�
A friend of mine once came to me concerned about whether or not he had salvation. My friend had been in church all of his life and said that he had given his heart to Jesus long ago. However, it seemed for several years that at times he would doubt his salvation. As we talked and prayed together I suggested that he should search his heart over the next few days to see if there might possibly be some unconfessed sin hiding in his heart. A few days later George came to me and said that it had been revealed to him. It seems that years before when he was working for a company that he would use their tools after hours when he would have an opportunity to work for himself. He told me he had sent a check to his former employer, which he believed would be the cost of rental on the tools. His former employer unknown to George then gave the same amount as a donation to George�s church.
George no longer doubts his salvation and has moved forward with His Lord growing more and more conformed to His image. If you have stopped growing and your growth as a Christian has become stunted I would encourage you to examine your heart asking God to search your heart and reveal to you any unconfessed sin. If you find sin that you need to confess and repent of I would encourage you to follow the examples of King David and my friend George. Confession and repentance is not easy but oh how much better we feel when everything is right between us and the Lord. How much easier it is to pray, read His Word and be around other believers when all is well in our hearts.
Growth through Crisis
�Jesus said to him, �If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.� Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, �Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!�� - Mark 9:23-24.
This man brought his son to Jesus for help. Why? There was nowhere else for him to turn for help. From childhood his son had suffered and no one had been able to help and even the disciples had been unable to help. But still the man comes to Jesus to seek His help. You probably have been there at some point in your life or you may be there now. You are at the end of your rope and your fingers are losing their grip. You�re just not sure how much longer you can hold on and you call out to the only One who has the power to help.
The man who brought his son to Jesus was blessed with the miraculous healing of his child. However, if you look closely at the story you see in verse 26 at first everyone thought he had died. But then Jesus lifted him up and �he arose.� The man who had prayed for Jesus� help for his unbelief received help. No doubt his faith was strengthened far beyond what he could have ever dared to hope. Also the faith of others was strengthened including onlookers and that of the disciples. When you grow through a crisis others will grow as well.
It seems I have had many crisis situations in my life in which I turned toward God and not away from Him. The first one occurred early in our marriage and early in my life as a Christian. I was far from God and my wife told me she was leaving me. I prayed for the first time in a long time and she came home at the end of the week. My prayer life was strengthened incredibly. The second time I was in a crisis with temptation. I prayed and God delivered me and I grew so much closer to Him. The third time I was in a crisis when my son was born with Downs Syndrome. I prayed for him to be healed and to be made �normal� but God answered my prayer by saying He would be with me and He has been with me. My son has been one of God�s greatest blessings in my life. Not an easy blessing sometimes but still a blessing that continues to draw me nearer and nearer to my Lord.
I could tell you of more recent crises but I think you can get the picture. I know of many including friends who during times of crisis have turned away from God and the result has been a lack of growth in their lives. If, however, during our times of crisis and despair we turn to God we will grow and He will use it to bring about good in our lives and the lives of others. Allow God to �help� your �unbelief�.
Growth From Conflict
�Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, �Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.� Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work (Acts 13:13). Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God.� - Acts 15:36-40.
Last year (2001) the Edmonds, Washington city council decided to throw out a donated a 60-year-old totem pole that they thought was cheap in appearance. On the way to the landfill the totem pole took a detour to the home of Sydney Locke a demolition company employee. Sydney saw the totem pole in the trash bin liked what he saw, got it out and took it home. For some unknown reason city officials were upset by Locke�s actions, and filed a lawsuit to reclaim the totem pole as the legal owners. The council did not suddenly find an attraction or use for the totem pole they just want to make sure it gets to the landfill and stays there.
I�m not sure how the conflict between Sydney and the city of Edmonds has worked out but one thing is sure and that is that there will always be conflict of one kind or another. Conflict is not only encountered in the world but also in the church. The apostle Paul and Barnabas had a severe conflict over whether or not to take John Mark on the second missionary journey with them and as a result they parted company. Paul took Silas with him and Barnabas took John Mark.
With the conflict of Paul and Barnabas we can see that good and growth can come from it (Romans 8:28-29). First, we see that God was able to use this bad thing to double the number of missionary teams and the area covered. Second, we see that growth came to the life of John Mark. No one is sure why John Mark deserted during the first missionary journey. Some think it was the encounter of persecution that frightened him. Some think it was disease (Paul�s eye problem which some believe was his thorn in the flesh could have been caused by an infectious disease. Acts 23:2-5; Galatians 4:15; 6:11) that the team encountered that made him leave. Others think he was simply homesick and tired or it may have been some other unknown reason. The great thing we see about this conflict is that Mark was not driven away from God. Instead we see that Mark grew from this conflict and most likely everyone involved including Paul grew as well. We know how the story ended and it is recorded in II Timothy 4:11 where Paul writes, �Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry.�
God can bring growth out of conflict if we allow Him to. First, we must resolve to always treat others involved according to the way Jesus would have treated them. Second, we must resolve to seek God�s will and purpose to be fulfilled. Third, we must seek to draw closer to God. Fourth, sometimes it is necessary to give yourself and others second chances. Barnabas was willing to give Mark another chance but Mark had to be willing to try again. Finally we see that the apostle Paul as a result of the actions of Barnabas and Mark was willing to give Mark another opportunity for ministry.
Are you involved in some kind of conflict? If you are try the things listed above and most likely your conflict will be resolved or neutralized and you find that you have grown as a child of God being more conformed (Romans 8:29) to the image of Christ.
�Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.� - I Corinthians 9:23-27.�
It is amazing what pain people will put themselves through in order to approve their appearance from botox injections to major cosmetic surgery. The most shocking and painful thing I have heard of lately is called the Ilizarov procedure. The procedure is used to hopefully add a few inches to a person�s height by breaking the bones in the thighs or shins. Special leg braces, which must be adjusted four times per day, are placed on the legs to pull the bones apart. This painful process is continued over a six-month period and then there is still three months of recovery that are necessary. The procedure is very popular with younger Chinese men and women who hope to improve their professional and social situation. One woman said that after the procedure is completed, "I'll have a better job, a better boyfriend, and eventually a better husband. It's a long-term investment."
For us to grow as Christians it is necessary that we too endure some pain. We must be just as dedicated and steadfast as a marathon runner. We must persistently continue on with the Christian disciplines that we know are so very necessary to our growth. A daily intake of God�s Word is essential (Matthew 4:4) and some things may have to be sacrificed to bring that about. It may be necessary to wait until the evening to read the morning newspaper. It may be necessary leave the television off until after we have completed our morning Bible study. It may be necessary to wait until later to think about some things at work so that we will have time for prayer. It may be necessary to give up some time at the lake fishing or swimming so that we will not forsake the assembling with other believers.
There is some pain involve in the Christian life if we want to be �temperate in all things� as Paul says. Being temperate is to have temperance, which is a fruit of the Spirit and means self-control (Galatians 5:23). In order to resist temptation and control our earthly lusts and desires bringing our bodies under subjection we must experience the pain of discipline. We can run the race and win the prize but not without the pain of discipline.
The apostle Paul had a greater fear of disqualification than he did of the pain of discipline and we should too. The pain of discipline in the Christian life is the greatest long-term investment that anyone can make. How large is your investment?
�In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; my hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled; I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah. You hold my eyelids open; I am so troubled that I cannot speak. I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, and my spirit makes diligent search.� - Psalm 77:2-6.
�But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. I will remember the works of the Lord; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will also meditate on all Your work, and talk of Your deeds.� - Psalm 77:10-12.
Shaquille O�Neal of the Los Angeles Lakers says that he uses meditation to relax himself and to help think more positively. He says: "Actually, when I'm meditating, I'm not thinking about basketball, I'm thinking about family. I'm not thinking about the game, I'm thinking about my two daughters, my two sons�.� Phil Jackson the Lakers� coach has times set aside for his players to meditate several times a week. However, Jackson is hesitant to share details of the meditation sessions. He says the meditation promotes clearer thinking.
What is meditation? The dictionary defines the word �meditate� in this way: to reflect on or muse over, contemplate; intend, purpose; and to engage in contemplation or reflection. The dictionary says to meditate implies a definite focusing of one�s thoughts on something so as to understand it more deeply. The word �muse� is said to suggest a more or less focused daydreaming as in remembrance. The word �ponder� is the synonym for �meditate� and implies a careful weighing of a problem. It can also mean to think or consider quietly, soberly, and deeply. All of the definitions the dictionary gives, which I have shared above, can be involved in Biblical meditation.
Biblical mediation is different from that of the world. The world may imagine itself in a peaceful setting or contemplate the family as Shaquille does. There is nothing wrong with doing that and it may even provide some health benefits. But Biblical meditation is more than that and provides much greater benefits to every area of your life. As with any type of meditation to meditate Biblically requires planning, purpose, intent of the heart and mind. Meditation involves your thoughts. Philippians 4:8 tells us that we should only think about the good things and Paul provides a list which its context indicates that such thinking will help to provide us with joy and peace.
In Joshua 1:8 we are told that the Book of the Law should not depart from our mouths and that we should meditate in it day and night. The result will be that we will living according to it and have success in life. Psalm One tells us that blessed will be the person that delights in the law of the Lord, and meditates in it day and night. The result will be that �He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.�
The Word of God should be constantly in our hearts and minds. We should make a conscious effort to read the Word of God each day. We should have verses of Scripture memorized that we may run through our mind, contemplate, and savor as we live each day. We should consciously remember the great blessings of God in our lives giving thanks for them. Biblical meditation should be a constant ongoing devotion, which we live out before our God. Let us meditate!
(A special thanks to Denise �onedenise36� who wants to grow, be strong in the Lord and wanted to know more about meditation.)
Feeling Lost and Forgotten?
�For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.� - Luke 19:10.
�Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.� - Luke 12:6-7.
Some people may feel more lost and forgotten than others. In the District of Columbia the Department of Corrections apparently forgot about a homeless man for five months. After charges against the man were dropped the DOC held him in custody for five months claiming computer records had not been updated allowing for his release. In Japan immigration authorities had a similar problem forgetting about one individual they held in custody for almost two months after release should have occurred. Immigration authorities said that the expiration of the detention period �had been forgotten.�
The word �languish� is somewhat of a forgotten word, which means: to be or become feeble, or weak; to be or live in a state of depression or decreasing vitality; or to become dispirited. While we may not be languishing forgotten in a prison or jail cell somewhere we may feel forgotten by God and we may be �languishing� in this state of existence. The psalmist experienced this and says: �I am forgotten like a dead man, out of mind; I am like a broken vessel (Psalm 31:12).�
The good news is that God has not forgotten you and He knows exactly where you are. God knows everything about you including how many hairs you have or don�t have on your head. God has not forgotten even about the sparrows and you are of so much more value than they are to Him. You were the reason Jesus came down from the glories of Heaven and suffered and died on the cross. He came to find and save you.
How do we escape from our languishing and of feeling forgotten and lost? We must through faith put our trust in the Lord. The Psalmist says �The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. And those who know Your name will put their trust in You; for You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You (Psalm 9:9-10).� We must do even in the face of our feeling forgotten, abandoned, and languishing what David did. We must seek the refuge of the Lord we must commit ourselves, our lives, everything that we are and hope to be into the hands of God. David says even though he is feeling forgotten and abandoned, �Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord God of truth (Psalm 30:5).
As Jesus was dying on the cross (Luke 23:46) He quoted Psalm 30:5, �Into Your hand I commit my spirit.� As great men and women down through the centuries have been martyred for their faith it has been recorded that many of them also quoted the same words as Jesus. Let us not wait until death to place our lives into His hands. Let us do so now.
Blindness to the Truth
�Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man�s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the Natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.� - I Corinthians 2:12-14.
If you ever go to Greece please do not do any �plane spotting� and under no circumstances let anyone see you writing down the airplane numbers. Eight tourists from the United Kingdom found that out the hard way. After these English tourists were caught spotting planes and writing down numbers they were arrested. Not only were they arrested but they also have been sentenced to three years in prison. Very strange isn�t it but the authorities in Greece will not believe that someone could innocently write down airplane numbers. The Greek officials will not budge from their belief that anyone who writes down airplane numbers has to be a spy. The officials refuse to see the truth of the tourists� innocent activity.
If you have ever tried to witness to a lost person you may know what it is like to talk to someone who refuses to see the truth. To those of us who are Christians we easily accept the truth of the Word of God through faith. The Spirit of God within us reveals this truth. However, those who are not Christians do not have the Holy Spirit living within them. Because of this they will misinterpret the Scriptures and non-believers will warp the meaning of the Scriptures if they are involved in a discussion. The natural man, the non-believer cannot understand the things of God.
So if the non-believer refuses to see the truth how can they ever come to know God? God is working in their lives to draw them, the non-believers to Him. Jesus says, �No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him (John 6:44).� It is God�s will that all would be able to know, understand, and receive the Truth. Jesus says, �And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:40).�
What should be our response to the refusal of the non-believer to see the truth? Our response should be one of love and understanding of the spiritual situation. We should pray that God will continue to move and work in the person�s life and if possible let the non-believer know that we are praying for them on a daily basis. At the same time we must live out our faith before them demonstrating the love of God. Pray that God will remove their spiritual blindness so that they will come to know, love, and serve the One True God.
A Corrupted Conscience
�To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled.� - Titus 1:15.
In Albuquerque, New Mexico Amadeo Salguero was arrested for the carjacking of an Acura at the point of a gun from three people. The Acura had an excellent stereo system which most likely was what Salguero was after. Salguero was having difficulty operating the system and so he called one of his victims and asked, �I don't want there to be hard feelings, but, hey, how do you hook up your amp?" The call was traced to Salguero�s cell phone who lived just across the street from where the carjacking occurred.
One translation of Titus 1:15 instead of �defiled� says �corrupted� and both words could be used. With Amadeo Salguero we see a corruption of his conscience. His conscience is so corrupted that he sees little wrong with robbing someone at gunpoint. I�m sure he was quite shocked when the police arrived to arrest him after his call for help about operating the stereo system.
Recently I visited with a deputy sheriff after our church was broken into and he said that the people they were dealing with now are the children of those they were arresting ten to fifteen years ago. Hard to believe but corruption is being taught by the example and words of some parents. Of course the world itself is corrupted and constantly bombards the minds of all of us with its evil message. We should fear having a conscience that is not able to provide a moral guide and that does not know right from wrong or sees everything not as black and white but in shades of gray. Robert J. Little says, � A seared conscience is one whose warning voice has been suppressed and perverted habitually, so that eventually instead of serving as a guide, it only confirms the person in his premeditatedly evil course.�
The solution for uncorrupting a corrupted conscience is found in Hebrews 9:14 which says, �How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?� Once our conscience has been cleansed we should strive to keep it that way as we see in the example of the apostle Paul who says, �I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward and men (Acts 24:16).� In other words Paul strived always to keep his conscience clear or pure. We must do the same!
Weeds of the Heart
�A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.� - Luke 6:45.
The Fire Department in Denver, Colorado received a strange emergency call from the nearby city of Montbello. The woman who called claimed to be trapped in her home by tumbleweeds that had filled up her yard jamming against the house. Not only did they fill up her yard they had risen to a height of 16 feet. A spokesman for the Fire Department said there were �thousands� in the woman�s yard.
We have to wonder at what point did the woman in Montbello decide to call for help. Most likely the tumbleweeds piled up over a period of several hours or even days. She apparently waited until the situation was completely out of control. But the important thing to note is that she did finally ask for help.
When the weeds of bad thoughts, evil thoughts, impure thoughts are piling up in our heart at what point do we ask for help? At what point do we decide that instead of constantly imputing thoughts that are damaging we instead store up thoughts that are good? Do we wait until they have piled up to such a point that we are trapped? Do we wait until out of our mouths are coming hateful evil relationship damaging words? Do we wait until we are unable to make a good decision because our hearts are so polluted with evil?
We must be aggressive in controlling those weeds of evil thoughts or they will quickly overrun and ruin our lives. In Proverbs 4:23 we are told to �keep� our hearts or �guard� our hearts. We must filter or bring into subjection every thought, everything that enters our lives. The Bible tells us how to do that in II Corinthians 10:4-5, �For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strong holds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.� In the Name of Jesus we must take captive, take control of every thought, everything that enters our lives. If those thoughts are evil we must take them captive in the Name of Jesus protecting out hearts from those evil weeds.
Not only must we guard our hearts and avoid the pollution of our lives from evil we should at the same time fill our lives with good. The Bible tells us how to do that in Philippians 4:8-9, �Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.�
We must not wait until we are trapped and even destroyed by the weeds of the world. Guard your heart, take captive the evil in the Name of Jesus, and fill your heart with all the good things of God.
(Today�s devotional was written by my son, Clark Wrather. Clark is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Broken Bow, Oklahoma - firstname.lastname@example.org.)
�For we are God�s fellow workers; you are God�s field, you are God�s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it.� - I Corinthians 3:9-10.
Not too long ago, after getting home from work, I put some time into the yard. Fire ants were invading again, weeds needed to be sprayed, shrubs and trees needed to be trimmed, stuff needed to be burned, and the yard needed to be mowed. My son, Madison, wanted to help me do all of these things.
Most of the time while I was mowing, he pushed his plastic mower right along beside mine. We mowed the front yard together. He helped me gather sticks to burn, watched me sprinkle the pellets of death around the fire ants, and helped drag off the things I had trimmed.
He was able to help me with all of these things, but when I sprayed the yard for weeds, I made him go inside. He didn�t like it. Libby said that he threw a fit and wanted to be back outside where his Daddy was. I think his fit was one of his better performances from the way Libby described it.
After she told me about it, I started thinking about how great it is to have a son that loves you. He worked right along beside me and most of the things we did were not that much fun. Even when it was for his own good to be inside, he still wanted to be right where his Father was.
Our relationship with our Father in Heaven should be similar. We should have a desire to be right there beside Him, working with Him to accomplish something, even if it is not the most pleasurable thing we have ever done. What makes us happy should be intimacy with the Father, instead of doing things that please us and avoiding things that we may not like all that much.
There are also times when we cannot work alongside our Father, because it is not in our best interests. It is painful to be unable to serve God as you desire, but sometimes we are unable to do so, because it is for our own good.
Do you have a desire to be wherever the Father is? Then find some place to serve Him.
�And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.� - Philippians 4:19.
Moses was provided with a supernatural resource from God to use in confronting the Egyptian Pharaoh and leading the people of Israel to freedom. The supernatural resource provided to Moses was his shepherd�s staff. The staff or rod cast on the ground became a snake and when picked up by the tail again became a rod. The rod was stretched out over the river and the water turned to blood. The rod was stretched out again over the water and frogs covered the land of Egypt. When the rod was stretched out or used the plagues came over the land of Egypt.
When the people of Israel were between the Red Sea and the pursuing Egyptian army Moses cried out to God to help them. God�s response? �Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward. But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. And the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea (Exodus 14:15).�
What would have happened if Moses had refused to use the supernatural resource that God had given him? He would have failed. If we refuse to use the supernatural resources God has provided for us we will also fail. What resources has God provided for us? Prayer (Luke 18:1), the Bible (Matthew 4:4), and the Church (Hebrews 10:24-25) are supernatural resources provided to all of the children of God.
How many times have we come to God in times of crisis and cried out to Him for help? How often do we act like Moses at the Red Sea having the Rod of God but not using it until God says, �Why do you cry to Me? ... But lift up your rod, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it.� Is your prayer time an hour of prayer or a moment of prayer? Do you have a daily Bible reading time or a monthly Bible reading time? If you are physically able do you assemble with other believers or you have a �better� use for your time?
If we refuse to use the supernatural resources provided by God we will live in spiritual defeat.
Confronted By Truth
�The woman said to Him, �Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come there to draw.� Jesus said to her, �Go, call your husband, and come here.� The woman answered and said, �I have no husband.� Jesus said to her, �You have well said, I have no husband, for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.� The woman said to Him, �Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.�� - John 4:15-19.
Jesus says in Matthew 7:1 that we should �judge not, that you be not judged.� We have taken that to mean that we must not be critical or confrontational of those who are living in sin. However, Jesus gives us the example of the value of confronting someone with truth. If what you were involved in was sin and you did not know it would you want to know? Or, would you want to continue on in blissful ignorance? King David committed adultery and ordered the murder of Uriah to cover up his sin. Then, David married Uriah�s wife and blissfully went about his life for a year without any concern for the terrible thing that he had done. However, God sent the prophet Nathan to confront him with his sin.
The woman at the well and King David received the truth in the way it should be received. The truth was life changing for them. However, for many people when they are confronted with the truth it just makes them angry. They certainly would not think that you were a prophet for openly confronting them with the truth. They will however tell you that you ought to get the speck out of your eye before you judge them.
Why was Jesus confronting the woman at the well with truth? Because He loved her and knew that through her many others would come to know the truth as well. Why did God send Nathan the prophet to confront King David with the truth? God confronted David with the truth because God loved him and had great plans for David�s life and for the lives of his descendants.
Why would we want to risk telling someone the truth about sin in their lives? Because we know God loves them and has great plans for them. Of course, confronting someone with the truth is not to be done lightly. Confronting someone with the truth is not to be done in a judgmental way. Confronting someone with the truth should not be done hypocritically. But sometimes it simply must be done if we are to be obedient to our Lord.
Words or Actions?
�My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.� - I John 3:18.
City Councilman Angel Ortiz of Philadelphia has a little problem. For the past 25 years he has been driving without a license. 17 of those years he was either a council member or municipal employee. Ortiz in response said, �I kept trying to make time to get a new license, and it seemed that something pressing always took precedence.� Not long after the driving without a license problem Ortiz was found to have 53 parking tickets that were outstanding. Of course Ortiz denied knowing anything about any tickets.
We are astounded to know that people like Angel Oritz actually exist! However, if we take a close look at our own lives how many times have we said or indicated we would do something but have not? For example we know as Christians we ought to reach out to those around us and we speak of the need to do so but how often have we actually spoken to others about their need of the Savior? As disciples of Christ we know of the disciplines of the faith and by assuming the identity of a Christian we seek to indicate that we are involved in Christian activities. But are we really?
Is our love for others simply words? We are to follow the example of our Lord in demonstrating our love. The love Jesus had for us was more than words. His love was demonstrated by His actions as He died for us on the cross.
What is it that you have been saying you are going to do as a Christian but have never gotten around to it? How many years have passed without love being more than a word? Maybe it is time we stopped talking about love and did something that demonstrates our love? What do you think?
Are You Willing?
�Now the Lord had said to Abram: �Get out of your country, from your family and from your father�s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.� So Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Har�an.� - Genesis 12:1-4.
Five people in the United Kingdom have agreed to allow interested Internet surfers to determine the decisions they make over the next 15 days. These five will submit one decision each day to those on the Internet to decide for them what they should do. You can help them make their decisions by visiting www.liveyourlife.msn.co.uk Can you imagine being willing to do whatever the majority of random visitors to the �live your life� website votes for you to do?
Perhaps an even harder thing for some people to do would be to allow God to determine the decisions they make each day. What if you were 75-years-old and God wanted you to move to another country, leave most of your family behind, and start a new life? That is what God called upon Abram to do. The most surprising thing about that is that Abram actually did it! Abram did what the Lord God wanted and it changed his life and the life of all his descendants.
Why should we choose to be more obedient to God than millions of random people who visit an Internet Website? Because God will �bless� you and God desires the very best things for you. In contrast other people have their own backgrounds and personal opinions as the basis for their guidance of your life. God, however, always wants the best for you.
What decisions would God have you to make today? If you are not sure about what God wants then ask Him. Are you willing to do what God says for you to do? Are you willing? If you are not willing to do what God wants then pray and ask God to help you to become willing to be obedient to Him.
In Jacksonville, Florida a fire truck was sent to take an elderly man to the hospital. The man was accidentally struck and killed by the truck that was sent to help. In Ft. Worth, Texas a man involved in a bar fight was accidentally struck and killed when a sheriff�s vehicle responded to the call for help from the bar. In Middleburg, Virginia a woman fell from her horse after receiving a bee sting. She was accidentally struck and killed when a friend frantically drove to give aid. Horrible! Yes, and it was the result of having a desire to help.
Of course as Christians we want to help when others are hurting but we have to be careful what we say and do. Our thoughts, our desires to help others are more often correct than not. However, our actions, our counsels may not always be the best. Before we rush in to help we want to make sure that we will not make a bad situation worse. The thoughts of the righteous are right but are our counsels any better than those of the world? If we use the viewpoint of the world in our counseling we have not helped but made things worse.
When we are giving counsel we want to avoid ever advising someone to lie or give false witness even when it appears to be the easy way out and when the truth may hurt. When we are giving counsel we want to encourage the right things such as love, kindness, gentleness, going the extra mile, and turning the other cheek. We should never speak of getting even or of having revenge. Not only should our thoughts be of that which is right but let our counsels be so as well.
The next time the phone rings and someone is in trouble remember the importance of your words and actions as you seek to render aid and comfort in the Name of our Lord.
�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.
Accidents happen even to the President of the United States and he was just eating a pretzel. Accidents happen to all of us. I�m sure Vania Lucshesi would agree with that. Vania was just brushing her teeth when she tripped and swallowed her full-size toothbrush. Thankfully, the doctors at the University Hospital in Cardiff, Wales were successful in removing the toothbrush. So, just remember not only must you be careful while eating pretzels but also while brushing your teeth.
We have heard it said and have seen it with our own eyes that bad things do happen even to �good� people. However, something we do not often think about is that good things happen to �bad� people. The words �bad� and �good� when used for people are a subjective judgment on our part because the Bible says in Romans 3:23, �for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.� Jesus says that we should be like our Father in heaven who �makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:45).�
The world we live in is not a perfect world. All of creation was corrupted because of the sin of Adam and Eve. Because creation was corrupted bad things happen on planet Earth. In addition, each person has �free will.� Each individual is able to make decisions independent of God and of other people. Because those decisions are sometimes poor decisions they often result in additional bad things happening. In Ecclesiastes 7:17 we are told, �Do not be overly wicked, nor be foolish: why should you die before your time?� If we are in a metal fishing boat soaking wet during a lightning storm and stand up waving a metal pole we should not be surprised when lightning strikes and we die before our time.
More important than understanding why accidents happen as Jesus points out is our spiritual condition (Luke 13:1-5). If we do not turn from sin to God through receiving Jesus Christ as our Savior (repent) then we will perish spiritually.
Do you know Jesus as your Savior?
�So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.� - Luke 4:16.
�And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: �The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.�� - Luke 4:17-19.
�Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.� - Luke 4:21.
�So all those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath.� - Luke 4:28.
Last year a deputy sheriff in Sarasota, Florida had a little bit of a shock. He was going about his day just as he always did driving his sheriff�s vehicle to the same spot he usually used to catch speeders beside South Oxford Drive in Englewood. To the great surprise and shock of Deputy Tim Czachur his vehicle rolled into a newly created hole of about five feet by five feet. The speeders in Englewood received a brief reprieve that day. Deputy Czachur said, �Someone must have been ticketed and got upset.�
It must have a shock similar to that of Deputy Czachur that the residents of Nazareth received the day Jesus returned to his hometown. After hearing Jesus speak the people of Nazareth were at first in shock and later shock turned to rage as they sought to kill the hometown boy who made Himself equal with God. The Messiah had come to Nazareth but He most definitely was not what they had been expecting.
Often as we walk through life with our Lord we find that we encounter the unexpected as well. We find that we become the hands, feet and spokespersons for the Lord. We encounter the lost and we �preach the gospel� to the poor in spirit. The brokenhearted are brought into our lives and God uses us to bring healing. We find captives to the world, and the flesh and we �proclaim liberty.� We find those who are blind spiritually and help them with �recovery of sight.� We help those oppressed by the devil to be �set at liberty� and we proclaim to all that now is the �acceptable year of the Lord.�
As we become �Ambassadors for Christ� to our own families, neighbors, and hometowns it may be that they will be just as shocked as the people of Nazareth on that day so long ago when Jesus returned to his hometown. What unexpected thing would God have you to do today?
The Right Weapons
�For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.� - II Corinthians 10:3-5.
During Thailand�s four-day New Year Water Festival water pistol use is a frequent sight and experience. In the past police officers have joined in the fun using their own water pistols to fire back when attacked in fun. However, this year such good-natured fun by the police has been banned by the National Police Chief Sant Sarutanont. A police spokesperson explains, "To avoid pulling out the wrong gun, the police chief told officers to let themselves be victims in one-sided water fights. They are under strict orders not to return fire."
How terrible it would be for someone to be in an innocent water fight with a police officer and for the officer to mistakenly draw and fire the wrong weapon! It would be so very tragic! The apostle Paul explains to the Corinthians that the weapons we fight with as Christians are not the weapons used by the world. We too must be careful not to use the wrong weapons because the results would be tragic spiritually.
As children of God we do not need to use the world�s plans and methods to fight our battles. We have much more powerful weapons available to us. We have the �whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:13a). We have available the spiritual weapons of prayer, truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:14-18). Against such weapons the �strongholds� of the world cannot stand.
As Christians we are living in the world but we are not of the world and we must not fight spiritual battles with the wrong weapons because we will be defeated. Let us not use the water pistols of the world when we have available to us the heavy artillery of God. Because as Paul says, �For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and have done all, to stand (Ephesians 6:12-13).�
�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.� - II Corinthians 11:13-15.
�Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.� - I Peter 5:8.
�You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.� - John 8:44.
Since the 1970s Joey Skaggs has been the perpetrator of numerous hoaxes. Joey says, �I�ve never had a hoax that failed.� Some of Joey�s more famous hoaxes were: the Gypsy Moth Anti-Defamation League (Protested the political incorrectness of the term �Gypsy Moth.�), the Fat Squad (Assumed the role of a former drill sergeant who was determined to wipe out obesity.), Hair Transplants from the Dead (Promoted cure for baldness through hair transplants from the dead.), and a Celebrity Sperm Auction. Skaggs claims that journalists never bother to verify the facts when he sends out a simple press release or makes a few phone calls announcing a hoax.
As Christians we are not to be suspicious people (I Corinthians 13:5c) but at the same time we must be aware that people will sometimes lie. Not only that but some lies are demonically inspired. To go through life refusing to believe that anyone can do anything wrong or even tell a lie is to live in spiritual blindness. We must listen to the Holy Spirit as He will reveal to us when lies are being spoken or deceptions perpetrated (Acts 5:1-11). The devil and his legions will attempt to have you believe spiritual hoaxes that may very well come close to the truth, sound like the truth, but still be untrue. The enemy will warp and misstate the Words of God (Matthew 4) to back up his spiritual hoax.
No, we should not constantly think the worst of others, however, we must be �sober� and �vigilant� for our enemy would love to destroy us. The closer we are to God, the more we know His Word, the more we communicate with Him, the less susceptible we will be to falling victim to the hoaxes of the enemy.
The Right Measurement
�And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.� - Luke 12:29-31.
Anne Kremer and Jennifer Hopkins played the entire opening round match of the WTA $585,000 Bausch & Lomb Championships on the wrong size tennis court. After the players complained WTA officials measured the court and found the service line was three feet closer than it should have been to the net. For hours Kremer and Hopkins were in limbo wondering whether the match would have to be replayed while WTA officials deliberated about the foul up. Finally after six hours it was ruled the match would stand.
It would be terrible to play an entire game of any sport and then to have the results in question because the field of play was of the improper measurement. That would be a great disappointment. However, many face a greater disappointment in life. Countless people across this world live out their lives using the material as a measurement for the value and eternal worth of their lives.
What are your priorities in life? Is your goal the accumulation of money? Is your goal the purchase of larger and larger houses or lands? Is your goal the climbing of the corporate ladder until you stand on top? It may be that as Christians we will see those things happen in our lives but they should not be our goals. Why? Because material things can be destroyed by fire, flood, earthquake, and even �moths.� Material things can be lost due to theft (Luke 12:33) or even forgetfulness.
What should your goals be in life? What should your priorities be in life? Jesus says it very clearly, �seek the Kingdom of God.� That should be our goal, our priority and by it everything should be measured.
Have you been playing life on the wrong size court? Why not change courts before the game is over? Change your priorities; change your goals so that they meet with the approval of the Lord.
��the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.� - John 6:37b.
How would like to be Dallas Hill, Jr.? He applied for the AT&T Universal credit card and his application was rejected. The company because of a glitch in its� computer system sent Dallas not just one rejection but 2,986 rejection letters. You have to wonder if Dallas will ever apply for another credit card after such a massive rejection?
Most of us have experienced rejection in one form or another. Many of us know the pain of rejection after a job interview. Sometimes the pain is delivered quickly on the spot and other times we have to wait for weeks for the rejection letter to arrive. Some of us have been fired or laid off from a job while others continued their employment. Many have experienced the rejection and pain of divorce whether for the adults involved or for the children. Rejection comes in many forms and we can count on it knocking on our door several times during our lifetime.
How do you respond to rejection? For some it means a downward spin into depression, which takes weeks, months, or even years to end. For others rejection does not seem to affect them and they continue on as if nothing happened. How can you recover from rejection? Acceptance from other people is based on our behavior and upon that own person�s worldview. However, acceptance from God is based on faith. God accepts all those who come to Him in faith through Jesus Christ.
Let�s consider for a moment the person or institution that has rejected you. A thousand years from now will their opinion really matter? A thousand years from now the only opinion that will matter is that of God. And God has promised what to those who have come to Him? He has promised to never, ever reject them. No matter what failure you may experience God will never cast you out. Having this as a point of reference in our lives will help us to recover from rejection by keeping it in the proper perspective.
Whenever we are rejected let us always remember that there is One who will never reject us.
In His Image
�Then God said, �Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.� So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.� - Genesis 1:26-27.
The lack of concern and respect for other people is demonstrated by the actions of a woman in France. A 35-year-old mother of two bought a teargas canister and wanted to see if it really worked. Of course she realized that this could cause her some trouble with the law so she disguised herself in dark glasses and a hat. To test the teargas she sprayed an unsuspecting woman who had just returned to her car from shopping. The woman experimenting with the teargas said that she was somewhat disappointed with the product because her subject for the experiment was able to �thrash about and scare her by shouting.� A court has given the woman a four month suspended sentence.
There appears to be a reckless disregard for other people in our world today. The attitude of many is if they are in our way, run over them. If they can help us, use them. If they cannot help us, trash them. Just because God said for us to have dominion over or rule over the earth does not give us permission to be reckless in our behavior toward others. To rule or to have dominion also carries the idea of organizing and caring for the earth. God told Adam to take care of (Genesis 2:15) the garden He had given to mankind. With this perspective we see that we are to be more of a faithful steward than someone who rules over others.
Instead of trying out our new teargas canister or our new handgun on a fellow human being we should see each person as someone God cares about. Each person on this earth has been made in the image of God. Not only that but each person is someone for whom Jesus suffered and died (John 3:16). As you are driving in traffic realize that those around you are people that God loves. That person who just cut you off is someone God cares about and you should care about as well. When you are in a crowded place, standing in line, or packed in like sardines in the plane in economy class; remember God cares about that person next to you.
Not only does God care about all those other people, He also cares about you so very much. You have significance. You have been created in the image of God. You are someone for whom Jesus, God Himself, has suffered and died in order to save you if you will receive Him as your Savior. In addition, you are God�s representative, His steward here on earth to take care of all that this world contains including the people.
How can you be God�s steward today? Maybe a kind word, or turning the other cheek will make God�s world, your world a better place today. Sharing Jesus with a friend, or a stranger is sharing God�s love and demonstrating faithful stewardship as well.
How would God have you to tend and care for His world today?
�One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter�s brother, said to Him, �There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?� Then Jesus said, �Make the people sit down.� Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.� - John 6:8-11.
For years skeptics have been trying to throw doubt on the miracles recorded in the Bible. There have been attacks on everything from the crossing of the Red Sea to the virgin birth. It is somewhat surprising that these attacks have been largely unsuccessful. The Harris Poll of July 1998 found of adults in the United States 86% believes in the occurrence of miracles. 90% of Christians, and 66% of non-Christians believe in miracles. Why does faith in the miraculous persist? A Newsweek Poll conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates in April of 2000 reveals the answer. When those surveyed were asked whether they personally had ever experienced or witnessed a miracle 48% said they had. Amazing! Almost half the people in the United States say they have experienced or witnessed a miracle. No wonder the skeptics have had a hard time casting doubt on the miracles of the Bible.
Even the disciples of Jesus had a hard time believing in the miraculous. The disciples wanted to feed all of those people but they could not even begin to buy enough food with the money they had available. They probably thought it was reasonable to look among the people and see if there was enough food that had been brought that could be shared. They had no idea that Jesus could take a few loaves of barley and a couple of little fishes and feed thousands of people. They were still having a hard time believing even after the twelve baskets of fragments had been gathered up.
We may believe in miracles but usually we believe that miracles happen more often in the lives of other people. It is when it comes to our own lives that we are the most skeptical of the miraculous. God can do it in other people�s lives but we have a hard time believing He can do it in ours. We pray for rain but we have a hard time carrying an umbrella around after we do. Do miracles still occur today? Yes, half the people in the USA believe they have experienced one or seen one. Can something miraculous happen in your life? Could be. It may depend on your definition of a miracle. The fact that my heart continues to beat thousands of times every day sending life delivering blood through my veins and arteries is in the category of the miraculous for me. The truck that didn�t run over me or the car I didn�t run into is certainly miraculous when I consider how close I have come to being in terrible accidents.
The fact is that miracles still happen when it is God�s will. If our prayers are in accordance with God�s will for our lives you can count on a miracle happening in your life. In I John 5:14-15 we are told, �Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.� So, go ahead pray for the impossible, the impracticable, the fantastic, and the miraculous - it�s okay to do so. God would have us to come to Him with confidence knowing that we can pour our hearts out to Him. If we happen to ask for the wrong thing He�s not going to zap us with a lightning bolt. He wants us to know that He is still God and He loves us. His door is always open waiting for us to enter in. I believe that is a miracle in itself. Look around today and it may be that you will see some miracles too.
Crude and Rude
�Indeed, we put bits in horses� mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.� - James 3:3-6.
�Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.� - James 3:10.
A survey conducted by Public Agenda found that 79% believe that the lack of respect and courtesy in the United States is a serious problem and most believed it was becoming worse. Surprisingly many people admitted during the survey that they were rude themselves and more than a third admitted to using foul language in public. Those surveyed blamed their rudeness on a variety of things from overcrowding in public places to busy lives. Some researchers such as Harvard University professor Robert D. Putnam say that rudeness is a result of increasing social isolation in our society.
Being a pastor I live in a somewhat sheltered environment rarely hearing a rude or unkind word because people are careful what they say when they are around me. I have heard the argument from some people that they cannot control their speech but this is not true. We can control what we say if we have a desire to do so. No, it will not be without effort but we can do it just as people usually control what they say when they are at church or visiting with their pastor.
While I was a parole officer a young man was brought into the city jail on several offenses. At first I didn�t know who it was uttering the foulest most offensive language I had ever heard. When I asked the jailer I found out it was a son of a couple that went to our church and I knew the young man. When I walked up to the cell and said �hello� the tirade instantly ended and he said �Mr. Wrather.� He began speaking in a completely different way including phrases such as �yes, sir,� and �no, sir.� Since that time he has gone from bad to worse and has been in prison for several years. I still have hope, however, that this young man will turn to God.
God is still the answer to our speech problem even today. Our busy lives become controlled lives (Galatians 5:24) when we include God. Our tension at being in overcrowded places and highways will dissipate the closer we become to God (James 4:7-8). Our social isolation will end as we become fully functioning members of the body of Christ (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Let us stop allowing our tongue to run and ruin our lives. Instead allow God to become the rudder that guides us into pathways of peace, gentleness, and kindness. As the apostle Paul says, �Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one (Colossians 4:6).�
The Benefits of Church
�These things I write to you though I hope to come to you shortly; but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.� - I Timothy 3:14-15.
There are so many wonderful benefits from church attendance that it would be difficult to list them all. So many people that I talk to say that they just do not have time for church because of the busy lives they lead. However, if they could somehow comprehend the benefits church provides for them they would never miss a service. Taking a few hours a week to attend church services will when done faithfully bring order and coherence to every area of our lives. Instead of taking away time from us church attendance brings quality to every hour we live.
One of the more recent studies demonstrating the importance of church attendance is a Canadian psychiatric study. The study measured the impact of religious commitment with psychiatric patients. The results demonstrated that those patients �who worshipped more often also benefited more.� The study was published in the March 28, 2002 issue of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.
Dr. Marilyn Baetz, the professor who conducted the study, said, �regular worship helps in regulating behavior problems plus a sense of coherence and meaning to life - an important factor in overall treatment.�
The apostle Paul writing to Timothy also describes the importance of the church. The church is �the pillar and ground of the truth.� To take the church out of your life or to leave the church out is to leave out the �truth.� In many ways leaving the church out is to leave out the spiritual reality or truth of every situation and circumstance. However, when we include truth, the church we can sense a �meaning� and �coherence� in every area of our lives.
Once you establish the habit of church attendance you will never want to abandon it because you will know the difference that it makes for you and your family. Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25) as the church of the Living God.
It�s April Fools Day
�Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. 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 4:4-7.
Their supervisors most likely thought it was an April Fools joke when three Seattle police officers called in with an incredibly terrible story. Two of the officers in separate vehicles responded to a non-emergency call and on their way they crashed into each other totaling both of their cars. In addition to the damage to those vehicles an undercover officer who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time had his SUV damaged in the pile up as well.
It must have been a day like that for another man who after being at sea for fourteen days in a terrible storm the ship finally ran aground and broke up on an island. After surviving the shipwreck he was huddled around a fire in the rain trying to dry out a little when a snake bit him on the hand. It happened to the apostle Paul and is recorded in Acts 27 and 28.
What I find most incredible about the terrible things that happened to Paul is not that he shook off the poisonous snake and lived to tell about it. No what I find most incredible is that after this event and while he was in prison in Rome he was able to write the words recorded in Philippians chapter 4. How could Paul write such words after he had experienced those horrible things? The apostle could write them because he knew them to be true. He had himself experienced the peace of God beyond his understanding and he rejoiced because he knew his God to be real and present in his life.
If you ever find yourself having a day that seems like an April Fools joke don�t give up, don�t throw in the towel. Instead cast all your anxieties, and problems on the Lord. Then you too will be able to rejoice as you experience the peace of God beyond human understanding in the midst of the storm.
Let us rejoice!!
Copyright � 1998-2002. Ed Wrather. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for use of this material on a non-profit basis with source noted.