Today�s devotional was written by my son, Clark Wrather, who is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Clark may be contacted at email@example.com.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. - John 3:16.
One of the most difficult things I�ve done was when I handed my son, Mason, off to a stranger for surgery when he was three months old. Just last Friday, his neurosurgeon told us that he would need another surgery. Most likely, it will not be as complicated as the first one, but the surgeon told us there is no way to know until he is there looking around.
My son is now two years old. I cannot imagine that it will be easier to hand him over to strangers this time around. If anything, it will probably be harder. He�ll be scared and upset �and Libby and I probably will be too.
The only comfort I have is that my God also has a Son. He knows exactly what I�m feeling, because He�s felt it before. He knows what it feels like to hand your precious child over to strangers. This is what happened when our Lord Jesus left heaven behind and entered our world in the flesh.
I don�t know how the surgery will turn out, but we have a high probability that things will be just fine. I cannot imagine how it would feel to be told your child was going to die or that his chances were not good at all.
Our Father in heaven knew exactly what was going to happen to his beloved son when he handed him over to strangers. He knew that his special boy would eventually suffer, be tortured and die a painful death on the cross. God knew those things and still sent His Son to save us. I cannot imagine that God loves His boy any less than I love mine. What must God have felt in the weeks, days, and hours that were leading up to his Son�s death on the cross?
Knowing that my God has experienced some of the same things I�m facing is a great comfort. It also helps to know that He is listening to and answering prayer. He answered most of mine the last time around and I�m hoping He will this time as well. When you enter into God�s presence in prayer, please remember my son, Mason.
Finding God�s Plan
I will praise You with my whole heart; before the gods I will sing praises to You. I will worship toward Your holy temple, and praise Your name for Your lovingkindness and Your truth; for You have magnified Your word above all Your name. In the day when I cried out, You answered me, and made me bold with strength in my soul. All the kings of the earth shall praise You, O LORD, when they hear the words of Your mouth. Yes, they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD. Though the LORD is on high, yet He regards the lowly; but the proud He knows from afar. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You will revive me; you will stretch out Your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and Your right hand will save me. The LORD will perfect that which concerns me; your mercy, O LORD, endures forever; do not forsake the works of Your hands. - Psalm 138.
How do you know what to do with your life? I grew up on a farm and for hundreds of years my ancestors have all been farmers. There were a few exceptions in that one ancestor was a preacher but he was also a farmer. Another ancestor was a stonemason but he was also a farmer. My Dad has worked as a truck driver, and as a parts man at a tractor dealership but if you ask him what he is - he will tell you that he is a farmer. Being a farmer is all my father ever wanted to be.
How do you know which course, which path in life to take with your life�s work? Are you to be a farmer because all of your ancestors including your parents were farmers? Are you to be a doctor because your father or your mother is a doctor? The same question could be asked for every career path. The next question to be asked is whether that is the plan God has for your life? It may be, or it may not be - but don�t you want to know? So, how are you supposed to know these things? What does God expect of you? How do you know if you are on the right track with your life?
In times of uncertainty Psalm 138 can give you comfort and assurance especially verse eight. Verse eight in the New Living Translation says, �The Lord will work out his plans for my life.� This verse tells you that you do not bear the whole burden of making every single thing happen in order for God�s plan to be worked out in your life. God will work out His plan in your life but there are some conditions. Verse eight does not mean that you are to live without ambition or without any sense of direction or that you just wander aimlessly waiting for God to make a way for you. What it means is that if you do your best to live according to God�s will for your life and then you have the assurance/confidence that He is working to make His plan become a reality for you.
I thought when I was growing up on the farm that I would probably become a farmer when I grew up. However, God had another plan, and He was busy blocking that from happening, and redirecting me to other avenues until I finally arrived at the right one. God was busy working behind the scenes to make His plan a reality in my life.
God�s plan would have become a reality more quickly if I had been more yielded to Him. We know what a yield sign means when we approach an intersection. It means that we are to stop and yield the right of way to any vehicles approaching to your left or right. If we don�t yield, it most likely will result in an accident. The same with God, we are called upon to yield to Him and we will avoid many accidents in our life too.
David gives us three qualities that make up a yielded heart in Psalm 138. In verses one and two, we see David has the quality of thankfulness in his life. In verse six, we see David has the quality of humility in his life and in verse seven; there is the quality of trust. Those are qualities that we would do well to develop in our own lives.
If we do develop a yielded heart made up of thankfulness, humility and trust we will see God�s plan become a reality in our lives. When God�s plan and not our plan becomes a reality, we will have joy, meaning, and fulfillment beyond anything we could have brought about with our own plans. Allow God to work in your life and yield to Him by being a thankful, humble, and trusting person always seeking His will. The beginning point for God to work in your life is Jesus. If you have not done so receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior (John 1:12; John 3:16; Revelation 3:20) and being living the yielded life.
Innocent Until Proven Guilty
For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. - Romans 3:23.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way. - Isaiah 53:6a.
Living in Oklahoma, we hear frequently of the state trial of Terry Nichols for the 1995 bombing of the Murrah building. Nichols recently made an attempt at a plea bargain in which he would plead no contest to the charges in return for escaping the death penalty. The plea bargain was rejected by prosecutors. However, Judge Steven Taylor in a pretrial hearing said that he will stress to the jury that Nichols is to be �presumed innocent.� The judge also indicated that he should especially be presumed innocent in view of his willingness to plead no contest to the charges.
Being used to our criminal justice system in the USA it would only seem fair for God to operate in the same way. If God is fair, we think then He will consider us innocent until proven guilty. However, the flaw in this way of thinking is that we have already been found guilty. I am guilty, you are guilty, we are all guilty of sin, guilty of going our own way. One word stands out and shouts at us all in Romans 3:23 and Isaiah 53:6. That word is �all.� All of us have sinned. Every one of us have sinned and chosen our way instead of God�s way at one point or another. Of course, we do not like this spiritual fact but that does not change the truth of the matter.
Once we arrive at the point of realizing our guilt, we must throw ourselves upon the mercies of our Judge. Is our Judge without mercy? Will our Judge condemn us all without mercy? No, because He is a Judge of mercy and He has made a way for us to escape the penalty that should be ours. Romans 6:23 says, �the wages of sin is death.� But the rest of the verse gives the wonderful news of mercy, �but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.� Isaiah 53:6 says we have all gone astray but then tells us that God �has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.�
The bad news is that we are �all� guilty before God but the Good News is that �God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).�
When before the judgment bar of the Almighty it is best to plead guilty and confess (1 John 1:9). The punishment has already been given almost 2000 years ago when the sins of us all were laid on Jesus. What are we to do? Believe (John 3:16) upon our Savior Jesus Christ and receive the free gift of eternal life. Because if we do we will receive a full pardon for our iniquities.
In Pursuit of Truth
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:31-38.
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. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? - John 8:44-46.
Thomas said to Him, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.� - John 14:5-6.
Some UFO investigators are seeking the truth about a 1965 fireball incident at Kecksburg, Pennsylvania. There is no dispute about the fact that a fireball streaked across the sky on December 9, 1965. There is no dispute because there are photos available of the fireball. However, what is in dispute is whether the fireball landed in the forest near Kecksburg. Some claim that local men were held at gunpoint by men in military clothing while they cordoned the area off. They also claim that the men carried off something metallic about the size of a VW beetle. A group called the Coalition for Freedom of Information has brought a lawsuit against NASA seeking any reports concerning military intervention at Kecksburg. If necessary to find the truth the group plans to bring lawsuits against the Army, Air Force, and the Department of Defense. They just want to know the truth and they are determined to find it whatever it costs.
We human beings are inquisitive creatures but oddly when it comes to spiritual things some just choose to say no to finding out the truth. They stop up their ears and cover their eyes to avoid knowing any more about God. If Billy Graham happens to have a televised crusade on TV, they quickly switch the channel. If someone knocks on their door and asks if they can share their faith they will forcefully say they are not interested. They blindly walk toward the end of their lives unable to see the eternal danger that lurks ahead. Not knowing the truth they think is bliss - they think if they do not know the truth then the truth will not affect them. Sadly they will have a most difficult wake up call in eternity when the truth is forced upon them much to late for anything to be done to change their eternal destination.
The fact is that if someone truly wants to know the truth about spiritual things they will find that truth to be widely available. They will not have to bring suit against the local church to demand truth be revealed to them. Here is the primary spiritual truth that everyone needs to know - Here it is: There is only one way to Heaven. God in His wisdom has provided only one way to an eternity in that wonderful place in Heaven and there are no exceptions. What is that one way? JESUS! And He my friends is the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth so help me God. Pull the blinders off of someone before it is eternally too late and share the Truth with them.
The Royal Law - Part 2
If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well. - James 2:8.
Michelle Molina may have been having a bad day when she became a little upset at the manager of a McDonalds in Pleasantville, New Jersey. Michelle had placed a somewhat extensive order but the order did not arrive fast enough for her. Being angry over the slow service and cold food she cursed the manager and then poured a milkshake over the manager�s head. Apparently, this resulted in Michelle being arrested and charged with assault and criminal mischief. It all happened in a place called �Pleasantville.�
I think we can agree that Michelle was not following the �royal law� in her little escapade. However, many of us may have been tempted to do something similar - so let this be a warning to us of the consequences of such a thing! The fact is that following the �royal law� is usually to our advantage and we avoid many problems by not giving in to our fleshly urges. In addition, when we follow the �royal law� we find �life and peace� (Romans 8:6). When we follow our fleshly urges we quench and grieve the Holy Spirit and the result of following those urges is �death� (Romans 8:6).
Who is the King of kings? Jesus. If you know Jesus as your Savior you are part of the royal family of God (John 1:12). As children of God, we are called to a higher standard of living than children of the world are. We are to be the �salt� of the earth, a preserving influence flavoring the world with which each of us interacts. What a refreshing thing it must have been for that McDonald�s manager when someone else encountered something similar to Michelle Molina but instead of flying into a rage said something like, �don�t worry about it,� or �it�s okay.� Or, they just picked up their order and left knowing that it may have just been that someone there at the McDonalds was having a bad day and there was no need to make it worse.
Are you living like the Prince or Princess that you really are? Are you the �salt of the earth� bringing the flavor of real life to all you encounter? Are you the �light of the world� bringing the light of life to every dark place you encounter? Isn�t it time to take seriously the �royal law� of God? If we who are part of the royal family of the King of kings would live by the �royal law� what a different and wonderful world it would be.
The Royal Law
My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, "You sit here in a good place," and say to the poor man, "You stand there," or, "Sit here at my footstool," have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called? If you really fulfill the ROYAL LAW according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. - James 2:1-10.
When I was in the third grade to celebrate my birthday I invited all the boys in my class to come home with me after school and spend the night. Actually, I didn�t want to invite every one to my birthday party. I just wanted to invite every boy except for one to my party. The sad situation was that this one boy and his siblings were ostracized by all the other kids because they were poor. Ostracized is a polite way of saying that the other kids made their lives miserable. It wasn�t that any of the rest of us were rich but they did not have as much as our families did. When I told my mother I was going to invite all the boys but one she had other plans. Her plan was that I invite all the boys or not have a party at all. It was a difficult thing to do but I invited Carl (Not his real name.) to the party. I�ve been glad ever since that I did and proud of my mother for doing the right thing.
Not long ago Carl unexpectedly came by to visit us. He was working in the area and wanted to say hello. I had not seen him in over 20 years and we were able to catch up some on each other�s lives. Oh, and Carl mentioned again about the birthday party that he had been at in the third grade at my house. I consider Carl and his family my friends and since they know the Lord we will be for eternity. Thank God that my mother knew to do the right thing even if I didn�t!
James in just ten short verses says quite a bit about partiality and repeats himself trying to get the point across. In Scripture when something is repeated it is because it is of much importance and it may be that we have a problem with it. We are of equal value in the God�s eyes. If it had only been Carl - Jesus would still have died for him. Every person on this earth has immense, incomprehensible value to God. The next time that we are tempted to be partial to one person over another let us look at them through the eyes of Jesus.
Lying Like A Dog
But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. 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 God and men. - Acts 24:14-16.
You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. - Leviticus 19:11.
Sofia Aguilar�s car, a Mitsubishi 3000 GT, was having some transmission problems and she did what most of us would do - she took her car to a mechanic. Rocky Castilleja, a San Antonio, Texas mechanic for weeks told Sofia that her car was not yet repaired. When she went by the mechanic�s shop to check on it in person she found the car had an extra 190 miles on the odometer. Castilleja explained that the extra miles was a result of diagnostic testing which seemed reasonable to Sofia. Several weeks later (Her car had not yet been returned.) Sofia and her family went to the races. She was shocked to see her mechanic on the track, and�he was driving her car!! Upon closer inspection they found that it was indeed her car and with an additional 340 miles on it. Sofia called the police and the mechanic claimed that Sofia, �knew I was going to test drive her car.� However, after a short investigation officers arrested Castilleja for unlawful use of a vehicle.
It is amazing the creative license some take with the truth! Too many times, I have been disappointed to learn that someone has looked me in the eyes and lied. Sadly, I have a relative that would rather tell a lie than tell the truth. It is hard for me to understand why a person would persistently tell one lie after another except that they do not know the Lord as their Savior. I will confess that I have lied before but it is not something that I can do habitually because it wounds my conscience and grieves the Holy Spirit. I, as did the apostle Paul, strive to keep my conscience clear before God and man because to do otherwise is much too painful.
Why did the apostle Paul strive to keep his conscience clear? As he explained before Felix, he had hope in God. In other words, he believed that God was real and that there would some day be an accounting for our actions. Paul had a fear, a reverence, and respect for God because he looked beyond to eternity. There is more to life than what just meets our eyes. There is something more important than any situation where we are tempted to tell an untruth to make things better for us or to make ourselves look better. God knows exactly what we are doing. Let us ponder very carefully our actions in view of the eternal fact that there is a God and some bright shining day we who know Jesus as our Savior will walk by sight in His presence.
(Please pray for my lost relative that God will intervene in their life.)
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. - John 3:14-17.
The history of Valentine�s Day is shrouded by the centuries of time. The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints with the name of Valentine or Valentinus all of whom were martyred. One story tells of when Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage for young men believing that they made better soldiers when they were not burdened with wives and families. According to the story, Valentine, see how unjust this was defied the Emperor and in secret continued to marry young lovers. When the Emperor found out, he had Valentine executed.
From these ancient legends which all involved great trauma and demonstrations of love Valentine�s Day has taken on a life of its own which centuries ago would never have been thought about. In the Philippines, the day was celebrated setting a new world�s record with 5,122 couples all kissing at the same time. Thousands viewed the event and cheered as they kissed at the stroke of midnight on Friday. The Philippines has many problems including a massive budget deficit, crime and corruption. The world record kissing event along a 1.2-mile highway by Manila Bay was a nice break according to Mayor Lito Atienza who said, �Let�s take a break from the troubles we have been having, from our work, from political bickering, after all, it�s Valentine�s Day.�
Love is still alive and well in the 21st Century although love probably had little to do with the record kiss in Manila. Love is still alive and celebrated most likely because real love is motivated by a love for God and by His great example of sacrificial love. Real, Christian love once experienced is unforgettable and has the power to change the course of lives. Perhaps the origin of Valentine�s Day really goes back to the sacrificial love of Jesus who died so that we would have a Savior.
What better way to celebrate Valentine�s Day then to in some way follow the sacrificial example of Jesus, give up something in our lives, to show that love, demonstrate that love to someone else. As Jesus says, �A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35)."
Happy Valentine�s Day!!
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth." And God said, "See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food"; and it was so. Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. - Genesis 1:27-31.
"We gave the keys to the car to someone without ensuring that they knew how to drive a car safely, and it crashed." That was the statement by NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue after the recent Super Bowl halftime debacle. To his credit, he accepts responsibility for allowing MTV free rein in the production of the show. There has been and it appears that there will continue to be some harsh fallout for the entertainment industry as a result of the halftime show. Perhaps this is a good time to call into question whether any and every obscene thing should be shown on cable and satellite television as well. Do our leaders have some responsibility to do the right thing in regard to all of the filth being constantly beamed out into homes across this country? Of course, they are responsible because they are the ones who can most easily do something about it. But the rest of us bear responsibility to the extent that we support the filth through our dollars. There would not be a drug problem if there were not so many people wanting to use illegal substances. The entertainment industry would not be continuing to produce this obscene material if there were not so many people wanting to see it.
Beginning with Adam and Eve mankind has been given great responsibility for all that God has created. Perhaps the most heavy responsibility of all is for the way that we live our individual lives and the impact that it has on those around us. Beginning with Adam and Eve, we have all failed to live up to the responsibility that God has placed upon us. We have all failed at some point just as the Bible says in Romans 3:23, �for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.� What is that we should do in light of our failures? We should accept responsibility that we have failed confessing (1 John 1:9) that to our Lord Jesus and asking His forgiveness. As the prophet Micah tells us, �He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 1:6)?�
Isn�t it time for us to accept responsibility, confess our failures and begin again through His forgiveness to live as He would have us to? What better time than right now to do exactly that?< /B>
The Way It Ought To Be
Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the LORD said, "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them." But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. - Genesis 6:5-8.
But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. - Matthew 24:37-39.
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! For of this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres resisted Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, disapproved concerning the faith; but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was. - 2 Timothy 3:1-9.
Recently I watched movie called �Timechangers� which was thought provoking. In the movie a seminary professor from 1890 visits the 21st Century and the professor is horrified by the moral decay that he finds. He goes to a movie with a group from a church and is shocked to hear the Lord�s Name taken in vain by an actor. He is shocked by the immodest dress and complains about a window display. He is shocked that people are working on the Lord�s Day. At his motel, he briefly scans through some of the television channels available and is so shocked he spends the night kneeling by his bed in prayer. At a burger place, he overhears two teenage girls planning to sneak around and have a party, which includes drinking alcohol. When the professor confronts them, they think that he is some kind of crazy nut. Because of the decay, the professor believes that this must indeed be the last days and that Jesus is coming soon.
We do seem to have become desensitized to many forms of immorality, which would have been shocking beyond belief a century ago. Because we are living in the 21st Century and have space age technology does that make it okay to participate in the immorality that lurks around every corner of modern day life? Because everyone else thinks it is okay and acts like it is okay to behave in a manner the Bible clearly indicates is immoral does that make it okay? Because we have grown up hearing and seeing all kinds of disgusting things, does that mean that it is right? Because our society has evolved into a godless mess of immorality, does that mean that we have no choice but to be a part of it?
I once heard a sermon preached about how everyone knows �the way it is� in the church and the world but he then preached a sermon about how �it ought to be.� We know, at least I hope we know, that �the way it is� in this world of ours is not the way �it ought to be.� In 100 years, has the Bible changed so radically that we think that �the way it is� is good? The fact is that the Bible has not changed. God�s Word is unchangeable just as He is unchangeable and is the same yesterday, today, and for eternity.
The apostle Paul not only tells us the �way it is� in 2 Timothy 3 but he also tells us the way it ought to be, �But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:14-15).� Evil men, imposters, and deceivers will multiply (2 Timothy 3:13) but we must continue in the Truth. The Bible has not changed and will never change. We must not give in to the lies of the world. Let us continue in what we know to be true.
The Wonder Book
Today�s devotional was written by Dr. Walker Moore who is president of AweStar Ministries in Tulsa, P. O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147. You may contact Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800.293. 7827. Visit their website at www.awestar.org.
How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You. - Psalm 119:9, 11.
A little boy walked into the living room and opened the big family Bible. He was fascinated as he fingered through the old pages. Suddenly something fell out of the book. He picked up the object and looked closely at it. What he saw was an old leaf that had been pressed in between the pages. He quickly ran into the bedroom to find his mother. �Mommy, Mommy! Look what I found in the Bible,� the little boy shouted. �What did you find?� his mother asked. With astonishment, the little boy answered, �Wow! I think it is Adam's underwear!�
What has happened to us? At one point in our lives, the Bible was an exciting, mysterious and holy book. It was something to be cherished. Do you remember the day you received your very own Bible? You took it with you to Sunday school, church training, everywhere. You read, studied and memorized it. It was as much a part of your life as wearing shoes. But sometimes the priority of God's Word gets lost along the way from childhood to adulthood. Today many have replaced their Bibles and instead wear a Christian T-shirt, a WWJD bracelet or a cross ring or necklace as a symbol for being a Christian. Yet, there is a direct relationship between God's Word and your children living a holy life as a Christian. How can a young man or young lady keep their way pure? According to the Bible, it is not just reading the Bible but allowing our lives to come under complete obedience to the Word of God. That information will not come from Christian merchandise. Only through the Bible.
Many years ago, I learned a song that I can still sing with enthusiasm. The B-I-B-L-E. Yes, that �s the book for me. I stand alone on the word of God. The B-I-B-L-E! When I was a child, it was the book for me. When I became a young man, it still was the book for me, and now that I have my AARP card, it still is the book for me. Sitting on my desk is a Bible that I have used for 29 years. The pages are falling out and scotch tape holds the cover together. There are notes throughout and words underlined and highlighted. It has autographs of respectable preachers I have met on my journey. One of the first things I wrote in my Bible many years ago as a teenager was, �This book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.�
Lead your children to open God's Word. You will never imagine the effect their discoveries will have. Even when it is just Adam�s underwear. You are your child primary discipler in the ways and the word of God.
Prayer: Dear Father, It takes so much to raise a child. I have to responsible for their food, shelter, clothing and well-being. Sometimes these things get in away of the most important thing and that is to be their spiritual leader. Today my priority is to make sure they have a daily intake of your word. Father today may I feed my children from the overflow you have give me. Amen.
Where�s the Pork?
There is desirable treasure, and oil in the dwelling of the wise, but a foolish man squanders it. - Proverbs 21:20.
The United States Congress in January passed legislation for �earmarked� projects with many of them appearing wasteful. Iowa is receiving $50 million for developing an indoor rain forest. Florida is receiving $50 million so that a beach resort bridge will continue to be toll-free. $ 450,000 goes to decipher the genetic structure of rainbow trout and there is a program at the University of Akron that seeks to analyze how Congress makes difficult budget decisions that will receive $500,000. Now we know where some of the �pork� is at.
All of the above appears somewhat wasteful to me but consider how it is viewed by those who lived through the Great Depression. I have heard many stories about how people used everything and conserved vigorously in order to survive during those difficult times. One story I�ve heard many times is about conserving gasoline. In order to conserve gas one man during the depression would turn off the key to the engine when he thought he was close enough to the gas pump for the vehicle to coast the rest of the way. Everything else in his life was lived just as conservatively and not surprisingly, his descendants have reaped large financial benefits from his frugality.
As children of God, everything we have belongs to God. Every material possession, everything we own including our own bodies belongs to God. We are allowed the use of what we have been blessed with but we are only stewards not owners of it. There will someday be an accounting of how we have used and taken care of all that God has placed in our care. The parable of the Talents gives us some perspective about this: "For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey. Then he who had received the five talents went and traded with them, and made another five talents. And likewise he who had received two gained two more also. But he who had received one went and dug in the ground, and hid his lord's money. After a long time the lord of those servants came and settled accounts with them (Matthew 25:14-19).�
Where�s the �pork� at in our lives? God not only desires that we waste not what He has placed into our care but that it increases in value and does not diminish. Of course, the value of what God has placed into our hands cannot be measured in monetary value but in eternal value. Are we investing in the Kingdom of God not only with the financial assets available to us but also with all that makes up our lives?
Pray For A Good Heart
Today�s devotional was written by my son, Clark Wrather, who is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Clark may be contacted at email@example.com.
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. - Hebrews 12:1-2.
And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all, just as we do to you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all His saints. - 1 Thessalonians 3:12-14.
A couple of weeks ago, a group of ladies from our church took a shopping trip to McKinney, Texas. To prepare for the trip, I cleaned up the vans and gave them a good washing. I wanted the vans to be perfect for their trip. I gassed them up and checked the oil. Neither was low, but surprisingly one was too full.
On the morning of the trip, I arrived early and started up the vans. I wanted them to be warm and cozy for the ladies going to Texas. Everything was prepared. The vans were ready to go, but then something happened.
While I was waiting for people to arrive, I took the opportunity to finish up some work in the office. After several minutes, people started to arrive and then one lady burst in and asked how many keys we had to one of the vans. I thought it was a strange question and arched an eyebrow. She confessed that she had locked the keys inside one of the vans, which was running.
I did some quick thinking and knew one van only had one set of keys. Unfortunately, that was the set of keys locked up inside the van. We made an attempt at opening up the van with a hanger, but it was to no avail. It was past time to leave and everyone could squeeze into one van. They did and left me behind to unlock the van that was all cleaned up, gassed up, warmed up and ready to go.
Sometimes our relationship with Christ seems like its going nowhere. It seems like He is not listening to our prayers or that we are not growing any closer to Him. We may be coming to church, reading our Bible and even serving God in some way, but nothing is happening. We�re like that van - all geared up and ready to grow, but nothing happens.
When this is happening, even though you seem to be doing all of the right things, there are two possibilities. The first is that you have some kind of habitual sin and you will not let it go. If God speaks to you over and over again, convicting you of a certain sin and you hold on to it� don�t expect to grow. The second is that your heart may not be seeking God. You may just be going through the motions at church, when you pray, and when you read the Bible. Your heart and its devotion is the only key that opens the door for you to grow anywhere.
Lock The Door!
Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. Put away from you a deceitful mouth, and put perverse lips far from you. Let your eyes look straight ahead, and your eyelids look right before you. Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established. Do not turn to the right or the left; remove your foot from evil. - Proverbs 4:23- 27.
At the Varner prison, which is located about 70 miles southeast of Little Rock, Arkansas the death row cell doors were accidentally left unlocked. It was the second time since December that the doors were left unlocked. Thankfully, as Dina Tyler a spokesperson for the Arkansas prison system says, �They (the prisoners) sat there. They didn�t move.� However, in December when an electrical fault opened the doors there was a different result. The doors opened then were to a cellblock holding violent murderers and rapists. Many of the inmates left their cells and another inmate killed one of them. Of course, the inmate who murdered the other inmate will be charged with the murder but what are they going to do to him? Put him on death row? He is already on death row and he doesn�t care.
While I was in the first part of my training as a parole officer, we were housed inside of a minimum-security prison. In that low level of security, inmates were able to roam around very freely. We were warned to always lock our portion of the facility - to always be secure. We were warned to do this even if we were only leaving for a few moments. All of us took this very seriously and by doing so, we protected each other.
Another translation of Proverbs 4:23 puts it this way, �Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.� We do have an enemy who is constantly seeking a way to gain entry into our lives. 1 Peter 5:8 says, �Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.� The devil is constantly seeking a way into your life and you must constantly be on guard to prevent his entry. We must also be on guard against �worldly lusts (Titus 2:12),� and the lure of the �flesh (Romans 8:5).�
Whenever we give in to the �worldly lusts� or the �flesh� we provide an opening for the devil to attack us. It is just as if we have left the door unlocked to our heart and invited him in. A very dangerous thing to do because the heart is the �wellspring of life� and out of the heart come all the �issues of life.� If the door is left unlocked that old murderer, the devil will not set around until someone locks it up again. No, he will immediately take advantage of the opportunity at your expense and do as much damage as he can. The devil is not a gentleman or a civilized person - he is just like the murderers and rapists on death row. He does not care whether he is found out because he is already under a death sentence and he just enjoys causing as much pain as he can while he can.
Guard your heart well because there is reason to do so. Nothing is more important than your heart. Every time you make the right choice to live righteously and not sin, you have turned the key in the lock of your heart. Every time you resist the �worldly lusts� and the lures of the � flesh�, you have locked the door to your heart against the attacks of the devil. Guard your heart! Lock the door!
Facilitating Your Spiritual Break Out - Part 7
But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." - Mark 10:42-45.
Ed Buchart retired from the marines after 20 years in 1978 and never dreamed of what God had in store for him then. �Santa� Butchart spends Christmas every year looking just like Santa Claus but this Santa tells the children what Christmas is really about. He tells them how that God loved the world so much that he sent His Son. He tells them how special they are and how much God loves them.
Ed has spent much of his time after retirement repairing wheelchairs through his non-profit corporation, Friends of Disabled Adults, Inc. The ministry grew from a little place in his garage to a 64,500 square-foot warehouse, which is filled with refurbished wheelchairs, and medical equipment. To begin with, Ed and his wife rebuilt the wheelchairs themselves but as people became aware of their ministry and demand increased they realized that they needed help. FODA now has a few employees many of whom are disabled. Ed Buchart through FODA has distributed more than $32 million dollars in refurbished wheelchairs. Buchart says that he never knew how much he was worth until he gave himself away.
Jesus, our Lord, Savior, and example gave Himself away as well. Jesus did not come to this earth to be served but to serve. We are not saved so that we can be served but so that we can serve as did our Lord. However, when we serve it should always point others to Jesus bringing glory to Him. And when we serve the ultimate purpose should be that others would come to know Jesus as their Savior.
How much are you worth? You are worth so much that God�s Son came down to this earth from the glories of Heaven suffering and dying so that you would have a Savior. Even though we are worth so very much it is not always comprehended/understood by us. However, when we begin to give ourselves away that is when our true worth is revealed not only to ourselves but to others as well. Give yourself away and break out of life, as you have known it. Give yourself away and you too can break out spiritually!
Read The Manual
Today�s devotional was written by my son, Clark Wrather, who is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. Clark may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, "If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread." But He answered and said, "It is written, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God."' - Matthew 4:3-4.
Just a few weeks ago around Thanksgiving, my family traveled to Western Oklahoma for Thanksgiving. If you�ve never been there, imagine a place with very few trees and so flat that you can see for miles. It has a sort of rough beauty that is only spoiled by the constant blowing of the wind. It is always windy in Western Oklahoma.
On our way out there, we stopped to fill up with gas on the turnpike. It was the start of a holiday weekend and the place was full of people traveling and vehicles filling up. While the gas was flowing into my car, I went back and opened the driver�s side front door. This was a big mistake for some reason.
We�ve only had our mini-van a few months. When I opened the door, it set off the factory installed car alarm. I didn�t even know that it had factory installed car alarm, but I do now. The horn started honking with a shrill BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! It would BEEP every couple of seconds. In the interval between beeps, every light on the car would flash on and then off.
It was quite a spectacle. Imagine my surprise; I didn�t even know my van could do that. In just a few moments, my wonder turned into nervous alarm, when it hit me that not only did I not know about the car alarm, but I had no idea how to turn it off. Imagine lights flashing on and off and the shrill honking of a crazed mini-van. In the middle of it all, picture two frantic people desperately searching the pages of the owner�s manual to find out how in the world to shut it off. Libby eventually found what to do and we shut the awful thing off.
I had owned that van for a few months and hadn�t cared about reading the owner�s manual at all. Suddenly, I had a good reason to do so. I don�t know how many people have dusty Bibles at home that they never read. I do know that when your life gets turned upside down and you have a major crisis, that Bible is usually taken down, opened up and desperately read and searched for answers. You might try reading it before the crisis, so you�ll be prepared and know what to do. I wish I had read the owner�s manual for my van, before it went berserk.
Facilitating Your Spiritual Break Out - Part 6
(Praying with others)
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.
On July 1, 1857, Jeremiah Lanphier received an appointment as a city missionary in New York City from the Dutch Reformed Church. Lanphier was described as being a �quiet and zealous businessman .� How would he be able to make any kind of difference? He decided to begin by holding a prayer meeting at noon on Wednesdays and he randomly passed out a few invitations for others to join him. The prayer meeting was held on Fulton Street a few blocks from where the World Trade Center would eventually be located. Lanphier relates what happened, �Going my rounds in the performance of my duty one day, as I was walking along the streets, the idea was suggested to my mind that an hour of prayer, from twelve to one o'clock, would be beneficial to businessmen, who usually in great numbers take that hour for rest and refreshment. The idea was to have singing, prayer, exhortation, relation of religious experience, as the case might be; that none should be required to stay the whole hour; that all should come and go as their engagements should allow or require, or their inclinations dictate. Arrangements were made, and at twelve o'clock noon, on the 23rd day of September, 1857, the door of the third story lecture room was thrown open.�
Jeremiah had to pray by himself for the first thirty minutes but then a few men began arriving until eventually five had come making a total of six people. The next meeting was held on September 30th with 20 people attending. On October 7th, the meeting had grown to over 30 and it was decided to have the meetings daily. Within only a matter of months prayer meetings multiplied until there were over 10,000 people praying together in the city in these meetings. The movement spread across the country and to England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. The result was that over one million people came to know Christ as their Savior. Major social changes also were brought about because of these new believers.
God used one person to start one prayer meeting that changed the world! What would happen in your world if you asked a few friends to join you in prayer? Invite them to your home, or ask your pastor if you can meet at church and allow everyone to come that would like to be a part of it. What would happen if you were to do that? Most likely God would use you to change the world too! What a wonderful spiritual break out that would be!
(If you do start a prayer meeting please send me an email and let me know about it. I think it would be a great encouragement to us all.)
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, "Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the �stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.' Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." - Acts 4:8-12.
Manufacturers these days go to extreme lengths to provide adequate warning labels in order to avoid lawsuits. For example, the manufacturer of a 5-inch fishing lure with three very sharp steel hooks has put a label on the lure that states, �Harmful if swallowed.� If fish could read it would be a very helpful piece of information for them! The manufacturer of a drain cleaner has placed this warning label on the bottle, �If you do not understand, or cannot read, all directions, cautions and warnings, do not use this product.� A warning label on a snow sled states, �Beware: sled may develop high speed under certain snow conditions.� No doubt, you have seen other warning labels that seem just as absurd.
Whatever label there may be on products there will probably be someone who will do exactly what they are warned not to do. It may simply be human nature to want to rebel against what they know is right and do what is wrong. It apparently is an inherited trait, which we all have gotten from our ancestors Adam and Eve.
God is also in the warning business and has been busy for thousands of years doing exactly that. In the days of the Old Testament God sent men called prophets to warn the people of their sins and of what God would have them to do differently. Today we have the Bible - it is a love letter from God to us but sometimes it is a tough love. God loves us so much that He warns us about what will happen if we do not heed His words of love.
The world�s idea is that all religions lead to Heaven and if you are sincere about what you believe then that will be enough. The Bible warns very clearly that the world�s idea is not true. There is only one Name under Heaven by which we may be saved and that Name is Jesus Christ of Nazareth. The Bible states, �Nor is there salvation in any other (name).� Jesus also warns very plainly in John 14:6 about this very thing saying, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.�
We would think that someone was a fool if they swallowed a three-pronged fishing lure or if they drank some drain cleaner ignoring the warning labels (and common sense!). But there are people who continually laugh at and thumb their noses at the Word of God by their words and their actions. Those are the people who are really the fools and someday when it is eternally too late they will find out the truth.
Before it is too late warn your friends, warn everyone you can that there is only one way to Heaven and that is through Jesus Christ. �To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, WARNING EVERY MAN and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus (Colossians 1:27-28).�
Facilitating Your Spiritual Break Out - Part 5 (Fasting)
We were immersed into the possibilities of the power of fasting at the 1996 Southern Baptist National Convention at New Orleans. Ronnie Floyd pastor of the First Baptist Church of Springdale, Arkansas spoke and shared of his experiences with fasting. He says that fasting is the gateway to supernatural power and I believe he is right. Dr. Floyd also spoke of how thousands in his church were fasting and praying for him as he spoke. After one message just before lunch, the Holy Spirit came upon us all in a powerful way. I experienced a peace that I had not experienced since the day I was saved.
At the time, we were facing a difficult decision believing that God wanted us to leave a church after having been there only for a year. We believe God led us to the convention and it is the only one we have been able to attend. We came home with a conviction that we needed to fast and pray until God would move in our lives and make it clear what we were to do. We began fasting on Monday and on the following Sunday afternoon a pastor search committee called us. It was a church that I had not considered but we knew that it came from the hand of God. You can read more about this journey with God at this URL: http://www.theburningbush.org/10.html#Nine.
After arriving at the new place of service, circumstances were still difficult. This was to have been a bivocational place of service and as I faced a particularly important interview, I again fasted and prayed for a week. As I was walking and praying early one morning the streetlights blinked on and off just as I was pleading with God to give me this job. It was not a coincidence, a freak of nature, or an accident it was the hand of God and I knew that He had heard my prayer. I was disappointed after I failed to receive the job I so very much wanted but knew that if it had been God�s will then I would have had the job. Knowing my circumstance in this situation was God�s will kept me going through even more difficult times. Looking back now, I can see that it would have been a mistake for me to have taken the job I pleaded with God about.
Fasting is not spoken of often in the Bible but it appears to have been a discipline that was taken for granted that people would know to participate in it. The apostle Paul speaks of his fastings. In Mark 9:29 Jesus, in reference to why his disciples could not cast out a demon, says that it could only be cast out through fasting and prayer. In the Old Testament, we have references to many of the great servants of God fasting. Ezra fasted, Esther fasted, Nehemiah fasted, Daniel fasted, David fasted, and the indication is that all the people fasted at set times and during troubling circumstances.
Fasting is not something that is easy for me to do and I have rarely engaged in this spiritual discipline. I know that I have missed many blessings as a result. However, if I had my spiritual journey to do over I would most definitely fast more and it would have saved me from many mistakes. I would define fasting as not eating physical food during the daytime (Dr. Floyd has a blender and uses it extensively during his fasts.). The fast is made even more effective by the complete abstention from food day and night during the fasting period. Some are unable to fast from food because of medical conditions or medications and if you are not sure please consult your medical professional. If you are unable to fast from food, you can fast other things such as television viewing.
If you want to break out spiritually then fasting should be in your repertoire. Fasting is indeed the gateway to supernatural power, guidance, wisdom and every spiritual blessing. Try it! (And while you are fasting, pray for me, please!)
Something is Wrong
Why should a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins? Let us search out and examine our ways, and turn back to the LORD. - Lamentations 3:39-40.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. - Psalm 139:23-24.
Some consumer lawsuits have gotten out of control and it is obvious that there is something very wrong with our judicial system. Sears had a problem with some of their automotive work improperly balancing wheels. They were sued and in the settlement, the attorneys received $2.45 million and the consumers who were wronged received $2.50 a tire. In another situation cosmetics manufacturers and retailers were found to be price-fixing. In the settlement, the attorneys for the consumers received $24 million and each consumer received a free cosmetic. Recently my wife received a check for 21 cents in settlement of another consumer suit and the attorneys received millions. Any sane person can understand that the civil judicial system in the USA has some problems and that there is something horribly wrong with these settlements.
We of the human race are quick to find wrong when it does not directly concern us - aren�t we? However, what about in our own lives? Is there anything in your life that is out of balance that is horribly wrong and ought not to be there? In Lamentations, we are encouraged to search out, examine our ways, and return to the Lord. For some this is a difficult task. Take King David for example. David thought everything was perfectly fine with his life even though he had committed adultery and had a man murdered. It took the prophet Nathan pointing out the sin for David to understand how far off course he had gone. Are we completely blind to our own sins? Sometimes we have a memory loss and sin blindness when it comes to ourselves.
The Psalmist had a solution to sin blindness and it involves the help of another person, the person of the Holy Spirit. If we truly desire to be in a right relationship with our Lord then we should want to know if there is anything preventing that from happening. Ask as did the Psalmist, �Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.�
If the Holy Spirit identifies areas of your life that are out of balance the solution is found in 1 John 1:9. Confess your sins to God. Agree with God about your condition and bring your heart and life into alignment with Him. God will forgive you of your sins, and cleanse you of all unrighteousness. He will put your sins as far as the east is from the west and remember them no more. How wonderful it is to have a clean heart and be in a right relationship with the Lord! B>
Facilitating Your Spiritual Break Out - Part 4 (The Church)
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 10:24-25.
For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them. - Matthew 18:20.
During one week in 1984 God brought a passage of Scripture to my attention three separate times. He first brought it to my attention during my quiet time, then during Sunday School, and then in the pastor�s message. I had no doubt that God was speaking to me and it was this same passage of Scripture that God brought to my attention some seven years later in my quiet time confirming His call upon my life (You can read the full story here: http://www.theburningbush.org/10.html#Seven and http://www.theburningbush.org/10.html#Eight). I would never have experienced a spiritual break out if it were not for regular church attendance. Being in church for every opportunity of worship, fellowship and learning is vital to being where God can speak clearly to your heart.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon is often called the Prince of Preachers (1834 - 1892) and perhaps was the foremost preacher of the 19th Century. In 1861 Spurgeon�s congregation built the Metropolitan Tabernacle which had seating for 4,700 people. Also in 1861 Spurgeon preached at the Crystal Palace in London to a crowd of 23,654. But Spurgeon would never have been saved or heard God�s call if he had not been a determined church attender. Here is how he tells the story in his own words of the day of his salvation: �I sometimes think I might have been in darkness and despair until now had it not been for the goodness of God in sending a snowstorm, one Sunday morning, while I was going to a certain place of worship. When I could go no further, I turned down a side street, and came to a little Primitive Methodist Chapel. In that chapel there may have been a dozen or fifteen people. I had heard of the Primitive Methodists, how they sang so loudly that they made people�s heads ache; but that did not matter to me. I wanted to know how I might be saved, and if they could tell me that, I did not care how much they made my head ache. The minister did not come that morning; he was snowed up, I suppose. At last, a very thin-looking man, a shoemaker, or tailor, or something of that sort, went up into the pulpit to preach.� It was during a snow storm so bad that the pastor was not even able to come to church that Spurgeon heard God speak to him through a faithful servant who did make it to church that day and reluctantly shared God�s Word as best He could. The impact of Spurgeon�s ministry is still being felt and will be for all eternity. The church made it possible and facilitated the spiritual break out of Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
The church is not man�s idea - it is God�s idea and plan. There is no getting around the fact that it is God�s will and plan for you to be in church every time the doors are open. How much does God desire this? Jesus died for the church. The church is the body of Christ on this earth. If you want to break out spiritually the church must be part of the plan. Thank God for the church!!
Facilitating Your Spiritual Break Out - Part 3 (A Quiet Time)
Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. - Mark 1:35.
I am not sure when I first heard the term �quiet time� used in reference to spending time alone with God in prayer and reading of His Word. I have heard other terms used such as doing your � devotions� or simply spending time alone with God. We have talked about how important God�s Word and prayer are to having a �spiritual break out.� Now we need to put the two of them together and Jesus gives us a wonderful example of this. Jesus who is the living �Word of God� goes to a � solitary place� where He prays. Jesus who was and is the �Word of God� also needed to pray. We need to do the same.
My first quiet times were accomplished with the reading of a devotional booklet along with prayer. Some of those earliest quiet times were only a few minutes in length but still God was able to speak to me during those times. As I grew consistent in my quiet times I was amazed at how God seemed to have written devotionals just for my circumstances on the day that I read them. Sometimes I would make a mistake and read the wrong devotional for the day and after reading it discover it was exactly what I needed at that time. It had not been a mistake after all but the hand of God directing me.
Before I heard and knew beyond any doubt God�s call upon my life, I was engaged in an intensive Bible study, which included a regular and lengthy morning quiet time. I had been engaged this regular, consistent, lengthy time with God for many months and I had began praying, and writing out those prayers concerning His call for my life. The morning God spoke to me and changed my life was a morning like so many others - I was not expecting God to speak in a dramatic way. However, God did speak using a passage of Scripture, which in the course of time I had come to in my regular reading along with a devotional that was precisely concerning what I needed to hear. God in that quiet time spoke in a way leaving no doubt about His call upon my life and I was then able to communicate that call to my wife and others.
Without a regular and consistent quiet time I believe I would still be wondering about God�s call on my life. Was He calling me or not calling me? Without a quiet time I would never have had the courage to share God�s call with my wife and then to make public at our church what God was doing. Without a quiet time I would never had had the strength or courage to leave behind one career and move on to the career God had prepared for me.
The truth is that without a regular and consistent quiet time where you spend time in God�s Word and prayer you will never see the fulfillment of God�s will for your life. It is possible to miss God�s call. It is possible to be outside of God�s will. It is possible to make well-meaning decisions that are not what God wants for your life. It is possible to spend your life doing something completely other than what God wanted for you. Having a quiet time on a regular basis will enable you to �break out� spiritually and be in the midst of God�s will for your life. B>
The Burning Bush Devotional
Facilitating Your Spiritual Break Out - Part 2 (Prayer)
Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know. - Jeremiah 33:3.
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. - Ephesians 3:20-21.
Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. - 1 John 15:14-15.
Dawson Trotman was the founder of the Navigators, which has had a worldwide ministry beginning during the Second World War. Before Dawson was the founder and leader of the Navigators he was a truck driver. His spiritual break out was facilitated by memorizing 1,000 verses of Scripture during a three year period and through an intense period of prayer. Dawson felt called to pray for the nations of the world and to do this he and a friend; Walt Stanton would meet and pray at 5:00 A.M. over a map of the world before going to work. They placed their fingers on most of the countries on the map asking God to raise up men from each of these countries to make Christ known (�Then He said to His disciples, �The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest (Matthew 9:37-38). ��
Dawson and his friend continued in prayer over the nations of the earth for 42 days until the burden of prayer for the nations in this intense way was lifted. Little did Dawson and his friend know that their prayers would help pave the way for the Navigators to establish ministries in all of those countries that they prayed over. Through this time of prayer, God revealed promises to Dawson from Scripture. One of those promises was "And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in (Isaiah 58:12)."
Through a period of intense prayer, Dawson Trotman experienced a �spiritual breakout.� God can do the same in your life. Set aside a time to pray about what God has placed on your heart. Call to Him so that He may, �answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.� Call to Him so that He may, �do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.�
Maidservant of the Lord
Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!" But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end." Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible." Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her. - Luke 1:26-38.
Whenever I read the Biblical account of the events of Christmas, I am amazed at the faith of those involved. How could a teenage girl of limited material means, limited education, limited family background, and etc. become the mother of our Lord? The answer? Through the power of the Holy Spirit and Mary�s complete submission to the will of God it was brought about.
How would my life and how would your life be changed if each day we submitted ourselves completely to the Lord for His will to be done in our lives? This Christmas and in the coming year let us say each day with Mary �Behold the maidservant (or manservant) of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.�
May you have a most blessed Christmas and New Year!!
Praying for you,
Facilitating the Break Out
It is written, �Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.� - Matthew 4:4.
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. - 2 Timothy 3:16-17.
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. - Romans 10:17.
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. - Hebrews 4:12.
Dr. Oscar Lowry at one time thought that he could not memorize Scripture. However, he reached a point where he believed he had to try to memorize and he thought, �If I can memorize one verse, I can memorize one more, and ten more, and even one hundred.� He started with what he thought was a difficult passage, Romans 10:9-10. Within half an hour, he was able to memorize it. The next day he reviewed the passage several times and then added a new verse. He kept on do this - reviewing those verses he had memorized each day and adding new ones. By the time Dr. Lowry passed from this life to the next, he had memorized 20,000 verses. As a result, Oscar Lowry experienced great success in evangelism and lived a joy-filled life. Scripture memorization facilitated Dr. Lowry�s spiritual breakout (Dr. Lowry led the 1938 Evangelistic Campaign by Radio and he wrote �Scripture Memorizing for Successful Soul-winning�.).
The apostle Paul while still the persecuting Saul experienced a spiritual breakout on the road to Damascus. He was stopped in his tracks by the risen Lord Jesus. When Saul came to an understanding of whom he had been persecuting he wanted to stop and he experienced a spiritual breakout. Saul could never have changed without having the necessary background and training necessary to understand and then proceed with the call given to Him by God. He was perhaps the most highly educated of the early Christians and had large portions of the Old Testament memorized as evidenced by his writings. Even though Saul had been on the wrong side until the encounter on the road to Damascus, he was still a prepared man waiting for the move of God, which eventually came. You can see the high regard the apostle has for Scripture with 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and Romans 10:17. God�s Word was necessary for Paul to have a spiritual breakout. God�s Word is necessary for whoever would breakout spiritually.
Everyone can memorize Scripture it just depends on whether you want to expend the energy and time necessary to do it. However, if you want to facilitate a spiritual breakout in your life you need to memorize Scripture and do so on a continuing basis (The Navigators http://home.navigators.org have excellent memory resources available.).
And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, �Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.� They immediately left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him. - Matthew 4:18-22.
What do you think of when you hear the words �break out?� Some might think of a �break out� sports star that has an unusually great game or games. Some might think of a person who �breaks out� of jail or prison by escaping. Some may think of a �break out� financial move that gives someone a financial windfall. It could be that one of those �break outs� will change a person�s life for good - perhaps for good or possibly for bad.
There is one thing, however, that is guaranteed to change your life for the good. That one thing is a spiritual �break out.� That day long ago when Jesus walked along the shore of the Sea of Galilee He called out to some of the fishermen there and it changed their lives forever. Peter, Andrew, James and John would never be the same after their encounter with the Lord. Those four men left their lifelong careers that they thought they would always pursue and in a moment of time became not fishers of fish but instead �fishers of men.�
Peter, Andrew, James and John are not the only ones to experience a spiritual �break out.� We know seven other men sincerely responded to the Lord�s call in becoming His disciples, as have countless others in the centuries to follow. Think of the woman at the well (John 4) who was just having a normal day until she had a conversation with the Master of the Universe and was forced to think outside of the box of her little world. Once she had experienced the �break out�, she cared little what anyone might have thought of her as she told everyone about the Lord. The man from Gadara (Mark 5) released from demonic oppression �broke out� of his enslavement to freedom in the Lord�s service.
What did most of these people have in common? They were willing to listen to what the Lord had to say and they responded. Only the woman at the well even attempted to engage in a verbal exchange of spiritual ideas. When they encountered the Truth, they recognized that this One was radically different. The result was a �break out� from everything they had known in the past. Their lives and their worlds were enlarged beyond their wildest dreams and imaginations.
Would you like to experience a spiritual �break out?� You can �break out� if your heart is willing to respond when you hear the Lord�s Voice calling. If God were to speak to your heart right now calling you into a larger world and experience than you have ever known before - would you be ready to respond? Would you leave your �nets� and go without looking back? Or, would you argue, debate, and procrastinate until it was too late. Make no mistake. If you have a willing and listening heart, someday Jesus will be walking your way and you too will �break out� spiritually.
Are Christians The Only Ones With Fellowship Halls?
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. - Matthew 5:6.
I think I am mentally sick. There is one television network that no matter how hard I try, I cannot take my eyes away from it: the Food Channel. For 24 hours every day, 1,440 minutes around the clock this network broadcasts food. It is only natural that I enjoy this unique channel as Christians and food go hand in hand. Jesus is a Christian. His first miracle was at a wedding feast. He turned water into wine. He did miracles with a meal. He took two loaves and five fish and made a meal to feed five thousand. I know that the early disciples were Christians because they were always going to or coming from a feast. They were always talking about food. One day they told Jesus, �We do not have enough money to buy food for every one.� Even when Satan tempted Jesus it had to do with food! Satan tried to get Jesus to turn stones into bread. I even believe that the Last Supper was probably held in someone�s Fellowship Hall. I rest my case the Bible is full of Christians� and logically, references to food.
I find one Food Channel program particularly riveting� �The Iron Chef.� The show is filmed in Japan with English voice-overs. Each week a Master Chef is culinarily challenged by a newcomer. Both chefs are given specific ingredients to work with and have one hour to cook four or five original dishes each including the specialty of the week.
Last week the chefs were given giant squids. So they made squid salad, squid ink soup, (I am not making this up) squid main entr�e and, of course, squid dessert. At the end of the show a panel of judges tastes each of the chef�s concoctions and assigns scores and pronounces a winner. The results of this show are so big that it can make or break a chef�s career depending on whether or not they can out cook the Master Chef. While all of that is interesting, it is the voice-overs that make the show intense. The announcers talk as if they were describing the tie breaking home run at the World Series. �OH NO! He added saki to the squid! What in the world is he thinking?� Then another announcer will say, �Who would ever think of adding those together? The sourness of the saki added to the sweetness of the squid will produce a roller coaster of sensations on the pallet. WHAT A GENIUS MOVE!� And I am sitting on the edge of my seat to see if the saki will determine the winner.
How ironic is it that we get so excited about many things that really do not have much importance? Teach your child which food they should hunger for. �And Jesus said to them, �I am the Bread of Life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger� .� � Physical hunger is the natural process of the body; spiritual hunger is natural process of the soul. One without the other is fatal.
Dear Father, thank You for being our Bread of Life and Living Water. My spirit hungers for You today. You are the only one who can feed and satisfy my inner being. May my child�s hunger pains deepen for the things of God. Amen.
When All Is Gone
The Lord is my Shepherd�Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. - Psalm 23 :1a; 4a.
Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. - John 6:68.
Job who lived in the land of Uz was a man who had it made in worldly terms. He had a large family and was blessed with an abundance of worldly goods. However, in a very short period of time it was all tragically taken away from him. The bad news came and then more bad news came and more and more it must have seemed like it would never end. The Sabeans raided killing servants and taking away his oxen and donkeys. Then another messenger came to report that the fire of God had fell from heaven burning up his sheep and servants. Then the Chaldeans came killing more servants and taking Job�s camels. Finally, it was reported to Job that his sons and daughters had been killed when a great wind hit their home. On top of all of this bad news, Job became horribly, terribly ill with sores over his entire body and was in much pain.
All had been taken away from Job except for a few miserable friends and his wife who urged him to just curse God and die. Job was about as low as you can go and still be breathing. On top of it all his friends accused him of being a sinner and urged him to confess his sins. They believed all the bad things had happened because Job had committed some terrible sin. However, Job was innocent so there was not anything to confess.
In the United States we have a great tradition of pausing once a year to give thanks to God for His blessings during the past year. The tradition of thanksgiving was begun over three hundred years ago. We are thankful for all the things and worldly blessings that we have been allowed to have and to enjoy. We should express our thanks to God not just on Thanksgiving but every day for all He has blessed us.
Job and David as well point us to a deeper level of Thanksgiving. When all has been taken away. When all our worldly goods and even our families are gone. When our health has broken and we are in pain what can we be thankful for then? David expresses it in this way, �Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.� When we have reached the lowest of low, even in the �valley of the shadow of death� then there is only the most important of all left for which to be thankful. What is that? God. Underlying everything, every blessing, every day we should be thankful for God. As God told Abraham, �I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.� As Peter said to Jesus when asked if he too was going to leave, �Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.�
When all is gone, when we are walking in the valley of the shadow of death we still have the most important, wonderful One of all to be thankful for - God! He is our �exceedingly great reward.�
I, Me, and Myself - Part 2
But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.� - Mark 10:42-45.
When I was a child in grade school, it was always important to be first. To be first in line to go to recess was vitally important in order to lay claim to one of the few swings on the playground. To be first in line to go to lunch meant having precious extra minutes to play and being able to lay claim to one of those swings. As I grew older, I learned the value of making more than the minimum wage. Receiving a promotion and making more money seemed to be a reasonable thing to desire. Climbing the career ladder at least at first did not have negative connotations but was a very positive thing. The further up the ladder a person climbed the closer they came to being first. At the top of the ladder, a person would be first in power, first in financial reward, and as far as the material world is concerned, first in importance. The importance of being first has unknowingly been ingrained into most people at an early age. This process continues into adulthood although different definitions and incentives are used.
The idea of becoming great by becoming a servant or slave to others was certainly repugnant to most people during the time of Jesus. It was probably more shocking during the time Jesus walked physically on this earth than it is now because people were more familiar with what slaves and servants were back then. Servants and slaves did the all the repulsive and unpleasant things that those with money and power did not want to do. They did those repulsive and unpleasant things and received very little in the way of compensation other than food to eat. There was little interest among the disciples in stooping to become a servant to others. They did not begin following Jesus to become servants. They were following Jesus and in their heart of hearts thought they were moving onward and upward to better lives.
For the modern mind, climbing down the ladder instead of climbing up the ladder is repulsive. We have constantly received encouragement and rewards for climbing up - not climbing down. How can we give up our position of prominence by climbing down to help someone who does not even make minimum wage? How can we stoop to help someone when it will not benefit us personally in some way? How can we give up our lives to save some other person�s life? But isn�t this what Jesus is calling His disciples and us to do?
The disciples did give up their lives in service and tradition tells that all but John lost their lives in martyrdom. What changed their hearts? When the disciples witnessed their Lord crucified, buried, and then His resurrection it changed them forever. They then lived through faith in their Lord and Savior and we must too. As the apostle Paul says, �I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20).�
He does great things past finding out, yes, wonders without number. - Job 9:10.
Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth. - Psalm 105:5.
I thought it good to declare the signs and wonders that the Most High God has worked for me. How great are His signs, and how mighty His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation. - Daniel 4:2-3.
I make a decree that in every dominion of my kingdom men must tremble and fear before the God of Daniel. For He is the living God, and steadfast forever; His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed, and His dominion shall endure to the end. He delivers and rescues, and He works signs and wonders in heaven and on earth, Who has delivered Daniel from the power of the lions. - Daniel 6:26-27.
This past week I encountered a walking and talking miracle in the form of one of my former clients. SD was at one time an alcoholic, drug addict, and psychotic. When he shared during an office visit that he was hearing voices telling him to hurt people I had him committed to a mental institution where he stayed for many months. After his release, counselors refused to meet with him unless I escorted SD and waited outside the partly closed door during the sessions. They had some safety issues after reading his file. It had been at least twelve years since I had talked with SD and so I was surprised to see him. The amazing thing is that he looked very good and talked in a very sane manner. SD shared with me that he is now chairing the AA meetings at the hospital that he has been attending for so many years. Only through a miracle, the intervention of God in a mighty and dramatic way could SD have come so far from what he used to be. What a joy it was to see him in such a transformed condition and to be able to visit with him!
We sometimes have a tendency to write people off as being too hard and beyond the possibility as change. I know we would never say that to anyone but isn�t that what we think when we encounter a person like SD? To be honest I thought SD would never be in his right mind and would always be a very dangerous person. In fact, I was upset when I learned that he had been released from the mental institution and prior to that I had been upset when he had been released from prison. I may not have even voiced it as a thought but in my heart, I thought SD was one of those impossible cases beyond the reach of God - a hopeless case and a hopeless situation. Obviously, I was wrong!
Are there people that you have stopped praying for because in your heart you do not believe they will ever change? Have you given up after a few months or even a few years of prayer and witnessing? Maybe we need to reconsider and ask God whether there is anyone too far gone for Him to change? What do you think God will say? Will He say that He has grown weak and is no longer omnipotent (all-powerful)? Of course not! Isaiah makes this clear, �Behold, the LORD's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear (Isaiah 59:1).�
God is still performing wonders, doing marvelous works and delivering/rescuing the souls of lost men, women, boys, and girls. His hand has not grown short.
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. - Galatians 5:19-21.
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. - Ephesians 4:30-32.
D G may have over reacted after she received a speeding ticket. Officer Chip Raines gave her a ticket for going 51 mph in a 35 mph zone and after D G was stopped, she did accept and then signed the ticket. Officer Raines got back into his vehicle and continued his shift. He had gone only a short distance when he noticed D G�s Mazda rapidly approaching from the rear and before he could react, she rammed into the police cruiser. D G then rear-ended the cruiser three more times but she wasn�t through. She tried to ram Raines again but she missed after he pulled to the side. She then turned around and attempted to ram the cruiser head on but Raines was able to hit her vehicle from the side pinning it to the curb.
Police spokesman Jimmie Wideman said that Raines, ��should be commended on his restraint, because it could have come out a very different way." In reference to D G, Wideman said, "She turned a traffic summons into a felony charge." D G�s car was impounded and she is being held in a Hampton, Virginia jail without bond for felonious assault of a police officer. There was no indication of any drug or alcohol use by Garnett.
It appears that Devikia Garnet over reacted to her traffic ticket - and that is an understatement. In Galatians, the apostle Paul warns against �outbursts of wrath.� D G definitely had an outburst of wrath and the result was the ruination of her life. She most likely will be convicted of a felony charge along with having to pay substantial court costs and fines. She damaged her car and will be unable to work while she is incarcerated. Of course, it may be very difficult for her to find employment after her release. Who would want to risk hiring someone who is prone to �outbursts of wrath?�
I�m sure D G did not start her day thinking that she was going to try to kill a police officer by repeatedly ramming her car into his. What led up to this horrible over reaction by D G? What made her cross over the line from sane responsible citizen to maniac? We will probably never know and D G is probably not sure about the answer to those questions herself .
If we allow the works of the flesh to direct our lives, we run the risk that at some point we will lose control and our lives will be destroyed. D is an example of this very thing. If we allow our flesh to express itself through rage - time after time we will find that at some point we will cross the line into craziness just as D did.
Put the works of the flesh away from you and instead have kindness, tenderness, and forgiveness toward others. Ask God to take away the works of the flesh and replace them with the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5). Then, you will not have to worry about over reacting and see your life destroyed as a result.
I, Me, and Myself
But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.� - Mark 10:42-45.
Larry Scherwitz, a psychologist, conducted a study on the relationship between heart disease and self-centeredness. He studied 150 patients hospitalized either for suspected heart disease or after a heart attack. He kept track of how often they used the pronouns "I, me, my, mine, or myself." He found that patients with more severe disease made far more references to themselves. Also, the findings remained significant even when patients were matched for age, blood pressure, cholesterol, and Type A behavior. Scherwitz in his study found that people who are what he calls "self-involved" have more severe coronary artery disease than those who are more focused toward others.
It appears that there is scientific evidence that serving others and being concerned about others is a very healthy activity and attitude. On the other hand being concerned only with yourself, your interests, your activities, your plans (�I, me, my, mine, or myself.�) is a prescription for physical and spiritual disaster. If you want to do something really good for yourself - stop thinking about yourself all the time. Put the spotlight on the needs of other people and think about how you can be a part of meeting those needs.
If you really want to follow Christ, if you really want to be like Christ then you will serve others and not just yourself and your interests. Jesus gave us the ultimate example of being concerned about the needs of others. Jesus did not just talk about meeting the needs of others. No, He demonstrated how to meet the needs of others continually as He went about doing good being a servant to all He met. Jesus did not come to be served but to give His own life in sacrificial service. Jesus, the Lord of lords, and the King of kings had a right to be served but instead came to serve us.
It has been said by many a doctor that the very best thing that you can do for your physical health is to stop smoking. It may be that they will want to add that ending our self-involvement could be just as important to our physical health. Why not begin today to lift up your eyes from your own life to the lives of those around you as you look for opportunities to serve in obedience to your Lord.
Today�s devotional was written by Walker Moore who is president of AweStar Ministries in Tulsa, P. O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147. You may contact Walker at email@example.com or 800.293.7827. Visit their website at www.awestar.org.
Going Through Garbage
Father, I want those You have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory You have given me because You loved me before the creation of the world. - John 17:24.
This is a true story. I was serving at a church many years ago. The church was growing so fast that they bought five houses. Four were to be used for Sunday School space and the fifth one was to be torn down for parking. The house they were going to tear down had a little one-car garage. The problem was that the previous owners never parked their car in it. They used it as garbage dump. For 20 years they had thrown their trash and garbage into the garage. It was one solid block about chest high. Our church had asked the Fire Marshall if they could burn the garage and garbage, but they said no. I volunteered to haul away the garbage if I could keep anything I found in it.
So on the day they were tearing down the house I started going through the garbage. At first it was very repulsive, but as I peeled the layers I discovered something. Beneath the garbage was a mother lode of antiques. Because it was protected from the outside elements, everything was in pristine condition. I found over 100 antique Coke bottles, an antique pendulum wall clock (to this day it hangs in my living room), old glass milk bottles, medical tins, old magazines from the 50s, all in mint condition. By the end of the day I was overwhelmed with the valuables I had found in the garbage. When I discovered the antiques everybody and their dog wanted to come and help me, but I started alone and I was going to finish alone. That day God taught me something that has been useful in helping people. Look underneath the garbage, there is always something of value.
Her name was Sharon. She was one of the most beautiful girls I ever had in my youth group, but she was an alcoholic. She had spent years in denial, running from God. While counseling with her I showed her my diamond ring my wife gave me. I told her it was worth $700. Then I picked up some dirt and rubbed it onto my ring. I asked her how much was the ring worth, she replied, �It�s worth $700.� Then I spit on the ring and mixed the dirt with the salvia. I asked her again �how much is it worth now?� She replied again, �It�s worth $700.� No matter how much garbage I piled on my ring, the answer was always the same. The garbage did not change the value of the ring. The ring just needed cleaning.
I told Sharon that she was the diamond. No matter how much garbage she had in her life, to God she was still a person of value. When you look at your children do you see the garbage or do you see, as God sees, the diamond in the rough? If you don�t see anything of value in your children, they will perceive themselves as garbage.
Wine is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise. - Proverbs 20:1.
Wine makes you mean, beer makes you quarrelsome - a staggering drunk is not much fun. - Proverbs 20:1 (The Message).
Do not look on the wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it swirls around smoothly; at the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart will utter perverse things. - Proverbs 23:31-33.
In Honolulu, the Blue Tropix Restaurant and Nightclub used to have a �Ladies Night.� On �Ladies Night� women would be admitted without cost to the nightclub while men had to pay a cover charge. However, Blue Tropix is finding it a little more expensive to provide a �Ladies Night� then it did just a few weeks ago. The nightclub advertised their �Ladies Night� on the radio and someone on the Honolulu Liquor Commission heard one of the radio spots. As a result, the Honolulu Liquor Commission investigated and found that there was gender discrimination. Blue Tropix has been fined 500 dollars for their discrimination.
While I was a parole officer, I had several women clients who had an alcohol addiction. One young woman I remember in particular because she shared how on Ladies Night at several bars she could drink as much as she wanted for free. Ladies Night made it much more difficult for her to resist this addiction. I for one would like to see Ladies Nights prohibited by using any legal avenue possible including gender discrimination if necessary. Proverbs 11:22 says, �As a ring of gold in a swine's snout, so is a lovely woman who lacks discretion.� When a woman is in the grips of alcohol, she will see the fulfillment of Proverbs 11:22 because alcohol dulls the senses and removes �discretion� bringing about the sickening sight that verse in Proverbs describes.
Substance abuse in any form exacts a terrible price from those in its grip. The question is not whether a person should or should not continue on with such an addiction. The question for most is �How can I escape?� Sadly, too many decide there is no escape and simply continue on in their downward slide into destruction. But there is an escape!! You can escape from substance abuse whether it is an alcohol addiction or some other substance. Jesus is the only answer, the only way of escape. You must turn to Him and immerse yourself in His resources as we are told in Philippians 4:19, �And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.� The Message translates the verse in this way, �You can be sure that God will take care of everything you need, his generosity exceeding even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus.�
God does have the power to overcome whatever addiction you may have. Will you turn to Him and allow Him to provide for this need that you have in your life? He is standing at the door and knocking and wants to come in (Revelation 3:20). Will you open the door?
Remember Lot's wife. Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. - Luke 17:32-33.
Remember what happened to Lot's wife! If you grasp and cling to life on your terms, you'll lose it, but if you let that life go, you'll get life on God's terms. - Luke 17:32-33 (The Message).
No one is exactly sure what happened except Edwin Galler and he�s not talking about it. It happened in the Bronx on a Metro-North train. Joe Veniscofski, a train foreman said, "I have never, in my 16 years on the railroad, seen anything like this. This is the first." It happened during rush hour with a train filled with commuters, shut the train down for two hours and cost thousands of dollars. It also must have been at least a little embarrassing for Galler. The train foreman, Veniscofski, describes the scene, "He had to stick his hand inside of that loose splash guard, into the holding basin. And that's when it got caught." Apparently, Galler dropped his cell phone into a toilet while he was in the train�s restroom and then tried to grab hold of it but got his hand stuck. The toilet was stainless steel and had to be cut apart to free Galler�s hand. Albert Cecere, facilities director said, "We did not recover the phone. I don't know if he did or not."
When Lot and his family were fleeing Sodom and Gomorrah they were warned not to look back as God rained fire and brimstone on those evil cities. Lot and his family had lived in that place for many years even though Lot �vexed� his righteous soul by doing so. Apparently Lot and his wife enjoyed living there so much so that Lot�s wife looked back with longing toward their home and turned into a �pillar of salt (Genesis 19:26).� Lot longed for his home in the city just as much as his wife (Genesis 19:17-20) but he did not look back and was able to survive. Lot�s wife sought to save her worldly life at the expense of what was spiritually best for herself and her family. As a result, she lost her physical life and risked spiritual destruction.
What is it that you are grasping for in this life? What is it that you are risking? Are you just risking some embarrassment or are you risking more - physical and emotional pain for yourself and others? Perhaps you are risking something even greater such as spiritual destruction?
I am sure if Edwin Galler had it to do over again he would have just let his cell phone go down the drain. It would have been a little thing compared to all the trouble that resulted from his trying to keep his grasp on the phone. If he had just let go�. Maybe you just need to let go�. B>
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.
California�s Gov. Gray Davis estimates the cost of the fires in his state at $2 billion dollars and says, �I think this is the worst disaster the state has ever experienced.� The blaze in San Diego County has killed 12 people and Sheriff Bill Kolender says, �Many who died ignored evacuation orders and were caught by flames because they waited until the last minute to flee.� Kolender warns, �When you are asked to leave, do it immediately. Do not wait.�
Many residents because of the fire�s unpredictable nature only had minutes to evacuate. If you only had 15 minutes or in some cases even less to evacuate what would you take with you? One man in three minutes time grabbed a 110-year-old lamp, some clothes, laptop computer, some power tools and took off with his wife three dogs and a cat. The consensus of those I heard talking about it today appeared to think they were blessed just to be alive and had little concern for the �stuff� that they had lost. Many echoed the thoughts of one family in a Red Cross shelter who lost their home saying, "It's in God's hands. There's no point in getting hysterical. We'll just start over."
Hearing the heart wrenching stories of those who barely escaped the firestorm in California helps us to realize again, what is really important in life. All of this �stuff� that we accumulate will someday be gone. We may hope that our children and grandchildren will care about some of the �stuff� we have spent a lifetime collecting but the reality is that it could all just end up in a trash dumpster. Jim Elliott, a missionary who gave his life while serving his Lord once wrote, " He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." The Psalmist said, �Do not be afraid when one becomes rich, when the glory of his house is increased; for when he dies he shall carry nothing away; his glory shall not descend after him (Psalm 49:16-17).�
The spiritual reality is that only that which is of eternal value will last. Jesus urges us to store up our treasures in Heaven where moth, rust and thieves cannot destroy them. Surprisingly Christians give only three percent of their after tax income to Christian causes. We are apparently buying a whole lot of �stuff� with our income that will never make it to Heaven. Where are you storing up your �treasures?� Where is your �heart?�
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.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. - John 3:16.
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.
According to Barna Research Group polling, many teens have beliefs that are �inconsistent with the Bible.� Barna says that 53 percent of teens believe that Jesus was not perfect but committed sins. Also two-thirds of teens believe that satan is not really a living being but just a symbol of evil. In addition, 60 percent of teens believe that they can earn �eternal salvation� by doing good works.
Why is earning your way to Heaven by doing good works �inconsistent� with the Bible? Because the Bible clearly indicates in Ephesians 2 that salvation is a �gift.� The dictionary defines gift as, �Something that is bestowed voluntarily and without compensation.� Most likely, you have received a �gift� from someone during your lifetime. When you received the �gift�, were you required to pay for it or work for it? No! Because if you had to pay for the �gift� or work for the �gift� it would no longer be a �gift� but a purchase or compensation.
Ephesians 2 also gives us a reason for why salvation is a �gift� and not something that you have to earn through good works. The reason? ��lest anyone should boast�.� What if you could work your way to Heaven - what would be the result once people did arrive in Heaven? In Heaven, the result would be that people would begin talking about what they had done in order to gain entrance to eternal life. Some people would believe they had done greater things than others and would therefore be proud of what they had done. These people the apostle Paul believed would be boasting about the good things they had done to earn salvation.
Doing good things will not earn you salvation but good works should be the natural result of your receiving the free �gift� of salvation. Paul says in verse 10, �For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.� Once we have eternal life through Jesus, we should have a desire to follow his example of doing good things. Good works do not save you but if you are truly saved you should be doing good works.
Has someone ever given you a free gift that you did not receive? My step-grandmother for many years had been giving me a Christmas present even after my grandfather had passed away and she had remarried. The first Christmas that I was married, she told me that she had a Christmas present for me and I just needed to pick it up. To my shame, I never picked up the present. It would have been a free gift but it was not a gift since I never received it. Sadly, many have and will do the same thing with God�s free �gift� of salvation. Have you received God�s �gift?� If not, why not open up the greatest gift you can ever receive in life right now? Ask Jesus Christ to come into your heart and life. Ask Him to forgive you of your sins and be your Lord and Master. Words will not save you but if you mean it in your heart, you will receive the �gift� of eternal life.
As righteousness leads to life, so he who pursues evil pursues it to his own death. Those who are of a perverse heart are an abomination to the LORD, but the blameless in their ways are His delight. Though they join forces, the wicked will not go unpunished; but the posterity of the righteous will be delivered. - Proverbs 11:19-21.
It is customary in our part of the country for churches to take care of the moving when they call a new pastor. Usually several people from the church arrive with a rented truck or they may bring their own trailers and pickups. In one of our moves to a new church, they arrived with a flatbed trailer and a large deluxe horse trailer. The horse trailer was very nice and held almost as much as a large truck. We met the owner of the trailer and told him how much we appreciated the use of the trailer and he seemed like a very nice and kind person. A couple of months later we were shocked to hear that the owner of the horse trailer was not really the owner and that he had been arrested for knowingly concealing stolen property (i.e. the horse trailer). It was only then that we realized that we had been moved with a stolen trailer!
We can learn several things from this story in relation to God�s Word. First, even though Tom ( not his real name) was using the trailer in a commendable way it did not make up for his illegal actions. If you steal a million dollars and give 99.9% of it to the poor or even to a church it does not and can never erase the sin of stealing. Doing something good does not erase something bad. Only Jesus can do that. �If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).�
Second, we cannot deceive God. Tom did a good job of deceiving the church and us but he could not pull the wool over God�s eyes. God was not deceived. The Bible says in Galatians 6:7-8a, �Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption�.� God was not fooled by Tom�s good works and Tom eventually was found out and arrested. The whole church eventually came to know about Tom�s illegal activities.
Third, sin results in death (Romans 6:23a). Nothing good can ever come from sin. Evil results in the multiplication of more evil coming about in a person�s life. One evil act results in additional acts which results in more and more. This is in contrast to the person who abstains from evil and acts in a righteous manner as Proverbs 11 says, �righteousness leads to life� and �he who pursues evil pursues it to his own death.�
Have you been trying to deceive God? It will never work! Have you been trying to make up for the bad things you have done with good things? It will never happen! Have you been pursuing evil? Stop now before it is too late!
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!
And the LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: "Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are--northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered.� - Genesis 13:14-16.
When I was saved 33 years ago, I received the first glimmer of God�s call upon my life to preach the Gospel. However, being a baby Christian I quickly forgot about it. In 1979 while my wife and I were sponsors for a group of young people at camp during the summer God spoke to me again. This time it was clear to me that He wanted me to preach His Word and I was willing. Jeanie was not as willing and could see little evidence in my life of any capability of preaching or of being a pastor. This was perhaps one of the most painful moments of my life - hearing God�s call but being prevented from responding. It is difficult having a calling, a vision, a dream from God and not be able to immediately launch out to see it fulfilled.
Abraham encountered something very similar in that God gave him a promise, a dream, a vision, a call when he was about 75 years old but the beginning of the fulfillment of this did not occur until much later. In fact, Abraham was about 25 years older before his first descendant, a son, was born. Think of all those years of knowing what God wants in your life and you want it too but it is not happening. Why Lord? Abraham and Sarah try to bring about the dream through their fleshly efforts. First, they try adoption, and then they try having a substitute mother but neither of those courses of action was God�s will. God had another plan even though it did not seem feasible according to human wisdom.
From the perspective of 24 years, I can see why God used my wife as a timing mechanism. From 1979 to 1990, God moved in my life to grow me and prepare me to be able to be a pastor. Through the hours of prayer about why I was waiting and when the waiting would be over, I came to recognize the Father�s Voice. Through the years of reading and studying God�s Word, I grew in knowledge and wisdom of His will and plan. Through the years of increasing responsibility in the church God molded me into the shape necessary for future service. God did much the same in the life of Abraham. During those years of waiting God molded Abraham into the father that was needed - a father of faith.
I can laugh and rejoice now about how God used my wife to delay and then as an indication that the time had come for the call to become a reality. Because when God revealed through prayer and His Word beyond any doubt His will - Jeanie was more than ready at that point to move forward in faith with me.
Looking back now, I can see that for Abraham and me those years of waiting were not wasted years. No, those were valuable years of preparation for the service that was ahead. Without those years, I would have been at a loss when encountering many of the situations that I have faced as a pastor. With those years, I have been able to be an instrument God could use to a much greater extent than without the years of waiting.
Has God given you a promise, or a dream, or a vision, or a call? Are you frustrated because you have not seen fulfillment? Are you tired of the waiting? Are you anxious to move on to the next stage? It is in the waiting that God prepares you for the fulfillment of what He has for you. It is through the praying and the searching of His Word that you grow to become what is necessary to effectively fulfill all that God wants for your life. Don�t rush this time! Work hard at the preparation that you know is needed before you can be what God wants. Remember God is never late and He is always, always on time.
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 life long 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.
Tired Of Being Tired
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. - Isaiah 40:28-29.
In Miami, Florida, Daniel Gallagher was arrested for armed robbery of two banks within 20 minutes and for threatening to discharge an explosive device. Gallagher told bank tellers that he had a bomb in the bag he was carrying and he then demanded that he be given one hundred dollars, which the teller quickly gave to him. Actually, his bag contained only a can of beer. Gallagher, who is 46 years old, grew tired after his second robbery and so he took a break to rest his tired feet. The police caught up with him while he was still resting. According to police, Gallagher has an extensive arrest record.
Have you ever noticed that sin is a tiring business? It doesn�t matter whether sin is an armed robbery or a little white lie it drains the energy and life out of you. Sin robs you of sleep and what sleep you are able to have is not restful. Sin robs you of peace of mind and instead gives you anxiety, worry, and depression. Sin may very well give you fear as you fear the consequences of discovery of your actions or the result of your actions. Sin creates friction in your relationships and that friction adds to your tiredness.
How can you have strength when you are weak and your energy for living has been drained? Only by recognizing the ultimate source of strength and energy. That ultimate source is God. When we are involved willfully in sin, we are disconnected from the source of strength, peace, and life. To plug into that ultimate source we must turn from our sin agreeing with what God says about our sin, which is that it is wrong. 1 John 1:9 says, �If we confess our sins�.� Confession involves agreeing with how God sees our sin. Basically that means that we agree we were wrong and that God is right. It is repentance turning from what we want to what God wants with our lives.
If we want peace, life, energy, and strength it boils down to which we love the most - God or our sin. We cannot have both. We must make a choice and for most people it will be a daily choice whether to live for God or to live for sin.
So, how tired are you of being tired? Tired enough to ask God for help? Jesus says, �Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30)."
A wild donkey used to the wilderness, that sniffs at the wind in her desire; in her time of mating, who can turn her away? All those who seek her will not weary themselves; in her month they will find her. Withhold your foot from being unshod, and your throat from thirst. But you said, "There is no hope. No! For I have loved aliens, and after them I will go." As the thief is ashamed when he is found out, so is the house of Israel ashamed; they and their kings and their princes, and their priests and their prophets�. - Jeremiah 2:24-26.
Occasionally while I was growing up my Dad would give me some words of wisdom. Once while we were passing a turn off where a car had overturned taking the turn too quickly my Dad gave me some advice. He said, �Always slow down before making a turn. Hit the brakes before you start your turn.� The point being that if I didn�t slow down before turning I would have an accident too. It was some well-timed words, which made an impact on me and I have always remembered them and tried to practice what he told me.
I like the way the Message translates Jeremiah 2:24-26, ��tracks of a wild donkey in rut, sniffing the wind for the slightest scent of sex. Who could possibly corral her! On the hunt for sex, sex, and more sex--insatiable, indiscriminate, promiscuous. "SLOW DOWN. Take a deep breath. What's the hurry? Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway? But you say, "I can't help it. I'm addicted to alien gods. I can't quit.' "Just as a thief is chagrined, but only when caught, so the people of Israel are chagrined, caught along with their kings and princes, their priests and prophets�.�
The Message makes this passage very obvious in application to the world today. The world is obsessed with sex and more sex. Of course, it is appealing to many and there is a constant bombardment and saturation of this sex appeal. Once in its grips we become like an animal, like a wild donkey, losing our humanity in effect in the way we run after this evil. It becomes an addiction, which will destroy everything that is good, decent, and godly about you. It is an evil, which eats away at every area of your life, and then like the Israelites, you are ashamed/ chagrined but its evil has done its work.
Before you take that turn off into the world of extramarital sex - SLOW DOWN!! SLOW DOWN and consider the consequences of taking that turn. SLOW DOWN and ask someone for help. SLOW DOWN and pray. SLOW DOWN and read your Bible. SLOW DOWN and go to church. SLOW DOWN before you have a wreck that will ruin your life. SLOW DOWN!!
Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?" And he said, "Who are You, Lord?" Then the Lord said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.� - Acts 9:1-5.
A thief in the Vancouver area received a little surprise while trying to make off with a roll of copper wire. The wire was connected to a generator that was running and when the thief tried to disconnect the wire, his shoes were blown off and he was burned. He received a 27,000-volt electrical shock. He was found wandering in a nearby railroad yard without shoes and with second-degree burns. The 41-year-old man is recovering from his injuries but will face criminal charges. According to police the man is �well known� to them.
You have to wonder if an unexpected 27,000-volt jolt that blows your shoes off is enough to make a career criminal change his vocation? Certainly, it should give him something to think about. Saul prior to his conversion had an experience that was just as shocking. Saul was on his way to persecute some more Christians in Damascus believing that he was serving God in doing so. However, God intervened in his life. The Bible says, ��suddenly a light shone around him from heaven.� That is an understatement since the light, which Saul encountered, was so bright in blinded him.
Saul was headed in one direction and when he encountered the resurrected Christ, the direction of his life was completely changed. The shock of this encounter with Christ was so great that Saul eventually became the apostle Paul and a part of the group that he had been persecuting. Paul was not the first and not the last to have the direction of their lives radically changed by a shocking encounter with Christ. Those who came after Paul most likely did not see a blinding light but their encounter with the Lord was no less shocking or life changing. Paul�s life was changed when he came to understand that he had been wrong in persecuting Christians and in his heart committed himself to follow Christ.
For some people it might take more than a 27,000-volt jolt to change the course of their lives. What they really need is an encounter with the living Lord Jesus. What about you? What would it take to change the course of your life?
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.
Copyright � 2003-2004. Ed Wrather. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for use of this material on a non-profit basis with source noted.