"Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting." - Psalm 139:23-24.
It is a courageous act to ask God to search your heart for any sin. But it is necessary if we are to grow and move forward with Him because harboring sin in our hearts effectively prevents growth.
�The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.� - Psalm 34:18.
The most difficult prayer for me to pray is for brokenness. But once we have asked for God to search our hearts and He has revealed sin to us we should then be brokenhearted over our sin. We should be so brokenhearted that we will turn from our sin.
�That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.� - Philippians 3:10.
The apostle Paul is essentially praying that he will grow or be stretched to know the Lord more intimately and to be more like Him. To be stretched spiritually is to go beyond where we have been before and it is necessary for us to grow.
�Lead me, O Lord, in Your righteousness because of my enemies; make Your way straight before my face.� - Psalm 5:8.
Praying for the Lord to lead you is a courageous prayer because you have to be convinced that the Lord�s plan for your life is better than your own.
�I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.� - Romans 12:1.
Presenting ourselves to God is to make ourselves available for His use. It is saying, as did Isaiah, �Here am I! Send me (Isaiah 6:8c).�
You are in the Lord�s army and the battle requires courage. Are you ready for some courageous praying? If so pray for God to: Search you, break you, stretch you, lead you, and use you.
The Safe Room
�He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, �He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust.� Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, nor of the arrow that flies by day, nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.�
Imagine the terror of a home invasion. Several people suddenly begin knocking down your door or crash through a window. What do you do? Call 911? Of course, you should call 911 if you have time and can reach a phone. But it will take several minutes for the police to reach you and by then it will be too late. Because of this there has developed a market for �safe rooms� built inside of homes. To the untrained eye the safe rooms are unnoticeable appearing to be closets or bathrooms until needed. These safe rooms are often bullet proof, fire proof, and storm proof. Once you are in the safe room home invaders cannot reach you or harm you without powerful explosives. In Europe some safe rooms come with the additional ability to allow the occupants to fight back by releasing gas or by arming electrical grids.
A safe room sounds like a nice thing to have for some peace of mind in these times; however, most of us cannot afford something like that. So what do the rest of us do? We make the Lord our place of refuge. He will be our fortress when He is our dwelling place. The Psalmist makes this clear beginning in verse 9 of Psalm 91, �Because you have made the Lord, who is my refuge, even the Most High, your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling��
Our Lord is the ultimate safe room protecting us not only from other people and storms but also from the unseen terrors of this world. In addition the safe room of the Lord is mobile and it goes where you go. God provides not only for physical safety here on Planet Earth but when necessary eternal safety as well.
Have you through Jesus Christ made the Lord God your safe room? Are you dwelling in Him each day living with your eyes upon Jesus? When you do you will be able to say with the Psalmist, �I will both lie down in peace and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety (Psalm 4:8).�
Where�s Your Guidebook?
�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. 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.� - II Timothy 3:14-17.
In Thailand inmates have set up a Website to give new inmates and their families a guide to life in prison. Their hope is to one day be able to provide inmates and their families with a comprehensive guide to the prison life whenever someone enters the correctional system. The Website offers advice on a variety of subjects such as how to make their sentence as short as possible, how to get to sleep, and how to plan for their release. A spokesperson for Bangkok�s Correctional Hospital, John Lertwitworapong, said, �We want to tell the public that it is not as scary as people may think but it is not so comfortable that people should be attracted here.� We should hope not!
Wouldn�t it be nice if as soon as we were able to read at a certain level that a comprehensive guide to life would be delivered to us? Such a guide would provide help for every area of our lives. Wouldn�t that be wonderful? A man packing for a trip was being hurried by a friend and he said he was almost ready but just needed a few more things. He said, �I need: a guidebook, a lamp, a mirror, a hammer, a book of good poetry, a bundle of old letters, a hymn book and a sharp sword.� The man then picked up his Bible placed it in his suitcase and told his friend he was ready to go.
The fact is that God has provided us with a comprehensive guide to life. The Bible properly used with the Holy Spirit, as your teacher will instruct you, correct you, make you complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work. The key word here is �used.� Many of us have packed our bags for our trip through life grabbed our Bible; carefully placed it in our suitcase and left it there. Do you know where your comprehensive guide to life is? Have you �used� it lately?
Where Are You?
�The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand.� - Psalm 37:23-24.
�Direct my steps by Your word, and let no iniquity have dominion over me.� - Psalm 119:33.
�Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.� - Proverbs 3:5-6.
What is the difference between Monterey, California and Monterrey, Mexico? A German translation group providing services for a United Nations conference found out it was about 1,500 miles when they arrived in California for the meeting instead of Mexico. Their travel agency planned their itinerary and sent them to the wrong place. Something similar almost happened to General Sherman and a group of about 50 men in 1865. They were on their way to an important peace conference with the Comanches at Counsel Springs in Kansas. Three days out of Fort Zarrah their scout admitted to Sherman that he had no idea where they were because their maps were of no use and he didn�t know the area. But when Sherman asked if any of the men knew where they were a young dispatch rider by the name of William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) confirmed they were heading south when they should have been headed west.
Proverbs 16:2 says, �All the ways of a man are pure (or innocent) in his own eyes�.� The problem we have when we try to direct our own lives and order our own steps is that in our own wisdom many ways look good. If we are headed in the wrong direction we will arrive at the wrong destination. Since life is unfamiliar, unknown territory for us we should rely on Someone who knows what is ahead and knows the best direction for us to take. The only One who can do that for us is the Lord. I once heard life described as when you are watching a parade. At ground level we can only see the floats and bands passing before us. However, if you were to be in a helicopter hovering above the parade you would be able to see the beginning and the end of the parade as well. God can direct us accurately because He is able to see the beginning, the present, and the end. Not only that in addition He desires the very best for us and will not mislead us.
Are you heading in the right direction? Are you sure? Maybe you ought to ask God if you are where you should be. A correction in course now could save you not only miles but heartaches and pain in the future. Allow Him to guide each step you take through each day and then no iniquity will have dominion over you.
The Needles of Anger
�Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil.� - Ephesians 4:26-27.
Ann Sage over a period of several years suffered a debilitating breakdown both physically and mentally. The doctors thought Ann�s problems were all in her mind until she had an x-ray. The cause of all of her suffering was discovered to be a very small sewing needle that was stuck in her groin. Ann believes the needle became lodged there when she was 11 years old when she remembers injuring herself while jumping on an old mattress. Since the discovery of the needle she has had a three-hour operation to remove it and since then her health has dramatically improved. Ann who is 43-years-old says about her ordeal, �I just felt awful. It felt like I had the flu all the time. I could hardly walk and my balance wasn�t very good. I had a breakdown in the end. I couldn�t stop crying. It was so frustrating and I was frightened and I just felt so ill. I hardly left the house.�
Anger that lingers in our hearts and minds can become like Ann�s tiny sewing needle. Paul tells us, really warns us, not to hang onto our anger because we will �give place to the devil.� When we hang onto our anger it creates an opportunity for the devil to create problems in our lives. Anger evolves into other more damaging emotions such as rage, malice, and bitterness. In the final evolution of anger we will see the development of mental and physical problems. Our thinking will be warped and our actions will be twisted by the holding onto our anger.
If we want to be free of anger and all of its manifestations then we must seek the Lord�s help. He will enable us and empower us, to forgive. Through the power of God we can forgive, turn the other cheek and go the extra mile. Through the power of God instead of anger, rage, malice, and bitterness we can have love, joy, peace, and patience. So tonight before you go to sleep check and see if there are any little needles of anger that need to be pulled out. You�ll sleep much better without them.
Knock On Wood
�Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, �Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious (superstitious old KJV); for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you.�� - Acts 17:22-23.
Superstition can be a hazard to your health according to a study conducted by the University of California-La Jolla. Their study shows that on the fourth day of every month cardiac deaths increased seven percent in Japanese and Chinese Americans. This is because in their languages the number four sounds just like the word for �death.� In Japan and China avoidance of the number four is much like the American avoidance of the number thirteen.
Do you sometimes �knock on wood,� avoid the number thirteen, or have a horseshoe hanging over your doorway? Many people including Christians persist in these practices, which could be thought of as being superstitious. The word superstition is defined as �a belief or practice resulting from ignorance, fear of the unknown, or trust in magic or chance.�
The practice of �knocking on wood� or �touching wood� is done to hopefully ward off any evil consequences of boasting and is also used as a charm to bring good luck. The origin of the practice is unknown but it is thought that it came from pre-Christians rituals, which involved the spirits of trees considered sacred like the ash, oak, hawthorn or holly. Also there is an old Irish belief that knocking on wood will let the little people know that you are thanking them for your good luck.
The apostle Paul speaking to the people of Athens on Mars Hill noted that they had a monument to the �Unknown God.� Actually the people of Athens were superstitious in that they had monuments to every god they could think of and in their fear of leaving one out even had a monument to an �Unknown God.� Certainly the people of Athens had a great fear of the unknown, which came from their ignorance of the spiritual realities. Paul enlightened them by telling them of the One true God.
The spiritual reality is that there is no need to �knock on wood,� avoid the number thirteen, hang a horseshoe over your doorway or to do any other superstitious practice. To do so is to indicate that we believe much as the people of Athens did that there are other gods than the One true God. To pray to God and then later �knock on wood� to bring good luck simply indicates a lack of belief in the true God. To believe in the One true God but believe we have to have a horseshoe over our doorway to bring good luck or to protect us is an affront to God. To believe as a Christian that God has less power to protect us when the number 13 is involved is an indication of a lack of faith.
Superstition not only can have an effect on your physical health but on your spiritual health as well. The apostle Paul said to the people of Athens and us as well, ��we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man�s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:31).�
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The Burning Bush Devotional
That Sinking Feeling
�Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing; I have come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary with my crying; my throat is dry; my eyes fail while I wait for my God.� - Psalm 69:1-3
Many of us have had that sinking feeling when everything is going wrong and is out of control. How did we get to that place in our lives? Maybe we got to that place of sinking and being out of control through ignoring the warnings of God and others in our lives.
Hank Schiffer in Boca Raton knows what that sinking feeling is like. A street in Boca Raton was washed out because of a broken water main and the danger was marked by high-water warning signs. Hank saw the signs but thought that he could drive through the water anyway. What Hank did not know was that the water was covering a sinkhole as deep as his van was in height. Schiffer said after his ordeal, �I was just going around the water. People were telling me not to go through the high water, but I just ignored what they were saying. I guess that was wrong.� Well, Hank, I think it was the wrong thing to do! Schiffer and his two dogs did somehow get out of the van before it completely sank.
It is sad but many who are sinking spiritually are not even aware of their plight. Many of those who are aware are so calloused that they continue to do nothing to slow their downward spiral. To get out of the mire we must want to get out. It is a decision of the heart to hear the warnings and have a desire to stop the downward progress. We must arrive at a point where we know our only hope is in the Lord and call out to God as did the Psalmist, �Save me, O God!�
Are you tired of that sinking feeling? Ask the One to help who can help. One man I knew who was an alcoholic simply had a one-sentence prayer about as short as that of the Psalmist. He prayed over and over again, �Help me stop, God.� It took eight months but God delivered him from his addiction. He can deliver you as well from whatever you are sinking in. Ask Him!
Today�s devotional is from an article written by my son, Clark Wrather, for his church newsletter. Clark is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. The title and Scripture were added for the devotional. Clark�s email is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Still Small Voice
�And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.� - I Kings 19:11-12.
When I woke up last Wednesday, I would never have dreamed my day would end at a hospital in Paris, Texas. I could not have imagined the day ending with my son, Madison, having a CAT Scan. I�m just thankful that nothing was wrong�.
Boys will be boys. My oldest boy seems to have bruises on him all the time, yet he never knows how he got them. He�s only three and a half, but he loves to play rough. Evidently, Madison�s face collided with another little boy�s head. The other boy was fine, but Madison had a spectacular bruise on his cheek and around his eye and a concussion.
The doctor told us in the ER that he had seen children with less bruising than Madison have all sorts of dire problems going on inside their heads. He gave us two options. We could hospitalize him for 48 hours for observation or have a CAT Scan and leave that night if there was no bleeding inside the head. Of course, we chose the second option.
I was worried about Madison staying still for the scan. The scan started and he was nervous and did the best he could, but he kept moving around. He just could not be that still. I tried harder and harder to get him to be still but he would keep moving his head a little this way and a little that way. The radiologist was a funny guy and he saw what was happening. He keyed his mic and spoke like the voice of God, saying, �DO NOT MOOOOOOVE!!� He turned off his mic and I could see him cracking up behind the glass. I was struggling fiercely to keep a straight face. Madison kept still. He did not move at all, not one finger. I�m not sure he even winked.
In life, we get advice from all sorts of people that have our best interests at heart: friends, relatives, Sunday School teachers, even pastors. Sadly, we usually ignore them. I would wager that we would heed the advice if we heard it from the voice of God. We would follow it in a minute, if it came from a booming voice in the heavens with our name written with fire in the skies.
In the Bible, God is said to speak in a �still, small voice.� I have found in my life that this �still, small voice� often speaks through other people. God speaks through Christian friends, pastors, Sunday School teachers, and other believers with whom we are in contact. If you�re waiting for the booming voice, my friend, you will probably have a long wait. God has another one He uses. He speaks through His spirit that indwells the believers you respect in your life.
Are you listening?
�Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer.� - Psalm 32:1-4.
A Romanian taxi driver took a small bomb from a warehouse not realizing what it was or the danger. He drove around for two hours with it on the backseat of the car. Then he and some other taxi drivers played a game of rugby with the bomb until finally one of them realized that it was really a Second World War bomb. At any time the bomb could have gone off injuring or killing all of them. Claudiu Jalba a spokesperson from the Civil Protection Inspectorate said: "The missile is meant to destroy everything within a certain area. Although it has suffered physical and chemical changes, its warhead is armed and may explode any time and shards from the bomb would have been blown up to 900 meters."
Are you carrying an unexploded bomb around with you? King David did. After he had arranged the murder of Uriah and had taken Uriah�s wife Bathsheba as his own David did not confess his sin to God. David knew what he did was wrong but he hardened his heart resisting the pleadings of the Holy Spirit. His heart was so hardened that when Nathan the prophet confronted David with his sin he did not even understand that the story Nathan told was about him. Nathan had to say to David, �You are the man! �Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord to do evil in His sight? �Now, therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house because you have despised me�(II Samuel 12).�
David did not realize until after the fact that the bomb of sin and unconfessed sin had exploded in his life. David says of when he had unconfessed sin in his life, �When I kept silent, my bones grew old through my groaning all the day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was turned into the drought of summer.� It was like Samson who had not realized the Holy Spirit had departed from him and rose up to fight off the Philistines as before but the power of the Spirit had departed leaving him helpless (Judges 16:20). We too can carry on in the functions of life for sometime resisting the pleadings of the Holy Spirit. We can witness, teach, and preach but there will come a point when our witnessing, teaching, and preaching are without power. For the anointing will have departed.
So what do we do if we are carrying around an unexploded bomb? We must turn back to God; confess our sins to God just as David did. Psalm 51 is David�s great prayer of confession. The consequences of David�s sin could not be erased but David could now live with himself and he says in Psalm 32, �I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, �I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,� and You forgave the iniquity of my sin�You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble�Be glad in the Lord and rejoice you righteous; and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!�
Defuse the bomb before it explodes! Turn from sin, confess and you will find yourself shouting for joy as well.
�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.
To �chill� in American teen vernacular means to �calm down.� �Chill� has evolved from the ancient �be cool� to �chill out� to simply �chill.� Apparently there are more and more people who need to avail themselves of a good �chill.�
In Lowell, Massachusetts a 38-year-old woman became enraged and beat up an older woman (51-years-old) because the older woman had brought one too many items to the 12-or-less express checkout counter. In St. Paul, Minnesota, early one Saturday morning at a bar John Haider became more than a little upset with a man he thought was staring at him. So he called a friend and had his friend bring him a gun. Haider then shot Patrick Murray in the head. St. Paul Police Sgt. Bruce Wynkoop said, "The best we can get is that the guy was angry because the victim was staring at him he apparently doesn't like people staring at him." Apparently! Then there is the man in Terrace, British Columbia who was so upset by the violence in �Lord of the Rings� that he smashed the theater�s cash register, soda fountain, and a plant in the lobby!
Malice is the desire to cause harm to come to someone else. Wrath goes beyond thought to action - actions of violent anger and rage. These things the apostle Paul makes clear grieves the Holy Spirit and should be �put away from you.� Not only should they be �put away from you� but those emotions and actions should be replaced with something better. Kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness should be our nature, and the source of our actions.
How do you �chill?� The apostle tells us in Philippians 4:8 to think about things that are good, to meditate on these things. Instead of dwelling and becoming angry about all the bad things that may happen immediately concentrate on the good. God�s Word is a powerful weapon to use when events or things happen that cause you to experience anger or even rage. As you draw closer to God (James 4:8) He will draw closer to you and more and more of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) will become evident in your life. You will find yourself experiencing and demonstrating �love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.�
So the next time someone stares at you or checks out with one too many items in the express line just �chill out!�
�Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.� - I Corinthians 15:58.
Some other words related to steadfastness are faithfulness, longsuffering, patience, determination, and endurance. The dictionary defines steadfast as �firmly fixed in place; not subject to change; firm in belief, determination, or adherence; loyal.� Louis Skinner�s recent experience gives us a picture of this quality. Louis is 79-years-old and had climbed every mountain in Scotland except one. While training for this attempt he broke his leg. Louis says, �I�m normally very cautious coming down. I took a wee risk that I shouldn�t have taken. I landed with a thump on my backside. My leg hit a rock and I heard an ominous crack in my right leg. I could lie there and rot or get on with it�.�
Louis Skinner got on with it. He slid for three miles down the hillside until he reached a walking path. Finding a stick on which to lean he then walked three more miles to his car. But before getting to his car he had to climb a ten-foot deer fence and then he drove himself back to his hotel. The next morning someone noticed him limping and insisted that he go to a doctor. Louis says, �It won�t put me off climbing. I have been doing it for 50 years and it is the worst accident I have had. I love it and I am determined to climb my last Munro (a mountain).�
In life there are constant challenges big mountains and little mountains to climb. The apostle Paul encourages us to continue on for the Lord. Not only should we be steadfast but also Paul says we should �abound.� Why? Because our �labor is not in vain in the Lord.� The next time life knocks you down remember Louis Skinner who just continued on and said, �I could lie there and rot or get on with it�.� We too can just lie there and rot after we are discouraged but God would have us to get up and move on with Him. In the midst of discouragement and pain be steadfast and continue on in the Name of the Lord. Because the alternative is to lie there and rot!
Slipping and Sliding
�For the land is full of adulterers; for because of a curse the land mourns. The pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up. Their course of life is evil, and their might is not right. �For both prophet and priest are profane; yes, in My house I have found their wickedness,� says the Lord. �Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery ways; in the darkness they shall be driven on and fall in them; for I will bring disaster on them, the year of their punishment,� says the Lord.� - Jeremiah 23:10-11.
Soon embassy guards may have a new non-lethal weapon that will delay or even prevent mob attacks from succeeding. Not only can the military make use of this new weapon but there are potentially many civilian police applications as well. San Antonio�s Southwest Research Institute has developed what they call the �banana peel in a can.� It is a whitish gel that can be applied through spraying and is super-slippery. It is intended for use by the Marine Corps to prevent the overrun of embassies or military bases by unruly mobs. The substance has been tested by volunteers trying to walk across a lawn sprayed with the �banana peel,� and If they had not been in safety harnesses many of them might have received broken bones as a result of the violent slipping and sliding.
Jeremiah prophesies concerning the judgment of God against those prophets and priests who have so wickedly lived their lives in opposition to God�s will. They think that they are safe but just when they are convinced that nothing will harm them they will slip and in the darkness will be unable to break their fall. Many who live in immorality believe nothing can harm them and they laugh at God. But there will come a time of reckoning and it may very well be at a time least expected. They will slip without a safety harness and their destruction is assured.
Compare the prophecy of Jeremiah to the words of King David who says �For who is God, except the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God? God is my strength and power, and He makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of deer, and sets me on my high places. He teaches my hands to make war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; your gentleness has made me great. You enlarged my path under me; so my feet did not slip (II Samuel 22:32-37).�
Oh what comfort, what peace we have to be shielded by the Lord. What a great safety harness is our salvation, which keeps our feet from slipping. Let us draw even closer to our God where we will find safety in the midst of turmoil just as did King David.
Of Crooked Rivers and Men
�Prepare the way of the Lord; make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill brought low; the crooked places shall be made straight and the rough ways smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.� - Luke 3:4c-6.
A very well known quote "Following the path of least resistance is what makes rivers and men crooked" comes alive in the following: Maurice Gladney explained he robbed someone on the street in St. Louis because it would help him deal with his distress following the Rams� losing in the Super Bowl. Donald Guthrie after robbing the M&T Bank in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania said that he needed the money to pay for the bill he owed to the bail bondsman from his last arrest. Douglas Harrison and others became robbers because they wanted to go back to jail. Why? Because jail felt like home to them. Apparently these men have followed the path of least resistance in their lives and have ended up in a very literal way making their lives crooked.
Jesus tells us �Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:13-14).� To the extent that we follow the wisdom of the world, which is the �broad gate�, we too will have crookedness in our lives. In order to have salvation we must enter in the �narrow gate� which is Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Through Jesus we find the only way of salvation, we find truth, and we find life. Jesus is not the path of least resistance. Following Jesus is not the easy life (Luke 9:23-26) but it is the only life that will allow and empower us to avoid the crookedness of the world.
John the Baptist quoting the words of Isaiah said �The crooked places shall be made straight and the rough ways smooth.� Then he said, �all flesh shall see the salvation of God.� The salvation of God is Jesus. Only through Jesus can we daily deny ourselves take up our crosses and follow Him. Only through Jesus can we avoid the crookedness and perverseness of the world. Only through Jesus can the crooked be made straight.
Looking back at the path of your life do you see a path that is straight and true or are there some curves and squiggles back there? Allow the Lord to keep your path straight and true. Follow Him. Focus in upon Jesus (Hebrews 12:3).
�No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.� - I Corinthians 10:13.
Bryan Allison, who is 24 years old, was watching a video of a 1989 National Hockey League playoff game and became angry once again that his team had lost. In his fit of anger he picked up his television and tossed it off the second-floor balcony of his home. But Bryan forgot one thing, he forgot to let go of the television soon enough and fell 20 feet to the ground along with his TV!! Bryan was briefly hospitalized in Buffalo, New York and everything is probably fine now except for his pride.
James gives the progression of temptation to sin to death. He says, �But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death (James 1:14-15).� When we dwell on an evil tempting thought long enough it eventually will draw us into action and that action is sin. The result of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Romans 13:14 tells us not to make provision for sin which means in part not to think about how you can gratify your sinful desires. If you plan how you can sin and provide for that sin eventually you will come to a point of action when you will sin.
The writer of Proverbs says, �Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not travel on it; turn away from it and pass on (Proverbs 4:14-15).� Temptation often seems to come upon us suddenly and at times can seem overwhelming but it will not be more than we can bear. We do not have to enter the path of wickedness and we do not have to travel down it. We can turn away and pass on by it. Temptation is like Bryan�s television, if you hold on too long it will pull you down with it. So what must you do? You must let go. You let go by finding the way of escape that God has provided for you.
Today�s devotional is from an article written by my son, Clark Wrather, for his church newsletter. Clark is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. The title and Scripture were added for the devotional. Clark�s email is: email@example.com
The Flickering Flame
�As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.� - Revelation 3:19.
Yesterday (Tuesday), I jumped on a chance to play golf before heading to the Frisco Evangelism Conference. I had not had the chance to play during the last month when we had all those nice, warm, sunny days. If I had the day off, you could count on it being cold or rainy.
Well, I finally had my chance. I thought I would be quite bad after not playing for a month, but I was just as bad as usual. The interesting thing is that I played some of the best golf of my life. I also played some of the worst golf. It was the best of times and the worst of times.
I hit every tree out there, but only lost one ball to water. Some of my shots went over two hundred feet and some of them did not go farther than twenty. I had a couple of putts that were at least thirty feet away come to rest a few inches from the hole. I had other putts that I missed, even though they were within two feet of the hole.
When it was time to leave and I was tallying up the scores, I noticed something strange. The best I did all day was at the very first hole. You might think I would have improved as the day progressed, but that did not happen. I seemed to get worse. My initial effort was my best one and the others were never as good as the first.
This seems to be true about many things in life. When we start a new job, our initial effort is often better than our latter ones. Students tend to do well at the beginning of a course and then slack off during the middle only to give it their desperate best at the end. When we start a new year, we usually give it our all. We tell ourselves that things will be different this year, but as things progress, we go back to being the same old person we always were.
This principle is often true in the Christian life. Believers often give their best and greatest effort right after they are saved. New believers are inspired by the sacrifice of the cross and the great love of a Creator for His creatures and often feel they would do anything for the new Lord of their heart. Yet, as time goes by, their zeal and the fire down in their bones seems to flicker. Some believers have even forgotten what it feels like to be inspired by God to do something in His name. They just give up and no longer try to create God�s kingdom on earth.
How about you? Do you have the same zeal and the same fire down in your bones that you had when you were first saved? Is it still blazing inside of you or is it barely flickering? Were your first efforts as a believer much greater than your current ones? If you were honest with yourself, could you admit that you spend little effort at being the person God wants you to be? How sad is it when someone�s faith was brighter in the past than it is in the present?
�Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for �God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.� Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.� - I Peter 5:5-7.
Watching the Olympic skating last night I was surprised to find the drama unfolding of a 16 year old unexpectedly winning the gold medal. Sarah Hughes said, "Tonight was probably my greatest skate ever. Going into it, I didn't really think I had a chance for a medal, let alone a gold because I know the competition is really difficult here." Sarah�s competitors were excellent with years of training behind them in preparation for the few moments of last night�s event.
Over and over again in the Bible we see that those who thought they didn�t have a chance or the world thought didn�t have a chance are blessed and raised up by God. The world laughed at Noah but he and his family were the only ones to survive the flood. Joseph was sold into slavery, unjustly thrown into prison and yet rises to become the second most powerful person in the most powerful country of the known world. David was just a shepherd boy but he slew the giant Goliath and outlasted the onslaught of King Saul to be king of a great empire. Shadrach, Mehsach, and Abednego survived the fiery furnace and were raised to prominence. Daniel continued to pray to God even when it was outlawed and was cast into the lion�s den but survived through angelic intervention. Daniel the Bible says, �Prospered.� Our Lord Jesus was just a poor carpenter�s son who was rejected by the world but the world could not change the fact that Jesus was God Incarnate, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.
Humble yourself under God�s mighty hand and He will lift you up. That is a promise that we can count on. We may not be lifted up to fame and glory on planet earth but we will be lifted up. Peter says, ��and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away (I Peter 5:4).� �But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you (I Peter 5:10).�
The world may say you do not have a chance. Your own family may say you do not have a chance.
Your own heart may say you do not have a chance. Do not trust in them! Humble yourself under
God�s mighty hand casting all your cares, burdens, anxieties upon Him and He will lift you up in
due time. That is reality, that is truth, that is the promise of God.
(Read the entire sermon at NEWEST SERMONS
Take It Back!
�Be glad then, you children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God; for He has given you the former rain faithfully, and He will cause the rain to come down for you - the former rain and the latter rain in the first month. The threshing floors shall be full of wheat, and the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil. So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the crawling locust, the consuming locust, and the chewing locust.� - Joel 2:23-25.
Carolyn Risher says, "We are taking everything back that the devil ever stole from us." Last year in Inglis, Florida the mayor of Inglis, Carolyn Risher issued a proclamation banning satan from the town. She declared the small city (pop. 1,400) to be a satan-free zone and embedded copies of the proclamation in posts at four entrances to the city. The mayor said she was concerned about the kids dressing �Goth,� DUI drivers and child molesters.
Once you have banned the devil from your life what do you do then? Take it back! Take back what the devil has stolen from you. Take back what the locusts have eaten up.
When we are involved in sin the devil eats up our time and lives just like devouring locusts eat up crops. Time and resources that could have been used to bring glory to God are redirected to bring pain and shame to our own lives and families. Years may go by while the demons romp and play destroying all that they can that is good in your life. When we finally turn back to God and He kicks the devil and sin out of our lives we may be tempted to think that it is too late to live the way we should. We may think that it is too late to do anything productive with our lives to bring glory to God.
When the prophet Joel spoke those words so long ago God�s people had experienced firsthand the devouring locusts. God�s promise to them and I believe to us as well is that God can restore the years to us that have been wasted. How can He do that? He will do it through quality of life and blessing. As we take back what the devil has stolen by living our lives to bring glory to the Lord the years will be restored. Joy and blessing will pour from the Lord to our lives and from our lives to the lives of countless others.
Take it back!!
�No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. Now the Pharisees, who were lovers of money, also heard all these things, and they derided Him.� - Luke 13-14.
Geri Halliwell a former Spice Girl donated some of her old clothes to a charity in Singapore. In response to a question about why she made the donation she said, "What's the point of keeping things? You should never let your possessions possess you." I understand what Halliwell is saying because I have felt in the past that some of my possessions have possessed me and have prevented me from serving my Lord in the way that I knew I should.
During a period of time when I was unemployed because of a downturn in the oil and gas industry we were burdened with a large house payment at a high interest rate. I no longer possessed the house it possessed me! We prayed for months that we would be able to sell the house. I finally prayed and asked God to sell the house as a Christmas present for my wife. God did sell it and we moved out December 26, 1983. We moved into a much smaller apartment but it was wonderful to free of the house that had held us back from pursuing God�s plan in our lives.
It is not just houses that can possess a person�s life and hold you in bondage. Almost any material thing can wreak havoc in your life. Too large of a car payment, or too much indebtedness to credit cards, and countless other things can prevent you from being obedient to your Lord or at least from taking the very best course of action as you walk through life.
What Jesus said is very true and we must choose which master we want to serve. Which master are you really serving? God or material things?
The Devil Is In The Details
�Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?� - I Corinthians 5:6.
It was just a little mistake, a little typing error that could cost UBS Warburg (a financial services firm) over $100 million. A trader for the company typed a sell order of 610,000 shares for 16 yen each, instead of 16 shares at 610,000 yen. The conversion rate for a dollar to yen is currently 1 to 132.7. So instead of selling 16 shares for $287 per share the trader obligated the company to sell 610,000 shares for pennies each which would still cost them $287 per share. The devil does appear to be in the details!
The apostle Paul points out that only a little leaven is enough to leaven the whole. Leaven is yeast that will make bread dough rise and leaven is symbolic of sin. Paul is using leaven to refer to known sin, which the church in Cornith had allowed. Known sexual sin such as was present among the members of the church at Cornith could not be tolerated. To protect the whole this blatant sinfulness had to confronted and excised.
Most of us would say that this only makes sense and that the church must be protected from this evil. However, it can also be applied to our lives individually. Only a little leaven in our lives is enough to contaminate the whole. Only a little sin left unconfessed and tolerated in our lives can result in a lack of spiritual growth and even spiritual regression. Because if we will tolerate one sin, then it is not that hard to tolerate another sin, and then another, and then another�.
Do you have a little leaven in your life? The apostle says, �Therefore purge out the old leaven (I Corinthians 5:7a).� Why not even now confess (I John 1:9) those little sins to the Lord and allow Him to purge them from your life? Get the devil out of the details of your life!
The Psychic Sham
�Now it happened, as we went to prayer, that a certain slave girl possessed with a spirit of divination met us, who brought her masters much profit by fortunetelling. This girl followed Paul and us, and cried out, saying, �These men are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.� And this she did for many days. But Paul, greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, �I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.� And he came out that very hour.� - Acts 16:16-8.
Psychics apparently are looking into the future and seeing the money. They are seeing all the money they can scam from people who may be tempted to use their services. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has filed a complaint in federal court accusing Miss Cleo and her backers of scamming as much as $360 million from those calling her psychic hotline. The FTC in the past 18 months has received over 2,000 complaints about Miss Cleo. Miss Cleo offers a toll free number to callers to her service but then are told to call another number which costs $4.99 a minute after the first three minutes. One of the problems with deception comes in when customers are told there will be no charges while they are on hold, however, they are still charged. The average charge encountered by those calling Miss Cleo is $60.00.
Let�s be clear about one thing and that is that any power that psychics may have is demonic. Have you ever heard of a psychic acknowledging Jesus Christ as Lord and as the One from which their knowledge comes? The apostle John tells us, �By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God (I John 4:2-3a).�
Another way to determine whether a spirit is of God is to see whether it is in agreement with the Word of God. If there is a conflict you know it is not of God. Isaiah makes it very clear when he says, �And when they say to you, �Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,� should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them (Isaiah 8:19-20).�
For those who decided to seek out psychics we can see one sad result from their decision was the loss of money. But beyond the loss of money receiving false ungodly advice and acting upon that advice is far more damaging. If we really want help in our lives, guidance in our lives, and wisdom for our lives then let us do as Isaiah suggests and seek the One who can truly give it to us. �To the law and to the testimony!�
Spreading God�s Love
�Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God.� - I John 4:7.
Valentine�s Day has been officially banned in Saudi Arabia. As a result of the ban shops are prohibited from selling red roses and couples are prohibited from displaying public affection. Saudi Arabia�s Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Evil will be conducting constant patrols to make sure no one is celebrating Valentine�s Day, which they consider an un-Islamic holiday. Students have even been cautioned by their teachers about the danger of wearing red or any Valentine related things on February 14. Not all Islamic countries take the view of Saudi Arabia. Iran and the United Arab Emirates do permit the celebration of Valentine�s Day.
Can you imagine how drab and dreary our world would be without love? How sad would it be if no one ever demonstrated their affection for another person in public. If acts of kindness born out of love were banned it would indeed be an ugly world in which to live. It is hard to imagine even the possibility of such a place but not very long ago Afghanistan under Taliban rule was very close to being exactly that.
There is so much hatred and evil in the world surely we should take every opportunity to express the love of God. The dictionary defines a �valentine� as a gift or greeting sent or given on Valentine�s Day. And since it is on Valentine�s Day we would assume the gift or greeting would be one of love. Our Heavenly Father has given us the greatest example of sending gifts of love. He has sent us the greatest love gift of all. �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).� �But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).�
Think for a moment about how you can demonstrate the love of God toward those around you. Here are some ideas: kindness, patience, generosity, unselfishness and putting interests of others before your own. You can probably think of many other ways to demonstrate the love of God toward others. Today on Valentine�s Day let us send a message of love from God to those we encounter along the road of life by our words and actions. Let us not stop with today but continue on throughout the year spreading the love of God.
Today�s devotional is from an article written by my son, Clark Wrather, for his church newsletter. Clark is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. The title and Scripture were added for the devotional. Clark�s email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Flee From Temptation
�But it happened about this time, when Joseph went into the house to do his work, and none of the men of the house was inside, that she caught him by his garment, saying, �Lie with me.� But he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside.� - Genesis 39:12-13. (Read all of Genesis 39 for the complete context.)
A couple of weeks ago, on the way back from Dallas, something weird happened to me. It had been a long day and I guess I was not thinking too clearly. Well, let me first tell you my story before I try to explain it�
We pulled into a gas station in Paris, TX. Libby went in to get something and when she came back, she made sure that I was aware of something. Brand, new, bright-yellow, parking lines had been painted around the store. They were glimmering in the fluorescent lighting of the parking lot. The bright-yellow paint glistened and anyone could see that these lines were very, very wet.
I just nodded at Libby, a bit annoyed she had made such a big deal about telling me all about those wet lines of paint. What did she think I was, her third little boy? I finished filling up the car and confidently walked around and carefully avoided the wet paint. In fact, the painter was still there waving people away and telling them to be careful.
I paid for the gas and headed back out. The painter had his back to me and I heard him telling another fellow that the paint was wet. There was a step down from the sidewalk to the parking lot itself. I looked down and right below me was that glistening, bright-yellow line. I just thought I would step down and right over that line with no trouble. This is actually what I intended to do, but there was a problem�
The next thing I knew, I was on the ground and had one leg folded up under me. I honestly could not figure out how it happened. The new pair of pants I was wearing suffered a grievous, fatal would. Those light colored khaki pants did not look right with a streak of bright-yellow running down from one knee to the cuff. Of course, Libby laughed and laughed�
Sometimes in life, we walk right into situations knowing we will face certain temptation to sin. Usually we think that we can confidently step right over these temptations. Often, we end up falling right into the temptation we had thought to be so easy to avoid.
My new rule for life is to simply avoid any place where they are painting new parking lines. If I see wet, glistening paint, I will drive away as fast as I possibly can. I am positive that the same strategy would work with those situations, which hold certain temptation. If you know you will be tempted, go out of your way to avoid that situation in the first place.
The Cure For Loneliness
�He who has my commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him. If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.� - John 14:21; 23.
Ann Landers said about the many letters she received. "I�ve learned plenty-including, most meaningfully, what Leo Rosten had in mind when he said, �Each of us is a little lonely, deep inside, and cries to be understood.� I have learned how it is with stumbling, tortured people in this world who have nobody to talk to. The fact the column has been a success underscores, for me at least, the central tragedy of our society, the disconnectedness, the insecurity, the fear that bedevils, cripples and paralyzes so many of us. I have learned that financial success, academic achievement, and social or political status open no doors to peace of mind or inner security. We are all wanders, like sheep, on this planet." (Saturday Review)
Nearly everyone at some point in their lives will feel lonely. What do you do if you are lonely? Where do you turn? There is a cure for loneliness but it is not an easy cure. Jesus says in Luke 9:23, �If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.� The key to escape from loneliness is found in dying to yourself. The cross is an instrument of execution and we see that dying is to be a daily dying to self. In order to die to self we must deny ourselves and follow our Lord each day. In the process we lose our life but gain the life that our Lord has planned for us.
As we die to self and seek to follow our Lord what happens? What happens is �My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him (John 14:21).� �We will come to him and make Our home with him (John 14:23).� As we lose our life in the life of our Lord we will find life and fellowship with Him. Our loneliness will disappear as we follow Him step by step through each day.
�Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.� - Romans 8:35-39.
Fred and Olive Hodges are both 102 years old and have been married for nearly 77 years. They are the longest married couple in Great Britain. They have two children, 11 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren. Olive Hodges says, �It is all about love, give and take and considering the other person. Love is the main thing. When the Lord came into our lives it made all the difference.� Their long-lived marriage is even more remarkable in light of the fact that the average marriage in Great Britain only lasts a little over nine years.
Fred and Olive have been inseparable for almost 77 years and in their love we see the modeling of the love of their Lord. Ephesians 5:25 says, �Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.� Paul goes on to say, �So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh (Ephesians 5:28-31).�
To have a successful marriage takes both the husband and wife striving to demonstrate the love of Christ toward each other. This is not just the role of the husband and it is not just the role of the wife. Paul ends chapter five of Ephesians by saying, �let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband (Ephesians 5:33).� Think of the example of Christ as we see the example for how the husband and wife should conduct themselves in marriage. Jesus so loved the church that He suffered and died on the cross so that we would have a Savior. How far should we go in our self-sacrificing love for our spouse? Christ went to and through the cross. If we demonstrate that kind of love for each other in marriage our lives too will be inseparable.
The closeness and inseparableness of marriage is a small taste, a shadow of the inseparableness of our relationship to Christ. Once we know Christ as our Savior nothing can separate us from the love of God. Paul makes it clear that when he says nothing he means nothing as he lists everything that he can think of that we might think could separate us. Paul says, �For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.� What can separate us from the love of God? Nothing!! Once we know Christ as our Savior we are forever inseparable.
What Were They Thinking?
�The thoughts of the righteous are right, but the counsels of the wicked are deceitful.� - Proverbs 12:5.
�The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord.� - Proverbs 15:26.
We have to wonder sometimes what people are thinking like Bob Bowling who while practicing his quick draw on a snowman shot himself in the thigh. Then there is Paul Dimoff who rigged a booby-trapped shotgun to fire at any burglars entering his home. But somehow it was Dimoff who was accidentally shot in the chest on New Year�s morning at 2:00 A.M. Juan Manuel Lopez also shot himself. Juan was trying to impress and demonstrate his manliness in front of a girl by firing his gun toward the floor of her apartment. Juan shot himself in the foot!
Involvement in evil and wickedness to any degree warps our minds and even our thoughts. In Titus 1:15 we are told, �To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.� When our thoughts are wrong our actions reveal the true nature of our character. We may say we know God but when every action we take continually reeks of evil the truth of the matter is revealed.
Contrast the thoughts of the evil person with the thoughts of the righteous. As the writer of Proverbs says, �The thoughts of the righteous are right.� With right thinking comes right actions and words. Jesus says, �A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:45).� Our thoughts often result in actions, which are sometimes good and sometimes bad. However, if our conscience has been corrupted our actions will always be influenced by evil.
To change our pattern of thinking we must begin with the basics. The very most important change that we can make is to receive Jesus as our Savior and be born again because it will radically change everything in our lives (II Corinthians 5:17). Then we must take advantage of the resources of God found in Christ (Philippians 4:19). To think right we must begin to think about good things and not bad things (Philippians 4:8). And there is nothing more good and excellent than God�s Holy Word. Renew your mind through reading, memorizing, and meditating upon God�s Word (Romans 12:2).
When your thoughts are right you won�t be shooting yourself in the foot anymore.
Ban The Devil!!
�Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.� - II Timothy 2:22-26.
Inglis, Florida has taken a positive step toward the elimination of evil in their community. Actually it was the mayor who banned the devil. On official town stationary the mayor has written a proclamation banning the devil from Inglis, Florida. Seems like a reasonable thing to do at least to those of us who have had a few problems with the old beast. However, the ACLU is a little upset and Howard Simon who has been a director of the ACLU for 27 years says, �This is the most extreme intrusion into religion by a public official that I have ever seen.� Hmm, wonder what religion the ACLU practices? A resident of the town in defending the mayor and town pride says if you don�t like the proclamation, �Next time she comes up for election, don�t vote for her.�
In reality it is not that easy to ban the devil from a town or our lives. Why? Because he is after all the devil who is a lying, conniving, stealing, killing destroyer (John 10:10a; John 8:44). He sneaks into our lives snaring us and taking us captive through the allures of the flesh and the world. Many have been blinded by the devil and are not even aware that they are his captives. In I John 2:11 we are told, �he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.�
How can we find release from the darkness, from the evil one? The first step is to turn to the light. Jesus says, �I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life (John 8:12).� Receiving Christ as our Savior turns on the light switch (John 3:16-21). But to keep the light on we must do as Jesus says and follow Him. The apostle Paul share some excellent ways in which we can follow our Lord more closely and in so doing escape the captivity and darkness of the devil. Paul says run from the evil and run to the good, pursuing righteousness, faith, love, and peace.
Have you been ensnared and taken captive by the enemy? Ban the devil and give it the force of law in your life by resisting him and submitting yourself to God (James 4:6-7). Make it official write it out as your own personal proclamation banning the devil from your life and inviting the Lord in. Sign it, date it and you might even want to frame it and hang it up on a wall to remind you of your own personal Independence Day.
Let�s all ban the devil and won�t that make the ACLU mad!?
The Benefits of Giving
�Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities.� - Philippians 4:15-16.
Some of the top givers this past year were John D. Hollingsworth who when he died at 83 years of age left an estimated $400 million to several institutions and charities. Lucille Stewart Beeson who died at the age of 95 bequeathed $161 million to organizations in Birmingham, Alabama her hometown. Henry Melville Fuller dying at age 87 left a large portion of his $89.68 million estate to several New Hampshire organizations. Herbert Block who was an editorial cartoonist for the Washington Post died at the age of 91 and gave $53 million to the establishment of a foundation in Washington D.C. Having a giving heart apparently helps many to live a long life.
If we would please God we must give because God�s nature is to give. �For God so loved the world that He gave�(John 3:16).� �For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich (II Corinthians 8:9).� By giving we please God as we follow the example of our Lord.
The unconscious thought is that if we give we will have less and how will we then meet our own needs? As Jimmy Carter says, �When it comes to giving, some people will stop at nothing.� I like what Martin Luther said, �I have tried to keep things in my hands and lost them all, but what I have given into God�s hands I still possess.� Only through eyes of faith can we see that by giving we actually bless ourselves and when we fail to give we are hurting ourselves (Luke 6:38; II Corinthians 9:6-7; Proverbs 3:9-10; Malachi 3:8-10). As Augustine puts it, �Where your pleasure is, there is your treasure; Where your treasure is, there is your heart; Where your heart is, there is your happiness.�
When we think of giving we automatically think of money but the example of our Lord is that of giving His very life for us that we might have life. Certainly we should give of our money but we should not hold back ourselves in the process. As Jesus says, �Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21).�
Where is your treasure being stored up?
The Super Bowl of Life
�Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.� - Philippians 3:13-14.
According to a survey of those planning to watch the Super Bowl there are a variety of reasons for viewing the game. Some people watch the Super Bowl because they like football and this is the premier event in football pitting the top two professional teams. Some watch the Super Bowl because strangely enough they like to watch the commercials. Another reason given for watching was the halftime show, which always has �star attraction.� Then there are reasons like, �Everyone else is watching it so I�m going to watch it too.� Or my all time favorite reason is, �There�s nothing else on TV tonight so let�s watch the Super Bowl.�
Most likely none of us will ever know what it is like to actually participate in a football Super Bowl by being a player, coach, or trainer. However, there is a Super Bowl that we can all participate in and in fact participation is mandatory. You could call it the Super Bowl of Life and whether you like it or not you are in it. The apostle Paul understood this saying, �I press toward the goal.� Paul was giving his passion for his Lord everything he had. Sadly, most Christians are not like the apostle Paul in their single-minded devotion. For various reasons we get off course and life is not about giving it all for the Lord. Instead we are much like the viewers of the Super Bowl and have many different reasons for the passions we have in life. We enjoy the commercials of life, and the halftimes of life, and the pageantry of life.
How can we have the passion that Paul had for his Lord? We begin where Paul began and he tells us what to do in verse 13. First, Paul tells that in spite of his service, knowledge, and godliness that he has not arrived yet and will never arrive at a point where he will retire. Paul says, �Brethren I do not count myself to have apprehended.� No, as long as he has breath he�s pressing on, he�s moving forward. We must do the same. Second, Paul is not dwelling on his failures of the past. They are over, they are past, they are done. He�s forgetting them and moving on toward the goal line. Paul says, �forgetting those things which are behind.� We have to do the same and I John 1:9 is a good place to start. Third, Paul is not standing still he is moving on, �reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize.�
There is still time left on the clock, the game is not over let us too continue on, reaching
forward, pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ.
(You can read the entire message at http://www.theburningbush.org/newestsermons.html )
�For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.� - Romans 3:23.
�And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.� - Hebrews 9:27.
�For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.� - Romans 6:23.
�Jesus said to him, �I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.�� - John 14:6.
Mike Tyson was unsuccessful in his application for a boxing license from state officials in Nevada. In justification of his actions he said to the officials, �I�m not Mother Teresa, but I�m not Charles Manson either.� Sounds like the guy who said, �Don�t bother me with that religious stuff, when I die I�ll take my chances I�m not any worse than anyone else.� Or the often repeated mantra of the non-church goer, �If so and so is going to Heaven that is a member of your church than I�m going because I�m not nearly as bad as they are.� Sounds familiar doesn�t it? And in some ways it sounds good and it sounds like common sense thinking. But no matter how good something sounds and no matter how much sense something makes if it is wrong - it�s wrong!
God has provided only one way to Heaven, only one way of salvation from eternal torment, which a just and holy God must render, to those who reject the free pardon for sin available through Jesus Christ. The way of salvation, the free pardon of sin has been provided to all those who receive Jesus Christ as their Savior at great cost. Romans 5:8 says, �But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.� The cost was the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Payment had to be made for sin. There can be no remission of sin without the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22). Jesus was able to become that perfect sacrifice because He was tempted at all points without sin (Hebrews 4:15; Romans 5:18; II Corinthians 5:21). When we reject the One Way that has been provided God does not condemn us we condemn ourselves (John 3:16-18) because there is no other Way of reconciliation with a completely Holy and Righteous God.
I don�t know about you but I would not want to die and face the judgment of God depending upon my own works (Ephesians 2:8-10) and righteousness. Instead I have received Christ Jesus as my Savior and am cloaked/covered in His righteousness. When God looks at me He no longer sees the dirty rotten worm of a sinner that I am but He sees the righteousness of His Son (Philippians 3:8-9; Romans 3:22-28; II Corinthians 5:21).
Through what way have you been trying to get to Heaven? There is only One Way, the Way of Jesus Christ and I highly recommend it!
�Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.� - Matthew 13:44.
In Australia a man has lost his treasure. A middle-aged Irishman believes he threw out the winning lottery ticket (worth A$1.5 million or in American dollars $700,000) in an empty grocery sack. The city council of Kalgoorlie-Boulder has given the man special permission to search through the garbage at the city dump. It was reported that the man had spent four days searching but was not sure if he was continuing to search at this point. Sue Virgin a city spokesperson said �Can you imagine all the refuse at the tip (the garbage dump) after Christmas? It must have been disgusting.�
How disappointing it must have been for this man in Australia to lose his winning ticket, his treasure. To find it he was willing to go to great lengths even digging in disgusting garbage for days. If you have lost your treasure you will do all that you can to find it. Jesus speaks of a man who hides his treasure after finding it and gives all he can to buy the field and in doing so will own the treasure. The treasure is the Kingdom of Heaven.
Some of us have lost our treasure. We were once on fire for God but now we have gotten bogged down in the cares of the world. Many are bogged down in sin. Addictions have covered over the treasure of the Kingdom of Heaven in many of our lives. Some of our lives look like garbage dumps in the spiritual realm. We know it is true but what do we do? We need to dig through all of the stuff that has covered up the true treasure. Whatever it takes we should give it all to have the treasure of the Kingdom of Heaven restored in our lives. If someone will dig through a garbage dump for days for a lottery ticket surely we will dig for the spiritual treasure that has been lost in our lives.
How do we find our treasure? It will be necessary to throw out and dispose of some of the trash that has built up over the years. Cast off the sin that so easily besets us (Hebrews 12:1). Dig into the riches of God�s Word (Matthew 4:4). Ask God for his help (Matthew 7:7-8). Maintain contact with others who are treasure seekers as you can help each other (Hebrews 10:24-25). Shield your life from the trash that constantly tries to flow into our lives from the world, the flesh, and the devil (Proverbs 4:21; Luke 6:45).
Let�s start digging!!
A Lack Of Respect
�So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law, bowed down, and kissed him. And they asked each other about their well-being, and they went into the tent.� - Exodus 18:21.
I was shocked to read this morning about a man in southern Vietnam who has been sentenced to nine years in prison for causing the death of his father-in-law. The man died of an heart attack after part of his ear was bitten off by his son-in-law. The man had tried to intervene in an argument between his daughter and son-in-law and died as a result.
This is such a contrast to the respect that Moses had for his father-in-law, Jethro. Jethro at that time was not a believer and was a pagan priest but Moses still showed him the respect he deserved. Moses did not act like he was better than Jethro or attempt to humiliate him before the other Israelites. There is an important principle here for us as we attempt to lead our unbelieving family and friends to salvation.
Treating someone with respect does not mean that you have to agree with them about everything. It also does not mean that you have to let them tell you what to do or even live up to their expectations. It does mean that you treat them with respect which includes consideration and courtesy. You should treat them with at least the consideration and kindness with which you would treat a stranger.
The result of treating your family and friends with respect is that channels of communication remain open which can eventually lead to their salvation. We see this with Moses and his father-in-law. Moses treated him with respect and they were able to discuss the great miracles God had performed to deliver the Israelites from Egypt. As a result Jethro came to believe in the Hebrew God and offered sacrifices himself to the One true God (Exodus 18:12).
Is there someone in your life to whom you should show a little more respect, kindness, and consideration?
Today�s devotional is from an article written by my son, Clark Wrather, for his church newsletter. Clark is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. The title and Scripture were added for the devotional. Clark�s email is: email@example.com
When Heat Comes
�Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.� - Jeremiah 17:7-8.
�No one really wants to hear that their baby is not perfect.� Those were the words Libby and I heard from a pediatric neurosurgeon at Children�s Hospital in Dallas a few weeks ago. All I could do was nod my head. The doctor continued and said, �...we�re most likely looking at surgery.� The phrase hit me like a shot to the belly from Evander Holy field.
Mason, the newest addition to our family was born with three dimples at the base of his spine. According to his doctors, this could be nothing or it could be something. Sometimes these dimples indicate that there is an underlying problem with the spine. The problem could be several different things and most of them are easily correctable by surgery. Often there is a connection that leads from the dimples on the outside all the way to the spinal cord on the inside.
There could be a microscopic opening from the dimples all the way to the spinal cord. This means any infection that Mason has could enter through these openings and travel to his spinal cord. An infection there could cause paralysis or death. Because of this, the neurosurgeon did not recommend that we wait until Mason was older to do surgery. Because it has the potential to be very dangerous, the doctor said that exploratory surgery should be done even if an MRI does not show anything.
�Surgery� - the word just reverberated through me when I heard it. �How could they do surgery on such a small baby,� I wondered to myself. Needless to say, Libby and I were dazed and upset during our drive home from Dallas. The upcoming months no longer seemed like a future full of wonderful opportunities waiting to be discovered. Instead, they loomed dark and menacing inspiring the kind of fear that only the great unknown can give.
At times, I have thought about why this happened or that it seemed unfair. A couple of times the thought, �how could God do this to my family,� would float across my mind. Usually, another phrase would come to me at these times: �they killed my Son (God speaking).� It was a still and quiet voice, but gave the impression of iron beneath velvet. My Lord was right. It could be much, much worse. I should be deeply thankful that Mason�s problem may be correctable with surgery.
I know my Father in heaven did not make this bad thing happen, but he could use it as an opportunity to work creatively in my life. I also know that whatever happens in the dark weeks ahead, my Good Shepherd will be right beside me, leading and guiding me through them.
Too Good To Be True
�But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.� - John 1:12-13.
The email I received from an attorney in Lagos, Nigeria appeared to be very official and personal. It was a �Notification of Bequest�. Wonderful news! The notification stated in part: �On behalf of my late client late Pastor Polycarp Ekeocha, I write to notify you that my late client - Pastor Polycarp Ekeocha made you a beneficiary to the bequest sum of Four Hundred and Seventy Thousand US Dollars (US$470,000) in the last codicil to his last will and testament... According to him, he is giving you this because of your involvement in Christian activities and in making better the world�s situation... You are therefore required by this notification to confirm your ownership to this legacy by forwarding photocopy of any of the following proofs of identities... Best Regards, David Attah (Head of Chamber).�
Since I had received some previously suspicious emails from Nigeria I used a search engine to check out David Attah and Pastor Ekeocha. David Attah does appear to be an attorney but I found several instances of the exact same email having been sent to other Christians and Christian organizations. According to the information I found - once they are in contact with you fees are required for processing and for various things bleeding as much money as they can from those involved. Internet scam is the third largest industry in Nigeria! It was another example of something that was simply too good to be true.
Sadly, many carry over the situation of the world to the spiritual realm and are unable to believe that we have a God so good that His own Son would die (John 3:16) for our sins. It is hard for us to comprehend that the Creator of the Universe desires to adopt us in to His royal family and make us joint-heirs (Romans 8:17) with Christ. We don�t deserve it. But it is true! God loves us (sinful mankind - Romans 3:23) and has provided a way (Jesus - John 14:6) for us to be reconciled to the Holy, Righteous God. What must we do to become a part of the royal family and have our sins washed away? We must receive/accept the gift of Jesus Christ. Turn from our love of the world and turn to God. We can never deserve, never fully comprehend Him (Jesus) but by faith we receive Him (Jesus) and are born (John 3:3) into the Kingdom of God.
God has bequeathed to you the glorious riches of Jesus Christ (Philippians 4:19). There is no cost or hidden fees, it is a gift (Ephesians 2:8-10). Claim your inheritance today! Receive Him!
In Your Right Mind
�Then they came to Jesus, and saw the one who had been demon-possessed and had the legion, sitting and clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid.� - Mark 5:15.
In Quetta, Pakistan Ghulam Raza likes to smoke scorpions when they are in season. He takes the scorpion stingers and dries them in the sun and then grinds them into a powder. He then smokes this powder. Ghulam claims that when he smokes scorpion that heroin is �nothing to me.� Ghulam and his friends find the scorpions in the Quetta cemetery. Sometimes when they are hunting scorpions high on heroin or scorpion powder they may fall into one of the open graves. Ghulam was a mechanical engineer but years ago became an addict through the use of painkillers during recovery after being shot 18 times.
One thing is obvious about Ghulam Raza and the obvious is that he is not in his �right mind.� If Ghulam were in his �right mind� he would not be hunting scorpions in the Quetta cemetery. Most likely he would instead be employed as a mechanical engineer contributing to society. If he was in his �right mind� his home would not be a cemetery but a nice house in which he would live with his family. If Ghulam were in his �right mind� his thoughts would not be of how many scorpions he could catch but instead he would have thoughts perhaps of his family, his work, and of God.
Are you in your right mind? What are your goals, ambitions, dreams, and thoughts about? Your mind may not be in the sad condition of Ghulam Raza but is your mind where it should be? The Gadara Demoniac knows that the only way to have a right mind is to have Jesus in your life. There is still One today who can give even Ghulam Raza a right mind and that One is Jesus. What about you? Allow Jesus to renew a right mind in you (Romans 12:2).
�Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded.� - James 4:6-7.
In Garland, Texas Sherman Jackson was on his way to church with his seven-year-old daughter a few weeks ago when a robber confronted him. Sherman had stopped for gas when a man walked up and asked for help. His car needed a jump-start and Sherman agreed to help him. However, it was not long before the man had his gun out demanding all the money Sherman had. The man was not satisfied with the money in Sherman�s money clip and became very agitated demanding more money. Sherman began to pray and witness to the robber. He gave the robber a Bible. The man gave back the money clip and the last Sherman saw of him he had a gun in one hand and a Bible in the other.
What a picture of the double minded! A man with a gun in one hand and a Bible in the other. An agent with a drug task force shared with me that he could not understand when they made raids why they would find dangerous drugs and at the same time open Bibles and other religious materials. There is an epidemic of the double minded. To be double minded is to attempt to follow two opposite and antagonistic courses of action at the same time. It is spiritual schizophrenia. The theologian, J. I. Packer, describes the condition in this way: �People who live compartmentalized [schizophrenic] lives worship God and go to church and do their "religious" bit on Sundays; then they switch that off and pursue their professions, weekday work, weekend hobbies, and all their relationships as though these were matters entirely separate from their Christian commitment. They don�t even try to see their lives as a whole in terms of God and his Word. Instead they slip into their religious compartment on Sundays and their secular compartment of the other days of the week and allow no communication between the two.�
How can the double-minded change? James tells us �Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double minded.� To wash your hands deals with our physical outward actions. We must act right but in order to act right there must be a change of heart. Our hearts must be purified through our relationship with Jesus Christ. As the apostle Paul says in Romans 13:14 we must �put on the Lord Jesus Christ� or clothe ourselves with Jesus. It must be a constant relationship, a constant contact with the One, the only One that has the power to enable us for holy living. We cannot live the Christian life in our own power. We need help and Jesus is the only One who can help. �For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted (Hebrews 2:18).�
Quenching the Thirst
�And the Spirit and the bride say, �Come!� And let him who hears say, �Come!� And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.� - Revelation 22:17.
To quench our thirst we drink water. We know what that is like. But what if you are on a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean and there is no water but seawater? If you were to drink of the seawater what would happen? Your thirst would not be quenched and your thirst would only be magnified. Most likely you would die because of the salt in the seawater which would act to dehydrate your body. So, even though the seawater is tempting to a man dying from lack of water it would be foolish and dangerous for him to drink of it.
The Bible when it speaks of thirst is speaking of a spiritual thirst. We could think of it as a lust that we have for something or a desire that we have for something. There are many things that our flesh desires and the world claims it can satisfy those desires with a variety of things. We seek to satisfy our lust, desires, thirst through sexual immorality, through alcohol or drugs, or through the amassing of money and power. Those things in our lives act in the same way that seawater does for someone dying of thirst. They only make us thirstier and drain us of more life.
God designed each of us for Him. There is a place in each of our lives that only God can fill. That is what we are really thirsting after. We are thirsting after God. We try to fill this place in our lives with all of those other things but they only make things worse. God is the only One who can satisfy our thirst, who can give us life. Come to Him and drink of the �water of life freely.�
Today�s devotional was written by my son, Clark Wrather, who is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Broken Bow, Oklahoma - firstname.lastname@example.org
Strange But True
�...everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.� - Acts 10:43.
I just love weird and strange pieces of information. Why? I really have no idea. I guess I find them interesting because I�m a little weird myself. Here are a few of the weirdest facts that I find interesting:
*Marilyn Monroe had six toes on each of her feet.
*A duck�s quack does not echo and no one knows why.
*The highest point in Pennsylvania is lower than the lowest point in Colorado.
*In Cleveland, Ohio it is illegal to catch mice without a hunting license.
*Pound for pound, hamburgers cost more than new cars.
*The Bible has been translated in Klingon.
*Elephants can�t jump, but every other mammal can.
*Reno, Nevada is west of Los Angeles, California.
*The world�s termites outweigh the world�s human�s 10 to 1.
*The sentence, the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog, uses every letter in the alphabet.
How long do you think a person�s eyes are closed on average during a day from blinking? If you put together the span of time of all those blinks, how long would your eyes be shut during a day? This is one of those weird facts that is amazing to me. Do you think it might be a minute? Could the total be five minutes? What about fifteen? All of these numbers are way too small. An average person�s eyes are closed for about thirty minutes during a day from blinking - that�s weird...
Isn�t it strange that all those short blinks add up to a whopping thirty minutes?? There is something else that seems small, but when added together, creates something whopping. It is sin. Our sins seem small, but they add up to make something huge. Just think about it. How many sins have you committed in your life? Let�s say that you are a real saint and only commit one sin a day. I�m sure I have more than that, but we are talking about you, not me. If you just sin once a day, that makes seven sins a week. This is 365 sins a year. If you live to be sixty and minus five years for the age of accountability, your sins would be a stunning 20,075. This is your total if you only sin once a day.
Our sins are serious, because when you add all of them up they form a stunning pattern of rebellion against the Creator of the universe. Thank God for the forgiveness of sins that comes when a person believes in Jesus Christ!!
�...everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.� - Acts 10:43.
Waiting for the Click
�But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come.� - II Timothy 3:1.
A woman who was a child during the Vietnam War remembered after the September 11 attack what it was like for her during those dangerous times. She remembers her mother telling her to listen for the �click.� The noise her mother called the �click� was soon followed by jets screaming across the sky dropping bombs and the bone shaking explosions. If you heard the �click� you knew what was going to happen and you ran for whatever cover you could find.
We do not know what is going to happen next and there is great uncertainty and anxiety not only in the United States but also across the world. We do not know what is going to happen but we suspect that it will not be good. How do we go on with life, what are we to do during such uncertain times? The apostle Paul gives Timothy some advice, which is very much applicable to our lives today. There are at least four things that we need to apply to our lives as we move into the future listening for the �click.�
First, we need to continue on with the work of God putting the supernatural gifts we have been blessed with to work. The apostle says in II Timothy 1:6, �Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God....� Now is not the time to huddle in our foxholes. Now is the time to move forward for the Kingdom of God. There have always been wars upon planet earth and peace is the exception instead of the rule. Now is the time to step forward in service to our Lord.
Second, we must not let our fears disable us from living the Christian life. Paul says in II Timothy 1:7, �For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.� Fear has already had a huge negative impact on the economy of the world. In the United States hundreds of thousands of people have joined the ranks of the jobless since September 11. The travel industry has been devastated and the effects will eventually be felt throughout the economy. Another translation of II Timothy 1:7 says in part, �For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice....� It will take courage for us to live during these perilous times but God will provide the power, love, and sound mind that we need to be courageous in the face of the effect of evil.
Third, we must be willing to suffer for those who need our help. Paul says in II Timothy 1:8, �Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God.� During these difficult times we must take up our cross, deny ourselves and follow our Lord (Luke 9:23). The Christian life is not just about the blessings that God gives to us, or the wonderful way that we feel when we worship Him, or the fellowship we have with other Christians. Sometimes we are called upon to go beyond the skin deep Christianity and share in the sufferings for the gospel in order to help those who so desperately need our help.
Then, we need to trust God for what will happen next. Paul shares with Timothy, �For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day (II Timothy 1:12).� He is �able� and as we move into the future listening for the �click� let us remember to continue serving, continue living, take up our crosses and trust God for what comes next.
The Secret of Psalm 116
It may be that they have learned the secret of Psalm 116. The Psalmist knows what it is like to grieve because in verse 3 he says �The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell got hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.� We find the first secret of the Psalm in the next verse where the Psalmist says (v. 4) �Then I called upon the name of the Lord: �O lord, I implore You, deliver my soul!�� The secret? Tell God your problems because He hears you.
Secret number 2 is found in the next two verses (vs. 5 & 6) �Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yes, our God is merciful. The Lord preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me.� The secret? God is the One to go to for help, to pour out our troubles to Him, because He has the power to help you.
Secret number 3 we see in verses seven and eight �Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. For You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.� The secret? We must remember what is true about God, no matter what may happen. With all of the turmoil this may be a good time to go outside and remind ourselves of the order, purpose, and beauty of creation that still exists. Go outside on a clear night and you will notice that the stars are still in their places. Open up God�s Word and you will see that His Words are still true. Even if the stars come crashing down the Word of God is still true and we can stand upon it.
Secret number 4 the Psalmist closes this Psalm with praise and thanksgiving �I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord.� �Praise the Lord!� The secret is obvious in that we too should praise our God because we have been graciously delivered. We who know the Lord have been delivered eternally through Christ Jesus our Lord.
The Psalmist in verse 9 says �I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.� We are still in the land of the living and there is a reason for our being here. We have work to do and as we do so let us remember the secret of Psalm 116.
�And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away." - Revelation 21:4.
It is clear from this verse that there will be death, sorrow, crying, and pain even for Christians while on this earth. There is more than enough to go around. New York City, Washington D.C. and Afghanistan are the most recent names, which symbolize the pain of human agony.
It has been said there are no atheists in a foxhole. I have not heard any atheists testify to their unbelief since this tragedy and how their unbelief helped them make it through it. But I have heard survivor after survivor tell of how they prayed and how God protected them and helped them. Yes, some Christians died, some Christians were injured, and some Christians lost material possessions. But as Christians we have a peace which is beyond understanding, a joy that is unspeakable, and a hope that good will come from the bad.
The unbeliever only has more of the same and worse to look forward to after death. The Christian has hope, the unbeliever has nothing. For the Christian death will bring a New World. In this New World the �former things� will �have passed away.� God will wipe away our tears and �there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain.�
Today�s devotional was written by my son, Clark Wrather, who is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Broken Bow, Oklahoma - email@example.com
The Destiny of a Nation
�If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.� - II Chronicles 7:14.
Our God is an awesome God. Last week, I mentioned that God does not cause bad things to happen and I truly believe it. I do believe that he allows the actions of human beings to affect our world. I also believe that our country had enjoyed a special blessing from God, which He has now removed due to our sinfulness.
God does not cause bad things to happen, but He is at work trying to turn those bad things into good. Our Creator moves about the world putting the pieces back together, trying to fashion something better out of the destruction left from the lives of His sinful creatures.
I believe that we can already see some good things that God is going to bring out of the tragedy of last week. Our nation is drawing together. We had thought in terms of: me, I, and myself. Now people are making decisions on what is best for our country. The feeling of community has replaced our rugged individualism. How many of us have had conversations with complete strangers about our country? I have had several and you probably have as well.
People are also turning from themselves to God. It is sad that it takes a tragedy to get people to look to God for answers. God had been an afterthought when everything was going well. Now, He is on the forefront of everyone�s mind. I believe that this is a good thing.
As God�s people, His church, we have a great opportunity. We have a great opportunity to do ministry and to know personal fulfillment. We can move from just thinking about ourselves to ministering to the needs of other people. We can minister to people while keeping God in the forefront of our minds. We are able to do this in the midst of a fallen world that is suddenly, spiritually hungry. We are able to demonstrate God�s love to people that are asking the deep, significant questions of life.
If God�s people would capitalize on these opportunities, our country might experience another Great Awakening. We might truly know revival. If God�s people would seek God, He will heal our land. We need healing.
The questions to ask yourself is this: What am I doing to minister to other people? What am I doing to reach people that are outside of the church? How am I making a difference? Am I focused upon myself or upon others? Am I truly following God in my life? Your answers to these questions are significant, because within them, lie the destiny of a nation.
Trust and Obey
"Look, I go forward, but He is not there, And backward, but I cannot perceive Him; When He works on the left hand, I cannot behold Him; When He turns to the right hand, I cannot see Him. But He knows the way that I take; When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot has held fast to His steps; I have kept His way and not turned aside. I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth More than my necessary food.� - Job 23:8-12.
If anyone had a reason to be depressed it was Job. If anyone ever had a reason to be upset with God it was Job. Job had lost everything except his wife and he probably wished she had gone with the rest. Because Job�s wife told him why didn�t he just curse God and die. Job not only lost his family and material possessions but he also lost his health. Job suffered miserably from his physical condition. His friends were against him. His wife was against him. But Job continued on.
In the face of all of that, Job continued. Job did not understand why all this had happened but he continued to trust. Job did not know where God was during all of this but Job continued to trust. Job did not know why but Job knew that God knew the why. So, Job continued. Job continued to trust God, to obey God, and even to praise God.
So, many have been hurt by the terrorist destruction in New York and at the Pentagon. Across this country family members, friends and fellow Americans are grieving. But life goes on and we see God is giving strength to go on, to rise up out of the devastation. He is giving us strength to continue to live life. Before we give up. Before we throw in the towel. Let us take our eyes off of our problems and put them on God. He can give us the strength, and the courage to face whatever life may throw our way. Let us trust Him. Let us look up! Let us say with the Psalmist, �My voice You shall hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning I will direct it to You, and I WILL LOOK UP (Psalm 5:3).�
The Burning Bush Devotional
Why God Allowed This
�And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.� - Romans 8:28.
We have the privilege of living in the greatest country on the planet. Even our poorest citizens, are wealthy by the standards of many third world countries. Yet, we are not immune to the strife and danger that comes with living in a fallen world.
Most of us went to bed Monday night feeling that everything was okay with the world. We felt safe, secure, and protected. The next morning, we woke up to horrific scenes on the news. All of us felt a little shaken when we realized that terrible, terrible things can happen even in our country. All of us know that anything can happen at any time, any where, but we tend to minimize this fact.
People that live in other countries are constantly aware of how uncertain life is. If we lived in Israel, we would live under the constant threat of some kind of bombing. Terrible things tend to occur weekly in that small nation. We are extremely fortunate to live in a country where terrorism is an abnormality.
Some people will wonder why God allows such bad things to happen. These kinds of questions are common to our faith. We know that God is good and loving and has the power to stop these tragic events. Why doesn�t He use His power to keep them from happening? If you have ever had questions similar to this, you are not alone.
There are no easy answers, but I believe we can know with certainty that God loves us and cares about our lives. We know that we are capable of having a meaningful relationship with God. This means that to some degree, human beings have been given the freedom to make decisions. God wants us to freely make a decision to worship Him and honor Him and follow Him in our lives. If we did not have this freedom, we would not be true followers, but a bunch of robots that had been programmed to mindlessly follow God. Our Lord does not want robots, but real relationships with the beings He created.
This freedom to make decisions means that your decisions and actions make the world a better or worse place. Your good decisions spill onto the lives of other people and your bad decisions do as well. At times the bad decisions of other people and the good ones spill into your life, as well. If human beings did not have the God-given freedom to make decisions, we could not have a real relationship with God. If our Lord intervened constantly and interfered with these decisions all the time, we would still be little better than robots. God does not make bad things happen. People do He does give us a promise to someway, somehow, bring something good out of all bad situations.
It is frustrating to see the slow progress in clearing away the rubble and reaching those trapped. It reminds me of the Murrah Building. The WTC is many times over a larger problem with more debris. But I can't help but wonder if we would do better to emulate the example of some other countries and put two or three thousand of our troops in there to dig with their hands and to pass the buckets as we see so many of the rescue workers doing. I know it would be risky with other buildings weakened which may fall. But is this not war? Is this not life and death to try to rescue those who are perishing? Let us continue to pray.
Symbol of America
�If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.� - II Chronicles 7:14.
The World Trade Center Towers were in many ways a symbol of the United States of America. The Towers represented the strength and financial power of the USA. They were very visible symbols towering above the skyline of the New York City metropolis. How could those powerful towers ever fall? The United States was invincible. Nothing could shake the foundations of those towers or of this country. Sadly we know the towers have fallen and those who make up the USA are being tested once again.
As a symbol of America what has happened to those towers is a symbol of what has happened to this country. God has removed his protection and blessing from us as a country. Why? Because the majority of the people in America no longer have a fear of God. The majority of the people in America no longer want God�s blessings. The majority of the people in this country have been growing further and further away from God. There are more people in America living lives of degeneracy and immorality than there were in Sodom and Gomorrah. It is not really a surprise that God has removed His blessing and protection from us.
Let us turn again to our God. Let us awake from how complacency. We must not deceive ourselves into thinking that we are invincible. Only through the power of God has this country been blessed and protected. If this country is to turn again to God this is the time. Tomorrow may be too late. The attacks upon this country are like the preaching of Jonah to Nineveh. God told Nineveh through Jonah, �Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!� It may not be forty days but America will be overthrown if we do not turn to God in repentance. Even the wicked Ninevites turned to God and they were spared from the destruction.
We have seen reports of prayer vigils across this country since the attack occurred. Last night was a time when a large number of churches have regularly scheduled prayer meetings. I was disappointed to see a handful of people come to our prayer meeting. We have scheduled prayer meetings and held prayer meetings all across this country. But how many people have actually attended those meetings? We must turn to God before it is too late. Will you humble yourself, pray, seek the face of God and turn from your wicked ways? If you will, God promises to hear, forgive and to heal our land.
Please pray for those who are still trapped but alive in the rubble of the World Trade Center Buildings and the Pentagon. Please pray for the strength and safety of the rescue workers.
�The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.� - Proverbs 18:10.
We are still in shock and horrified after the destruction of the terrorist attacks upon the United States yesterday. The World Trade Center had already withstood one terrorist attack in 1993. Who would have thought that those towers could have so quickly been destroyed? Yesterday, I listened to two architects who discussed the construction of the World Trade Center towers. According to them the towers were designed to withstand the crash of a Boeing 707. What the towers were not designed for was the crash a plane still loaded with most of the jet fuel. The steel had been treated to withstand fires of paper and wood but not the thousand degree prolonged fire of jet fuel. The buildings withstood the initial crashes well but could not withstand the extreme heat, which caused the steel to lose strength and collapse.
According to the architects it would be possible for a building to be built with the steel coated in such a way that would enable it to even withstand the jet fuel fires which caused so much destruction yesterday. However, even if the World Trade Center Towers were to be rebuilt to be resistant to jet fuel fires they could still be destroyed. They could be destroyed through atomic attack or even by an earthquake. The fact is that there is not a building that man can build that cannot be destroyed in some way. There is no place completely safe in this world from every kind of danger or enemy.
There is only one place of ultimate safety for the human race. That place of safety is a Strong Tower not made with human hands. That place of safety is the Strong Tower of the Lord. The only way of entry is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Let us run to the Strong Tower of our Lord.
Personal Note Concerning Events of September 11, 2001: I started watching the news this morning just in time to be shocked to see the second plane crash into the World Trade Center. That was just the first of many shocks this day has held so far as I watched with horror the events that have unfolded. Once again we have been forced to take our minds off of our little petty problems and think of the agony of life and death. We pray for those who are still alive but trapped. We pray for those who have been injured but struggling to survive. We pray for those whose loved ones have been killed or injured. Let us look to our Lord during this time. Isaiah 26:3 comes to mind. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee." - Ed Wrather 09-11-01.
�What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine and go to the mountains to seek the one that is straying? And if he should find it, assuredly, I say to you, he rejoices more over that sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not go astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.� - Matthew 18:12-14.
Apparently there have been a great amount of things lost in the backseat of London cabs. There have been found in the back of London cabs 62,000 cell phones, a goldfish in a water-filled bag, $2900.00 in cash, a suitcase full of diamonds and one little girl. Those were some of the things left behind in just the first six months of this year. Surprisingly only half of the phones were claimed (We can only hope the little girl was promptly claimed!). The owners of those phones were hoping that their operating service would replace the lost phones with a newer and better one. Many companies do exactly that to avoid losing their customers to rival services who often give away the latest phones when customers switch to their service.
The example of our Lord is that He is continually seeking the lost. The Holy Spirit is wooing and working in the lives of the lost and we who are Christians have been commanded to go and to seek the lost. It is not the Father�s will that any of the lost should perish. But sadly there are many of those who are lost that do not want to be found. But even sadder are the lost that are like the unclaimed cell phones. There are countless millions of lost people who would gladly be found if only someone would come and share the gospel with them.
Would your Lord have you to leave the ninety and nine to seek that one who is lost but willing to be found? They are all around us waiting. The Holy Spirit has quietly worked in their hearts as people have prayed for their souls. All that remains is for someone to go and tell them the Good News. Will you respond as Isaiah saying �Here am I! Send me (Isaiah 6:8).�
Copyright � 1998-2002. Ed Wrather. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for use of this material on a non-profit basis with source noted.