And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, �Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.� And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
� Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!� So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.� And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them. - Luke 2:1-20.
Today, December 25, is the traditional day recognized as being the day the Messiah, the Christ, our Savior, Jesus Christ was born into the humble peasant family of Joseph and Mary. Luke relates the story of how the family must travel to Bethlehem from Nazareth for the census commanded by Caesar Augustus. The Innkeeper had no room for the family and they must stay the night in the stables which most believe would have been a cave.
Over the centuries, the innkeeper has become a man of evil and we think how could he turn away the mother of our Lord? If he had only known he would have given the family his own room and spent the night in the stables himself. But that is the point is it not? The innkeeper did not know who he was turning away that night. We look down on him, the innkeeper. We feel anger toward him, the innkeeper. However, would we have done any differently? Have we done any differently?
Jesus is still knocking on doors today (Revelation 3:20), however, instead of a door to an inn, Jesus, is knocking on the door of your heart. Do you have room for Him? Would you let the King of kings, and the Lord of lords come into your heart to rest in the comfort of your life?
Sometimes Jesus does not appear to be Jesus just as it was that long ago night of His birth. Sometimes He appears to be that homeless person sleeping under the cardboard in the rain. Sometimes He appears to be that family who has lost everything because of a fire that burned down their home. Sometimes he appears as a little boy who has cancer and needs the help of others for himself and his family. Do you have room for Him?
Do you have enough room in your heart to do as Jesus says all must do to follow Him? Do you have enough room in your heart to, as Jesus says, �If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.�
Do you have room in your inn for Jesus?
Ornaments on Your Tree
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. - Galatians 5:22-23.
In the 1850s, Charles Dickens described a Christmas tree of that time as being decorated with miniature furniture, dolls, costume jewelry, tiny musical instruments, toy guns, swords, fruit and candy. If you fast forward to the 21st Century and do a search on Google, you will find 2,110,000 results for a search for �Christmas ornaments.� You can find so many different kinds of Christmas ornaments it would be impossible to list them all. For the governmental minded there is available the Whitehouse 2005 James A. Garfield ornament or the Whitehouse Cameo ornament. Perhaps you are an avid watcher of the news, then you might like to have the Fox News ornament on your Christmas tree. The ornament proclaims that it is �fair and balanced.� Whatever your interest may be, I am sure that there is a Christmas tree ornament for you.
The Bible uses the tree at times as a metaphor for people. Here are some of the Scriptures where this is found: Psalm 1; Psalm 104:16; Matthew 3:10-11; and, Matthew 7:16-20. With this in mind, and since it is the Christmas season - what kind of ornaments should we have on our Christian tree?
In the book of Proverbs we are told that, we should have the ornament of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7-9 and 4:7-9). In 1 Peter 3:3-4 we are told that we should have the ornament (KJV) of a meek (or gentle) and quiet spirit.
Some of the early decorations of Christmas trees were different kinds of fruit. Nowadays you may still see some fruit on Christmas trees but usually they are plastic or ceramic instead of the real thing. On our Christian tree, the tree of our life, we want some fruit hanging from the branches as well. The apostle Paul gives us a list of the fruit we should have in Galatians, it is the fruit of the Spirit: �love, joy, peace, longsuffering (or patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.� What a beautifully trimmed tree it would be to have all of the fruit of the Spirit hanging from its branches!
If someone were looking at your life as if it were a tree, what would they see? Would they see wisdom wrapped around your life in a beautiful sweep? Would they see like snow a covering of a gentle and quiet spirit? Would there be for all to see all the various fruit of the spirit from love to self-control hanging in just the right places from your branches?
During this Christmas season whenever you see a Christmas tree use it to remind you of your own personal Christian tree. Is your tree trimmed with all the beautiful ornaments of the Spirit? Or, are there some ornaments missing from your branches?
What better time than Christmas to commit yourself to growing in the Lord? Grow in the Lord so that next year and every year your tree will become more and more beautiful.
Of Holidays and Trees
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. - Romans 12:2.
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. - 1 Corinthians 2:12.
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. - 1 Corinthians 3:19a.
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. - Ephesians 2:1-3.
(See also: Philippians 2:14-16; Colossians 2:7-9; 2 Timothy 4:12; James 1:27; James 4:4; 2 Peter 1:4; 2 Peter 2:20; 1 John 2:14-17; 1 John 3:13; 1 John 4:4-6; and, 1 John 5:4-5.)
Happy Holidays!! Or, would you prefer �Merry Christmas!!� I hope you do read the rest because there is currently a controversy about the use of the greeting, �Happy Holidays,� instead of the traditional, �Merry Christmas.� Wal-Mart and Target are persisting in their directives to employees to use the greeting �Happy Holidays,� instead of �Merry Christmas.� Lowes was selling �Holiday Trees,� however; they have now decided that their trees are actually, �Christmas trees.� At Auburn University, their Christmas tree ban was initiated with a Christmas tree burning. Now they only have Holiday trees. Also, this Christmas season there is a new type of Christmas tree, an upside down tree. The reasoning behind this tree by one retailer is described this way, �The inverted shape makes it easier to see ornaments which hang away from the dense needles, allowing more room for the accumulation of presents underneath.�
It does appear that our Christmas traditions are under greater attack this year than ever before. The world is offended by the mere mention of the word, �Christmas.� The world demands that Christmas in every form be expunged from our vocabulary and symbols. The upside down Christmas tree is so innocuous and yet it represents the insidiousness of the attack of the world upon all of Christianity.
For some the upside down cross is just as innocent as that of the upside down Christmas tree and is a symbol of humility. This is based upon the apostle Peter�s reported refusal (according to tradition) to be crucified in the same manner of Christ preferring to be crucified upside down. However, for those of the world and the forces of evil the upside down cross is an emblem of Satanism. According to exposingsatanism.org the upside down cross, �Symbolizes mockery and rejection of Jesus. Necklaces are worn by many satanist's.� There is also a proliferation of occult stores and websites selling a wide selection of upside down crosses. Do your own search on Google or another search engine and you will find a massive amount of similar information. The world has appropriated the upside down cross as its anti-Christian symbol. My point? I believe there is a similar symbolism that the world wishes to portray with the upside down Christmas tree.
Christmas is under attack there can be no doubt about that. The question for us is whether or not we will be conformed to the will of the world. Or, will we seek the wisdom of the Spirit of God for the renewing of our minds rejecting the spirit and wisdom of this world? This Christmas we really do have a choice and the privilege of being His witnesses. It may result in persecution, and it may result in ridicule but what joy in being counted worthy to follow in the footsteps of our Lord!
And Jesus said, �For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.� - John 9:39.
Because of frosted windows from the freezing temperatures, police officers could not see that an illegally parked vehicle was occupied by an 85-year-old man. It happened in Edmonton, Alberta and the vehicle was impounded. Thankfully, some movement was noticed inside after the vehicle arrived at the police impound yard. Police Spokeswoman Lisa Lammi said, "They accessed the vehicle and sure enough there was an elderly man inside. He was disoriented but he was not unconscious." Even though the man had spent several hours inside the vehicle with temperatures reaching, 14 degrees Fahrenheit he was still conscious and he was taken to a hospital for observation.
It was frosted windows that blinded the police officers to the desperation of an 85-year-old man. At least they had an excuse. However, many are blinded spiritually to their own needs and the needs of others around them. The Pharisees had just seen the evidence that a great miracle had been performed. A man who had been born blind had been healed by Jesus and now he could see. Even though the Pharisees saw the evidence they still denied that it could be true. Even though they knew personally this man who had been blind since birth and now knew that he could see - they still denied the evidence that they saw with their own eyes! The Pharisees could see with their own eyes yet they were still blind to the truth that Jesus was the Messiah, the Christ.
There is a range of spiritual blindness beginning with blindness to our own personal need for Jesus like that of the Pharisees. Do you know Jesus as your personal Savior? Have you invited Him into your heart in a state of repentance, asking for forgiveness of your sins (Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23; John 1:12; John 3:16; Romans 10:9-10, 13; Revelation 3:20; 1 John 1:9)?
There is also a blindness to the great harvest that is waiting for laborers (Matthew 9:37-38). Sadly, there are millions of Christians (perhaps billions) who have never even given a Gospel tract to a lost person much less talked to someone about Christ. Jesus said to His disciples and I believe He says the same thing to all that follow Him, �Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.� If you are unwilling, unmotivated, uncaring about the lost you cannot be described as a �fisher of men.� Therefore, you must be spiritually blind to the great harvest of souls that Jesus so very much wants you to participate in reaping. If this is your condition, I would urge you to repent and fall upon 1 John 1:9 as the cure of your blindness.
Then there is a blindness to the physical needs of others like that of the rich man being oblivious to the need of the poor beggar Lazarus (Luke 16:19-26). Phil Collins song, �Another Day in Paradise� has lyrics that are convicting of our blindness at least they are to me. Here are a few of the lyrics:
She calls out to the man on the street
�sir, can you help me?
It�s cold and I�ve nowhere to sleep,
Is there somewhere you can tell me? �
He walks on, doesn�t look back
He pretends he can�t hear her
Starts to whistle as he crosses the street
Seems embarrassed to be there
Oh think twice, it�s another day for
You and me in paradise
Are you blind and uncaring about the physical needs of those around you like the rich man called dives was to that of the poor beggar Lazarus? If so, fall upon 1 John 1:9 in repentance as the cure for your blindness.
I for one know that there is a need for me to be able to see beyond where I now am able to see. Lord, help me so that I may see. Amen.
My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, �Come with us, let us lie in wait to shed blood; let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause; let us swallow them alive like Sheol, and whole, like those who go down to the Pit; we shall find all kinds of precious possessions, we shall fill our houses with spoil; cast in your lot among us, let us all have one purse�� My son, do not walk in the way with them, keep your foot from their path; For their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood. Surely, in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird; but they lie in wait for their own blood, they lurk secretly for their own lives. So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; it takes away the life of its owners. - Proverbs 1:10-19.
We often talk about when bad things happen to good people, however, have you noticed how often bad things happen to those who are involved in what they should not be involved in? Here is an example: Christina Goodenow had just won one million dollars in the lottery with a one-dollar ticket when she was arrested. She was arrested because she had a stolen credit card and she used that credit card to buy the lottery ticket. Sadly, for Christina, the ticket was then voided because it was bought with a stolen credit card.
Here�s two more examples: Things really deteriorated for Sonja Aguirre after she parked in a handicapped parking space (She is not handicapped.). While giving Sonja a ticket an officer discovered that Sonja also had 265 pounds of marijuana in her vehicle with an estimated value of half a million dollars. A similar situation occurred with two men who were driving a vehicle with an expired license plate. Only when they were stopped in Orlando, Florida for the expired plate they had 550 pounds of marijuana in their vehicle.
I do not have any surveys to back up what I am going to say, however, I think that it is true from my own observations. If you want to raise the probability of something bad happening in your life begin to do things, you know you should not do on a regular basis. Such as: park in handicapped parking spaces without a permit, or drive your car around with an expired license tag, or buy that lottery ticket with a stolen credit card - and then, see what happens. What are you doing when you willfully engage in what you know to be wrong? Solomon tells us in Proverbs that, ��they lie in wait for their own blood, they lurk secretly for their own lives.�
Yes, bad things do happen to good people. However, if you want to get on the fast track to bad things happening to you just begin to do those things you know you should not do. That will surely speed up the process of bringing those bad things about in your life.
On the other hand, I believe that Solomon is telling us that we can avoid much evil in our lives by simply doing what is right. When bad things happen to people acting badly it may very well be the result of their bad actions. Solomon would say to you today just what he said so many years ago when his words were originally written down, �My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.�
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. he earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Then God said, �Let there be light�; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day. Then God said, �Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.� Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day. Then God said, �Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear�; and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good. �Then God said, �Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.� So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. - Genesis 1:1-10, 26-27.
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. - Psalm 19:1.
"Everyone who is seriously interested in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe--a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble." -Albert Einstein.
"I am fascinated by some strange developments going on in astronomy,... The astronomical evidence leads to a biblical view of the origin of the world." -Robert Jastrow, director NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
This most beautiful system (The Universe) could only proceed from the dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being. - Sir Isaac Newton.
On board ship one night, Napoleon overheard some of his officers discussing the existence of God. The officers arrived at the conclusion that there must not be a God. Upon hearing this Napoleon interrupted their discussion and pointing toward the stars in the sky asked, �Gentlemen, who made all of this?�
There is a great ongoing debate about whether or not all that we see about us was the result of an intelligent design. The Christian faith requires faith. Do we believe what the Bible says or do we not? For myself the evidence of the existence of God and of His activity in all of creation is obvious. I only have to look at my thumb with the miraculous way that it moves to know that there must be a God. When I read of the complexities of human body, of just a single strand of DNA, I know that this could not have been brought about by accident. There must be a God with intelligence beyond any human intelligence, with knowledge beyond any human knowledge. We seek to understand the creation of the universe and everything in it through human abilities. However, all that was created was created with supernatural abilities beyond our ability to comprehend.
This week in the United States we have set aside a National day of Thanksgiving. We have much to be thankful about whether living in the United States or another country. We can be thankful that there is a God who created all that there is and that He loved us so much that Jesus came down from the glories of Heaven to die on the cross for our sins. It is beyond human comprehension but we believe it and accept it by faith knowing in our hearts that it is true.
And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. - Mark 11:25.
And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.- Ephesians 4:32.
In 1978, James Michael Evans (Who is now 52 years old.) checked into Hyatt Regency Hotel in Lexington, Kentucky. However, he left without paying his bill and ended up being arrested, convicted, and spending nine months in jail. This same James Michael Evans has now been charged, 27 years later, with calling the same hotel and threatening to blow it up with three bombs he said he had planted at the hotel. FBI Agent Steven Gurley said this about Evans, �Evidently he has harbored that grudge since 1978.�
Yourdictionary.com defines grudge as, �A deep-seated feeling of resentment or rancor.� To further understand the word, rancor, is defined as, �Bitter, long-lasting resentment; deep-seated ill will.� Also, resentment is defined as, �Indignation or ill will felt as a result of a real or imagined grievance.� I think we can agree that James Michael Evans must be the embodiment of a grudge. You can look at what he has done and know what having a grudge is like. Evans not only had a grudge but he nursed that grudge, reminded himself of that grudge, held onto that grudge, and loved that grudge until we see the end result of the grudge having consumed him.
If you hold your grudge out at arms length and try to take an honest appraisal of it, you will see that it surely is not the most important thing in your life. Try to put your grudge into its proper perspective. What are some of the truly important things in your life? Things like your family, your faith, and when you put your grudge in this perspective, it is probably not even in the top ten of the most important things in your life. In fact, your grudge is a little thing that you should put behind you and forget about.
In a book about Robert E. Lee, Charles Flood tells the story about Lee visiting a woman in Kentucky. The woman shows him what is left of what had been a beautiful old tree in front of her house. She bitterly related that the tree had been ruined by Union artillery fire. She then looked at Lee expecting some sympathy and condemnation of the North. But Lee responded by saying, "Cut it down, my dear Madam, and forget it." If you do not forgive and forget those injustices, they will take root in bitterness and poison the rest of your life.
I love the story about Clara Barton who was the founder of the American Red Cross. She was reminded one day about how she had been terribly wronged years before. However, she acted as if the incident had never occurred. Her friend asked, �Don�t you remember it?� Clara then made this wonderful statement, which is a great word of advice to all of us, �No, I distinctly remember forgetting it.�
The grudge - James Michael Evans has let it ruin his life. Don�t let it ruin yours! Forgive and forget it and then move on to the really important things in life.
And when the man went out to the east with the line in his hand, he measured one thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the water came up to my ankles. Again he measured one thousand and brought me through the waters; the water came up to my knees. Again he measured one thousand and brought me through; the water came up to my waist. Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross; for the water was too deep, water in which one must swim, a river that could not be crossed. - Ezekiel 47:3-5.
My son, Nick (He is 27 years old and has Downs Syndrome.), loves country music and tonight is the country music awards show. Nick actually started out being an Oakridge Boys fan (He did meet them once many years ago.), and still is, but he has branched out to include most of country and gospel music. Tonight I briefly heard a group called �Sugarland� singing a song called, �Something More.� The chorus starts with, �There's gotta be something more, Gotta be more than this.�
The fact is that God always has something more for you. The question is this, �Do you want it?� For those who don�t know Jesus as their Savior, God offers grace, mercy, forgiveness, eternal life, the life everlasting, and it is a free gift - you just have to receive it (John 1:12). �For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).� Now, that is something more!!
Receiving Christ as your personal Savior and knowing the forgiveness of your sins through Him is the beginning. Jesus in John 3 calls it being �born again.� However, just as a baby is born into this physical world, being born spiritually is just a very small taste of what is ahead for those who love the Lord and are the called according to His purpose. Being �born again� is the starting point of your spiritual life. It is the starting point and not the end point. There is so much more that God has waiting for you.
We can walk with God out into the stream of His power. Walk in the spirit. The apostle Paul tells us, �I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).� �And those who are Christ�s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit (Galatians 5:24-25).� Do you belong to Christ? Jesus presented Himself to the woman at the well in John 4 as being the water of life. The water flowing from Christ is living water. The apostle John saw the river of the water of life flowing from God�s throne in Revelation 22. And, Ezekiel sees the water of life flowing from the house of God (Ezekiel 47:12).
Are you walking in the water of life? Are you ankle deep? Are you knee deep? Are you waist deep? Or, are you in waters so deep that you can no longer walk but must swim? Where are you? God has something more for you, so much more.
Models of Success
Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. - Philippians 4:11-13.
Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. - 1 Timothy 6:6-10.
This week�s Time Magazine cover story is about climbing the ladder of success or staircase of success because it looks like a staircase of buildings on the cover. Some people have a driving ambition to succeed and they choose this secular model of success. The secular model of success would include CEOs of the largest companies as being the pinnacle of success. Everyone from the lowest employee up is somewhere on the staircase and they are all climbing. Some are taking one-step at a time and others are taking two or three at a time. Some have the drive and ambition to make it all the way to the top. Others fall out of the race to the top for various reasons including health problems, marriage problems, dysfunctional family problems, substance abuse problems, and many other problems.
There is, however, another model of success. That model of success is the model of contentment. Those who take this alternative road to success have opted out of the staircase climbing. They have decided to be content with life. They may still reach the pinnacle of what the world would call success, however, if they do it will not be because they have crawled over someone else�s back on their way, or because they have sacrificed their family, or their health on their way to the top (Such as: Joseph, Daniel, Gideon, and David).
Why are we as Christians not more content with our lives? There are three very good reasons: The world, the flesh, and the devil. This flesh craves for all the world has to offer and the devil delights in tempting us with what the world has available. We are bombarded in the media on a continual basis with all the various products and new improved products that are available if you just have the money to buy them. There will always another vehicle that is better and flasher than the one you have. There will always be another house that is bigger and grander than the one you have. There will always be another job that is more important and powerful than the one you have. There will always be someone who has more money and possessions than you do. There will always be someone who has more education and experience and receives more recognition than you do.
What does the Bible tell us to do about it? The apostle Paul advises Timothy and us to, ��flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life� (1 Timothy 6:11).� Those are still good words of advice. Opt out of the world�s model of success and take advantage of God�s model instead. Because God will provide you with all that you need to be a success in His eyes.
Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices. - 2 Corinthians 2:10-12.
Abercrombie & Fitch is a clothing retailer that has experienced criticism in the past for its marketing techniques, which included partially clothed models in their �magalog� in 2003. The new controversial marketing technique is aimed at teenage girls. The company is selling T-shirts with slogans on them, which are demeaning and even mean spirited in some cases. One example is the T-shirt that has the statement, �I had a nightmare I was a brunette,� and another one even more inappropriate states, �I�d look great on you.� One Psychologist, commenting on all of this says that the shirts can be mentally detrimental to teenage girls who may already be struggling with their self-image.
There is a group of girls in Pittsburgh who have started a boycott against Abercrombie & Fitch although they are calling it a �girlcott.� Watching a story about this on NBC�s Today Show I was particularly impressed with one young lady who said that they were already exploited enough by others and so why should they exploit themselves by wearing these T-shirts. Looking up exploitation in the dictionary, I found this definition: �utilization of another person or group for selfish purposes.� Therefore, self-exploitation (Did not find such a word in the dictionary.) must mean that you facilitate your own exploitation by purchasing products or participating in activities that further someone else�s or an organization�s selfish purposes to the detriment of your own.
We have an enemy who is constantly looking for any kind of opening in our lives to attack us and exploit us for his evil purposes. He will use groups, organizations, individuals, whoever or whatever is available to try to take advantage of us. To wear a demeaning or mean spirited T-shirt would be doing the devil�s work for him. We would be exploiting ourselves on behalf of the enemy and causing pain to others, which would bring a smile to the faces of demons. In doing so we would be having fellowship with demons (1 Corinthians 10:19-21).
How else can we exploit ourselves? Watching immoral shows on television and then buying the products of the companies sponsoring them would be self-exploitation. Buying books or magazines that are immoral or inappropriate for Christians would be self-exploitation. Using addictive substances, which are damaging to our health and testimony as a Christian is self-exploitation. Going with your friends to a party that will have an immoral flavor and participating in it is self-exploitation. I think you get the idea. Why are these things self-exploitation? Because you have a choice - you do not have to do it.
The apostle Paul says about Satan, �for we are not ignorant of his devices.� You do not have to be ignorant any longer of Satan�s desire to take advantage of you for his own selfish purposes and of how he wants to use you to exploit yourself. You do not have to allow this to happen! Join the �girlcott� and say �NO!� to Abercrombie & Fitch along with all the other countless attempts to push you into self-exploitation.
Barely Hanging On
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh. - Jude 1:20-23.
Reportedly, an apartment building in Sydney, Australia is now hanging over a huge hole. How did it happen? It is believed that there was a rockslide in a traffic tunnel under construction beneath the building that allowed the earth supporting the apartments to fall away. The rockslide created a 33 feet by 33 feet crater, which is also next to a major street and is causing traffic problems. Sixty people have been forced out of the three-story building. In an effort to stop the collapse of the building and street, truck after truck are pumping concrete into the hole. Police superintendent Doreen Cruickshank said, "There is a reality that the building will collapse. I think we can see from here that there is structural damage."
What do you do when life blows a hole out from under feet and you are left hanging on for dear life? What do you do to help someone else when it happens to them? Jude gives us some directions for helping ourselves and others.
First, Jude says we are to be �building yourselves up on your most holy faith.� If you think back to the hanging apartment building, you see that this is what they are trying to do. They are trying to build again the foundation by pouring in the concrete. Whether you are hanging on by a thread or you are yet to experience life almost blowing you away, either way, you need a strong foundation. Our foundation should be built on what? Jesus says, �Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock (Matthew 7:24).� You could say that Jesus says to build your life on the Word of God because as He also says, �It is written, �Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).�� The Word of God, that is how we maintain our foundation and that, is what should be used to repair a foundation.
Second, Jude tells us that we should be �praying in the Holy Spirit�. In the battle against the Amalekites (Exodus 17) as long as Moses held up his hands the Israelites were winning the battle. However, when Moses grew tired and his hands dropped the Amalekites began to win. To keep the hands of Moses held up Aaron and Hur each supported the hands of Moses until the battle was won. We need to be praying for ourselves and others but in the face of the battle we sometimes grow tired. We should never be ashamed to ask others for prayer because it is a holy privilege to pray for others. Never forget your need for prayer and the need that others have for your prayers as well.
Third, Jude says, �keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.� We should always remember that we are sinners saved by grace and that all have sinned including ourselves (Romans 3:23). As such, we should walk humbly with our Lord (Micah 6:8). We have been forgiven much and as our Lord says, �For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you (Matthew 6:14).�
Fourth, we are told by Jude, �And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.� We are to hate the sin but not the sinner (2 Peter 3:9). We also must be careful not to be drawn into the pit of sin as they have been. At the same time, we should extend the love of God and try to save them from destruction.
Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the EYES OF YOUR UNDERSTANDING (HEART - NIV, NASB) being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. - Ephesians 1:15-21.
Can the brain see even when a person is blind? Scientists call the possibility, �blind sight�. Using volunteers scientists have induced temporary blindness using magnetic pulses to affect the visual cortex. Volunteers who were blinded temporarily were asked to identify on a computer screen the orientation of a line and also the color of different balls. The volunteers had a success rate of 75% for the line orientation and 81% for color of the balls. Some scientists suggest that there may be an alternate way for the brain to process visual information. This could provide some hope for people who have damage to their visual cortex. Dr. Edmond Fitzgibbon is with the National Eye Institute and says that the possibility of an alternate or second pathway for experiencing sight and the results of the study are �intriguing�. He added ��there can be perception that people aren�t aware of, such as subliminal suggestions briefly flashed during a film. If you�re not aware of it, does that really mean you didn�t see it?�
That is a good question, �If you�re not aware of it, does that really mean you didn�t see it?� Perhaps an even better question is, �If you�re not aware of it, does that really mean that it doesn�t exist?� For countless billions of people across this world what you see is what you get (WYSIWYG). For them nothing exists besides what they can see with their physical eyes. However, the spiritual fact is that there is so much more than just what we can see physically.
The apostle Paul prays that our spiritual eyes, the eyes of our heart would be opened so we can see what great spiritual riches that we possess. How much richer our lives are if we can see beyond the physical to spiritual. How much easier it is to walk in the steps of our Lord when we see beyond the troubles, and temptations of this world to the glories of the next.
The enhancement of our spiritual sight should be an ongoing process and priority in our lives. We should pray for the eyes of our understanding/heart to be opened and we should work toward that as well. We live the Christian life; walk the walk, by faith now. So, when something unexpected arrives at our door we should always pray seeking God�s will and purpose, looking beyond the physical to the spiritual. With each step of faith, we are exercising our spiritual eyes.
Open your eyes! Open the eyes of your heart and what is it that you see?
Run for your Life!
�and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds) - then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment. - 2 Peter 2:7-9.
Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. 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. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. - 1 Corinthians 10:12-14.
Malibu, California has prepared emergency safety brochures to warn the residents of the area of possible dangers during emergencies. One such danger is warned against in the brochure by the following statement in capital letters: "NEVER GO TO THE BEACH TO WATCH FOR, OR SURF, A TSUNAMI WAVE!" Brad Davis, the Malibu emergency preparedness director, said the purpose of the warning was to cover all possibilities and he stated, "Some people may feel that we are stating the obvious and some people may not. We want to encourage people to move away from the coast rather than toward it." A Malibu surfer Candace Brown talking about the above statement contained in the preparedness booklet says, "I'm speechless. I think the last thing people will think about when they feel an earthquake is surfing."
Some things appear to normal people to be obvious. If you know a tsunami is coming a normal person would not go to the beach and wait for it to come ashore especially after seeing the destructive power of tsunamis in videos filmed during this past year. A normal person would know that trying to survive a tsunami is a near impossibility much less trying to surf one. However, some people are not normal and we know with approaching hurricanes that some people gathered on the beach because they had never seen a hurricane. One person flew from California to Mississippi to video up close and personal the destructive force of the hurricane and they succeeded in doing it. Some people are employed as tornado chasers but having come close to being destroyed by a tornado and knowing its power, I know it is much wiser to seek shelter when one is coming your way.
The Bible tells us that Lot was a righteous person living in the evil Sodom and Gomorrah. By living in that evil place Lot �tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds.� Being a righteous person and living in Sodom and Gomorrah is similar to trying to surf a tsunami. It is not going to happen!
We are to be the �salt of the earth� as Jesus says in Matthew chapter five and to do so we cannot completely withdraw from the world. But Jesus also warns about the salt losing its flavor. Continually exposing yourself to the evil of this world when it can be avoided is a dangerous thing to do spiritually. The apostle Paul warns, �Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.� Going with immoral friends to immoral places will eventually result in a spiritual fall. Continually reading and watching immoral material will do the same to you.
In 1 Corinthians, we are told that along with temptation there will always be a �way of escape�. Let us flee those temptations especially those, which are so very obvious finding that �way of escape.� To do so may require changing our friends, our recreation, our reading habits, our TV watching habits, or our movie going habits, or something else. Remember you really cannot surf a tsunami. The best course of action in both cases is to run for your lives.
Follow the Example
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. - Philippians 4:13.
Sharon had a terrible week, which began when someone attacked her with spray paint. Soon after that Sharon was kidnapped, however, she was found safe a day later. Now, Sharon has learned that she is in violation of a city ordinance and will have to move. Who is Sharon? Sharon is a seven-month-old goat who has been the mascot of the Sigma Chi fraternity at Southeast Missouri State University. It is a violation of a city ordinance to have barnyard animals living inside the city limits.
Even for a goat, Sharon had a horrific week, but even if Sharon were a human being, we would not have been that surprised to have heard the news about it. Because terrible things and even more horrific things happen to people all the time. We are bombarded with the bad news on a continual basis of all those bad things that occur so very frequently.
The threat of all of this bad news and terrible things that we hear about to the average person is that we will begin to believe that we are next. Because we begin to believe that we are next and that something ugly could happen to us we will curtail, and reduce our activities. Believing that around the next corner could be a threat to our life, family, or property we become more and more cautious.
What does this have to do with living the Christian life? As Christians we are called to go (Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 1:8), to be ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), to reflect the light of our Lord into the darkness around us (Matthew 5:14-16), and to be vocal and active enough to restrain evil by preserving the good that is present in this world (Matthew 5:13). So, it is imperative for the fulfillment of every Christian�s mission, purpose, and call, not to be deterred by the activity of our enemy, the corruptness of this world, and the weakness of our flesh.
The nourishment of our spiritual lives is a vital necessity to overcome the bad things happening all around us to the extent that we continue with our mission of living the Christian life effectively. Maintaining continual contact with and input from our Lord is vital. Only through His power can we persist in living as we should. The apostle Paul describes how the Lord empowered him to live by saying, ��for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:11-13).� Paul is thought to have been in prison in Rome as he wrote those words. Prior to that time Paul had experienced all kinds of terrible things. Paul had been beaten, stoned (left for dead), put into stocks, jailed, shipwrecked, and bitten by a snake.
You may be thinking that an apostle ought to be able to do those things and go through those things but you are just an ordinary Christian. Here�s what Paul told the Philippians and I believe God would tell you through Paul today: �Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern (Philippians 3:17).� Through Christ Jesus let us move forward fulfilling the Great Commission, being Ambassadors for Christ, bringing light to the darkness of this world, and preserving all that is good.
Today�s devotional was written by my son, Clark Wrather, who is the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Broken Bow, Oklahoma. The title and Scripture have been added.
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. - Hebrews 5:12-13.
I have been taking my son, Madison, with me to football games for many years. When he was around two years old, having him with me seemed like some kind of punishment from God at times. As he has grown older, he has become more mature and his behavior has improved.
Madison no longer spills his Dr. Pepper on the people in front of us or throws his popcorn at the people five rows below us. He used to have a real problem with eating popcorn and candy that had been spilled onto the concrete bleachers, even when someone else had spilled it. Thankfully, he�s been out of diapers for years, but I used to have that joy as well at football games.
Somewhere along the way, Madison matured on me. It has been wonderful to have someone to send to the concession stand. A few weeks ago at a game, Madison tapped me on the shoulder. I looked over at him and asked if he needed anything. He said, �Dad, I think they�re going to pass this time.� He blew me away with what he said. It was third and a bus ride for the team he was talking about and they were most likely going to pass. Somehow, the baby/trial had changed into a friend/helper at football games. It was strange.
Where are you in your relationship with God? Throughout the Bible, we are told that God has a father/child relationship with us. Are you a baby/trial for your Heavenly Father? Do you do things that embarrass Him when He takes you out in public? Or have you grown and matured spiritually? Have you progressed beyond being a baby/trial and moved to the helper/friend stage in your relationship with God? Do you help God when you are able to do so? Do you understand what he is doing in your life and the world well enough to talk with him about it?
I�m just thankful that Madison matured some, because I have two more who are in the eating off the ground stage. What would we do if our kids didn�t grow up? I wonder how our Heavenly Father deals with all of His children who never grow a day older.
Then after some days Paul said to Barnabas, �Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing.� Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus; but Paul chose Silas and departed, being commended by the brethren to the grace of God. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. - Acts 15:36-41.
Most of you know what a strike is in a labor dispute. A strike means that a person or a group of people refuse to work to try to obtain something. Usually they want better wages, benefits, or working conditions. There are many strikes going on across the world right now. In Canada, British Columbia's 38,000 teachers have been off the job since Oct. 7 to protest against class sizes, wages and the loss of their right to strike. Soccer players in Columbia may soon go on strike for better wages. Their annual salaries begin at $2500.00. There is also a hunger strike going on at Guantanamo bay prison facility.
Surprisingly, some people go on strike against God. John Mark went on strike while on Paul�s first missionary journey. No is for sure as to what happened because the Bible does not say much about it (Acts 15:38; Acts 13:13). Some think that when the persecution became intense that Mark became afraid and fled for his safety. But whatever the reason Paul notes that Mark went not to the work.
What about us? Have we ever gone on strike against God? If we have, it was probably not while we were missionaries in some foreign country like John Mark. Our strikes are more like "sick outs", "set down strikes", work slowdowns, or the refusing to talk when we are angry kind of thing. Sometimes we are not even aware that we are on strike against God. So, let us look at some of the symptoms of a spiritual strike.
Here is one symptom: Refusing to talk to God. Or, if we do talk, it is just for a few moments to maintain appearances. It may work with your friend, or your wife, or husband, or boss or your parents but do you really think that is going to work with God?
Another way we go on strike against God is by refusing to read His Word, The Bible. Jesus quotes the Old Testament while resisting the devil and in Matthew 4:4 says that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. And how does faith come? By reading, studying, and hearing the Word of God. Romans 10:17 says, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." The fact of the matter is this: If you are not reading the Bible on a daily basis, you are on strike! You are on a strike against God.
Here is another common method of striking against God: Refusing to attend church or if we do, we attend infrequently or only a minimum number of services. We know what the Bible says in Hebrews 10:24-25, "And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching." We also know what the Bible says in Matthew 18:20, "For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them." So, if you do not want to be where God is and where God wants you to be as frequently as you possibly can and you are physically able... Then, you must be out on strike against God.
Here is another way some are on strike. There are many who may come to church, they may read God's Word and pray - just don't ask them to serve, witness, help or do anything else of a tangible nature that involves some kind of action. The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) is not the Great Suggestion. No, it is a command and Jesus says, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them...teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you...." The going, the disciple making, and the teaching was and is for all not just a select few. We are all to be a part of the fulfillment of the Great Commission. If you are not willing to witness, teach, help, serve or do anything of a practical nature to help the Kingdom of God besides warm a pew - then you are on strike!
Are you on a spiritual strike? I do not know why and maybe you do not even know why you went out on strike. I believe, however, if you are honest with yourself you will see that you have just been hurting yourself - You are not hurting God. In addition, you are certainly not impressing God by being on your little strike. God is still the same God. He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Is that going to be good enough for you or not?
We do not know how it happened but John Mark ended his spiritual strike because in 2 Timothy 4:11 while Paul is in Rome he writes, "Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministry."
In a labor dispute striking is difficult for the worker and for the company they are striking against. The hope is that the company will give in to their demands and they will soon be back at work. Striking spiritually will not work in that way because God will not change His Word to suit our personal desires. Striking spiritually only serves to make life more and more difficult for us. Isn't it time to end your spiritual temper tantrum, end your strike, and get back to work?
The Letter of the Law
Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. - Matthew 5:17-18.
The letters of the Kurdish alphabet and the Turkish law have collided. In Turkey, it is against the law to use characters not used in the Turkish alphabet and during a Kurdish New Year celebration, 20 people had placards, which had the letters Q and W, which are not in the Turkish alphabet. A court in the city of Siirt fined all those who participated in using the unlawful letters 100 new lira.
It does appear somewhat severe to punish people for simply holding placards, which have letters on them! However, it is the law and the Turkish court has ruled according to the letter of the law. As a result, a penalty was imposed on the 20 people who disobeyed the law by holding up the unlawful letters.
Jesus is speaking in Matthew five of the Old Testament laws and because of His use of the terms �the Law� and the �Prophets� we know he is talking about the whole of the Old Testament. In Luke 24:44 Jesus says, �These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.�
The letter of the Law contained in the Old Testament some would say is harsh. However, the Law is the Law and there are penalties for disobedience to that Law even though it may appear small to us. Jesus says, �till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.�
What is the purpose of the Law? The apostle Paul tells us in Galatians 3:24, �Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.� The �tutor (Greek: paidagogos)� that this word is based upon was usually an elderly and trustworthy slave that would be in charge of escorting the families� children to school. The slave would stay at the school until the school was over and he would then escort the children home. Even though the tutor was a slave, the children would still call him �Master� and the slave had the authority to punish the child if necessary. In the same way, the �Law� is our �tutor�.
The apostle Paul in Galatians chapter three goes on to tell us how privileged we are if we know Christ as our Savior by saying, �But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ�s, then you are Abraham�s seed, and heirs according to the promise.� This means that in Christ those who know Him as Savior are no longer in bondage but are free! Thank God! Praise God! Because Romans 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Romans 6:23a tells us that the penalty for sin is death. The last part of Romans 6:23b tells us the good news: �but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.�
Have you received the gift?
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name�s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever. - Psalm 23.
Erick, Oklahoma is about 14 miles south of where I live and it is the hometown of Roger Miller who composed and sang a vast number of songs. They now have a Roger Miller Festival every year at Erick (It was Saturday) and they also have a Roger Miller Museum there. While we were on our way to a service at the Erick Nursing Home this afternoon in the church van, we started talking about some of the songs Roger had written. One of those songs was �You Can�t Rollerskate in a Buffalo Herd� which is the first line of the first verse of the song. The other verses include these lines: �You can't take a shower in a parakeet cage�; �You can't go swimming in a baseball pool�; �You can't change film with a kid on your back�; and, �You can't drive around with a tiger in your car�. At the end of each verse is the line, �But you can be happy if you've a mind to�.
I agree with Roger that there are some things in this life that are impossible to do or at least are very difficult to do. However, in spite of that there are some things that we do have control over. One of those things is the state of our mind. We can as Roger said be happy if we want to be and we can go beyond happiness to having supernatural peace in this midst of the most difficult circumstances.
King David was the psalmist who wrote the 23rd Psalm. Reading this psalm one thing is obvious and that is that the author of the psalm is at peace. He is at peace with himself, his world, and his God. Even though David had experienced some very difficult circumstances in his life, he was still able to have peace. David had his wife taken away from him, he was hunted like a wild animal for many years, and he knew what it was like to have a child die. But he still had peace and that is amazing!
How did David have peace when so many circumstances in his life were unpleasant and out of his control? David tells us in the very first words of the 23rd Psalm where he says, �The LORD is my shepherd�.�
You can have the same kind of peace that David did even when your life may seem out of control and filled with difficult circumstances. You can have the same kind of peace if you have the same Lord as your own shepherd and that shepherd is, Jesus Christ.
Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, �Lord, I will follow You wherever You go.� And Jesus said to him, �Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.� Then He said to another, �Follow Me.� But he said, �Lord, let me first go and bury my father.� Jesus said to him, �Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.� And another also said, �Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.� But Jesus said to him, �No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.� - Luke 9:57-62.
Then He said to them all, �If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.� - Luke 9:23.
Three years ago, Brett Backwell broke his ring finger playing Australian Rules football. Since then Brett has experienced much pain from the injury. Doctors suggested that he have the bone of the finger fused but Bret has decided on a different option. To keep on playing football at the professional level he has had half of his ring finger amputated. Brett says, "It's not something that's been done lightly and to chop a finger off, it's a bit drastic. But I love my footy and love playing sport and if that's going to help me to succeed at this level then it's something you've just got to do." Ken Applegarth the Glenelg club manager says, �The decision was an emotional one that confirmed Backwell's commitment to his sport.�
Commitment is not a popular term in today�s world and to hear of anyone being truly committed to anything is somewhat shocking. We see signs of a lack of commitment everywhere. The divorce rate is still climbing but also those living together outside of marriage are increasing with one-third of all children being born out of wedlock as the evidence of it. Surveys show that brand loyalty has decreased, fewer numbers of people are willing to join any organization, the percentage of those willing to fight for their country has continued to drop, parents are less willing to remain in a marriage for the sake of their children, and those agreeing to attend or participate in an event but who later do not show up or back out is also continuing to increase.
A lack of true commitment has been a problem for the cause of Christ since the beginning. Jesus experienced first hand people who were somewhat involved until there was a cost involved and then they turned away from Him. Until after the resurrection the record of the disciples who were totally committed to Him was very, very few - most of them fled when the going got tough fearing that they themselves would be crucified.
Jesus never says that being a Christian is easy. He does say that His yoke is easy but it is still a yoke. Jesus indicates up front that it is not an easy road when he says, �Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.� He makes it even clearer when He says, �If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.� In other words, take up your instrument of execution every day and follow Him. Put your own personal desires, wants, dreams, habits, addictions, lusts to death every day and follow Him. That is a commitment indeed!
That kind of commitment that Jesus calls us to is very difficult but the alternative is so much worse. The only way we can really have life and really live life to the ultimate is through a true commitment to Jesus Christ. Have you renewed your commitment to Him today? If so, rise up and follow Him.
And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness. And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. - 1 John 3:3-5.
I like the way the �Message� translates this passage of Scripture: All of us who look forward to his Coming stay ready, with the glistening purity of Jesus' life as a model for our own. All who indulge in a sinful life are dangerously lawless, for sin is a major DISRUPTION of God's order. Surely you know that Christ showed up in order to get rid of sin. There is no sin in him, and sin is not part of his program. - 1 John 3:3-5.
A supermarket in Exeter, Pennsylvania recently had an unexpected, and unwanted visitor. An eight-point buck deer was frightened by something out of the woods where it struck a parked truck and crashed through the front window of the supermarket. For more than an hour, the deer crashed and thrashed through the store from the meat-counter to the bread aisle. Shopping was disrupted as the buck caused terror for those who were unfortunate enough to be present. Kelsey Bracken, a cashier, was grateful to have been away from her register at the time. As Bracken put it, �I would have died. It ran right through register five.� The deer was eventually fenced in and trapped by two police officers using shopping carts. The officers were then able to shoot it with tranquilizer darts ending the reign of terror caused by the frightened deer.
The story of the deer in the supermarket gives a picture of a couple of spiritual things. First, it gives us a picture of what lawlessness is like and sin is like lawlessness. Lawlessness is like a large eight-point buck crashing and thrashing its way through a supermarket destroying everything that it encounters. There is no way to reason with lawlessness because it is uncontrollable and damages everything it touches. You cannot set down and have a peaceful mediation session with sin because sin will eat you alive if you try to compromise with it. Sin is an animal, a dangerous, frightening animal that will tear you and everything and everyone you love apart.
Second, the story of the deer in the supermarket gives us a picture of some of the collateral damage of sin. Sin disrupts God�s plan for your life. Sin brings to a halt the blessings of God upon your life and prevents Him from molding you into the image of your Lord. Sin brings everything spiritually good to a standstill and brings a reign of spiritual evil into your life.
In order to prevent the disruption of the lawlessness of sin you need to be able to recognize it. Here are some ways in which sin is described in the Bible: �For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin (Romans 14:23)�; �So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin (James 4:17)�; �All wrongdoing is sin (1 John 5:17)�; and, �The devising of folly is sin (Proverbs 24:9).� John Wesley defined sin as, �a willful transgress (or breaking) of a known law of God.�
We have all sinned and as long as we are clothed in human flesh, we will be capable of sin. The Bible confirms in Romans 3:23 that we have all sinned coming short of the mark of perfection. That is the bad news. The good news is that we do not have to live in sin because through Jesus Christ the chains of sin have been broken if we know Him as our Savior. 1 John 1:9 tells you what to do to remove the sin and to return to God�s will and plan for your life: �If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.�
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. - James 1:19-21.
Mellesia Grant and Merloze Tilme had a little argument where they work at a Walgreens in Florida. The two Walgreens� employees reportedly had a personality conflict from the beginning of their work relationship. That failure to relate with each other finally grew to physical violence over who was going to first use the microwave in the employee break room to warm some soup. Mellesia found a kitchen knife that was on the counter and stabbed Merloze in the abdomen. According to the sheriff�s office, the women then wrestled for the knife inflicting wounds on both of their hands. Thankfully, the store manager was finally able to stop the fight before one of them was killed. Merloze was hospitalized and was reportedly in good condition. Mellesia, after being treated for her wounds, was charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. Jim Leliedal spokesperson for the Broward County Sheriff�s Office shared about the unfortunate situation that, "They didn't get along to begin with. Who could use the microwave first became a major issue.�
Perhaps Mellesia and Merloze could have avoided some friction at work if they had read these words in the Book of James before going to work that morning: �Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.� You could say that the anger of Mellesia and Merloze finally just blew up in their faces.
A woman with an anger problem who was talking to Billy Sunday, tried to rationalize her angry outbursts. �There�s nothing wrong with losing my temper,� She said, �I blow up, and then it�s all over.� �So does a shotgun,� Sunday replied, �and look at the damage it leaves behind!� Frederick Buechner once said, �Of the seven deadly sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back -- in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.�
If you have a problem with angry outbursts, it is a serious problem and you ought to be concerned about it. Why? Because you could very will �blow� some day and cause much damage to your life and to the lives of others. Why wait until then to do something? Now is the time to take care of the problem before something tragic occurs.
The first step in dealing with an anger problem is to admit that you have one and confess it to the Lord (1 John 1:9) and ask for His help. Ask God to guard your tongue to help you to say only what He wants you to say and for those listening to only hear what God wants them to hear. If there is a situation that is causing you anger, ask God to help you with it and to take control of it.
Rudeness is apparently at a new high according to a recent survey in the United States. However, rudeness should not be a part of a believer�s life. We should practice the presence of Christ because He does hear every word we say and know every thought we think. Practicing His presence, consciously acknowledging His presence in tense, anger filled situations, will dissipate the explosiveness of those times.
The spiritual fact is that God has the power to change you and to take away the anger. Do you want Him to help you? Ask Him!
�that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may GROW up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ. - Ephesians 4:14-15.
Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may GROW thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. - 1 Peter 2:1-3.
You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; but GROW in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen. - 2 Peter 3:17-19.
The �Llizarov Procedure� is still very popular in China and the numbers having the procedure done are increasing. The Llizarov Procedure consists of breaking of the bones of the leg and then placing adjustable leg braces on them to pull the bones apart. The braces are adjusted manually three or four times a day. The purpose of the painful procedure is to grow taller and people endure the painful process hoping that they will reap benefits by being taller. A 5-foot-tall woman going through the procedure once said, "I'll have a better job, a better boyfriend, and eventually a better husband. It's a long-term investment." She hoped to eventually be four inches taller although I have not heard whether or not she reached her goal.
It is almost incomprehensible what some people are willing to do to grow a little taller! Physical growth may provide some benefits for some people; however, there is another kind of growth from which we will always reap benefits. That other kind of growth is spiritual growth. In order to grow spiritually we must have a desire to do so and we must continually work at the process by taking advantage of all of the resources of God. Spiritual growth is not an easy process but it can happen in your life just as it has for countless others through the ages.
We cannot grow spiritually if we do not take advantage of the resources that God has given to us at great cost (Romans 8:32). We must daily have an input of God�s Word (Matthew 4:4) or we will not grow. We must continuously be in an attitude of prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18) or we will not grow. We must faithfully be a part of a local body of believers (Hebrews 10:24-25) or we will not grow.
To grow spiritually we must take advantage of the resources that God has given to us at great cost and we must also put into practice the teachings of Jesus or we will not grow. We should love God with all our hearts mind and soul and our neighbors as ourselves. We should do unto others, as we would have them do unto us. We should serve others just as Jesus did and we should be obedient to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). We should strive to be obedient always to everything our Lord would have us to do using Him as our example, following in His steps.
Growing spiritually is not an easy process but it is the process that every Christian is called to go through. We will not complete the process on this earth as long as we are clothed in human flesh. However, some great, wonderful, glorious day when we meet our Lord face-to-face the process will be completed and we will be like Him.
Now it happened, the day after, that He went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd. And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her. When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, �Do not weep.� Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, �Young man, I say to you, arise.� So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother. Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God, saying, �A great prophet has risen up among us�; and, �God has visited His people.� And this report about Him went throughout all Judea and all the surrounding region. - Luke 7:11-17.
On Highway 108 close to Jamestown, California, Diana Nichols had a sudden unexpected and shocking collision. She was driving along on her motorcycle enjoying the day traveling at about 50 mph or so when it suddenly happened. A 250-pound bear ran across her path resulting in the collision and the broken collarbone Diana suffered when her cycle flipped. She was airlifted for treatment to a Modesto hospital where she was treated and released. Apparently, the bear also survived and thankfully, he took off after the collision.
In the area where I live, I am used to hearing about collisions between vehicles and deer, which happen frequently. I have had a few close calls with them. Thankfully, we do not have to be concerned about bears suddenly running into our path! What a shock that must have been!
It must have been an even greater shock to a grieving family when Jesus encountered them in the city of Nain. The only son of a widow had died and there was great grief in her heart. But suddenly death collided with life! Jesus touched the open coffin and said, �Young man, I say to you, arise.� The man who had been dead sat up and began to speak. What a wonderful shock! Death had been overcome by life - the Prince of Life, Jesus Christ.
Even more surprising is that Jesus is still in the life giving business today. The world, the flesh, and the devil are busy killing, stealing and destroying (John 10:10a) but Jesus has come to give life (John 10:10b). Whenever your life encounters impossible obstacles and problems allow those obstacles and problems to have a collision with life - Jesus Christ. It may be a bear of a day but allow Jesus to be the Lord of it by bringing life into your world.
Reasons for Telling the Truth
You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another. - Leviticus 19:11.
Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him. - Colossians 3:9-10.
Laura Crews (18-years-old) according to news reports had arranged a date on the Internet but got cold feet somewhere along the way. Laura lives in Kentucky and had planned to fly to Kansas City to meet her Internet boyfriend. To escape from the date she told a few lies. She told her boyfriend that she had been kidnapped, raped, stabbed, and shot. The boyfriend�s mother after learning of the terrible news called police and the police did their best to try to find out the truth. The truth was that Laura had lied and she has been charged with filing a false police report. The good news is that Laura is okay and was only caught in the web of her lies.
Reason # 1 for telling the truth is that the Bible tells us not to lie or to deceive (deal falsely). Laura can now testify to the obvious need to live this out as the Bible has commanded.
Reason # 2 for telling the truth is that we usually become caught up in our lie in some way altering our lives for the worse.
Reason # 3 for telling the truth is that sometimes we are not found out and no one discovers the truth about our lie. As a result, we have to live the lie constantly guarding our lips from telling the truth. We have to live with the guilt of knowing we have deceived and lied to others. The burden grows and grows upon us as the years go by.
Reason # 4 for telling the truth is to save ourselves from all of the embarrassment. As with Laura, in the 21st Century someone is likely to put it on the Internet, write about it in a blog, or even take a photo of the truth with their cell phone. Your life could very well become defined by the lie that was told for years and years.
Reason # 5 for telling the truth is to avoid arrest, fines, attorney fees, even jail or prison time. Laura may be able to have her charges dismissed since she did not personally contact the police. However, countless other people have been caught up in legal problems because of not telling the truth. Some have lied about their educational credentials and signed a legal oath, which has criminal penalties. Others have lied on other legal documents, which also can result in criminal penalties.
Reason # 6 for telling the truth is that you feel good about yourself and do not have to worry about what would have happened if you had told a lie instead.
Telling the truth may not be easy and may result in temporary embarrassment but it is always the best path to take.
What if you are already caught up in the web of a lie or lies you have told? You need to begin to inform all who know of the lies, of the truth, and to rectify if possible any harm caused by the lie or lies.
Telling the truth may be hard at times but it will be much easier to live with yourself. Instead of trying to keep your lies straight and to remember what you have told one person or another you can just tell the truth. So, when in doubt, just tell the truth!
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. - James 1:5-6.
It could be that scientists may need to revise their understanding of the intelligence of gorillas and chimpanzees. In the past few weeks, a gorilla was observed using a stick to help her walk and also to measure how deep the water was before entering. At the Belfast Zoo in Northern Ireland, three chimpanzees managed to escape. Trying to frighten the chimps back to their compound, the security guards fired shoots into the air. In response, the chimps halted their escape and put up their hands.
Scientists may also want to reevaluate the intelligence of human beings given some news reports that I have read. Such as the driver in Australia who was stopped by a police officer for speeding. He was traveling at over 120mph. It was early in the morning and the driver told the officer that he did not know that police officers worked that late. A police spokesperson did verify that they are a �24-hour organization.� In addition, a woman arrested in Norway for bigamy said that she had simply forgotten she was already married. We human beings do seem to have trouble remembering but I think I would have remembered that.
As you can see, we human beings are in need of wisdom and if we need wisdom, we need to go to the source. The true source of wisdom is God. He is the One who has the answers, solutions, and knowledge to help whatever the situation.
The wonderful thing about God is that He wants you to ask Him for wisdom. He wants to provide you with the answers, solutions and knowledge that you need. The sad thing is that so very few people take God up on His offer. We have this pride thing of wanting to do it on our own and so we stumble along making mistake after mistake in our lives.
Some of the greatest people who ever lived have been driven to their knees in prayer to seek wisdom from God. There is nothing to be ashamed of in having to ask God for help because you are in very good company when you do. Abraham Lincoln is one of those who often went to his knees in prayer to seek help from God. Lincoln said this, �I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for the day.�
I am not sure how many times I have been driven to my knees in prayer to seek the wisdom of my God. I know that it is too many times to remember and I also know that it should have been so many more times that I should have fell to my knees to seek His wisdom.
What about you? Are you tired of trying to do it on your own and messing things up time after time? Remember that Bible says, �If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.� Why not ask Him now?
Let It Go
If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, �Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,� says the Lord. Therefore � If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.� - Romans 12:18-20.
If someone wrongs us, the Bible makes it clear that we should let God take care of the vengeance. Not only are we to let God take care of the avenging but we are also to be nice to our enemies. However, some people try to do the avenging themselves and almost always, it causes problems for that person.
Thomas Haberbush is an example of what not to do. He is a 72-year-old retired elementary school teacher who has been holding onto a grudge for almost 30 years. In 1977, administrators in the Saratoga Springs School District gave him unsatisfactory work reviews but Haberbush never forgot it.
Over the last couple of years, Haberbush has been trying to get even for those unsatisfactory work reviews. To do that he has been vandalizing the property of former administrators, school board members, and even fellow teachers. Some of things that he did was to put nails on their driveways, and he threw paint on their garage doors and mailboxes. As a result, Haberbush has been charged with stalking, criminal tampering and criminal mischief.
We can learn several things from this. First, to return, or pay back evil for evil will not further God�s Kingdom. Second, instead of stirring up more trouble we should try to create an atmosphere of peace. Third, we must learn to follow God�s way and example to overcome evil. You do not overcome evil with evil. You overcome evil with good.
Contrary to what some people may say, life is rarely easy. It is hard at times to live life in a corrupted creation with this human fleshly sin nature. It is hard to deal with fellow human beings who also have this human flesh. It is hard to live with spouses that are sinners. It is hard to live with children that are sinners, and it is hard to live with parents that are sinners. But the fact is that this is the way it is and there is little to do about it.
The good news is that we have a great and wonderful God who can help us and sustain us through whatever difficult thing we may encounter in life. We are not alone. We do not have to deal with difficult people by ourselves. There is no need to nurse a grudge for thirty years when we can receive strength from God to forgive and go on with our lives.
When people hurt you do not try to get even, instead go to God and allow Him to wipe away the tears and the pain. Let go of the anger and the bitterness - then do what God would have you to do and overcome evil with good.
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.
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.
The terrorist attack of September 11, 2001
Hurricane Katrina�s devastation 2005
What is next? The fact is that we do not know what is next - we do know, however, that whatever it is - it is headed our way. It appeared for awhile yesterday that something terrible was happening in Los Angeles with the electricity going off for some time. Finally, it was reported that someone had cut the wrong wire and that had caused all of the chaos. It did allow us to see how fragile our lives are when just the cutting of the wrong wire can cause so many so much trouble. We can only wish that it were that easy to repair what is wrong on the gulf coast.
The point of this is that bad things do happen to good people and not so good people all the time. Every one of us have our own difficulties and to us at least our own disasters to deal with at times. Knowing this we should conduct our own preparedness test and especially a spiritual one.
How do you respond when bad things happen? Do you curse, yell, and blame God? Many people do and I have watched them on TV cursing God for what has happened. At least there were quite a few taking God�s name in vain. Sometimes we have a name or several names to blame for a disaster and I guess some believe we have one now i.e. Republicans. But to be fair we know that it is more complicated than that and we have to wonder in every disaster about what part God played or did not play in it. We will never know on this earth for sure about the part God has in a disaster preventing it, allowing it, causing it, etc. However, there are two things that we do know and that we never have to wonder about or doubt as far as God is concerned.
Two things we know and we can stand on them through any storm, any problem, any difficulty that this life may bring our way. What are those two things? First, God loves you and wants the very best for you. God loved those people who died in the terrorist attack on 9/11. God loves all those people who have been affected by Hurricane Katrina�s devastation.
How do we know that? Because the Bible tells us in John 3:16, �For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.�
What is the second thing that we know? We know Romans 8:28 is true �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.� God will bring good out of this terrible disaster on the gulf coast. We can look back and see that God brought good out of the 9/11 disaster.
No matter what may happen in your life you need to remember those two things because bad things do happen to good people. And when those bad things happen: Remember this: God loves you and He has proved that love on the cross. He died in your place, took your penalty upon Himself. And remember that if you love God and follow Him - He can and will bring good out of the bad.
The Rule of Law
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God�s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God�s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience� sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God�s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. - Romans 13:1-7.
The rule of law has broken down in New Orleans and because of this rescue and evacuation efforts were greatly hindered today. Rescue boats were fired upon and their efforts were suspended for much of the day. A rescue helicopter was fired upon and their efforts were also greatly reduced as a result. However, it was not just in the rescue efforts that the break down in law and order was being seen. There were reports of rape and murder at the convention center. Some tried to force their way on to buses evacuating people to the Astrodome. Looters were trying to force their way into hospitals and if you had any water or food you were at risk if anyone knew about it.
The good news is that there is help on the way with 1400 National Guard Military Police arriving each day for the next three days in New Orleans. Hopefully that will be enough although with what we are seeing you have to wonder if much more will be needed to bring the situation under control. Government and the rule of law are for our benefit and therefore we should be subject to those laws. Although the Roman Empire often ruled with an iron hand, there was a relative peace within the Empire. The result was that the apostle Paul was able to travel through the empire and letters were sent successfully from place to place.
Through the terrible situation in New Orleans, we can see how fortunate we are when the rule of law is working effectively. We should all try to be good citizens supporting the rule of law and the resulting peaceful conditions that it brings (When not in direct opposition to God�s Laws.). We will all be relieved with the National Guard arrives in force in New Orleans and the people are then able to receive the help and comfort that they have needed. Let us continue to pray for those affected by the hurricane and the rescue workers. Many will be spending another night out in the open - some on the side of a highway or amid the ruble of fallen buildings with little or no water or food. Let us pray that God will give them comfort and protection tonight and that help will indeed arrive tomorrow.
Copyright � 1998 - 2005. Ed Wrather. All rights reserved. Permission is granted for use of this material on a non-profit basis with source noted.