(Southern Baptist Perspective)

by
Ed Wrather





LESSON ONE
SALVATION

In learning about salvation there are different terms involved which basically mean the same thing. To avoid confusion let us briefly consider some of those terms.

1. SAVED. To be saved means to be saved from some thing. If a person is drowning and the lifeguard jumps in and saves them from drowning we know what they have been saved from. Spiritually many people are also drowning. They may or may not realize the danger of their situation.

Spiritually there is also something to be saved from. That something we need to be saved from is a terrible punishment and place called “hell.” The story Jesus tells about the rich man (Often referred to as Dives because Dives in Latin means rich man.) and Lazarus. This story is found in Luke 16:19-31. Please read this passage of Scripture and look for these insights about hell:

Note: In verse 31 of this passage Jesus says, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead.” Moses and the prophets is a reference to the Scriptures.

Obviously there is something to be saved from, a real place where those without salvation go when they die to suffer eternal torment forever. They are forever separated from God and from the saved. They know they have missed out on the blessings of God.

2. BORN AGAIN. “Born again” means essentially the same thing as being “saved.” However the phrase carries additional meaning and information about what happens when you are saved. Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be “born again” in the third chapter of the Gospel of John. Let us examine this passage of Scripture about being “born again.” The passage is found in John 3:1-21.

Please read this passage of Scripture and answer these questions:

How do we condemn ourselves?

Being saved is like a birth. We are birthed into the Kingdom of God by the Holy Spirit. Only those who have experienced this spiritual birth will be in Heaven.

We receive eternal life at the moment that we believe on Jesus as our Savior. Once we have eternal life how can it be taken away? If it could be taken away it would not be eternal life. Eternal life cannot become uneternal life.

If you have never received Jesus as your Savior, why not take a moment now and do so. If you sincerely desire to turn from your sins (repentance) you can be saved. Jesus says in Revelation 3:20, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come into him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Why not open the door of your heart and pray a prayer like the one following or put it in your own words: “DEAR LORD JESUS, PLEASE COME INTO MY HEART AND LIFE AND FORGIVE ME OF MY SINS. I WANT TO CHANGE AND LIVE MY LIFE FOR YOU, PLEASE HELP ME TO DO SO. IN YOUR NAME JESUS I PRAY. THANK YOU FOR SAVING ME. AMEN.” (Please know that words alone will not save you it is the attitude of the heart that saves. If you truly meant those words in your heart and truly want to stop sinning and have Jesus as your Lord then you will be saved.)

For assurance of your salvation, that eternal life cannot become uneternal life and that even you cannot discard eternal life by your actions or nonactions please look at John 6:37-40.

Please answer these questions:

If you believed on Jesus it is not the Father’s will that you should be lost and Jesus will not lose any that believes on Him. Did you believe on Jesus for your salvation? If so it cannot be lost, you have eternal life and it cannot become uneternal life no matter what you or anyone else may do.



LESSON TWO
THE NEW LIFE

Paul describes the new life of a born again believer in 2 Corinthians 5:17 when he says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” According to Paul things are changed at the moment that we are born again. Let us consider what this new life is like and how it has changed.

1. The Bible will have new meaning for us as it is studied and as we listen to the Word of God being preached. Find 1 Corinthians 2:12-16. Study this passage and find the answers to these questions:

Obviously if we are saved we received not the spirit of the world but the Spirit of God and because of that some things have been freely given to us that makes us different than we were before salvation was received. Before we were saved, according to this passage, we could not understand the things of God. This is why there are so many interpretations of the Bible. It is why some read and read and study and study the Bible but never seem to get anything out of it. It is also why it is many times pointless to argue with the lost because for the most part they will only be able to understand clearly the Holy Spirit calling them to salvation.

A little ten year old girl was saved at a summer camp and she shared with my wife that it was just different now when she heard someone preaching. When I was saved the Word of God changed for me and a hunger for God’s Word suddenly seemed to have been implanted into my heart that had never been there before.

2. We will have a desire to be around other Christians. Find 1 John 3:11-14 and study this passage concentrating on verse 14. Find the answers to these questions:

We will know that we have “passed from death unto life” because we do what?

If you do not have love for other Christians and don’t want to be around them what most likely is the cause of that?

If we have been saved we will have a supernatural love implanted in us causing us to love other Christians. This love will cause us to want to be around other Christians and to have fellowship with them. We will have a desire to be in church, for that is where God’s power is most focused. Matthew 18:20 says what? Also, consider Hebrews 10:24-25. It has been said that if our religion is not strong enough to take us to church most likely it will not be enough to take us to Heaven. I believe there is an element of truth in that statement. It does not, however, mean that just because you are not in church that you are not saved or have lost your salvation. It is though a definite indicator of spiritual problems when we have no desire to be in church with other believers to worship our God.

3. We will have a desire not to sin. We have a new nature but we still live in a fleshly body in a corrupt world. The apostle Paul describes the situation the Christian faces in Romans 7:13-25. Please examine this passage and answer the following questions:

The apostle Paul did battle every day with the old nature just as do other Christians. Sin is not just what we do but as Paul reveals in verse 19 it is also the failure to do good when we know to do good.

Since we have two natures which nature wins the battle? I once read an illustration about an American Indian who was describing this battle to some non-Christians in his tribe. This Indian described the battle as a fight between two dogs, a white dog and a black dog. His friends asked him which dog won and the Indian said, “Which ever one I say sic’em to.” How very true! If we give attention to our good nature, that nature comes out on top. However, if we give our attention to the bad things, then the bad nature will come out ahead. Consider the following questions:

You might want to write out beside each verse how God spoke to you as you meditate upon it. These are excellent verses to memorize.

It is important to know that it is impossible to live the Christian life in your own strength. Only by abiding in Christ can we succeed in living the Christian life. Only through supernatural empowerment can a supernatural life be lived.



DEVOTIONALS FOR NEW BELIEVERS


DAY 1

Testimonies

“And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; and they did not love their lives to the death.” - Revelation 12:11.

The evangelist Kim Schmidt has a tremendous testimony. Kim tells of waking up one morning with a desire to go to church after a several day binge of drugs, alcohol, and huffing. He was frightened that he would return to a mental institution. He had imagined that a baby was being birthed in the palm of his hand. It was enough to get him to a church. He didn’t clean up and you can imagine what he looked and smelled like when he arrived at a nearby church. He didn’t know what time the services started so he arrived in time for Sunday school. Once in the class the Sunday School teacher did not condemn him. No, he just shared with Kim his own testimony of how God had saved him and taken the alcohol out of his own life.

When the worship service started Kim was sitting on a back pew and a 70 year old deacon came and asked if he could sit by him. Before the service had ended Kim had given his life to Christ. Wasn’t long before his wife had given her life to Christ as well. Why did Kim go to church that day? Maybe it was because a friend sometime before had gotten saved and shared his testimony with Kim. When it had gotten bad enough Kim remembered that God had changed his friend.

Do you have a testimony? Why not share it with someone?


DAY 2

Two Natures

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” - Romans 8:5-6.

Stuart Briscoe tells a story about the cuckoo bird. Now the European cuckoo bird is much larger than the cuckoo birds in the United States. The mother European cuckoo bird has forgotten how to build a nest. It flies around until it sees another nest with eggs in it and no mother bird around. The cuckoo quickly lands, lays an egg there, and flies away.

The mother thrush, whose nest has been invaded, comes back and gets to work hatching the eggs. It apparently does not bother her that there is an extra egg in the nest. What happens? Four little thrushes hatch, but one large cuckoo hatches. The cuckoo is two or three times the size of the thrushes. When Mother Thrush brings to the nest one large, juicy worm, she finds four tiny thrush mouths, and one huge cuckoo mouth.

Guess, which bird, gets the worm? A full-sized thrush ends up feeding a baby cuckoo that is three times as big as it is. Over time, the bigger cuckoo gets bigger and bigger, and the smaller thrushes get smaller and smaller. Stuart says that when he was a kid he could always find a baby cuckoo’s nest. You just walked along a hedgerow until you found dead little thrushes, which the cuckoo throws out one at a time.

Spiritually we are similar to the thrushes and the cuckoo. We have two natures in one nest (i.e.: in one body). James says in James 5:19, “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth....” I would submit to you that the primary cause of wanderers from the truth is the feeding of the sinful nature and not the spiritual nature. If we would grow spiritually then the spiritual nature must be fed. At the same time we must stop feeding the sinful nature. The sinful nature is just like the baby cuckoo. If we keep on feeding it the sinful nature will destroy us.

Which nature have you been feeding?


DAY 3

Flies On The Wall

“Now the king of Syria was making war against Israel; and he consulted with his servants, saying, ‘My camp will be in such and such a place.’ And the man of God sent to the king of Israel, saying, ‘Beware that you do not pass this place, for the Syrians are coming down there.’” - II Kings 6:8-10.

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley are building a tiny robot. Known affectionately as ``robofly,'' the gadget is a flying robot about the size of a housefly. It even looks a like a fly, although it will have four wings instead of two and one eye instead of two. The US government is funding the project with $2.5 million and they want to see robofly dodging flyswatters by 2004. Teresa McMullen of the Office of Naval Research said, ``the potential application of a robot based on a fly might be, in an urban environment, clandestine surveillance and reconnaissance.'' We would never have guessed Teresa! In other words, that fly might be a spy. Just the thing for keeping tabs on terrorists or citizens.

What would we do if we had to worry about the flies on our walls? The King of Syria had a problem, which was much worse. Elisha the prophet was listening in on what the King said even in his most private moments and sharing the information with the King of Israel. One of the Syrian King’s servants finally let him in on what was going on, “...Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the words that you speak in your bedroom (II Kings 6:12).” Now this really ticked off the King of Syria and he sent his army to exterminate the prophet Elisha. But Elisha was protected by the Army of the Lord and the Syrian army was struck with blindness. The Bible states, “So the bands of Syrian raiders came no more into the land of Israel (II Kings 6:23b).”

Even if the government sends a fly to monitor our private lives God is still God. Elisha’s servant was shaking in his sandals when they were surrounded by the Syrian army until God opened his eyes and then he saw the Lord‘s Army, “the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha (II Kings 6:17b).” Perhaps we should be less concerned with flies on our walls and more concerned with the One who has “chariots of fire.”


DAY 4

Loving Others

“And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him, And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.” - I John 3:23-24.

It happened in Debary, Florida on a Saturday. Drivers could she her as they drove by. She seemed to be stuck in the mud. There was so much concern that it tied up traffic for miles. They called the police wanting something done. Monday commuters were again looking for her to see if she was just laying out there or was she okay now? There was so much concern that again traffic was tied up and backed up for miles. The Florida Transportation Department knew something had to be done. They put up a lighted, flashing sign to communicate to all of these concerned drivers the following, “The Cow is Okay.”

We have to wonder if it had been a human being would there have been the same amount of concern? Now God is concerned about cattle (Jonah 4:11) but they are not made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Our concern for animals and disdain for humans may come from our experience with them. There is usually a good reason when an animal attacks and few of us have been on the receiving end. I have been chased by a cow but most people in Florida have probably not had the experience. However, nearly all of us have been on the receiving end of verbal or physical attacks from other humans. I believe there is something in us that wants to show concern, that wants be kind, that wants to love. It is because we were made in the image of God and God is love (I John 4:8).

It may be difficult (It was difficult for Jonah.) but it is God’s will and His command for us to be kind to each other and to love each other. We will never really be able to experience love until we begin to love each other. The next time we see someone stuck in the mud let us give them some help and demonstrate that we are truly made in the image of God (I John 3:18).


DAY 5

Change Your Life

“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think (imagine), according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” - Ephesians 3:20-21.

In prison Rev. Dr. Hristo Kulichev of Bulgaria says he had no right to read the Bible. His watch and pen were confiscated along with every tiny bit of paper. The only thing they could not take away from him was prayer. He says, “In prison I realized how cunningly Satan works in our lives when we have freedom, keeping us busy with all kinds of things that give us less time to pray.” (From “What I learned in prison about prayer” - Light, The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, 901 Commerce, #550, Nashville, TN 37203-3696)

How true Dr. Kulichev’s observation is! Prayer does not just happen. There must be a conscious effort on the individual’s part to pray. Usually, in order to pray something else must be given up to make time for prayer. For us to have a “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” as the hymn describes prayer, what would we have to give up? What would be necessary in our lives for us to have an hour of prayer? What priorities would need to be rearranged?

I read a story in Reader’s Digest (I think the year was around 1984.) written by a woman who began to pray for an hour a day. She had to begin her day an hour earlier to spend the hour in prayer. Her testimony was that it had completely changed her life and the life of her family for the better.

What would it take for you to make a radical decision and commitment to spend an hour a day in prayer? Prison? Some terrible calamity? Dr. Kulichev says, “In prison I realized that we have the mightiest weapon given to us by God. Prayer.”

Want to change your life? Want to improve your life? Want help for your family? Need to overcome a problem, or addiction? If you will begin to pray regularly, over a sustained period of time you will find God will do, “...exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think (imagine), according to the power that works in us.”


DAY 6

Be Vigilant

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” - I Peter 5:8-9.

There was a new Christian scandal, which surfaced in the United States a few years ago. The president of conservative Hillsdale College in Michigan resigned. He resigned after his daughter-in-law confessed a 19 year long affair. She has since committed suicide. It is shocking and at the same time so very sad for this family and for this college. This scandal is only the most recent of a continuing saga of well-known Christians to have their immoralities publicly exposed.

Billy Graham has done some research, which reportedly shows at least 90 percent of Christians in the US are living defeated spiritual lives. The scandal at Hillsdale is shocking but does it really surprise us? It should serve as a warning of our own human weakness and fallibility. 90 percent living defeated spiritual lives? Most likely this includes some of us and if so how long before we crash and burn as well?

We must be constantly vigilant of our own spiritual condition. We must be constantly alert against the advances of the world into our lives. We must make a stand. We must put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:11). We must take full advantage of all the resources of God (Jesus - Philippians 4:19). We must not neglect the Word, prayer, and the church. To do so is to invite spiritual disaster. To say that we are not susceptible is spiritual pride. Maybe that is why just prior to I Peter 5:8 we are told in verses 5 through 7, “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”


DAY 7

Love Overcomes All

“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” - John 15:12.

It always warms my heart when I hear of how love overcomes. The title of a newspaper article I read that tells of that kind of love is “Daughter’s love unites husband, father.” The daughter fell in love and married, Sean, who is a paraplegic because of a motorcycle accident. She says he reminded her of her father who has health problems as a result of a wound received in Vietnam. Chanda’s parents initially resisted the relationship but now there is an increasing bond of love between them. It may have something to with Sean and Chanda’s Dad both being new Christians.

Dwight L. Moody the great evangelist of the latter part of the 19th Century said, “I took up that word Love, and I do not know how many weeks I spent in studying the passages in which it occurs, till at last I could not help loving people. I had been feeding on love so long that I was anxious to do everybody good I came in contact with. I got full of it. It ran out my fingers. You take up the subject of love in the Bible. You will get so full of it that all you have to do is to open your lips, and a flood of the Love of God flows out.”

Have a relationship problem? Try filling up with the Love of God.


DAY 8

Free Speech Infringement

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” - Matthew 12:35.

The National Security Agency in the US reportedly is using technology to monitor keywords contained in emails. Of course, it has been believed for many years that telephone conversations are also monitored for keywords, which would indicate threats against the country or president. We see the progression: telephone conversations, email communications and next? It may be that spy satellites can nearly read the lips of those in its sights but how long before they can listen in? Or are they already? We can only hope and pray that they can listen in on Osama Bin Ladin and his leadership team!

We fear the ability of government to intrude on our most private moments. Sometimes we think out loud and don’t really mean what we say. Or, maybe we do and we wouldn’t want others to hear! Sometimes we click the send button when we haven’t really thought carefully through every word we have written.

The possibility of someone, somewhere, monitoring every written and spoken word does appear to be a suppression of free speech. However, as Christians we should always be careful as to what we say, and as to what we write, and even as to what we think. Because we know God has had the technology for a long, long, time to listen in all He wants and it’s all recorded! “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the Day of Judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned (Matthew 12:36-37).”


DAY 9

Enemies

“When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” - Proverbs 16:6-7.

“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.” - Luke 6:27-28.

What do you do when you have an enemy? Keep on living for the Lord, pray for your enemy, and do good things to your enemy (Luke 6:29-36). I have had few enemies in my life, however, I know when I have retaliated it simply escalated the problem to a new level of hostility. But when I have refused to respond to evil with evil but instead responded with good my enemies have been neutralized. God has a way of redirecting the attention of our enemies. Some people just enjoy causing trouble and problems for others. It makes them feel powerful and in control. When we fail to react as they had hoped over time they grow tired of their game and look for others to trouble.

Praying for your enemy is a powerful weapon. It was through prayer that Jacob knew it was time to return to the land of his fathers (Genesis 31:1-13). As a result of obedience to God’s direction Laban was neutralized. Laban it seems had a dream warning him not to harm Jacob (Genesis 31:24). We know Jacob had left his homeland because Esau his brother was planning to kill him. However, after Jacob had wrestled with the Lord all night (Genesis 32:24-32) Esau was neutralized (Genesis 33).

God says, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay (Romans 12:19).” We should let God take care of it. Pray for our enemies and do good to them. God may appear to them in a dream telling them to leave us alone. Or, God may give them a change of heart toward us. Or, God may give them some other things to occupy their attention. When your enemy comes to destroy send God to the door. Your enemy will be surprised and God will overcome him.


DAY 10

Put Off The Old

“...if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.” - Ephesians 4:21-24.

Harry Truman while president of the United States in 1948 made a shocking discovery of the condition of the White House. When the honor guard marched him to a state dinner the crystal chandelier in his study swayed. When the butler walked in with breakfast Truman could feel the whole floor wobble. He called for engineers to examine the structure. The chief engineer reported the ceiling in the state dining room was only staying up from force of habit. Truman made a tough decision. He had the entire inside of the White House gutted. It was all torn out and rebuilt with only the shell remaining. When it was rebuilt it was with a steel framework which makes it as strong as any modern building.

There are many of us who wonder about the history that must have been lost in such a drastic reconstruction. Many were attached to the well worn floors with the smells of decades of momentous occasions. In much the same way we grow attached to our old lives, our old sins, our old circumstances, and habits. So when we are born again (John 3:3), becoming a new creature in Christ with old things passing away and all things becoming new (II Corinthians 5:17) it is a drastic change! Our old lives have been gutted and a complete reconstruction has taken place.

We still have choices after becoming a new creature in Christ. Truman as President of the United States could have chosen not to live in the White House after the reconstruction was completed. He could have lived in a tent on the grounds but that would have been foolish. It would be foolish for us as well to live as we used to live when we don’t have to any more. Paul in verse 22 says to put off all that old stuff and to begin to live as the new person that we are. In verses 25 through 32 he gives very specific ways of putting off the old and putting on the new. Paul finishes by saying in verse 32, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

Have you been living in a tent? Why not get out of there and try out the new place!?


DAY 11

Too Busy

“My times are in your hands.” - Psalm 31:15.

We rush and hurry trying to do everything. With the rush and the hurry our adrenaline level increases causing blood pressure to increase along with other harmful effects to our health. Many are so busy they just do not seem to have time for God. Most of us have been there at times. Rushing to get ready for work. What to wear? Thinking about the day ahead. Getting the kids ready for school. How do you fit in a quiet time when things are so far from being quiet? Of course, evenings could be the solution with the kids asleep and problems all solved for the day. But it is hard to have a quiet time when you fall asleep from exhaustion or have thoughts constantly roaming your mind from the day you have gone through. We sing the hymn, Sweet Hour of Prayer, and sometimes I don’t know whether to cry or laugh. How many really are praying for an hour a day much less “pray(ing) without ceasing?”

So, what is the solution or is there one? I don’t have it but there is One who does. Who invented time? In whose hands are the times of our lives? God! How can God possibly do anything to improve my schedule or organize my life? God is the master scheduler, the master organizer. Why do I say that? He created the universe, world, all creation on a schedule that would be a nightmare for anyone else. Six days and rested on day seven. Right on schedule and everything worked! How can God do anything with our lives? You may be thinking it would take a miracle but you have to remember our God is a God of miracles. He is used to making the impossible into the possible. How? I don’t know He just does.

The bottom line is that if we trust God with our time by investing in prayer, bible reading/study, church attendance, and service the time will not be lost. Instead, God will add time back to our lives by organizing and improving our lives. Quality will be increased. God was an expert at quality time long before it became popular. Our energy level will be increased and our health will improve from what it would have been without God. When you are too busy to pray, too busy to read His Word, too busy to go to church some would say you are too busy. The truth is those are the times when you need to pray even more, read His Word more, be even more faithful in church attendance. Try it. He will not disappoint you!!


DAY 12

Commitments

Let’s talk about commitments, commitments to some of the Christian disciplines. My first commitment was to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It took a year and a half before I made another commitment. That commitment was to pray each day. Jesus says that, “men ought to always pray and not faint (Luke 18:1).”

It took some time, several years but I made a commitment that I was going to be at church for services whenever I was not providentially hindered. The Bible tells us in Hebrews 10:25, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

Eventually I became convicted of the need to spend time reading, studying and memorizing God’s Word. Another commitment. Jesus tells us in Matthew 4:4, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.”

It was during a revival service that I became convicted of my need to be a better witness. In Romans 1:16 we are told, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth....”

Commitments by themselves do not a Christian make. But can there really be a Christian without any commitments?


DAY 13

Our Wages

My mother for a short period of time had a pet snake. She had caught it and put it in a cage outside. Whenever she fed the snake she would always have to wear leather gloves because the snake would try to bite her. It didn’t matter how long my mother kept the snake or how much time she spent with the snake it would still try to bite her.

We are told in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death.” Sin is much like my mother’s pet snake. It doesn’t matter how much time we spend with our pet sin it is still going to give us death. Actually the more time we expend upon our sin the more death that we will receive.

Payday for our sins does not begin upon our physical death. Payday for our sins begins immediately. With every sin we receive a wage. The deeper into sin that we go the more death that we receive. The more sin that we have the deader we are in every area of our life. Romans 8:5-6 is one of my favorites. I like the way the NIV puts it, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires, but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.”

“The mind of sinful man is death.” We have a choice each day. Let us choose life and peace!


DAY 14

Time For God

“So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.” - Exodus 24:18.

Do you know what two people did for 34 hours, 11 minutes, and 37 seconds during a weekend? It is commonly known as a kiss but in their case there must be another name for maintaining lip contact for such a long time. Rotterdam’s Baja Beach Club organized the event in an attempt to break the world record. 13 couples competed with the goal of maintaining lip contact while standing and to do so longer than the rest. The first couple dropped out at the two-hour mark. The winning couple, Neli van der Hoeven and Wanderley Costa e Silva received 6,900 dollars (equivalent of) in prize money. The club spokeswoman Pitra van der Laar said of the contestants, “During the first few hours, they kissed out of love, but during the last few you could tell they were in it to win.”

Isn’t it interesting how we usually find time to do the things we want to do? Not only do we find the time but we also find the energy to do those things. One of the things many of us have a desire to do but seem unable to accomplish is the spending of more time with our Lord. We have a desire to have the quiet time, to pray and to study His Word more but we don’t seem to be able to fit it into our schedule. There are so many things we have to do. We have to work; there are the family responsibilities, church responsibilities, and community responsibilities. By the time we finish with everything else we have little energy for a quiet time unless it includes sleep.

How was it that Moses was able to spend forty days and forty nights on the top of Mount Sinai? How was Jesus able to spend forty days and nights fasting in the wilderness? Moses and Jesus were supernaturally empowered by God. God provides supernatural energy for seeking Him and serving Him. Reorganize your priorities. Wake up thirty minutes earlier and spend that time with God. God will then provide the energy you need for everything else during the day. It is a matter of faith. Do you believe God has the power? If so do you believe He can and will do it in your life?


DAY 15

Have You Sinned?

In Romans 3:23 the Bible says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Before we can have salvation we must first realize our need for a Savior. Before we can be forgiven of our sins we must first realize that we have sinned.

One of my first experiences with sin that I remember was when I was four or five years old. My mother had brought us with her to do the shopping and I noticed a large glass bowl full of small knives. These knives were shiny and glittery. The green one was the one that I wanted. But it cost five cents and I didn’t have five cents and I knew my mother wouldn’t give me the money. So I reached into the bowl and took the green knife. I was a thief. I knew it was wrong but I did it anyway. It was definitely sin.

Usually I can tell that story to a group of people and ask them if they have ever stolen anything and most will hold up their hand. I can then ask if they have ever disobeyed their parents and usually the rest will hold up their hands. Or have they ever cheated, or lied, or deceived anyone?

I was a Christian but I still remember having a discussion with a man working with me. In this discussion I came to realize that it wasn’t just the things that I did or didn’t do that could be sin. I suddenly realized that I could sin through my thoughts. Taking those thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) was not an easy thing to do. At that point there was definitely a war raging between my old nature and my new nature.

Most of us can agree that we have sinned and if we have sinned we need a Savior because the apostle Paul also tells us in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death....” I’m glad that Paul goes on to tell us in Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Have you sinned? Have you called upon the name of the Lord? Do you know someone else that needs a Savior? Why not let them in on the Good News? I wish I had heard about it when I was a little boy with a green knife in my pocket.


DAY 16

The Benefits of Church

“These things I write to you though I hope to come to you shortly; but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” - I Timothy 3:14-15.

There are so many wonderful benefits from church attendance that it would be difficult to list them all. So many people that I talk to say that they just do not have time for church because of the busy lives they lead. However, if they could somehow comprehend the benefits church provides for them they would never miss a service. Taking a few hours a week to attend church services will when done faithfully bring order and coherence to every area of our lives. Instead of taking away time from us church attendance brings quality to every hour we live.

One of the more recent studies demonstrating the importance of church attendance is a Canadian psychiatric study. The study measured the impact of religious commitment with psychiatric patients. The results demonstrated that those patients “who worshipped more often also benefited more.” The study was published in the March 28, 2002 issue of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.

Dr. Marilyn Baetz, the professor who conducted the study, said, “regular worship helps in regulating behavior problems plus a sense of coherence and meaning to life - an important factor in overall treatment.”

The apostle Paul writing to Timothy also describes the importance of the church. The church is “the pillar and ground of the truth.” To take the church out of your life or to leave the church out is to leave out the “truth.” In many ways leaving the church out is to leave out the spiritual reality or truth of every situation and circumstance. However, when we include truth, the church we can sense a “meaning” and “coherence” in every area of our lives.

Once you establish the habit of church attendance you will never want to abandon it because you will know the difference that it makes for you and your family. Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together (Hebrews 10:25) as the church of the Living God.


DAY 17

Crude and Rude

“Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.” - James 3:3-6.

“Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.” - James 3:10.

A survey conducted by Public Agenda found that 79% believe that the lack of respect and courtesy in the United States is a serious problem and most believed it was becoming worse. Surprisingly many people admitted during the survey that they were rude themselves and more than a third admitted to using foul language in public. Those surveyed blamed their rudeness on a variety of things from overcrowding in public places to busy lives. Some researchers such as Harvard University professor Robert D. Putnam say that rudeness is a result of increasing social isolation in our society.

Being a pastor I live in a somewhat sheltered environment rarely hearing a rude or unkind word because people are careful what they say when they are around me. I have heard the argument from some people that they cannot control their speech but this is not true. We can control what we say if we have a desire to do so. No, it will not be without effort but we can do it just as people usually control what they say when they are at church or visiting with their pastor.

While I was a parole officer a young man was brought into the city jail on several offenses. At first I didn’t know who it was uttering the foulest most offensive language I had ever heard. When I asked the jailer I found out it was a son of a couple that went to our church and I knew the young man. When I walked up to the cell and said “hello” the tirade instantly ended and he said “Mr. Wrather.” He began speaking in a completely different way including phrases such as “yes, sir,” and “no, sir.” Since that time he has gone from bad to worse and has been in prison for several years. I still have hope, however, that this young man will turn to God.

Our social isolation will end as we become fully functioning members of the body of Christ (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Let us stop allowing our tongue to run and ruin our lives. Instead allow God to become the rudder that guides us into pathways of peace, gentleness, and kindness. As the apostle Paul says, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one (Colossians 4:6).”


DAY 18

Weeds of the Heart

“A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” - Luke 6:45.

The Fire Department in Denver, Colorado received a strange emergency call from the nearby city of Montbello. The woman who called claimed to be trapped in her home by tumbleweeds that had filled up her yard jamming against the house. Not only did they fill up her yard they had risen to a height of 16 feet. A spokesman for the Fire Department said there were “thousands” in the woman’s yard.

We have to wonder at what point did the woman in Montbello decide to call for help. Most likely the tumbleweeds piled up over a period of several hours or even days. She apparently waited until the situation was completely out of control. But the important thing to note is that she did finally ask for help.

When the weeds of bad thoughts, evil thoughts, impure thoughts are piling up in our heart at what point do we ask for help? At what point do we decide that instead of constantly imputing thoughts that are damaging we instead store up thoughts that are good? Do we wait until they have piled up to such a point that we are trapped? Do we wait until out of our mouths are coming hateful evil relationship damaging words? Do we wait until we are unable to make a good decision because our hearts are so polluted with evil?

We must be aggressive in controlling those weeds of evil thoughts or they will quickly overrun and ruin our lives. In Proverbs 4:23 we are told to “keep” our hearts or “guard” our hearts. We must filter or bring into subjection every thought, everything that enters our lives. The Bible tells us how to do that in II Corinthians 10:4-5, “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strong holds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” In the Name of Jesus we must take captive, take control of every thought, everything that enters our lives. If those thoughts are evil we must take them captive in the Name of Jesus protecting out hearts from those evil weeds.

Not only must we guard our hearts and avoid the pollution of our lives from evil we should at the same time fill our lives with good. The Bible tells us how to do that in Philippians 4:8-9, “Finally brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”

We must not wait until we are trapped and even destroyed by the weeds of the world. Guard your heart, take captive the evil in the Name of Jesus, and fill your heart with all the good things of God.


DAY 19

A Corrupted Conscience

“To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled.” - Titus 1:15.

In Albuquerque, New Mexico Amadeo Salguero was arrested for the carjacking of an Acura at the point of a gun from three people. The Acura had an excellent stereo system which most likely was what Salguero was after. Salguero was having difficulty operating the system and so he called one of his victims and asked, “I don't want there to be hard feelings, but, hey, how do you hook up your amp?" The call was traced to Salguero’s cell phone who lived just across the street from where the carjacking occurred.

One translation of Titus 1:15 instead of “defiled” says “corrupted” and both words could be used. With Amadeo Salguero we see a corruption of his conscience. His conscience is so corrupted that he sees little wrong with robbing someone at gunpoint. I’m sure he was quite shocked when the police arrived to arrest him after his call for help about operating the stereo system.

Recently I visited with a deputy sheriff after our church was broken into and he said that the people they were dealing with now are the children of those they were arresting ten to fifteen years ago. Hard to believe but corruption is being taught by the example and words of some parents. Of course the world itself is corrupted and constantly bombards the minds of all of us with its evil message. We should fear having a conscience that is not able to provide a moral guide and that does not know right from wrong or sees everything not as black and white but in shades of gray. Robert J. Little says, “ A seared conscience is one whose warning voice has been suppressed and perverted habitually, so that eventually instead of serving as a guide, it only confirms the person in his premeditatedly evil course.”

The solution for uncorrupting a corrupted conscience is found in Hebrews 9:14 which says, “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Once our conscience has been cleansed we should strive to keep it that way as we see in the example of the apostle Paul who says, “I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward and men (Acts 24:16).” In other words Paul strived always to keep his conscience clear or pure. We must do the same!


DAY 20

The End is Coming!

“Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea.” - Revelation 21:1.

Asteroid 2002 NT7 is projected to possibly hit the Earth on February 1, 2019 and it is massive being 1.2 miles (two km) wide apparently on a direct course to collide with our planet. Dr. Benny Peiser, an asteroid expert at the Liverpool John Moore’s University said, “Objects of this size only hit the Earth every one or two million years. In the worst case scenario, a disaster of this size would be global in its extent, would create a meltdown of our economic and social life, and would reduce us to Dark Age conditions.” However, a spokesman for the Royal Astronomical Society said, “This thing is the highest threat that has been cataloged, but the scale in terms of the threat keeps changing. If it did hit the Earth it would cause a continental-size explosion but it is a fairly remote possibility.”

The end is coming! The end is coming! The end is coming! But then we have been told, warned that the end would occur at some point in history. In the Book of Revelation we are told of several earth shaking events that are on their way. One is recorded in Revelation 8:5, “Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth. And there were noises, thundering, lightnings, and an earthquake.”

Even before 1990 there had already been 59 or so failed end of the world predictions. Others say there have been 200 or more failed predictions and it may be there have been many more, which were not widely recorded. Would it make any difference in the way we live if we had a date as to when the end would occur? As Christians we will never know the precise date but we do know the end is coming.

We know that our Lord is coming back and because we know that it should affect the way we live our lives. In Hebrews 10:24-25, we are told, “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.” That “Day” is approaching and is nearer than it has ever been in history. Paul tells us in Romans 13:11-13, “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy.”

We know the end is coming but until it comes let us live as we know we should and “so much the more as we (you) see the Day approaching.”


DAY 21

Runaway

He who is slow to wrath has great understanding, but he who is impulsive exalts folly. A sound heart is life to the body, but envy is rottenness to the bones. - Proverbs 14:29-30.

Another translation (the Message) puts Proverbs 14:30 as, “A sound mind makes for a robust body, but runaway emotions corrode the bones.”

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. - Galatians 5:22-23.

The good news, the great news, the wonderful news today is that Jennifer Wilbanks is alive and well!! The sad news is that Jennifer is a runaway. She is a runaway from at the very least the stress of a huge wedding that kept growing and growing. For a week, Jennifer Wilbanks of Duluth, Georgia was thought to have been kidnapped. As it is now known, she went out for a run and took a bus to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Jennifer is 32 years old and was to be married today in a huge wedding with some 600 guests expected. No one except the police gave any consideration to the possibility that Jennifer had skipped out on the biggest event of her life.

The actions of Jennifer Wilbanks may seem strange for some and for others of us they may be understandable. I think most of us have been under such stress at times that it would have been wonderful to have that stress removed from our lives. Very few would have taken the actions that Jennifer has taken but many have taken similar actions. Because every day across this world, there are people who have had all that they can take and they simply drop out. They drop out of their careers, lives, families and they leave it all behind. Some, most, tell others what they are doing and some do not. Stress works havoc on our emotions and can lead to making major mistakes. In fact, it can lead to destruction of most everything that is good in our lives when we let our emotions take control.

How can we avoid someday, unexpectedly, having a runaway in our own life? By having more of Jesus i.e. the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul in Galatians 5 speaks of the fruit of the Spirit. If you contemplate the different fruit mentioned you will see that this is the opposite of an emotionally stress driven runaway. Would “love” lead someone to have a runaway? Would “joy” lead someone to have a runaway? Would “peace” lead someone to have a runaway? Would “longsuffering” or “patience” make someone have a runaway? Would “kindness” result in a runaway? Would “goodness” bring about a runaway? Would “faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” cause someone to have a runaway? The answer to all of these questions, of course, is “No!”

You can prevent a runaway in your life by having more and more of Jesus in your life. The more of Jesus that you have in your life the more of the “fruit of the Spirit” that you will have in your life. Continuing to grow day by day as a child of God will protect you from self-destruction. To grow you must take advantage of the resources of God. The three primary resources of God are the Bible, prayer, and the church. Are you reading the Bible? Are you praying? Are you faithful in attending church if you are physically able? If not you are just asking for trouble and heading for a…runaway.

(Please note: The Training Manual is a work in progress. There are many subjects that need to be touched upon in a work such as this. So if you have questions feel free to contact me and I will try to answer your questions. If I cannot hopefully I can point you toward someone or some work that can.

wrather@dobsonteleco.com

Copyright 1996 - 2002. Ed Wrather. Permission is given for use of this material on a non-profit basis with source credited.



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