Sunday, September 19, 2021

Are You Willing to Leave the Prison?

In the early 1900s, the escape artist Harry Houdini claimed he could set himself free from any jail cell in the country. Wherever he went, he issued a challenge to be locked up in the city’s jail. He always came through as promised, except for one occasion when something went wrong.
Houdini entered the jail in his street clothes and the heavy metal door clanged shut behind him. He took from his belt a piece of wire and got to work trying to pick the lock. He had easily picked the locks in other jail cells, but something was unusual about this lock.
For thirty minutes he tried picking the lock but made no progress. An hour passed and he still couldn’t unlock the door. After two hours, he leaned on the door in frustration, and to his surprise, it swung open. Houdini didn’t know it, but the door had been unlocked the entire time. (Mature Years, 1993, p.81).
Jesus began His ministry by saying, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives…” (Luke 4:18). Jesus wasn’t talking about letting criminals out of prisons, but freeing those in spiritual prisons being held captive by Satan (2 Tim. 2:26).
Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, He unlocked the prison doors and calls us to come out of the jail cell into freedom (Gal. 5:13). Many people stay imprisoned because they aren’t willing to leave. When God miraculously released Peter from prison, he willing left it (Acts 12:5-10). If we aren’t willing to walk out, we will stay incarcerated, just like the unlocked door kept Houdini inside.
Are you willing to leave whatever is keeping you in bondage? “If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). Walk out of that prison.
BIBLE STUDY  Is the doctrine of “Original Sin” in Scripture?
Making Life Count Ministries
P.O. Box 680174
Prattville, Alabama 36068-0174  Twitter: @KentCrockett

Sunday, September 12, 2021

The Frozen Crew

On October 11, 1775, the whaler ship Herald stumbled upon the apparently vacant schooner Octavius drifting among the icebergs west of Greenland. The crew of Herald boarded Octavius and discovered the crew of 28 sailors below deck, all frozen. The frozen captain appeared to be making his last entry in the logbook, just before he died. 

The last date recorded in the book was November 11, 1762, which meant that the ship and frozen crew had been drifting in the Artic waters for thirteen years.

Jesus said, “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matt. 22:14). Someone jokingly “translated” this verse to say, “Many are cold, and a few are frozen.” I’d rather be with the chosen few than with the frozen crew.
Unfortunately, many churches today are like the crew on Octavius—cold and frozen. They go through religious rituals, but they don’t preach the gospel and are void of spiritual life. “They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly” (2 Tim. 3:5 NLT).
Compare the frozen church with the early church that was on fire for God, filled with zeal, “and everyone kept feeling a sense of awe” (Acts 2:43). Is it possible that “the sense of awe” can return to the church today? Absolutely. We have the same Holy Spirit as the early church. We just need to allow Him to take control of our lives and obey what He calls us to do.
If you are a member in a cold, frozen church, you will be better off to get involved in a church that’s preaching God’s Word and is full of spiritual life. Life is too short spend another thirteen years drifting around with a frozen crew.
BIBLE STUDY  What does it mean to repent?
RECOMMENDED READING Amazing Stories & Daily Devotionals (365 devotionals for every day of the year—paperback or eBook)
Making Life Count Ministries
P.O. Box 680174
Prattville, Alabama 36068-0174  Twitter: @KentCrockett

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Tearing Down Idols

Years ago, evangelist James Robison's ministry was in desperate need of financial help. In what appeared to be an answer to prayer, someone donated over a million dollars’ worth of ancient artifacts that could be sold to meet the ministry’s financial obligations.
On the day the collectors were to purchase the relics, God spoke to James’ heart that the artifacts were idols that needed to be destroyed. Although the items would bring top dollar with those interested in fine art, they had been used in pagan worship in foreign countries.
What would you have done? You have a large ministry in need of help. Surely it would be for the good of the kingdom to take this gift and pay off the bills. But James refused to trust in the idols to provide for his ministry. In what appeared to be insane from man’s point of view, James and the donor broke them into pieces and threw them into a lake.
Even though James was in a financial crisis, he knew God couldn’t bless his ministry if he trusted idols to meet his needs. His stand for uncompromising integrity also set an unforgettable example of not bowing down to idols. Today James' ministry, LIFE Outreach International, is blessing the world with both food and the gospel. This would not be the case if he had placed his faith in an idol.
The apostle John wrote, “Little children, guard yourself from idols.” An idol is anything that is more important to you than God. Could a career be an idol? Maybe. How about a hobby? It’s quite possible. You have to check your own heart to see if there are any idols in there (Ezek. 14:3-7).
BIBLE STUDY  “Is it possible to resist God’s grace?”
Making Life Count Ministries
P.O. Box 680174
Prattville, Alabama 36068-0174  Twitter: @KentCrockett

Sunday, August 29, 2021

The Power of Unbelief

Although Jesus wanted to heal many people in His hometown, He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.” (Matt. 13:58). Years ago when I lived in Kansas, I knew a man named Tom. When Tom walked, it was as if he were stepping on stickers. I asked him if he had injured his feet. 

“No,” he explained. “I was born with a problem with the nerves in my feet. Doctors told me that surgery could not correct the problem and I would have to learn to live with it. I’ve had constant pain in my feet every day of my life.”
I asked if I could pray for God to heal him. “Yeah, I guess so,” he replied, as if he knew it wouldn’t do any good. And so I asked God to heal his feet and take away his pain. I didn’t feel like anything had happened when I prayed. He didn’t tell me that his feet tingled as I prayed, which would have been a nice confirmation of being healed. He slowly hobbled away, just like he had walked before.
Two days later, I saw him walking down the street and he wasn’t limping! I ran over to him. “Tom, you’re walking normally. What happened?”  “Well, the day after you prayed I woke up and the pain was gone. I haven’t had pain since then.”
“That’s amazing!” I exclaimed. “God did a miracle and healed your feet!” But I couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t excited. He wasn’t even smiling. He said, “The pain is gone but I don’t believe it.”
“What? You don’t believe it? How can you not believe it? The pain that you’ve had every day is gone!” Again he said, “I just don’t believe it. It’s just too hard to believe. The doctors said I would always have pain in my feet.” As he walked away, I was dumbfounded.
A week later I saw him hobbling as he had before. When he saw me, he said, “Well, the pain came back, just like I thought it would. I knew it was too good to be true.”
I believe God miraculously healed him, but his unbelief prevented his healing from being permanent. He refused to acknowledge the miracle or thank God for healing him. His reaction reminded me of the Scripture: “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks…and their foolish heart was darkened” (Rom. 1:21).
Unbelief refuses to acknowledge God can do what He says. I believe if Tom had given thanks to God and used it as a testimony, his feet would have remained healed. God wants us to live with expectant faith, and He wants to hear us sincerely thank Him from our hearts when He does answer our prayers.  
BIBLE STUDY  “Who were the Sadducees?”
Making Life Count Ministries
P.O. Box 680174
Prattville, Alabama 36068-0174  Twitter: @KentCrockett 

Sunday, August 22, 2021

A Modern-Day Cornelius Story

God gave Pharaoh two dreams about the future and then gave Joseph the interpretation. Joseph told him “God has told Pharaoh what He is about to do” (Gen. 41:25). The dreams told him how to prepare for a coming famine. 

Sometimes the Lord will give a dream about something that will happen in the future so the recipient will respond to the information. Jim Green, Executive Director of The Jesus Film Project, wrote in his monthly report:

A Jesus Film team was driving to a film showing site in a Muslim nation. The team prayed that God would go before them and open doors of opportunity and give them safety. Just before they arrived at the village, a policeman flagged down their car, saying that an Islamic teacher needed a ride. The officer made the introductions and asked if they could help. Feeling it was a necessary risk, they agreed and offered him  a ride, and continued towards the town.

You can imagine the anxiety the team when the teacher asked, “Tell me, are you the ones planning to tell people about God?” They answered, “Yes, we are.” Apprehension turned to astonishment as the teacher told the team about a dream he had. “I was told [in the dream] to come to this spot in the road, at this time, and that I would encounter someone who would tell me about God. It must be you.” (Jesus Film newsletter, July 8, 2005).

The team gave him some literature and invited him to see the film that night, which he did. It was similar to Cornelius seeing a vision telling him to send men to Joppa to meet Peter, who was staying at Simon the tanner’s house by the sea (Acts 10:1-35). God loves everyone and knows how to speak to those who desire to know Him. The Lord led the film team to him to explain the good news of Jesus, and I’m sure the man will never forget the car pulling up to the exact spot in the road at the right time, just like he saw in the dream.
Making Life Count Ministries
P.O. Box 680174
Prattville, Alabama 36068-0174  Twitter: @KentCrockett

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Fence Laws

When I was a small boy, my mother worried about me running into the street, so my parents put up a fence around our yard. The day after it was installed, my mom looked out the window and saw me climbing over the fence! The fence, which was meant to keep me in the yard, only increased my desire to get out.

In Jesus’ day, the religious Pharisees thought the best way to keep people from breaking God’s Law was to build a fence around that Law, even though the Lord never told them to do this. They invented 1,500 additional man-made restrictions called “fence laws” to keep people from sinning.

God said, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8) and told them to not work on that day. The Pharisees felt it necessary to define “work,” so they created 39 categories of prohibited work to prevent people from breaking the Sabbath. Here are just four of the fence laws:

   You could not spit on the Sabbath because it would disturb the dust on the ground, making you guilty of plowing. Jesus purposely violated this fence law by spitting on the ground and making mud to put on the blind man’s eyes (John 9:6) 
   You could not swat a fly because you would be guilty of hunting.
    A woman could not look at her reflection because she might see a gray hair and pluck it out, which would be doing work.
    You couldn’t carry “a burden.” They defined a burden as anything you couldn’t carry on your little finger. Jesus healed a lame man on the Sabbath and told him to take up his pallet, violating this fence law (John 5:8-10). He told the Pharisees, “You weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers” (Luke 11:46).

The people became so burdened down trying to keep these 1,500 regulations that they dreaded the Sabbath day. God intended it to be a day of rest, but it became a day of misery. If you are burdened down in your spiritual life and not enjoying your relationship with God, it may be because you’re following legalist rules rather than following God’s Spirit.

The Christian life is not about fences, but about Christ. And just to make sure you don’t get burdened down, He said, “My burden is light” (Matt. 11:30).
CLICK HERE to learn more about the stupid rules of the Pharisees.
Making Life Count Ministries
P.O. Box 680174
Prattville, Alabama 36068-0174  Twitter: @KentCrockett 

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Would You Have Passed the Test?

When Crawford Hill was a boy, he applied for a job at a local store. Mr. Peters, the storeowner, told him to go into the attic. “You will find a long, deep box up there,” he said. “Sort through all the junk in the box and separate the things that need to be saved from the things we need to throw away."

Crawford went up the stairs into the hot attic and began sorting through the box. For the next few hours, he separated bent nails from the good ones, and kept everything that was worth salvaging. When he got to the bottom of the box, he noticed a $20 bill laying on the bottom.
He scooped it up and ran downstairs, holding it in the air and shouting, "Mr. Peters! Look what I found in the box!" Then he handed it to the store owner. Mr. Peters smiled because he knew he had found a boy to work in his store.
The old junk box was just a test. He had filled the box with nails, screws, and other items to test his faithfulness—to see if he would work in the hot attic without complaining, even though he didn't understand the purpose for the job. He planted the $20 bill at the bottom of the box to test his honesty. If he didn't report finding the money, he knew he couldn't be trusted with the cash register. Crawford passed the test. Years later Mr. Peters retired and turned his business over to Crawford to manage. (Making Today Count for Eternity, p.45-46)
Did you know that you are sorting through a junk box at your job? You are sorting through the box whenever you’re faced with a difficulty. God is watching to see if you'll be faithful and honest, especially when you don't understand why you are going through it. Remember, it's a test. It's only a test.
I hope you'll hear your Master say, "Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master." (Matt. 25:21)
Making Life Count Ministries
P.O. Box 680174
Prattville, Alabama 36068-0174  Twitter: @KentCrockett