The value of weakness ∙

The value of weakness

My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9 

Philippians 4:11-13

 11 I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.

 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.

 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

“In recent decades, the world has changed dramatically; our knowledge of ourselves and our universe has increased, infrastructures have become globalized and technological developments have revolutionized the way we communicate with each other.”

“One consequence of these changes that has passed relatively unnoticed is that we each have an increasingly complex world to deal with in our daily lives, which can affect us in a number of ways – some of which may be detrimental to our well-being, and which we may not even have fully acknowledged” (https://www.lifesquared.org.uk/our-complex-world).

Modern life seems to be filled with unimaginable complexities and many seeming paradoxes. The Scriptures are complex and, in many ways, odd to us, if not even backward. If you want to be first, you must be last. If you want to save your life, you must lose it. And if you want to be strong, you must glory in your weakness (Stanley).

Because of the demands of life, we share everyday experiences and emotions. We know what it feels like to be disappointed. We know the pain of embarrassment, the sting of rejection, and the sorrow of failure. Too often, they expose our deepest secret fears and inadequacies. Such incidents can overwhelm us and send us into a cycle of despair and anger. But there is a more excellent way to respond.

Paul achieved tremendous personal contentment and peace. Over time he learned to view obstacles as opportunities, faults as freedoms, restrictions as releases, and ultimately defeats as victories. Paul found great value not in his strengths but rather in his weaknesses.

Why are weaknesses valuable?

They take us to the end of ourselves. They demonstrate our limitations and inabilities. And that is precisely the point. When we are strong in ourselves, we are weak in Christ. But when we are weak in ourselves, we are strong in Christ.

REFLECT & PRAY

For many of us, exhaustion has left its mark. We are despondent and frightened. We feel lonely and misunderstood. Melancholy has become our constant companion.

Father I am so weary from trying; I am depleted and discouraged. Help me learn to be weak in myself and strong in the Lord Jesus Christ.

INSIGHT

The indwelling presence of the Father is one of the many undreamed-of and wonderful gifts that the Father gave us at the moment we accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior. He lives in each of us. He has decided to make His unlimited resources available to us.

How exactly does this work? It is a mystery. With a bit of imagination, we can get to the bottom of it. Not everyone is interested in NFL football, but it does offer an excellent fantasy illustration. Consider Jerry Rice is considered the greatest football player of all time.

Jerry Rice owns just about every conceivable receiving record. The MVP of Super Bowl XXIII, Rice, who retired with three Super Bowl rings, caught 1,549 passes for 22,985 yards and 197 touchdowns during his 20-year-career. A model of durability and sustained excellence, Rice had more receiving yards in his ‘30s than in his ‘20s.

Suppose you wanted to go out and be a receiver and did not have a clue. But somehow, you can mysteriously change places with Jerry Rice. He came to indwell your body. Anything that he was able to do, he could now do in and through you. Are you ready to gear up and give it a try?

That is ultimately the question that the Father asks us. The Father does not remove the pressure, but He gives us His grace so that our difficulties work for us and not against us. We moved from bondage and drudgery to freedom. When we allow the Father to live His life through us from within, we experience His all-sufficient grace and strength.

When Paul accepted his affliction as a gift from God, it made it possible for God’s grace to go to work in his life. Then, God spoke to Paul and assured him of His grace. Whenever you are suffering, spend extra time in the Word of God; and you can be sure God will speak to you. He always has a special message for His children when they are afflicted (Wiersbe).

One more thing, we often ask, “Why”? The Father did not offer Paul explanations. Instead, the Father gave Paul a promise: My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Explanations and understanding have their place. But as children of the King, we do not depend on explanations; we live on promises. Feelings vary, but the Father’s promises never change. Promises generate faith, and faith engenders hope.

Release your fears to the Father who loves you. Let Him strengthen you. Nothing compares to the freedom that waits for you within His loving arms. Nothing will ever bring more completion to your heart and soul than knowing the strength of his indwelling, eternal power, and love (Stanley).

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© Dr. H 2022

7‑Eleven servants ∙

7‑Eleven servants

Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me. – John 12:26

Matthew 20:25-28

 25 But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them.

 26 But among you, it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant,

 27 and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave.

 28 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Thank Heaven for 7-Eleven! The 7‑Eleven brand is known and loved around the world. Many of their iconic products have become a part of American culture. At 7‑Eleven, they are customer-obsessed. They are a success story fueled by knowing and serving the needs of their customers. Their focus stays fixed on making life easier for customers.

They “Give the customers what they want, when, and where they want it.” This simple idea made them a marketplace leader. 7‑Eleven has a legacy of innovation. They virtually created the convenience store industry. They were among the first to offer 24-hour service. 7‑Eleven figured out that being a servant means being on duty and willing to serve, even when it is not convenient. Their willingness to serve makes what is seemingly inconvenient convenient.

The Father seeks 7‑Eleven servants. The Father would probably be quite pleased if we were to coin a new motto: thank Heaven for 7‑Eleven servants of the King.

John 12:26 Anyone who wants to be my disciple must follow me because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.

Jesus called His followers servants. Following the Lord Jesus Christ involves becoming a servant of the King. What does it look like to be a successful servant?

Our eternal destiny is secure when we accept the Lord Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. At that moment, the Father could take us home, and we could enjoy being in His presence forevermore. Why does He leave us behind to live out our appointed number of days on this earth?

There are many correct answers to this question. One of the more important ones is that the Father wants us to be His servants on earth. To do so, we must develop a servant mentality. Ultimately the Father is in charge. His servants are no longer me-centric. Instead, they become “Father-centric.” We are here to serve the Father. It is not the other way around. A servant mentality realizes our purpose on earth is not to serve ourselves. Instead, our purpose is to be the Father’s servants.

This is a big hurdle indeed! But once we are on the other side, we have the opportunity to be genuinely successful servants. A 7‑Eleven servant gives of their time, resources, energy, money, loyalty, and expertise. So it should be for children of the King who surrender, release, and turnover all they have to the Father. The Father has no use for our stuff. He has no intention of keeping it. The Father returns all of it back to us. The Father asks that what He returns to us is used wisely in His service.

Our purpose for living is to please Him. He, in turn, will place people in our lives to serve and care for.

Matthew 10:24 Disciples are not greater than their teacher, and slaves are not greater than their master.

The Message Bible paraphrases it, “A student doesn’t get a better desk than their teacher. A laborer doesn’t make more money than their boss.” (MSG)

On NCIS, Special Agent in Charge, Leroy Jethro Gibbs, is “The Boss.” All the special agents that report to him call him “Boss.”

When we decide to become a servant of the Father, we surrender being the boss of our little world, not to mention the universe. Our thinking becomes, I serve the Boss. I am a servant of the King of kings and Lord of lords. The struggle is over, and I am more than content to join Him in His kingdom’s purposes.

REFLECT & PRAY

Be careful where you sit; choosing humility is far superior to being humiliated before your peers and higher-ups.

Father I want to be Your servant; develop in me a servant mindset. Encourage me to act it out.

INSIGHT

Once a child of the King willingly decides to be a servant, appropriate attitudes will follow. Servants understand that regardless of their ranking in social circles or society, they are always willing to take the lowest place.

Rather than claim a place among the great, they position themselves below their own rank. It is far better to be humble than to be humiliated. It is far superior to begin at a lower level and be invited to come up rather than being demoted. It is better to assume a humble place and be promoted than to be presumptuous and reproved.

Proverbs 25:6-7

 6 Do not honor yourself before the king or push for a place among the great.

 7 It’s better to wait for an invitation to the head table than to be sent away in public disgrace.

The Hebrew term translated as honor yourself or put yourself forward is hadar. Part of its semantic domain is to claim honor, seek favoritism or respect, thrust yourself forward, exalt yourself, or be puffed up.

Luke 14:8-11

 8 When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited?

 9 The host will come and say, “Give this person your seat.” Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!

 10 Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, “Friend, we have a better place for you!” Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests.

 11 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

“Humility is a fundamental grace in the Christian life, and yet it is elusive; if you know you have it, you have lost it! It has well been said that humility is not thinking meanly of ourselves; it is simply not thinking of ourselves at all. Jesus is the greatest example of humility, and we would do well to ask the Holy Spirit to enable us to imitate Him (Philippians 2:1-16)” (Wiersbe).

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© Dr. H 2022

Iconic glory ∙

Iconic glory

Who is the King of glory? – Psalms 24:8

Psalms 24:7-10

 7 Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter.

 8 Who is the King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty; the LORD, invincible in battle.

 9 Open up, ancient gates! Open up, ancient doors, and let the King of glory enter.

 10 Who is the King of glory? The LORD of Heaven’s Armies– he is the King of glory.

The “Miracle on Ice” occurred at the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, on February 22. The Soviet Union had won the gold medal in five of the six previous Winter Olympic Games and was favored to win again. Many of the players on the Soviet team were experienced, professionals. By contrast, the United States team was the youngest in the tournament and U.S. national team history.

Despite the seemingly impossible challenges, the US team won. The victory became one of the most iconic moments of the Games and U.S. sports. The television call of the game’s final seconds by Al Michaels for ABC was equally well-known, in which he declared: “Do you believe in miracles? YES!” In 1999, Sports Illustrated named the “Miracle on Ice” the top sports moment of the 20th century.

In the Scriptures, contact transfers uncleanness from one object or person to another, not so with holiness. Things are declared holy and set aside for the Lord’s purposes by His spoken word or by His immediate presence.

Exodus 3:5 “Do not come any closer,” the LORD warned. “Take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.

The Father God alone is majestic, iconic holiness. He is unique, and there is none like Him. He is the King of glory.

Psalm 24 recalls and celebrates the Father’s iconic glory. David conquered and took possession of the backwater city of Jebus, a Jebusite citadel. It became known as the city of David (1 Chronicles 11:5-7).

It may well be that Psalm 24 was written by David in association with his arrival with the ark of the covenant at Jerusalem. The ark is the place where The Father’s presence dwelt on earth during the days of the kings of Israel.

When David arrived with the ark, the presence of the Lord entered the city. And Jerusalem was forever consecrated, holy, and set aside for the Lord’s purposes. Jerusalem, the city of David, was transformed into Jerusalem, the city of the Lord.

REFLECT & PRAY

The Father dwells in unmatched magnificence and glory and deserves our highest honor and commitment.

Father sadly, I only get momentary glimpses of Your beautiful and delightful glory. Draw me closer that I may dwell in Your presence.

INSIGHT

Psalms 24:1 The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains the world, and those who dwell in it.

The living God made the heavens, the earth, and all other created things, which are His personal possessions.

It is incumbent upon each individual and each generation to seek the Father and to find Him. As children of the King seek to enter into and dwell in His presence, He welcomes us. We are honored to experience the profound pleasure of His lovingkindness.

But Psalm 24 is not about us; it is all about Him. It echoes with shouts of joy and acclamation that He is the King of glory! Reflect on what this means. To be the King of glory means that the highest honor belongs to Him alone. There is none higher to whom we owe allegiance.

Hebrews 6:13 When God made the promise to Abraham since there was no one greater to swear by, God took an oath in his own name,

The Lord is not only glorious; He is the King of glory. He is the greatest in glory, the pinnacle of excellence, the mountaintop of majesty, the summit of splendor. He is the eternally blessed God (Romans 9:5) (Stanley).

Psalms 24:8-10

 8 Who is the King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, The LORD mighty in battle.

 9 Lift up your heads, O gates, and lift them, O ancient doors, That the King of glory may come in!

 10 Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, He is the King of glory.

This celebration is marked by a loud rhetorical chant and reciprocal response. David exclaims that the King of glory is the Lord Almighty, Creator, Sustainer, and King of all. He sings in awestruck wonder. David proclaims that although the Father is above all, He is also welcoming and intimately accessible. All children of the King are invited to enter His presence. The King of glory is knowable in our human experience. We can know Him, be empowered by Him, and trust Him to fight on our behalf.

How do we experience and live out the reality of the presence of our warrior king?

When the Lord Jesus Christ entered our hearts, He made it possible for every child of the King to actualize His presence. As we surrender control and allow our King to reign within our hearts, we experience His pleasure.

“This Psalm is accomplished in us when Jesus enters our hearts as our King to reign, and it will have its full realization when the earth and its population welcome Him as its Lord” (F. B. Meyer).

Who is the Lord? What is He like as a person? What are His nature and character? He is revealed in Psalm 24 as strong and mighty in battle, the Lord of hosts, and the King of glory.

Yahweh is the Lord of hosts. He is sovereign over all His creation. The Hebrew word tsaba, translated as hosts (hosts does not mean much to the average Bible reader), has been transliterated into English and other languages as Sabaoth. The Hebrew word tsaba refers to a vast multitude, an army, troops, etc. It is frequently translated as almighty, all-powerful, supreme. The expression may be translated as the Lord who is the strongest of all, the Lord who has more power than anyone(UBS), or The LORD of Heaven’s Armies (NLT).

Close your eyes and imagine our Father as a divine warrior king. He is omnipotent and unconquerable. As such, He has the power to deliver from calamity and chaos to all those who seek Him (Jacobson and Tanner).

Nevertheless, this all-powerful, unconquerable King is approachable. He is our Abba Father. He beckons every child of the King to come to Him.

Matthew 11:28 Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.  

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© Dr. H 2022

The first will be last ∙

The first will be last ∙

Many who are first will be last. – Matthew 19:30

Matthew 19:23-30

 23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, I tell you the truth, it is very hard for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

 24 I’ll say it again – it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!”

 25 The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.

 26 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible.”

 27 Then Peter said to him, “We’ve given up everything to follow you. What will we get?”

 28 Jesus replied, I assure you that when the world is made new, and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

 29 And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life.

 30 But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.

We have a strong personal drive to feel good about ourselves and find meaning and significance. We grow up watching those we are closest to and admire the most. We tend to “catch” their values and goals like we catch a cold.

In the world, we know how things work. What we want, we strive to get. What really matters most? Success? Possessions? Status? All these things contribute to our sense of well-being. But there is a catch. These things provide a measure of comfort and can impede obtaining what matters the most.

Jesus said that it was very hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:23). Why is this so?

If we have learned to depend only on ourselves and found success in this world, why would we need God? Put another way, if we trust in who we are and what we do or have, why would we need to trust God?

Why is it hard for the rich to enter heaven? For the same reason, it’s hard for the strong, bright, or politically connected. They tend to rely on their own resources; pride keeps them from trusting God’s resources (Stanley).

REFLECT & PRAY

In the kingdom of God, the Father has turned things upside down. Losing is winning; winning is losing.

Father I recognize that I have caught my values and priorities from the world. Encourage and strengthen me to abandon my earthly, soulish values in exchange for Your heavenly values.

INSIGHT

In the kingdom of God, things seem backward. They are turned upside down from what we expected. Jesus stated, “Many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Matthew 19:30).

We gain by losing. Jim Elliot wrote: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.”

Matthew 10:39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it, but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.

It seems as though that part of the human DNA is competitiveness. We want the best for ourselves, and we strive to obtain it. This entire perspective is upside down from what the Father envisions for us. It reflects the world’s values and priorities, not those of God’s kingdom.

The Last Supper occurred the evening before the crucifixion. This was a crucial time for the Lord Jesus Christ and His disciples. However, the disciples had not fully grasped what would happen the next day. The Person that they had devoted the last 3 1/2 years of their lives to was about to die a gruesome and horrid death for the sins of the world.

But their focus was entirely on themselves and their prominence and importance. They were totally indifferent to the monumental pathos of the moment concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. They were so occupied with themselves; that they were oblivious to Him.

Luke 22:24-26

 24 Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them.

 25 Jesus told them, In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people . . .

 26 But among you, it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.

“It is one of the most poignantly tragic things in the gospel story that the disciples could quarrel about precedence in the very shadow of the cross. The seating arrangements at a Jewish feast were very definite. The table was arranged like a square with one side left open. At the top side of the square, in the center, sat the host. On his right sat the guest of first honor; on his left the second guest; second on his right, the third guest; second on his left the fourth guest; and so on round the table.”

“The disciples had been quarreling about where they were to sit, for they had not yet rid themselves of the idea of an earthly kingdom. Jesus told them bluntly that the standards of his kingdom were not the standards of this world. A king on earth was evaluated by the power he exercised.”

“One of the commonest titles for a king in the middle east was Euergetes, which is the Greek for Benefactor. Jesus said, ‘It is not the king but the servant who obtains that title in my kingdom’” (Barclay).

Sadly, fallen humanity chases after recognition and prominence. As we look within, we may recognize, to our chagrin, that we probably have done the same thing that night!

To become great in God’s kingdom, you must become the servant of all.

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© Dr. H 2022

Vigilant flexibility ∙

Vigilant flexibility

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise. – Ephesians 5:15

Ephesians 5:15-19

 15 So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.

 16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.

 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly but understand what the Lord wants you to do.

 18 Don’t be drunk with wine because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit,

 19 singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.

In June 2020, America entered a difficult new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. The remainder of 2020 warranted flexibility and tolerance, trying different ways to adapt to new evidence. In a country with such fractured politics, this was no small challenge.

That challenge was a function of a complicated public-health picture combined with contradictory public attitudes. Even as economic activity resumed, COVID-19 cases rose in many locations. This was not a second wave. Instead, it was a series of spikes of the first surge. In the following months, some States would see infections rise while others fell. The trick would be to manage the constant risk of COVID-19 while restarting normal life.

Instead of a “binary choice” between lockdowns and total freedom, this phase called for “vigilant flexibility,” as states and cities adapted to shifting circumstances. Public officials should strongly encourage masks and distancing as the economy tentatively reopens, and when hotspots arise, they should track the origins and “be ready to curtail specific activities.” We “need to focus on building public confidence” and instilling “the patience to get through what could be a hard fall and winter” (Scott Gottlieb and Yuval Levin June 14, 2020, WSJ).

How should the children of the King live in uncertain times when seen and unseen hazards and difficulties abound? As children of the King, we have a special responsibility. It requires a delicate balance. We are to stand firm upon the foundation of the Truth that we have received and yet be caring, affable, and flexible. We should be willing to modify our words and reactions.

Proverbs 27:12 A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.

Vigilant flexibility is what is needed! The apostle Paul told the Father’s children how to live wisely. Walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. – Ephesians 5:15-16

REFLECT & PRAY

The Father has set the bar high for each of His children. But He is also made it possible to attain and realize His standards through the work of the Holy Spirit within us.

Father teach us to walk circumspectly and exercise diligent flexibility in the perilous times in which we live. Encourage us to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

INSIGHT

The Greek word translated as carefully, circumspectly is akribos. Akribos has a sense of exactness or thoroughness. When it comes to ethical decisions and behavior, it is often translated diligently, perfectly, circumspectly, or accurately. In other words, “pay close attention to how you behave” (UBS).

Consider how a cat can walk on top of a very thin narrow fence without falling. They are careful where they place each paw as they navigate their way. They walk circumspectly.

How do we live wisely?

Be filled with the Holy Spirit.

At a minimum, the Holy Spirit can be understood as a positive influence and a supernatural power source. He becomes our guide and companion as we navigate our way through life’s choices. The Holy Spirit is just the power source we need to be able to live wisely and walk circumspectly. He provides direction and the ability to accomplish what the Father sets before us.

The Greek verb translated as filled, be full is pleroo. Pleroo means to fill completely, to make full. In this context, it has the sense of being controlled or under the influence. It is contrasted to being intoxicated with alcoholic beverages.

Being filled has to do with control or influence. We take on the characteristics of what controls us. “In other words, the one who is filled is characterized by that which fills him, whether it be fruits of unrighteousness or righteousness (Phil 1:11)” (Hoehner).

In the Greek language, the verb is a command.  In simple English, it is a command, not a suggestion. The Father requires us to be filled continuously. Thus it could be accurately translated, “Be constantly, moment by moment, being controlled by the spirit” (Wuest).

The results of being full of the Holy Spirit continuously have a dramatic and wonderful effect. “Being drunk with wine leads to dissipation but being filled by the Spirit leads to joy in fellowship and obedience to the commands of the Lord’s will . . .” (Hoehner).

As we learn to live being filled or under the direction and empowerment of the Holy Spirit, our wisdom grows, and our life choices improve.

Philippians 1:27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ . . . standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.

“So, what Paul is saying is: ‘You and I know full well the privileges and the responsibilities of being a Roman citizen. You know full well how even in Philippi, so many miles from Rome, you must still live and act as a Roman does. Well then, remember that you have an even higher duty than that. Wherever you are, you must live as befits a citizen of the kingdom of God.’”

“What does Paul expect from them? He expects them to stand fast. The world is full of Christians on the retreat, who, when things become difficult, play down their Christianity. True Christians stand fast, and unashamed in any company. He expects unity; they are to be bound together in one spirit.”

“Let the world quarrel; Christians must be united. He expects a certain unconquerability. Often, evil seems invincible; but Christians must never abandon hope or give up the struggle. He expects a cool, calm courage. In times of crisis, others may be nervous and afraid; Christians will still be serene, in control of themselves and of the situation” (Barclay).

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© Dr. H 2022

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