Has a bad situation defined you?

Now behold, I have made you today as a fortified city and as a pillar of iron and as walls of bronze against the whole land, to the kings of Judah, to its princes, to its priests, and to the people of the land. – Jeremiah 1:18

2 Thessalonians 3:3-5

 3 But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.

 4 We have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command.

 5 May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.

Scientists are unraveling the mystery of a bug with the rather ominous name of the diabolical ironclad beetle (Phloeodes diabolicus). This variety of ironclad beetle has one of the toughest natural exoskeletons scientists have ever seen. The insect’s armor is so durable that it is almost uncrushable in most cases. It can survive being stomped on or even getting run over by a car.

The Air Force is funding research to develop stronger, tougher, more durable materials. An extreme close-up of the beetle reveals a jigsaw puzzle-like seam where two exoskeletal plates meet on its back. As such, it can bear 39,000 times its own body’s weight without being crushed. To put this in perspective, it is comparable to a 150-pound person surviving the seemingly crushing weight of over 7 million pounds.

Scientists have already created a man-made imitation using fiber-reinforced plastics. They are stronger and more rigid than other aerospace materials currently in use (cbsnews.com/news/ October 21, 2020).

Reflect for a moment. This marvelous and intelligently designed extraordinary structure was conceived in the Father’s mind.

If He can make exceedingly pressure-resistant bugs, can He strengthen the children of the King to endure the seemingly crushing vicissitudes of life?

1 Corinthians 2:3-5

 3 I came to you in weakness – timid and trembling.

 4 And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit.

 5 I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God.

REFLECT & PRAY

When God wants to do an impossible task, He takes an impossible man and crushes him” (Alan Redpath).

Father more and more, the dark days in which we live resemble those of the days of Noah. Draw me close to You and make me strong, resistant to being crushed.

INSIGHT

Times are tough. However, as children of the King, we do not have to let a bad situation define who we are. The Father can make His children more resilient than the times in which we live.

People are defiantly rebellious against the Father and His truth. This is not unusual, and it has occurred many times in human history. The first historical record of large numbers of people hardening their hearts against the Father was in the days of Noah.

Genesis 6:5 The LORD observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil.

It is no coincidence that the Lord Jesus Christ observed that as it was in the days of Noah, so it would be when He returned to set up His kingdom.

Luke 17:26-27

 26 And just as it happened in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man:

 27 they were eating, they were drinking, they were marrying, they were being given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all.

Sadly, people stubbornly choose to harden their hearts. How tragic this is true even of children of the King.

Zechariah 7:11-12

 11 But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears from hearing.

 12 They made their hearts like flint so that they could not hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets; therefore great wrath came from the LORD of hosts.

When stubborn people refuse to listen and harden their hearts like flint, the Father counters. He sought out a man whom he would harden even more than the obstinate, rebellious nation of Israel. Ezekiel was such a man. Ezekiel would be able to resist and stand up against them. The Hebrew name Ezekiel means hardened by God.

Father assures Ezekiel that he will be fully equipped to meet and overcome the obstinate people of Israel. He strengthens Ezekiel and makes him harder than flint. He will have the physical, spiritual, and emotional resources required to meet the challenge of his assignment. It is already a done deal.

Ezekiel 3:9 I have made your forehead harder than flint – like diamond! So don’t be

afraid of them or fear their angry looks, even though they are rebels.

The Father strengthened Ezekiel and made him tough, resilient, willing, and able to take on all opposition. He hardened the forehead of Ezekiel so that it was he would be as hard as the hardest rock. The Hebrew word translated as flint or diamond is tsor. Tsor refers to a hard pebble or flint, perhaps obsidian.

The word picture of a forehead expresses determination or defiance. Ezekiel’s determination would not buckle when he confronts the rebellious house of Israel. Pause for a moment and visualize him challenging the opposition. Can you picture this God-prepared, hard, resistant profit standing up and saying, “Give me your best shot?” And then following up with, “Is that all you got?”

Ezekiel has all of the divine protection required to complete his assignment. He is tough-minded and laser-focused yet tenderhearted toward the Father.

Ezekiel’s assignment is to confront the rebellious nation of Israel. He has been appointed as a watchman.

Ezekiel 3:17 Son of man, I have appointed you as a watchman for Israel. Whenever you receive a message from me, warn people immediately.

Repentance and transformation are by no means guaranteed. The only certainty is that Father’s Words will be heard.  In many ways, it is a thankless job.

Ezekiel 2:5 Whether they listen or refuse to listen – for remember, they are rebels – at least they will know they have had a prophet among them.

“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those who speak it” (George Orwell).  

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© Dr. H 2023

Guided by principle, grounded in purpose ∙

A man who makes a vow to the LORD or makes a pledge under oath must never break it. He must do exactly what he said he would do. – Numbers 30:2

Matthew 5:33-37

 33 “You have also heard that our fathers were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the LORD.’

 34 But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne.

 35 And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King.

 36 Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black.

 37 Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.

The 21st century has been marked by a precipitous slide away from objective fact-finding and reporting. Regrettably, much News is now so often biased Fake News that we no longer know who or what to believe. Even our fact-checkers online have failed us. Sadly, the phrase repeated again and again in courtrooms regarding sworn testimony has become almost meaningless to almost everyone. “I Swear to tell the Truth, the Whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth, so help me God.”

Former New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani stated in 2018, “Truth isn’t truth.”

What does genuine news look like? The Wall Street Journal has dedicated itself to answering that question. Their stated objective is to present information that is: Guided by principle, grounded in purpose.

“United under the banner ‘free markets, free people,’ The Wall Street Journal Opinion section has long served as a forum for intelligent, values-driven commentary. While we aim to persuade, every word we publish is the product of rigorous reporting, research, and debate. And though we uphold the same standards, we operate completely independently from the newsroom” (Street Journal Opinion).

To be guided by principle, we must find and stand upon principles grounded in the Truth of the Word of God. This presupposes that the Father God exists and that His Word is indeed the Absolute Truth.

Of all people on earth, the Jewish people were chosen to receive the Truth of God and preserve it for all humanity. They were to meditate on it day and night, hide it in their hearts, and live it out daily. But, fallen human nature being what it is, the Jewish people figured out a way to get around the practice. What they did was the equivalent of what we do today. We make a statement or promise with our fingers crossed behind our backs.

“The Jews divided oaths into two classes, those which were absolutely binding and those which were not. They developed what might be called evasive swearing. Any oath that contained the name of God was binding; any oath that succeeded in evading the name of God was held not to be binding. The result was that if a man swore by the name of God in any form, he would rigidly keep that oath, but if he swore by heaven, earth, Jerusalem, or his head, he felt quite free to break that oath. The result was that evasion had been brought to a fine art. The idea behind this was that if God’s name was used, God became a partner in the transaction; whereas if God’s name was not used, God had nothing to do with the transaction” (Barclay).

But in America today, evasive swearing has become the common practice of the land.

REFLECT & PRAY

The Declaration of Independence concludes with these noble words: “We pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” Honor and duty are superior to rights and self-interest.

Father encourage and strengthen me to live a life of consistent integrity before You.

INSIGHT

The Lord Jesus Christ had a far superior idea. His solution was not to swear at all.

Matthew 5:34, 37

 34 But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne.

 37 Just say a simple, “Yes, I will,” or “No, I won’t.” Anything beyond this is from the evil one.

The essence of who we are takes precedence over what we avow with our words.

Instead, the Lord Jesus Christ says that our character should be of such integrity that our words can be believed without an oath (ESV notes).

How can this be achieved?

We make a once and for all choice to live and be guided by the principles of the Word of God. Then we reaffirm our commitment day by day. Our reputation and the lives we live speak for themselves.

We choose to be worthy of trust, and that is that. We are known as people who are

dependable, reliable, responsible, truthful, faithful, reputable, ethical, honest, incorruptible, principled, and upright.

Further, e so many layers of important information lurk below the surface in the Lord Jesus Christ’s words.

“In effect, Jesus is saying that, far from having to make God a partner in any transaction, no one can keep God out of any transaction. God is already there. Heaven is the throne of God; the earth is the footstool of God; Jerusalem is the city of God . . .. Our lives are God’s; there is nothing in the world which does not belong to God; and therefore, it does not matter whether God is actually named in so many words or not. God is there already” (Barclay).

But there is even more.

Here is a great eternal truth. Life cannot be divided into compartments in which the Father is involved and in others in which He is not involved. For example, we cannot use one kind of language in church and another type of language spoken at athletic events, the workplace, in family quarrels, or in the factory. There cannot be one kind of standard of conduct in the church and another kind of standard in the business world.

The Father does not need to be invited into specific departments of life and kept out of others. He hears all words. He is everywhere, all through life and every activity of life. He hears not only the words which are spoken in His name.

The Father cannot be evaded or avoided. Neither can He be fooled or deceived. He is involved and everywhere present in all transactions. Ultimately, all promises are made in the presence of God (Barclay).

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© Dr. H 2023

Death creds ∙

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. – John 15:13

Hebrews 9:26-28

 26 But now, once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice.

 28 Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.

In the 21st century, there are all kinds of creds. The term “creds” is short for credentials. Creds is another way of referring to one’s “rep,” or “reputation.” It refers to an individual’s credibility among their associates and social or professional group. It signifies the quality of being believable or worthy of respect.

Folks with street creds are approved by ordinary young people and considered to be part of their culture. Usually, they share a sense of fashion and opinions. A person with prison creds has earned and commands respect from their fellow prisoners.

In life, what kind of a person has excellent credibility and a good reputation, “life creds”? They would possess, but not be limited to, the following characteristics. They would be reliable, dependable, and would do what they say. They do not defer to anyone. They would have no prejudice and would not discriminate based upon arbitrary, passing, temporal values. They would fit in and accommodate themselves to people without compromising their values or personal integrity. They would go out of their way to care and be helpful. They would be easily approachable. They would be self-sacrificial and put the needs of others before their own. They would love

unconditionally.

But what about death creds? Some good people with lots of life creds may go out of their way for the benefit of others. Rarely they might even die in another’s place. But such apparent altruism is not offered to just anybody. Instead, such self-sacrifice is somewhat exclusive. Such a person’s benevolence is provided only for somebody particularly close and important to them: good friends, parents for children, or children for parents. But such kindness is undoubtedly not made available to strangers, what some might deem deplorables, and above all, certainly not enemies.

Romans 5:7-8

 7 Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good.

 8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners

Only one person ever “earned” absolute and total death creds in the history of planet Earth. He died for all people. He died for evil, sinful people. In so doing, He demonstrated His impartial, all-encompassing love for the world.

REFLECT & PRAY

Since the time of the garden of Eden and the fall of Adam and Eve, sin and death have had power and control over mankind.

Father thank you that the power of sin and even death has been broken for all time and eternity because of the death of Your beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

INSIGHT

The Lord Jesus Christ has the ultimate “life creds” and “death creds.” He not only died for us and provided us with eternal life, but He defeated death itself and removed any uncertainty or fear regarding it. Death has been defanged, and its bite has been removed forever for every child of the King. Not even the slightest hint of concern remains.

1 Corinthians 15:54-57

 54 Death is swallowed up in victory.

 55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?

 56 For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power.

 57 Thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

But there’s more. The Lord Jesus Christ could never have been captured, bound, mocked, beaten, or cruelly killed if He had not allowed Himself to be.

Reflect upon that – he gave up his life and made a matchless self-sacrifice for each individual child of the King.

John 10:17-18

 17 The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again.

 18 No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.

“These words would be utterly out of place were the Lord Jesus a mere man. He spoke of laying down His life and taking it up again by His own power. He could only do this because He is God. The Father loved the Lord Jesus because of His willingness to die and rise again, in order that lost sheep might be saved” (McDonald).

His sacrifice for us was totally voluntary, His own choice. He chose to lay down His life so that the world might be saved through Him. The Father’s plan for redemption was accomplished when His Son died for the sins of the world. The Son chose to take up His life again.

John 10:11 I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God . . .

The Lord Jesus Christ has unrivaled death creds. He alone is worthy!

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© Dr. H 2023

There must be a better way ∙

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. – John 8:32

Matthew 26:52 All those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.

2020 was a year of many seemingly unprecedented events: the COVID-19 pandemic, extreme weather, global social upheaval, and a nearly global movement to attempt to correct past wrongs. Cries for justice and freedom were often not peaceful but violent. Riots, looting, and destruction of private property and historical monuments were rampant. Seemingly, restraint was often totally lacking.

Perhaps a time of reflection upon wisdom from the past is called for. Edmund Burke was a British statesman, parliamentary orator, and political thinker prominent in public life from 1765 to about 1795. He was a classic political thinker. His intellectual achievement depended upon his understanding of philosophy and its practical application in civil and social life. Consider the great pith of his reflections and observations.

“He that sets his house on fire because his fingers are frostbitten can never be a fit instructor in the method of providing our habitations with a cheerful and salutary warmth.”

“Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites…in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters.”

“Among a people generally corrupt, liberty cannot long exist.”

“It is a general popular error to imagine the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare.”

“There is no safety for honest men except by believing all possible evil of evil men.”

“The people never give up their liberties but under some delusion.”

Edmund Burke could be commenting upon global conditions in the 21st century, particularly those of America. He was reflecting upon the French Revolution of 1780 – 1799, particularly the Reign of Terror from September 5, 1793, to July 27, 1794. The people of France defied and rebelled against the exploitative and repressive values that had existed for centuries. The Revolutionary government decided to make “Terror” the order of the day. The French people destroyed the symbols of the monarchy and, ultimately, the monarchy itself. Those deemed guilty by the #Me Too movement of the day lost their heads also. The goal was to purge France of the enemies of the Revolution. Paintings and caricatures of the time immortalized images of beheadings by the guillotine. It is also called “The Bloody Revolution.”

The White Terror, a violent reaction against supporters and participants of the Reign of Terror, soon followed it. Violence begets violence.

Matthew 26:52 All those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.

And so it was. All who took up the guillotine also perished by it.

There must be a better way.

REFLECT & PRAY

“Liberty does not exist in the absence of morality” (Edmund Burke).

Father guide me and give me wisdom so that I may know when to make peace and when to make war.

INSIGHT

There are over 1100 prophecies in the Old Testament regarding the coming of the Messiah of Israel. Over 300 of them predict that He will come as the Prince of peace, die for the iniquity of people, and make redemption possible for all who would accept it. The Lord Jesus Christ would be a Suffering Servant. Miracles, teaching, and peaceful confrontation would characterize His First Coming. He would frequently turn the other cheek. He did not come to reign but rather to die for the sins of the world.

But at the same time, over 800 prophecies indicated that He would be a mighty King, who leads a powerful army, destroys His enemies, and sets up the Kingdom of God on earth.

When He returns, He will not turn the other cheek but rather wage war!

Revelation 19:11 I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness, he judges and makes war.

There is a time for peace and a time for war (Ecclesiastes 3:8).

How are children of the King to know which is which?

The New Testament is very clear regarding the value of peace and being a peacemaker.

Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

That is our prime directive. However, only some people we wish to be at peace with will reciprocate and want to be at peace with us.

Romans 12:18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

Living in peace with others is the goal. However, Paul qualifies this standard with the proviso that; if possible, we must do all we can. Peace and harmony with others may not always be achievable. Children of the King are not responsible for the reluctance and failure of others to make peace. But we should always attempt to do so.

Sometimes war is necessary. The desire for peace is not peace at any price but peace that adheres to principle. “Christianity is not an easy-going tolerance which will accept anything and shut its eyes to everything” (Barclay). Matthew 10:16 I am sending you out like sheep surrounded by wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

This should leave us somewhat conflicted. The Father must show His children how to act in every given situation. Often the Scriptures demand such dependence.

Proverbs 26:4-5

 4 Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will also be like him.

 5 Answer a fool as his folly deserves, less he be wise in his own eyes.

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© Dr. H 2023

Feeling His pleasure ∙

God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. – Philippians 2:13

Hebrews 13:20-21

 20 Now may the God of peace – who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood –

 21 may he equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to him. All glory to him forever and ever! Amen.

Chariots of Fire, released April 9, 1982, is the inspirational story of two world-class British athletes and their preparation and participation in the 1924 Olympic Games.

The film is anchored in the character study of the two athletes. Harold Abrahams is a super athlete of extraordinary ability and determination. His only goal is to win. He is addicted to running. His inner drive and turmoil are summarized in one phrase, “If I cannot win, I will not run.” Abrahams is a tortured soul who feels isolated and persecuted because of his Jewish heritage. He paraphrases the well-worn adage, “I am invited to the trough but not allowed to drink.”

Eric Liddell is the opposite. He is intrinsically good, faithful to his family, country, friends, and ultimately to the Lord Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God. He knows that it is the Father’s strength that surges from within. The Father’s power gives Eric his supernatural drive, will, and force to win against seemingly impossible odds. Liddell triumphs by tapping into the reservoir of the Father’s great strength, which courses within, and bursts forth as needed.

Liddell unequivocally states, “Everyone runs in her own way, or his own way. And where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? From within. Jesus said, ‘Behold, the Kingdom of God is within you. If with all your hearts, you truly seek me, you shall ever surely find me.’ If you commit yourself to the love of Christ, then that is how you run a straight race.”

His motivation and driving force are summed up in one statement, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”

The Duke of Sutherland comments, “The ‘lad’ is a true man of principles and a true athlete. His speed is a mere extension of his life, its force.”

All too frequently, children of the King are confused about the Father’s role in our lives. Sadly, our lack of knowledge and confusion creates a warped misunderstanding. Many view the Father as a kindly, warm grandfather figure who wants to make us feel good and spoil us with good things. While He is a loving Father who is good and kind and caring, providing for us, He does not exist to serve us. We exist to serve Him.

The reality is that we exist for the Father. Everything about us has been designed by the Father to equip us for the work He preordained long before our birth. The Father created us for His purposes. He has equipped every child of the King to serve Him in some fashion. He has a unique desire for each of us. We serve at his pleasure (Stanley).

We are His workmanship. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago (Ephesians 2:10).

Our greatest sense of well-being and self-satisfaction comes when we discover what the Father is doing and how He has invited us to participate with Him. We find great delight and contentment when we do what he made us to do. Doing His pleasure, we feel His pleasure.

REFLECT & PRAY

Each child of the King is encouraged to pray for one another that they will be completely equipped to do the Father’s good pleasure in and through their lives.

Father you are the Potter, and I am the clay. You made me to participate in what you are doing on earth. Encourage my heart to do the good pleasure of Your will.

INSIGHT

He has equipped us with all we need to do His will. He plans to produce in us, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that is pleasing to Him (Hebrews 13:21).

The Greek word translated as equip is katartizo. Katartizo means to prepare, make ready, or suitable in advance for some particular purpose. Here it means “to equip one for service” (Wuest).

The Father wants to give to us all that is good, which we need to do what He wants us to do, that is, all that is good and necessary to do what He desires us to do (UBS).

Each of us is uniquely created by the Father with the exact personality and body we would need to fulfill His purpose for our life. He has equipped us with the strengths, abilities, and talents necessary to do what He planned for us. Every experience in our life is used by the Father to equip us for doing His will. The pleasant and challenging times shape our character, mature us spiritually, and train us to help others (Stanley).

There is something magnificent here that easily escapes our notice. The writer of Hebrews is not praying to get the Father to do what he desires Him to do. Instead, he is praying that the Father’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven for every child of the King. Because we are the Father’s workmanship created to do His good pleasure, the Father is “all in” to make it happen.

“Our Savior in heaven wants to equip us for life on earth. Tenderly, He wants to set the ‘broken bones” in our lives so that we might walk straight and run our life races successfully. He wants to repair the breaks in the nets so that we might catch fish. He wants to equip us for battle and outfit us so that we will be battered in the storms of life. In brief, He wants to mature us so that He can work in us and through us that which pleases Him and accomplishes His will” (Wiersbe).

2 Corinthians 9:8 God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.

Eric Liddell understood this and felt the Father’s pleasure within himself when doing His pleasure. Liddell clearly had his priorities straight, “It has been a wonderful experience to compete in the Olympic Games and to bring home a gold medal. But since I have been a young lad, I have had my eyes on a different prize. You see, each one of us is in a greater race than any I have run in Paris, and this race ends when God gives out the medals” (Liddell).

“God uniquely created each of us, and He’s provided us with everything we need to serve and glorify Him. All we must do is step out in obedience with full reliance on His grace and power” (Stanley).

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© Dr. H 2023

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