Honesty is the best policy

Honesty is the best policy

Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. – Psalm 32:5

Psalms 32:1-5

 1 Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight!

 2 Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!

 3 When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long.

 4 Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.

 5 I confessed my sin; I no longer covered up my wrongdoing. I said, “I will confess my rebellious acts to the LORD.” And then you forgave my sins.

Benjamin Franklin made famous the aphorism, “Honesty is the best policy.” He did not just say it, he lived it for 84 years.

What does the phrase mean? It conveys the idea that “Telling the truth is always the best course of action, even when being dishonest would be easier or more useful” (McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms).

Through the years, others have spun the phrase, often with humorous intent. Mark Twain quipped, “Honesty is the best policy – when there is money in it.” More recently, comedian Steve Landesberg of Barney Miller fame, offered, “Honesty is the best policy, but insanity is a better defense.”

The Father is Truth and He never lies or deceives. Honesty and integrity are qualities that He desires for each of His children to develop. Honesty begins and ends in the heart. Sadly, we have a natural bent towards dishonesty, deception, and hiding from the truth.

Jeremiah 17:9-10 

 9 “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?

 10 But I, the LORD, search all hearts and examine secret motives.

REFLECT & PRAY

Being honest is a choice we make once and for all. We renew our commitment day by day.

Father strengthen me to be humble and gentle as You are. Encourage me to live a life of honesty and integrity in all things.

INSIGHT

When choosing to be honest and open, reflect a moment upon the Lord Jesus Christ.

John 2:24-25

 24 But Jesus, on His part, was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men,

 25 and because He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

The Lord Jesus Christ knows what we are truly like. Nothing is hidden from Him. To Him, our hearts are an open book. He has chosen to identify Himself with the human race. In the incarnation, He became truly human. He understands and sympathizes with us. Realizing this, why would we try to hide from Him? Ultimately, it simply does not work and serves no purpose. It can become the breeding ground for unintended consequences. By our own actions, we can close ourselves off from experiencing the Father’s gracious intimacy and interaction with us.

There are many places in the Scriptures where the Lord Jesus Christ describes what He is as the Messiah and Savior of the world. He is the light of the world and the bread of life (John 9:5, John 6:35). He is the way and the truth and the life (John 14:6). He is the resurrection and the life (John 10:25). He is the good shepherd (John 10:4).

In the Gospel of Matthew, the Lord Jesus Christ reveals what He is like as a person. The Lord Jesus Christ self-identifies Himself as humble and gentle.

Matthew 11:28-30

 28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

 29 “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

 30 “For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

The Greek word translated humble is praus. Praus means to be mild, gentle, considerate, soft, or meek. It describes someone who is free of self-importance and characterized by other-centeredness (NIGTC).

The Greek word translated gentle is tapeinos. Tapeinos has the sense of being low, unassuming,or being humble-minded.

The words humble and gentle may be linked in thought. They may be combined so that one strengthens the other: “I am very humble” or “I am very gentle” (UBS).

The Lord Jesus Christ wants to be our “Safe Place.” He invites us to come for comfort, consolation, and rest.

“All of us need rest, and Jesus promises to give it to us when we find our rest in Him. He will not scold us for being weak or scorn us for being foolish. He promises to gently and humbly refresh our weary souls” (Stanley).

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Wilderness Therapy

Wilderness Therapy

 This was the regular pattern – at night the cloud that covered the Tabernacle had the appearance of fire. Whenever the cloud lifted from over the sacred tent, the people of Israel would break camp and follow it. And wherever the cloud settled, the people of Israel would set up camp. In this way, they traveled and camped at the LORD’s command wherever he told them to go. – Numbers 9:16-18

Deuteronomy 8:2-18

 2 Remember how the LORD your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands.

 3 Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

 4 For all these forty years your clothes didn’t wear out, and your feet didn’t blister or swell.

 5 Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the LORD your God disciplines you for your own good.

 7 For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land of flowing streams and pools of water, with fountains and springs that gush out in the valleys and hills.

 14 Do not become proud at that time and forget the LORD your God, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt.

 15 Do not forget that he led you through the great and terrifying wilderness with its poisonous snakes and scorpions, where it was so hot and dry. He gave you water from the rock!

 16 He fed you with manna in the wilderness, a food unknown to your ancestors. He did this to humble you and test you for your own good.

 17 He did all this so you would never say to yourself, “I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy.”

 18 Remember the LORD your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful, in order to fulfill the covenant he confirmed to your ancestors with an oath.

Trails Momentum of Henderson NC is a therapeutic outdoor-adventure program for young adults based upon Wilderness Therapy.

Wilderness Therapy for young adults can be a life-changing experience. Through wilderness therapy, young adults can step outside of their comfort zone and forge real personal growth. It takes people out of their comfort zones and pushes their boundaries. It provides new goals and passions. It tests and confirms faith and provides confidence. Those who successfully navigate Wilderness Therapy see themselves in a new light and discover the inner strength they never knew they had. It generates life changes

How does Wilderness Therapy work? The wilderness therapy provides people the opportunity to discover their inner selves. They discover who they are and what they are capable of. Both their inner strengths and weaknesses become known. Through the challenges faced and overcome, people develop self-esteem, confidence, and a sense of achievement and accomplishment.

Wilderness Therapy is nothing new, the Father used it to transition and transform a generation of Israelites from being slaves to becoming stalwart newcomers in the Promised Land. One distinctive of the Father’s program of Wilderness Therapy is that he is always present with you. You are never in the wilderness alone.

The Father was not just present with His people as an observer, He leads them. Through the cloud, the Lord would tell Israel when they were to set out and when they were to camp. He would decide how long they were to remain in a particular place, whether one night or two days or a month or a year (Numbers 9:22). The Father guided them and directed them on every leg of their journey (Duguid and Hughes).

REFLECT & PRAY

How blessed we would be if we would go when the Father told us to go and stay when the Father told us to stay! Obedience brings blessings (Stanley).
 
Father many children of the King are reticent to travel or move about. You use Wilderness Therapy to transform lives. Encourage me to be willing to follow You wherever Your love leads.

INSIGHT

The Father’s sovereign and purposeful leadership of His people is seen in how He led them in the wilderness. The Israelites remained where they were just as long as God wanted them to remain there. Their experiences along the way were not accidental but providential (Wenham). The people had to be ready for immediate departure on any day, and they had to follow the Father every day until the cloud stopped – which required continual obedience to the Father’s visible guidance (ESV – Notes).

“There was no place for fussing and crying out, ‘Are we there yet?’ What they had to do was watch the cloud and follow carefully wherever it went. . . This journey is at the will of the Lord himself and under his direction every step of the way” (Duguid and Hughes).

“It took forty years and the death of a generation to help them trust Him more than their own eyes or fears” (Mart DeHaan).

What does it take for us?

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Serve good

Serve good

Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone. – 1 Thessalonians 5:14

1 Thessalonians 5:14-18

 14 We urge you, brethren, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

 15 See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.

 16 Rejoice always.

 17 Never stop praying.

 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

Matthew, a category 5 hurricane, was the most powerful storm of the 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season. It roared through North Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina on October 7 and 8, 2016.

Across South Carolina, at least 600,000 individuals lost power. Hilton Head Island experienced widespread water, sewer and power outages for several days, and the only road onto the island was not re-opened to residents until October 11. It is estimated that over 120,000 trees were downed on the island, causing extensive tree-strike damage to residences and businesses. Over 2.1 million cubic yards of vegetative debris generated by the storm were collected.

Residents returned to find what looked like a war zone. The devastation was massive. Into this turmoil came workers from Samaritan’s Purse. They cut and cleared trees. They helped in any and every way they could. They rendered aid to those who were so devastated. Their humanitarian work was followed up by spiritual service. They comforted and cared for the population by visiting their homes. And before they left, they shared the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

They served good!

Romans 14:7 For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone.

Brothers and sisters in Christ share a mutual responsibility to help those who need special care and attention.  We are to deal with each person according to their individual needs.

The apostle Paul provides specific instructions on how to serve good. He spells out how to care for those with “special needs.”

1 Thessalonians 5:14 We urge you, brethren, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.

Admonish the idle

The Greek word translated idle is ataktos. Ataktos originally described a soldier who had left the ranks. It came to mean undisciplined, unruly, careless, or out of line. It came to refer to those that tend to go their own way and not follow godly principles. Rather than being merely lazy, they are disorderly and undisciplined. Their idleness is characterized by rebellious irresponsibility or willful sluggishness. The phrase really means “Warn the quitters” (Barclay).

Encourage the fainthearted

The Greek word translated fainthearted, timid, or fearful is oligopsuchos. Oligopsuchos comes from oligossmall or little, and psyche soul, mind. The fearful are literally those whose souls are small. These despondent or discouraged folks naturally almost instinctively fear the worst. They are fainthearted, fretful, and worried. They tend to look on the dark side of things and want to give up when the going is tough (Wiersbe). Those with large souls, strong souls must help those with small souls to be brave, stand tall, endure, and overcome.

One translation renders it, “give courage to those who have little of it” (UBS).

Help the weak

The Greek word translated weak is asthenes. It refers to those who are without strength. It may be those who are literally sick due to a bodily ailment. It may also be used figuratively for those who are ineffective, feeble, inadequate, or lack strength and vitality. Here it refers to those who are weak spiritually and lack spiritual strength and faith. They need to be warmly and firmly held and comforted.

REFLECT & PRAY

When serving others, we minister to different people in different ways, depending upon what they most need at the time. Some need stern warnings; others need comfort; some need help. But everyone needs patience, for we all fall short in many ways (Stanley).

Father, as I reflect upon Your loving care and compassion for me, I realize that You always know the condition of my heart and soul and that You are there for me to provide exactly what I need. Encourage me to learn this skill and practice it in helping others.

INSIGHT

The Father designs a personal burden for  of His children. This becomes our motivation for coming alongside others to help them. Our prime directive is to be patient and provide reassuring love.

Each child of the King develops strength, and stability, and grows to maturity in their own way and time. Those who are strong in some areas are responsible to help others who are weak in those areas. It is a mutual, reciprocal thing among all of the Father’s children. Each of us is to speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church (Ephesians 4:15).

This is done by learning and practicing the fine art and skill of patience. In Greek, the term rendered “be patient” is makrothumeo. Makrothumeo is derived from makros – long and thumos explosive anger, hot, glowing, boiling anger that bursts forth and soon subsides. The word picture here is long-fused anger. In English, we speak of someone who is “short-tempered.” Makrothumeo is just the opposite, someone who is “long-tempered.”

It “carries the sense of ‘suffering long’ with regard to someone else. It is therefore the appropriate word to use regarding human relationships” (Fee). This word is not about our circumstances, it is about our relationships. Intense, close human relationships often elicit heated responses. Rather than simply reacting and flipping our lid, we are to exercise understanding and forbearance. It is about remaining cool and calm, even serene. Paul is exhorting us to practice a more excellent way, we are to be patient, and long-suffering with others.

“Be patient with everyone may be expressed idiomatically, for example, ‘speak softly to everyone,’ ‘move slowly with everyone,’ or negatively, ‘do not speak sharply to anyone,’ or ‘do not shout at anyone’” (UBS).

The Father enveloped us with His patience as He has drawn us into a personal intimate relationship with Him. We are to be patient with others in the same way. In our own strength, this is impossible. But things that are impossible with people, are possible with the Father.

To develop the skill of being “long-tempered” requires practice. Do not expect instant, overnight changes. But any child of the King can do it.

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Wait and hope

Wait and hope

But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. – Romans 8:25

Romans 8:23-25

 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children, including the new bodies he has promised us.

 24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope for it.

 25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.)

The Count of Monte Cristo written by Alexandre Dumas tells the story of Edmund Dantes. He is betrayed by his best friend and sent off to prison for life. He is in turmoil for years struggling with revenge, hope, love, and freedom. In his struggle, we see our own.

He spends 24 years figuring things out. He feigns death and manages to escape and locates a vast fortune hidden on the island of Monte Cristo. He now has the means to carry out his revenge. He does so systematically and successfully up until the point he realizes that the son of his best friend, who married his fiancée in his absence, is actually his own child. Rather than kill him, he spares him.

The book ends with the sagacious line spoken to his son, Maximilian, “all human wisdom is contained in these words: wait and hope!”

Biblical hope is not wishful thinking: “I hope everything turns out okay.” Biblical hope is the confident expectationthat regardless of our circumstances and struggles, all that the Father has promised will one day be realized.

Biblical hope is the present possession of every child of the King. But things hoped for are not yet experientially possessed. We can only hope for things that are still in the future. We confidently expect that they will one day be realized.

Our present salvation in this life is but the tip of the iceberg of what is to come. It is but the shadow of the reality of the substance of what one day will be. We have the certain promise of our inheritance to come, but we have not yet taken possession of our inheritance.

1 Corinthians 13:12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

Now we see and know the Father in part. But then we will have the unrestricted, perpetual pleasure of getting to know and experience Him fully. We will gaze and reflect upon the Father’s face.

Why did the Father create the human race? He created us to know and enjoy Him forever. Because of the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ we have been delivered from the consequence of our sin. We are forgiven and redeemed. But we have the great promise of future glory when we will be delivered from sin itself. The restrictions and limitations of living in a fallen world will be no more.

REFLECT & PRAY

We can have confident assurance that what He promised; He will also surely perform.

Father thank you for the promise and hope of things to come. In the meantime, encourage me to persevere and overcome the difficulties I face in this present world.

INSIGHT

Until the future becomes the now of our present experience, that which is dimly foreshadowed should give us confidence which lifts our spirits and allows us to rise above the vicissitudes of life. “To Paul, life was not a weary, defeated waiting; it was a throbbing, vivid expectation” (Barclay).

Our hope is unseen and intangible, yet it is sure and certain. We are not to passively wait for it. But rather we are to hold on eagerly and strenuously despite suffering and difficulty. We look forward expectantly with endurance, steadfastly or not moving at all.

The Greek word translated eager expectation is apokaradokia. Apokaradokia comes from apooff, kara head, and dokeo to watch. It connotes an amazing word picture of watching eagerly with an outstretched head. “It describes the stance of someone who scans the horizon with head thrust forward, eagerly searching the distance for the first signs of the dawn breaking” (Barclay).

Expectant hope with endurance is a matter of focus.

Children of the King do not live only in the world; they also live in Christ. They do not see only the world; they look beyond it to the Father. They do not see only the consequences of human sin; they see the power of the Father’s mercy and love. Therefore, the keynote of the life of each child of the King is always hope and never despair. As children of the King, we wait not for death, we for life (Barclay).

“We were saved in this attitude of hope. We did not receive all the benefits of our salvation at the moment of conversion. From the outset, we looked forward to full and final deliverance from sin, suffering, disease, and death. If we had already received these blessings, we wouldn’t be hoping for them. We only hope for what is in the future” (William MacDonald).

We are to look forward not backward, upward not downward, outward not inward (Edward Everett Hale).

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The Father shakes His children

The Father shakes His children

This phrase, “Yet once more,” means that all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain. – Hebrews 12:27

Hebrews 12:25-29

 25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven.

 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”

 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken – that is, things that have been made – in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain.

 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,

 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

The Richter scale, developed in 1935 by Charles F. Richter, ranges from 1 to 10. It indicates the intensity of an earthquake. The vast majority of earthquakes have magnitudes between 1 and 5 and are quite minor. Earthquakes with magnitudes 5.0–5.9 are moderate, 6.0–6.9 are strong with moderate damage in populated areas, 7.0–7.9 are major with serious damage over large areas, loss of life, and 8.0 and higher are considered great, with severe destruction and loss of life over large areas. The most powerful earthquake ever recorded with a magnitude of 8.4 on the Richter scale occurred on May 22, 1960 in Valdivia, Chile.

Earthquakes have been around since the beginning of history. They seem to be getting more frequent and violent in our days.

What is now called the Ridgecrest Earthquake Sequence, began on July 5, 2019. Ridgecrest, California was struck with a 6.4 magnitude earthquake. The next day July 6, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake occurred with over 1000 aftershocks. Ridgecrest is basically in the middle of nowhere, also known as the Mojave Desert, 123 miles northeast of Los Angeles. The amount of destruction was small due to the low population density. Some buildings collapsed. There were several water line and gas line breaks, that resulted in power outages and fires.

In California, shaking from earthquakes is a way of life. In the Scriptures, when the Father is literally present on earth, there is often shaking. The earth and even the mountains often tremble.

Exodus 19:18 Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended on it in fire. The smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain trembled greatly.

Psalms 68:8 The earth quaked; The heavens also dropped rain at the presence of God; Sinai itself quaked at the presence of God, the God of Israel.

The Father wants to draw us close to Him and transform us from the inside out. One of the methods He uses is “shaking.” He has a way of shaking what we hold on to until we finally let go. It is much better to be drawn by the desire for the joys of a close relationship with the Father, than driven. The Father is persistent and will continue to shake. It is better to release sooner than later. He has a way of shaking His children until we let go.

Shaking as a way of changing things. Older things are shaken loose and replaced by newer ones. Things that are secure and immovable withstand the trembling going on about them. Shaking is a part of the refining process.

REFLECT & PRAY

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose!” (Jim Elliot)

Father I have certainly felt your grip upon me, it is firm but gentle. I know that You seek only my best. You are at work to conform me into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ.

INSIGHT

Better times are coming. After the fall of Adam and Eve, the Earth became a fallen world. One day everything will change. The author of Hebrews, quotes Haggai 2:6. It prophesies concerning that time in the future and when the Lord will return and fill His house with bright shine of the glory of His presence. At Mount Sinai, the Father shook the earth. In the future He will shake the earth and the heavens. A time of judgment and vindication is coming. The kingdom of God of which the prophets spoke, will one day become a reality on planet Earth. And the Lord Jesus Christ rule and reign peacefully for a thousand years (Revelation 20).

Haggai 2:6-9

 6 For thus says the LORD of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land.

 7 And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the LORD of hosts.

 8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the LORD of hosts.

 9 The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. And in this place, I will give peace, declares the LORD of hosts.

As we draw ever closer to the time of the Second Coming, the shaking will increase. What the Father has predicted, He will surely bring to pass. Everything in the world, everything made belongs to the Father. He is in control.

The Father will continue to shake until all that can be shaken and removed is. What remains will be unshakable. As the Father actively shakes the world and those who are His children, we can be confident and secure. His ultimate goal is complete transformation.  

Envision for a moment, Michelangelo carefully, determinedly chipping away the large, solid piece of marble until all that is left is the magnificent statue of David. He removed what was necessary to reveal what only his genius could see locked away within the marble.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

Others may be frightened by the upheavals, but it is our privilege to walk confidently in the light with our Father, buoyed up and invigorated by His grace and strength.

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What do you have that you did not receive?

What do you have that you did not receive?

What do you have that God hasn’t given you? – 1 Corinthians 4:7

1 Corinthians 4:1-7

 1 So look at Apollos and me as mere servants of Christ who have been put in charge of explaining God’s mysteries.

 2 Now, a person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful.

 3 As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point.

 4 My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide.

 5 So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time – before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.

 6 Dear brothers and sisters, I have used Apollos and myself to illustrate what I’ve been saying. If you pay attention to what I have quoted from the Scriptures, you won’t be proud of one of your leaders at the expense of another.

 7 For what gives you the right to make such a judgment? What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?

To achieve the Father’s kingdom goals on earth requires collaboration. The Father has chosen to use groups or teams of His children to accomplish His purposes. Team players with strong teamwork skills are required to make this happen. A team player is someone who cares more about helping a group or team to succeed than about his or her individual success. Team players understand that their team’s success is their own success. This is seen in team sports such as football, hockey, soccer, and basketball.

In the Father’s kingdom, team players are genuinely committed to the task that the Father assigned to them and to one another.

Paul was a great team player as well as a team builder. He did not talk down to others. He was able to put himself in their place and share their feelings and emotions. His purpose was to fulfill the Father’s game plan: to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). He shared the gospel and grounded children of the King in the faith.

Paul was always at work bringing people into a closer relationship with the living God. Paul exhorted and coached others. He primarily provided information rather than condemnation. But when necessary he was willing to confront. “Paul had a wonderfully courteous way of including himself in his own warnings and his own condemnations” (Barclay).

REFLECT & PRAY

“All gifts and advantages come from God. They are special graces from God. We do not earn or deserve them. An understanding of the grace of God puts an end to pride” (Richison).

Father, I recognize that all I have and all I am is a sheer gracious gift from You. Foster within me an attitude of gratitude.

INSIGHT

Being puffed up and arrogant have no place in the Father’s kingdom or on the Father’s team. Paul confronts the Corinthians regarding their perceived special status. Paul “punctures their inflated view of themselves with a series of questions: Who? What? Why?” (Garland).

1 Corinthians 4:7 can be translated in various ways.

For who makes you different from anyone else? (NIV)

Who regards you as superior? (NAS)

For who makes you so superior? (HCSB)

For who sees anything different in you? (ESV)

Who defines you (Thiselton)?

The sentence has two parts. The first part is the answer to the question, Who is responsible. This in turn has two answers. One is correct, the other not so much.

Ultimately, the Father is responsible, He has decided. Each child of the King is different from everyone else and He endowed them with certain unique characteristics, abilities, talents, appearance, and the like. He defined them!

Yet on the other hand, many of the Corinthians were self-identifying themselves as superior. They were filled with arrogance and pride.

Why would they think of themselves in this way? What could possibly make them superior or special? Paul’s answer is their distinguishing attributes, features, strengths, virtues, etc.

But none of these factors are things that they have done for themselves. Rather everything they have; they have received from the Father. How can they possibly boast about something that was given to them as a free gift of pure grace? “Nothing is inherently theirs, so they cannot be arrogant and boastful” (Marshall). “All is of grace; nothing is deserved, nothing earned” (Fee). That is Paul’s point.

All children of the King are very special to Him. The Father is the source of their life and forgiveness in Christ. But that does not make them superior to others. The Corinthians are guilty of being presumptuous and ungrateful. “For them to be puffed up one against another effectively denies that God is the one who has given them all things” (Garland).

“In an ultimate sense, human arrogance makes very little sense, because we never accomplish anything except by using the gifts, talent, energy, inspiration – and even breath – that God gives to us” (Stanley).

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Fools for Christ’s sake

Fools for Christ’s sake

We are fools for Christ’s sake. – 1 Corinthians 4:10

1 Corinthians 4:9-16

 9 Instead, I sometimes think God has put us apostles on display, like prisoners of war at the end of a victor’s parade, condemned to die. We have become a spectacle to the entire world – to people and angels alike.

 10 Our dedication to Christ makes us look like fools, but you claim to be so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are so powerful! You are honored, but we are ridiculed.

 11 Even now we go hungry and thirsty, and we don’t have enough clothes to keep warm. We are often beaten and have no home.

 12 We work wearily with our own hands to earn our living. We bless those who curse us. We are patient with those who abuse us.

 13 We appeal gently when evil things are said about us. Yet we are treated like the world’s garbage, like everybody’s trash – right up to the present moment.

 16 So I urge you to imitate me.

Generally speaking, outside the Bible, a fool is considered a person who lacks judgment or prudence. They are often considered dullards with mental deficiencies. But in fact, they are anything but. They are often individuals with keen insight and caustic wit. They proved to be quite entertaining. Throughout history, royal courts employed court jesters, court fools, or clowns. In ancient Rome, they were actors. In ancient China, they often functioned as diplomats. “They needed to be intelligent and observant enough to see mistakes that were about to happen and make fun of the situation in a way that made their ruler stop, take a step back, and fix little problems before they turned into big ones” (Deborah Kelly).

Jesters came from all walks of life and were recruited into service in royal courts because of their intelligence and entertaining manner.

Years ago, a televised debate occurred between one of the Father’s children and an atheist. At one point, the child of the King stated, “I am a fool for Christ’s sake.” He queried, “Whose fool, are you?”

Paul clearly explains that judging by human standards, he and the other apostles were fools for Christ’s sake. They frequently put their lives at risk to preach the gospel and spread the Word (Acts 14:19, Acts 16:22-25, Acts 17:10, Acts 18:12).  

There is a tremendous irony here. In the eyes of the Corinthians, Paul was playing the part of a fool. But in the eyes of the Father, the Corinthians were wise in their own eyes but were actually fools. They demonstrated their foolishness by relying on human wisdom and worldly standards. “The way to be spiritually wise is to become a fool in the eyes of the world (1 Corinthians 3:18)” (Wiersbe).

REFLECT & PRAY

The people that the Father chooses to become His children and do His will are a living contradiction to the values and standards of the world.

Father, I have a natural reticence to hold back. Encourage me to embrace Your foolishness. Deep inside I want to be a fool for Christ’s sake.

INSIGHT

The Corinthians were suffering from inflated egos and a superiority complex. They were quick to pass judgment on lesser souls than themselves. Paul slices and dices them with his quick wit. He is sarcastic and his words drip with irony.

1 Corinthians 4:6-7 

 6 Dear brothers and sisters, I have used Apollos and myself to illustrate what I’ve been saying. If you pay attention to what I have quoted from the Scriptures, you won’t be proud of one of your leaders at the expense of another.

 7 For what gives you the right to make such a judgment? What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?

Paul asks them the most pertinent and basic of all questions. “What do you possess, that you did not receive?” (Barclay)

No one could ever have known the Father unless He had revealed Himself. Men and women could never have won their own salvation; they do not save themselves. Rather, the Father saved them. When we think of what we have done and think of what the Father has done for us, pride is ruled out and only humble gratitude remains. The basic fault of the Corinthians was that they had forgotten that they owed their souls to God the Father (Barclay).

“He turns on the Corinthians with scathing irony. He compares their pride, their self-satisfaction, and their feeling of superiority with the life that an apostle lives. He chooses a vivid picture. When a Roman general won a great victory, he was allowed to parade his victorious army through the streets of the city with all the trophies that he had won; the procession was called a Triumph. But, in the end, there came a little group of captives who were doomed to death; they were being taken to the arena to fight with the wild beasts and so to die.”

The Corinthians in their blatant, hubristic pride were like the conquering general displaying the trophies of his prowess. The apostles were like the little group of captives doomed to die. To the Corinthians, the Christian life meant flaunting their privileges and inflating up their achievements. To Paul, it meant humble service and a readiness to die for Christ (Barclay).

Except for the apostle Paul, the Pharisee of Pharisees, the rest of the apostles were a motley crew of laborers and one tax collector. Paul asked the Corinthians to “consider your calling.” That is, he wanted them to remember and reflect upon who and what they were when they came to faith. Hardly any of them would have been considered “the cream of society” (Garland). Yet the Father called each of them to serve in His heavenly court. Thus, anyone can do it. But many of us, for one reason or another, shrink back. Paul asks each of us to reflect upon who and what we are.

1 Corinthians 1:26-28

 26 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you.

 27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.

 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.

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An invitation to radiance

An invitation to radiance

They looked to Him and were radiant, And their faces will never be ashamed. – Psalms 34:5

Psalms 34:1-8

 1 I will praise the LORD at all times. I will constantly speak his praises.

 2 I will boast only in the LORD; let all who are helpless take heart.

 3 Come, let us tell of the LORD’s greatness; let us exalt his name together.

 4 I prayed to the LORD, and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears.

 5 Those who look to him for help will be radiant with joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces.

 6 In my desperation I prayed, and the LORD listened; he saved me from all my troubles.

 7 For the angel of the LORD is a guard; he surrounds and defends all who fear him.

 8 Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!

Ella Wheeler Wilcox was an American author and poet. Her most enduring work was “Solitude.”

The inspiration for the poem came as she was traveling by train in Wisconsin. There was a young woman dressed in black sitting across the aisle from her crying. Miss Wheeler sat next to her and sought to comfort her. At the journey’s end, her emotions were mixed. She shared in the woman’s sorrow, and yet at the same time, her own face was radiant. She wrote the opening lines of “Solitude”:

Laugh, and the world laughs with you;

Weep, and you weep alone.

Life is about choices. Our life course is set by how we respond to the vicissitudes and trials we face.

Ella Wheeler Wilcox also wrote, The Set of the Sails

One ship drives east, and another west
With the self-same winds that blow;
 ‘Tis the set of the sails
 And not the gales
That decides the way to go.

Like the winds of the sea are the ways of fate,
As they voyage along through life;
 ‘Tis the will of the soul
 That decides its goal,
And not the calm or the strife.

It is easy to get tripped up by the ups and downs of life. Strife and struggle are inevitable. Our response to them determines our attitudes and emotions. In face of the difficulties we face, David invites us to break out radiant praise. He shows the way to calmness, confidence, courage, and conquest of our deepest feelings and fears.

REFLECT & PRAY

Experiencing the Father’s presence produces an excited joy that cannot be contained. David bursts out with exclamations of praise.

Father may I learn and perfect the art of praising and thanking You each day. Remove the dark shadows of shame and fear that haunt me and replace them with radiant joy.

INSIGHT

Psalms 34 is not so much a prayer, but rather an exclamation of joy over the Father’s response to prayer. David has experienced the sheer joy of the presence of the Father. It is palpable. David is radiant. His heart is thrilled and overflowing with joy. Radiant is a word found in Isaiah 60:5, where it describes a parent’s face lighting up at the sight of their children, who had given up for lost (Kidner).

Imagine what it would be like to be with David as he expresses his thoughts verbally. They would be filled with excitement and enthusiasm. He has experienced the inward touch of the divine. He is taking great delight lapping it up he cannot get enough. On the surface, his exclamation seems rather tame, prosaic, colorless, but it is anything but that.

Psalms 34:2 My soul will make its boast in the LORD.

The word Hebrew translated boast is halal. Halal is most often translated as praise, exalt, or boast. But this word is overflowing with excitement, revelry, delight, fun, and festive joy. The English word hallelujah is derived from the Hebrew word halal.

But there is more. It has the sense of madness or making a fool of yourself in a good sense (1 Corinthians 4:10). In the 21st century, it would be equivalent to the thrill of cheering for your home team when they score a touchdown or a goal in an athletic event. His soul is literally jumping up and down. He is basking in the Father (Terrien).

His joy is contagious and he cannot keep it to himself. It is bursting out of him and it must be shared. David invites us to participate with him.  Each of us can enter into the presence of the Father and the joy He provides.

How does David become so buoyant? How does he do it? It all begins with praise and thankfulness for who the Father is, what the Father does, and most importantly what the Father has done for us. He shouts of the Father’s greatness and exults in Him.

Putting it in other terms, David magnifies and blesses the Father. How can a mere mortal bless God?

“The idea behind ‘bless’ is to speak a good word about someone: when God blesses someone, he speaks a good word over that person for his well-being; when a human blesses God, he speaks a good word about God’s kindness and generosity” (ESV notes).

Paul succinctly restates the same concept in one verse. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18

“Even if it’s not your practice, pick a day this week and praise God throughout the day. Praise Him when you wake up, praise Him when you eat, praise Him when you leave the house and when you return” (Stanley).

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The course of temptation

The course of temptation

Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. – James 1:14

James 1:13-16

 13 Let no one say when he is tempted: ‘My temptation comes from God.’ For God himself is untemptable by evil and tempts no one.

 14 But temptation comes to each one, because he is lured on and seduced by his own desire.

 15 Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full-grown, it gives birth to death.

 16 Do not be led astray, my dear brothers and sisters.

The history of temptation and sin began in the garden of Eden. Have you ever wondered how the process of temptation works? C. S. Lewis used his imagination and visualized and explained the art and science of temptation. In The Screwtape Letters, chapter 9, Screwtape an experienced, master demon is mentoring his apprentice Wormwood. Screwtape’s advice is as follows:

Start with some pleasure – if possible one of God’s good pleasures – and offer it in a way God has forbidden. Once the person bites, give less of it while enticing him to want more. Provide “an ever-increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure,” until finally we “get the man’s soul and give him nothing in return.”

A temptation is an opportunity to accomplish a good thing in a bad way, out of the will of God (Wiersbe). The world is filled with temptation. The Father warned Cain, and the warning applies to us all.

Genesis what 4:7 Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.

Temptation is possible because of our own human weaknesses. All temptations are merely suggestions for satisfying our selfish desires. These desires fall into one of three categories: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the boastful pride of life.

1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life – is not from the Father but is from the world.

Temptation is the desire to place our selfish wants and yearnings before our desire to please the Father. Our uncontrolled desires trap us. Yielding, creates an inexorable downward spiral from desire, to sin, to death.

Each of us is born with a desire for some wrong thing. And, if we deliberately encourage and nourish that desire, it will grow and become stronger and more powerful. Inevitably it will result in sin – and that is the way to death.

REFLECT & PRAY

And though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us,

We will not fear, for God has willed His truth to triumph through us:

The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him;

His rage we can endure, for lo! His doom is sure, one little word shall fell him (Luther).

Father temptation is in everyday reality. It is so easy to succumb. Strengthen me to be more alert and aware. Give me wisdom in each circumstance to know how to best resist it.

INSIGHT

The Father is pure, good, holy, and above temptation. He is not the source of temptation, for temptation is evil and there is no evil in Him.

Humans have the innate propensity to blame others for their problems. In the story of the Fall, Adam blamed his wife, and the Father for giving Eve to him, Eve blamed the serpent, and the serpent did not have a leg to stand on (Lutzer).

James urges us to take personal responsibility for sin and resist it. We are not to meekly fall into the traps and snares that the enemy has laid out.

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation, he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

It is not the Father’s desire for us to yield to temptation, but He does not spare us the experience of temptation. The Father does not shield us from the vicissitudes and struggles of life. To grow and mature, we must learn to successfully handle and overcome testings and temptations.

How can we escape?

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

The Lord Jesus Christ has faced and overcome temptation. In the wilderness, He was tempted by the enemy. He successfully resisted him. How? The Lord Jesus Christ had internalized the Word of God. He depended completely upon the Father for strength, endurance, and wisdom. With each challenge regarding the desire of the eyes, the desire of the flesh, and self-aggrandizement and pride of life, He countered by quoting the Word of God.

We learn from the example of the Lord Jesus Christ and follow it. When temptation comes, we need to recognize it for what it is and resist it. The Father has made us A magnificent promise. As we practice what He has told us to do, our ability to recognize, grapple with, and overcome temptation will increase as well.

James 4:7 Submit to God. But resist the devil and he will flee from you.

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He must increase

He must increase

He must increase, but I must decrease. – John 3:30

John 3:27-32

 27 John replied, No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven.

 28 You yourselves know how plainly I told you, “I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for Him.”

29 It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the best man is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success.

 30 He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.

 31 He has come from above and is greater than anyone else. We are of the earth, and we speak of earthly things, but he has come from heaven and is greater than anyone else.

 32 He testifies about what he has seen and heard, but how few believe what he tells them!

Leonard Bernstein, the late conductor of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, was once asked to name the most difficult instrument to play. Without hesitation, he replied: “The second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm – that’s a problem; and if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony.”

As any musician knows, every instrument is vital to the harmony of the orchestra. The finest musician in each section of the orchestra always occupies first chair. However, there can be no triumphant harmony without those playing second, third, and even fourth chair.

Second fiddle was the role that the Father assigned in John the Baptist to play. John’s job was to work himself out of a job. He was the forerunner, he came to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Father called John as a witness to the coming of His Son. John understood his responsibilities and assumed them with great passion and zest.

John was an ascetic, lived in the desert, and maintained a strict paleo diet of locusts and wild honey. John’s message was fiery and demanded a response. With a lash of corded declarations, John denounced sin in any form and demanded everyone to repent before the day of judgment.

He was dynamic and drew large crowds. Who gathered to hear John’s message? Soldiers, tax collectors, leaders, those that were well-off, and of course common people. Those in his audience often had a great deal of power, influence, and wealth. He told people repeatedly to share with the needy, be honest, and be content.

John announced the imminent arrival of the promised Messiah of Israel. He fiercely warned of the judgment to come. He warned that it was not enough to know aboutthe God of Israel and be a descendant of Abraham. Each individual was strongly exhorted to perform a personal inventory, literally have “a come to Jesus moment,” and be forgiven and enter into a personal relationship with the Father, through the Son.

The shaken crowds were left asking, “what shall we do?” John’s response is encapsulated in one word, Repent!

How different is this from what is too often taught from the pulpit today. A cynic once said, “People come to church today expecting very little and seldom go away disappointed.”

REFLECT & PRAY

Learning to be content in the shadows, the background, produces a joyful peace and satisfaction in children of the King.

Father thank You that You brought me to a “come to Jesus moment” and now I know You face-to-face. Encourage me to walk with You daily and get to know You better.

INSIGHT

John accepted his position as number two with elegance and grace. He knew full well that all service and blessing come from the Father. There is no room or any need for competition (John 3:27). All opportunities we have, along with our skills, gifts, and experience come from the Father.

John the Baptist knew he was not the Messiah, but rather, he was the friend and forerunner of the Messiah, John self-described his role as the friend of the bridegroom.

The bridegroom’s friend, the shoshben, is similar to the best man at a wedding in American culture. He had a special place at a first-century Jewish wedding. All of the wedding arrangements were made by him. He sent out invitations and was the host at the wedding feast. He brought the bride and the bridegroom together. And he had one special duty. It was his duty to guard the bridal chamber and to let no false lover in.

Once the bridegroom and bride had been brought together, the work of the best man was completed. He waited to hear the bridegroom’s voice from within the bridal chamber when for the first time the bride dropped her veil. I can only imagine that the bridegroom said something like, “How lovely!” The bridegroom’s friend then went away rejoicing, for his mission was accomplished, the lovers were together.

John did not have an identity problem. He knew the difference between the bridegroom and the bridegroom’s friend. His only responsibility had been to bring the bridegroom and bride together. When they were, John joyfully faded out of the picture.

John’s task had been to bring Israel and the Lord Jesus together. He “arranged” the marriage between the Lord Jesus Christ, the bridegroom, and Israel, the bride. He brought them together. Once they were joined, his work was done.

It was not with envy that he said that the Lord Jesus Christ must increase, and he must decrease; it was with joy.

It may be that sometimes we would do well to remember, as children of the King it is not our purpose to draw people to ourselves. Rather, we are to draw them to the Lord Jesus Christ. We do not seek the loyalty of others to ourselves. We seek that people become loyal to the Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ (Wiersbe).

A Presbyterian pastor in Melbourne, Australia introduced J. Hudson Taylor by using many superlatives, especially the word great. Taylor stepped to the pulpit and quietly said, “Dear friends, I am the little servant of an illustrious Master.” If John the Baptist in heaven heard that statement, he must have shouted “Hallelujah!”

It is far better to joyfully be second fiddle in the Father’s orchestra, than not fiddle at all. John clearly understood his calling and was unreservedly committed to his mission in life. He was completely comfortable with his place in the Father’s plan. He did not seek personal glory or acclamation. The Lord Jesus Christ said of him, “Among those born of women no one is greater than John” (Luke 7:28).

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