A wonderful life ∙

Aslab
Aslan

A wonderful life

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. – John 10:10

John 10:10-29

 10 The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep.

 12 A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock.

 13 The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep.

 14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me,

 15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep.

 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me,

 29 for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.

Made in 1946, It’s Wonderful Life, is one of the most beloved American films. It is an uplifting, heartwarming fantasy. It delightfully affirms cherished values of friendship, helping one another, gratitude, and personal achievement. It portrays common everyday difficulties and disappointments that its viewers can easily identify with.

George Bailey, played by James Stewart, was a dreamer, longing for world travel and adventure. Yet “life happened,” time and time again. His dreams are dashed. He finds himself beset with overwhelming personal problems and an impending scandal. He contemplates a Christmastime suicide. Looking at an icy river from the bridge, he cries out, “I wish I had never been born.”

The whole matter is resolved through the film in layered, exquisite nuances. An angel is dispatched, Clarence Oddbody, AS2 (angel second class). Clarence is seeking to “earn his wings” through a major life transformation and positive outcome for George.

In a way, Clarence grants his wish. Clarence explains, “You’ve been given a great gift, George: A chance to see what the world would be like without you.” The film then presents a “What If” scenario. It is an imaginary alternative life flashback that is played out as if George had never been born. Possible outcomes in people’s lives close to George, come into focus. He sees how things would’ve been different had he never been there. George realizes how many people he impacted for the good.

Clarence states, “One man’s life touches so many others when he’s not there it leaves an awfully big hole . . . You see George, you’ve really had a wonderful life. Don’t you see what a mistake it would be to just throw it away?”

The Father fully intends for His sheep to have a wonderful life, an abundant life. The first of the Four Spiritual Laws is, “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” (Cru).

John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

John 10:10 gives us the reason that Jesus came, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

Jesus willingly gave His life to save ours (Stanley).

REFLECT & PRAY

Continual fellowship with the Father offers a rich and joyful life, overflowing in its midst, allowing children of the King to rise above it.

Father thank You for giving me eternal life on the day that I met You. Thank You for the promise of an abundant and rewarding spiritual and emotional life. Encourage me to live that life.

INSIGHT

The Father offers children of the King a wonderful life. Life is not intended to be sad or dour, flat or miserable. The tedium and struggles of the fallen world are not removed.

Genesis 3:17-19

 17 The ground is cursed because of you. All your life you will struggle to scratch a living from it.

 19 By the sweat of your brow will you have food to eat until you return to the ground from which you were made.

The Lord Jesus Christ as the Good Shepherd offered His sheep two extraordinary types of life. The first is eternal life. Eternal life by definition lasts forever. Eternal life is knowing the Father God personally and experientially. It is living with Him forever. It does not begin when we die. Rather it begins when we come to know Him in a personal way.

The second type of life which the Lord Jesus Christ offers us a wonderful or abundant life. His sheep will be safe, well cared for, well-fed, and content. All of their needs will be fulfilled.

The Greek word translated abundant, abundantly, satisfying, or full is perissos. Perissos has the sense of over and above, beyond measure, abundantly, more abundantly, abundantly above, exceeding, superior, extraordinary, uncommon.

We might say in modern English, “supersized.” It is natural to focus on supersized material and physical things. Rather, the focus should be on spiritual and emotional dynamics. What would a spiritual walk with the Father look like if it were extraordinary and beyond measure? If the Father shaped and energized our emotions, what would peace, rest, hope, or confidence that were “over and above” look like?

The Lord Jesus Christ came as our Good Shepherd. His shepherding is extraordinary, over and above the norm. The results are supersized.

In life, a real shepherd is born to his task. His sheep become his friends and his companions. It becomes second nature to think of them before he thought of himself. He may be with them for decades.

But the hired shepherd comes into the job not as a calling but as a means of making money. He is in it only for the monetary payoff. He was only a hireling.

Jesus’ point is that those who work only for reward think chiefly of the money; those who work for love think chiefly of the people they are trying to serve. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who so loved His sheep that for their safety He would risk, and one day gives, His life (Barclay).

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.”

Supersized rest is available to all of the Father’s sheep who are weary and burdened.

Many of you receive a copy of the Reflection in your email.

Often after it is published, I review it one more time and tweak it.

To read the most up-to-date version, please click on the title.

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Pretty amazing grace

Aslab
Aslan

Pretty amazing grace

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. – 1 Timothy 1:15-16

Acts 9:3-6

 3 As he was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him.

 4 He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”

 5 “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting!

 6 Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

Neil Diamond, an American singer-songwriter, was born in Brooklyn. His parents were Jewish immigrants from Russia and Poland. He went on to become one of the best-selling musicians of all time with sales of over one hundred million albums. Sweet Caroline is one of the best-known songs in the United States. In the 1960s and 70s, many of his songs spoke of free love. He lived a very hedonistic lifestyle. When he was 77 years old he announced that he was retiring from the stage due to Parkinson’s disease.

Despite his great musical and financial success, his personal life was in shambles. He was depressed, lonely, and had no joy in his heart. He tried oriental mysticism, meditation, psychoanalysis, charity work, and political activism. But none of these things worked for him. In the last years of Johnny Cash’s life, Neil Diamond spent time with him, even performing songs at his house.

Something totally unexpected and startling happened in 2005. Neil found new faith. He began to refer to himself as “A Man of God” who had found “Pretty amazing grace.” His language and songs placed him squarely in the camp of born-again evangelical faith. He was now singing for God.

Man of God (2005)

Singing for Him is like touching the sky I don’t need to know why

I just know that it is Each time I sing out I want to rejoice ‘Cause when I hear my voice

I believe that it’s His And I am, yes I am, I’m a man of hope.

I haven’t stopped believin’ yet And while we’re headin’ down that road.

Hope is what we can’t forget And I am yes I am, I’m a man of God.

Know I am, yes I am, I’m a man, I’m a man of faith.

I’m a man, yes I am, I’m a man, I’m a man of peace.

He soon experienced pretty amazing grace and began to sing about it as well.

Pretty Amazing Grace (2008)

Pretty amazing grace is what You showed me. Pretty amazing grace is who You are

I was an empty vessel. You filled me up inside. And with amazing grace restored my pride

Pretty amazing grace is how You saved me. And with amazing grace reclaimed my heart

Love in the midst of chaos. Calm in the heat of war. Showed with amazing grace what love was for

You forgave my insensitivity. And my attempt to then mislead You.

You stood beside a wretch like me. Your pretty amazing grace was all I needed.

Stumbled inside the doorway of Your chapel. Humbled in God by everything I found

Beauty and love surround me. Freed me from what I fear.

Ask for amazing grace and You appear.

You overcame my loss of hope and faith. Gave me a truth I could believe in.

You led me to a higher place. Showed Your amazing grace. When grace was what I needed

Look in a mirror I see Your reflection. Open a book You live on every page.

I fall and You’re there to lift me. Share every road I climb. And with amazing grace You ease my mind

Came to You with empty pockets first. When I returned I was a rich man.

Didn’t believe love could quench my thirst. But with amazing grace You showed me that it can.

In Your amazing grace I had a vision. From that amazing place I came to be

Into the night I wandered. Wandering aimlessly. Found Your amazing grace to comfort me.

You overcame my loss of hope and faith, Gave me a truth I could believe in.

You led me to that higher place. Showed me that love and truth and hope and grace were all I needed.

Pretty amazing grace is what Neil Diamond needed all along. Now he had found it. Pretty amazing grace and love cover a multitude of disappointments, failures, dead ends, losses, and sins.

REFLECT & PRAY

“Humbled in God by everything I found beauty and love surround me. Freed me from what I fear. Ask for amazing grace and You appear. You overcame my loss of hope and faith. Gave me a truth I could believe in. You led me to a higher place. Showed Your amazing grace” (Pretty Amazing Grace).

Father thank You that You provide pretty amazing grace for all children of the King.

INSIGHT

Neil diamond’s experiences are in no way unique. History is replete with remarkable stories of how the Father brings children of the King to Himself. When the apostle Paul first encountered the light of the Lord Jesus Christ he was initially blinded. When his sight returned, Paul saw as he has never seen before. Pretty amazing grace puts us into service despite our past sins. The Father graciously places us in service and trusts us regardless of our former unbelieving and defiant past.

Before Paul did 180° turn. His behavior was utterly wretched. He was the worst of the worst, the worst of them all.

1 Timothy 1:15 Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – and I am the worst of them!

When the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world, He was sent on a mission by the Father. He was to be the Savior of sinners. But who are sinners?

People are sinners by disposition and action. This is the sad condition of the entire human race. People have all inherited a sinful disposition from Adam and Eve. It is part of their spiritual DNA. In life, they simply act it out. Sin is autonomous action separate from or in defiance of the Father. Sin is contrary to the will and law of God. When we search inside, sin is lurking in the shadows.

The thought that Paul is trying to convey may be stated, “Christ Jesus came into the world to free sinners from their evil condition!” Or “People have sinful hearts (or, minds), so they sin. But Christ Jesus came to rescue them from their sinful condition” (UBS).

Through pretty amazing grace, Paul was rescued. In his 70s, Neil Diamond was rescued. Every child of the King has been rescued.

John 3:16-17

 16 For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

Many of you receive a copy of the Reflection in your email.

Often after it is published, I review it one more time and tweak it.

To read the most up-to-date version, please click on the title.

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Anointed restraint ∙

Aslab
Aslan

Anointed restraint

The LORD forbid that I should kill the one he has anointed! – 1 Samuel 26:7-12

 7 David and Abishai went right into Saul’s camp and found him asleep . . ..

 8 “God has surely handed your enemy over to you this time!” Abishai whispered to David. “Let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I won’t need to strike twice!”

 9 “No!” David said. “Don’t kill him. For who can remain innocent after attacking the LORD’s anointed one?”

 10 “Surely the LORD will strike Saul down someday, or he will die of old age or in battle.”

 11 “The LORD forbid that I should kill the one he has anointed!”

In the current climate of animus against and resistance to authority, it is all too easy to get wrapped around the axle on one side or the other.

The inappropriate behavior of generations of abusive leaders and bosses has only recently come under the microscope. The rampant immorality within religious organizations and denominations has been exposed. The #metoo movement has played a major role in pulling back the curtain. Surely, criminal acts need to be addressed and brought to justice.

But what if we just don’t like the people in question. Suppose we disagree with their points of view, religious and political beliefs, and what then? Many in the woke generation and those in opposition are out for blood.

A resistance movement is an organized effort by some portion of the civilian population of a country to stand against a legally established government or an occupying power. The goal is to disrupt civil order and stability. It may employ nonviolent resistance or force. An example from history is the nation of Norway during WW2.

A decentralized resistance movement began almost overnight to disrupt and disavow the winner of the 2016 presidential election. Those resisting felt vulnerable and threatened. They are vehemently opposed to the administration’s views and politics. Those being resisted, often represent those that feel threatened and vulnerable themselves. The same thing occurred in 2020, only in reverse.

Whether we like it or not, in good times or bad times, whether “our leader” is in or out, all authority is delegated authority. The Father determines who is in charge and who is not.

Daniel 2:21 He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings.

It goes without saying that it is very difficult to do what is right when we are convinced those in charge, are doing what is wrong. But all children of the King are called to live by a different standard.

In previous millennia, there were barbarous peoples: the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Mongols. In recent times, the brutality and evil of modern nations and groups seem almost unparalleled. We are living in very difficult, perilous, fierce, savage, unprecedented times (2 Timothy 3:1).

The Scriptures provide guidelines. Frankly, they are hard to take. The Roman Empire was cruel and merciless. Paul lived under its authority. Emperor Nero was in control when Paul wrote these words.

Romans 13:1-7

 1 Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.

 2 So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.

 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.

It is so easy to shake our heads and disagree with what we read. But this is the inspired word of God that we are handling. The Father speaks to each and every one of us, through Paul. It is incumbent upon us to comprehend what we read and make decisions based upon the truth and principles taught.

Paul’s thoughts and words are not isolated. Peter and Paul are merely expressing in their own words what the Father has consistently taught throughout the Scriptures.

Titus 3:1 Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed.

1 Peter 2:13-14

 13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority,

 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.

When the Lord Jesus Christ was challenged about paying taxes, He adroitly answered those who would entrap Him.

Matthew 22:17-21

 17 Now tell us what you think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?

 18 But Jesus knew their evil motives. “You hypocrites!” he said. “Why are you trying to trap me?”

 19 “Here, show me the coin used for the tax.” When they handed him a Roman coin,

 20 he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”

 21 “Caesar’s,” they replied. “Well, then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”

REFLECT & PRAY

It is a time of controversy and upheaval in the United States. Every child of the King has to decide how they are going to react when people whom the Father has put into power and authority act contrary to the truth of Scripture.

Father may my heart be right before You, and me. I seek to do what is right according to Your word even in savage times.

INSIGHT

In the Old Testament, all the kings of Israel and Judah were anointed and placed into their positions by the Father. Many of them were wicked and did evil in clear view of the Father. But they still were His anointed.

How do we respond to leaders that the Father has anointed, but act in a dastardly fashion? King David shows us the way. King Saul was the first Jewish king. His reign had not worked out too well. He proved himself to be selfish and defiant. Eventually, the Father had enough. While Saul was still king, the Father had Samuel, the prophet, anoint David as his replacement. There was a new king in town.

Saul was furious and went into overdrive. David became a marked man. Saul relentlessly pursued David. Time and again, David eluded capture and certain death.

Recall that David had six hundred mighty men of valor. They did not take too kindly to their beloved leader being hunted down for assassination. They looked for any opportunity to take out Saul and end it all. When David’s men looked at Saul, all they saw was the enemy. But David had a totally different perspective. David looked at Saul and saw the Lord’s anointed.”

More than once David had the opportunity to kill Saul. The Father delivered Saul into David’s hands. Saul was totally vulnerable, defenseless, and at David’s mercy. But David would not take his life, nor allow others to do so. David was convinced that the Father would remove Saul in His own time, in His own way.

The question becomes, how do children of the King respond to their enemies? If their heart is right with the Father. They will seek to do the right thing.

“David’s aide saw the opportunity as a divine blessing, but David saw it as a test. He would wait for God to act in His own time.” (Stanley).

David based his decisions and actions on truth and godly principles, not serendipitous circumstances. David knew that it was wrong to lay hands on the Father’s anointed, even though King Saul was not serving the Father as he should. No doubt, David had little respect for Saul, the man. But David had absolute respect for the Father and the position of King. The Father had given the office of King to Saul.

Are any of your enemies “anointed?” Perhaps it’s a test.

Many of you receive a copy of the Reflection in your email.

Often after it is published, I review it one more time and tweak it.

To read the most up-to-date version, please click on the title.

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Writing in the sand

Aslab
Aslan

Writing in the sand

They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. – John 8:6

John 12:46-49

 46 I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in me will no longer remain in the dark.

 47 I will not judge those who hear me but don’t obey me, for I have come to save the world and not to judge it.

 48 But all who reject me and my message will be judged on the day of judgment by the truth I have spoken.

 49 I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it.

Accused is a British legal drama television series that ran for two seasons from 2010 to 2011. Each episode tells the inside story of a different individual who has been accused of a serious crime. It discloses the backstory and events that led up to them being accused. In this anthology, each person claims to be not guilty or that their actions were justifiable.

It documents what happens when someone is formally charged with the crime and sent to trial. It is told from the perspective of the accused, their legal team, and their family members. It provides an extraordinary account of the actual real events that occur when someone is accused, formally charged with a crime, and put on trial. It leaves the viewers questioning whether each defendant is really guilty or not.

John 8 tells the story of a woman caught in the act of adultery. She is thrown down at the feet of Christ sobbing. It takes two for adultery to occur but no man is present. Why? We are not told. We are given some insight as to the motivation of her accusers. Their goal is to entrap the Lord Jesus Christ.

John 8:6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him.

They attempted to create an impossible scenario from which the Lord Jesus Christ could not escape. One way or another, regardless of what decision He made, they would have the leverage they needed to accuse Him and act against Him.

On the one hand, the law of Moses required that adultery be punished by death, death by stoning. If He does not follow the Mosaic law, His credibility would be undermined. He would be in rebellion against the law of Moses. He was not a prophet of God. The Lord Jesus Christ had proclaimed in the sermon on the Mount that He had come to fulfill the law, not destroy it (Matthew 5:17 ).

On the other hand, if He condemns the woman and approves her death by stoning, He will be in conflict with Roman law. Rome alone has the power of life and death.

What a clever trap with no apparent way of escape. Yet in His spirit-led brilliance, one is provided.

At first, He does not speak. Rather, He stoops down and slowly, unhurriedly writes in the dust. This is the only reported time that the Lord Jesus Christ writes anything. But no one knows what He actually wrote. It is futile to speculate or offer personal opinions. Personal opinions not based upon biblical knowledge and exegesis are useless.

2 Peter 1:20 No prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.

The Lord Jesus Christ has the perfect solution. In essence, He says, she is guilty of the crime and according to the Law of Moses, she is condemned to death by stoning. Can you see the crowd of accusers beaming with self-satisfaction? Imagine for a moment there smirking smiles, thinking to themselves, “We’ve got them now, go get the Romans.” Not so fast. He makes one little proviso.

He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her (John 8:7).

“His keen glance rests upon the woman’s accusers one by one. Then He writes in the sand at their feet – letter after letter. They watch His finger – fascinated, as it travels up and down – up and down. They cannot watch without trembling. The group is thinning now. They think of the recording angel. They think of judgment. They have howled for it. Now it has descended on them. Looking into their faces, Christ sees into the yesterdays that lie deep in the pools of memory and conscience. He sees into their very hearts, and that moving finger writes on . . ..” (Peter Marshall).

The accusers become the accused.  The condemners condemn themselves.

REFLECT & PRAY

“The first lesson Jesus taught that day was that only the guiltless have the right to judge” (Peter Marshall).

Father thank You that You do not condemn me or other the children of the King. Help me not to condemn others.

INSIGHT

The apostle John did not record what the Lord Jesus Christ actually wrote on the ground. However, we are given a hint by the reaction of the woman’s accusers to the letters in the sand. Whatever He wrote, they realized that they were condemned of sin and therefore were not qualified to cast the first stone.

Can you hear the thud of stone after stone falling to the ground as her accusers slowly slink away? His accusers once again met their match and simply timidly skulk off. But there is more.

John 8:6 Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger.

The Greek word translated wrote is katagrapho. Katagrapho is used only once in the New Testament. It literally means to write down. It is made up of two Greek words kata = down and grapho = write. Generally means to write or to draw. However, in John 8:6 it has the nuance of writing down accusations.

Katagrapho is used in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. It is used 7 times (Exodus 17:14, 32:15, Numbers 11:26, 1 Chronicles 9:1, 2 Chronicles 20:34, Job 13:26, Hosea 8:12). Job 13:26 is by most illuminating.

Job is despondent. He has endured not only emotional and physical torment and great loss but also the “comforting” accusations of his  “counselor” friends. He reaches his breaking point. Finally, he begins to question God. Why does the Father seem to be punishing him? Job had conducted a self-assessment. He searched his heart, mind, and actions. He is not aware of what he is done wrong that would merit such “punishment.”

He knows that the Father is in control of all things. Therefore, he believes that the Father is responsible for the punishment.

Job 13:23-24

 23 Tell me, what have I done wrong? Show me my rebellion and my sin.

 24 Why do you turn away from me? Why do you treat me as your enemy?

He just does not understand and he is seeking answers. He imagines that the Father is writing down accusations against him.

Job 13:26 For you write bitter things against me

The word that Job uses for write is Katagrapho. Here it connotes writing down accusations.

This informs the interpretation of John 8:6. Without knowing the exact content of His words, He was writing down counter-accusations against the woman’s accusers. His writing revealed that none of them were without sin. Therefore they were not qualified to cast stones.

In the end, only the Lord Jesus Christ is qualified to condemn and stone her. Only He is without sin. Could it be that He picked up a stone and then simply let it drop it to the ground to make His point? He speaks heartwarming, fear-releasing, life-altering words that still echo down through the centuries.

John 8:11 Neither do I. Go and sin no more.

From the dust of Jerusalem’s streets arises a beautiful truth. When we compare ourselves to the righteousness of God, we all fall short. When we search our hearts, we know. We stand accused, judged, found guilty, and condemned. Rather than being pelted with stones, we are covered with undeserved, merciful forgiveness.

John 12:47 I have come to save the world and not to judge it.

Many of you receive a copy of the Reflection in your email.

Often after it is published, I review it one more time and tweak it.

To read the most up-to-date version, please click on the title.

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Guard your heart ∙

Aslab
Aslan

Guard your heart

Guard your heart above all else, for it is the seat of our personality. – Proverbs 4:23

Matthew 12:35 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.

The physical human body is intelligently designed. For example, the autonomic nervous system regulates the involuntary activity of the heart, digestion, respiration, perspiration, metabolism, and blood pressure. When the body senses cold, blood rushes to the core of the body to protect the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, and brain.

The physical human heart is the control center of the human body. In the 17th century, William Harvey discovered that the heart was responsible for the circulation of blood. The discovery revolutionized medical science. 

Somehow Solomon was aware of the importance of the physical heart. He displayed a scientific awareness and accuracy far beyond his times. In fact, he takes it for granted. He used the heart to illustrate spiritual truth. In a moral and spiritual sense, the heart must be protected because life and spiritual well-being flows from within (Ironside).

Everyday life is filled with heart challenges. How often do we find ourselves offended, stressed, frustrated, or angry? Rather than allowing ourselves to succumb to these challenges, we can choose to overcome them.

Countering negative reactions and their consequent negative emotions should be among our highest priorities.

The heart can only be protected by deliberate and conscious acts of the will. It is incumbent upon every child of the King to learn how and to choose to guard their hearts. What happens within our hearts, impacts everything else.

The book of Proverbs is filled with great wisdom and sagacious sayings. There is a very important verse, a pearl of great price, which is frequently unnoticed.

Proverbs 4:23 Guard your heart above all else. [with all diligence and vigilance], for it determines the course of your life. [for from it are the sources of life, for from it flow the springs of life].

REFLECT & PRAY

The heart is the center, the home of our innermost being. Our life force flows from our hearts.

Father teach me to carefully guard my heart above all else. As goes my heart my life force follows.

INSIGHT

In the Scriptures, the heart is the center of our innermost being. It is the seat of our personality, moral consciousness, and affections. The heart is the home of our zeal and delight, our yearnings and drives, our decisions and choices. It is the command module of our inward life. Out of it flows our life force.

Of all things that people possess, the heart is the most important. If the heart becomes polluted, the consequences are dire. Whatever finds a home in our hearts, will ooze out of our lives. What we think, determines our character and our actions. If our thinking is corrupt, so will be our lives.

Consider the Nile River of Egypt. It was the source of fertility and abundance for Ancient Egypt. It was the source of life. In the book of Exodus, the Father selected the Nile as the target for one of the ten plagues. When the water of the Nile turned to blood, the life force of Egypt became a source of defilement, sickness, and death.

Matthew 12:35 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.

Because the heart is so important, it should be carefully and vigilantly watched over guarded, protected, and preserved. This is to be done with all the diligence and effort we can apply. The Hebrew word translated diligence is mishmar, it literally has the sense of above all guarding (BDB) or “more than anything else you may guard” (USB).  “The heart must be guarded more zealously than anything else” (Fox).

The term heart is often interchanged in the Scriptures with mind, soul, and spirit. In a sense, not only does the heart feel, but it also thinks.

Proverbs 23:7 For as he thinks within himself, so he is.

We become what we think! We live out what we believe and focus upon. To become what the Father wants us to become and live in a manner that is pleasing to Him, we must have the proper focus.

Colossians 3:1-5

 1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.

 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.

 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.

 5 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you.

“Transformation is God’s goal for us, and we cooperate with His plan of spiritual metamorphosis when we train our minds to dwell on the things of God rather than on the things of the flesh” (Stanley).

Many of you receive a copy of the Reflection in your email.

Often after it is published, I review it one more time and tweak it.

To read the most up-to-date version, please click on the title.

¯\_()_/¯ 12-15-9

Waiting for the answer

Aslab
Aslan

Waiting for the answer

The king asked, “Well, how can I help you?” With a prayer to the God of heaven, I replied, “If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.” – Nehemiah 2:4-5

Nehemiah 1:4-11

 4 I sat down and wept. In fact, for days I mourned, fasted, and prayed to the God of heaven.

 5 Then I said, “O LORD, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands,

 6 listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned!

 7 We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses.

 8 “Please remember what you told your servant Moses: ‘If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations.

 9 But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.’

 10 “The people you rescued by your great power and strong hand are your servants.

 11 O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me.”

“Like large doors, great life-changing events can swing on very small hinges. It was just another day when Moses went out to care for his sheep, but on that day he heard the Lord’s call and became a prophet (Exodus 3). It was an ordinary day when David was called home from shepherding his flock; but on that day, he was anointed king (1 Samuel 16). It was an ordinary day when Peter, Andrew, James, and John were mending their nets after a night of failure; but that was the day Jesus called them to become fishers of men (Luke 5:1-11)” (Wiersbe).

Nehemiah was having an ordinary November day in 445 BC. He was going about his normal duties as cupbearer to the king when his brother Hanani came to see him. Hanani had just returned from Jerusalem. Nehemiah wanted to know how things were going for the Jewish people residing in Judah. The news Hanani brought back from Jerusalem was very disturbing. The wall of the city of Jerusalem which had been torn down during the Babylonian invasion was still in disrepair. The city was unprotected.

Nehemiah was grief-stricken. The Babylonian conquest of the Jews had occurred in 586 BC. It was now more than 100 years later. The Babylonians had been conquered by the Persians. The Persians issued governmental decrees which allowed the Jewish people to return to their homeland. But only a small number returned. They had no success in restoring the city’s defenses. The city was vulnerable to attack and defenseless. Nehemiah was despondent. His people were not safe, they were struggling just to survive.

Nehemiah 2:2-3

 2 So the king asked me, “Why are you looking so sad? You don’t look sick to me. You must be deeply troubled.”

 3 But I replied, “Long live the king! How can I not be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”

Nehemiah began to mourn, fast, and pray when he heard the news. He faithfully prayed from November 445 BC until April 444 BC. He was waiting for an answer for over 5 months. During times of waiting, nothing seems to be happening,  many children of the King become discouraged and give up. Often self-doubt begins to torment their souls.

Was Nehemiah doing something wrong? Was there rebellion in his heart? Was he asking the Father for the wrong thing? The answer to these questions is a definite no. Nehemiah was in the right place, praying for the right thing. Further, Nehemiah had access to the king, the human authority through whom the Father could answer Nehemiah’s prayer.

Why then was in his prayer not answered? Why did Nehemiah have to continue in prayer, month after month, with no response from the Father? Why did he have to wait?

The Father often leads us in the way He wants us to pray. In some inexplicable way, He lays upon our hearts what to pray for. Remarkably, in some mystical fashion, children of the King receive a spiritual burden or heaviness to pray. When we pray according to the Father’s direction, seeking His will, things happen. The Father is more than willing to act on our behalf. A marvelous ad hoc cooperative partnership is formed.

Our part is simply to pray as we are led. But only the Father knows the time when our prayers are to be answered. We cannot rush Him, nor can we slow Him down. Our prayers are answered according to His timetable, not ours.

It was as though the Father started a countdown at the moment Nehemiah began to pray. When the countdown reaches zero (0), Nehemiah’s diligent, Spirit-led prayer would be answered. Nehemiah was in the doldrums waiting for the mighty wind of the Father’s breath to blow. We so easily forget that the Father answers prayer only when His precise time arrives. Finally, the countdown ended and the Persian king, Artaxerxes, issued an edict. Nehemiah received permission to return to Jerusalem and restore the wall and the city’s defenses.

REFLECT & PRAY

Make prayer your first priority, instead of the last resort.

Father when You lead me into periods of testing, encourage me to take the matter to You in prayer and wait for Your perfect timing.

INSIGHT

When unforeseen events occur, the Scriptures are quite clear. We are to wait upon the Lord.

Psalms 27:14  Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.

The Hebrew word translated wait is qawwah. The root of qawwah means to wait or to look for with eager expectation. Qawwah connotes patient enduring in confident hope that the Father will decisively act on behalf of His people. Waiting with steadfast endurance is an expression of faith.

Learning to wait patiently is a spiritual skill that develops over time. Waiting in faith, trusting in the Father, has a remarkable internal impact. It engenders unswerving constancy, confident expectation, and renewal of optimism and strength.

Isaiah 40:31 Those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

While in a waiting mode, children of the King increase their trust in the Father and His promises. Our faith and integrity grow.

The Scriptures do not encourage making hasty decisions. Rather they encourage reflection in the seeking of advice and counsel. But not just any counsel. We are to askew ungodly advice and accept godly counsel from wise and spiritually mature children of the King.

Proverbs 15:22 Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.

Proverbs 20:18 Plans succeed through good counsel.

There are times we may need to hear from the Father quickly. We may have to move swiftly. When we are certain of the Father’s will, we can move swiftly.

However, Satan frequently encourages us to act immediately. Why? The enemy knows if we slow down and ponder the situation long enough we may reconsider, and take another path. How many people have made decisions they regretted for the rest of their lives?

Saul king of Israel was warned by the prophet Samuel. He was told to wait for Samuel to arrive before he made any decisions.

1 Samuel 10:8 You must wait for seven days until I arrive and give you further instructions.

King Saul jumped the gun. Because of disobedience, Saul lost his throne. Saul did what many of the children of the King often do. He got ahead of the Father and made terrible mistakes which resulted in horrendous consequences.

In stark contrast, Nehemiah waited for God’s timing. He fasted and prayed “for many days” (Nehemiah 1:4). Nehemiah had learned to wait for the Father’s perfect timing. While he was waiting, he repeatedly prayed and asked God to intervene. After four months, the king himself asked Nehemiah why he was so downcast. He told the king about the report that he had heard regarding the condition of Jerusalem. He confided that he wanted to help his people rebuild the wall. Consequently, Artaxerxes granted his wish and provided him with all the necessary authority and building materials, and funding to do the job (Nehemiah 2:1-11). While Nehemiah prayed, the Father was at work setting the stage. At the exact moment, the Father acted and the rest is history.

When difficult circumstances arise, is diligent, specific prayer your first response?

Many of you receive a copy of the Reflection in your email.

Often after it is published, I review it one more time and tweak it.

To read the most up-to-date version, please click on the title.

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Age of rage ∙

Aslab
Aslan

Age of rage

Do not let yourself be quickly provoked, for anger resides in the heart of fools. – Ecclesiastes 7:9

Proverbs 16:32 He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.

Proverbs 16:32 Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city.

The sale of antacids mounts year after year. Antacids are generally of two classes, those that neutralize gastric acid (sodium bicarbonate); and those that absorb acid (calcium and magnesium salts). But rumbling gastric distress is only covered over by antacids, but not eliminated.

We are living in an “Age of Rage.” People are seething, simmering, and smoldering inside. It is an age of churning anger.

People are quick-tempered and fast to anger. Daily news feeds are filled with crimes of violence resulting from outbursts of anger. It almost seems as though people are losing not only their tempers but also their minds, committing senseless acts, horrific acts, brutal acts against fellow workers, total strangers, or their own families.

Does anyone really want to appear foolish? Fools are known for their actions.

Control your temper, for anger labels you a fool. – Ecclesiastes 7:9

REFLECT & PRAY

It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt (Mark Twain).

Father, teach me to stir up and provoke gentleness rather than anger.

INSIGHT

Anger can result from our own actions. We do things that make us look foolish or incompetent, and then become angry at ourselves. A good descriptor of this is internal anger or self-anger. Anger is often provoked and stirred up by the actions of others. This could be labeled as external anger.

Self-anger is handled by self-acceptance and self-forgiveness. Self-love, as opposed to self-hatred, goes a long way.

External anger is often the result of difficult childhood experiences and bad parenting. When anger is sowed in the heart of the child, it yields a bitter harvest of rage and wrath.

You reap what you sow,
More than you sow, and
Later than you sow (Stanley).

Hosea 8:7 They sow the wind, and so they will harvest the whirlwind!

Unresolved anger sets up a recurring cycle, a loop of wrath and rage. It repeats itself through several generations.

Numbers 14:18 The LORD is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. But he does not excuse the guilty. He lays the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected – even children in the third and fourth generations.

Can this be reversed? Absolutely! Through recognition, repentance, and confession, the generational curse can be broken by anyone in the loop.

For parents. It begins with you. The feelings and responses of children need to be considered as a part of parental responsibility.

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.

“Literally this means, do not provoke your children to anger so that they begin to seethe with resentment and irritation like sap swelling in a tree on a hot day” (Hughes).

The Greek word translated provoke is parorgizo which comes from para – by, beyond, near, toward, implying movement toward a certain point, and orgizo – to anger, irritate. Hence, parorgizo means to exasperate, provoke to anger, irritation, or resentment.

This command prohibits making unreasonable demands on children in the everyday course of family life (Nelson). “This kind of provocation can inflame the child’s anger unnecessarily. Studies indicate that the factor that causes rage in teenagers more than any other is having to face life without adequate direction from their parents.” (Constable).

Resentment and exasperation grow in a climate of unreasonableness, selfishness, faultfinding, nagging, neglect, harsh and unfair punishment, threatening, and inconsistency. It can be exacerbated by parents refusing to acknowledge their children’s efforts and accomplishments; and instead of denouncing them for never being good enough. Children are like tender shoots that can easily be crushed.

Is it possible to right the wrongs? Can anything be done when angry, exasperated children grow up into wrathful, hateful, angry adults?

All things are possible when the Father intervenes. But it is by no means certain. When we invite the Father to become the center of our lives, wonderful things can happen. Acts of kindness, understanding, gentleness and godly instruction over time often work wonders. A positive, encouraging, safe environment characterized by love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).

Our heavenly Father yearns for, and actively seeks the restoration of broken lives and broken relationships. Consider the story of the prodigal son. The father longingly waits for the return of his son. When he finally comes home, all is forgiven. The father welcomes him with open arms and celebrates his safe return.

Luke 15:32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!

When God speaks, do we hear a forgiving or demanding Father, intimate or distant Friend, patient or intolerant Teacher, gentle or angry Guide, understanding or insensitive Counselor, generous or reluctant Provider, or a faithful or inconsistent Sustainer? (Stanley)

What do other people hear when we speak?

Many of you receive a copy of the Reflection in your email.

Often after it is published, I review it one more time and tweak it.

To read the most up-to-date version, please click on the title.

¯\_()_/¯ 12-16-9

Who You Gonna Call?

Aslab
Aslan

Who You Gonna Call?

During the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, Josiah began to seek the God of his ancestor David. Then in the twelfth year, he began to purify Judah and Jerusalem, destroying all the pagan shrines, the Asherah poles, and the carved idols and cast images. – 2 Chronicles 34:3

2 Kings 22:8-20

 8 Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the court secretary, “I have found the Book of the Law in the LORD’s Temple!” Then Hilkiah gave the scroll to Shaphan, and he read it.

 10 Shaphan also told the king, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a scroll.” So Shaphan read it to the king.

 11 When the king heard what was written in the Book of the Law, he tore his clothes in despair.

 12 Then he gave these orders to Hilkiah the priest . . ..

 13 “Go to the Temple and speak to the LORD for me and for the people and for all Judah. Inquire about the words written in this scroll that has been found. For the LORD’s great anger is burning against us because our ancestors have not obeyed the words in this scroll. We have not been doing everything it says we must do.”

 14 So Hilkiah the priest . . . went to the New Quarter of Jerusalem to consult with the prophet Huldah

 15 She said to them, “The LORD, the God of Israel, has spoken! Go back and tell the man who sent you,”

 16 “‘This is what the LORD says: I am going to bring disaster on this city and its people. All the words written in the scroll that the king of Judah has read will come true.

 17 For my people have abandoned me and offered sacrifices to pagan gods, and I am very angry with them for everything they have done. My anger will burn against this place, and it will not be quenched.’”

 18 “But go to the king of Judah who sent you to seek the LORD and tell him: ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says concerning the message you have just heard:

 19 You were sorry and humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I said against this city and its people – that this land would be cursed and become desolate. You tore your clothing in despair and wept before me in repentance. And I have indeed heard you, says the LORD.’”

“‘20 So I will not send the promised disaster until after you have died and been buried in peace. You will not see the disaster I am going to bring on this city.’” So they took her message back to the king.

Ghostbusters is a 1984 American comedy film written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis. It is filled with balanced amounts of humor, spookiness, and memorable action. The original movie earned $295 million, making it the highest-grossing comedy at that time. It became a cultural phenomenon. Its theme song, “Ghostbusters” by Ray Parker Jr., became a number-one hit. Those who saw the recall and recite the laughable haunting refrain, “Who You Gonna Call? ‘Ghostbusters.’”

Bill Murray leads a trio of passionate parapsychologists who get fired from Columbia University. They create a new business which is an investigation and elimination service of spooky events called the Ghostbusters. Otherworldly activity rapidly increases across New York City and the Ghostbusters become famous for their efforts. Soon the entire city of New York knew if they had significant problems with rowdy spirits they knew to contact them for help. Their marketing slogan was simple: Who You Gonna Call? ‘Ghostbusters.’”

After the time of Moses, the Father sent many prophets to the nation of Israel beginning with Samuel. The prophets living among the people were sought out for advice and direction and a word from the Lord. At the time of Josiah, two writing prophets were among the people, Jeremiah and Zephaniah. But when someone needed a word from the Lord who gonna call? “Huldah, the Prophetess.”

Most of the prophets of Israel were men. However, this was not exclusively the domain of men alone. There were female prophets mentioned in the Old Testament. Among them were Huldah, Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Deborah (Judges 4:4), Isaiah’s wife (Isaiah 8:3).

Huldah was well known as a respected woman of God. Her insights and messages came from the Father and she was prudent, sagacious, and trustworthy. She spoke with authority from God. She was the Father’s spokesperson of a moment. When the book of the law was discovered, King Josiah wondered how to respond. What action should be taken? King Josiah wanted to receive a word from the Lord, Huldah was his go-to person. Representatives were sent to her seeking to know what should be done.

She spoke for the Lord, her message was not her own. She made it clear that she was a channel through which the Father revealed His word. Huldah repeats the phrase “Thus says the Lord . . .” or “the Lord declares . . .” or the like, four times in her short prophetic message (2 Kings 22:15-19).

King Josiah received and followed her advice and counsel. His reforms were based on the word of God given by the Lord’s prophetess, Huldah. Consequently, the nation of Israel’s religious consciousness was reignited. The people were determined to do what was right, correct past wrongs, and live lives faithful to the Father.

What is a prophet of God? Prophets of God are the Father’s special servants. The Father calls them, “my servants the prophets” (Jeremiah 35:15). Prophets were the Father’s anointed, designated spokespeople and representatives. They were a go-between, a conduit between the Father and His people. Prophets received messages from the Father and passed them along to the people. Most prophetic messages are about the here and now. They provide the Father’s insight and perspective on matters of the heart and current events. A smaller portion of their prophetic messages was predictive and looked forward to the near and distant future.

REFLECT & PRAY

“There must be a return to the Word of God to find out what God wants us to do. Then . . . There must be a total commitment to God on the part of God’s people. There can be none of this halfhearted service . . . [and] none of this business of trying to go with the world and trying to go with God. It is impossible to do both. There must be a clear-cut dedication of heart and life to God. When that takes place, the Spirit of God is free to move” (McGee).

Father stir up our hearts to want to hear a word from You. When it comes, may we humble ourselves and commit to fully comply with what You desire for us.

INSIGHT

Josiah began to seek the Lord when he was 16 years old, as David had before him. He initiated religious reforms at the age of 20 (2 Chronicles 34:3-7). At the age of 26, he began repairing King Solomon’s Temple (2 Chronicles 34: 8).

Why was Josiah so shocked when he heard the law of God read? Many copies of the Scriptures had been sought out and destroyed by previous evil leaders. Only a few remained. They had been hidden away. Josiah had never heard God’s word before! How tragic!

2 Chronicles 34:19 When the king heard what was written in the Law, he tore his clothes in despair.

2 Chronicles 34:27 You were sorry and humbled yourself before God when you heard his words against this city and its people. You humbled yourself and tore your clothing in despair and wept before me in repentance. And I have indeed heard you, says the LORD.

Josiah was genuinely humbled and repented. He wept before the Lord. He was zealous to do whatever it took to make things right.

What had the people done wrong? Josiah had an inkling of what the problem was but wanted to be sure. The people had little knowledge of the word of God in their worship was spotty and very selective.

2 Chronicles 34:21 For the LORD’s great anger has been poured out on us because our ancestors have not obeyed the word of the LORD. We have not been doing everything this scroll says we must do.

2 Chronicles 34:25 My people have abandoned me and offered sacrifices to pagan gods, and I am very angry with them for everything they have done.

As children of the King, if and when we come to our senses and recognize what we have done, how do we make it right? We become resolute and pound a stake in the ground. We determined never to go back. Rather, we humble ourselves and repent. Then we begin to see Him as never before. We seek His face, we seek His presence, and we seek His help. We decided to be “all in” and seek Him with our whole hearts.

Jeremiah 29:13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.

Many of you receive a copy of the Reflection in your email.

Often after it is published, I review it one more time and tweak it.

To read the most up-to-date version, please click on the title.

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