Do the right thing ∙

Aslab

Do the right thing ∙

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. – James 4:17

Luke 12:47-48

 47 And a servant who knows what the master wants, but isn’t prepared and doesn’t carry out those instructions, will be severely punished.

 48 But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.

New Brighton, Minn., June 30, 2014 (UPI). The headline reads: Good Samaritan saves Minnesota man’s life by bending locked car door with bare hands. A 52-year-old Minnesota man bent a locked car door in half with his bare hands and pulled a man to safety after his car caught on fire on Sunday evening in New Brighton.

Robert Renning was driving on Interstate 35W around 6:30 p.m. when he passed a car that was on fire.

The driver, Michael Johannes, couldn’t get the car’s electronic locks and power windows to open, so Renning “somehow pried his fingers” along the vehicle’s door frame and “bent the locked door in half from the top down.” After he created the opening, Renning was able to pull Johannes out before he was seriously injured, or worse.

“He did an extraordinary deed, bending a locked car door in half of a burning car to extricate a trapped person,” Minnesota State Trooper Zachary Hill told WCCO. “I feel this man deserves any and all commendation for his extraordinary life-saving measure that kept another from burning alive.”

Renning humbly down­played his “Superman” moment. “Somebody was in trouble he said. ‘You’re supposed to help each out other.’”

The burnt-out car (Credit: Minnesota State Patrol/Facebook)

In most situations, it is often intuitively obvious what the right thing to do is. Of course sometimes we never really know what is right or best. However, putting that aside, focus on those times we know what is right to do. Do we take a risk and do it? Are you aware of what the Father’s stance is on doing right when you know what it is?

James 4:17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

REFLECT & PRAY

The Father will never ask us to do something that we cannot do with His enablement.

Father I recognize the extreme limitations that I have in many areas of my life. But I also recognize that You have also entrusted me with precious spiritual treasures, and responsibilities. Enable me to act wisely in Your service and complete my assignments.

INSIGHT

Failing to act when you know what is right, carries a lot of overhead. The Father is always fair and just in His assessments. The Lord Jesus Christ tells a story to illustrate. There was a master who had two servants. He provided them with assignments and then left on a journey. Neither of them knew when he would return

Luke 12:47-48

 47 A servant who knows what the master wants, but isn’t prepared and doesn’t carry out those instructions, will be severely punished.

 48 But someone who does not know, and then does something wrong, will be punished only lightly.

Luke 12:43 If the master returns and finds that the servant has done a good job, there will be a reward.

There is a built-in assumption here and that is that when the master assigns a task, he also provides the wherewithal to succeed in carrying it out. The Father will never ask us to do something that we cannot do with His enablement. “The servant who knows what to do and does not do it is more culpable than the one who does not do it because of ignorance” (Stein).

But there’s more. Privilege increases accountability.

Luke 12:48 When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.

“Knowledge and privilege always bring responsibility. Sin is doubly sinful to those who knew better; failure is doubly blameworthy in those who had every chance to do well” (Barclay).

No one but the Father knows the day or the hour when any of any children of the King will meet Him in eternity.

Life in the 21st-century moves quickly and is filled with challenges and responsibilities. Too often our obligations are half done, put off, incomplete, or not even attempted. What are we as children of the King to do? The Lord Jesus Christ provides a perfect model. He came into the world with an itinerary planned in eternity past. He finished all of His earthly assignments and at the end, he said simply “It is finished.”

How did He manage to do this? He was in perfect communication with the Father and prayed for instructions every day.

John 6:38 I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will.

John 17:4 I brought glory to you here on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.

Each of us also has an itinerary planned in eternity past. As we ask the Father, He will delightfully provide guidance, a “list” of “Things to do today.” Be prudent and ask Him every morning. He will lead and strengthen us as we walk with Him through life.

Colossians 1:9 We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding.

¯\_()_/¯ 2-24-2

When a generation knows not God

Aslab

When a generation knows not God

The people of Israel served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him – those who had personally experienced all that the LORD had done for Israel. – Joshua 24:31

Judges 21:25 In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.

The 18th century was one of the most extraordinary chapters in the development of Western civilization. Remarkable people with a remarkable understanding of human nature, history, and the basis for a sound, lasting Republic ascended to positions of leadership and influence. In the year 1788, the then nascent American states were considering whether or not to ratify the new US Constitution. The fact that individuals from so many disparate backgrounds and dispositions could join together and create such a document was considered by many nothing less than a divine act of Providence. George Washington made several salient observations worthy of our consideration in the 21st century.

“It appears to me, then, little short of a miracle, that the Delegates from so many different States . . .. should unite in forming a system of national Government, so little liable to well-founded objections” (Washington).

“We are not to expect perfection in this world; but mankind, in modern times, have apparently made some progress in the science of government” (Washington)

“No country upon earth ever had it more in its power to attain these blessings than United America. Wondrously strange, then, and much to be regretted indeed would it be, were we to neglect the means and to depart from the road which Providence has pointed us to so plainly; I cannot believe it will ever come to pass” (Washington).

It was a remarkable time where the majority of these individuals had a firm belief in the existence of a providential, creator God who had brought them to the present hour and given them victory over the strongest military power on earth of the age, Great Britain.

But what happens when the people as a nation forget the God of the Bible? Sadly this happened many times in the history of the nation of Israel.

Joseph, one of the 12 sons of Jacob, found himself in a very difficult situation as a prisoner in the land of Egypt. But the Father was with Joseph and gave him tremendous abilities, brilliance, and character. Joseph rose to the top and became second in command to Pharaoh. Through his leadership, Egypt and the emergent nation of Israel were saved from death by famine and went on to prosper. Eventually, at the age of 130, Joseph’s life came to an end (Genesis 50:26).

Exodus 1:6-7

 6 In time, Joseph and all of his brothers died, ending that entire generation.

 7 But their descendants, the Israelites, had many children and grandchildren. In fact, they multiplied so greatly that they became extremely powerful and filled the land.

Soon darkness covered the land of Egypt. Anti-Semitism was on the rise and harsh treatment of the children of Israel was commenced. When the Father is forgotten so are the people associated with His name.

Exodus 1:8-10

 8 Eventually, a new king came to power in Egypt who knew nothing about Joseph or what he had done.

 9 He said to his people, “Look, the people of Israel now outnumber us and are stronger than we are.”

 10 “We must make a plan to keep them from growing even more. If we don’t, and if war breaks out, they will join our enemies and fight against us. Then they will escape from the country.”

Exodus 1:11-14

 11 So the Egyptians made the Israelites their slaves. They appointed brutal slave drivers over them, hoping to wear them down with crushing labor. They forced them to build the cities of Pithom and Rameses as supply centers for the king.

 12 But the more the Egyptians oppressed them, the more the Israelites multiplied and spread, and the more alarmed the Egyptians became.

 13 So the Egyptians worked the people of Israel without mercy.

 14 They made their lives bitter, forcing them to mix mortar and make bricks and do all the work in the fields. They were ruthless in all their demands.

Things soon went from bad to worse. A genocidal program of extermination was initiated. The Pharaoh’s solution: death of all newborn male Hebrew children.

Exodus 1:15-22

 15 Then Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, gave this order to the Hebrew midwives, Shiphrah and Puah:

 16 “When you help the Hebrew women as they give birth, watch as they deliver. If the baby is a boy, kill him; if it is a girl, let her live.”

 17 But because the midwives feared God, they refused to obey the king’s orders. They allowed the boys to live, too.

 22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Throw every newborn Hebrew boy into the Nile River. But you may let the girls live.”

That plan did not work out too well either. The Father providentially saved Moses from certain death at the hands of Pharaoh and the rest is history.

REFLECT & PRAY

Proverbs 14:34 Godliness makes a nation great, but sin is a disgrace to any people.

Father thank You for your providential work and intervention in human history. Guide each child of the King in how they respond to the present hour.

INSIGHT

Tragically, the nation of Israel itself forgot the God of the Bible soon after they entered the Promised Land. Through the leadership of Joshua and Caleb, the people took possession of the Promised Land. The angel of the Lord led Joshua to victory (Joshua 5). The promise of the Father was fulfilled. This generation of Israelites knew and worshiped the true God, the Father. They had seen His miraculous work that freed them from slavery. This was the Nation’s “the Greatest Generation.” But when that generation died out, their faith in God was not followed by those that came after them. By the end of the book of Judges, the people had forgotten the God of the Bible

The people of Israel served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him – those who had personally experienced all that the LORD had done for Israel. (Joshua 24:31). In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25).

Jeremiah 2:11 Has any nation ever traded its gods for new ones, even though they are not gods at all? Yet my people have exchanged their glorious God for worthless idols!

In the 20th century, many nations of the world saw generations arise that knew not the God of the Bible. Germany was one of them. In his book, When a Nation Forgets God, Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer tells the story of what happened.

“Erwin Lutzer asks . . . What happens to the nation that forgets God? Using the history of Nazi Germany as his canvas, Lutzer brilliantly illustrates a critically important truth. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, a culture which drives every vestige of God from the marketplace of ideas inevitably finds it has sown seeds that it will reap in the whirlwind” (Frank Wright, President & CEO, National Religious Broadcasters).

Many of the things that happened in Nazi Germany are eerily similar to events occurring today. At the turn of the 20th century, Germany shared much common ground with the United States at the turn of the 21st century. The German people, having a rich culture and powerful military machine, were demoralized and diminished by warfare. The nation fell into uncertain and turbulent times. Inconceivable political changes took place. Society plunged into darkness.

Consider several of Lutzer’s observations from the book:

  • The Greater Good of Germany eclipsed individual freedoms and the right to opposition.
  • As long as the economy was strong, people did not care whether they had freedom of speech, freedom of travel, or freedom of elections.
  • Given a choice, most people chose bread and sausage above individual liberties.
  • Treason was defined as anything contrary to the will and purpose of the Reich.
  • The best way to conquer your enemies is to divide them.
  • Political leadership tapped into the anger of the German people.
  • Propaganda was utilized to disrupt of the existing state of affairs.
  • Before long facts did not matter.
  • Lies and intimidation silenced opposition.
  • The cross of Christ was distorted and diminished when wrapped in the flag of a political party.
  • Churches did not have enough room for both the cross and the swastika.
  • Emotions were more powerful than rational arguments. Success was achieved by demonizing the opposition
  • Warning signs were overlooked because people wanted to believe in something so strongly it did not matter that was a lie or not.

Is the Father sending a warning to children of the King? Is He speaking to us through the stories in the Scriptures and also modern-day events? Are we facing a dreadful, monstrous future that none of us wishes? What should the children of the King do?

1 Thessalonians 5:4-11

 4 But you aren’t in the dark about these things, dear brothers and sisters, and you won’t be surprised when the day of the Lord comes like a thief.

 5 For you are all children of the light and of the day; we don’t belong to darkness and night.

 6 So be on your guard, not asleep like the others. Stay alert and be clearheaded.

 10 Christ died for us so that, whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever.

 11 So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Planning your day ∙

Aslab
Aslan

Planning your day ∙

O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly. – Psalms 63:1

Psalms 5:3 Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly.

Psalms 37:5 Commit everything you do to the LORD. Trust him, and he will act on your behalf.

George Washington Carver was born into slavery in the 1860s during the Civil War, in Diamond, Missouri. Because of his race, most schools closed their doors to him. His parents taught him at home. At the age of fourteen, he left home to seek an education. He had an insatiable thirst for knowledge. Eventually, he was accepted at both Simpson College and Iowa State.

This young genius became one of the most prominent inventors and agricultural scientists of his time. He actively advanced the idea of crop rotation to prevent soil depletion. Carver developed over 100 products that were derived from the peanut, including dyes, plastics, and gasoline. In 1941, Time magazine dubbed Carver a “Black Leonardo.”

A Christian couple befriended him, and he became a student of the Bible. The Scriptures became his reliable guide to his dying day.

To what did Carver attribute his success to overcome almost insurmountable obstacles?

Carver would be the first to tell you it was because of the Lord. “I have made it a rule to go out and sit . . . at four o’clock every morning and ask the good Lord what I am to do that day. Then I go ahead and do it.” (Scientists of Faith, books, google.com).

What made George Washington Carver’s success possible? Surely, he had a great deal of natural ability, intelligence, discernment, curiosity, and insight. But he had something far more important. He had daily encounters with the Father, the living God. This made all the difference in the world.

REFLECT & PRAY

Children of the King who walk closely with the Father prioritize their lives differently. Spending time with the Father early in the morning frequently takes precedence.

Father thank You for wanting to spend time with me. I welcome the encounter. Encourage me to be wise in setting my priorities and making time with You my highest priority.

INSIGHT

What is an encounter with God? “An encounter with God takes place when He confronts us. Through these divine encounters, the Lord comforts us, challenges us, heals and forgives us. He changes us.” (Stanley). When it comes to encountering the Father, He is in complete control. There is nothing we can do to manipulate Him or “call the shots.” Whatever sense of control we might think that we have, we yield.

If we cannot manipulate or control the Father, what can we do to encourage such encounters? We can make ourselves available to Him. We learn to listen. We learn to hear and recognize His voice. We actively seek His direction, guidance, and instruction. “When we make ourselves willing and available, the Father will encounter us” (Stanley).

Learn from George Washington Carver. Carver made it a daily practice to set aside a time to meet and commune with Him. Every morning he would spend time with the Father and seek the Father’s game plan for the day. He had great success. His life is well worth emulating.

A simple question to ponder. If you want instructions and guidance for the day, when is the best time to seek it? It seems to me that the obvious answer is, as early as possible. Carver started every day at 4 AM seeking the Father’s face.

Psalms 63:1 O God, you are my God; I earnestly [early] search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

The Hebrew word translated earnestly or early is shahar. The verb shaharoriginally meant to “Seek early, diligently, earnestlytwo look for dawn.” It is derived from the noun shahar which means dawn. Thus, it meant to seek early, put first things, first. And then came to mean to seek earnestly, intently, or diligently.

As soon as David arose in the morning, he became aware of his need for the Father, just as he needed water shortly after waking up (Constable). David made it a habit to seek the Father early.

There is something about seeking the Father’s presence early in the quiet, serene, solitary, stillness of the morning. Early morning is when our minds and hearts are uncluttered, sharp, and clear.

When psalmists speak of their intense longing to be with the Father, they often described their yearning as thirst.

Psalms 42:1 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, O God.

David characterizes his need to spend time with the Father as thirst. As he had been parched in the wilderness and thirsted for water, so his soul is parched and pants for the Father. For David, just thinking about the Father, created a longing, soul thirst.

David had learned to depend upon the Father every day. He probably could not imagine beginning a day without Him. His need was intense. During the best years of his life, David lived a life of daily dependence on the Father.

Each of us has daily routines that we follow upon waking. Would it be wise to make one of them an encounter with the Father?

¯\_()_/¯ 1-6-2

Receiving the Father’s signals ∙

Aslab
Aslan

Receiving the Father’s signals

Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left. – Isaiah 30:21

Isaiah 30:15-20

 15 This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength. But you would have none of it.

 18 So the LORD must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the LORD is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help.

 20 Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes.

Hall of Fame coach, Paul Brown, originated the use of NFL headsets in 1956. John Campbell and George Sarles approached him with an idea. They had developed a small radio receiver that could be placed inside a quarterback’s helmet, allowing for communication from the sideline.

It was first tested in a preseason game against Detroit. A Lions coach saw the transmitter and complained to the league. Commissioner Bert Bell outlawed the devices. They were banned for almost 40 years. In 1994, the NFL approved a radio communication system between the sidelines and the quarterback.

Today’s headsets are lightweight, comfortable, and durable. They allow coaches to communicate with each other on the sidelines and to relay play calls to the quarterback. One defensive player can receive communication from the opposing coach. The sound comes out of two round, orange speakers in the helmet, behind the quarterback’s ears. Since 2014 they are manufactured exclusively by Bose, using their noise-canceling technology.

Today, the modern game of NFL football utilizes continual communication between the coach and the leaders of the offense and the defense on the field.

As children of the King, we have been given the ability to have and maintain continual communication as well. We speak to the Father through prayer and intercession. The Father answers us in a myriad of ways to show us how to execute His game plan (Hebrews 1:1). He speaks through the Scriptures. He communicates with us through people He places into our lives. Some children of the King have the incredible privilege of hearing His voice or seeing dreams and visions. Why has the Father established two-way continual communication with us? He wants to call the plays. He wants us to depend upon Him for direction to be most effective and carry out His plan. In American football, highly trained, experienced, and skilled players listen to their coach, the leader of our team.

REFLECT & PRAY

The Father is the best signal-caller there is. He has a terrific game plan conceived in eternity past. He has considered all contingencies for every situation. He always knows in advance what the opposition is planning to do

Father, You promised to guide me as I hear Your voice as I walk with You. Teach me to actively listen, trust, and follow You.

INSIGHT

Tragically it seems to be almost inevitable, that many children of the King stop listening, go our own way, and veer off course. Like sheep, we wander off and become disoriented. The result is collateral damage. Our ability to hear, see and follow directions is diminished. It is as though we are wearing earplugs and very thick, dark sunglasses. We manage to switch channels and no longer hear His signal. Perhaps all we hear is silence or white noise. Or worse, we hear many other voices. But the voices are not the Father speaking to us (1 John 4:1).

When we lose our connection, the Father continues to transmit. He is always there to provide direction and comfort. That’s just Who He is. We need only to tune back in.

2 Timothy 2:13 If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.

This is nothing less than pure grace and kindness. He promises to guide us when we ask Him.

Psalms 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.

Isaiah 30:20-21

 20 The sovereign master will give you distress to eat and suffering to drink, but your Teacher will no longer be hidden; your eyes will see him.

 21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

But it takes more than seeing and listening. It is incumbent upon every child of the King to focus, hear, trust, and obey. Because of our fallen human nature, we try things that we think might work. But such efforts prove futile. Yet, we seem to drift further and further away. We are all too ready to place our trust in useless, vain alternatives. It is almost as though we are too proud and self-affected the place our trust in the Father.

Psalms 33:16-17

 16 The best-equipped army cannot save a king, nor is great strength enough to save a warrior.

 17 Don’t count on your warhorse to give you victory – for all its strength, it cannot save you.

Yet, there is always the faithful few who strive to do the right thing no matter what. These children of the King choose to depend upon the Father alone. They seek to bask in the sunshine of His loyal love.

Psalms 33:18-22

 18 The LORD takes notice of his loyal followers, on those who hope in his steadfast love.

 19 He rescues them from death and keeps them alive in times of famine.

 20 We put our hope in the LORD. He is our help and our shield.

 21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.

 22 Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone.

The faithful children of the King wait in hope for deliverance from the Father as their faithful, dependable source of help.

The Hebrew word translated hope or wait in Psalm 33:22 is yachal. Yachal has the sense of looking forward. “This is hope in its surest form: patient (20a), confident (20b), buoyant (21a), informed (21b; the name of God means his revealed character: see Exodus 34:5–7); above all, focused not on the gift . . . but on the Giver. Such hope ‘will never disappoint us’ (Romans 5:5, Phillips)” (Kidner).

“The verb carries the meaning of trust, of waiting with an attitude of joyful expectation and confident hope. It is as if the worshipers cannot wait to begin anew the life of trust in such a God. “He is our help and our shield.” What confidence! What incentive to victorious living! With such a God as this, his people can go forth with joyful hearts, since they do put their trust in him” (Tesh and Zorn).

A world of enormous joy and fulfillment opens up to children of the King as they trust in the Father. They desire and pray that His unfailing love will surround and embrace them.

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Eighteen inches from heaven

Aslab
Aslan

Eighteen inches from heaven

You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. – James 2:19

Matthew 7:21-23

 21 Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.

 22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’

 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you.’

Nicolas Gentile, an Italian pastry chef, was totally fascinated by J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and Middle Earth. He began to dress as a hobbit. But he was not satisfied with just pretending to be a hobbit – he wanted to live like one.

Nicolas said, “Some time ago, I realized that books and films were no longer enough for me to satisfy my passion for the fantasy genre and, in particular, for the Lord of the Rings saga. I was still reading about the lives of other people. I decided that I wanted to live my hobbit life to the fullest.” In 2018, he bought a piece of land in the Italian countryside near the town of Chieti in Abruzzo. He built his own personal Shire following the model of Hobbiton from the Ring. Nicholas now lives in it as a hobbit along with his wife and children. His goal is to attract more like-minded folks and build a full-size hobbit village. He said, “I am living my dream.”

Indeed it is a dream, no more than a fantasy. There is a Middle Earth Reenactment Society dedicated to the researching, sharing, and living the fantasy. 

It is easy to confuse reality with fantasy. Too often our fantasy becomes our reality. In our socially connected world, it can be easy to confuse knowing about people with actually knowing them. Knowing about someone is not the same as knowing someone personally. Living out a dream is not the same as living in reality.

It is natural for people to have wishes and aspirations and try to live them out. Many people dream and hope to know the Father and be with Him for all eternity.

Nicholas Gentile built a modern-day knockoff of a hobbit Shire and then moved in.

Could it be many believers in God are doing something quite similar? Have they created a heaven of their own making and then made reservations to move in when they die?

Many think that being religious, attending religious services, performing good deeds, doing the right thing, or being part of a religious family, indicates that they have a relationship with the Father. Many have grown complacent because they genuinely try to live good lives and have faith in God. Having faith in the existence of God is not enough. It is possible to learn songs of the faith and religious jargon, even memorize Bible verses and still miss the mark They know about the Father. But that is not the same as knowing the Father. The difference is eighteen inches. It is the difference between head knowledge and heart-felt faith and a vital personal relationship.

The book of James attempts to jar people from their complacency and sense of security. James explained that there is a whole cadre of creatures that have great faith in God and the Scriptures. They are not agnostics or atheists. They believe in the Father’s existence and recognize the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. But these creatures are demons.

James 2:19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.

The demons have intellectual faith. They could easily sign off on most Christian statements of faith. But they have no security and tremble in fear because they never placed personal saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. They are servants of the dark side, not the Light of the World.

REFLECT & PRAY

The stakes are high. Do we truly know the Lord Jesus Christ or just know about Him? “The final test is not what we think of ourselves, or what others may think. The final test is: What will God say?” (Wiersbe).

Father thank You for sending Your Son the Lord Jesus Christ into the world. Thank You that when we accept Him as our Savior and Lord, we enter into a personal relationship with You and the Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are truly children of the King (Romans 8:16).

INSIGHT

We may go through our lives, informed by the truth of the Scriptures. We may know about the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Many throughout the centuries have attempted to faithfully serve, but a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ was totally lacking. Many impressive and wonderful things have been done in His name. But tragically, words and works do not make the cut.

Matthew 7:21-23

 21 Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you.’

The Lord Jesus Christ cautions seekers that aspire to be with Him in heaven forever. He is clear that is not enough to know about Him or even serve Him. What really matters is this: does He know them?

How can people be sure that they know Him, and that He knows them?

When the day of reckoning arrives, pretense and religious facade will not confuse the Father or the Son. The Lord Jesus Christ set forth what is required. There is only one thing that must be done. To enter into a relationship with Him we must exercise genuine heartfelt faith in the fact that the Father sent Him into the world to save us from our sins. We personalize what we intellectually know to be true. Many have done this by praying and accepting him as their Savior and Lord.

John 6:27-29

 27 But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval.”

 28 They replied, “We want to perform God’s works, too. What should we do?”

 29 Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.”

The people were confused. Why is this so? “The people picked up the word labor and misinterpreted it to mean they had to work for salvation. They completely missed the word give.”

“Steeped in legalistic religion, they thought they had to ‘do something’ to merit eternal life. Jesus made it clear that only one ‘work’ was necessary – to believe on the Savior. When a person believes on Christ, he is not performing a good work that earns him salvation. There is certainly no credit in believing, for it is what God does in response to our faith that is important (see Ephesians 2:8-10)” (Wiersbe).

What should we do? Where do we begin? We acknowledge that the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to save us from our sin. Many people familiar with the Christian faith recognize this as the central teaching. But the Lord Jesus Christ points out that knowing and believing are not the same. The difference is eighteen inches. When we believe, we make it personal. It’s a simple matter to actualize our faith. We receive and accept Him as our Savior and Lord. The thoughts of our minds become the faith of our hearts.

John 1:12 But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.

The demons know who the Lord Jesus Christ is. Although they believe, they are unwilling to accept Him. All they can do is tremble in terror (James 2:19).

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Preach the Word ∙

Aslab
Aslan

Preach the Word

Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. – 2 Timothy 4:2

2 Timothy 4:2-4

 2 Preach the word of God. Be ready whether it is convenient or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.

 3 For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.

 4 They will reject the truth and chase after myths.

In 1924, Dallas Theological Seminary was founded. Why begin another seminary? They wanted to maintain and pass on the art and science of expository preaching. They designed their curriculum to enable their students to study the Scriptures in their original languages empowering them to explain and apply the Old and New Testaments to others.

On the seminary seal, these words are inscribed in Greek: Kerusson ton logon. It is the seminary motto: “Preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2). The goal is to thoroughly equip children of the King to know, properly handle, and preach the Word of God. This is the epicenter of the seminary’s purpose for existence. It has been restated as follows, “To glorify God by equipping godly servant-leaders for the proclamation of His Word and the building up of the body of Christ worldwide.”

Their total commitment is to Preach the Word. They teach the Scriptures and equip their students to do likewise. In so doing, they pass on to the next generation, the primary tool that the Father has provided for spiritual growth and development, the Scriptures. It is the living Word of God that leads people to the knowledge of the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Near the end of the Apostle Paul’s life, coming ever closer to the executioner’s ax. His service to the Father is almost completed. Paul wrote final instructions to his disciple, his son in the faith, Timothy. What was most important to Paul? That is the torch he handed off to Timothy. Think of it as, Paul’s last words.

2 Timothy 4:1-2

 1 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom:

 2 Preach the word of God.

Paul’s words were riveting, solemn, and passion-filled. In Paul’s mind, the stakes could not have been higher in light of what was coming for both Paul and Timothy. They shared a common mission and purpose. They had both been called by the Father into His spiritual work of service.

Paul created vivid images for Timothy to lock onto. It is as though Paul in some marvelous unknown fashion whisks Timothy away and transports him into the very presence of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Once there, with the Father and the Son as witnesses, Paul ardently exhorts Timothy to preach the Word.

When Moses admonished the nation of Israel to do what was right, he did something quite comparable. Moses called on heaven and earth to witness the choice the people made (Deuteronomy 30:19).

In the American culture, it is similar to being sworn in to testify in court. Paul is essentially saying, “I have solemnly sworn to tell the truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God! Now Timothy, my son, I exhort you to do the same!”

On a human level, we understand this. But there is much more going on here. Being transported into the presence of the Father is overwhelming. It penetrates and pierces the hearts of those called in the Old Testament to serve as the Father’s prophets. Consider Isaiah the prophet.

Isaiah 6:1-8

 1 I saw the sovereign Lord seated on a high, elevated throne . . .

 2 Attending him were mighty seraphim . . ..

 3 They were calling out to each other, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!”

 5 I said, “It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.”

 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal . . ..

 7 He touched my lips with it and said, “See, this coal has touched your lips. Now your evil and guilt are removed, and your sins are forgiven.”

 8 I heard the voice of the sovereign master Lord, “Whom will I send? Who will go on our behalf?” I answered, “Here I am, send me!”

Ponder Ezekiel’s call into the Father’s prophetic service.

Ezekiel 1:28-2:5

 28 When I saw it, I fell face down on the ground, and I heard someone’s voice speaking to me.

 1 “Stand up, son of man,” said the voice. “I want to speak with you.”

 2 The Spirit came into me as he spoke, and he set me on my feet. I listened carefully to his words.

 3 “Son of man,” he said, “I am sending you to the nation of Israel . . ..”

 5 “And whether they listen or refuse to listen – for remember, they are rebels – at least they will know they have had a prophet among them.”

REFLECT & PRAY

Putting first things first. The Father has commissioned all children of the King to share the good news and teaching of His redemptive work of bringing salvation to the world.


Father encourage my heart to fulfill the tasks that You have given to me.

INSIGHT

The Father tasked His Son with a mission. The mission statement was outlined in a messianic prophecy (Isaiah 61:1-2a). In Luke 4, the Lord Jesus Christ visits Nazareth and goes to worship in the local synagogue on the Sabbath. In New Testament times, a segment of the synagogue worship service included readings from Old Testament scrolls and commenting upon what was read. Commenting upon the Scriptures had become a Jewish tradition called targuming. On this particular day, the scroll of Isaiah is handed to the Lord Jesus Christ. He read it aloud.

Luke 4:18-19

 18 “The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, for he has anointed me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free,”

 19 “and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.”

The Lord Jesus Christ handed the scroll back to the synagogue attendant and sat down. All eyes were fixed upon Him awaiting His Targum. He exclaimed, “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” (Luke 4:21) On that particular Sabbath day, Lord Jesus Christ began to preach the good news and to proclaim liberty. Jesus in turn, exhorts His disciples to proclaim publicly the things which He taught them (Matthew 10:27).

The word herald is somewhat archaic to modern ears. Throughout history, heralds were entrusted with a message and were dispatched to proclaim it. The Greek word for herald is kerux. Kerusso is the verbal form of herald. It means to proclaim, announce, make known, and preach. The Greek word translated preach in 2 Timothy 4:2 is kerusso.

Preaching is all about communication, proclaiming publicly the Father’s redemptive work of bringing salvation to the world. The preacher is not to offer his own opinions or conjectures. He is to preach the Word, the Father’s eternal, authoritative Word of Truth.

Just before His ascension, the Lord Jesus Christ shared with His disciples what was most important to Him. In much the same way as Paul, they were His last words.

Matthew 28:18-20

 18 Jesus came and told his disciples, I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.

 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

Every child of the King has the same commission. It has been called the Great Commission.

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When wrong feels right

Aslab
Aslan

When wrong feels right

There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. – Proverbs 14:12

James 1:13-16

 13 Remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else.

 14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.

 15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

 16 So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters.

Who among us is not seen at least part of a Roadrunner and Wiley Coyote cartoon? Wiley is always chasing after the Roadrunner but never manages to catch him. Wiley conceives and attempts outrageous plans to capture the roadrunner. No matter what extravagant or audacious scheme he attempts, it always comes to naught. How many times has Wiley run himself off a cliff, gotten run over by a truck, blown himself up, or been squashed? All these attempts seemed so right, but they are wrong. Picture in your mind Wiley running as fast as he could to catch the roadrunner? He mistakenly runs off a cliff. In midair, he suddenly realizes he has made a terrible mistake right before he falls to the ground below and gets splattered.

In life how often does wrong, feel right? How many times have we thought we were doing what we thought was right when we suddenly looked down and realized that we run ourselves off the cliff?

Is it not just too easy and convenient to rationalize? When we want something bad enough, we mull it over and over, even pray about it, until it seems right. Why is this so? It is part of our fallen DNA. What we want appeals to our flesh and sinful nature. How often are logic and truth tossed aside and our analysis is too superficial?

When wrong feels right, any child of the King can be misled. The limitations of our fallen humanity kick in and we are overcome and led astray (1 Corinthians 12:2).

REFLECT & PRAY

“Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay” (Zaccharias).

Father I cannot count how many times I have been tempted and succumbed to doing wrong because it felt right. Temptation is always there. Encourage me to do what is genuinely right and to resist doing what feels right.

INSIGHT

Sin happens! We seem predisposed to blame others or even God when we fail (Genesis 3:12-13). But the Scriptures are quite clear that sin is a choice, our choice. Putting it in simple terms, the reason we sin is because we want to. Have you ever asked yourself “How does sin happen?”

The book of James helps us out here. James explains the step-by-step process of succumbing to sin.

James 1:14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.

Perhaps in the back of his mind, he was thinking about how people hunt for food or catch fish with a hook. Fish by nature are repeatedly on the prowl for food, but at the same time, they are cautious and often shelter in a secure location. The angler must lure the fish out of hiding. They use bait to draw out the fish. The fish sees the bait and its desire is aroused. The fish takes the bait and is hooked.

The Greek word translated tempted is peirazo. Peirazo can refer to any trial or test with no negative connotations. On the other hand, it can signify being tempted. In James 1:14, peirazo means to be put to the test, to tempt, or to solicit to sin.

The Greek word translated lust/desire is epithumia. Epithumia signifies craving, longing for, or having a strong desire for something which can be either good or evil. When the object or activity longed for is something that the Father is disallowed, forbidden, or off-limits, it is translated as lust or wrong desire. “It is when we want to satisfy these desires in ways outside God’s will that we get into trouble” (Wiersbe).

The Greek word translated carried away, dragged away, drawn away, or lured is exelkoomenos. The term translated enticed is deleazomenos. Deleazomenos means being led astray. “The word ‘lure’ suggests a fish enticed to a hook and drawn out from the water, while the word ‘entice’ suggests attracting a prey to a trap by bait” (UBS).  It is hard to tell when one ends and the other begins.

“Drawn away carries with it the idea of the baiting of a trap; and enticed in the original Greek means ‘to bait a hook.’ The hunter and the fisherman have to use bait to attract and catch their prey. . .. The idea is to hide the trap and the hook. Temptation always carries with it some bait that appeals to our natural desires . . .. It is the bait that is the exciting thing” (Wiersbe).

James does not focus on any particular temptation. Rather than identifying the external stimuli, his purpose is “to pinpoint the source as the evil impulse within a person, thus highlighting our own personal responsibility for sin” (UBS). Our inner appetites and misguided desires are stirred up and energized by that which is forbidden. Paul puts it like this.

Romans 7:5 When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death.

James’ point is that we drag ourselves into sin. What a remarkable insight into the human soul (Richardson).

James provides a formula for sin:

          temptation + desire/lust = lured and dragged away

It is as though temptation is on the hunt and we are the prey. We are lured on and seduced by our own desires. When temptation is mixed with desire and lust, the result is sin. “We entice ourselves with the object we desire” (Richardson).

But there’s more. Like any good bait, the lure not only attracts us but also obscures the collateral damage and consequences. Yielding to our desires gives birth to sin, and sin gives birth to death. What a horrid paradoxical, oxymoronic concept.

James 1:15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.

Desire is not sin. Yielding to the misguided desire of the wounded heart is sin. It is one thing to be tempted to sin and ruminate on carrying it out. It is another thing to choose to sin. When temptation is acted out, it becomes sin. “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair” (Luther).

How do we escape the temptation trap? “The Word of God is a better guide than that ‘which seems right unto a man’” (John G. Butler).

Psalms 119:9 How can a young person maintain a pure life? By guarding it according to your word!

“Conscience needs to be informed by God’s Word and ruled by God’s will to make it a safe guide” (Spence-Jones).

Psalms 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

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Shibboleths

Aslab
Aslan

Shibboleths

And so the Lord says, “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.” – Isaiah 29:13

Matthew 15:1-9

 1 Some Pharisees and teachers of religious law now arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They asked him,

 2 “Why do your disciples disobey our age-old tradition? For they ignore our tradition of ceremonial hand washing before they eat.”

 3 Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God?”

 4 “For instance, God says, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’”

 5 “But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’”

 6 “In this way, you say they don’t need to honor their parents. And so you cancel the word of God for the sake of your own tradition.”

 7 “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,

 8 ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.

 9 Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’”

Shibboleths have been used throughout history in many societies as passwords, simple ways of self-identification, signaling loyalty and affinity, maintaining traditional identity, or protecting from real or perceived threats. A shibboleth is any custom or tradition, usually, a choice of phrasing or even a single word, that distinguishes one group of people from another.

Often a shibboleth is a kind of linguistic password: A way of speaking (a pronunciation, or the use of a particular expression) that identifies one as a member, or a non-member, of a particular group.

Shibboleth is a word or saying used by adherents of a party, sect, or belief. The importance of the original meaning of the shibboleth is lost. Shibboleths morphed into customs, principles, beliefs, traditions distinguishing a particular class, or group of people.

Many Jewish shibboleths were made known in the hit movie and play, Fiddler on the Roof.

Tevye explains, “Because of our traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years . . . we have traditions for everything . . . How to sleep, how to eat . . . how to work . . . how to wear clothes. For instance, we always keep our heads covered and always wear a little prayer shawl. This shows our constant devotion to God. You may ask, ‘How did this tradition get started?’ I’ll tell you. I don’t know. But it’s a tradition . . . and because of our traditions . . . Every one of us knows who he is and what God expects him to do.”

But is this really so? And what of analogous Christian religious traditions?

The Christian community, regardless of denomination, has its own shibboleths that set people of one group apart from others.

At best, human traditions are maintained by people in the hope that they are doing what the Father wants them to do. People at the time of the Lord Jesus Christ, as well as today, are very sincere in their beliefs and practices. It is startling to realize that the Scriptures present an entirely different point of view regarding man-made tradition.

Matthew 15:6 You invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.

How can this be?

Isaiah 29:13 They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote.

As shocking as this may be to many children of the King, would it not be wise to search our hearts regarding our traditions and shibboleths? Perhaps our innermost spirits are out of tune with the Father and His desires for us.

REFLECT & PRAY

The Lord Jesus Christ condemns hypocrisy. Our words and actions should not be merely external but come from our hearts. What is in our hearts should not reflect human tradition and creed, but rather the clear teaching of the word of God.

Father examine my heart and reveal any wicked way within (‎Psalm 139:24). My heart is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9).

INSIGHT

In Judges 12, civil war had broken out among the tribes of Israel. Under the leadership of Jephthah, the army of Gilead attacked and defeated the army of Ephraim. The soldiers of Ephraim tried to retreat and escape back to their own land. They were stopped and interrogated. They were given a test. The Hebrew word shibboleth referred to the head of the stalk of wheat or rye containing the grain. The word begins with the Hebrew letter shin. It is pronounced with an “SH” sound like “shoe” by the people of Gilead. But the people of Ephraim pronounced it sibboleth without “SH” and were easily identified as enemies (Judges 12:5, 6). Thus the first shibboleth test was performed and the name stuck.

In New Testament times, to avoid the expense of caring for aged parents, religious leaders worked out a devious scheme. It was quite simple. If money was vowed to God, it was exempt from the law requiring it to be used to care for the aged. The whole spirit of the 5th commandment regarding the honor and care of parents was tossed right out the window. What an extremely unethical, if not wicked, loophole. Today we would call it a cleverly devised “tax shelter.”

A tricky “vow to God,” a Corban, that is, a gift to God (Mark 7:11), invalidated the financial responsibilities delineated in the law of God. Once the Corban was vowed, it was officially the property of the Temple to be paid upon the death of the individual. The funds could not be transferred to anyone else, but the individual who vowed them could use them for their own benefit as desired in the meantime. Rather than affirming the Torah, the Corban undermined it.

Matthew 15:5-6

 5 But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’

 6 In this way, you say they don’t need to honor their parents. And so you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your own tradition.

On the surface, it was cruel, reprehensible, and heartless. No wonder the Lord Jesus Christ condemned their diabolical machinations. Indeed their heart was far from God even though externally things appeared otherwise.

The pharisaic law of men conflicted with the law of God. This unfair and ungodly practice became center stage in the clash between the Lord Jesus Christ and the religious establishment. There was no way to compromise. “Inevitably, the one had to destroy the other” (Barclay).

Take the righteous anger you may feel towards these unrighteous people and their actions and redirect it inward and examine your own heart. All issues regarding your priorities, materialism, taking care of the elderly, and dodging moral and ethical responsibility are on the table.

Legal evasion does not relieve us of moral responsibility.

Isaiah 29:13 And so the Lord says, These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.

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