Out of tragedy

Out of tragedy

Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. – Romans 4:20

1 Samuel 30:1-6

 1 David and his men arrived home at their town of Ziklag, they found that the Amalekites had made a raid into the Negev and Ziklag; they had crushed Ziklag and burned it to the ground.

 2 They had carried off the women and children and everyone else but without killing anyone.

 3 When David and his men saw the ruins and realized what had happened to their families,

 4 they wept until they could weep no more.

 6 David was now in great danger because all his men were very bitter about losing their sons and daughters, and they began to talk of stoning him. But David found strength in the LORD his God.

There is so much disappointment and sorrow in our world. Often it is far off and only affects others whom we do not know. Other times it is very close and personal. During the last few years, our world and our Country have been wracked by floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes. Recently planet Earth has been stricken with global riots and a deadly, devastating global pandemic. The damage and loss of life are horrendous.

“If you want God’s best in your life and you want to make your life count then you can expect to travel the road of adversity. It’s always there. And it’s amazing how somehow God uses adversities in our life to shape us, to make us fit, and to equip us to do the things that He desires to do in us and through us in life. And when you think about what adversity is, adversity is those ‘dark moments’ in our life” (Stanley).

The Father uses such hardships and times of darkness as the means by which He develops and matures His children. Outer turbulence and its consequent inner turmoil, are the raw materials from which strength of character and inner resolve are birthed and developed: from crisis comes courage; from tragedy trust; from failure faith, from loss leadership.

The dark moments are those times which may last for days, weeks, months, even years when, “We feel depressed, anxious, fearful, thoughtless, sinful, you name it. All those things a person goes through” (Stanley).  

“Dark moments” are unavoidable. We cannot run and we cannot hide. The question we have to continually answer for ourselves is, how are we going to respond to them? It is so easy to become discouraged because of the difficulties and hardships we face. The road to anger, bitterness, and depression is short. But there is another path.

1 Samuel 30:6 David drew strength from the LORD his God.

Rather than wallowing in despair, David turns to the Father in prayer and worship. This character quality is what marked David’s entire life and made him a man of faith and a great leader. The Father was perfecting David’s leadership qualities and preparing him for the throne. David abandoned his own poor, faulty, and limited perspective. He had learned to see things from the Father’s perspective. David had learned to see the end, while he was in the midst the “dark moments” that the Father had brought into his life.

REFLECT & PRAY

Isaiah 46:9-10

 9 Remember the things I have done in the past. For I alone am God! I am God, and there is none like me.

 10 Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass, for I do whatever I wish.

Father help me to exchange my paltry and insufficient perspective for Yours. You see the end from the beginning, and You are always at work to accomplish Your will on earth as it is in heaven.

INSIGHT                                         
In this world adversity, hardship, trouble, and times of darkness are certain.

Job 5:7 For man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward.

Many people allow adversity to become overwhelming obstacles and setbacks. Remarkably, others stand firm with confidence in the faithfulness of God. The latter have an overwhelming sense of stability and immovable strength. They weather the storm, head held high, confident, bold, not repressing anything. They feel absolutely certain that their Father is going to see them through the heartache and bring them out whole and joyful and more mature on the other side (Stanley).

Where is the Father in adversity? Can we trust Him when he says He will never leave us nor forsake us?

The Father is always with us in our adversity. Adversity is the barometer He uses to reveal to us our current level of faith and trust. But he doesn’t leave us there. As we learn to respond properly and endure the “dark moments,” the Father develops our faith and trust.

The ultimate question for each of us is, do we truly want to worship the Father and bring glory and honor to Him? Godly spiritual character is forged out of our adversity. Adversity is not a sign of failure, but rather evidence of “a work in progress.” To become fully equipped for service, it is necessary for children of the King to go through and endure heartache, disappointment, and pain. He uses “dark times” to mold and shape us.

The Father has something definite it in mind for each of His children as He conforms us into the likeness of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Father allows adversity only so long as it is needed. Once it has performed its function, He takes it away (Stanley).

Hardship and sorrow are like a gas-powered lawnmower. Eventually the lawnmower runs out of gas and stops.

“The dark moments of our life last only as long as is necessary for God to accomplish His purpose. So, there is a limitation on them. There is a purpose for them. There’s a very specific purpose. They last only as long as is necessary for God to accomplish His purpose” (Stanley).

This often leaves us with many questions. “What is my purpose?” “What is His plan for my life?” Do not be surprised if the Father does not tell you. What He wants from you is your trust.

Remember, He alone is God and there is none like him. Everything He plans will come to pass, for He can do whatever He wishes (Isaiah 46:9-10).

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Is anybody there, does anyone care?

Is anybody there, does anyone care?

You have collected all my tears in your bottle. – Psalms 56:8

Psalms 56:8-11

 8 You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.

 9 My enemies will retreat when I call to you for help. This I know: God is on my side!

 10 I praise God for what he has promised; yes, I praise the LORD for what he has promised.

 11 I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?

 12 I will fulfill my vows to you, O God, and will offer a sacrifice of thanks for your help.

 13 For you have rescued me from death; you have kept my feet from slipping. So now I can walk in your presence, O God, in your life-giving light.

During the severe weather of 1777-1778, General Washington had sent several dispatches to the Continental Congress from his Valley Forge headquarters pleading for more troops and supplies. One of the problems he faced was that some of his men didn’t even have shoes. Finally in an act of despair, he ended one of his dispatches with the question: “Is anybody there, does anyone care?” (Forbes, July 10, 2017)

Sadly, even children of the King find themselves asking the same question, “Is anybody there, does anyone care?”

Reflect for a moment. When you ask a question like this what exactly was going on in your life at the time. Obviously, the answers would be different for each of us. But I think they would boil down to just a few types of causal events: tremendous setbacks or losses, unmet needs or expectations, difficult circumstances, negative responses to those circumstances, emotional stress and distress, and grave doubts regarding the Father’s love and involvement. Often the situation is accompanied by our feelings of abandonment, betrayal, hopelessness, or the inability to cope. In common, modern, colloquial English, we simply “hit the bottom of the barrel.”

David shows us how it is possible for each child of the King to respond when we feel like this. David has an intimate personal relationship with the Father. He knows that the Father is always paying attention and aware of every detail of his life.

He has absolute assurance and confidence that the Father has his back and will be there for him. He does not doubt for a moment that the Father is watching, and listening, and will act in his behalf.

Psalms 56:8-9

 8 You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.

 9 My enemies will retreat when I call to you for help. This I know: God is on my side!

REFLECT & PRAY

“He is there and He is not silent” (Francis Schaeffer).

Father thank You that You care and pay close attention to everything that goes on in my life. Enable me to hold fast to this wonderful truth and overcome my tendency to despair.

INSIGHT

In Psalms 56:8, David expresses his great confidence and certainty in the Father’s attention.

Psalms 56:8 You have taken account of my wanderings; put my tears in Your bottle. are they not in Your book? (NAS)

Psalms 56:8 You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. (NLT)

The verse is about the absolute fact that the Father is well aware of what is going on in David’s life and paying close attention to everything that is happening. Notice the second phrase. Is David asking the Father to put his tears in a bottle or is David making a statement that the Father has put David’s tears in a bottle?

This is the type of question that Biblical translators struggle with when trying to render either Hebrew or Greek into English. The lexical meaning or the definition of the words or phrases is often fairly straightforward. But the actual translation requires a bit of contemplation and perhaps research. 

The Hebrew words of Psalm 56:8 are clear and their definitions are certain, but the appropriate translation is a bit difficult. At issue is the correct translation of the Hebrew verb in question sum or sim. It means to put, set, or place. However, the verbal form is in the imperative mood. Imperatives are often orders, commands, suggestions, or requests. The imperative gives rise to the different translations and adds a bit of confusion as to the meaning and interpretation.

When we interpret the Bible, the goal is to determine what the Scriptures meant to those that wrote them or received them?

In English words or phrases have a similar ambiguity. In English if I were to say, “I was walking and saw a trunk,” to what would the word trunk refer? If I were looking at luggage, the meaning would be obvious. If I were at the zoo looking at elephants or in a forest looking at trees, or examining the back of my car, the meaning would be clear.

It is the context that helps us to understand what is meant. The same is true in translating the Scriptures. The context sets the stage and informs our translation. The mood and the tone provide some clarity.

Obviously, David is suffering and struggling. In his struggles:

He could be asking, “Father are you paying attention?”

He could also be asserting confidently, “Father I know you are paying attention!”

It is unlikely that he would be saying, “Father pay attention!”

He certainly would not be commanding the Father to pay attention and take action. However, David could be requesting the Father’s attention.

Knowing David’s intimate relationship with the Father, he knows that the Father is always paying attention and aware of every detail of his life. His confidence that the Father is watching and attentive is seen in the first and third phrases of the verse:

Psalms 56:8 You have taken account of my wanderings; Are they not in Your book?

Psalms 56:8 You keep track of all my sorrows. You have recorded each one in your book.

Would not the middle phrase express optimism and confidence as well? Of course! David knows the Father cares is paying close attention.

Psalms 56:8 You have collected all my tears in your bottle.

What about the bottle for the tears? Glass had not yet been invented. To what does this refer? Archaeologists have discovered small vessels made of clay that were “tear bottles” or flasks in which those who grieved collected their tears and then left them to be buried with the deceased.

“The point is simply that God is aware of what we feel and how we suffer, and His records are accurate” (Wiersbe).

“Therefore he [David] dared believe that God had taken note of what he had suffered. He bases the unique prayer on the conviction that God might gather the tears that he shed in His bottle, which is to say, to take intimate note of each of them” (Leupold).

The Father is there and He cares!

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Have you ever asked?

Have you ever asked?

The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God – Hebrews 1:3

Hebrews 1:1-3

 1 God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways,
 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.
 3 And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.  

David Matheson of Carleton University, in an article entitled “Knowing Persons,” offered an answer to the question, What’s the difference between knowing about someone and knowing someone? He distinguished two types of knowing: impersonal knowledge and personal knowledge (Matheson, D. (2010). Knowing Persons. Dialogue Journal).

What is the difference? Impersonal knowledge is knowing about someone, while personal knowledge is experientially knowing someone. To know someone experientially requires what has been dubbed a “communication event” (Matheson).

As we have “communication events” with people, we get to know them. We become aware of unique aspects of their personalities. We become aware of their temperament, their nature and disposition, their likes and dislikes. We can often anticipate how they are going to respond. We find out what kind of a person they are.

Have you ever asked yourself what kind of a person is the Father?

This question may be somewhat surprising. Because normally Christians when they think of the Father, we think of the attributes of God rather than the personality of God. The attributes of God involve His divine characteristics. He is eternal, holy, good, just, righteous, all-powerful, all-knowing, and infinite.

But what is the Father’s personality like?

When we consider an individual’s personality, we ask: are they friendly, warm, kind, gentle; are they smart, funny, serious, wise; are they brave, protective, nurturing and the like.

How can we know what the Father’s personality is really like? What kind of a person is He?

Jesus came to reveal the personality of the Father. He and the Father share the same personal characteristics. They are two separate persons which share the same essence.

When we hear Jesus, we hear God. When we observe Jesus, we observe God. If we ever want to know what God is like or how He might act or where He might go, all we have to do is watch Jesus (Stanley).

Hebrews 1:3 He is . . . the exact representation of His nature,

The Greek term translated exact representation is character. It was used of a mark or impression placed on an object, especially on coins, and came to signify a “representation” or “reproduction.”

In Greek, character means two things – first, a seal, and, second, the impression that the seal leaves on the wax. The impression has the exact form of the seal. So, when the writer to the Hebrews said that Jesus was the character of the being of God, he meant that He was the exact image of God. Just as, when you look at the impression, you see exactly what the seal which made it is like, so when you look at Jesus you see exactly what God is like (Barclay).

Using very inadequate human terms, the Father has stamped or imprinted His being, on His Son. The Son of God bears “the very stamp of . . .  [God’s] nature” (RSV).

The Greek term translated nature is hypostasis, which means the nature, quality, substance, the essence of something. In this passage, hypostasis refers to the very essence or being of God the Father.

The Son is the exact representation, the embodiment of God the Father as He really is. His being is made manifest in Christ, so that to see the Son is to see what the Father is like (O’Brien).

When we get to know the Son experientially; we get to know the Father.

REFLECT & PRAY

The personality of the Father is revealed in the Scriptures. It is observed and known in the life, emotions, and actions of His Son.

Father please help me to come to know You as a person, to become warm and close to You, and fall deeply in love with You.

INSIGHT

Sometimes we miss obvious things that are right in front of us because we are not paying attention. It seems as though it is part of human DNA. So it was with the apostle Philip.

John 14:6-9

 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.
 7 “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.”
 8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”
 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, ‘Show us the Father?’”

The story is told of a man who visited his doctor to have his hearing checked. The doctor removed the man’s hearing aid, and the patient’s hearing immediately improved! He had been wearing the device in the wrong ear for over 20 years!

There is a difference between listening and really hearing, Jesus often cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” This statement suggests that it takes more than physical ears to hear the voice of God. It also requires a receptive heart. Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts (Hebrews 3:7-8) (Wiersbe).

Philip’s request shows that he has not yet understood the point of Jesus’ coming. Philip had not grasped that the Lord Jesus Christ, the son of God, came to reveal the Father.

John 1:18 No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.

For children of the King, our close, intimate fellowship with the Father, through His Son, is our “communication event.” That is how we get to know Him as a person. The more we know Him, the more we love Him.

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Does the Father suffer setbacks?

Does the Father suffer setbacks?

He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature . . . – 2 Peter 1:4

Isaiah 40:28-31

 28 Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of his understanding.

 29 He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless.

 30 Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion.

 31 But 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.

What does it take to achieve and accomplish objectives?

Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you have come. Remember everything you have faced, all the battles you have won, and all the fears you have overcome (Unknown).

Undoubtedly, each of us knows what it is like to perform some type of physical activity until we reach the point of exhaustion. Some of us just quit while others get a new burst of energy and continue.

The best among us, even those with the strength of youth will eventually wear down. What does it take to see it through to the end?

Our Father has unlimited resources that can allow His children to go beyond human strength. He has promised to do just that. He has made available endless reserves of fresh strength.

The Father has promised that whatever we need to accomplish His purpose and to become more like Him is already ours. Children of the King have supernatural resources. It is as though He has deposited His power, knowledge, and authority into our personal bank accounts. We simply make withdrawals as needed.

From Chariots of Fire

“I want to compare faith to running in a race. It’s hard, requires concentration of will, energy of soul. You experience elation . . . [There is] no formula for winning the race. Everyone runs in her own way, or his own way.”

“And where does the power come from to see the race to its end? From within.”

“Jesus said, ‘If, with all your hearts you truly seek Me, you shall ever surely find Me’ – if you commit yourself to the love of Christ” (Eric Liddell).

REFLECT & PRAY

The human body wears down and wears out, not so the human spirit. When we become weary and suffer fatigue and discouragement, that is the time to remember the Father’s promises and pray them into our personal experience.

Father, time and time again You have done in and through me what I could have never done myself. Thank you for Your promises. Encourage me to internalize them and depend upon them.

INSIGHT

The Father never suffers setbacks! He is never taken off guard and He never makes a mistake The Father has made abundant provision for His children. Each of His children has inherited the Father’s precious and great promises. Simply stated, the Father has already given us all that we will ever need in this life.

God has not only given us all that we need for life and godliness, but He has also given us His Word to enable us to develop this life and godliness. These promises are great because they come from a great God and they lead to a great life. They are precious because their value is beyond calculation. If we lost the Word of God, there would be no way to replace it (Wiersbe).

As we act upon and experience the reality of these promised resources, we interact with our Father as a person. He shares His nature, His communicable attributes with us. We become increasingly like Him.

Psalms 19:10 They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb.

Psalms 119:11 Your word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against You.

What in life is precious and valuable? What is truly precious to you?

The Word of God is precious. We are to love the Father’s words and hide them in our hearts.

Everything we need to become more like Christ, God has already given us. We do not need some new experience or fresh revelation to help us draw close to God; we simply have to appropriate what He’s already given (Stanley).

We are not what happened to us. We are what we choose to become (Carl Jung).

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Strengthen your core

Strengthen your core

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. – Psalms 51:10 

Psalms 51:1-12

 1 Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; According to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.

 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

 4 Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, So that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge.

 7 Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

 8 Make me to hear joy and gladness, Let the bones which You have broken rejoice.

 9 Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities.

 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

 12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.

In physical conditioning, personal trainers often focus on strengthening your core.  Core muscles include all of the muscles of your midsection: your front and side abdominal muscles, back muscles, and hip muscles. Strengthening your core is one of the best ways to get fit. Strong core muscles make it easier to do many physical activities.

The same should be true in our spiritual conditioning. In him times, a person’s core was called in their “heart.” The heart revealed the character of an individual. The heart was the source from which flowed all emotions, thoughts, choices, words, and actions.

Proverbs 4:23 Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.

King David sinned, committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband Uriah. David’s heart and become sullied by his failure. What dirt and toxins are to the body, sin is to the heart. David’s horrendous moral failure impacted him greatly. He was weighed down by the burden of his guilt and shame. He was desperately in need of deep spiritual transformation and renewal.

For nearly a year, he thought his cover-up was successful. But when confronted by Nathan the prophet, it became front page news. And 3000 years later it still sizzles.

Imagine for a moment what it would be like to have a magnificent, vibrant, intimate relationship with the person you admire most in the world. You enjoy just being together. You are totally comfortable in each other’s space. Suddenly without warning, your relationship is broken, seemingly beyond repair. How would you feel?

What a grievous and tormenting sense of loss and separation. The heart ache would be incredible. That is where David is at the moment of the realization of what he had actually done. David repented and sought forgiveness, cleansing, purification, and restoration to intimacy with the Father. As a result, Psalm 51 tells his intimate, inward personal struggle as he pleads with the Father for the recovery of his joy and sweet fellowship with the Him.

David was a man after the Father’s own heart. Because of his close and loving relationship with the Father, David knew what the Father was like as a person. He was his best friend. David knew all too well that all sin was ultimately against the Father.

This was the first sin recorded of David’s life story recorded in the Scriptures. By his actions, David ruptured their intimacy. He desperately missed closeness with the Father.

1 Kings 15:5 David had done what was pleasing in the LORD’s sight and had obeyed the LORD’s commands throughout his life, except in the affair concerning Uriah the Hittite.

But there was collateral damage as well. How do you suppose the Father felt? He was also in love with David. Was He angry? I think not, rather the Father’s heart was saddened and deeply hurt by David’s sin. I can imagine tears running down His face. Was reconciliation possible? Yes! Absolutely yes!

The moment David confessed and sought forgiveness, the relationship was restored.

REFLECT & PRAY

So often I have chosen a path of self-destruction. I have unthinkingly hurt those that I care about most.

Father I want the slate of my sinful heart wiped clean. Encourage me to begin anew.

INSIGHT

David knew, loved, and meditated upon the truth of God’s Word. But he had deliberately lied to himself: “I can get away with this.” He lied to the people. He tried to lie to the Father. David’s cover-up was unsuccessful. We cannot hide our sins from the Father and in the end, David’s dark secret was revealed.

Under the Law of Moses, various types of sacrifices were stipulated for specific sins. Sacrifices were performed to cover or make atonement for sin. However, when one willfully rebelled and sinned against God, no form of atonement could be offered. There was no specific sacrifice that could be made to cover it.

Therefore, for forgiveness and cleansing, David could only appeal to the Father’s nature and character of mercy, grace, and love.

Up until the time that David became king, he had gotten nearly all things right, certainly more than most than most of us. Today he is known as one of the great heroes and role models of the nation of Israel. But this is in spite of his obvious areas of failure.

Perhaps his epitaph should read: David did what was right in the sight of the LORD, all the days of his life, except in the case of Uriah the Hittite (1 Kings 15:5).

What an excellent epitaph for David’s tombstone. I imagine the list of my “exceptions” would be far larger on mine.

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Longing dependence

Longing dependence

O God, you are my God; I earnestly search for you. My soul thirsts for you; my whole body longs for you in this parched and weary land where there is no water. – Psalms 63:1

Psalms 63:1-8

 1 A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah. O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.

 2 Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary, to see Your power and Your glory.

 3 Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, My lips will praise You.

 4 So I will bless You as long as I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name.

 5 My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.

 6 When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches,

 7 For You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.

 8 My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.

When you think desert or wilderness, you think dry, hot, and arid. Average temperatures range from 110F to 120F. In 2005, a temperature of just over 159F was recorded in Iran’s Lut Desert. Death Valley reached 134F in 1913, and the Sahara, recorded 136.4F.

What makes the desert, a desert is the lack of water, not the heat. The Antarctic, is a cold desert, it receives about 2 inches of rain per year, which is less than the Sahara Desert receives, while parts of the Atacama Desert in Chile have never recorded rain at all.

The Judean desert is a very dry empty waste place, almost totally lacking in water and vegetable life. It is rugged, barren, desolate, and dangerous. The desert is a parched and scorched environment hostile to life. The lack of moisture creates extreme thirst. Thirst is a great metaphor for the extreme longing for the Father.

In this time of loss and separation, David did not focus on his personal failures and regrets nor did he complain about the discomforts and dangers of the wilderness. Instead, David looked to the Father and reaffirmed his faith and love. Rather than being discouraged, David was excited about his love relationship with the Father. David longed for close intimacy with the Father he loved. He had complete confidence that his Father God would guide him through yet another difficult time in his life.

REFLECT & PRAY

Without doubt, I too frequently come to the end of myself. I hit a wall and lose it. I struggle with outward circumstances, inward frustration, and even anger.

Father encourage me to be like David. He was able to recall to mind Your delightful warmth and lovingkindness. What was within his heart had been cultivated through a lifetime and it came out in times of need. Simply stated, he deeply loved You his Father God.

INSIGHT

The Hebrew verb translated seek, earnestly seek is shachar. Shachar means to look or search diligently for. Shachar is derived from the Hebrew noun, which is spelled the same way in English, shachar. Shachar as a noun means dawn. Hence it has been translated “early I will seek You” (NKJV). It suggests eagerness to seek time with Him early in the morning (Psalms 130:6). 

Today we might say “it is at the top of my priority list” or “I will do it first thing tomorrow.”

For David seeking the Father and spending time in fellowship with Him and was his number one priority.

When we spend time with the Father early in the day, it often sets the tone and prepares us for whatever He has in store for us that day. It often prepares us for whatever divine appointments or complications we may face. Only God knows everything that will happen before it occurs. Further, He has an itinerary of what is to come for each of His children, every day of their lives.

I can visualize the Father as a spiritual concierge. But instead of us asking Him about how to do what we want for the day; we ask Him what He wants us to do for the day.

Many people referred to this as their “quiet time” or their “personal worship time.”

David’s attitude and spiritual appetite were remarkable. He acquired this by repeated and frequent worship. How did David worship the Father? If you were to attempt to outline many of his Psalms, you would began to see a pattern emerge. David praises the Father for Who He is, for what He does, and most importantly for what the Father had done and was doing in David’s life right now. “It is regular worship and dependence that prepares us for the crisis experiences of life” (Wiersbe).

What life does to us depends on what life finds in us” (Wiersbe). David’s heart was filled with a deep love for the Father and a desire to please only Him. David had seen the Father’s power and glory previously. What He had done before, He would do again. David had great faith that he would be able to see the Father’s power and glory in the wilderness as well!

David had no religious artifacts with him in the wilderness. David looked beyond material objects and saw spiritual realities. He had only his longing heart, and uplifted hands, and worshipful spirit. Rather than being sorrowful, worried, and filled with complaints, David sang praises to the Lord.

“The longing of these verses is not the groping of a stranger, feeling his way towards God, but the eagerness of a friend, almost of a lover, to be in touch with the one he holds dear. The simplicity and boldness of Thou art my God is the secret of all that follows . . .” (Kidner).

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Each of us is a mere breath

Each of us is a mere breath

But now, Lord, what do I look for? You are my only hope! – Psalm 39:7

Psalms 39:1-1

 1 I said to myself, “I will watch what I do and not sin in what I say. I will hold my tongue when the ungodly are around me.”

 2 But as I stood there in silence – not even speaking of good things – the turmoil within me grew worse.

 3 The more I thought about it, the hotter I got, igniting a fire of words:

 4 “LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered – how fleeting my life is.

 5 You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; at best, each of us is but a breath.”

 6 We are merely moving shadows, and all our busy rushing ends in nothing. We heap up wealth, not knowing who will spend it.

 7 And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.

 8 Rescue me from my rebellion. Do not let fools mock me.

 11 When you discipline us for our sins, you consume like a moth what is precious to us. Each of us is but a breath.

Homer was the first and greatest Greek poet and is said to have authored the Iliad and the Odyssey around 1000 BC. The Iliad contains the story of the battle of Troy. In the story the great hero and champion of the Greeks is Achilles.

Achilles was the seeming unbeatable superhero of his day. He never lost a battle and seemed immortal. According to Greek myth, Thetis, his mother, did everything she could to give him great strength and invincibility. She dunked him into the River Styx, whose waters were said to have the miraculous power to provide of the god-like invulnerability. However, she gripped Achilles by the foot and the water never touched his heel. As a result, only Achilles’ heel was vulnerable.

Achilles dies when an arrow strikes his vulnerable heel. So down to this day the term “Achilles heel” is used to describe a powerful person’s fatal weakness. We have a similar expression that comes from the Old Testament, “feet of clay,” (Daniel 2:33). It refers to a weakness or hidden flaw in the character of a greatly admired or respected person.

When we think of David, Israel’s greatest king and hero, he too had feet of clay. And so it is with each child of the King. The circumstances of our lives are arranged by our loving heavenly Father.. But often we find ourselves dealing with the consequences of our own poor choices. Struggles are inevitable, how we respond is a choice.

David made his first really bad choice with Bathsheba, which led to a cascade of other bad choices and consequences. Psalm 39 recounts David’s introspection and prayer seeking relief and restoration.

He is miserable and depressed. He recognizes the brevity of life. Each of us is but a breath (Psalm 39:11). His options are few, but he chooses to do the right thing. He exercises his faith and seeks relief from his heavenly Father.

Psalm 39:7 You are my only hope!

David takes responsibility for his foolish choices. David declares his hope and trust are in the Father. He seeks restoration and forgiveness. He makes himself vulnerable and bears his heart to Him. He humbly requests that the Father deliver him from all his transgressions, and to take away the consequences of his poor decisions.

He knew and believed the open secret of the Scriptures. On the one hand we reap what we sow, but on the other hand our heavenly Father is merciful, kind, and has no desire to harm or punish His children.

Exodus 34:6-7

 6 Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth;

 7 who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression, and sin.

David deserved death. Instead he received grace. David was mercifully granted forgiveness and restoration and continued to serve the Father.

REFLECT & PRAY

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer! O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer!

Father, our hope is in You, and You alone. Be gracious and kind and allow us to feel cleansing, restoration, and the joyful experience of Your presence in our hearts. 

INSIGHT

David embodies and provides a pattern for all of the children of the King. The haunting, tormenting fire within finally becomes light. Eventually we see things as they really are, and our illusions are crushed by reality. We stop our rationalizations and excuses. We take responsibility for our thoughts, words, and choices. We come to our senses and seek relief from the only source that can provide it, our loving heavenly Father.

The best defense, is no defense at all, rather acquiescence and meekness.

“Life passes with lightning speed. We are on this earth for only a short time, so we must be diligent to live wisely and well. We may appear before God tomorrow – so let us live for Him today” (Stanley).

Haggai 2:19
Yet from this day on I will bless you.

“Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life!”

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Finishing with joy

Finishing with joy

But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus– the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. – Acts 20:24

2 Timothy 4:1-7

 1 I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he appears to set up his Kingdom:

 2 Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable 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.

 5 But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.

 6 As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near.

 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful.

At the 1992 summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, an amazing thing happened. Derek Redmond was rounding the track on his 400-meter race when he crumpled down with a torn hamstring. Paramedics rushed to help him, but he refused their help, choosing to hop and crawl to the finish.

Suddenly, his father charged out of the stands and brushed off security to join his son. Derek puts his arms around his father’s shoulders and sobs. Together, arm in arm, father and son, with 65,000 people cheering, clapping and crying, finish the race, just as they vowed they would.

Perhaps we were not aware that when we accepted the Lord Jesus as our Savior, we joined an exclusive, yet open to all, Olympics team and entered a spiritual race. It is one of the Father’s gifts to each of His children. He has a unique plan for every one of us that we are able to complete as we serve Him.

Each child of the King is assigned a life course in eternity past before they were ever born. It consists of His dreams and plans for our lives. He created us uniquely capable of fulfilling our tasks and assignments. Each has the responsibility to choose to run the race assigned to them. Often, this requires continual recommitment to the task laid out before us.

Every race has three goals. The first is to compete to win, doing the best we can, the second is to finish, and the third is to compete with joy.

Perhaps there many times when we seem totally defeated and contemplate giving up and dropping out. But then some extraordinary, supernatural, spiritual adrenaline kicks in. The perseverance and determination of our character and integrity carries us through to the end. And so it was with Paul.

Philippians 3:12-14

 12 I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.

 13 No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,

 14 I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.

REFLECT & PRAY

I recognize that the game of life is just not fair. The Father never said it would be.

Father encourage me to run the race which You have graciously assigned to me, completing my tasks with integrity and endurance.

INSIGHT

It all boils down to what really matters. Paul did not see his own life as a precious possession to be held on to at all costs. He did not seek safety and security. He did not build a moat around his life to keep danger away. He was willing to risk all for the Lord Jesus Christ his Messiah, his Lord, his best friend.

What mattered most to him was to perform faithfully the service the Father had assigned to him. He was to share the “good news” that the Lord Jesus has come into the world to save sinners, among whom he was the foremost of all.

Paul summarized his task in three words: Preach the Word. The Greek reads keruxon ton logon (2 Timothy 4:2). This was his credo, his motto, his life purpose. Paul was deeply in love with the Word of God. For Paul preaching the word was priority one. He put it before you all else in this world. It was his most precious possession. Sharing the truth, life, and transformation that it provides with others was the work assigned him by the Father.

In the Father’s spiritual Olympics, his “event,” was to tell others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God (Acts 20:24). This is what he lived for.

He determined to run well and end well. Telling others about “the good news” from the Father brought him the greatest and lasting joy. It was the same for all apostles. It should be the same for each of the Father’s children.

3 John 1:4 I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

To “walk in truth” means to hear, receive, and believe the Word of God and to gladly follow its instruction. We are enabled by drawing on the power of the Holy him Spirit. Walking in truth is where the rubber hits the road. Truth is not something which is merely intellectually understood and assimilated. It permeates the entire spirit and soul of the King’s children. It guides and motivates their behavior. And the result is that His children think, and act like Him.

Nothing gives more satisfaction and joy to the teacher of Truth.

Hebrews 12:1-5

 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.

 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.

 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.

 4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.

 5 And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the LORD’s discipline, and don’t give up when he corrects you.

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Perfect peace

Perfect peace

Isaiah 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you

Colossians 3:15-17

 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.

 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

 17 Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

The smart phone is considered the greatest invention of all time because it incorporates so many other great inventions.

In 2007, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs unveiled a revolutionary product that not only broke the mold but also set an entirely new paradigm for computer-based phones. The smartphone is a handheld personal computer with a mobile operating system and an integrated mobile broadband cellular network connection for voice, text, and Internet data communication. In September 2013, the iPhone 5S became the first smartphone on a major U.S. carrier. Life has never been the same since.

Our acceptance of the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior provides us with a whole new identity. Our lives have never been the same since. We are to put aside our old way of doing things and assume a new one. One aspect of our new self is not merely peace with God. In our new identity, we have within ourselves the peace of the Father Himself. As we assume a new identity, the peace of Christ will begin to rule our hearts.

Colossians 3:15 let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace.

The Greek word translated rule is brabeuo. Brabeuo was a term used for those who were a judge or umpire at the public games. It came to mean to direct, be in control of someone’s activity by making a decision. It is not a term for ruler or leader, but rather umpire or arbitrator. Bruce translates, “Let the peace of Christ be arbiter in your hearts.” Peace should dominate and regulate our responses.

The peace of Christ should become the decision maker, the umpire, the arbitrator of all concerns, disagreements, offenses, that rise up between children of the King.

In baseball and umpire calls balls and strikes. In basketball they call fouls. In football they call penalties, field goals, and touchdowns. Paul is telling us that we have been in internal umpire that should rule from within. That umpire is the inward peace of Christ. Peace itself should rule and prevail over anger, hurt feelings, offenses and slights, or strong arguments and disagreements.

Putting it in other terms, the peace of Christ should be maintained within and between children of the King no matter what! We are called “to live in peace.” When we do not “we are out of bounds.” Perhaps we need to spend some time in the “penalty box.”

This is easy to say, it is not so easy to do. But we are commanded to do it, nonetheless. It is a way of life that we choose to practice and work towards.

REFLECT & PRAY

Rather than allowing anxious thoughts and fears to control my life, I can let the peace which the Father has provided within to rule my heart.

Father as difficult and trying times come, encourage me to set my heart fully on you and allow your peace to rule and reign in my heart.

INSIGHT

Do not let your worst overwhelm your best. Rather, let your best overcome your worst fears and impulses. It is never easy, but it is always right. Peace is not merely the lack of an outward attitude of hostility. Rather it is “the peace of Christ” within maintaining a calm, supernatural serenity.               

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

Isaiah 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you

Perfect peace can be realized in the life of any child of the King. When we keep our mind focused on the Father, rather than the circumstances or wrongs suffered. In When we trust in Him, He actualizes His peace within us. The Father promises to wipe tears away from all faces (Isaiah 25:8).

The Hebrew word translated peace is shalom. Shalom has a much richer connotation than the English word peace. It conveyed not merely the lack of conflict and turmoil but also the notion of positive blessing, especially in terms of a right relationship with the Father.

Psalms 29:11 The LORD will give strength to His people; The LORD will bless His people with peace.

Peace is not merely the absence of danger or turmoil, but the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in the midst of it. He provides inward “heart” peace. He enables us to experience “that calm of mind which is not ruffled by adversity, overclouded by sin or a remorseful conscience, or disturbed by the fear and the approach of death” (Eadie).

In the world there will always be turmoil, adversity, suffering, and misunderstanding.

John 16:33 In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.

Before there was instant replay in sports, whenever there was a close call, all eyes were fixed on the umpire awaiting his decision. Whenever we become troubled, we should fix our eyes on the Father, seeking His approval for what we choose next. Allow Him to step in and decide. His choice is peace.

Like the old Fox News slogan, we report you decide, the choice is yours.

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Double hearts

Double hearts

All they do is lie to one another, with flattering lips, they talk from a double heart. – Psalms 12:2

Isaiah 5:20-23

 20 Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight!

 22 Woe to those who are heroes in drinking wine and valiant men in mixing strong drink,

 23 Who justify the wicked for a bribe and take away the rights of the ones who are in the right!

“If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be if without it?” (Benjamin Franklin)

The Founding Fathers sought to create a nation founded essentially upon Biblical morality, but apart from truly a Christian government. “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other” (John Adams).

Part of the great American experiment was the vision of a government where the citizens had values and principles enshrined in their hearts derived from a Judeo-Christian base. America was envisioned by the Founding Fathers as a land where people of all faiths could worship God without fear of persecution. The freedom to worship would, in turn, cultivate the piety and virtue necessary for the success of self-government. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness would be promoted in an environment of individual well-being under the umbrella of safety and security (Bennett).

In the 21st century, America is in freefall. The Judeo-Christian consensus is no more. Moral values are no longer derived from the absolute Truth of the Word of God. Truth is whatever people want it to be. Therefore, morality is derived from kind of a pack mentality of the favored or perhaps, loudest factions in society. In various sections of society, dissemblers in positions of authority dominate.

Prevaricators are so blinded in their moral judgment that their evaluations of good and evil are the exact opposite of the Father’s true perspective. What was once evil is now called good, and what was once good is now called evil. Darkness is substituted for light and light for darkness.

People use the Father’s vocabulary but not His dictionary (Wiersbe).

Moral standards are altered by new definitions of sin that do not arouse or trouble the conscience. It is the newspeak and doublethink anticipated by George Orwell in his novel, 1984. People lie to one another and speak from a double heart.

For the present generation, the memory of an accurate American history has faded into almost complete darkness. Lies become truth. Sadly, George Orwell speaking as an oracle of our times wrote, “Who controls the past, controls the future, who controls the present controls the past.” 

REFLECT & PRAY

The only thing we learn from history is that we do not learn from history (Hegel).

Father encourage me to take my stand firmly upon the absolute Truth that You have revealed through Your Word and through Your Son.

INSIGHT

Pontius Pilate asked the question, “What is truth?” As children of the King, the eternal Father, the Lord God omnipotent we have a certain, enlightened, profound, and consummate answer. Truth with a capital “T” is absolute, uncompromising, and eternal. It does not change, and it does not synthesize with non-truth. The Word of God is Truth (John 17:17). The Lord Jesus Christ is the Truth (John 14:6).

Deuteronomy 4:39 Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the LORD, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other.

Psalms 135:6 The LORD does whatever pleases him throughout all heaven and earth, and on the seas and in their depths.

Daniel 4:35 All the people of the earth are nothing compared to him. He does as he pleases among the angels of heaven and among the people of the earth. No one can stop him or say to him, ‘What do you mean by doing these things?’

One day the Lord Jesus Christ will return in triumph. He will bring good news to the afflicted; He will bind up the brokenhearted, He will proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners; He will proclaim the favorable year of the LORD and the day of vengeance of our God (Isaiah 61:1-2).

The final chapter has already been written. In the end, the Lord Jesus Christ wins! But for the Father’s children, the Lord Jesus Christ has already won, The Lord Jesus Christ entered our lives in triumph to bind up our wounded hearts. Grief and despair stood between us and the joyful celebration of life the Father intended. Peter called it “glorious, inexpressible joy” (1 Peter 1:8). We have been invited to the celebration.

It is up to us to choose to attend. To participate and celebrate our victory day by day, it is incumbent upon us to remove our personal impediments. When we accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, all of our sins past, present, and future were forgiven.

Colossians 2:13 You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins.

However, as we go through life, all children of the King experience two disheartening realities. We continue to sin. And we become aware of our innate inner sinfulness. Our hearts are essentially wicked and deceitful.

Jeremiah 17:9 The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?

Although we are His children, we sense distance from Him from time to time and experience temporary separation from the Father because our sin.

Isaiah 59:1-2

 1 Listen! The LORD’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call.

 2 It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.

The Father knowing all things, has already taken this practical issue into consideration, and resolved it. We have been permanently reconciled to Him. All real and imaginary barriers have been removed.

Colossians 1:22 He has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body.

The joy of our fellowship with Him is restored and actualized by simple prayer. We have only to recognize and confess our sins.

1 John 1:9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.

The Father’s gifts far exceed the limitations of our present circumstances. He has provided His presence in our lives, overflowing acceptance, forgiveness, restoration, and practical righteousness.

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