The Vulcan salute

The Vulcan salute

He who is steadfast in righteousness will attain to life, and he who pursues evil will bring about his own death. – Proverbs 11:19 

Proverbs 11:17-30

 17 Your kindness will reward you, but your cruelty will destroy you.

 18 Evil people get rich for the moment, but the reward of the godly will last.

 19 Godly people find life; evil people find death.

 20 The LORD detests people with crooked hearts, but he delights in those with integrity.

 24 Give freely and become wealthier; be stingy and lose everything.

 25 The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.

 27 If you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you!

 28 Trust in your money and down you go! But the godly flourish like leaves in spring.

 29 Those who bring trouble on their families inherit the wind. The fool will be a servant to the wise.

 30 The seeds of good deeds become a tree of life; a wise person wins friends.

Live long and prosper was uttered as a part of the Vulcan salute. It was a hand gesture popularized by Leonard Nimoy, Spock, in the 1960s television series Star Trek.  It consisted of a raised hand with the palm forward and the thumb extended, while the fingers are parted between the middle and ring finger.

It is derived from the gesture on the Jewish Priestly Blessing. The Jewish Kohanim (priests) raised both hands, thumb to thumb in this same position, representing the Hebrew letter Shin (ש). The Shin (ש) has three upward strokes similar to the position of the thumb and fingers in the gesture. The letter Shin is begins several of well-known Hebrew words: El Shaddai, meaning (Almighty God), Shekinah and Shalom.

Do you wish to live long and prosper? The Book of Proverbs offers guidelines, but not guarantees. Simply stated if we choose to do what is gracious, kind, right and intrinsically good, positive results follow. The results of our kindness are often not immediate or obvious. It is a life choice which ultimately is good for us and others who receive kindness. But it is not an ironclad rule that always delivers. There are no guaranteed cause and effect outcomes which are so often wrongly promised by the deceptive words of prosperity preachers.

We do not give to get. Rather, we give and do right because we are instructed to do so by our heavenly Father. In the Father’s kingdom there is a kind of barter system of spiritual reciprocity. What we receive back, is the goodwill and appreciation of the Father. Through Him we are refreshed and encouraged. The leanness of our souls is exchanged for fullness. The Father never owes us, but He does incline Himself to us.

Galatians 6:10 as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.

REFLECT & PRAY

We are instructed to give materially. But what about our time and attention to others. What is harder to give things or time? Ask any busy father or mother.

Father, You are characterized by hesed, loyal love, loving kindness.  I want to be like You!! Encourage and strengthen me to be good, kind, and generous.

INSIGHT

When we are born into this world, we are given a slate of life upon which to write. Because we are redeemed by the Lord Jesus Christ, our old slate is wiped clean of past indiscretions. We are given a second chance to make better decisions and life choices.

Choose wisely how you write upon the clean slate you have been handed by your heavenly Father. Patterns of behavior have their own outcome and result. Righteousness leads to life and emotional health. Evil leads to emotional leanness and death.

Philippians 2:3-4

 3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.

 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.

To better understand Galatians 6:10, it is important to grasp the practical context in which it is written. Barclay translates it like this:

Galatians 6:5–10

Don’t deceive yourselves; no one can make a fool of God; whatever a man sows, this he will also reap. He who sows to his own lower nature will from that nature reap a blighted harvest. He who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap life eternal. Don’t get tired of doing the fine thing; for, when the proper time comes, we will reap so long as we don’t relax our efforts. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are members of the household of the faith.

Paul declares a grim truth. He insists that life holds the scales with an even balance. If we allow the lower side of our nature to dominate us, in the end we can expect nothing but a harvest of trouble. But if we keep on walking the high road and doing the good, fine, and kind things, in the end God will repay (Barclay).

In the first century, the Greeks believed in the goddess of retribution, Nemesis. The Greeks believed that, when people did wrong, immediately Nemesis was on their trail and sooner or later caught up. The law of sowing and reaping is still in effect even for children of the King.

The Lord calls us to do what is good and right, not only because godly living reflects His own holy character, but also because it benefits and blesses us. Living by God’s Word is the healthy way to live (Stanley).

A tree is known by its fruit, a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love (Saint Basil).

“Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest” (Mark Twain).

\◠:◠/

Nowhere Man

Nowhere Man

Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate at the king’s table regularly. Now he was lame in both feet. – 2 Samuel 9:13

1 Samuel 20:14-17

 14 [Jonathan told David] And may you treat me with the faithful love of the LORD as long as I live. But if I die,

 15 treat my family with this faithful love, even when the LORD destroys all your enemies from the face of the earth.”

 16 So Jonathan made a solemn pact with David, saying, “May the LORD destroy all your enemies!”

 17 And Jonathan made David reaffirm his vow of friendship again, for Jonathan loved David as himself.

Nowhere Man – The Beatles, 1965

He’s a real nowhere man

Sitting in his nowhere land

Making all his nowhere plans for nobody

Doesn’t have a point of view

Knows not where he’s going to

Isn’t he a bit like you and me?

The Father is a great and merciful king. Showing kindness is one of the most remarkable things that He does. When we show kindness to our bitterest enemies we most like Him. Kindness expressed overcomes the obstacles of hatred and bitterness and fulfills loyal promises.

2 Samuel 9:3-139

 3 The king then asked him, “Is anyone still alive from Saul’s family? If so, I want to show God’s kindness to them.” Ziba replied, “Yes, one of Jonathan’s sons is still alive. He is crippled in both feet.”

 4 “Where is he?” the king asked. “In Lo-debar,” Ziba told him, “at the home of Makir son of Ammiel.”

 5 So David sent for him and brought him from Makir’s home.

 6 His name was Mephibosheth; he was Jonathan’s son and Saul’s grandson. When he came to David, he bowed low to the ground in deep respect. David said, “Greetings, Mephibosheth.” Mephibosheth replied, “I am your servant.”

 7 “Don’t be afraid!” David said. “I intend to show kindness to you because of my promise to your father, Jonathan. I will give you all the property that once belonged to your grandfather Saul, and you will eat here with me at the king’s table!”

 8 Mephibosheth bowed respectfully and exclaimed, “Who is your servant, that you should show such kindness to a dead dog like me?”

 9 Then the king summoned Saul’s servant Ziba and said, “I have given your master’s grandson everything that belonged to Saul and his family.

David and Mephibosheth – the back story

REFLECT & PRAY

It is far too easy and all too natural to be bitter and hateful. How much better is it to be gentle and merciful, showing kindness to all who are in need.

Father You are kind and You are the embodiment of loving kindness, loyal love. Encourage me to be kind and caring as You are.

INSIGHT

Kindness is a benevolent attitude or action between individuals. Kindness involves loving affection, sympathy, friendliness, patience, pleasantness, gentleness, and goodness. Kindness is a quality shown in the way a person speaks and acts. It is more volitional than emotional.

Kindness is grace acted out in real time.

Jonathan requested “unfailing kindness” of David so that he would not be killed (1 Samuel 20:14–15). Jonathan saw his friendship with David in spiritual terms, making the Father the centerpiece of their relationship. The Father provides the closest and best friendships when we most need them.

David extended kindness to Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth. Two magnificent aspects of David’s character are kindness and loyalty. Hebrew has one word that expresses this concept, hesed, “loyal love” which is often translated lovingkindness.

David’s goodness to Mephibosheth was pure grace, entirely unearned by Jonathan’s son. David provided for Mephibosheth’s needs in Jerusalem. David granted him the right to eat at the king’s table (2 Samuel 9:1–7). David gave him all of the lands of Saul his grandfather and saw to it that they were cultivated.

The example of David showing kindness to Mephibosheth because of his friendship and promise to Jonathan is “the greatest illustration of grace in all the Old Testament” (Swindoll).

Just below the surface of the story lurks stunning truth. There are many parallels between Mephibosheth and us. Mephibosheth had fallen, was deformed as a result of his fall, was hiding in a place of stark bleakness, and was fearful of the king. Because of the Fall, our hearts are wounded and deformed. We see ourselves is no better than dead dogs and want to hide from the Father who loves us the most.

Our heavenly Father is somewhere and everywhere. He has made His extraordinary, fantastic incredible plans for everybody. He has unfailing and unlimited kindness for all of His children.

\◠:◠/

Roll over

Roll over

Commit your works to the LORD and your plans will be established. – Proverbs 16:3 

1 Peter 5:5-7

 5 Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,

 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

In Game 6 of the 1997 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan rather than taking the winning shot himself, passed the ball to Steve Kerr. Kerr scored the final basket and the Bulls’ won their second straight title.

There are times in life when we could do it ourselves, yet often it is better to let someone else do it.  Obviously, the person we choose to trust must be available, capable of handling the responsibility, and carrying it out.

The Father has placed Himself in the position of final arbitrator and decision-maker. Who is able to develop a better plan than the Father?  Certainly not us. He encourages us to entrust ourselves to Him.

Proverbs 16:3 Commit your works to the LORD and your plans will be established.

Psalms 37:5 Commit your way to the LORD! Trust in him, and he will act on your behalf.

The Hebrew word translated commit is galal. It literally means to roll, roll away, to transfer what is rolled away from oneself to another. The sense of the Hebrew word, galal becomes trust, confide in, or rely on.

We dislodge the burden from our shoulders and lay it on the Father (Leupold). We release the right of making the final decision to Him, when we roll over, entrust our activities, our plans, our very destiny to the Father. This is not passive resignation, but rather deliberate redirection by making the choice. He takes over jurisdiction and He shoulders the responsibility. He becomes the executor, much like the executor of a last will and testament. But rather than overseeing our deaths, He takes care of our lives.

He will act on our behalf; He will bring it to pass (KJV). He now has jurisdiction and binding decision-making power. The Father becomes the final arbitrator.

The Father considers all the permutations and selects the best conceivable plan. The Father always chooses the best possible option. The Father’s plans are better than anything we could come up with. 

When we release the right of making the final decision to Him, we can rest assured it is safe in the Father’s hands. His decisions are objective and superior. There are no hidden agendas or biases.

REFLECT & PRAY

Many of us have spent much of our lives pursuing our own way and not really considering the Father. Or perhaps worse, writing up an imaginary contractual relationship between ourselves and the Father regarding our expectations. We sign our name to the contract but we forge His. When things do not go our way, we can get really angry, blame Him, and part company.

Father I choose to entrust my plans, hopes, dreams and desires into Your safe hands.

INSIGHT

We are instructed to roll our works on the Lord and let Him take the shot. The term works is plural and refers to actions, deeds, or undertakings. The sense here is simply, “Trust everything you do to the Lord.”

Each child of the King has a personal promise concerning the outcome. Our plans will be established, that is, turn out well. When we pass our plans over to Him, His plans become our plans.

The Hebrew term translated established is kun. It means firm or firmly established. Hence, they are sure, steadfast, permanent, and lasting

Occasionally when trying to do the Father’s work and follow His instructions, we find ourselves disturbed and depressed. Whenever we find ourselves in this state, we should stop at once and ask ourselves, “Whose work is it?” If it is the Father’s work and plan, it is His responsibility as well. We not only trust Him for the plan, but also for the plan’s completion.

We roll over not merely present fretfulness, but all our cares. We cast away our anxiety, resign ourselves to the Father’s choices for us. What a medicine is this for expelling present and future concerns! How blessed are those who live every day in obedience to this precept! Our destiny will be joyfully accomplished if we confidently entrust all to our Lord (Spurgeon).

How do we commit our works to the Lord? Not merely by asking Him to bless what we have already done, but by committing ourselves and our plans to Him before, during, and after we have done our work (Stanley).

\◠:◠/

Intolerance

Intolerance

Anyone who teaches something different is arrogant and lacks understanding. Such a person has an unhealthy desire to quibble over the meaning of words. This stirs up arguments ending in jealousy, division, slander, and evil suspicions. These people always cause trouble. Their minds are corrupt, and they have turned their backs on the truth. – 1 Timothy 6:4-5

2 Timothy 4:2-5

 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.

Intolerance is refusing to accept ideas, beliefs, or behavior that are different from your own.

Intolerance seems to be part and parcel of human DNA since the time of the Fall. From the beginning of recorded history, people groups have demonstrated themselves to be intolerant of others who are different from themselves. They seem to be essentially tribal in nature thinking that whatever makes them special and unique from others also makes them superior.

The following quotes are part of a master plan of intolerance and domination. They ultimately led to untold destruction, thuggery, and death.

“The streets of our country are in turmoil. The Universities are filled with students rebelling and rioting. Communists are seeking to destroy our country . . . Without law and order our nation cannot survive.”

“The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation.”

“If you wish the sympathy of the broad masses, you must tell them the crudest and most stupid things.”

“Tell a lie loud enough and long enough and people will believe it.”

“It is a quite special secret pleasure how the people around us fail to realize what is really happening to them.”

“By means of shrewd lies, unremittingly repeated, it is possible to make people believe that heaven is hell – and hell heaven. The greater the lie, the more readily it will be believed.”

“The greater the crime perpetrated by the leadership, the less likely it is that the people will ever believe their leaders to be capable of perpetrating such an event.”

“It is not truth that matters, but victory.”

“Let me control the textbooks, and I will control the state.”

“The one means that wins the easiest victory over reason is terror and force.”

“Terrorism is the best political weapon for nothing drives people harder than a fear of sudden death.”

“The receptivity of the masses is very limited, their intelligence is small, but their power of forgetting is enormous. In consequence of these facts, all effective propaganda must be limited to a very few points and must harp on these in slogans until the last member of the public understands what you want him to understand by your slogan.”

“We have to put a stop to the idea that it is a part of everybody’s civil rights to say whatever he pleases.”

“I don’t see much future for the Americans . . . it’s a decayed country. And they have their racial problem, and the problem of social inequalities . . . my feelings against Americanism are feelings of hatred and deep repugnance . . . How can one expect a State like that to hold together?”

America was founded on the principle of plurality of ideas, freedom of expression, and freedom of speech. Yet the founders of our Country though very different from one another, all had one common foundation. They all believed in absolute truth. Absolute truth was given by a creator God. And they understood that absolute truth provides morals and guidance as a firm foundation for society, government, and civilization.

These values were clearly articulated, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

There is tension in these words. For Thomas Jefferson, the truths which he articulated were “self-evident.” But others might strongly disagree. It seems as though most everyone has their own opinion. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own truth. The Father God has opinions. The difference between His opinions and all other opinions, is that His opinions are the Truth!

The Lord Jesus Christ held to absolute truth. On the one hand He welcomed everyone to come to Him and believe. But at the same time, he was totally intolerant of other points of view. He never compromised. He never synthesized!

John 14:6 I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.

REFLECT & PRAY

As children of the King living in America, perhaps today as never before we have to navigate uncharted waters. We believe in absolute truth and cannot compromise it. Yet we are to be tolerant and respectful of others who disagree with us.

Father what would You have us do? We seek Your face and Your will. We live as sheep among wolves. Encourage us to be wise as serpents, yet harmless as doves (Matthew 10:16).

INSIGHT

2 Timothy 4:3 For there will be a time when people will not tolerate sound teaching. Instead, following their own desires, they will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.

This time has now come. This verse sounds a great deal like our own age, doesn’t it? We live in a time of “designer doctrine,” when people pick and choose what to believe, based on their desires and preferences. But it’s a worthless pursuit (Stanley).

Paul tells us exactly what to do during the times in which we live. We are to continue speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

2 Timothy 4:2-5

 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.

 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.

Why is this so important? Because the Lord Jesus Christ is coming back! It may well be that our world is in the birth pangs of the end of the present age that may well see the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 24:8).

We are preparing the way for His appearance.

2 Timothy 4:1 He appears to set up his Kingdom:

The Greek word translated appears or appearance is epiphaneia. Epiphaneia was used in connection with the Roman emperor. His accession to the throne was his epiphaneia, and in particular – and this is the background of Paul’s thought here – it was used of his visit to any province or town (Barclay).

“Obviously, when the emperor was due to visit any place, everything was put in perfect order. The streets were swept and decorated, and all work was brought up to date so that the town might be fit for epiphaneia. So, Paul says to Timothy: ‘You know what happens when any town is expecting the epiphaneia of the emperor; you are expecting the epiphaneia of Jesus Christ. Do your work in such a way that all things will be ready whenever he appears.’ Christians should order their lives in such a way that at any moment they are ready for the coming of Christ” (Barclay).

All of the quotes regarding the master plan of intolerance and domination came from one man, Adolf Hitler.

\◠:◠/

Rocket Man and 2.0-

Rocket Man and 2.0

You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. – James 4:2-3

2 Kings 2:9-15 

 9 When they came to the other side, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what I can do for you before I am taken away.” And Elisha replied, “Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit and become your successor.”

 10 “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah replied. “If you see me when I am taken from you, then you will get your request. But if not, then you won’t.”

 11 As they were walking along and talking, suddenly a chariot of fire appeared, drawn by horses of fire. It drove between the two men, separating them, and Elijah was carried by a whirlwind into heaven.

 12 Elisha saw it and cried out, “My father! My father! I see the chariots and charioteers of Israel!” And as they disappeared from sight, Elisha tore his clothes in distress.

 13 Elisha picked up Elijah’s cloak, which had fallen when he was taken up. Then Elisha returned to the bank of the Jordan River.

 14 He struck the water with Elijah’s cloak and cried out, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” Then the river divided, and Elisha went across.

 15 When the group of prophets from Jericho saw from a distance what happened, they exclaimed, “Elijah’s spirit rests upon Elisha!”  

There is a dreaded encounter that many of us experienced. We wind up standing in checkout line with our groceries. And lo and behold, in front of us, there is a harried mom with a spoiled, strong-willed two-year-old. The mom is doing damage control and trying to keep it together. But the child is out of control reaching for things, demanding things, and throwing a temper tantrum when it does not get its own way.

Sad to say, as children of the King, we too often act like spoiled children.

We ask and do not receive, because we ask wrongly, to spend it on our pleasures. We often do not recognize our selfishness and desire for self-gratification. We want stuff! So often our intent is shortsighted, and we only want to satisfy our own desires for pleasure and short-term gain. We are myopic, the Father is not. The Father hears our requests, but He also discerns our motivations.

We might call this Prayer 1.0 which seeks primarily to fulfill self-centered desires. The Greek word translated passions or pleasures is hedone. It connotes pleasure, gratification, enjoyment. In the New Testament, it focuses on only physical pleasure and it is used figuratively used of desire, appetite, and lust. The English word hedonist is derived from this word.

Prayer 2.0 is quite different. Prayer 2.0 is God-centered. It seeks to honor the Father and advance His kingdom purposes. The apostle John presupposes that we wish to please the Father and not ourselves. .

1 John 5:14-15

 14 And this is the confidence that we have before him: that whenever we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.

 15 And if we know that he hears us in regard to whatever we ask, then we know that we have the requests that we have asked from him.

REFLECT & PRAY

Too often we are spiritual two-year-olds. We need to come to grips with this and grow up.

Father when I search my heart, I find a great deal of self-interest. Indeed, I am self-centric. Encourage me to become God-centric and to seek Your kingdom above all else.

INSIGHT

Do not be afraid to ask for great things! The Father is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20).

Elisha had been a PIT, Prophet In Training. Elijah had been Elisha’s spiritual mentor and father (2 Kings 2:12).

When he asked for double portion of the spirit of Elijah it might seem a bit odd and self-aggrandizing to us. But in the culture of that day, Elisha requested of Elijah what an eldest son would expect of a father in Israel: a double portion of the inheritance.

Elisha was the Father’s choice as Elijah’s successor. Elisha had his sights set on being a devoted and successful servant of the Father. He aspired to be a powerful and effective prophet of the living God. The obstacles were great, and the road was tough. Elisha wanted to be abundantly equipped for the task the Father invited him to participate in.

The double portion that Elisha requested was the privilege of the Father’s richest blessing on his life. Such a gift was not Elijah’s to give. Elijah could not guarantee this double portion, because it was the Father’s prerogative alone to bestow the blessing of His Spirit.

A double portion of the spirit of Elijah was exactly what the Father intended for Elisha. Elisha’s God-centric desire was heard and granted. Elisha carried on the work of Elijah.

Luke 11:13 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”

Elijah is taken to heaven in a fiery chariot. He became the first rocket man. The mission-critical request of Elisha was granted, and he becomes Elijah 2.0.

\◠:◠/

The value of weakness

Value weakness

My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9  

Philippians 4:11-13

 11 I have learned how to be content with whatever I have.

 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.

 13 For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

“In recent decades, the world has changed dramatically; our knowledge of ourselves and our universe has increased, infrastructures have become globalized and technological developments have revolutionized the way we communicate with each other.”

“One consequence of these changes that has passed relatively unnoticed is that we each have an increasingly complex world to deal with in our daily lives, which can affect us in a number of ways – some of which may be detrimental to our well-being, and which we may not even have fully acknowledged” (https://www.lifesquared.org.uk/our-complex-world).

Modern life seems to be filled with unimaginable complexities and many seeming paradoxes. The Scriptures are complex and, in many ways, odd to us, if not even backwards. If you want to be first, you must be last. If you want to save your life, you must lose it. And if you want to be strong, you must glory in your weakness (Stanley).

Because of the demands of life, we share common experiences and emotions. We know what it feels like to be disappointed. We know the pain of embarrassment, the sting of rejection, and the sorrow of failure. Too often they expose our deepest secret fears and inadequacies. Such incidents can overwhelm us and send us into a cycle of despair and anger. But there is a more excellent way to respond.

Paul achieved tremendous personal contentment and peace. Over time he learned to view obstacles as opportunities, faults as freedoms, restrictions as releases, and ultimately defeats as victories. Paul found great value not in his strengths, but rather in his weaknesses.

Why are weaknesses valuable?

They take us to the end of ourselves. They demonstrate our limitations and inabilities. And that is exactly the point. When we are strong in ourselves, we are weak in Christ. But when we are weak in ourselves, we are strong in Christ. Strength that knows itself to be strength is actually weakness, but weakness that knows itself to be weakness is actually strength (Wiersbe).

A fundamental conundrum of human life that is each of us is born, “full of ourselves.” In the movie Avatar, Mo’at, the spiritual leader of the Omaticaya clan of the Na’vi, describes the challenge: “it is hard to fill a cup that is already full.” We have to be willing to get out of our comfort zone and grow and change. We have to be open to new ideas and new ways of getting things done. We have to learn to become weak, in order that we might become strong. We have to learn to become dependent upon the Lord Jesus Christ rather than dependent upon ourselves.

The Father has an extraordinary and amazing strategy to achieve this. Rather than removing the pressure, He increases it, until our self-reliance ends, and we are brought to our knees in surrender.

Whatever brings you to your knees in weakness carries the greatest potential for your personal success and spiritual victory (Stanley). Our personal weaknesses and failures provide the foundation upon which the power of the Lord Jesus Christ can be realized in and through our lives.

REFLECT & PRAY

For many of us, exhaustion has left its mark. We are despondent and frightened. We feel lonely and misunderstood. Melancholy has become our constant companion.

Father I am so weary from trying, I am depleted and discouraged. Help me to learn how to be weak in myself and strong in the Lord Jesus Christ.

INSIGHT

The indwelling presence of the Father is one of the many undreamed-of and wonderful gifts that the Father gave us at the moment we accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior. He lives in each of us. He has decided to make His unlimited resources available to us.

How exactly does this work? It is a mystery. With a little imagination, we can get to the bottom of it. Not everyone is interested in NFL football, but it does offer an excellent fantasy illustration. Consider Jerry Rice, the greatest football player of all time.

Jerry Rice owns just about every conceivable receiving record. The MVP of Super Bowl XXIII, Rice, who retired with three Super Bowl rings, caught 1,549 passes for 22,985 yards and 197 touchdowns during his 20-year-career. A model of durability and sustained excellence, Rice actually had more receiving yards in his ‘30s than in his ‘20s.

Now suppose you wanted to go out and be a receiver and did not have a clue. But somehow, you are able to mysteriously change places with Jerry Rice. He came to indwell your body. Anything that he was able to do, he could now do in and through you. Are you ready to gear up and give it a try?

That is ultimately the question that the Father asks us. The Father does not remove the pressure, but He gives us His grace so that our difficulties work for us and not against us. We moved from bondage and drudgery to freedom. When we allow the Father to live His life through us from within, we experience His all sufficient grace and strength.

When Paul accepted his affliction as a gift of God, it made it possible for God’s grace to go to work in his life. It was then that God spoke to Paul and gave him the assurance of His grace. Whenever you are going through suffering, spend extra time in the Word of God; and you can be sure God will speak to you. He always has a special message for His children when they are afflicted (Wiersbe).

One more thing, we often ask “Why”? The Father did not offer Paul explanations. Rather, the Father gave Paul a promise: My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Explanations and understanding have their place. But we, as children of the King, do not live on explanations; we live on promises. Feelings vary, but the Father’s promises never change. Promises generate faith, and faith engenders hope.

Release your fears to the Father who loves you. Let Him strengthen you. Nothing compares to the freedom that waits for you within His loving arms. Nothing will ever bring more completion to your heart and soul than knowing the strength of his indwelling, eternal power, and love (Stanley).

\◠:◠/

Going forward on your knees

Going forward on your knees

Isaiah 45:2 I will go before you and make the rough places smooth. I will smash down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron.

Nehemiah 1:3-11

 3 “Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Going Forward on Your Knees is an historical account of Hudson Taylor. As an early missionary to China, his story has inspired and uplifted untold numbers of children of the King. The book utilizes Taylor’s most famous writings and quotes. It relates how he overcame the obstacles of poor health, lack of money and language barriers and was enabled to found the China Inland Mission

The title comes from Hudson Taylor’s advice to Jonathan Goforth, he said to be successful in China you needed to “go forward on your knees.”

The book emphasizes the criticality of prayer. Prayer is to be taken seriously. The Father is always at work and He invites us in to participate with Him in accomplishing His purpose on earth as it is in heaven. When children of the King “seek God’s face,” they are enabled to find the Father’s will about a matter. They then have the delight and privilege of praying it into existence.

“Maybe one of the reasons the church is not going forward today is because it’s not in a position to go forward – we are not on our knees in prayer” (Ray Prichard).

America seems to be imploding all around us. What will the Father have us do? The answer is found for each of us individually through prayer and prayer alone.

Nehemiah is a model of a child of the King who knew how to move forward on his knees. Upon hearing the dreadful news regarding the city of Jerusalem and its walls he seeks the Father’s face in prayer. There is no doubt in Nehemiah’s mind that the Father does not intend for Jerusalem to remain unprotected without walls and gates. He prays the Father’s will into existence.

He knows the only way to get the job done is to go through King Artaxerxes. Nehemiah was the cupbearer for Artaxerxes. He was responsible to taste the wine before it was passed out to his master. He was much like the king’s personal Secret Service agent. He was responsible for his safety and security regarding food and drink. As such, Nehemiah had great influence and frequent access to the royal presence.

Nehemiah’s prayer was heartfelt and sincere. He began by confessing his sin and the sin of his people. He reminded the Father of His promises to the nation of Israel. Then he became very specific. He prayed that the Father would move in the heart of King Artaxerxes so that he would be kind to him in order that he might gain the resources and permission needed to rebuild Jerusalem’s defenses.

Nehemiah 1:11 O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me.” In those days I was the king’s cup-bearer.

REFLECT & PRAY

“Prayer is that slender nerve that moves the muscles of omnipotence” (Charles Spurgeon).

Father as we look at the unsettled days in which we live, we choose to seek Your face. Show us how to pray in our present circumstances that Your will may be done on earth as it is in heaven.

INSIGHT

He began to pray in the Jewish month of Chislev which is equivalent to November/December on our calendars (Nehemiah 1:1) . The answer did not come immediately but actually took 4 to 5 months. It was the month of Nisan which is equivalent to March/April when the answer finally came (Nehemiah 2:1). The Father had done exactly what Nehemiah prayed for and more. Artaxerxes’ heart was turned toward Nehemiah and he was kind and generous.

Nehemiah 2:4-5

 4 The king asked, “Well, how can I help you?” With a prayer to the God of heaven,

 5 I replied, “If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.”

Artaxerxes gave Nehemiah all that was needed to accomplish the task. He gave him a letter which would be equivalent to an all-day pass to Disney World. All the building materials, right of access and passage, and a small army to protect them.

Nehemiah made it quite clear that the Father, the living God, controlled history, and the hearts of powerful people.

Nehemiah 2:8 And the king granted these requests, because the gracious hand of God was on me.

Nehemiah set the record straight for all history. It goes without saying that he happened to be in the right place, at the right time, with the needed proximity to powerful human authority that would be required to accomplish the will of God.

\◠:◠/

Light from the darkness

Light from the darkness

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine. – Isaiah 9:2

Ephesians 5:8 You were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord. So live as people of light!

Functioning in the dark of night has always been a challenge for humanity. Of course partial illumination from fire, oil, and gas helped, but they were poor, often unreliable, and even dangerous sources of light.

Thomas Edison invented devices for a wide spectrum of purposes such as mass communication, sound recording, electric power generation, and motion pictures. Among his many inventions were the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and of course the long-lasting, practical electric light bulb. The electric light bulb transformed the modern industrialized world.

Edison was persistent and systematic. By slow and tedious trial and error, he determined that a thin filament with a high electrical resistance could make an electrical light bulb practical, because it would require only a little current to make it glow. Edison first demonstrated publicly his light bulb in December 1879.

“I didn’t fail 1000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1000 steps. I know of over 3000 ways [that] a light bulb does not work” (Edison).

Night has been transformed into day through advances and improvements in his original invention. What about the dark night of the soul and moral darkness? How do we turn the darkness within into light?

The Father has provided light that pierces the darkness and provides inner illumination and transformation. Humanity is no longer doomed to walk in spiritual darkness. Each person can wake up, depart from darkness and become light. However, there is a sad fact regarding moral darkness. People choose to walk in darkness rather than light, deceiving themselves into believing that they are walking in light rather than darkness.  

John 3:19-20

 19 Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.

 20 For everyone who does evil hates the Light and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

“Those who are in darkness must grope through life without the light of God’s revelation (4:18)” (Hoehner).

REFLECT & PRAY

John 8:12 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

Father thank You that You have provided a cure for my spiritual and moral darkness. I am now a child of the light. Encourage and strengthen me to live as such.

INSIGHT

“‘God is light’ (1 John 1:5). Light expresses his majesty and glory (1 Timothy 6:16) and his perfect holiness, but also the truth that he wills to reveal himself to humanity (Psalms 43:3). The opposite of that glory and holiness and wisdom of God is darkness, and the world estranged from God dwells in such darkness” (Foulkes).

But something remarkable has happened with the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. He came to bring light and overcome darkness that had persisted since the time of the Fall. But more than that, He does not just bring light, He is “the light of the world.” And now a remarkable transformation is available to all of humanity.

Each child of the King has knowingly or unknowingly experienced this inner reality. When we accept the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord we are transferred from the domain of spiritual and moral darkness, to the realm of light. “There is nothing in all history like the moral miracle which Christianity brought about” (Barclay).

Colossians 1:13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.

But there is more. They were not merely in darkness and surrounded by darkness. The darkness was in them. In fact, they were darkness. Consider for a moment how such moral and spiritual darkness shapes and influences each individual’s soul and spirit.

Ephesians 5:8 You were formerly darkness, but now you are in the Lord. So live as people of light!

Perhaps a real-world analogy is sepsis. Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to an infection. It is a life-threatening medical emergency. Sepsis occurs when an infection you already have triggers a chain reaction throughout your body. Without timely treatment, sepsis can rapidly lead to tissue damage, organ failure, and death (CDC).

Moral and spiritual darkness is a life-threatening spiritual emergency.

The Father has intervened and provided a cure for moral and spiritual darkness. All children of the King had been inoculated. We who were darkness, are now light. But it is incumbent upon us to live it out and walk as children of the light and not as children of darkness.

Grace is not only a privilege and a gift; it is a responsibility and an obligation. It was true that the Father’s love could and would forgive; but the very fact that the Father loves us so much should becomes motivation to live as children of the light (Barclay).

\◠:◠/

The first are last

The first are last

Many who are first will be last. – Matthew 19:30

Matthew 19:23-30

 23 And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven.
 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”
 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”

 27 Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?”

 28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne . . .
 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.
 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

We have a strong personal drive to feel good about ourselves and find meaning and significance. We grow up watching those we are closest to and admire the most. We tend to “catch” their values and goals in the same way that we catch a cold.

In the world, we know how things work. What we want and we strive to get. What really matters most? Success? Possessions? Status? All these things contribute to our sense of well-being. But there is a catch. These very things which provide a measure of comfort, can become an impediment to obtaining what matters the most.

Jesus said that it was very hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:23). Why is this so?

If we have learned to depend only on ourselves and found success in this world, why would we need God? Putting it another way, if we trust in who we are, what we do, or have, why would we need to trust God?

Why is it hard for the rich to enter heaven? For the same reason it’s hard for the strong, or the bright, or the politically connected. They tend to rely on their own resources; pride keeps them from trusting God’s resources (Stanley).

REFLECT & PRAY

In the kingdom of God, the Father has turned things upside down. Losing is winning, winning is losing.

Father I recognize that I have caught my values and my priorities from the world. Encourage me and strengthen me to abandon my earthly, soulish values in exchange for Your heavenly values.

INSIGHT

In the kingdom of God things seem backwards. They are turned upside down from what we expect. Jesus stated that, “Many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Matthew 19:30).

We gain by losing. Jim Elliot wrote: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain that which he cannot lose.”

Matthew 10:39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.

It seems as though that part of the human DNA is competitiveness. We want the best for ourselves and we strive to obtain it. This entire perspective is upside down from what the Father envisions for us. It reflects the values and priorities of the world, not the kingdom of God.

The Last Supper occurred the evening before the crucifixion. This was a crucial time for the Lord Jesus Christ and His disciples. However, the disciples had not yet fully grasped what was going to happen the next day. The Person that they had devoted the last 3 1/2 years of their lives to was about to die a gruesome and horrid death for the sins of the world.

But their focus was entirely on themselves and their prominence and importance. They were totally indifferent to monumental pathos of the moment concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. They were so occupied with themselves; they were totally oblivious to Him.

Luke 22:24-26

 24 Then they began to argue among themselves about who would be the greatest among them.
 25 Jesus told them, “In this world the kings and great men lord it over their people . . .
 26 But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.

“It is one of the most poignantly tragic things in the gospel story that the disciples could quarrel about precedence in the very shadow of the cross. The seating arrangements at a Jewish feast were very definite. The table was arranged like a square with one side left open. At the top side of the square, in the center sat the host. On his right sat the guest of first honor; on his left the second guest; second on his right, the third guest; second on his left the fourth guest; and so on round the table.”

“The disciples had been quarrelling about where they were to sit, for they had not yet rid themselves of the idea of an earthly kingdom. Jesus told them bluntly that the standards of his kingdom were not the standards of this world. A king on earth was evaluated by the power he exercised.”

“One of the commonest titles for a king in the middle east was Euergetes, which is the Greek for Benefactor. Jesus said, ‘It is not the king but the servant who obtains that title in my kingdom’” (Barclay).

It is sad that fallen humanity chases after recognition and prominence. As we look within, we may recognize, to our own chagrin, that we probably have done the same thing that night!

To become great in God’s kingdom, you must become the servant of all.

\◠:◠/

Vigilant flexibility

Vigilant flexibility

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise. – Ephesians 5:15

Ephesians 5:15-19

 15 So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.

 16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.

 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.

 18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit,

 19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.

In June 2020, America entered a complicated new phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That challenge was a function of a complicated public-health picture combined with contradictory public attitudes. Even as economic activity resumed, COVID-19 cases are rose in many locations. This was not a second wave. Rather, it was a series of spikes off the first surge. In the following months, some states would see infections rise while others fall. The trick would be to manage the constant risk of COVID-19 while restarting normal life.

The remainder of 2020 warranted flexibility and tolerance, trying different ways to adapt to new evidence. In a country with such fractured politics, this was no small challenge.

Instead of a “binary choice” between lockdowns and total freedom, this phase called for “vigilant flexibility,” as states and cities adapted to shifting circumstances. Public officials should strongly encourage masks, and distancing as the economy tentatively reopens, and when hotspots arise, they should track the origins and “be ready to curtail specific activities.” We “need to focus on building public confidence” and instilling “the patience to get through what could be a hard fall and winter” (Scott Gottlieb and Yuval Levin June 14, 2020, WSJ).

How should children of the King live in uncertain times when both seen and unseen hazards and difficulties abound? As children of the King we have a special responsibility. It requires a delicate balance. We are to stand firm upon the foundation of truth that we have received and yet be flexible and understanding, willing to modify our words and actions.

Proverbs 27:12 A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.

Vigilant flexibility is what is needed! The apostle Paul told the Father’s children how to live wisely. Walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. – Ephesians 5:15-16

REFLECT & PRAY

The Father has set the bar high for each of His children. But He is also made it possible to attain and realize His standards through the work of the Holy Spirit within us.

Father teach us to walk circumspectly and exercise diligent flexibility in the hazardous times in which we live. Encourage us to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

INSIGHT

The Greek word translated carefully, circumspectly is akribos. Akribos has the sense of exactness or thoroughness. When it comes to ethical decisions and behavior it is often translated diligently, perfectly, circumspectly, or accurately. In other words, “pay close attention to how you behave” (UBS).  

Consider how a cat is able to walk on top of a very thin narrow fence without falling. They are very careful where they place each paw as they navigate their way. They walk circumspectly.

How do we live wisely?

Ephesians 5:18 Be filled with the Holy Spirit.

At 40,000 feet, at minimum, the Holy Spirit can be understood as a positive influence and a supernatural power source. He becomes our guide and companion as we navigate our way through life’s choices. The Holy Spirit is just the power source we need to be able to live wisely and walk circumspectly. He provides direction and the ability to accomplish what the Father sets before us.

The Greek verb translated filled is pleroo. Pleroo means to fill completely, to make full. In the context it has the sense of being controlled or under the influence of, in a fashion similar to being intoxicated with alcoholic beverages.

But there is more. This is one of those places where understanding the original Koine Greek of the New Testament is of great value. The verbal form is in the imperative mood. In simple English, it is a command, not a suggestion. It is in the present tense and envisions continuous or repeated action. It is also a passive verb meaning the subject receives the action rather than performs the action.

Thus it could be accurately translated, “Be constantly, moment by moment, being controlled by the spirit” (Wuest).

As we learn to live being filled or under the direction and empowerment of the Holy Spirit, our wisdom grows, and our life choices improve.

Philippians 1:27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ . . . standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.

\◠:◠/