Counsel of desperate despair

Counsel of desperate despair

If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? – Psalms 11:3

Psalms 17:3-15

 3 You have tested my thoughts and examined my heart in the night. You have scrutinized me and found nothing wrong. I am determined not to sin in what I say.

 4 I have followed your commands, which keep me from following cruel and evil people.

 5 My steps have stayed on your path; I have not wavered from following you.

 6 I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God. Bend down and listen as I pray.

 7 Show me your unfailing love in wonderful ways. By your mighty power you rescue those who seek refuge from their enemies.

 8 Guard me as you would guard your own eyes. Hide me in the shadow of your wings.

 15 Because I am righteous, I will see you. When I awake, I will see you face to face and be satisfied.

According to legend, Rome was founded in 753 B.C. by Romulus and Remus, twin sons of Mars, the god of war. Romulus became Rome’s first king. In 27 B.C., Augustus became the first emperor of Rome. Augustus’ rule ushered in the Pax Romana, two centuries of peace and prosperity. A vast, powerful empire flourished.

However, the Roman Empire eventually collapsed under its own weight. It had become bloated and corrupt. One after another it has provinces were lost. In September 476 A.D, a Germanic prince named Odovacar defeated the Roman army in Italy, bringing an ignoble end to the long, triumphant though tumultuous history of ancient Rome.

The reasons for Rome’s collapse continue to be an ongoing debate among historians. Several of the key factors include the barbarian invasions, economic troubles, overexpansion, military overspending, government corruption, political instability, loss of traditional values, the division of the Empire between East and West, and the weakening of Rome’s military. The foundation upon which it was built disintegrated. The Roman empire was no more.

David, king of Israel was going through similar turmoil. The foundation of his nation, the principles of Mosaic law and justice, and the institutions derived from them were being undermined (Psalm 11:3). When the foundations are destroyed, a complete breakdown of law and order in the community follows. The FRCL translates it as “The standards of the society are in ruins” (UBS).

The Hebrew word translated destroyed or collapsed is haras. Haras refers to something that has been destroyed or damaged irreparably. It is the verb that is used to describe the destruction of the Egyptian armies at the Red Sea (Exodus 15:7). The results of this activity are often horrific, appalling, ghastly, disgusting, or loathsome.

REFLECT & PRAY

In fearful times David’s closest advisors and friends tempted him to doubt. He had to choose between flight or faith. He chose faith.

Father, You dwarf all adverse circumstances. When difficult times come, You offer each child of the King an opportunity to go through them with You by our side in spirit or sometimes even corporeally (Matthew 28:20, Daniel 3). There is no reason for fear and flight.

INSIGHT

David had known the Father since he was a small boy. The Father was with him on those dark lonely nights when he watched over his sheep. He was there when David prayed. The Father responded by gently, lovingly whispering in his ear. The Father saw this faithful child develop confidence that could survive all testing until Bathsheba. Humanly speaking, they are not just close friends, they were buddies.

Psalms 11:1 I trust in the LORD for protection. So why do you say to me, “Fly like a bird to the mountains for safety!

The same was not so of his advisors. They saw only the impending, threatening storm. They did not see the Father who has power over the storm. In modern times, Doppler radar alerts those on the ground when severe weather approaches. When deadly hurricanes approach, a warning goes out to evacuate. As far as David’s fainthearted counselors were concerned, a man-made hurricane was coming, the situation was hopeless. The Nation of Israel was doomed. They strongly urged him to evacuate, flee, and save himself. “Fly like a bird to the mountains for safety!”

This puzzled David. Do not they know who David is? More importantly, do not they know who the Father is? Surely, they should be aware of David’s faith and confidence in the Father. He totally trusted in the Lord for protection. The Father could certainly handle the situation. There is no reason to fear or run away. David totally rejects their well-meaning, fact-based advice. He is determined to stand his ground no matter what.

He counters with “a spirited retort to some demoralizing advice” (Kidner). He asked them a question, the gist of which was, “How can you say such a thing.” No doubt he thought something like, “The difficulties we face now, might be bad, but they are not that bad. I have faced greater problems over longer periods of time than this. The Father will take care of me. This too shall pass.”

Psalms 11:3 The foundations of law and order have collapsed. What can the righteous do?”

Can you picture his advisors? Do they seem fidgety and nervous? Do you see them shaking as they spoke? Are their lips quivering as they try to get the words out? Perhaps under their breath, they were muttering, “What can we do, what can we possibly do?” To their rhetorical question, they had already decided that the answer was “nothing.”

David’s great confidence and faith were derived from years of walking with the Father. How could they be so weak-kneed and unstable? How could they be so filled with fear? Where was their faith?

Psalms 11:4-7

 4 But the LORD is in his holy Temple; the LORD still rules from heaven. He watches everyone closely, examining every person on earth.

 5 The LORD examines both the righteous and the wicked. He hates those who love violence.

 7 For the righteous LORD loves justice. The virtuous will see his face.

David puts them off. He dismisses them. David explains his confidence. His faith gave him assurance regarding things he could not see with his eyes. He asks a question to himself and answers it. Where is the Father right now? He sits enthroned in heaven above it all. He is simply watching as the events of history unfold.

The Father’s eye on both the righteous and the wicked. At any moment, He can intervene and enter into the time-space continuum. The Scriptures are replete with the record of Him doing exactly that (the miracle of the Red Sea, the fall of Jericho, the fiery furnace, etc.). Because the Father is securely enthroned in heaven for all eternity, there is not really much reason to be concerned. Even though it seems as though the world is falling apart, David declares his confidence in the Father. David shows the way of faith for all children of the King to follow.

Psalms 11:2-3

 2 The wicked are stringing their bows and fitting their arrows on the bowstrings. They shoot from the shadows at those whose hearts are right.

 3 The foundations of law and order have collapsed.

This sounds eerily familiar to recurring events of the 21st century. It should be a wake-up call. Without a firm foundation, how can western civilization stand?

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To whom it may concern? ∙

To whom it may concern?

A Syrian soldier, however, randomly shot an arrow at the Israelite troops and hit the king of Israel between the joints of his armor. – 2 Chronicles 18:33

1 Kings 21:17-20

 17 But the LORD said to Elijah,

 18 “Go down to meet King Ahab of Israel, who rules in Samaria.”

 19 “Give him this message: ‘This is what the LORD says: Wasn’t it enough that you killed Naboth? Must you rob him, too? Because you have done this, dogs will lick your blood at the very place where they licked the blood of Naboth!’”

 20 “So, my enemy, you have found me!” Ahab exclaimed to Elijah. “Yes,” Elijah answered, “I have come because you have sold yourself to what is evil in the LORD’s sight.

Job 1:21 The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away.

There are many definitions of stray bullets. One defines a stray bullet as a bullet that leaves the immediate area of where it was shot and injures a human being. Another definition refers to a bullet that hits an unintended target. Stray bullet injuries and deaths result from missing targets when hunting or sport-shooting, accidental or negligent discharges, getting caught in a crossfire, or celebratory gunfire. They are considered a freak accident or an act of God. The casualty was “in the wrong place at the wrong time.” They cannot be predicted, controlled, or prevented.

The probability of accidental death from stray bullet about 1 in 8500 (www.iii.org). To put this in perspective the odds of dying from heart disease 1 in 6, cancer 1 in 7, suicide 1 in 86, opioids 1 in 98, automobile accidents 1 in 106, drowning 1 in 1121, choking on food 1 in 2618, sunstroke 1 in 7770, cataclysmic storm 1 in 54,669, dog attack 1 in 118,776, lightning 1 in 180,746 (NSC, 2018). The odds of getting bitten by a shark 1 and 3,750,000 (Insider, 2018).      

What about stray arrows?

The Scriptures contain stories that you just can’t make up. So it is with the story of Ahab, king of Israel, and Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. This story takes place during the time of the divided kingdom after the reign of Solomon. The 10 northern tribes are called Israel and the two southern tribes are called Judah.

Jehoshaphat king of Judah was a good king, while Ahab king of Israel was an evil king. Regrettably, Ahab convinces Jehoshaphat to ally and they join forces in battle.

Micaiah the prophet of the Lord told Ahab that he would surely die. He was a doomed man.

2 Chronicles 18:16-18

 16 Micaiah told him, “In a vision I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, like sheep without a shepherd. And the LORD said, ‘Their master has been killed. Send them home in peace.’

 18 Then Micaiah continued, “Listen to what the LORD says! I saw the LORD sitting on his throne with all the armies of heaven around him, on his right and on his left.”

REFLECT & PRAY

Things happen that are beyond our control. Mere humans cannot predict them nor prevent them. But the Father knows the future before it occurs. He demonstrates that He is in control by prophesying specific events in advance.

Father thank You that You are sovereign. There are no random arrows. We can outlive the best-laid traps of our enemies. While our enemies cannot escape your predictions.

INSIGHT

Ahab took the Father’s prediction delivered by Micaiah to heart and did everything he could to save himself, except quit the battle and leave immediately for home. He employed deception, deceit, disguises, and camouflage. Ahab did everything short of painting a sign on Jehoshaphat’s back, “I am the king of Israel, kill me if you can.”

2 Chronicles 18:29 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “As we go into battle, I will disguise myself so no one will recognize me, but you wear your royal robes.” So the king of Israel disguised himself, and they went into battle.

All of Ahab’s efforts were to no avail. What appeared to be a freak accident was nothing of the kind. The kill shot was predicted and guided. The Father had the final word. There are no stray arrows, only those that appear to be. “The random arrow shot by an anonymous archer was guided by the Lord to its target, and Ahab was mortally wounded” (Thompson).

2 Chronicles 18:30 Meanwhile, the king of Syria had issued these orders to his chariot commanders: “Attack only the king of Israel! Don’t bother with anyone else.”

2 Chronicles 18:31,32

 31 So when the Syrian chariot commanders saw Jehoshaphat in his royal robes, they went after him. “There is the king of Israel!” they shouted. But Jehoshaphat called out, and the LORD saved him. God helped him by turning the attackers away from him.

 32 As soon as the chariot commanders realized he was not the king of Israel, they stopped chasing him.

Amid all the confusion, the Father fulfilled the prophecy delivered by Elijah concerning King Ahab. A Syrian archer fired an arrow in the general direction of the Army of Israel. Everyone present would have thought the arrow had written on it “to whom it may concern.” But in fact, Ahab’s name was written on it. The arrow penetrated the area between the joints of Ahab’s armor. Ahab was mortally wounded and died the same day

The Father heard Jehoshaphat’s prayer for help. He turned away his attackers and spared his life. But the Father had some choice words of confrontation for Jehoshaphat.

2 Chronicles 19:2 King Jehoshaphat, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, wrath has gone out against you from the LORD.”

How could King Jehoshaphat not have realized what Ahab was up to? If Ahab had painted a target on Jehoshaphat’s back, he could not have made it easier for the enemy to kill him! But the Father is sovereign in all things. He protected Jehoshaphat. While simultaneously directing the arrow into the vulnerable opening in Ahab’s armor. “Ahab was disguised and yet was killed, while Jehoshaphat was in his royal robes and never touched” (Wiersbe).

1 Kings 22:37-38

 37 So the king died and was brought to Samaria, and they buried the king in Samaria.

 38 They washed the chariot by the pool of Samaria, and the dogs licked up his blood . . .  According to the word of the LORD which He spoke.

“The Lord helped Jehoshaphat out of a tight spot that he never should have been in. God’s grace covers a multitude of our sins” (Stanley).

When it comes to the fulfillment of the Father’s will in general and prophecy in particular, there are only three logical possibilities regarding what happens: The Father is in control, people are in control, nobody’s in control, everything is random.

Isaiah 48:5 I told you what would happen; I told you beforehand what I was going to do.

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What is the biggest mistake you’ve made? ∙

What is the biggest mistake you’ve made?

But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there not a prophet of the LORD still here, that we may ask him?” – 2 Chronicles 18:6

2 Chronicles 18:1-2

 1 Jehoshaphat enjoyed great riches and high esteem, and he made an alliance with Ahab of Israel by having his son marry Ahab’s daughter.

 2 A few years later he went to Samaria to visit Ahab, who prepared a great banquet for him and his officials. They butchered great numbers of sheep, goats, and cattle for the feast. Then Ahab enticed Jehoshaphat to join forces with him to recover Ramoth-gilead.

In the 21st century world of ultra-competitive advertising, companies seek competitive advantage for their products and services. A frequent strategy is to enter into a partnership with another brand.

Why partner? The answer is simple to achieve mutual benefit, putting it in other terms “synergistic momentum.” Both partners leverage each other’s expertise and resources to build something larger than the sum of its parts. When companies partner together, they provide one another with new customers and new markets.

This story takes place after the reign of Solomon when his kingdom was divided. The ten northern tribes are called Israel and the two southern tribes are called Judah.

Jehoshaphat king of Judah was a good man, but he had several lapses in judgment. His biggest mistake was trusting Ahab and allying with him. He did not think it through. But of greatest importance he did not seek the Father’s counsel. The alliance was an awful idea. Jehoshaphat almost paid for it with his life.

Ahab was a real piece of work. He was evil, plotting, conniving, and deceitful. He was a corrupting influence. He would literally stab you in the back. Take away: Be wary of bad amigos. Although the telling of the story is a bit long, the speaks for itself.

What did Ahab do? He invited Jehoshaphat to come to Samaria and hang out. Presumably, Ahab turned it into a grandiose affair full of pomp and circumstance. Picture Jehoshaphat and his royal entourage with security troops marching into Samaria. Trumpets blaring, large crowds cheering, the Royal Orchestra of Samaria strikes up the equivalent of “Hail to the Chief.” It would have been epic.

Undoubtedly, it would have gone right to Jehoshaphat’s head. His yarmulke probably stretched 2 or 3 sizes as his head swelled. But Ahab was only getting started. He wined and dined Jehoshaphat. Ahab presumably flattered Jehoshaphat with complements and obsequious accolades. Jehoshaphat became completely caught up in the moment.

Ahab had planted the hook. At the right moment, he yanked the string. He enticed Jehoshaphat to join forces with him to attack a mutual enemy. Foolishly, Jehoshaphat agreed. He neglected to confer with his current partner, the Father.

2 Chronicles 18:2-3

 2 Ahab enticed Jehoshaphat to join forces with him . . .

 3 “Will you go with me to Ramoth-gilead?” King Ahab of Israel asked King Jehoshaphat of Judah. Jehoshaphat replied, “Why, of course! You and I are as one, and my troops are your troops. We will certainly join you in battle.”

The Hebrew term translated entice, induce, persuade is suth. Suth has an underlying idea of cunningness. It commonly has an evil connotation. This is the verb that was used when Satan enticed David to take a census (1 Chronicles 21:1).

REFLECT & PRAY

“Flirtation with those in apostasy is flirtation with catastrophe” (Thompson).

Father strengthen me not to compromise my integrity and beliefs. May I be bold, courageous, and stand tall for the Truth. Strengthen me not succumb to peer pressure or the influence of ungodly authorities. The Father’s Truth alone is Truth.

INSIGHT

Perhaps Jehoshaphat was a bit loopy from the wine but was not completely impaired. Jehoshaphat had one condition. He wanted to know what the Father had to say about going to war. The decision to turn to the Lord for guidance was a bit late in coming.

2 Chronicles 18:4 Then Jehoshaphat added, “But first let’s find out what the LORD says.”

Ahab was not on good terms with the Father’s true prophets. He disdained them because they always told the truth. So he summoned 400 of his own prophets, guys who he had in his pocket. He knew they would give him the answer that he wanted.

2 Chronicles 18:5 So the king of Israel [Ahab] summoned the prophets, 400 of them, and asked them, “Should we go to war against Ramoth-gilead, or should I hold back?” They all replied, “Yes, go right ahead! God will give the king victory.”

Although Jehoshaphat’s less than stellar judgment with the pinch of pride had got him into the present situation. Mercifully he was not totally hoodwinked by every outright lie and subterfuge. As they say, he may have been born at night, but he had not been born “last night.”

But thankfully for Jehoshaphat, false prophets would just not do. He insisted on hearing from a true prophet of the Lord. Knowing what the truth sounds like, spoils you. Hearing the truth provides a built-in guard against deception and lies.

Those who are used to handling the truth, the Word of God have their senses trained to discern good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14).

2 Chronicles 18:6 Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there not also a prophet of the LORD here? We should ask him the same question.”

Ahab acquiesced but was not pleased. He hated Father’s prophets. He felt that they had it in for him. Whenever he consulted them, they always gave him bad news. Go figure!

2 Chronicles 18:7 The king of Israel replied to Jehoshaphat, “There is one more man who could consult the LORD for us, but I hate him. He never prophesies anything but trouble for me! His name is Micaiah.”

Jehoshaphat was a bit appalled by Ahab’s response. Perhaps the dulling effect of the wine was wearing off. He replied, “That’s not the way a king should talk! Let’s hear what he has to say” (2 Chronicles 18:7).

Reluctantly, Ahab sent for Micaiah. But in the process, Ahab’s guy tried to put in the fix. He pressed Micaiah to give the same prediction as the false prophets. Micaiah would have nothing to do with it. That’s one of the things about the Father’s prophets, they tend to be harder than flint and do not back down from proclaiming the truth.

2 Chronicles 18:8, 12-13

 8 So the king of Israel called one of his officials and said, “Quick! Bring Micaiah.”

 13 Meanwhile, the messenger who went to get Micaiah said to him, “Look, all the prophets are promising victory for the king. Be sure that you agree with them and promise success.”

 13 But Micaiah replied, “As surely as the LORD lives, I will say only what my God says.”

The Father calls His prophets, “my servants.” They only say what He tells them to say. They do not add, take away, or alter His words. The Father’s words are the plumbline by which everything is to be measured.

At this juncture, Micaiah was well aware of what was going on. Micaiah resorts to a bit of sanctified sarcasm.

 2 Chronicles 18:14, 15

 14 When Micaiah arrived before the king, Ahab asked him, “Micaiah, should we go to war against Ramoth-gilead, or should I hold back?” Micaiah replied sarcastically, “Yes, go up and be victorious, for you will have victory over them!”

 15 But the king replied sharply, “How many times must I demand that you speak only the truth to me when you speak for the LORD?”

Well, Ahab was not stupid either, well not that stupid. And he knew that Micaiah was not saying what the Father had revealed to him. He cries a few crocodile tears. He then calls out Micaiah. So Micaiah comes clean and tells the rest of the story.

2 Chronicles 18:16 Then Micaiah told him, “In a vision, I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, like sheep without a shepherd. And the LORD said, ‘Their master has been killed. Send them home in peace.’”

Micaiah clearly prophesied Ahab’s death. Bad news, just what Ahab anticipated.

Ahab was not amused. He had mixed emotions. Now that he heard the truth, He was frustrated but also somewhat fearful. But mainly, he was just angry. When he asked for the truth, it was simply another ploy. He had no interest in hearing from the Father. Ahab had Micaiah arrested and put on bread and water.

2 Chronicles 18:25-26

 25 “Arrest him!” the king of Israel ordered.

 26 Give them this order from the king “Put this man in prison and feed him nothing but bread and water until I return safely from the battle!”

Ahab underscored his hatred of Micaiah by to Jehoshaphat.

2 Chronicles 18:17 “Didn’t I tell you?” the king of Israel exclaimed to Jehoshaphat. “He never prophesies anything but trouble for me.”

But Micaiah was not done.

2 Chronicles 18:27 Micaiah replied, “If you return safely, it will mean that the LORD has not spoken through me!” Then he added to those standing around, “Everyone mark my words!”

In the 20th century, “Mark my words” was modified into a new phrase and popularized by Clint Eastwood, A.K.A. Dirty Harry, “But being that this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well do ya, punk?”

Ahab was not feeling lucky. His unbelieving heart was blinded.

“If you play with fire, you get burned.”

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The place of highest honor

The place of highest honor

God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names. – Philippians 2:9

Colossians 1:15-22

 15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,

 16 for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see – such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him.

 17 He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.

 19 For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ,

 20 and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

The president of the United States has the privilege of recognizing those who are considered the “best of the best” civilians in America.

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy conceived the institution of awarding The Presidential Medal of Freedom. It is the nation’s highest civilian honor. It is presented to individuals who have made especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

Typically the medal is bestowed upon the recipient by the sitting president who has chosen them. Between 1963 and 2021, more Than 550 civilians had been so honored. Two people, Ellsworth Bunker and Colin Powell were two-time recipients.

The award symbolizes an idea that anyone, no matter their origin or standing in society can live out the highest, most noble ideals. In doing so, they inspire others to do likewise.

Does the Lord Jesus Christ deserve the place of highest honor and devotion? If an American president were around in the first century, would he have presented The Presidential Medal of Freedom to Him? Would His meritorious contributions to humanity, to world peace, to cultural or other significant endeavors warranted it? In all honesty, I suppose it would matter who the President was.

But in fact, the question is irrelevant. Because the Most High God, the highest existing authority has already granted Him the place of highest honor. The Father has proclaimed for all eternity that the name of the Lord Jesus Christ is above all other names. In an act of total submission to the Father and total dedication to the eternal salvation of the human race, the Lord Jesus Christ chose to die for the sins of the world. He achieved reconciliation between the holy, pure, and righteous Father and sinful, fallen, tainted humanity. He established peace between heaven and on earth.

He demonstrated the accuracy and efficacy of His teaching for all to follow.

Luke 14:11 Those who humble themselves will be exalted.

REFLECT & PRAY

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that although he was rich, he became poor for your sakes, so that you by his poverty could become rich.

Father strengthen me to give and maintain the Lord Jesus Christ the place of highest honor in my life.

INSIGHT

Very often the value of the gift is not based upon its cost, but rather its source. That is why so many people hold in high esteem heirlooms that they have handed down to them from cherished family members. They have great sentimental value, regardless of their monetary value.

How can the worth be measured of eternal life, forgiveness, unconditional acceptance, and adoption into the Father’s Forever Family? These free gifts have been bestowed by the Son of God upon all those who believe in Him. The Father has revealed Himself through His Son. The Lord Jesus Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.

Colossians 2:9 For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.

Hebrews 1:3 He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

2 Corinthians 4:4 Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.

Regarding the work of redemption, as far as the Father and the Son are concerned, “It is finished.” All that was needed has been done and made ready and available to all who accept it. If the Christian faith was summed up with one word, it would be the word DONE. If all of the other religions in the world were summed up with one word, it would be DO (Greg Laurie).

All that children of the King receive from the Father is freely given. We do not work for nor do we earn it. It is all grace.

The 1964 Winter Olympics were held in Innsbruck, Austria. The British two-man bobsled team finished their first run and were in second place. As they prepared for their second run, they realized that a bolt was broken. Without it, they would be disqualified and out of the competition.

Eugenio Monti of Italy, one of the most successful athletes in winter sports, with 10 world championships and 6 Olympic medals became aware of the problem. He lent Team Britain a bolt from off his sled. The British team fixed their sled and went on to win the gold medal. Team Italy finished third.

It was an incredible gesture of unselfishness and the best-known performance of Monti’s sporting career. When queried, Eugenio Monti replied, “Nash didn’t win because I gave him the bolt. He won because he had the fastest run.”

Because of his magnanimous act, Monti was awarded the De Coubertin Medal for Sportsmanship by the International Olympic Committee. He was its first recipient. The committee recognizes athletes who demonstrate the true spirit of sportsmanship. Olympians consider it the highest honor possible. There is no specialized training regimen designed to prepare people to win this award, except of course the high personal values and good decisions made in life itself.

Although the Lord Jesus Christ was God, He did not think of equality with God as something He had to hold on to. Rather He gave up His divine privileges, became a human being, and assumed the humble position of a slave. He further humbled himself in total submission to the Father’s will and died a criminal’s death. Consequently, the Father highly exalted Him and gave Him the place of highest honor and a name above all other names.

The Lord Jesus Christ received recognition and the applause of heaven. He showed the way for all children of the King. Those who humble themselves will be exalted (Luke 14:11).

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The everywhere-nowhere future

The everywhere-nowhere future

Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones anymore. – Isaiah 65:17

2 Peter 3:12-13

 12 Looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames.

 13 But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.

The story is told of a recorded phone call to customer support that went through to an employee’s home when the strict shelter-in-place, work-from-home regulations were in effect during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.

Client: “No! This is unacceptable. I want to speak to one of your superiors”

Customer support: “Moooom!”

2020 saw the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the beginning, no one knew exactly what was happening or how to respond. However, major life changes were required. In addition to commonly used terms such as quarantine and home offices, new terms and ideas were added to the jargon of the world’s languages: social distancing, shelter in place, work from home.

Many business owners and employees are forced to move their workspace to their homes. Classroom education shifted to online classes powered by Zoom, Microsoft teams, Skype, and the like.

Almost overnight, that which was considered somewhat of an extremely futuristic dream suddenly became a reality. The world would never again be the same and a new epithet entered the mainstream: the everywhere-nowhere future.

Throughout human civilization, people lived where they labored. In 2020, more than 90 percent of Americans drove to work, and their average commute was about 27 minutes. Urban economics is based upon this connection. Remote work weakens and ultimately severs it. Spatial proximity is replaced by cloud-based connectivity.

An important outcome of the pandemic was not that we learned how to use Zoom, but rather we were forced to learn how to use Zoom. “Telecommunications doesn’t have to be the perfect substitute for in-person meetings, as long as it’s mostly good enough. For the most part, remote work just works” (Derek Thompson).

In the 1950s and 1960s, the U.S. highway system was constructed. It allowed higher-income families to move from downtowns to the distant suburbs. In the 2020s, Zoom, and the like, will spread out the population even more.

Silicon Valley is forever altered. Rather than referring to a specific place or geographical location, Silicon Valley is now dispersed across many localities. The metro hub could become obsolete as companies embrace the reality of a permanently distributed workforce. Could the next Silicon Valley be everywhere and nowhere?

After 2020 the city in the cloud will become a more accessible version of the city on the Earth. It will be driven by agglomeration, specialization, and convenience. The future of the workplace is everywhere-nowhere

REFLECT & PRAY

Matthew 24:30 And then at last, the sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens . . .. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

Father what an amazing future You have in store for all children of the King. From Your perspective, the future is now. Increase the joy of Your presence in our lives a bit more day by day.

INSIGHT

Children of the King already live in parallel realities. We are citizens of Earth and citizens of heaven at the same time. In a sense, we dwell in an Earth-based city and a cloud-based city simultaneously. But in reality, it is quite different. Rather than being everywhere-nowhere, it is an everywheresomeone actuality.

The Father is everywhere (omnipresent) at once. Wherever the Father is, children of the King are with Him in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 1:20).

Ephesians 2:4-6

 4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much,

 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)

 6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.

At the same time, a future physical kingdom is coming to Earth. One day the Lord Jesus Christ will return and reign as Messiah and King over the promised kingdom of God. This however is only temporary, a 1000 years (Revelation 20).

The kingdom of God on earth, in turn, will be replaced by a New Heavens and New Earth and a city that is simultaneously cloud-based and earthbound. Spatial proximity with the Lord Jesus Christ and cloud-based connectivity will exist congruently for eternity.

Revelation 21:1-3

 1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone.

 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

 3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them.”

Psalms 24:10 Who is the King of glory? The LORD of Heaven’s Armies – he is the King of glory.

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Jonah master pouter ∙

Jonah master pouter

Just kill me now, LORD! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen. – Jonah 4:3

Exodus 34:6-7

 6 The LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,

 7 lavishing unfailing love to a thousand generations. Forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin.

When things do not go your way, it is your choice how you respond. Pouting is one of the poor choices which carries over from the Terrible Twos. Children occasionally pout when they do not get their way. We have all seen it. They sit with their arms crossed with a sad, hurt look on their face. A pouty face, with a frown, is donned. The lips pushed out (usually just the bottom lip). Unfortunately, some two-year-olds never grow up and simply become pouting adults. Some even go on to earn a Ph.D. in pouting.

Pouting is acting in a gloomy and irritated way. It often includes moping or sulking. A successful pout requires that you master the correct facial expressions and body language to carry it off.

Position your mouth. Try sticking your bottom lip out just a little. You may want to practice in the mirror first because if you overdo it, you end up looking like a fish!

To get your mouth position right, try saying the word “blue.” It will force your lips forward into a pouty position. If you can, include quivering your lower lip. This will make you look like you are about to cry. Drop your head slightly showing vulnerability.

During a sad pout, emotion is expressed in your whole body, not just your face. Additional techniques include slouching your shoulders a bit and loosely crossing your arms in front of you. 

If and when you talk, use an angry voice. To sell the emotion, talk loudly, repeating the same phrases, and laugh sarcastically. You can also try stomping your feet, closing doors loudly, and making other loud noises to make your point or get attention.

However, rather than words, pouting often involves just a bit of a sigh, followed by sulking facial expressions, and then moody silence.

The worst part about pouting is those times when no one notices you are pouting. This results in even greater annoyance and vexation.

Pouting is an outward expression of inward selfishness.

Jonah was the master pouter of Israel.

Reluctantly Jonah finally delivers the Father’s warning message of the coming judgment of Nineveh

Jonah 3:3-4

 3 This time Jonah obeyed the LORD’s command and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to see it all.

 4 On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!”

What did the Assyrians do? They repented from their sins and sought forgiveness from the Father, the Lord God of Israel (Jonah 3:5–9).

What did Jonah do? Did he praise the Lord for their change of heart? Absolutely not! He was furious. This is what he was afraid of all along. The Assyrians had a terrible reputation for overpowering, capturing, and butchering their opponents.

Jonah feared that at the hands of the Assyrians, it might happen to Israel. In his mind what seemed best for the nation of Israel was pretty straightforward. The Assyrians should be judged and destroyed by the Father. Problem solved.

God forbid that they would repent and seek forgiveness. If they did so, how would the Father respond? Worst case, He would relent and cancel the judgment the Assyrians so richly deserved. Jonah blurted out an angry, whiny prayer.

Jonah 4:1-3

 1 This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry.

 2 So he complained to the LORD about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, LORD? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people.

 3 Just kill me now, LORD! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.”

In prayer, Jonah reveals why he initially refused the Father’s order to go to Nineveh and confront them. Jonah knew that the Father was merciful and compassionate. Sure enough, the worst possible scenario played out. Why was Jonah angry with the Father? Jonah was angry at Him for being merciful and compassionate. He was angry at Him for being Himself and acting it out. He is slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and faithfulness. He lavishes loving kindness on the undeserving and forgives iniquity, rebellion, and sin.

REFLECT & PRAY

Rather than following the plan that the Father has for us, we devise our own. Do we really think that we know better than He does?

Father help me to hear and to obey Your voice. Encourage me not to pout but rather rejoice in Your loving, forgiving heart. Where would I be without it?

INSIGHT

The word translated upset or displeased is raa in Hebrew. It means to be bad, not fit for use, be evil, displeasing, discontented, or repulsive. The word translated angry is charah in Hebrew. It means to burn or be kindled with anger, furious.

Jonah is furious with the Father. He finds the Father’s actions repulsive. He takes it upon himself to confront the Lord God Almighty. This is always a bad idea. At best it is a no-win situation. At worse, really bad things can happen.

Surely, Jonah must have thought out loud something like this, “You called me to be a prophet and then You go and do this? It makes no sense. If this is the way it really is, I would rather be dead.”

Rather startling, yes? But upon reflection, we realize that we have thought or said exactly the same thing when we do not get our own way.

The Father’s response is sharp and penetrating. He confronts Jonah with a piercing question.

Jonah 4:4 The LORD replied, “Is it right for you to be angry about this?”

Rather than answering, Jonah becomes passive-aggressive and pouts in solitude.

Jonah 4:5 Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city.

From Jonah’s viewpoint, the Father did not get it right. Sparing the Assyrians was just wrong. Jonah with smug arrogance, “graciously” gives the Father another chance in the hopes that this time He will get it right. Jonah is waiting for the judgment to fall. Jonah has no compassion. He seeks only the condemnation and destruction of his enemies.

Jonah’s audacity, thoughts, and actions are over the top. Yet who among us has not thought or done something very similar. It is all too human to condemn others for their shortcomings and sins but to simultaneously dismiss our own. On the other hand, the Father offers grace, mercy, and forgiveness to those that do not deserve it.

Each child of the King is on that list of evildoers. Praise God!

John 8:7 Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone.

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Jonah reluctant prophet ∙

Jonah reluctant prophet ∙

As my life was slipping away, I remembered the LORD. And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy Temple. – Jonah 2:7

Jonah 2:1-10

 1 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from inside the fish.

 2 He said, I cried out to the LORD in my great trouble, and he answered me. I called to you from the land of the dead, and LORD, you heard me!

 3 You threw me into the ocean depths, and I sank down to the heart of the sea. The mighty waters engulfed me; I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves.

 7 When my life was ebbing away, I called out to the LORD.

 9 I will fulfill all my vows. For my salvation comes from the LORD alone.

 10 Then the LORD ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.

The original Skid Row was a neighborhood in Downtown Los Angeles covering over 50 city blocks immediately east of downtown.

Now the term “skid row” refers to an area of a city where people live who are “on the skids,” which derives from a logging term. Loggers would transport their logs to a nearby river by sliding them down roads made from greased skids. Loggers who had accompanied the load to the bottom of the road would wait there for transportation back up the hill to the logging camp.

The term began to be used for places where people with no money and nothing to do gathered, becoming the generic term in English-speaking North America for a depressed area in a city.

Jonah was “on the skids.” Sometimes we only see the light when we are in abject darkness. Despair can and often does lead to repentance. Jonah had slid down the slippery skids of the whale’s gullet. He was in total darkness. Upon reflection, his hardened stubborn heart began to soften.

Jonah had thought he could rebel and defy the Father without consequence. He had thought it could flee and somehow escape. But he was not paying attention. He forgot with Whom he was dealing. Worse he forgot what the Father had unequivocally declared regarding rebellion and stubbornness. It is unlikely that Jonah would ever consider practicing witchcraft or worshiping idols, but . . ..

1 Samuel 15:23 Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft, and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.

Disobeying the word of God is extremely serious, and not to be taken lightly. How much worse is it to disobey the Father’s instructions when He speaks directly to you. Jonah did not get it, until now. In the darkness, he finally sees the light. His near-death experience produces newness of life. Finally, he gets the message, stubborn resistance to the Father’s direction produced collateral damage far beyond what Jonah could have ever imagined.

Jonah 2:2 I cried out to the LORD in my great trouble, and he answered me. I called to you from the land of the dead, and LORD, you heard me!

Remember his circumstances. He was wracked with fear and stuck in hot, fetid darkness. Jonah hit bottom and was in the throes of anguish and despair. The Father’s fishy fix finally kicked in. Old memories stirred and he recalled the Father’s loving, loyal, merciful and compassionate heart. Jonah now has confidence that the Father would deliver him despite everything. He repents. He turns his heart fully to the Lord.

Jonah was called to be a prophet. At last, he is now willing to serve the Father with his whole heart no matter what. Issues still remain that are exposed and resolved before the book ends. But that’s a story for another day.

While he is in the depths of despair, the Father offers Jonah a second chance.

Jonah 3:1-3

 1 Then the LORD spoke to Jonah a second time.

 2 “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh and deliver the message I have given you.”

 3 This time Jonah obeyed the LORD’s command and went to Nineveh, a city so large that it took three days to see it all.

When the Father attempts to communicate, take the call. The first words out of your mouth should be: “Here I am, what would you have your servant do?” (Genesis 22:1, Exodus 3:4, 1 Samuel 3:4, Isaiah 6:8, Acts 9:10)

REFLECT & PRAY

The Father is the God of second chances. He never gives up on us. He is faithful! If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13).

Father there is so much of Jonah within me. I catch glimpses of him now and then. Thank You for dealing with me kindly and mercifully. Encourage me to serve You with my whole heart.

INSIGHT

In our fallen natural state, we are essentially selfish. We live to please ourselves. The Father is motivated by pure and total love. His lovingkindness compels Him. The Father graciously reaches out to every child of the King. There is nothing about us that commends us to Him. He wants us to become like Him. Jonah’s journey is our journey.

2 Corinthians 5:14-18  

 14 Christ’s love controls us. Since we believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life.

 15 He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.

 16 So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now!

 17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

 18 And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.

“A Jonah lurks in every Christian heart, whispering his insidious message of smug prejudice, empty traditionalism, and exclusive solidarity. And we grasp the message of the book only when we eliminate the Jonah within us” (Leslie Allen).

Deuteronomy 30:19 I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live.

When our lives are out of harmony with the Father, we are out of tune. Our lives are in discord. We do not have music but noise in our souls. When we return to the Father and walk with Him, psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs flood our hearts (Richison) (Ephesians 5:19).

At any time, the Father may bring dissonance into our lives. When it happens, it is not pleasant. But the Father is following an eternal blueprint worked out before He established the foundations of the Earth. We do not know all the factors as to why He does this; however, there is one thing that we do know, “the Father is too good to do wrong and He is too wise to make a mistake (Richison).

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

Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your lives.

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A great fish story ∙

A great fish story

For as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. – Matthew 12:40

Jonah 1:3-17

 3 But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the LORD. He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish. He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the LORD by sailing to Tarshish.

 4 But the LORD hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart.

 5 Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help.

 7 Then the crew cast lots to see which of them had offended the gods and caused the terrible storm. When they did this, the lots identified Jonah as the culprit.

 8 “Why has this awful storm come down on us?” they demanded. “Who are you? What is your line of work? What country are you from? What is your nationality?”

 9 Jonah answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”

 10 The sailors were terrified when they heard this, for he had already told them he was running away from the LORD. “Oh, why did you do it?” they groaned.

 14 Then they cried out to the LORD, Jonah’s God. “O LORD,” they pleaded, “don’t make us die for this man’s sin. And don’t hold us responsible for his death. O LORD, you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons.”

 15 Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once!

 16 The sailors were awestruck by the LORD’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him.

 17 Now the LORD had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah. And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.

Probably Jonah is one of the best-known yet least understood books in the Bible. From the world’s point of view, Jonah and the Whale is no more than a fairy tale fit only for children. The book is looked upon with ridicule and disbelief and is laughed out of the Bible. It is not taken seriously. It is certainly not taken historically (Steadman).

However, it is noteworthy that the Lord Jesus Christ believed the story of Jonah. He never questioned its authenticity.

Further, He explained that Jonah’s three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish was a prophecy regarding His coming resurrection three days after His death and burial. The sign of Jonah was that He would be crucified and buried for “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” After the third day, the Lord Jesus Christ would then be raised from the dead (Matthew 12:40, Matthew 16:21).

Certainly, the Lord Jesus Christ knew the difference between fables and myths, and actual history. If He accepted the story of Jonah as historical, we are in good company when we do also.

Is it possible for someone to be swallowed by a whale and come out alive?

The records of the British Admiralty tell the story of James Bartley, an apprentice seaman on a whaler, who was swallowed by a whale in February 1891. He survived the ordeal.

Historical records report that James Bartley was in a longboat in pursuit of a whale. Suddenly the longboat surged, and he was thrown into the water apparently lost at sea.

The whale was eventually caught, and crewmen removed its stomach. They were startled when they saw movement. Out slid Bartley alive but unconscious. He regained consciousness but babbled incoherently. Within a month he regained his senses and told his tale.

After he was flung into the sea, the last thing he saw was a tremendous mouth open over him and engulf him. He was swept over the teeth and slid down a slimy tube into the stomach of the whale. He could breathe but the hot fetid odor rendered him unconscious. He was trapped in the stomach of the whale for over 15 hours.

Although he was relatively healthy, Bartley lost all the hair on his body and his skin was bleached to an unnatural whiteness. He was blind for the rest of his life.

He died eighteen years after his terrifying adventure and remarkable survival. On his tombstone in the churchyard at Gloucester is a brief account of his experience at sea and a footnote, which says: James Bartley -1870-1909 – A Modern Jonah.

REFLECT & PRAY

No matter how hard we try, there is no way we can get away from the Father.

Psalms 139:7 I can never escape from your Spirit! I can never get away from your presence!

Father I do not want to be a reluctant servant, yet I see so much of myself in Jonah, defiant and disobedient. Father encourage me to listen and heed Your instructions.

INSIGHT

The Father commissioned Jonah as a prophet, to be one of His spokesmen. He ordered him to go to the Assyrian capital of Nineveh and pronounce judgment against it for its wickedness. Jonah probably muttered under his breath, “no way, I’m outta here!”

Nineveh and Tarshish were then at opposite ends of the known world. Rather than obeying the Father, Jonah fled in the opposite direction. He was supposed to go East but instead, he went West. It was rather simple for the Father to track him down and get him moving in the right direction. The Father has power over all of nature. He prepared a great storm and a great fish. In retrospect, to get Jonah where He wanted him to be, He provided a living submarine.

When the great storm came up, the pagan sailors were terrified. They screamed out to their gods in prayer and tried to lighten the load. But nothing helped. They confronted Jonah. They knew that he was running away from God. When they found out that he was a Hebrew and worshiped the God of heaven Who was responsible for the creation of the sea and the land, they became hysterical.

As a reluctant Jewish prophet, how could he possibly run away from the living God? They realized that the Father was in fast pursuit of Jonah. The terrifying storm was part of the Father’s plan to get him turned around. They now saw Jonah as a threat. Somebody was going to die. Regrettably, they realized, “it was him or us.” Reluctantly they threw Jonah into the sea and the storm immediately ceased.

The pagans immediately repented and walked the aisle. From then on, they would serve the Father, the Lord God of Israel.

Jonah on the other hand found himself in the pitch black, hot, fetid belly of the great fish. Yet he was still defiant. Objectively speaking, this is really a bad idea. Jonah repents, but not with his whole heart, he holds back. But that’s a story for another day.

A word about whales and great fish. Undoubtedly people who lived in the land of Israel 2700 years ago had little experience with British whalers. They probably had never seen a whale. When Jonah wrote, he called the creature simply a great fish, in Hebrew dag gadol.

Long before the book of Jonah, the Father created all of the animals, land, air, and sea. It does not take much reflection to realize that the Father anticipated coming events. The Father knowing in advance of Jonah’s future defiance and attempt to flee His will by ship, created a unique creature for the upcoming occasion.

He made an animal that was perfectly designed to capture Jonah in the open sea, save him from drowning, and get him moving in the right direction. The Father engineered and created the first underwater human transportation system, aka a great fish. Which great fish was it? The Scriptures do not say for sure. But there is one animal that perfectly meets the requirements.

Sperm whales are different from all other creatures. They are up to 60 feet long. Sperm whales have the largest head of any animal. It can be about 20 feet long, 10 feet high, and 7 feet across, and is about one-third of the whale’s body length. Just the right size to swallow a man in one gulp. The stomach was large enough to easily hold him and provide the oxygen needed.

Of course, it was no problem for the Father who is omniscient and omnipotent to position the sperm whale in just the right place, at the right time to catch the reluctant prophet and transport him alive to shore. Jonah spent three days and three nights in the Father’s intelligently designed traveling accommodations. Jonah did not drown nor suffocate. He was not digested. Jonah came out alive. He was finally ready and willing to fulfill his commission.

A miracle is by definition something seemingly impossible that nonetheless happens. The story of Jonah is replete with miracles.

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Misplaced trust ∙

Misplaced trust

It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in people. – Psalms 118:8

Proverbs 3:5-8

 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.

 6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

 7 Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the LORD and turn away from evil.

 8 Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones.

Interpersonal trust, a measure of whether people think others are in general trustworthy, is at its lowest in nearly 50 years (Week Magazine). Are people less trustworthy than they used to be?

Many have been hurt and damaged by trusting in people and their promises. Friends leave friends in a lurch, mates disappoint, then some scammers and thieves are cunning and intentionally deceptive. It happens all too often. It can be very personal when it happens to us, our family, or friends.

Are we too trusting, even gullible? Do we lack discernment? Or is it simply a matter of misplaced trust?

When our trust is dashed, our emotions range the gamut from simple disappointment and despair to vehement fury and the desire for and pursuit of retaliation.

When all the dust settles, the open secret is that we tend to trust less. We shrink back behind imaginary moats and walls. Instead of truly learning from our mistakes and going forward, we are diminished. Trusting less is invisible, yet quite costly. We do not look for new friends or seek out advice from old ones. “What might have been” seems forever lost to us. 

There must be a better way!

Psalms 118:8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in people.

Fallen people living in a fallen world will always have disappointments. Trust itself is not the problem. The Father built into people a natural desire, even need, to trust. He gave each of us a “truster.”

Seek refuge in the Father and allow Him to bring new friends into your life.

REFLECT & PRAY

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom (Proverbs 3:5).

Father broken trust, dashed hope, and betrayal grievously hurt. Thank You for being there. Encourage my heart and restore my “truster.”

INSIGHT

How can we rebuild trust? Perhaps the answer can be discerned in Scripture about the lack of trust. There were many times in the history of Israel where the people failed to trust in the Father. Their lack of faith and confidence stemmed from their flawed understanding of the Father’s heart and motivations. They felt unloved and believed that He did not cherish them.

Psalms 78:22 They did not believe God or trust him to care for them

When we do not believe or think that someone really cares for us and has our best interest at heart, our “truster” deactivates and simply shuts down.

So when it comes to the Father, each child of the King has a question that they must answer for themselves. What do we believe about the Father’s heart? Is He caring? Is He loving? Does He joyfully pursue after those in need and come alongside them to help?

These questions may seem flippant, even offensive. But when we search within, we find them lurking. The Scriptures answer all these queries with a huge affirmative.

Psalms 28:7 The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.

Psalms 11:1 I trust in the LORD for protection. So why do you say to me, “Fly like a bird to the mountains for safety!

Tear down the wall. Drain the moat. Our loving Father is seeking His sheep. Then we can sing David’s song.

Psalms 40:3 He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD.

David had spent years as a hunted man, on the run. He was fleeing from Saul and other enemies. But in good time, at the right time determined by the Father, the Father rescued David from all of the dangers he had faced.

David invites all who wish to see what the Father has done for him to come, be amazed and delighted. He encourages us to sing a new song to the Father (Psalms 33:3, Psalms 96:1, Psalms 98:1).

Psalms 98:1 Sing a new song to the LORD, for he has done wonderful deeds. His right hand has won a mighty victory; his holy arm has shown his saving power!

The One who delivers us from our struggles also the One who delivers a new song to us. Our song praises the Father for His always new, refreshing, delightful gracious lovingkindness.

Lamentations 3:22-23 

 22 The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease.

 23 Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.

What a privilege to have new songs over and over again to sing throughout our lives because the Father is working all the time and we are His precious children. He is there for us. His divine mercies are limitless.

He is always faithful – Semper Fidelis.

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Rising hope or looming catastrophe

Rising hope or looming catastrophe

We know that we are children of God and that the world around us is under the control of the evil one. – 1 John 5:19

Habakkuk 3:3-5

 3 I see God moving across the deserts from Edom, the Holy One coming from Mount Paran. His brilliant splendor fills the heavens, and the earth is filled with his praise.

 4 His coming is as brilliant as the sunrise. Rays of light flash from his hands, where his awesome power is hidden.

 5 Pestilence marches before him; plague follows close behind.

In late 2020, five major companies in the West had developed effective coronavirus vaccines. Vaccinations began in earnest. The results were impressive. There was a significant reduction in both the death rate and new hospitalizations. People began to breathe a sigh of relief. Was there light at the end of the tunnel? Millions hoped so.

Viruses are always mutating and new strains develop. Variants found in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil were highly transmissible and sparked concerns that the vaccines may be less effective against them. Many feared that the worst possible scenario was a real possibility. Could the variants develop immune escape capabilities? Would they have the ability to elude people’s natural immune response and become vaccine-resistant?

Mutation of the COVID-19 virus was typical. The rate of transition was not faster than normal. However, with tens of millions of people infected around the world, the prospect of even more pernicious variants was very real.

Jennifer Nuzzo, an epidemiologist with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said. “We need to increase our speed in which we act so that we don’t allow this virus to spread further and allow this variant to become the dominant one in circulation. The clock is ticking.”

Leanna Wen in The Washington Post wrote, “We’re caught between rising hope and looming catastrophe.” Humanity was in a race for survival. Could the threat of the COVID-19 be diminished before new variants overwhelmed the world’s population? To win the race and triumph, the transmission of the virus had to be slowed. The fewer people infected; the fewer hosts would be available to allow the virus to mutate. Was the worst behind or was it ahead? Uncertainty hung in the air.

Hope is not wishful thinking. Yet many hoped for the best without sufficient basis. Biblical hope is quite different. It is confident expectation based upon the facts of the Scriptures.

REFLECT & PRAY

Ephesians 5:16 Make the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

Father, we are to walk as children of the light, wise as serpents, gentle as doves, alert and not lulled into the slumber of darkness. Make it so.

INSIGHT

In the 21st century, it is as though humanity has been sedated through the stratagems of the enemy. Biblical truth is no longer part of the collective consciousness.  Reverence for the Father, living God has waned to historic lows. The Word of God, the foundation upon which much of Western civilization was based, is no longer valued, respected, understood, or accurately taught. The Father’s revelation is no longer considered a source of knowledge worthy of consideration.

In 1995 William MacDonald presciently warned, “We might think that plagues are no longer a threat because of modern antibiotics and wonder drugs. However, the great killer diseases are not conquered but merely dormant. They can spread throughout the world as fast as jet aircraft can carry.” That is precisely what happened in 2020. Killer pathogens are lurking, waiting to be released upon an unsuspecting and unprepared world. Was 2020 just the beginning?

Throughout human history, there has been pestilence, plague, famine, warfare, and death. History is on a collision course with destiny. The Scriptures speak of a coming, unprecedented time of trouble. It is generally referred to as the Great Tribulation.

Many portions of the prophetic Scriptures speak of horrific events to come. One well-known prediction referred to as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse stands out (Revelation 6:1-8).

A drive-by, cursory overview indicates that the four Horsemen accompany the opening of the first four of seven seals. The first horseman is a conqueror with a bow and crown and rides a white horse. The second horseman has a great sword and rides a red horse, picturing war and bloodshed. The third carries a balance scale, rides a black horse, and represents famine. The fourth horseman rides a pale yellowish-green horse. The rider of the fourth horse is named Death.

Examining the fourth horse more completely, the connection between death and disease or plague becomes apparent.

Revelation 6:8 I looked up and saw a horse whose color was pale green. Its rider was named Death, Hades followed him. These two were given authority over one-fourth of the earth, to kill with the sword and famine and plague and wild animals.

Hades is the evil companion of Death. The Greek word translated death is thanatos. In the Septuagint, thanatos often translates the Hebrew word deber

which means pestilence or plague (Jeremiah 21:6).

The emphasis is on plague, more particularly, death by plague. Hades is personified and pictured following behind. It is though “Hades is on foot gathering up the corpses left by Pestilence and Death as they struck victim after victim” (Osborne). The outcome is shocking and catastrophic. One-fourth of the world’s population is decimated.

The apostle John alone witnessed these events in some type of supernatural visual preview of coming events in the distant future. However, any of us can imagine what he saw. Rather than analyzing the words in-depth, simply experience them in your mind’s eye. For a moment visualize the four riders on the four horses galloping through hapless humanity taking victims wherever they go. Experience the terror. Envision something like the dreaded ring-servants of the Dark Lord Sauron, the Black Riders, in Lord of the Rings, only a bit more colorful and monstrous.

Elements of the four seals have been present throughout history and are in the world today. During the Great Tribulation, these horrific conditions will be multiplied exponentially to unprecedented levels.

Why does the Father do this? There are numerous reasons, not the least of which is to get the attention of the human race. He wants humanity to come to grips with the truth found in the Word of God. The Father uses these crises to turn the hearts and minds of people towards Him.

Revelation 3:2-3 

 2 Wake up! Strengthen what little remains, for even what is left is almost dead. I find that your actions do not meet the requirements of my God.

 3 Go back to what you heard and believed at first; hold to it firmly. Repent and turn to me again. If you don’t wake up, I will come to you suddenly, as unexpected as a thief.

The Devil presents himself in disguise, using subterfuge and deceit. He has deceived the world.

1 John 5:19 We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

The Greek word translated lies in the power of is keimai. The basic meaning of keimai is to lie, that is to be in a recumbent position, to recline, to lie down. The Greek literally reads lies in the evil one. The verb is regularly used of an infant lying in the arms of a parent. It envisions the world resting in the power of the evil one, that is, held in subjection by the devil (Strong).

Thinking in physical terms for a moment, how large is the evil one, the enemy of our souls? Just suppose for a minute that he is immense. Far larger than the Earth itself. Large enough to hold planet Earth in his arms. This presents a dreadful word picture of the world itself lying in his arms. As a parent would rock a child to sleep, so the evil one is slowly but surely swaying the world and keeping it unawares, half-asleep, somewhere between a slumber and a trance.

¯\_()_/¯

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