Old-time religion ∙

Old-time religion

You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! – John 5:39

Luke 24:44-47

 44 Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”

 45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,

 46 and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day,

 47 and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.

That old-time religion

Give me that old time religion, Give me that old time religion,

Give me that old time religion, It’s good enough for me.

It was good for Paul and Silas, It was good for Paul and Silas,

It was good for Paul and Silas, It’s good enough for me.

It was good for the Hebrew children, It was good for the Hebrew children,

It was good for the Hebrew children, It’s good enough for me. In

Makes me love ev’ry body, Makes me love ev’ry body,

Makes me love ev’ry body, It’s good enough for me.

Great works of literature have certain features in common: a theme, a structure, and a topic or subject. What is the theme of the Bible? The answer is concise and summarized by one word: redemption. What is the subject of the Old Testament Scriptures? Again the answer is concise. The subject of the Old Testament Scriptures is a person: The Lord Jesus Christ. The Father’s sacred book is all about His beloved Son providing redemption from sin for the human race.

After the Lord Jesus Christ appeared and was recognized by His disciples, He taught one of the greatest and most important Bible studies of all time.

So often when the Scriptures are read or studied, they are more like a mystery novel than an almanac. Too often the Bible seems like a closed book. Somehow, its meaning and significance elude us. That is exactly what happened with the disciples. They had spent over three years with the greatest teacher that has ever lived. They had heard numerous stories, parables, illustrations, and explanations from the very lips of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, over and over again, they were left scratching their heads. They simply did not get it. It was not that the Scriptures were closed, rather the disciples were! Their hearts were obtuse, dull of hearing. Their minds were often confused and unable to grasp what they were taking in.

They were strongly influenced by the culture and religious beliefs of their times. They entertained futile speculations and conflicting opinions. They did not grasp the big picture, nor even many of the details. They were intellectually unreceptive to the Father’s Truth. In this way, they were not unlike the Gentiles, the pagans of their day.

Ephesians 4:17-18

 17 The Gentiles . . . Are hopelessly confused.

 18 Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him.

But they were not pagans, they were Jews. This made it all the more tragic. Although they were Jewish and had the law of Moses, their minds and hearts were resistant.

2 Corinthians 3:14-16

 14 But the people’s minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the Old Testament is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ.

 15 Yes, even today when they read Moses’ writings, their hearts are covered with that veil, and they do not understand.

 16 But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

But the disciples had turned to the Lord Jesus Christ. Something marvelous was about to happen. And the most amazing thing of all is that what happened to them can happen to every child of the King.

Luke 24:45 He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.

REFLECT & PRAY

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. – John 16:13

Father, thank You for giving us the word of God. Father, thank You for giving us the Holy Spirit that we might comprehend it. Open the eyes of our hearts and minds that we may receive what You have already provided for us.

INSIGHT

The Lord Jesus Christ takes the disciples through an old-fashioned, old-time religion Bible study. But it was more than a Bible study. The Lord Jesus was not merely a teacher, He was a prophet. Prophets are the Father’s spokesman. They are the Father’s seers. When they speak, they open the minds of those that hear, to see. A prophet’s impact was more revelatory than expository. They often disclosed the truth which lies just beneath the obvious. For example, in the sermon on the Mount, the Lord Jesus did this repeatedly.

Matthew 5:27-28

 27 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’

 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Recall the problem was, their minds were closed, not the Scriptures. The Lord Jesus Christ enabled them to get what they were not able to grasp before. What they had heard or read earlier without understanding, they could now comprehend.

This tremendous gift was freely given to them by the Lord Jesus Christ. As they unwrapped their wondrous present, the Scriptures were suddenly opened to their understanding. Their beauty and truth was finally clear and understandable. There were no longer any limitations. No longer would they struggle with the milk of the word. Henceforth, they could even tackle the solid meat within. They could now plumb the depths of its rewarding riches, wisdom, and knowledge.

The Jewish people had divided and ordered the Old Testament into three segments: The “Law” included the Five Books of Moses, the “Prophets” included Joshua through 2 Kings and Isaiah through Malachi, and the “Psalms,” the rest of the Old Testament.

Before the time of Christ, the Jewish people gathered snippets from the entire Old Testament into clusters of various kinds. They created collections of prophecies that spoke of the coming of the Messiah.

The Gospel of Matthew presents fulfilled Old Testament messianic prophecies that provide objective evidence to demonstrate that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Messiah of Israel and the Savior of the world. The Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled them exactly as predicted. It is one thing to have a list of messianic prophecies, it is quite another to understand them and recognize how they have been fulfilled. Where did Matthew’s knowledge and understanding of these prophecies come from? Perhaps it was from the intensive biblical review, which the Lord Jesus Christ provided.

The Father’s intervention is required to open our closed hearts and minds to help us understand and accept the truth of His Word. Without spiritual discernment, the things of the Spirit of God are “foolishness” to the “natural man” (Stanley).

What a delightful privilege to have the Lord Jesus Christ personally expound, explain, and illuminate the word of God. The Lord Jesus Christ promised that He would send the Holy Spirit to teach each child of the King in much the same way.

John 14:26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative – that is, the Holy Spirit – he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

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A diagnosis for what ails you

A diagnosis for what ails you

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. – Proverbs 13:12

John10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

John 16:33 “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.

John 8:12 “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light

John 11:25 “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,

Seems like every year the alarm is sounded for the oncoming flu season. The flu is unpleasant and for some people exceedingly dangerous. It seemed like 2020 was going to be a typical year. No one had any idea that we were headed into a global pandemic with deaths numbering in the tens of millions.

January 8, 2020, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was closely monitoring a reported cluster of pneumonia of unknown etiology in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. An outbreak investigation by local officials was ongoing in China; the World Health Organization (WHO) was the lead international public health agency. As the pandemic spread across the globe, the virus left a trail of deaths in its wake.

When we come down with serious flu-like symptoms, we go to a doctor. The doctor diagnoses our problem and gives us a prescription. In most cases, a week or so later the aches and pains are gone along with the congestion. However, COVID-19 proved to be no ordinary virus.

Our human spirits are subject to spiritual “flu” as well. In the same way that we catch the flu, we catch a broken spirit.

What is a broken spirit? In the Scriptures, the heart and spirit are connected and often used interchangeably. The Hebrew word translated broken or crushed is nake. Nake is used only four times in the Old Testament. It has the sense of beaten, wounded, battered, or defeated. It refers to someone or something that is brought low or subdued in their condition or status. A broken spirit or heart is downcast and consumed with despair and discouragement.

Hearts are wounded and spirits are broken when we are young. Difficult circumstances and the people in them rob us of our peace, stability, and safety. Focus a moment on the family. Are repeated mistreatment, rejection, abuse, and lack of love and support at work? Were both parents present? Was the father present and active or passive or completely absent?

Fractured families and inappropriate, irregular relationships leave us sad, confused, and fearful. Our spiritual and emotional vitality is sapped. The light of our souls is woefully dimmed. Battered and bruised, we pull up the covers and hide in the dark waiting for it to pass. But sadly, it may go on year after year without end.

A wounded spirit can produce an internal, almost lethal depression. Life, joy, happiness, and cheer are diminished, even extinguished. A hopeful and good spirit can endure sickness and adversity, but if the spirit is despondent, even when there is nothing overtly wrong, then life itself becomes difficult to bear.

REFLECT & PRAY

Proverbs 18:14 The human spirit can endure a sick body, but who can bear a crushed spirit?

Father so often my heart is in pain. The joy seems to flee and I feel empty and hollow. Only You can bring healing to a wounded spirit. Please allow me to experience the joy of my salvation.

INSIGHT

Who has not experienced joyless periods at different times in their lives? We seek a solution. The Father has the perfect prescription. The Father does not make promises that He does not keep.

A wounded, broken spirit is equivalent to spiritual heart disease with a corresponding array of symptoms. The solution, the remedy is also spiritually based. Recognition and use of the spiritual resources which the Father has given us are the medicine for a wounded heart. Recovery and restoration are possible employing them

Proverbs 12:25 Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, But a good word makes it glad.

Proverbs 15:15 All the days of the afflicted are bad, But a cheerful heart has a continual feast.

Trying to change our circumstances or running away from them is not the solution. What is? Changing our response to our circumstances. As we change our way of thinking, spiritual heart health becomes attainable.

How do we get a healthy heart?

The Father provides an outline for repairing a broken and contrite heart: listening to and heeding rebuke and correction, respecting the Father, and being humble.

Proverbs 15:31-33

 31 If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise.

 32 If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding.

 33 Respect him for the LORD teaches wisdom; humility precedes honor.

A new perspective and a new skill set are provided when we study and internalize the word of God. The Father offers through His Word and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit a whole new way of living. The Father uses a contrite heart, heart sickness, to bring about transformation.  Contrition is expressed “in submissiveness to God’s word and obedience” (NIDOTTE).

Isaiah 66:2 I will bless those who have humble and contrite hearts, who respect what I have to say.

The Father provide helpful guidelines that facilitate transforming sadness and fear into joy and confidence.

Proverbs 3:7-8

 7 Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.

 8 Instead, respect the LORD and turn away from evil.

Proverbs 15:16-17

 16 Better to have little, with fear for the LORD, than to have great treasure and inner turmoil.

 17 A bowl of vegetables with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate.

Proverbs 12:25-26

 25 Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.

 26 The godly give good advice to their friends; the wicked lead them astray.

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Nonstick coating ∙

Nonstick coating

Hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. – Ephesians 6:16

Ephesians 6:11-17

 11 Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.

 12 For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

 13 Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm.

 14 Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.

 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.

 16 In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.

 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

In 1928, Alexander Fleming, discovered penicillin, the first true antibiotic. The scientific breakthrough launched an entirely new era, the era of antibiotics. From the moment it started, scientists were aware that the antibiotic age had an expiration date. Recent decades, saw the emergence of antibiotic-resistant pathogens accelerate. Dire predictions were made of the end of the antibiotic era. Hospitals were becoming death traps. MRSA (Staphylococcus aureus) made its way into American English and culture.

At McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, a research team has developed a new form of nonstick surface. It is a self-cleaning nonstick coating that amazingly repels all forms of bacteria. It even deters antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

The inspiration for this “Teflon-like” surface came from one of the Father’s creations,

the water-repellent surface of the lotus leaf. This new surface imitates the Father’s design through a combination of chemistry and nano-scale surface engineering. Textured microscopic “wrinkles” totally cover the surface. When external molecules come into contact with it, they simply bounce off.

It would be fantastic if children of the King had a sin repellent surface. Regrettably, a nonstick coating is not part of our DNA like the lotus leaf. Remarkably, we have been provided with a supernatural sin repellent.

REFLECT & PRAY

Sooner or later every believer discovers that the Christian life is a battleground, not a playground (Wiersbe).

Father, thank You for providing me with the necessary countermeasures to deal with the attacks of the enemy and his evil minions. Teach me to wield them effectively.

INSIGHT

For Paul, our fallen world was no playground. Rather, it is a battleground arrayed with enemy combatants. They are led by the enemy of our souls. They seek strategic advantage by constantly probing for weaknesses to exploit.

We must never forget that we are in a spiritual war. Regardless of how well things may seem to be going for us, we live in a perpetual war zone. How many casualties occur because we think we live in a time of peace? (Stanley)

The Father has provided us with effective armor to fight our spiritual war. Paul describes the various parts of our armor in Ephesians 6:11-17. The shield of faith is used to deal with the enemy’s attacks. Paul refers to these attacks as flaming darts or arrows. The shield is an effective deterrent. Rather than repel the darts, it absorbs and extinguishes them.

Ephesians 6:16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.

Ancient armies used burning arrows to destroy wooden shields and other defenses. These darts were tipped with strands of rope and then dipped in pitch. They were set on fire. When these projectiles came into contact with flammable surfaces, the surfaces burned rendering them not only useless but also hazardous.

The Romans developed a particular type of shield that became an effective countermeasure.

The Greek word translated shield is thyreon. It was derived from thyra (a door). A thyreon is a large, oblong, four-cornered rectangle-shaped like a door. It was used by heavily armed Roman warriors. This shield was made of two layers of wood, glued together, covered with linen and hide, and bound with iron. The shield was designed to take the fiery hit, absorb it, and quench it.

When the flaming dart struck the shield, the dart sank into the wood, and the flame was extinguished. “The edges of these shields were so constructed that an entire line of soldiers could interlock shields and march into the enemy like a solid wall” (Wiersbe).

Likewise, the spiritual shield of faith is to be effectively deployed to the enemy’s spiritual assaults, is flaming arrows and darts. “With such a shield the believer can extinguish all the incendiary devices flung by the devil” (Wood). When the diabolical darts are extinguished, the flames cannot spread.

What is it called a shield of faith? Faith is the active agent that wields the shield and makes it effective. “The ‘faith’ mentioned here is not saving faith, but rather living faith, a trust in the promises and the power of God” (Wiersbe).

What are the darts and arrows fired at children of the King? Aimed at our hearts and minds, they are “lies, blasphemous thoughts, hateful thoughts about others, doubts, and burning desires for sin. If we do not by faith quench these darts, they will light a fire within and we will disobey God” (Wiersbe). Walking by faith, and wielding the shield of faith moment by moment is essential to mount an effective defense. We never know when the enemy will launch a subtle, unexpected attack.

Our shield of faith was created with a few wrinkles of its own. It is our supernatural sin deterrent. Effectively wielded, it can prevent the enemy’s attacks from penetrating our souls, spreading and multiplying like a toxic, pernicious virus.

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Bread from heaven

Bread from heaven

Exodus 16:12 In the morning you shall be filled with bread, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God.

Exodus 16:13-15

 13 So it came about . . . In the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp.

 14 When the layer of dew evaporated, behold, on the surface of the wilderness there was a fine flake-like thing, fine as the frost on the ground.

 15 When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat.”

“The difference between men and boys is the price of their toys” (Malcolm S. Forbes).

So often people are not satisfied with what they have. It seems that they always want something else, something more. When does this begin? It seems to set in at a very young age. Commonly a child is not satisfied with their toys for very long. They often want something different. Particularly if it’s something that someone else has and enjoys. The point is that whatever we have is never enough.

So it was with the children of Israel in the wilderness. They had just witnessed ten of the greatest miracles of the Old Testament. That was soon followed by the amazing miracle of the opening of the Red Sea, allowing them to escape Pharaoh’s army while destroying it at the same time. They had been set free and given liberty from their taskmasters. They were no longer slaves to the Egyptians. Were they grateful? Did they give thanks and praise the Father? Sadly no! They complained and were not satisfied with what they had.

Exodus 16:2-3

 2 The whole community of Israel complained about Moses and Aaron.

 3 “If only the LORD had killed us back in Egypt,” they moaned. “There we sat around pots filled with meat and ate all the bread we wanted. But now you have brought us into this wilderness to starve us all to death.”

Whatever gratitude they had did not last long. Rather than being thankful for what they had, they focused on what they did not have. It seems incredulous. Until we examine our own hearts and realize that we do pretty much the same things.

The Father graciously gave them what they asked for.

Exodus 16:4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Look, I’m going to rain down food from heaven for you. Each day the people can go out and pick up as much food as they need for that day.”

Exodus 16:14-15

 14 When the layer of dew evaporated, behold, on the surface of the wilderness there was a fine flake-like thing, fine as the frost on the ground.

 15 When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat.

When the Jewish people saw the bread from heaven laying on the ground, they did not know what it was, so they said, “What is it?” In Hebrew, the word translated what is ma. The word translated, “I pray thee (KJV),” or please is na. Together, the words become ma-na. Ma-na is the source of the Greek word manna and ultimately the English word manna.

The people walking about questioning, wondering what it is that they see, they keep asking, “What is this please?” That is, “Ma-na, ma-na, Ma-na”? So the people call it – manna (Exodus 16:11). Father has a sense of humor that bubbles up now and then. As He observes them, somehow I see Him smiling

Manna was the bread of heaven. It was a supernatural provision that lasted for 40 years. But it was much more. It was a prophecy, a picture that one day the Father would provide a far more wonderful and satisfying bread of heaven.

Deuteronomy 8:3 Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

How can we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord?

REFLECT & PRAY

“When Jesus called Himself ‘the Living Bread,’ He was not claiming to be exactly like the manna. He was claiming to be even greater!”(Wiersbe)!

Father thank You for providing the True Bread of Heaven, your Son the Lord Jesus Christ. Thank You for drawing each child of the King to the Lord Jesus Christ.

INSIGHT

In John 6, a dialogue ensues between the Jewish religious leaders and the Lord Jesus Christ. Ultimately, the Lord Jesus Christ claims to be sent by the Father as the true bread which comes out of heaven.

He tells the crowd that the Father wants them to believe in the One whom He sent. The crowd responds by saying if You make such extraordinary claims, show us a sign that we would believe in You.

Speaking of bread, they are thinking about the time when the Father provided the bread of heaven through Moses, manna.

John 6:35 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

They began to murmur. They could not fully agree because they knew that he was the son of Joseph and Mary. How can He say that He came from heaven?

In response, the Lord Jesus Christ makes even bolder statements.  So bold in fact that some heard a veiled, even ridiculous suggestion of cannibalism.

But the answer to the mystery of this passage is found within it. When understood, it explains itself and the mystery is resolved.

John 6:53-58

 53 So Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you.”

 54 “But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day.”

 55 “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.”

 58 “I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did even though they ate the manna but will live forever.”

This discussion is about how to internalize, take within the true bread of heaven. There is no physical bread present, only the Lord Jesus Christ. He is not intending for them to eat Him or drink His blood.  

John 6:35 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

To cease to be hungry, eat, that is, come to Him. To cease to be thirsty, drink, that is believe in Him.

But there’s more.

All children of the King can partake of the spiritual  bread from heaven. Spend time in the Word of God, and take in the words of come from his mouth.

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Don’t get sidetracked ∙

Don’t get sidetracked

Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil. – Proverbs 4:27

Jeremiah 15:19 If you return to me, I will restore you so you can continue to serve me. If you speak good words rather than worthless ones, you will be my spokesman. You must influence them; do not let them influence you!

Being sidetracked can happen to anyone. Our attention is directed away from our primary focus or activity, toward something of lesser importance. Consequently, we don’t get done what we intended to get done.

We failed to follow through on our original intentions and goals. We lose focus. We get off the main highway and begin to follow bunny trails. Often, we are totally unaware that this is happening to us. It takes a while to realize what has happened. We find ourselves a bit perplexed. Our confusion often leads to frustration and irritation.

Routinely, as we get older, this seems to happen more frequently. We find ourselves walking into a room and then wondering why we did. But be of good cheer, forgetting a few things is not a sign of early-onset dementia. But if it’s ever happened to you, it sometimes feels like it.

Just like the United States Marines, the Father is looking for a few good men and women. During Old Testament times, among the children of the King, there was a special subset: His servants the prophets. The Father’s prophets were His representatives, His envoys. They were often sent to deliver a message. They could not be easily deferred. They did not back down or get sidetracked.

The Father explained this simply and succinctly to Jeremiah as a part of his prophetic commission.

Jeremiah 15:19 “If you return to me, I will restore you so you can continue to serve me. If you speak good words rather than worthless ones, you will be my spokesman. You must influence them; do not let them influence you!

The book of Proverbs is full of Solomon’s great wisdom. It was parsimoniously summarized in Proverbs 4.

Proverbs 4:23-27

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

 25 Look straight ahead and fix your eyes on what lies before you.

 26 Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path.

 27 Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.

REFLECT & PRAY

The Father uses distractions to urge us into a deeper relationship with Him.

Father, it is so easy to be sidetracked and get off course. Help me to respond better to the vicissitudes of everyday life. Help me not to be discouraged by the frustrations and disappointments I encounter.

INSIGHT

To avoid being sidetracked, it is important to develop the skill of focused concentration. It should be a top priority. Staying on task requires discipline and practice. Learning to focus and stay focused is a science and art that can be learned. How can we diminish getting sidetracked? By learning to deal with distractions effectively. This often leads to improved focus and increased effectiveness. Some suggestions:

Avoid panic

Our confusion and sense of being out of control can lead to panic. There is often a lot of blaming and self-condemnation. Negative emotions only make matters worse. However, positive emotions and thoughts do the opposite.

What can be done? How do we avoid a negative downward spiral? For children of the King, reading and meditating on the Scriptures can be quite calming to the spirit. Recalling the Father’s promises in the face of our irritations can break the power of our errant propensities. As we turn irritations, frustrations, and burdens over to the Father. He will take care of us.

Psalm 27:13 Where would I be if I did not believe I would experience the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living?

Slow down

Distractions are always crouching at the door: conflicting thoughts, uncontrollable emotions, bothersome sounds, offenses and slights, or simple interruptions.

What can we do? To prevent distractions from stealing our focus, apply the brakes. We have two main options: ignore the distraction or set a mental placeholder and deal with the distraction. When finished, refocus.

Psalms 66:9 Our lives are in his hands, and he keeps our feet from stumbling.

Take a break

Sometimes we just ran out of gas mentally and our focus diminishes. Shift to a temporary new activity and give your mind a break. Often physical activity will allow us to reset. An amazing thing happens when we consciously shift our focus to something else, our brain unconsciously continues to work on the problem. When we return, often we are flooded with new ideas and potential solutions.

Psalms 119:67 I used to wander off until you disciplined me, but now I closely follow your word.

God uses discipline, not as a whip to force us in line, but as a messenger to urge us back into a safe place. Correction is a bridge to a deeper relationship with God (Stanley).

Jeremiah 15:19 If you extract the precious from the worthless, you will become My spokesman.

The prophets had a special responsibility, to live a life without compromise. In their thoughts and words. What really mattered? The precious! They needed to develop the skill of learning to extract the precious from the worthless. To accurately represent the Father and be His spokesman, literally His mouth, they had to live by a higher standard. They could not entertain worthless ideas and speak worthless words.

The same is true for any child of the King.

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The eyes of the Father

The eyes of the Father

The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. – 2 Chronicles 16:9

2 Chronicles 15:2-7

 2 Listen to me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: the LORD is with you when you are with Him. And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you.

 3 For many days Israel was without the true God and without a teaching priest and without law.

 4 But in their distress, they turned to the LORD God of Israel, and they sought Him, and He let them find Him.

 7 But you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work.

Throughout the millennia, individuals, families, groups, kingdoms, and states have sought alliances for their mutual benefit. Successful alliances require planning, wise decision-making, and sincere collaboration. There are five common strategies for success: a shared goal or vision, wise investment of resources, clear expectations and execution, total trust, adaptability over time to changing conditions.

A major difference between a strategic partnership with the Father and all others is that only we benefit. The Father intelligently designed humanity to find ultimate fulfillment and satisfaction by aligning with Him and trusting Him fully. The Father seeks alliances with children of the King. He seeks seekers.

The Scriptures contain informative stories, words of wisdom, prophecy, history, and doctrine. The Word of God is a guidebook, a set of instructions on how to live wisely in a dark and fallen world. We could spend our whole lives studying the Father’s Word and barely scratch the surface.

1 Corinthians 10:11 These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.

Romans 15:4 For everything was written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.

King Asa of Judah, a great-grandson of Solomon, is an example of one who allied himself with the Father and benefited greatly. At the beginning of his reign, his heart was right with the Father and he did well (2 Chronicles 14:2).He then withdrew from his alliance with the Father and instead formed an alliance with Syria for mutual protection. For a time, Ben-hadad proved to be an effective short-term ally. But the relationship was fragile and self-destructed. It turned out to be a huge mistake. Asa’s story is a living lesson for all children of the King. It provides wonderful takeaways.

The Father is a seeker. He searches the earth, watching, observing. He is ready to help those who choose to trust Him. Every child of the King can have confidence that as we seek God, he will strengthen us. He will give us the necessary power and ability to carry out whatever responsibilities He has for us.

2 Chronicles 15:2 The LORD will stay with you as long as you stay with him! Whenever you seek him, you will find him. But if you abandon him, he will abandon you.

The Father is utterly and completely committed to each child of the King. He involves Himself in every detail of our lives. It is with great, heartfelt love that He cares for us. The Father desires to strengthen and support each of us.

REFLECT & PRAY

The Father watches and waits for us. He seeks seekers. His support is permanent. He is not there for us only in times of need.

Father, it is so easy to be lax in our commitment and devotion to You. Even when I know the truth, I behaved like a fool. Father please encourage me to meditate in your Word and stay fully allied with You.

INSIGHT

2 Chronicles 16:9 The eyes of the LORD search the whole earth in order to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

The Father delivers all those that seek Him, find Him, and commit to Him. However, to enjoy fully what the Father promises, we must continually be fully committed to Him. If we choose not to be, is great promises are out of our reach.

That was exactly how and King Asa failed to do. He was not consistent. He lapsed. He acted the fool and did what was right in his own eyes. He was confronted and pronounced a fool. He suffered the consequences. Instead of peace and safety, the rest of his reign would be marked by discontent and war.

Rather than remaining faithful to the Father, the unseen eternal God of heaven, Asa limited his vision to what he could see. He chose to rely upon a human king.

1 Chronicles 28:9 Learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately. Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind. For the LORD sees every heart and knows every plan and thought. If you seek him, you will find him.

“The contrast between seeking and forsaking is strong. They are two modes of life. One yearns for God and is devoted to him with a whole heart and delighted soul . . .. This expresses the integrity of a person’s life. A dedicated life finds peace and joy in serving God. The other, however, yearns for something or someone else. It forsakes God to serve other gods. Solomon is given this fundamental choice—the choice we all have—of seeking or forsaking God” (John Mark Hicks).

Choose wisely!

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Hanging out

Hanging out

John 3:22 After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He was spending time with them and baptizing.

1 John 1:1-3
 

 1 This is what we proclaim to you: what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and our hands have touched.  He is the Word of life.

 2 This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us.

 3 What we have seen and heard we announce to you too, so that you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.

In our modern times, hanging out with somebody is frequently done via our cell phones. We text, we video call, we chat, we email (how 20th century!). In the “old days” hanging out meant spending time with people, friends, family, work, or colleagues. We were close, doing things together. As a result, relationships were developed, grew, and deepened.

That is exactly what the Lord Jesus Christ did with His disciples. That is how they got to know Him and trust Him. In John 3:22 we see Jesus spending time with his disciples. The Greek word which is translated spending time is diatribo. It literally meant to rub continually, to wear away, to be worn smooth, to wear out by rubbing. In the 21st century, lots of folks wear jeans that are worn through because of use. Many cut or tear their jeans to accelerate the process. The English word diatribe comes from this word and it means bitter and abusive speech or writing that wears you down.

In the New Testament, diatribo is connotes spending or passing time. Today’s modern equivalent would be hanging out or rubbing shoulders, or perhaps even burning daylight.

When we spend time with the Lord Jesus Christ, we are rubbing shoulders with Him. We are the ones who get worn down. He smooths out our rough edges and we become different!

Acts 4:13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus.

REFLECT & PRAY

All children of the King are welcome to come to Him. He wants to spend time with us! The Lord Jesus Christ beckons us to come (Matthew 12:28-29). He makes the offer; the choice is entirely up to us.

Father how I long to experience the warmth and comfort of Your loving arms. Too often I feel blocked. Please remove any barriers that exist on my side.

INSIGHT

Of all the apostles, who had the closest relationship with Jesus?


John 13:23-25


 23 One of his disciples, the one Jesus loved, was reclining at the table on Jesus’ bosom Jesus in a place of honor.

 24 Simon Peter motioned to him to ask, “Who’s he talking about?”

 25 So that disciple leaned over to Jesus and asked, “Lord, who is it?” 

Peter was referring to the apostle John (John 21:24).

Close your eyes for a minute and imagine what that would be like. Wow!

In his gospel, John uses the word translated bosom or reclining only one other place: John 1:18. The Lord Jesus Christ, the son of God, was in the bosom of the Father. He graphically portrays the close connection between the Father and the Son. They were as close as you could get

No doubt, John recalled his delightful times hanging out with the Lord Jesus Christ. What a wonderful bonding experience. As he remembers, John gets excited, and his enthusiasm is contagious. His words are filled with excitement and reveal the emotions that underlie them. He can hardly contain the thrill of what he experienced. He not only saw Him up close, but John also touched Him! John’s excitement builds to a crescendo as he exclaims his tremendous privilege of proximity.

A small amount of his exhilaration can be felt when his words are read rapidly, out loud with emotion. Try it.

1 John 1:1-3

 1What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life –

 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us –

 3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.

John had the wonderful privilege of not only seeing the living God, but John spent time with Him, John touched the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God!

1 John 1:1 is the only place in the New Testament where the expression, to touch with the hands is used. The Greek verb translated to touch is pselaphao. Pselaphao originally meant to look for something with a degree of uncertainty that it would ever be found. It meant to feel around for or grope for. It is the word used when people were in search of God (BDAG).

The spirit of God often uses irony that is only discovered upon reflection. The world gropes about searching for God, not necessarily finding Him. John uses the same verb with just the opposite sense. He was not vainly groping for the Father without effect. Rather, John reached out and touched the living God, the Lord Jesus Christ.

“In the present context, the author is clearly using the verb to mean actual touching with the hands. By doing so he claims that his proclamation rests on the experience of not only seeing, but also of having touched with his own hands the Word of life” (Kruse).

All children of the King may not have the privilege in this life of seeing and touching Him, but we can all see Him with the eyes of faith. For some, this is almost as real as touching physically.

Hebrews 11:27 By faith . . . we see Him who is unseen.

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Ponder and treasure His words

Ponder and treasure His words

Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. – Luke 2:19

Luke 2:10-20

 16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.

 17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.
 18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.
 20 The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

During Oswald Chambers’ years at the Bible Training College in London (1911-15), he often startled the students with things he said during his lectures. One young woman explained that because discussion was reserved for the following mealtime together, Chambers would frequently be bombarded with questions and objections. She recalled that Oswald would often simply smile and say, “Just leave it for now; it will come to you later.” He encouraged them to ponder the issues and allow God to reveal His truth to them.

To ponder something is to concentrate and think deeply about it. After the events leading to the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, followed by the appearance of angels and the shepherds who came to see the Messiah, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). New Testament scholar W. E. Vine said that ponder means “to throw together, confer, to put one thing with another in considering circumstances” (Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words).

Mary provides for us a wonderful example of what it means to seek the Father and His wisdom. When we struggle to understand the meaning of what is going on in our lives, we have Mary’s excellent model to recall and consider. She shows us what it means to seek wisdom and understanding from the Father.

When any of the Father’s children accept His leading in their lives as Mary did, the Father provides many things to consider. Among the foremost is to treasure and ponder His loving guidance in our hearts.

REFLECT & PRAY

It is wise to set aside time to simply reflect. The Father is speaking. It is incumbent upon us to listen and discover what he is saying to us.

Father thank You that You have given each child of the King the Holy Spirit to enhance our reflection and understanding of Your love and guidance.

INSIGHT

Mary illustrates contemplating and examining the Father’s words and works. She hears and comprehends and then takes time to reflect. A mere cursory exposure to the Father’s word is like glancing through digital feeds. Little is accomplished, the lives retained. But when we turn it over and over in our minds, our faith grows and develops. Reflective thought opens Up the layered nuances of His words and works. Sometimes the content is deep and almost infinitely complex. It can never be completely plumbed any child of the King in this lifetime.

Mary treasured and meditated upon what she had heard. The more reflection, the more meaningful and treasured they words she heard and the experiences she had.

“She was not astonished, but filled with holy awe” . . .. “Mary would go over each detail in the words of Gabriel and of the shepherds and compare the sayings with the facts so far developed and brood over it all with a mother’s high hopes and joy” (A.T. Robertson).

The Greek word translated ponder is symballo. Symballo comes from syn down and ballo throw. It literally means throwing/putting together for comparison. It connotes meditatingupon something complex or difficult to make sense of it. Often when we turn it over in our minds, the Holy Spirit provides insight and understanding supernaturally. Mary repeatedly would turn around in her mind the words that she heard (UBS).

With reflection and spiritual insight, understanding and faith grow. We can go through life with a purely secular outlook. There are many life experiences that we fondly recall and value. But we haven’t taken the time to reflect upon them to derive their intended message from the Father of spiritual significance and meaning. It is through this process, that the father opens our minds to understand the Scriptures.

Luke 24:27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Luke 24:45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.

This is exactly what the Holy Spirit was sent to do for each child of the King.

John 14:26 But when the Father sends the Helper as my representative – that is, the Holy Spirit – He will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

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The Cajun Navy ∙

The Cajun Navy

Do not withhold good from those who need it, when you have the ability to help. – Proverbs 3:27

Galatians 6:9-10

 9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone– especially to those in the family of faith.

On August 29, 2017, Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm, made landfall on the Texas coast near Corpus Christi. Hurricane Harvey became catastrophic when it lingered in the vicinity of Houston for three days. A total of 60.5 inches of rain fell on Nederland, Texas, a record for a single storm. It dropped 50 inches of rain and flooded 28,000 square miles around Houston. Thousands of people were stranded in their homes, unable to escape the floodwaters.

The good-hearted people of Louisiana raised an armada to come to the aid of their neighbors in Texas. They were dubbed the Cajun Navy. This ad hoc group of volunteers were caring, generous, valiant, and committed to helping others with the resources they had at hand: boats. Their boats were neither pleasure cruisers nor naval combat ships. Instead, they were simple fishing boats, hunting boats, shallow draft boats, airboats, canoes, and kayaks. The Cajun Navy officially became an organization with a mission statement: “We the people of Louisiana refuse to stand by and wait for help in the wake of disasters in our State. We rise up and unite and rescue our neighbors!”

The Father’s standards are rather high, seemingly at times almost impossible. We are commanded to do good and be helpful to others. He requires that we live lives of goodwill and helpfulness. Whenever you are able to do so, do good to the person who is in need (Proverbs 3:27).

Solomon is telling us to do the right thing. That is, to act or behave correctly, appropriately, with the best intentions. Whatever is right, just, and fair should be the focus of our efforts and actions. We are to act with integrity, adhering to a moral and ethical standard of goodness and rightness.

“With integrity, you have nothing to fear, since you have nothing to hide. With integrity, you will do the right thing, so you will have no guilt” (Zig Ziglar).

In light of our severe limitations being fallen creatures in a fallen world, we should cut each other a lot of slack. This is exactly what the Father has done for us.

Psalms 103:8-14

 8 The LORD is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry, and filled with unfailing love.

 9 He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever.

 10 He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.

 11 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth.

 12 He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.

 13 The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.

 14 For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust.

It is so natural to think, “They just don’t deserve it!” The Father left the whole issue of worth out of Proverbs 3:27.He didn’t tell us to run an incognito “Who is worthy?” contest. And then based upon the results, do what is right only to the winners who are worthy and deserving.

Where would we stand before the Father, if we had to win a prize to be worthy of His love and help?

REFLECT & PRAY

“But he doesn’t deserve it!” Neither do you, but God lavishes good things on you every day. We should look for ways to bless others, and so demonstrate to the world the boundless love of God” (Stanley).

Father, You help the helpless. One day, may my heart become more like Yours.

INSIGHT

The Father often helps people through other people. The Father knows all too well our propensity to feel inadequate, to retreat, and feel paralyzed. He wisely encourages us to use what we have, to help others.

The English phrase “in your power to do it,” in Hebrew, is literally “in your hands to do.” This is an idiomatic expression that simply means, “it is in your power” or “you have the ability.”

Seems like we always have stuff in our hands. He provides opportunities to make good use of it. He tells us to live wisely making the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:15-16, Titus 3:8).

Galatians 6:9-10

 9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone – especially to those in the family of faith.

Whenever anyone needs help and you can help them, then never hesitate to do so (GECL).

The Father often asks questions of us. He doesn’t require information because He knows everything. His questions often help us to see both our resources and our opportunities.

Exodus 4:2 The LORD said to him [Moses], “What is that in your hand?” And he said, “A staff.”

What is in your hands?

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The Father has a family for the lonely

The Father has a family for the lonely

Isaiah 41:13 I hold you by your right hand – I, the LORD your God. And I say to you, Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.

Psalms 68:4-6

 4 Sing praises to God and to his name! Sing loud praises to him who rides the clouds. His name is the LORD – rejoice in his presence!

 5 Father to the fatherless, defender of widows – this is God, whose dwelling is holy.

 6 God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy. But he makes the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land.

There is an epidemic of loneliness raging across America. In the decade preceding the COVID-19 epidemic, nearly 30% of older Americans were living alone. Some 40% stated that they sometimes or always felt their social relationships were not meaningful, and 20% say they felt lonely or socially isolated.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem. A report by Harvard University researchers found that that 36% of Americans are experiencing “serious loneliness,” and some groups, such as young adults and mothers with small children, are especially isolated (Harvard GSE Report, February 2021).

What is loneliness? Loneliness is tied to the quality of one’s relationships. “Social science researchers define loneliness as the emotional state created when people have fewer social contacts and meaningful relationships than they would like – relationships that make them feel known and understood. Essentially, if you feel lonely, you are lonely” (The Week, January 6, 2019).

“Loneliness is the state of distress or discomfort that results when one perceives a gap between one’s desires for social connection and actual experiences of it. Even some people who are surrounded by others throughout the day – or are in a long-lasting marriage – still experience deep and pervasive loneliness” (Psychology Today).

A lack of social connectedness is for many very painful. Human beings made in the image of the Father have an innate desire to connect.

The Father delights in taking tender care of the children of the King. Father has made many remarkable provisions regarding loneliness and isolation. “God’s majesty never implies his remoteness from those who look to him; it implies instead his exhaustive attention to detail, and his inexhaustible ability to care for his faithful” (ESV notes).

REFLECT & PRAY

Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.

Father thank You for preparing a family, a home for each lonely child of the King. You know exactly who and what we need.

INSIGHT

The Father protects those who are weakest. He is a father to the fatherless (orphans) and an advocate, defender of the widows, protector of the unfortunate, and dispossessed. As a group, orphans and widows are defenseless. They have no one to protect them. Therefore, the Father Himself becomes their protector

Deuteronomy 10:18 He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice.

Psalms 68:5 He is a father to the fatherless and an advocate for widows.

But the Father is more than a protector, He is a mighty warrior who takes up the cause of the needy and downtrodden. In the old West, he might’ve been called a lawman. He defends those that are the least of the least in society.

As children of the King consider the mighty works of their warrior King, the psalmist invites them to sing, to praise, and make music to His name.

Psalms 68:4 Sing to God! Sing praises to his name! Exalt the one who rides on the clouds! For the LORD is his name! Rejoice before him!

He is depicted as one who “rides on the sky” or “rides in the clouds.” It is intended as, “a poetic description of God’s exalted majesty” (Ross).

This word picture borrows an epitaph of the culture of the day. The mythological storm god Baal was called “the one who rides on the clouds.” This expresses a common intercultural theme of the time. Much like in 21st-century Western culture, most everyone knows what the Super Bowl is or who Mr. Spock was. And we have common expressions we use, “yada, yada, yada,” “have a nice day,” or “be safe.” “This theme of the Divine Warrior is always closely associated with God’s justice and support for the least of society” (NICOT).

Father does something delightful and marvelous for those who are alone or desolate. He finds and provides a place for them, a home, a family.  The Hebrew word translated as home or family is bayit. Bayit is literally a house, dwelling, building, and thus family or household.

God makes a home for the lonely (he places the lonely in families). – Psalms 68:6

There is a place for each child of the King, a family, a home on earth, and in heaven for all eternity. How marvelous and beautiful.

John 14:2 There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, I would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you.

Somewhere (Barbra Streisand)

There’s a place for us

Somewhere a place for us

Peace and quiet and open air

Wait for us somewhere

There’s a time for us

Someday a time for us

Time together with time to spare

Time to learn

And a time to care

Someday

Somewhere

We’ll find a new way of living

We’ll find there’s a way of forgiving

Somewhere

There’s a place for us (a place for us)

Somewhere there is a place for us

Hold my hand and we’re halfway there

Hold my hand and I’ll take you there

Someday, someday, somewhere, somewhere

We’ll find a new way of living

We’ll find there’s a way of forgiving

Somewhere

There’s a place for us

A time and a place for us

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