Incomplete obedience

Incomplete obedience

Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. –

Hebrews 5:8

Acts 5:1-4

 1 But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property.

 2 He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest.

 3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself.

 4 The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!”

If you ever acquired a new puppy, know that one of the first things you have to do is teach them to obey. One of the best ways to do this is obedience school for dogs. This is often done by enrolling them in a class where they learn how to be obedient and follow their leader’s commands. When the advent of digital streaming, SPCA has endorsed video training programs. These programs permit dogs to receive top-notch dog training regardless of where they are located in the world without ever leaving home.

Any training regimen should begin with clear communication. Good training does not involve force, but rather respect, love, and trust. Training should fit the dog’s nature and proclivities. Training is not “one size fits all.”

Dog training deals with a wide range of issues including common concerns such as:

  • Disobedience
  • Aggression toward other dogs and people
  • Barking
  • Anxiety, nervousness, and separation anxiety
  • Chewing, mouthing, and stealing objects or food
  • Potty training
  • Hyperactivity
  • Selective hearing
  • Unpredictable behavior

The Father has provided a training school for all children of the King. His program begins with developing a close personal relationship with each of His children beginning with clear communication. He does not use force but rather respect, love, and trust. Each of His training programs is individually suited to that particular child of the King. He trains every child of the King according to the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6).

REFLECT & PRAY

It is sad to say that some children of the King are often obedient only when they want to be. “God didn’t say be perfect. He said the obedient” (Stanley).

Father I want to want to be obedient

INSIGHT

“Partial obedience is the greatest enemy of obedience” (Stanley). However, more critically, partial, incomplete obedience is actually disobedience.

It seems to be part of human DNA to sing along with Frank Sinatra, “I did it my way.” The Scriptures are replete with people that go just so far in their obedience, but not all the way in their obedience.

In the early church, people were extremely generous and set a high bar. Ananias and Sapphira wanted to look good when it came to giving. But they were only partially compliant. It had deadly consequences for them both. In a spirit of generosity, they sold some property and gave money to the apostles. They pretended to give it all. But they held some back secretly. They forgot that the Father knows everything all the time and no one can keep a secret from Him. Peter was given prophetic insight and confronted them. Both Ananias and Sapphira died on the spot, three hours part (Acts 5:5, 10)

Peter pulls back the curtain on what was going on within their hearts. What he revealed was frightening. They lied not only to the apostles but to God.

Acts 5:3-4

 3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, why have you let Satan fill your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself.

 4 The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was also yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God!”

It is very sad to realize that this could happen to any child of the King. In fact, it probably already has and we were not aware of it.

How do we make this right? Follow the example of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was tempted in all things but never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). He was always obedient to the Father’s will.

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

Yet apparently there was a struggle at times.

Hebrews 5:8 Even Though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.  

It is the standard operating procedure for children to learn obedience as they grow up. But the Lord Jesus Christ was no ordinary son, He was the Son of God. This seems a conundrum. How can He always be obedient and yet learn to be obedient also by the things which He suffered?

The answer is found during His time in the garden of Gethsemane the night before His crucifixion. Humanly speaking, He dreaded the events that were about to take place that culminated in the crucifixion. In his humanity, He did not want to do it. He sought a way out. He asked if it were possible, not to have to go through with it. He appealed to the Father. But He had already settled the matter in His own heart. When we asked, He was already obedient in His heart. He said, “I want your will to be done, not mine.”

Matthew 26:39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

Luke 22:44 He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.

Amid great anguish, and even greater suffering, humiliation, shame, pain, and ultimately death, He learned in real-time and, for all time, to obey.

“‘To learn obedience’, then, meant coming to appreciate fully what conforming to God’s will involved. But this is not to suggest that Jesus had previously been disobedient, and now needed to grasp what it meant to obey the will of God. Rather, authentic obedience is practiced in particular, concrete circumstances. So, as Jesus encountered fresh situations – and the focus of the text is on his suffering – his faithfulness to God was challenged, and his unfailing obedience to the Father’s will was tested again and again” (O’Brien).

Recall that Jesus was at once fully God and fully human. As a human being, He acquired knowledge and experience just as other people do. “He especially came to know firsthand what it cost to maintain obedience in the midst of suffering” (O’Brien).

Are any children of the King is not required to obey your mother?

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A Mighty Fortress is our God

A Mighty Fortress is our God

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. – Psalms 46:1

Psalms 46:1-11

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

 2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.

 3 Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!

 6 The nations are in chaos, and their kingdoms crumble! God’s voice thunders, and the earth melts!

 7 The LORD of Heaven’s Armies is here among us; the God of Israel is our fortress.

 8 Come, see the glorious works of the LORD: See how he brings destruction upon the world.

 9 He causes wars to end throughout the earth. He breaks the bow and snaps the spear; he burns the shields with fire.

 10 “Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.”

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther posted his Ninety-five Theses on the door of the church at Wittenberg, Germany. In 1520 Luther was condemned for his Protestant views by Pope Leo X and commanded to renounce or reaffirm his 95 Theses. He was given 24 hours to consider his choice. Luther apologized for his harsh tone. But Luther refused to recant his writings. He is quoted as saying: “Here I stand. I can do no other.”

He was branded a heretic and outlaw. Luther was buffeted by political and theological opponents. He became a “wanted” man. At times, his life was in real danger. Between 1527 and 1529, Martin Luther was in exile hiding. He was fleeing from the power and resources of the Roman Catholic Church. During this period, he was also translating the Old Testament. The convergence of these events gave rise to Luther’s composition of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” The words are a paraphrase of Psalms 46.

It has been translated into English at least seventy times. The most common English translation used by Protestants outside of the Lutheran tradition was made by Frederick H. Hedge in 1853.

There are times in the life of every child of the King where they seem to be facing overwhelming obstacles and irresistible forces. The Father is provided Psalms 46 for times such as these to be an encouragement and a source of faith, confidence, and strength.

REFLECT & PRAY

The Father provided a strong foundation upon which children of the King are to take their stand. He strengthens us to do so. Nothing and no one can shake or crack this foundation. It is earthquake-proof. It provides a mighty fortress for each of us.

Father thank You that you are my mighty fortress and helper in time of need.

INSIGHT

Tribulation is part and parcel of the lives of children on planet Earth.

John 16:33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.

Psalms 46 is a Psalm of confidence! It provides a firm foundation for facing trials, sorrows, and even existential threats that are so much in the news of the 21st century.

The Father God is a refuge for every child of the King. He is stable and unmovable with awesome power and a sustaining presence. He has power over the cataclysmic forces of nature and the schemes and plans of the nations. Eventually, His sovereign will be done on Earth. Peace on earth will be established by the Lord Jesus Christ.

When we require His help, He is there for us. When we fully understand this and put our faith in this promise, everything can change. It creates a dramatic paradigm shift.

Our circumstances do not serve change. Rather our ability to cope with them radically does.

Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

Therefore, there is no cause of concern for us.

Children of the King are the object of His concern, lovingkindness, and mercy. Knowing this truth, there is no need to fear even in the worst of calamities. At the time when it was written, what were the most immutable, impregnable, forceful realities known to the human race? Undoubtedly earthquakes, the seas, and mountains, and the like.

Psalms 46:2-3

 2 So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea.

 3 Let the oceans roar and foam. Let the mountains tremble as the waters surge!

What a tremendous thought that the Father who created these things controls them as well.

Psalms 102:25-28

 25 Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth and made the heavens with your hands.

 26 They will perish, but you remain forever; they will wear out like old clothing. You will change them like a garment and discard them.

 27 But you are always the same; you will live forever.

 28 The children of your people will live in security. Their children’s children will thrive in your presence.

How are we to do when we are facing grave danger or overwhelming circumstances? How does the Father tell us to react?

Psalms 46:10 Be still, and know that I am God!

Amid all the turmoil, the Father speaks to the earth itself, the nations which are in an uproar, and by application to us.

“God is calling the raging world to ‘Stop! Be quiet! Stop your babbling and warring! Know that I am the one and only God!’” (Tesh and Zorn).

The Hebrew word translated be still or cease striving is raphah. Raphah generally has the sense of to slacken, relax, and decline, drop, let go, and refrain, or cease (NIDOTTE). We might say in modern colloquial English cool it or loosen up.

Raphah could well be translated, stop fighting, cease, be inactive, desist, do nothing, or drop your weapons (UBS). The traditional Be still is widely misunderstood as a command to be reverent and meditate on the blessings you have received (UBS).

The Hebrew word translated know is yada. Yada is used in the sense of acknowledge, recognize, admit, confess. Know that I am God can sometimes be translated as “learn that I am God” or “see that I am God.”

“On some days, we may feel as if our world has been shaken and everything we depend upon will be cast into the sea. But if we put our hope in God, we have no need to fear, because we have a refuge that can never be moved” (Stanley).

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Don’t make me angry! ∙

Don’t make me angry!

Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. – James 1:20

Ephesians 4:26-27

 26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,

 27 and give no opportunity to the devil.

The Incredible Hulk, a.k.a., Dr. Bruce Banner when angered or provoked transforms into the rage-fueled, green-skinned monster. The Hulk is a major character of the Marvel Comics universe. His famous catchphrase is, “Don’t make me angry!”

Usually, for people, anger has one of three primary underlying causes:

What is anger? It is a common human emotion and it is part of the normal human experience. The Father feels anger. The Father gave us the ability to feel anger as well. The Father is holy, righteous, and totally sinless. He feels and expresses anger differently than fallen people.

There are three primary sources  of anger:

  • Not getting your own way
  • Having your way blocked
  • Unmet expectations.

All anger is not the same. Anger exists along a continuum from mild to extreme. It may manifest as frustration or irritation or seething, explosive, murderous rage. And of course, it may arise anywhere in-between.

What does anger actually accomplish? Sadly not things that our righteous Father desires.

James 1:20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.

If you are angry, you cannot do any of the good things God wants done (James 1:20, The Contemporary English Version).

Uncontrolled anger is an exercise in futility. So stop kidding yourself. Short tempers and thoughtless words only stir up strife.

Proverbs 15:1 A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.

James 1:19 You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.

We are capable of controlling our reactions. The Father provided an object lesson. He gave us two ears but only one mouth. Engage your intellect and develop strategies to overcome useless, futile reactions to real or perceived offenses. Be sensible.

Proverbs 19:11 Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking an offense.

REFLECT & PRAY

An angry person stirs up dissension and starts fights; a hot-tempered person commits all kinds of sin (Proverbs 29:22).

Father how many children of the King struggle with anger and rage. It is almost as though a savage beast lives within us trapped within a cage of our human bodies. Every now and then we open the door. Please help me to control my anger.

INSIGHT

The anger of people does not accomplish anything good and actually comes with a lot of overhead. Given the choice, it would be wise to limit our anger as much as possible.

Some people have seething anger underneath and it flares repeatedly. We might refer to them as hot-tempered. Webster defines hot-tempered as becoming angry very easily. They sadly often have the emotional control of a velociraptor. Solomon provides caution.

Proverbs 19:19 Hot-tempered people must pay the penalty. If you rescue them once, you will have to do it again.

Proverbs 25:28 A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.

Paul provides a strategy for dealing with it.

Ephesians 4:26-27

 26 Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry,

 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

As fallen people, we tend to hold on to anger. Regrettably, it may become part of our character. It takes on a life all of its own. It sort of moves in, taking up residence in our innermost being. Anger begins to distort our sensitivity and way of thinking. We find fault and get agitated without foundation in fact. Some become paranoid. They feel like the world is out to get them. One wise sage once said, “The world is not sentient, it does not know you exist. It is not out to get you.”

The peace of God and inner joy and satisfaction, which the Father offers to each child of the King, are often noticeably absent. Peace and joy simply cannot coexist with anxiety, frustration, anger, and bitterness. Anger left unchecked all too frequently results in depression and a desire for revenge.

Ultimately the Scriptures view anger as defiance against the living God.

Numbers 15:30 But the person who does anything with a high hand . . . (NAS)

Numbers 15:30 But those who brazenly violate the LORD’s will . . . (NLT)

Numbers 15:30 But the person who acts defiantly . . . (NET)

In the original Hebrew, the phrase, which is translated brazenly violate, acts defiantly, with a high hand, is beyad ramah. Beyad ramah is an expression of arrogant, deliberate defiance “in spite of what the LORD said” (NET notes). It is a graphic word picture of a person filled with rage shaking a clenched fist. Try to visualize this in your mind. Can you see an angry person shaking their fist in the air? Ask yourself what is on the other end of this defiant high hand? Could it be that they are shaking it in the unseen face of the Father God? In which case, unrestrained and anger is ultimately a deliberate, intentional act of sin.

Anger is a kind of poison that damages our character, our relations with others, and our ability to draw close to the Father. The Father’s heart is grieved and saddened when His children live in anger. When our fists are raised in anger, we cannot receive and enjoy His blessings.

Ephesians 4:30 Do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

Is anger lurking inside? Is it buried so deeply within that you are unaware of its presence? Ask the Father to reveal that which is hidden. Determine to release it and do not embrace it again.

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Why are you afraid? ∙

Why are you afraid?

Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith? – Mark 4:40

Romans 5:3-5

 3 We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.

 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.

 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

When adults reach middle age, there seems to be an inevitable loss of muscle strength, energy, and vigor. How can the strong be reversed and muscles and strengthened? Muscles were designed to grow stronger when used. When muscles experience tension, the muscle cells will tear, repair themselves, and increase strength. In other words, if you don’t use them you lose them.

To maintain strength, it is necessary to participate in regular strength training exercises. When strength training becomes a way of life, it becomes a source of enjoyment and empowerment. We become stronger and more upbeat. Major lifestyle changes are difficult but not impossible if we are determined to keep at it and overcome the obstacles that arise. One major key to potential success is simply believing in ourselves.

1 Timothy 4:8 Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.

The Father desires that we become mighty in spirit (Luke 1:80). How does the Father strengthen our spirits? The Father employs what amounts to spiritual “tension.” He uses difficult circumstances to induce spiritual tension. His exercise equipment consists of trials, troubles, difficulties, tribulations, temptations, and suffering. With the proper response, our spirits become stronger and our faith grows. He arranges the events in our lives to demonstrate our faith and spiritual strength or lack thereof so that we may grow to maturity.

James 1:2-4

 2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.

 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.

 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

To develop a mighty spirit requires a fundamental change in our lifestyles, our mindsets. It has to do with how we respond to trials.

Trials should no longer be considered dreaded obstacles to be avoided. Rather we should welcome them. This is a mental exercise. We engage our minds, our intellects and choose to consider or regard our difficulties as joyful opportunities for growth.

The Greek word translated trial or trouble is peirasmos. Peirasmos refers to a trial or test with an end goal. It both demonstrates where we are, and when responded to properly it makes us stronger.

Difficulties are not meant to make us fall; they are meant to make us soar. They are not meant to defeat us; they are meant to be defeated. They are not meant to make us weaker; they are meant to make us stronger (Barclay).

The Greek word translated testing is dokimazo. Dokimazo means to examine and test to approve something as genuine. In the first century, when a clay pot was fired in a kiln and came through the fire unbroken, it was stamped dokimazo. It was approved.

Testing produces endurance. The Greek word translated endurance is hupomone. Hupomone is “unswerving constancy” (Barclay).

Hupomone is not simply the ability to bear things; it is the ability to turn them into greatness and into glory.” Hupomone is the quality that makes a man able, not simply to suffer things, but to vanquish them (Barclay).

REFLECT & PRAY

The great composer Beethoven became deaf before he wrote his greatest masterpiece the 9th symphony. At its first performance, when he was finished conducting, he had to be turned around to see the ecstatic, jubilant response of the audience. Knowing he was going deaf, he said, “I will take fate by the throat; it will never bend me completely to its will” (Beethoven).

Father my faith is defective. Thank You for putting me in the situations that test me and try me so that I might become mighty in spirit.

INSIGHT

More than once, the disciples found themselves in the midst of a terrible storm at sea (Mark 4:35-41, Matthew 8:23-27). This time it was Jesus that directed them to take the boat across the sea. He knew of course that the storm was coming. He was totally at peace and rest and actually fell asleep. When the storm came the disciples were terrified. Storms on the sea of Galilee were nothing new. And those of them that were fishermen had no doubt encountered them many times. However, this one was horrendous, and they thought they were going to die. But in this instance, it was intended to test and strengthen their faith.

Mark 4:38-41

 38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

 39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm.

 40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

 41 The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

The disciples had faith, but their faith was immature and defective. They had too little faith. “Faith in Messiah and fear are mutually exclusive. Therefore the disciples should not have been “timid” (NAS) or “afraid” (NIV)” (Constable).

Matthew 8:26 Jesus said to them, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!”

The disciples had not yet come to understand Who the Lord Jesus Christ was. When children of the King come to know Him and truly believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is the incarnate, eternal son of God, we have no reason to be afraid.

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Does anything make God sick?

Does anything make God sick?

So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of my mouth! – Revelation 3:16

Revelation 3:15-17

 15 I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other!

 16 But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!

 17 You say, “I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!” And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.

In the ancient Mediterranean world, Laodicea was one of the great commercial and manufacturing centers. It was located in modern-day Turkey. It was founded circa 250 BC by Antiochus II and was named after his wife Laodice.

Its importance was due entirely to its geographical location. It was situated along one of the great roads that ran from West to the East. It had one serious drawback, its lack of an adequate water supply. The waters of the nearby Lycus River were muddy and undrinkable. All of its water had to come via aqueduct, an artificial pipeline, from hot springs about six miles away. Roman technology and the Pax Romana allowed Laodicea to become a rich and prominent city.

Laodicea became a great banking and financial center. He had a famous textile industry that mass-produced outer garments made out of soft, violet-black, from glossy wool. An advanced medical school was located there as well. Its doctors were well-renowned. Due to all of their advantages, the Laodiceans amassed great wealth.

The Laodiceans had no clue that their wealth created spiritual poverty. As an advanced center of clothing production, they never realized that they were naked in the eyes of God. The medical center developed highly effective eye and ear ointments that were exported all over the world. But they never realized that they were spiritually blind.

Their material achievements and riches led to abysmal spiritual poverty. The Laodiceans boasted that they were rich and needed nothing. In their minds, their great wealth diminished any need for God.

The Lord Jesus Christ addresses seven congregations in Revelation 2 and 3: Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Each letter is tailor-made for its specific destination taking into consideration its distinctive conditions, culture, and attitudes. The letters contain His personal evaluations, commendations where appropriate, critique, and instruction.

The water of the nearby Lycus River was muddy and essentially undrinkable. Therefore, the water of Laodicea came by aqueduct. Remains of the aqueduct still exist today. Deposits encrusting the pipes verified the poor quality of the water. By the time it reached Laodicea, it was lukewarm. Further, to make matters even worse, due to impurities, the water had an emetic effect, that is, it induced vomiting.

Nearby was Hieropolis, famous for its medicinal hot springs, and Colossae, known for its pure, cold water (Wiersbe). Thus the words “hot” and “cold” have historical significance that informs the understanding of the condemnation presented by Lord Jesus Christ. Too often people take this passage entirely out of context. Knowing the background unpacks its meaning.

Revelation 3:16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.

REFLECT & PRAY

Ephesians 4:30 Do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.

Father encourage and enable us to have lives that are refreshing or helpful to others. May we be pleasing in Your sight.

INSIGHT

Laodicea received no commendation. It stands alone when compared to the other six churches. The Laodicean church was just like the city’s water supply: lukewarm. “The condemnation of Laodicea begins with a picture of almost crude vividness; because the Laodiceans are neither cold nor hot, they have about them a kind of nauseating quality, which will make the risen Christ vomit them out of his mouth” (Barclay). This may seem a bit confusing in the 21st century, but the people of Laodicea understood exactly what the Lord Jesus Christ was saying.

The Greek word which is translated as spit or vomit is emeo. Emeo literally means to spit out, vomit, or throw up. The English word emetic is derived from this word and it refers to a substance that induces vomiting. Spitting is frequently an act of contempt (Luke 18:32). This anthropomorphism indicates the intense disgust of the Lord Jesus Christ.

What does it mean to be lukewarm?

This is understood in light of the water supply. The water of Laodicea traveled some 6 miles from the aqueduct. By the time it reached the city, it was tepid, lukewarm, and emetic. This is in contrast to the nearby cities of Colossae, known for its cold, crisp mountain water, and Hierapolis, which had hot springs with water that was often used for medicinal purposes.

The water of Laodicea was a metaphor, a perfect fit for the church’s spiritual condition. The Greek word which is translated lukewarm is chliaros. This word is only used here in the entire New Testament. Chliaros means tepid, warm, or between hot and cold.

The Lord Jesus Christ found the people’s attitudes repugnant. Their hearts were tepid, impure, proud, and arrogant. How might we characterize being lukewarm? It connotes being equally removed from two opposite extremes. In that the Lord Jesus Christ used it in a pejorative sense could it mean middle-of-the-road, uncommitted, indifferent, lethargic, unremarkable, mundane, mediocre, unexceptional, apathetic, halfhearted, lacking zeal, and the like?

They were complacent, self-satisfied, self-sufficient, obtuse, and lacked commitment to the Father and word of God. They were just going through the motions spiritually. They had one foot in the world and the other in church. They were ambivalent being content with their wealth and materialism. They were obtuse to their spiritual poverty. The Lord Jesus Christ declared that they were wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked (Revelation 3:17).

Yet, despite their moribund, deluded condition, the Lord Jesus Christ loved them.

It is no coincidence that the Lord Jesus Christ calls upon them to repent. He makes a magnificent offer and promise.

Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.”

Rather than being spiritually bland, as lukewarm water, we are to be refreshing or restorative, as cold or hot water.

Upon reflection, perhaps the church at Laodicea provides ample motivation for each of us to examine our hearts.

Are we lukewarm?

Was Revelation 3:20 written as an appeal to unbelievers? Was this addressed to those who had not put their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ Lord? Or was it addressed to lukewarm children of the King? What does the context indicate?

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God acts on behalf of those who wait ∙

God acts on behalf of those who wait

Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down. – Isaiah 64:1

Psalms 18:1-14

1 A psalm of David, the servant of the LORD. He sang this song to the LORD on the day the LORD rescued him from all his enemies and from Saul. He sang: I love you, LORD; you are my strength.

 2 The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.

 3 I called on the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies.

 4 The ropes of death entangled me; floods of destruction swept over me.

 5 The grave wrapped its ropes around me; death laid a trap in my path.

 6 But in my distress I cried out to the LORD; yes, I prayed to my God for help. He heard me from his sanctuary; my cry to him reached his ears.

 7 Then the earth quaked and trembled. The foundations of the mountains shook; they quaked because of his anger.

13 The LORD thundered from heaven; the voice of the Most High resounded amid the hail and burning coals.                          

The Battle of the Alamo was a 13-day siege that ended March 6, 1836. General Santa Anna’s troops killed most of those inside. During the siege, commander William B. Travis wrote multiple letters pleading for more men and supplies. They were reinforced by fewer than 100.

Unprepared to confront the Mexican army with his poorly trained force, general Sam Houston refused to come to their aid. Instead, he began a series of strategic retreats designed to give him enough time to prepare his army and whip his soldiers into fighting shape.

Houston’s decision to retreat infuriated his officers and troops. They scorned him for not being eager to fight the Mexicans. They chafed at Houston’s insistence on learning proper military training. Finally, after almost a month of strategic withdrawal, it was the right time, the waiting was over. Houston ordered his men to turn around and engage Santa Anna’s forces in a place of his choosing.

On April 21, 1836, Houston’s Army attacked and thoroughly routed the Mexican army. Santa Anna was taken captive and signed a treaty recognizing Texas’ independence.

For the Texans, the Battle of the Alamo became a symbol of heroic resistance and their rallying cry became “Remember the Alamo!” The Lone Star Republic was born. In the end, Sam Houston became a great hero, and Texas honored him in many accolades. A Texas city bears his name: Houston.

Many children of the King become discouraged when the Father does not move on their behalf according to their time schedule. Others cannot imagine that the Father would even desire to come to their assistance.

It is so sad that doubt is a part of the DNA of all fallen people, even the children of the King. When the Father does not act, we simply lose faith. How can we believe in a God who does not ever seem to do anything? The truth is we all face this gut-wrenching question at one or another. We are surrounded by national and international upheaval. Everything seems to be in flux. There is no end to it and it seems to be getting worse. On top of that, we carry our own heartbreak. Yet we long for the Father to act.

The Jewish nation has been through this experience multiple times. The Babylonians crushed Judah and turned Jerusalem into rubble. The prophet Isaiah openly conveyed their dark doubt.

Isaiah 63:11-15

 11 Then they remembered those days of old when Moses led his people out of Egypt. They cried out, “Where is the one who brought Israel through the sea, with Moses as their shepherd? Where is the one who sent his Holy Spirit to be among his people?

 12 Where is the one whose power was displayed when Moses lifted up his hand– the one who divided the sea before them, making himself famous forever?

 13 Where is the one who led them through the bottom of the sea? They were like fine stallions racing through the desert, never stumbling.

 14 As with cattle going down into a peaceful valley, the Spirit of the LORD gave them rest. You led your people, LORD, and gained a magnificent reputation.”

 15 LORD, look down from heaven; look from your holy, glorious home, and see us. Where is the passion and the might you used to show on our behalf? Where are your mercy and compassion now?

Did Isaiah pull away because of doubt? Absolutely not. Isaiah drew closer to the Father than ever. He boldly prayed to the Father seeking His help.

Isaiah 64:1 Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down.

Difficulties and the consequent doubts we experience are actually extraordinary gifts from the Father. They expose our lack of faith and a tremendous need to draw ever closer to the Father. As we draw near to Him, He draws near to us.

James 4:8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you.

REFLECT & PRAY

Sadly, so often we cannot imagine how God will move on our behalf. Yet He does exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). We can confidently expect that He will act when we wait for Him in faith (Stanley).

Father I work it in pretend to manage my life successfully. But I cannot. I need You desperately. Rend the heavens and come down.

INSIGHT

In the bizarre atmosphere of 21st-century pandemic and post-pandemic fears, lockdowns, ambivalence regarding vaccination, it seems far easier to lose our temper, our good sense, and fall into fear and doubt. From the Father’s perspective, we are simply in a waiting room where hard lessons are taught and hopefully assimilated. Perspective transformation, patience, and hope are among the results.

Why does the Father so often ask us to wait? Waiting has many wonderful outcomes.

1. We discover His plan and purpose.

2. We receive supernatural physical energy and strength. Impatience drains us and wears us down. Actively waiting on Him energizes us. Waiting on Him is never wasted time!

3. We win battles. When we do things in His way and in His time we overcome. We are kept from foolish and precipitous acts.

4. We see our faith substantiated and realized. We are never put to shame or embarrassed by waiting on Him (Isaiah 49:23).

5. We see God working on our behalf. The Father works for those who wait for Him (Isaiah 64:4) (Stanley).

Although we are the children of the king, due to our fallen DNA, waiting is one of the most difficult things for us to do. Yet, waiting is not time wasted. The Father uses these times to sift our motives and strengthen our faith. When we choose to wait, the Father produces benefits that often are quite unexpected (Stanley).

The Father is our great hero, He has a city named after Him as well: The City of God.

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Out of tragedy ∙

Out of tragedy

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

1 Samuel 30:1-6

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

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

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

 4 they wept until they could weep no more.

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

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

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

The Father uses such hardships and times of darkness to develop and mature children the King. Outer turbulence and its consequent inner turmoil, are the raw materials from which strength of character and inner resolve are birthed and developed: from crisis comes courage; from tragedy trust; from failure faith, from loss of leadership.

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

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

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

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

REFLECT & PRAY

Isaiah 46:9-10

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

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

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

INSIGHT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The big lie ∙

The big lie

For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie. – 2 Thessalonians 2:11

2 Thessalonians 2:1-11

 1 Now, dear brothers and sisters, let us clarify some things about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we will be gathered to meet him.

 2 Don’t be so easily shaken or alarmed by those who say that the day of the Lord has already begun. Don’t believe them, even if they claim to have had a spiritual vision, a revelation, or a letter supposedly from us.

 3 Don’t be fooled by what they say. For that day will not come until there is a great rebellion against God and the man of lawlessness is revealed – the one who brings destruction.

 4 He will exalt himself and defy everything that people call god and every object of worship. He will even sit in the temple of God, claiming that he himself is God.

 7 For this lawlessness is already at work secretly, and it will remain secret until the one who is holding it back steps out of the way.

 8 Then the man of lawlessness will be revealed, but the Lord Jesus will kill him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by the splendor of his coming.

 9 This man will come to do the work of Satan with counterfeit power and signs and miracles.

 10 He will use every kind of evil deception to fool those on their way to destruction because they refuse to love and accept the truth that would save them.

 11 So God will cause them to be greatly deceived, and they will believe these lies.

A big lie is a propaganda technique. The expression was coined by Adolf Hitler, when he wrote Mein Kampf in 1925, about the use of a lie so “colossal” that no one would believe that someone “could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously” (Adolf Hitler).

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it” (Adolf Hitler).

Joseph Goebbels, the Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany, pioneered the use of fake news to sway the public opinion to accept the lies of National Socialism, the Nazi party.

It was a big lie that plunged the human race into sin and brought about the Fall. The first big lie is found in Genesis.

Genesis 3:1-6

 1 The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the LORD God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”

 2 “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied.

 3 “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’“

 4 “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman.

 5 “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”

 6 The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful, and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.

The devil was present in the Garden of Eden and took control of the serpent to carry out his evil intentions and tempt Eve (Ezekiel 28:13). Eve was truly innocent and unawares. The enemy took advantage of her purity and innocence. He leveraged them and told her a big lie regarding the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He raised doubts about the truthfulness of what the Father had said and His intentions. She ceased believing the truth and instead believed the enemy’s lies.

Two things happened simultaneously. She rejected the Father’s Truth. She embraced the devil’s lies. This is the pattern that has continued down to this day. As a result, the human race was plunged into sin.

REFLECT & PRAY

1 Timothy 4:1 Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons.

Father enable me to embrace the truth and become less and less susceptible to lies, deception, and delusion. Give me wisdom and discernment.

INSIGHT

The end of the age will be characterized by a spirit of rebellion and defiance against the truth and those that embrace it. A multitude of lies will be disseminated which people choose to believe. This comes to a culmination when the vast majority of the deluded human race, the children of darkness, embrace “the Lie” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-11).

The Scriptures are quite clear that people are under the influence of evil spiritual forces. They have been present manipulating people since the beginning. The apostle John provides a simple test to know if a spirit is from the Father or not.

1 John 4:3 Every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.

We are encouraged to test the spirits that we come into contact with to determine whether they are from the dark side or they are from the kingdom of light.

1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

The influx of false teachers, false prophets, and false messengers is one of the signs that we are at the end of the age (Matthew 24:3-26).

1 John 2:18 Dear children, the last hour is here. You have heard that the Antichrist is coming, and already many such antichrists have appeared. From this, we know that the last hour has come.

Lies of all sorts are being propagated. People simply choose to believe the lies rather than the truth because they are not children of the light. There is a shocking, if not terrifying cause and effect relationship between choosing to be deceived and being deceived. When people reject the truth, they become more susceptible to lies. When people embrace the truth, they become less susceptible to lies. Regrettably, the Father not only allows the dissemination of false information, in judgment, but He also sends of deluding influence as well. They sow the wind, and so they will reap the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7)!

2 Thessalonians 2:11 Consequently God sends on them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false.

“Paul pictures a growing rebellion against God, the emergence of one who was the devil incarnate as Christ had been God incarnate, a final struggle and the ultimate triumph of God” (Barclay).

As rebellion and deception increase, so does delusion. People think they are doing what is right when they are entirely incorrect.

“‘Delusion’ is stronger than deception. Deception means that a person can be fooled about something. Delusion is a way of life in which one is perpetually deceived. People under delusion harden their heart permanently” (Richardson).

1 Thessalonians 5:3 While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape.

All of humanity is entrapped by delusion and spiritual death. Each child of the King has been snatched out of the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of light. Now we are to walk in the light.

Ephesians 2:1-5

 1 Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins.

 2 You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil– the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.

 3 All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature, we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.

 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!)

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