Cut it straight ∙

Cut it straight

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. – 2 Timothy 2:15

2 Timothy 2:14-17

 14 Remind everyone about these things, and command them in God’s presence to stop fighting over words. Such arguments are useless, and they can ruin those who hear them.

 15 Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth.

 16 Avoid worthless, foolish talk that only leads to more godless behavior.

 17 This kind of talk spreads like gangrene . . .

People who are professional sewers often have exceptional skills and years of experience. Successful sewing does not begin with needle and thread. Rather, it begins with the fabric to be sewn.

The importance of mastering the art of cutting the fabric straight cannot be stressed enough. An improper first cut can result in total catastrophe. Fabric sections that are supposed to match, instead wind-up being different lengths. Seams can be twisted or uneven.

The material must cut on “the grain.” The fabric must be squared up and the weft must be identified. The weft runs perpendicularly on the selvage. The warp runs perpendicularly on the weft. You simply pull a line of thread on the weft and then one on the warp. This will create two straight perpendicular lines to follow.

All you need to get started is the fabric of choice, a plan or pattern to follow, and a cutting tool such as scissors.

The apostle Paul was a tentmaker by profession (Acts 18:2-3). It was his day job. He had mastered the art and skill required. Tentmaking was not for the faint of heart. Neither is handling the word of God or taking responsibility for explaining it to others.

Paul admonished Timothy to rightly divide the word of truth. The Greek word translated rightly divide is orthotomeo. This is an old tentmaking term that literally means to cut straight. To rightly divide fabric requires preparation and making straight cuts. Is all about accuracy and precision. The word of God needs to be handled similarly. This refers to expounding accurately or teaching correctly. It refers to the act of handling correctly the word of truth when it is taught or expounded (UBS). There is no room for poor cutting, slipshod work, guesses, opinions, or laziness.

Any child of the King that takes upon themselves to study and research the word of God so that they may share with or teach it to others assumes an awesome responsibility. It is not for the faint of heart. Yet, each of His children is obligated to share His truth with others.

Reflect for a moment on the teaching you provide others or the teaching you receive, is it just “good enough?”

Paul is saying, “good enough” is simply not good enough.

James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

REFLECT & PRAY

“Whatever is worth doing at all is worth doing well” (Philip Stanhope, 1746).

Father, thank you for the wonderful and excellent teachers you have provided me over my lifetime. May I do my best when I prepare and share the magnificent truth found in Your Word.

INSIGHT

The Father sets the bar high, exceedingly high. His standard is excellence. Do you suppose that the Father would have given us such a high standard if He did not fully intend for us to measure up to it?

In our somewhat haphazard, slipshod, “good enough,” “what does it really matter,” culture we should be delighted to have a standard of excellence to aim for.

Rather than being discouraged, be encouraged. Excellence is doable. It takes focus, time, dedication, and practice. We stand or fall before the Father. Ultimately, our goal is His approval for our efforts.

So many things in life are opportunities that the Father provides for our growth and development. His tests are never intended to condemn us. Rather, they identify where we are and what steps of action we need to take to improve. The goal is His approval.

The Greek word translated approval or stands the test is dokimos. It describes things that have passed a test. For example, when a clay pot is formed, it must pass the test of fire. It is put into a kiln and fired. After some time it is removed and examined. If it has no cracks, it is approved for service, was stamped dokimos.

Our goal is to hear the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23).

How exactly are we to do this? Paul lays it out for us. He provides do’s and don’ts.

Paul exhorts us to be zealous and work hard. The Greek word translated be diligent, work hard, is spoudazo. It focuses on the effort that it takes to achieve excellence. It means to be diligent, earnest, eager, zealous, make every effort to do one’s best.

We are to avoid meaningless disputes fighting over words and avoid worthless and foolish talk.

There’s a strange thing about foolish and worthless words. They spread like gangrene. They are very similar to gossip. Too many people love to hear them and to share them.

Proverbs 26:21-22

 21 Like charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, so is a contentious person to kindle strife.

 22 The words of a gossip are like delicious morsels; they go down into a person’s innermost being.

For the Father, the accurate handling of His word and explaining it correctly, are of extreme importance. Each of the Father’s workers will be either approved or ashamed. Be diligent, work hard, and make every effort to cut it straight.

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Criticism steals joy

Criticism steals joy

Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone. – John 8:7

Matthew 7:1-5

 1 Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.

 2 For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.

 3 And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own?

 4 How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?

 5 Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.

“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain and most fools do” (Benjamin Franklin).

“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain but it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving” (Dale Carnegie).

“Criticism is an indirect form of self-boasting” (Emmet Fox).

“Criticism is the disapproval of people, not for having faults, but having faults different from your own” (Unknown).

“When we judge or criticize another person, it says nothing about that person; it merely says something about our own need to be critical” (Unknown).

“He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help” (Abraham Lincoln).

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly.

So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat” (Theodore Roosevelt).

The Lord Jesus Christ is described as a carpenter and the son of a carpenter (Mark 6:3, Matthew 13:55). As a carpenter, he would have a great deal of experience with wood dust and chips. Carpentry work creates a lot of dust and chips. Perhaps He drew on His own hands-on experience with wood chips and beams.

He uses hyperbole to make His point. No one can actually get a large wooden beam in their own eye and function. He asks a rhetorical question that is intentionally probing.

How can someone be able to remove a tiny wood chip from another’s eye when their vision is blurred by a huge beam in their own eye? He answers His own question. It is necessary to first remove the beam in your own eye, in order to see clearly and take the speck out of another’s eye. His listeners got His point.

For would-be stone-throwers, absence of guilt is required to be qualified to throw stones. The story is told of a delightful Jewish mother who upon hearing criticism, quipped, “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.” Upon a careful self-examination, would we qualify as qualified judges of others?

The Lord Jesus Christ provides a short course in judging and not judging. His lesson is timeless. It includes three major guidelines.

  1. If you do not want to be judged by others, do not judge others.
  2. If you judge others, the standard that you used will be the same standard by which you are judged.
  3. Any impediments that would prevent clear and insightful judgment, must be removed before judging others.

When He said we are not to judge others, He did not mean we were simply supposed to take everything at face value and accept it uncritically.

When we attempt to judge others, we are usurping the role that ultimately belongs to the Father alone. He is the ultimate judge. He has assigned all judgment to His son the Lord Jesus Christ (John 5:22).

Did you ever think that when you criticize other people, you are usurping the Father’s prerogative? To judge you need to be able to see and understand accurately. If something impairs your vision or discernment it must be removed before the judgment can proceed.

The Lord Jesus Christ commanded the children of the King to judge and explained how to do it correctly.

John 7:24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.

The Lord Jesus Christ was well aware that most criticism and judgment are hypocritical. He knows what is in the heart of everyone (John 2:24-25). It is necessary to look beyond outward appearances to judge correctly. One who judges rightly goes beneath the surface. They examine not merely outward actions but also inner thoughts, intentions, and motivations. Those who judge should be objective, not burdened by a guilty conscience or hidden agendas.

REFLECT & PRAY

Over and over it seems that criticism and its counterpart thin-skinned sensitivity, rob us of our joy and tranquility.

Father I want to be gentle and kind as I interact with others. Help me to see my own faults, and deal with them, before criticizing others.

INSIGHT

Philippians 2:14 Do everything without complaining and arguing.

It is so easy to be critical, harsh, and judgmental. We overlook the fact that a critical spirit steals our joy. When we find fault with others, criticize others, too often we fail to recognize that we are seeing variations of our own shortcomings. In psychology, this is called projection.

Proverbs 26:21 A contentious person kindles strife.

In the Father’s kingdom, there is absolute beauty, purity, and righteousness. Sadly, it is not so in our present world. Rather our human experience is marked by a critical spirit, cruel brutishness, and endlessly laborious, futile tasks.

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was infamous for his self-aggrandizing trickiness and deceitfulness. He was punished by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill daily. When the boulder neared the top, it would roll back down. Sisyphus had to repeat this action for all eternity. Thus, his efforts were endless and futile.

Unless criticism and judgment of others are done righteously by forgiven and forgiving people, it is probably just as endless and futile.

Taking criticism personally tears us apart. Handing it out is no great honor either. Is it possible to judge dispassionately and righteously to generate a beneficial outcome?

2 Timothy 3:16-17

 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.

 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

Nehemiah 8:10 Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the LORD is your strength!”

“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots him” (Frank A. Clark).

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Pressed into a mold

Pressed into a mold

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. – Romans 12:2

1 Peter 1:13-23

 13 So think clearly and exercise self-control. Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world.

 14 So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then.

 21 Through Christ you have come to trust in God. And you have placed your faith and hope in God because he raised Christ from the dead and gave him great glory.

 22 You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.

 23 For you have been born again, but not to a life that will quickly end. Your new life will last forever because it comes from the eternal, living word of God.

Josiah Wedgwood, an English potter, was born July 12, 1730. He developed the famous Wedgwood line of pottery. He founded the Wedgwood company in 1759. He employed various techniques to improve how pottery was made. He is known as the “Father of English Potters.”

One technique that he employed was press molds. They are used to replicate large quantities of uniformly shaped ceramics. One of his innovations was creating raised decorations on his famous Wedgwood pottery.

Press molding is a process in which clay is placed into a mold. The clay is then pressed into the mold to take on a certain shape. After the clay has dried, the mold is taken away, the result is a replica of the inside of the mold.  

Press molds are nothing new. The enemy has been using this technique for about 6000 years. He invented it to subvert the human race. He is at work 24×7 pressing people into conformity with the world system. It is a continual, relentless process.

For those who are not children of the King, they have already been conformed to the world. The pressing is ongoing. They become part of the world system and remain that way. It is automatic. Only the intervention of the Father can bring it to a grinding halt. When we become children of the King, we are given the right and authority to choose to stop being conformed. Paul is exhorting us to do exactly that. To do so requires a total paradigm shift.

It is important to realize that we do not conform ourselves to the world, we are being conformed to the world. Spiritual forces are at work to press us into the mold of the world. We are the recipients of the enemy’s press molding. We are truly victims of an extremely powerful, abusive, malevolent personality who seeks only to do us harm. He has our worst interest at heart. We have a choice to stand up and resist. We are unable to transform ourselves. When we choose to stop being conformed, we choose to allow ourselves to be transformed by the Holy Spirit through the renewal of our minds.

The Father does the heavy lifting. Our part is to choose to allow Him to do so. 

REFLECT & PRAY

Galatians 5:16 Walk by the Spirit, then you will not be doing what your sinful nature craves.

Father thank You that You are willing and able to put an end to the relentless pressing we are subject to. Encourage me to allow You to transform me by the renewing of my mind.

INSIGHT

Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.

Two breathtaking inner activities are at work within people on planet Earth. The first is a process of being conformed, that is being pressed into a mold. Pressure is applied to shape our inner immaterial essence.

The second is indescribably incredible. It is the amazing inner transformation performed by the Holy Spirit. Through spiritual metamorphosis, the Spirit of God renews our minds from the inside out.

The Greek word translated conformed is syschematizo. Syschematizo is an inner process at work to shape one’s behavior; to form or mold one’s behavior following a particular pattern or set of standards. It shapes people’s thinking and behavior into a diabolically inspired design.

It is as though the enemy has drawn up a personalized blueprint and mold for each individual’s life. He is actively at work, pressing to squeeze that person into what he desires for them to be. It is more than behavior modification; it is the transformation of the psyche, thinking process, and worldview. It encompasses their values, standards, motivations, goals, beliefs, worldviews, and so much more.

The Greek verbal form syschematizo is worth a closer look. It is a command. Paul is not offering a suggestion or recommendation. Secondly, it is continuous action, it is ongoing in the now. It is something which is to be done repeatedly. Thirdly, it is passive. The conforming process presses on the individual squeezing them into a mold. They do not produce it. They are pressed on.

Putting it in other words, we are to stop allowing ourselves to be pressed continuously into the mold which the enemy has determined for us. We are to work at blocking his efforts to form us as he desires.

Let that sink in. The wicked, evil, vile, adversary of the King is continually taking advantage of the children of the King. He is skewing their minds, their emotions, their beliefs, and their actions.

How horrible is that?

The Greek word translated world is aion. Aion refers to the world system, the system of practices and standards of people devoid of the Father, the living God.

The world may be defined as follows: “All that floating mass of thoughts, opinions, maxims, speculations, hopes, impulses, aims, aspirations, at any time current in the world, which it may be impossible to seize and accurately define, but which constitute a most real and effective power, being the moral, or immoral atmosphere which at every moment of our lives we inhale, again inevitably to exhale, – all this is included in the aion (age) . . ., the subtle informing spirit of the kosmos or world of men who are living alienated and apart from God” (Trench).

The Greek word translated transformed ismetamorphoomai. Metamorphoomai means to change the essential form or nature of something; be transfigured, changed from the inside out. As the inner being changes, so does the outward expression.

This Greek verb is also a command. Paul is not offering a recommendation or suggestion. Secondly, it is also continuous action. It is something which is to be done repeatedly. And thirdly, it is passive. The person being transformed is not responsible for producing the transformation, rather they are receiving it.

Children of the King are not entirely passive. They cooperate by allowing the Holy Spirit to do His work within their hearts and lives. 

Butterflies are an excellent example of inner transformation, that is metamorphosis. The Monarch butterfly life cycle includes a series of developmental stages that insects go through to become adults. The most intriguing aspect of the transformation is when the pupa (the chrysalis) becomes an adult.

The caterpillar hangs from a suitable branch and sheds its skin and becomes a chrysalis. This final stage involves the wonderworking power of God’s intelligent design called metamorphosis. During this stage, the chrysalis is filled with amorphous goo. The monarch has no eyes and no antennae. It has no legs, and it cannot move. It is during this metamorphosis that major changes in body shape, size, and reorganization occur. The chrysalis effortlessly becomes an adult butterfly.

How does spiritual transformation occur? The Father renews the mind of every child of the King who allows Him to do so. The Greek word translated renewal

is anakainosis. Anakainosis is a renewing process that causes something to become new and different, with the implication of becoming superior. Rather than being conformed to the world which the enemy controls, we are conformed “more and more to that new spiritual world into which we have been introduced, and in which we now live and move” (trench).

Through this process, the Lord Jesus Christ becomes the center of our lives.

“The change of outward expression is dependent upon the renovation, the complete change for the better of the believer’s mental process. This is accomplished through the ministry of the indwelling Holy Spirit, who when definitely, and intelligently, and habitually yielded to puts sin out of the believer’s life and produces His own fruit. He does that by controlling the mental processes of the believer. It is the prescription of the apostle” (Wuest).

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Escape lanes

Escape lanes

Cling to your faith in Christ, and a good conscience. For some people have deliberately violated their consciences; as a result, their faith has been shipwrecked. – 1 Timothy 1:19

Romans 2:14-15 is

 14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves,

 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them,

The story is told of a group of twentysomethings returning from a weekend retreat that took place on a mountain at a 5500-foot high resort. The driver was not experienced with mountain driving, particularly going downhill. As he drove, he was “riding the brakes.” The brakes overheated and suddenly failed. There was no way to slow down the car and its speed began to pick up. It was only a matter of time until they would hit a curve that the car could not manage and it would fly off the road resulting in serious if not fatal injuries to the passengers.

The highway department was well aware of the dangers of downhill driving. It made provision for this eventuality: escape lanes. Escape lanes enable runaway vehicles with brake problems to stop safely.

They are typically long, sand-filled, or gravel-filled lanes connected to a steep downhill section of a main road. They are designed to accommodate cars, buses, and large trucks. When the vehicle pulls onto an escape lane, its kinetic energy is dissipated gradually in a controlled and virtually harmless way the vehicle stops safely without a violent crash. And so it was with the twentysomethings.

The Father has provided an escape lane for each child of the King. It is called conscience. The human conscience is both a warning device and a way of escape from danger. When our emotions, thoughts, or actions are inappropriate, the conscience issues a warning that something is not right. It is like a red flashing light indicating danger ahead.

The human conscience is not an accessory or an add-on. It is an essential part of the Father’s intelligent design of each child of the King.

Once the conscience warning light goes “off,” we have the choice of changing course or plowing ahead.

REFLECT & PRAY

“Be the master of your will and the slave of your conscience” (Hasidic Proverb)

Father thank You for providing my conscience. How many times has it saved me from grave danger? Help me to be ever more sensitive to its warnings. Increase my resolve to do the right thing.

INSIGHT

The English word conscience comes from the Latin word conscientem. It is formed from comwith” and scire to know. The English word conscience means to know with. Conscience is inner awareness.

The Greek word translated as conscience is syneidesis. Syneidesiscomes from the verb synoida. Which is made up of synwith and oida know. It literally means co-knowledge or to know with. We have within ourselves a perceptive awareness, an inner knowledge of right and wrong.

What is conscience? It is an immaterial aspect of each human being. It judges our actions and thoughts according to our internal standards. It declares them right or wrong, good or bad. It functions as both a prosecutor and judge. “The conscience is that innate faculty in a man’s spirit that attaches itself to the highest that the man knows” (Oswald Chambers).

The conscience is like a referee in a sport like basketball or football. It is constantly on alert for fouls or penalties, that is, violations of the rules of the game. It judges in light of the rules of the game that it has. Human standards change and vary over time and by location. The Father’s standards alone are absolute and never vary or change.

Although it is magnificently designed by the creator, the conscience has a few vulnerabilities: it can be seared, it can be violated, it can be ignored, or it can be improperly programmed with incorrect information.

“Most of us follow our conscience as we follow a wheelbarrow. We push it in front of us in the direction we want to go” (Billy Graham).

The conscience is similar to a thermometer. The thermometer indicates when you have a temperature, but it does not lower it. The conscience does not define standards. It applies internalized standards when making its judgments. The conscience indicates that a discrepancy exists. Using the thermometer analogy, we come into this world with a sense of oughtness, but it is blank. People program their conscience with the values, standards, and norms they acquire early in life. These values become the rules by which conscience is guided. The conscience reacts when internalized standards are violated.

Romans 2:15 Their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them.

The conscience is “a reflective mechanism by which people can measure their conformity to a norm” (Moo). It accuses and affirms our thoughts and actions based upon the norms that have been adopted and. It both commends and condemns. It is as though each of us has two different opposing identities inside. They evaluate the same things from different perspectives. One reproves while the other affirms. The conscience both accuses and excuses. This can be expressed, “sometimes their thoughts say, You did wrong, and sometimes their thoughts say, You did right” (UBS).

The story of the Two Wolves is a popular legend often attributed to the Cherokee people. This legend is a story of a grandfather using a metaphor of two wolves fighting within him to explain his inner conflicts to his grandson. When his grandson asks which wolf wins, the grandfather answers the one feed is the one that wins (Wikipedia).

Putting it in other terms, the conscience is an inner voice that says yes or no.  In modern terms, it’s like a toggle switch with only two values, OFF or ON. Assessments are made in light of the standard which is been embraced. Appropriate behavior which is in line with internal convictions is favored and encouraged.

A good conscience is informed by biblical values. Such a conscience can guide each child of the King appropriately. All children the King should have as a goal to develop a mature, godly conscience.

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Bonnie and Clyde ∙

Bonnie and Clyde

[Ahab] married Jezebel, the daughter of King Ethbaal of the Sidonians, and he began to bow down in worship of Baal. – 1 Kings 16:31

1 Kings 18:14-46  

 14 And now you say, “Go and tell your master, ‘Elijah is here.’”

 16 Ahab went out to meet Elijah.

 17 When Ahab saw him, he exclaimed, “So, is it really you, you troublemaker of Israel?”

 18 “I have made no trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “You and your family are the troublemakers, for you have refused to obey the commands of the LORD and have worshiped the images of Baal instead.”

Bonnie Elizabeth Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow were perhaps the most notorious American criminal couple of the twentieth century. They were known for their bank robberies and murders. While they preferred to rob small stores or rural gas stations, their criminal pursuits were bounded only by geography. Their gang swung in a circle skirting the edges of five midwestern states. They exploited a state “line rule” that prevented officers from pursuing a fugitive into another state’s jurisdiction. Their cagey escapades captured the hearts of much of the American public. They became the focus of the media from 1931 and 1934 during the Great Depression.

They did not hesitate to shoot anyone who got in their way, whether it was a police officer or an innocent civilian. At first, they were treated as folk heroes. But eventually, their cold-blooded murders turned the public against them. This ultimately led to their demise. They were killed in May 1934 during an ambush by law officers.

But Bonnie and Clyde had nothing on Ahab and Jezebel. Ahab and Jezebel were the most notorious husband and wife team in Scripture. Wickedness and idolatry marked their murderous and infamous reign. But their supreme sin was disavowing the worship of the Lord God Almighty. In its place, they substituted the worship of Baal. For the first time in the history of the northern kingdom, the worship of Yahweh was replaced with idolatry. “This represents a quantum leap in the history of apostasy” (Rice).

Paganism now reigned in Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom, Israel. The light of the Father’s truth was nearly extinguished. The prophets of God had contracts on their heads, compliments of Ahab and Jezebel. And the prophets had to flee for their lives. But Jezebel was not satisfied with going after the Father’s prophets, she wanted to exterminate all of His followers. Darkness overshadowed the land. This continued for 14 years until the Father raised up His prophetic challenge.

These were the days of Elijah!

Elijah, the prophet and servant of God was raised up, to directly confront and remove the darkness from the land. Often, he was fearless. He boldly confronted Ahab and reproved his sin.

What goes around comes around. The Father’s prophets had been targeted for extermination. But the Father had other plans. He put out contracts on the heads of the prophets of Baal. Elijah was sent to execute His judgment.

Elijah’s words and deeds are almost legendary.

REFLECT & PRAY

Ordinary people can do extraordinary things when the Father has their back.

Father thank You that even in the darkest times, You always have a plan.

INSIGHT

In the Old Testament, the prophets were referred to as God’s servants. They had many functions. Elijah was tasked to confront and overthrow. He was totally equipped for the job. Every time the Father’s power or authority was required, it was provided. When you read the stories of Elijah, you might be prompted to ask the question, “how can this possibly happen?” The answer would always be the same, “then a miracle occurred.”

But how? What was Elijah’s secret? It was all in his name, Elijah means “Yahweh is my God.” He stood in “The Presence.” Elijah stood before the Lord God Almighty whom he served (1 Kings 18:15). The Father’s power flowed through him. He was the channel, the conduit of the Father’s mighty, miraculous work on earth.

Can we be like Elijah? Absolutely! But that is a story for another day.

Was anything special about Elijah, the man? Was he a superhero? Did he accomplish his mission because he had superpowers? The Bible provides an unequivocal answer: No!

James 5:17 Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years!

After God had used him dramatically and powerfully, Jezebel’s threats panicked him, and he ran away like a frightened dog with its tail between its legs (1 Kings 19:1-3). Further, he was given to complaining and whimpering.

Romans 11:3 “LORD, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me, too.”

You have heard of “The gunfight at the OK corral.” But what about the firefight at Mount Carmel? The Father had arranged this mountaintop event as Elijah’s showdown with the pagan prophets, all 950 of them. It was the fight of the century, that is, the eighth century BC. Elijah challenged the pagan prophets to a public contest.

Before there was the NFL and trash talk, there was Elijah “smack talking” the prophets of Baal and Asherah. Elijah was the Y-team, Yahweh. His opponents were the A-team, 400 prophets of Asherah, and the B-team, 450 prophets of Baal. There was a total of 950 guys against only one! But Elijah, “Yahweh is my God,” had them surrounded. He had them exactly where he wanted them. Just remember, if Yahweh has your back, that is all you need!

All of the contestants arrived at Carmel. Elijah issued the challenge. It is quite simple really. An animal was laid on a wooden altar. No fire was provided. That task would be the responsibility of the one true God

1 Kings 18:14-46

Elijah laid out the ground rules. “Call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the LORD. The god who answers by setting fire to the wood is the true God!” (1 Kings 18:14).

1 Kings 18:25-29

 25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “You go first, for there are many of you.”

 26 So they prepared one of the bulls and placed it on the altar. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning until noontime, shouting, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no reply of any kind. Then they danced, hobbling around the altar they had made.

 27 About noontime Elijah began mocking them. “You’ll have to shout louder,” he scoffed, “for surely he is a god! Perhaps he is daydreaming or is relieving himself. Or maybe he is away on a trip or is asleep and needs to be wakened!”

 28 So they shouted louder, and following their normal custom, they cut themselves with knives and swords until the blood gushed out.

 29 They raved all afternoon until the time of the evening sacrifice, but still, there was no sound, no reply, no response.

It was now Elijah’s turn. He wanted everybody to be sure that he had no tricks up his sleeve. So he had the sacrifice and the altar totally drenched with water three times. All eyes were glued upon Elijah and the altar. What would happen next? Whose God is God?

1 Kings 18:36-38

 36 Elijah the prophet walked up to the altar and prayed, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, prove today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant. Prove that I have done all this at your command.

 37 O LORD, answer me! Answer me so these people will know that you, O LORD, are God and that you have brought them back to yourself.”

 38 Immediately the fire of the LORD flashed down from heaven and burned up the young bull, the wood, the stones, and the dust. It even licked up all the water in the trench!

1 Kings 18:39 And when all the people saw it, they fell face down on the ground and cried out, “The LORD – he is God! Yes, the LORD is God!”

The LORD – He is God! Yes, the LORD is God! The Lord God of Israel, the Almighty answered with fire from heaven.

About 3000 years later, it is said that Elijah was given a nickname. Of course, there is no way to verify this. But it is rumored that in the nation of Israel down to this day, some folks still call him Elijah-Houdini the prophet.

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Encouraging how? ∙

Encouraging how? ∙

There was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”). – Acts 4:36

1 Thessalonians 5:11-18

 11 So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.

 14 Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.

 15 See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.

 16 Always be joyful.

 17 Never stop praying.

 18 Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.

An encourager is literally one who “inspires with courage,” spirit, or hope, enheartens, stimulates, and motivates. An encourager is like a good sports coach who motivates players to believe in themselves and do their best. Good coaches play many roles: trainer, counselor, confidant, nurturer, guide, leader, mentor, shepherd, and tutor. Their purpose is to build character as well as develop talent.

Coach ‘Em Up, LLC is an Austin, Texas-based company providing year-round basketball and volleyball programs for elementary and middle school students in the Austin area. Belief in the positive influences of strong and accurate coaching and the understanding and importance of age-appropriate progression and teaching are the cornerstones of our business.

“Be an Encourager: When you encourage others, you boost their self-esteem, enhance their self-confidence, make them work harder, lift their spirits and make them successful in their endeavors. Encouragement goes straight to the heart and is always available. Be an encourager. Always” (Roy T. Bennett).

“Yelling at living things does tend to kill the spirit in them. Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will break our hearts . . .” (Robert Fulghum).

In our culture, we might say that an acorn does not fall far from the tree meaning that one is not that different from one’s parent. It can be expressed, “Kids are like their parents; a chip off the old block; like Father, like son”

In the Jewish culture, a similar concept is expressed by the phrase “son of.” It indicates the qualities or characteristics which distinguish a person.

Acts 4:36 Joseph was one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas, which means “Son of Encouragement.”

Perhaps, Barnabas was a natural born encourager, or perhaps he had the spiritual gift of encouragement. Regardless, he is referred to as “Son of Encouragement” or “Son of consolation” (Acts 4:36).

There’s an odd thing about the nickname Barnabas, which is not readily apparent on the surface. The Greek word for encourager or encouragement is parakletos. So we might expect his nickname to be “Barparakletos” not Barnabas. But Barnabas is not a Greek word; it is derived from Hebrew or Aramaic. Bar is the Hebrew word for son and nabas is a form of the Hebrew word for prophet.

This is even more confusing because prophets tend to be spokesman and confronters, not comforters. However, prophets are also comforters. Sometimes the Father gave them a mission to comfort people.

Isaiah 40:1-2

 1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem. Tell her that her sad days are gone, and her sins are pardoned.

When children of the King are born again, the Father sovereignly bestows spiritual gifts. A spiritual gift can be defined as an ability or talent to perform a given function with ease and teach others how to do the same thing. For example, Billy Graham had the gift of evangelism. It was easy for him to share the gospel with others. Yet, he also taught untold numbers of people how to do the work of an evangelist.

So perhaps what we see in Barnabas is a man transformed from a harsh, confrontive prophet, to a soft, tender, encouraging, comforting prophet.

Barnabas was known for his kindness and support of others (Acts 9:26-27; 11:22-26; 15:37). Barnabas thus embodies the ideal of a servant-leader. In so doing, he shows that he is indeed a true follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, who was the perfect servant-leader.

The apostle Paul exhorts each child of the King, to encourage and comfort others.

1 Thessalonians 4:18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Rather than tear down people, criticize them, judge them, yell at them or threaten them, we should make it our goal and purpose to “coach ‘em up.”

REFLECT & PRAY

Is there any reason to doubt that son of encouragement, was encouraged by the Father Himself? Just think what it would be like to be “coached up” by the Father through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Father encourage me to be an encourager and encourage others in the same way as You have encouraged me.

INSIGHT

Perhaps there is some encouragement here for each of us. None of us are stuck with what we were born. It is possible for the Father to do something that is not natural or normal. He is able to transform an individual’s personality from the inside out. We have the freedom and ability to allow the Father to do just that for each of us. We are capable of becoming whatever the Father wants us to be.

Consider John and his brother James. Early in the Gospels, they were known as the sons of thunder (Mark 3:17). They were easily angered and known for their zeal and ambition. They were demanding, fiery, intolerant, brash, reckless, unyielding, and impetuous. They were ready and willing to call down fire on the Samaritans. ​

Luke 9:54-56

 54 When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”

 55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of;

 56 for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”

How amazing, this same John became known as the Apostle of Love

We see a transformation in John as the beloved disciple. His gospel overflows with his love for the Lord Jesus Christ. His epistles even more so. He certainly did not start out loving and caring. His love was not the product of nature, but rather nurture. He acquired it from time spent with the Lord Jesus Christ on earth and decades of walking with Him. The perfect servant-leader coached ‘em up.

James 1:19-20

 19 But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;

 20 for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

Treat a man as he is, and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be (Stephen R. Covey).

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Such a deal

Such a deal

Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk Without money and without cost. – Isaiah 55:1

Isaiah 55:1-6

 1 “Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink – even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk – it’s all free!

 2 Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength? Why pay for food that does you no good? Listen to me, and you will eat what is good. You will enjoy the finest food.

 3 “Come to me with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life. I will make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.

 6 Seek the LORD while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near.

For over 70 years, the then high-rise Church of the Open Door, stood in downtown Los Angeles, California, at 550 S. Hope St. Atop this substantial building were three-story-tall signs that read JESUS SAVES. Below the massive signs were much smaller signs which simply read Free Food.

People came to the church building for the Free Food.

Sometimes the word of God makes statements in the way that are intended to make us think. And so, it is with Isaiah 55:1. It is intentionally provocative. People who have no money are to come, buy and eat. Isaiah repeats himself, come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.

How can you buy something that is free? The simple answer is you can’t. The more complicated answer is that somebody must pay for it, it’s just not you!

Two primary needs for survival are food and drink. What price would we be willing to pay if we were in desperate need of them? On the other hand, if we were offered free food and drink, would we take it? The answer is some would and some would not.

The Father has provided all children of the King something so costly, that they could never afford it. He Himself already paid for it. And now He offers it for free. The point is that the food and drink are free. The Father has provided them in abundance. They are ready for the taking. To receive them, all that is required is an open hand. Such a deal.

Hunger and thirst are physical realities we all experience. Similarly, spiritual hunger and thirst are also realities. They are deep longings within that are often never satisfied. That is what the Father is addressing through Isaiah. The Father has made provision for the deepest longings of our hearts, our spiritual hunger and thirst have already been made available. All expenses have been paid for in full. But it is totally free to anyone who wants it. I need only take it.

REFLECT & PRAY

Hunger and thirst are not A problem but an opportunity.

Father I recognize my deep inward spiritual hunger and thirst. I am confident that You have provided for me. Encourage me to find the nourishment and satisfaction that You have made available. Thank You that the cost is been paid in full.

INSIGHT

John 6:35 Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.

John 7:37-39

 37 Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink.”

 38 “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”

 39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

We are invited to receive what we desperately need yet cannot earn or afford.

Yet the Father’s magnificent and abundant provision comes with both urgency and irony.

Isaiah 55:6 Seek the LORD while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near.

Since the Father’s offer, He is free to withdraw it. Therefore, we should not be reckless and delay. The offer is always for TODAY, never TOMORROW. When the Father’s offer is made, it is foolish to reject it. The opportunity may be canceled at any moment.

Hebrews 4:7 So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today. . . “Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts.”

To obey the Father is to bless yourself; to disobey Him is to curse yourself (Stanley).

Why would somebody turn down a free gift? The answer is observed in the history of the Exodus generation that left Egyptian bondage under the leadership of Moses. When they arrived at the promised land, it was free for the taking. But they refused it. They hardened their hearts against the free gift that the Father offered them. They did not get a second chance. Rather they returned to the wilderness and wandered around until they all died. Joshua and Caleb survived. They alone returned to the promised land. They went in and took possession of the free gift that had been offered to them 40 years earlier.

It’s easy to say, “If it were me, I wouldn’t have hardened my heart!” Really? Don’t be too hasty to judge that stubborn and defiant generation. How often do you refuse to follow the Father’s instructions? Do you not harden your heart?

Hebrews 3:12-13

 12 Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God.

 13 You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.

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Be excellent ∙

Be excellent

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself using his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. – 2 Peter 1:3-4

Philippians 1:6-10

 6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

 7 So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart . . .

 8 God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.

 9 I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.

 10 For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.

What is excellence? Excellence is a talent or quality which is unusually good and surpasses ordinary standards. “Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way” (Booker T. Washington).

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well” (Martin Luther King Jr.).

When we accept the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, the Father adopts us as His dear children into His Forever Family. It does not matter what has come before. All things have been forgiven and washed clean. We begin a new journey in life. Our goal is to seek to know our new Father and please and honor Him with our lives.

Every child of the King should aspire and set as their goal excellence. Why? Because the Father is excellent. He is excellent in all that He is and all that He does. Excellence is part of the essence, nature, and character of the Father.

Psalms 150:2 Praise Him for His mighty deeds; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.

We are to praise Him according to His excellent greatness (Psalms 150:2). His excellent greatness is the why of our praise and worship. The phrase excellent greatness could be translated unequaled greatness, surpassing greatness, absolute greatness. No one is so magnificent, so wonderful as the Father (John G. Butler)

The Hebrew word translated excellent is rov. It means plentiful, abundant, much, many, great. It is a term of superlative magnitude. Our motivation as children of the King is to follow after HHHHim and aspire to superlative excellence.

The Father is faithful to finish what He starts. Once we accept the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, the Father begins work of sanctification. We are to aim for nothing less than superlative excellence, mediocrity simply will not do.

REFLECT & PRAY

The Father has started us on a new path. We no longer have to look over our shoulders at what we have done wrong. Rather we are to look forward to the good that we will do. It is the Father Himself who has begun a good work in us, and He will continue it from now on.

Father I want to set new goals. I no longer want to just get by. I want to be excellent. I recognize my knowledge is like that of a small child, partial, and incomplete. Please encourage and enable me to grow up and develop broad, in-depth, mature knowledge and discernment that come only from You.

INSIGHT

How do we achieve excellence? Research has identified habits that are characteristic of people who achieve excellence. In the words of Aristotle, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit.”

Habits are not inherited, rather they are developed and cultivated. People who achieve excellence exhibit the following habits

Have a goal or vision to fulfill.

They have a clearly defined end game in mind. If they did not have an end goal, they could not achieve it.  

Identify what you love

When we do what we love, we have deep energy reserves to tap into day after day. The hunger to excel is heightened when you do something you love.

Work harder than anyone else

Make use of every moment

Every moment counts so, therefore they deploy effective time management strategies. 

Work to attain desired results

The only real limit they face is themselves.

Relentlessly upgrade and improve yourself

There is always something that can be improved and done better. Learning never stops.

People who strive for excellence are continuously reading and learning. They expose themselves to new knowledge, new perspectives, new ideas, new people, new skills, and contexts.

Continually ask for feedback and critiques

Blind spots lurk within each of us. We cannot improve what we are unaware of.

Strive to be the best at what you do.

They try to provide the best value and quality possible. Aiming for just getting by does not cut it.

In your quest for excellence, perform repeated objective self-checks along the way. Be prepared to begin anew as needed. Be ready to acquire the necessary knowledge and additional insight.

Time to get to work.

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Endurance with endorphins

Endurance with endorphins

Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. – Hebrews 10:36

2 Corinthians 4:16-18

 16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.

 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!

 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

What is endurance? Physical endurance is the ability to strain, struggle, and push oneself for a longer than average period. It includes the ability to resist, withstand, recover from trauma, wounds, or fatigue. Physical endurance may be increased by focused exercise. Increasing the number of repetitions and the speed at which they are done is a training regimen for improved endurance.

Increased endurance releases endorphins which decrease anxiety, depression, and stress and provide greater peace and confidence, as well as improve mood and outlook.

Endurance is not merely part of the physical realm; it has a spiritual and emotional component as well. Spiritual endurance enables us to overcome difficult situations and adversities. Interestingly, in psychology, this is referred to as “grit.” Grit is a positive outlook. When mixed with enthusiastic passion, overcoming obstacles or challenges becomes routine. All children of the King can grow in their spiritual grit.

There is an interesting paradox at work in connection with endurance. Physical endurance and strength inevitably diminish. In fact, everything that makes us human tends to wear down and wear out with age. There is one singular exception: the human spirit.

“All through life, inevitably, our physical strength fades away; but all through life it ought to happen that our souls keep growing. The sufferings which leave us with weakened bodies may be the very things which strengthen our inner selves. . .. From the physical point of view, life may be a slow but inevitable slipping down the slope that leads to death. But, from the spiritual point of view, life is climbing up the hill that leads to the presence of God. No one need fear the years, for they bring us nearer, not to death, but to God” (Barclay).

This is precisely what 2 Corinthians 4:16,18 speaks of. Barclay translates these two verses as follows: “That is the reason why we do not grow weary. But if indeed our outward frame is wasting away, our inward self is renewed day by day . . .. so long as we do not think of the things which are seen, but of the things which are unseen, for the things which are seen are passing, but the things which are unseen are eternal.”

With a bit of humor, it is clear that some physical realities do not change with age. “Age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of having a scoop of ice cream fall from the cone” (Jim Fiebig). “Age is a question of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter” (Satchel Paige).

REFLECT & PRAY

“In all the gospel story, Jesus never foretold his death without foretelling his resurrection” (Barclay). The worst of what we experience is overshadowed by the best of what lies ahead.

Father increase my endurance that I may face the vicissitudes of life as an overcomer. I want to see the invisible, the unseen reality that lasts forever.

INSIGHT

Consider for a moment. Realities of the immaterial world, unseen things, things of heaven, last forever. However, things that are seen, the things of the material world, cease and are no more.

Thus that Paul exhorts us to fix our eyes not on the things that are seen but on the things that are unseen.

2 Corinthians 4:18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

The Greek word translated as fix or look is skopeo. The English word scope is derived from skopeo. Skopeo means to pay careful attention to, watch carefully, contemplate. The use of the English word look is a rather weak translation of the verb used here. It carries the idea of ‘focus one’s attention on’ or ‘keep one’s eye on’” (UBS). But how can we focus and fix our eyes on something invisible? The answer, we cannot!

That is the point. So it’s not seeing with our physical eyes but rather seeing with our minds, our spiritual eyes. The following renderings capture the sense, ‘‘‘to let one’s mind dwell on,’ ‘to keep one’s mind on,’ ‘to keep thinking about,’ ‘to focus one’s attention on’” (Abernathy).

The NLT rendered it “we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.” Our focus should be on things that are not seen with the naked eye. “Mere physical vision is not intended here: ‘we keep our minds on . . ..’ This is especially appropriate since one cannot ‘look’ at ‘things that are not seen’” (UBS).

Pause for a moment and absorb what Paul is saying. We are to “see” with our spirits, with the eyes of our hearts that which cannot be seen with our physical eyes.

Thus rather than focus on temporary, transient matters which turn to dust, we fix our “eyes” on things that are eternal and last forever.

Paul experienced repeated suffering and affliction. Of course, he was not alone. Many children of the King were traumatized and cruelly dealt with in the first century. Paul’s answer is not to focus on the horizontal, that which is seen with human eyes. But rather we fix our attention on the vertical, what we see with the eyes of our hearts. Paul’s concentration is on the future and not the present. For Paul, through faith, the future is now.

Hebrews 12:1 let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.

Hebrews 10:36 Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. you will receive all that he has promised.

Paul had it figured out. He shows us the way to peace amid difficult times. Life can be viewed in one of two ways. It can be viewed as a slow but inexorable journey away from God. This is a common and natural orientation of those who think only of the visible things. They are bound to see life in this way.

But there is another way. Moses kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible (Hebrews 11:27).

In the same way, that physical endurance can be developed over time, so can spiritual endurance. How? A paradigm shift is required. We are to move away from looking and being consumed by what is going on around us. In its place, we learn to focus on the invisible, the eternal, the future reality which belongs to every child of the King.

Hebrews 12:27 All of creation will be shaken and removed so that only unshakable things will remain.

Consider the heady and profound philosophy of Peanuts. “You can’t hurry love or pizza. Especially pizza” (Snoopy).

“Learn from yesterday, live for today, look to tomorrow, rest this afternoon” (Charlie Brown).

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I think I hear ∙

I think I hear ∙

Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts. – Hebrews 4:7

John 10:14-28

 14 I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me,

 15 just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep.

 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me.

Effective communication requires more than the exchange of information. It involves not only listening with our ears. But also requires making an active effort to comprehend what we hear. Understanding the message is essential. Prophets have control over their own spirits. It is also important that the bearer of the message slow down and take time to be certain that hearers not only hear the words but also understood them.

1 Corinthians 14:32 The spirits of prophets are subject to prophets.

If the hearers do not understand, communication has not occurred.

On the other hand, the hearers are not passive, but active. They are to engage in active listening. Active listening involves empathy, that is, putting yourself in the position of others. Without being judgmental, empathy is seeing things from point of view of others. Empathy includes affirming body language. Often all it takes is a warm countenance, a friendly smile, and good eye contact. A bit of encouragement goes a long way in allowing the other person to feel understood, respected, and valued.

Excellent communication with the Father begins with our personal relationship with Him. To hear Him, we must know Him.

Our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ begins when we hear His voice and respond in faith and come to Him (John 10:27-28). Once we have come to Him, the lines of communication are thrown wide open. As we continue to hear His voice, our relationship with Him deepens.

Sadly there are times when we draw back and harden our hearts. The brakes go on and communication skids to a halt.

Hebrews 4:7 Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts.

To maintain a vibrant and growing relationship, it is incumbent upon us to keep the lines of communication open.

REFLECT & PRAY

Active listening and comprehension require a bit of flexibility. No procedure or methodology is set in concrete. Expect the unexpected. Be ready and alert.

Father encourage and enable me not just to hear, but also to actively listen, comprehend, and take appropriate action.

INSIGHT

Hebrews 1:1-2

 1 Long ago God spoke many times and in many different ways to our ancestors through the prophets.

 2 And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son, he created the universe.

The Father because of His great love and compassion, desires to communicate with the children of the King. He has done so in a multitude of ways over the millennia. There is no formula that He is bound by. The Father has not placed Himself into a box. He has used many different modalities and styles, as well as individuals of diverse backgrounds, professions, education, and training.

In the Old Testament, the Father sometimes spoke directly to people: Adam (Genesis 3:9-19), Noah (Gen 6:13 – 9:17), Abraham (Gen 12:1-3, 7), to Moses (Exodus 33:11), Samuel (1 Samuel 3:2-14), and others. On various occasions, the message came through angels. For example, this is how he communicated to Hagar (Gen 16:7-12), to Lot (Gen 19:1-22), to Manoah (Judges 13:2-23), and others. The Father frequently spoke through dreams and visions.

Sometimes the communication process was totally unexpected, even astonishing: a whirlwind (Job 38:1), a burning bush (Exodus 3:1-2), a talking donkey (Numbers 22:28-35), a still small voice (1 Kings 19:13).

During the Old Testament period, the Father’s primary means of communication was through His servants the prophets (2 Kings 17:23; 21:10; 24:2; Jeremiah 25:4; Daniel 9:10; Amos 3:7; Hosea 12:10). In New Testament, along with prophets, He spoke through apostles and ultimately His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Father used people to reveal His truth to the world. The process was initiated and carried out by the Holy Spirit. The Father communicated directly and personally with each of His messengers. The written Word of God is the product of His working through people.

2 Peter 1:20-21

 20 Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding,

 21 or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.

An example of this personal interaction is seen in the Book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah “heard” from the Father. The Father put on Nehemiah’s heart what He wanted him to do. The Father prompted, directed, and guided Nehemiah.

Nehemiah 2:12 I didn’t tell anyone what my God had laid on my heart to do for Jerusalem.

A commonly asked question among the children of the King is, “How can I hear from God?”

What does it mean to listen to the Father? Nehemiah offers a glimpse. He records how the Father spoke to him. Nehemiah provides the Who and the what, but not the how. Remarkably and unseen, the Father formed a plan in Nehemiah’s heart and mind. The Father placed thoughts, ideas, feelings, and a strategy into His servant Nehemiah.

Perhaps, like any good planner, the Father outlined the major steps of the task, and then as needed, filled in the blanks. The Father had Nehemiah’s back and continued to involve Himself in the step-by-step everyday challenges.

Guided with the Father’s thoughts and plans, Nehemiah went on a nighttime fact-finding mission to reconnoiter the lay of the land. Then at the right time, the perfect time, the Father’s plan set in motion. As a result, Nehemiah was able to rebuild the wall in record time, while simultaneously fending off enemy combatants.

When the Father speaks, listen.

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What’s in your diet – knowledge or trash? ∙

What’s in your diet – knowledge or trash? ∙

A wise person is hungry for knowledge, while the fool feeds on trash. – Proverbs 15:14

Proverbs 15:9-17

 9 The LORD detests the way of the wicked, but he loves those who pursue godliness.

 10 Whoever abandons the right path will be severely disciplined; whoever hates correction will die.

 11 Even Death and Destruction hold no secrets from the LORD. How much more does he know the human heart!

 12 Mockers hate to be corrected, so they stay away from the wise.

 14 A wise person is hungry for knowledge, while the fool feeds on trash.

 15 For the despondent, every day brings trouble; for the happy heart, life is a continual feast.

 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.

Early in the history of agriculture, sheep, goats, and cattle were domesticated by nomadic peoples.

Besides being an obvious of food and clothing, etc., what motivated the domestication of animals? Early humans were the first ecologists. Most available land could not support growing crops. But it was suitable for grazing domesticated animals. Thus it was all about the intelligent use of available land. Livestock grazing provides food and other valuable resources. The same is true today. It is estimated that 85% of grazing land in the United States is not suitable for growing and sustaining crops.

When applied to domesticated animals, grazing is a feeding strategy that allows the animals to roam freely and eat basically whatever they want. Throughout the day the animals eat small amounts of food here and there. It is by its very nature haphazard and unplanned. The animals simply follow their noses.

Modern people with an abundance of food and time on their hands have also developed grazing for food habits. Some might call it snacking. Americans simply love to snack. Being homebound and sheltering in place, increased the amount of grazing. As a result of the overconsumption of calories, many emerged larger than ever.

But people also graze spiritually. People simply roam about day after day chewing a little bit here and a little bit there on whatever spiritual nourishment, or the lack thereof is available. Sadly, spiritual nutrition is often lacking. Little is found in the way of solid food or meat. There is no particular strategy. Instead of seeking good “pasture” and nourishing spiritual food, people just simply roam about and nibble on whatever is readily available. They become spiritual junk food junkies. They feed on folly and often do not know it.

Proverbs 15:14 The mind of the intelligent seeks knowledge, But the mouth of fools feeds on folly.

Some seek knowledge and wisdom, others feed on folly or trash. Both verbs are actually agricultural terms. A shepherd seeks good pastures for his flock, but fools feed on folly. “The most knowledgeable people never stop in their pursuit of knowledge. The mouths of fools chew vacantly on foolishness. ‘The wise grow wiser, the foolish more dense’” (MacDonald).

The Hebrew verb translated feed is raah. It normally refers only to animals such as goats and cows that eat fodder in the field. Grazing animals randomly roam about and haphazardly rummage, scrounge, and munch on grass or fodder. Grazing is not purposeful or selective and does not require serious thought or effort.

In the 21st century, the agricultural idiom of grazing has been superseded by digital grazing. Grazing has become smartphone gazing. Social media and digital resources have become our new sources of fodder. Once again, we follow our noses like sheep or cattle and consume great quantities of digital fodder. But spiritual nutrients are sorely lacking.

Do we put in time or effort to acquire nourishment from the word of God?

REFLECT & PRAY

“Man becomes what he thinks about all day long” (Ralph Waldo Emerson). Our souls and spirits are shaped by what we let in.

Father encourage me to rearrange my priorities and not spend my time randomly chewing whatever fodder I encounter.

INSIGHT

Our physical bodies have natural requirements to sustain life. Among them are air, food, and water. What of our souls and spirits? What sustains and nourishes the human spirit? Fools have an appetite for folly. The wise and thoughtful hunger for knowledge.

Do you desire to live wisely and well? The book of Proverbs is filled with pithy reflections on the right priorities and skills for living. These pithy observations are written in Hebrew poetry. Often, they are written in pairs called couplets. These couplets rhyme not in sound but rather in thought.

One type of couplet is synonymous. Two lines state essentially the same thing. The second line uses different words or images. For example: Whoever abandons the right path will be severely disciplined; whoever hates correction will die. – Proverbs 15:10

Another type of poetic couplet is antithetical. The second line contrasts with the first. For example, A wise person is hungry for knowledge, while the fool feeds on trash. – Proverbs 15:14

In this example, what thoughts are contrasted? The subjects are polar opposites: the wise, intelligent, or prudent versus the foolish, stupid, or dullard. The verbs are very dissimilar: thoughtful seeking versus haphazard feeding or grazing. The “food” consumed is totally antithetical: wisdom or knowledge versus foolishness or trash.

The wise seek knowledge. They “want to learn” and “desire instruction.” What do fools crave? For what do they hunger? Rather than wisdom and knowledge, they gorge themselves on folly and trash.

This proverb is intentionally edgy and harsh. It is deliberately irritating and provocative. It is designed to cause us to pause and reflect.

How do we spend our time? What do we seek? What do we hunger for? What do we choose to chew on? Are we truly satisfied? Are our spirits nurtured?

Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Psalms 119:103 How sweet your words taste to me; they are sweeter than honey.

What a shame to settle for spiritual junk food, when a gourmet spiritual banquet is available for every child of the King.

How is your diet coming?

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Getting lost

Getting lost

All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. – Isaiah 53:6

Luke 15:4-7

 4 If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?

 5 And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders.

 6 When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’

 7 In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!

Ever since the receding waters of the flood, mariners have sailed the sea. Of course, navigating the oceans and seas was fraught with dangers: ferocious storms, shoals, reefs, fog, doldrums, lack of fresh water, sea monsters [only kidding]. But the greatest danger that seafarers faced was getting lost. Enter the idea of latitudes and longitudes.

Visualize for a moment a line that passes between the South Pole and the North Pole. The equator is an imagined line perpendicular to that line. Latitudes are imagined horizontal lines spanning the earth between the poles parallel to the equator forming imaginary circles. Some of the latitudes are well known such as the Arctic Circle and the Antarctic Circle. By the year 1700, finding a latitude, a North-South location, at sea had become routine. This was not so for longitudes.

Longitudes are imagined vertical lines parallel to one another. They designate one’s East-West position and are analogous to latitudes that designate one’s North-South position. In the 1700s there was no way to determine one’s longitude. It was called “the longitude problem.” For centuries scientists tried to solve this problem but failed. Great minds from Galileo to Sir Isaac Newton sought an astronomical answer from the heavens above to no avail.

John Harrison, a clockmaker and carpenter by trade, with the stroke of genius, conceived a mechanical solution, a clock that would keep precise time at sea. He invented and perfected the marine chronometer. It allowed sailors to calculate longitude while at sea. He revolutionized navigation and long-distance exploration. John Harrison stood alone and solved the greatest scientific problem of his time: being lost at sea. There was no longer any reason for sailors to be lost.

When sailors are lost, they know it, not so the rest of humankind. The Scriptures are quite clear. Every person is born lost, that is separated from the Father. The Father has assigned the quest of “becoming found” to each person before they die.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God

How does one cease to be lost and become “found?” People tried in vain to come up with a solution on their own. Over the millennia, people have conceived a multitude of possible ways. The religions of the world are full of them. But regrettably, none of these man-made solutions work.

The Father, from the heavens above, has a more excellent way.

REFLECT & PRAY

Mankind seeks answers, the Father seeks mankind.

Father thank You for conceiving a way for lost human sheep to become found. Thank You that when the Lord Jesus Christ spoke and I heard His voice. I came and He gave me eternal life.

INSIGHT

The Lord Jesus Christ came into the world for the very purpose of rescuing lost humanity from their separation from the Father. “Jesus becomes the instrument through whom God works. Jesus’ mission is to initiate relationships with those who do not know God and call to them to come to know him” (Bock).

Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.

Being lost is simply defined as being separated from the Father. Although people do have eternity in their hearts and a resultant longing, pang of emptiness, and desire for more, they do not self-identify this as being “lost.” They may ask, “Is that all there is?” But they have no real answers. To find answers requires that you ask the right questions. They do not recognize their innate problem of sin.

Luke 5:31-32

 31 Healthy people don’t need a doctor – sick people do.

 32 I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent.

Sailors lost in the vast oceans and seas; know they are doomed. People who are lost in the sea of humanity, have little or no awareness of their condition.

Thus the Father takes the initiative. The Lord Jesus Christ was sent to provide salvation and eternal life.

John 10:10 I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

When His words are proclaimed and heard, for those who are His sheep, it awakens and clarifies their sense of need. They go from being in a lost slumber to lost awakeness. The numbness of stupefying slumber is removed. They become seekers. When His voice is heard, His sheep come to Him.

John 10:27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

The separation from the Father is breached.

John 10:28-29

 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me,

 29 for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.

Each now has eternal life. Eternal life is the present possession of every child of the King. It lasts forever and it can never be taken away. We are safe and secure. There is no room for doom or gloom for any child of the King.

1 Peter 2:25 Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.

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Minor characters

Minor characters

I, Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the Lord. – Romans 16:22

Philippians 2:20-22

 20 I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare.

 21 All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ.

 22 But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with me in preaching the Good News.

Hardly anyone knows who Edward Kimball was. He certainly does not have his own Wikipedia page. For the world, he was an unknown man who lived in Boston in the 1850s. Seemingly, he is also a minor character in the history of the kingdom of God in 19th century America.

But the fact of the matter is, there are no minor characters in the kingdom of God. No children of the King are minor characters to the King Himself. Each is precious and the Father has kingdom work for every one of them.

Indeed Kimball was no minor character.  Through his acts of kindness and genuine concern for students, he leaps off of the pages of history. He left a legacy which actually changed the world. As a Sunday School teacher, he loved to encourage and share the message with his students of what the Lord Jesus Christ did for them on the cross.

On April 21, 1855, Kimball went to the Holton’s Shoe in Boston to share the love of Christ with one of his students. This particular Sunday school student had shown little interest in God or the Christian faith. He found the teenager in a back room wrapping shoes. The young man listened carefully to what he had to say. On that day, he became a child of the King. Later he reflected, “I had not felt that I had a soul till then.” The young man recalled, “I was in a new world. The birds sang sweeter, the sun shone brighter. I’d never known such peace.”

He immediately began sharing his new faith with others. His family wanted nothing to do with his new beliefs. Undaunted, he went searching for young men like himself and shared his new faith with them. When he wanted to join the church, he was not accepted at first. Why? He was asked what Christ had done for him and being rather nervous he simply replied that he was not “aware of anything particular.” But eventually, things got straightened out.

That boy was D. L. Moody. Moody became one of the most prolific evangelists of the 19th century. It is estimated that he talked to 100 million people.

But that is only part of the story, the rest is even more amazing. Through his influence, F.B. Meyer became a child of the King and a chain of faith began. Through F. B. Meyer, J. Wilbur Chapman became a child of the King. In turn, Chapman influenced Billy Sunday, a prominent 20th-century evangelist. Through the work of Billy Sunday, Mordecai Ham became a child of the King. Mordecai Ham became a preacher and evangelist. Through his efforts, in 1934, he led another young man to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ: Billy Graham.

Sometimes very minor characters in the eyes of the world, play major roles in the kingdom of God. Edward Kimball’s story reminds us to never underestimate the result of sharing the love of the Lord Jesus Christ with just one person. His Word never returns void (Isaiah 55:11)!

Ponder for a moment and play the “what if” game. What would have happened if, on that April day in 1855, Edward Kimball did not follow the Father’s leading and decided he had better things to do?

Minor characters are nothing of the sort in the kingdom of God. Each child of the King is a work of art, a masterpiece that demonstrates for all time and eternity the grace of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

REFLECT & PRAY

There are no minor characters in the kingdom of God.

Father remind me again and again that I am precious in Your sight and You have kingdom work for me to do.

INSIGHT

Who are some New Testament “minor characters,” that are nothing of the sort?

First there is the writer of the book of Romans. Paul of course was the author of Romans, but he was not actually the writer. Rather Tertius wrote it.

Romans 16:22 I, Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the Lord.

In the first century, some individuals were professional writers, scribes. They were much like modern-day stenographers who use shorthand to take down the words of someone else. Many modern-day secretaries also play this role. They are called upon to “take letters.” Someone else dictates the message, and they write it down.

In the first century, scribal assistants were commonly employed to write down the words and thoughts of another. This person was called an amanuensis. The otherwise unknown Tertius is actually the writer of Paul’s magnum opus, the magnificent book of Romans. Not too bad for a “minor character!”

In the 21st century, now more than ever, post-COVID, it is hard to get good help. But it has always been so. Paul had a particular problem with this. Many people attended to his needs, helping him, providing comfort and aid. But he had only one go-to person.

Philippians 2:20-21

 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.

 21 All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ.

Wow! Most folks don’t realize that extreme self-concern, self-absorption, a.k.a. narcissism, is referenced in the Bible. But according to Paul, lots of people are like that. Timothy on the other hand was the exception. He was one of the many ordinary minor characters, who was in fact, extraordinary.

What made Timothy extraordinary? The Greek word that is translated no one like him, kindred spirit, like-minded is isopsuchos. This is an extremely rare word and it is only used once in the New Testament. Isopsuchos comes from isosequal and psuchesoul, mind. It has the sense, to be activated by the same motives, of like character, like-minded. It could be literally translated “like-souled.”  

Paul is saying that at the deepest level, he and Timothy share something that Paul does not share with anyone else. You might say in colloquial English, “they were cut from the same piece of cloth.”

On the one hand, Paul and Timothy had the same passion and saw things the same way. They shared the same concerns and had the same priorities. And when it comes to other people, both of them were genuinely concerned about their welfare. They put others before themselves.

On the other hand, Paul is saying he could count onTimothy like no one else. He is certain that Timothy shared his deep concerns of heart and would carry out his wishes. “In some languages who shares my feelings is best rendered “who shares one heart with me.’ In other languages, one may say ‘he has my heart and mind,’ ‘he thinks the same in his heart as I do,’ or ‘my thoughts are his thoughts’” (UBS).

Putting it in other terms, there was no one as close to Paul as Timothy was. They were not like brothers, nor were they like best friends, rather they were bonded together like father and son. How many people have the luxury of such a wonderful friend, mate, or companion? Very few!

The practical outworking of this relationship was that when Paul could not go himself, he can count on Timothy to go in his place. It would be as though Paul went himself.

“Others might be consumed with selfish ambition, but Timothy’s one desire was to serve Paul and Jesus Christ. He is the patron saint of all those who are quite content with second place, as long as they can serve” (Barclay).

Timothy models for us, what we should aspire to be in our walk with the Father. He is the consummate “minor character.”

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Inabilities

Inabilities

“My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. – 2 Corinthians 12:9

Exodus 3:10-15

 10 Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.

 11 But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?”

 12 God answered, “I will be with you. And this is your sign that I am the one who has sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this very mountain.”

 13 But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?”

 14 God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you.”

 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob – has sent me to you. This is my eternal name, my name to remember for all generations.”

In the 19th century, a young child of the King heard a Bible teacher say, “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man who is totally surrendered to Him.” That young man was Dwight L Moody. He said to himself, “I want to be that man.” Moody became one of the greatest evangelists of his day.

When the seeking eyes of the Father found Moody, He found a man whose “availability” far exceeded his “ability.” But Moody’s ability mattered not at all. Because the Father can do a lot with very little, if He has it all.

D.L. Moody had a 5th-grade education. Moody was born in 1837 in Northfield, MA. When his father died at the age of 41, he left his widow in poverty. Mrs. Moody tried to keep her family of nine children not only together, but together in Sunday School.

Moody became a successful shoe salesman by the age of 17. On the night of April 21, 1855, Edward Kimball, his Sunday school teacher, asked Moody to commit his life to Christ in the back room of the shoe store. Moody accepted Christ as his Savior and Lord.

Moody was severely limited with the English language. He could not spell correctly and his grammar was in a word, atrocious. People were appalled when they heard him speak. As a layman, the first time he stood up to speak as a young man, one of the deacons suggested that although his zeal was noteworthy, his greatest service to the Father would be to simply keep quiet.

Another naysayer pleaded with him to recognize how severe his limitations were. He said, “You make too many mistakes in grammar.” He listened with patience and replied, “I know I make mistakes, and I lack many things, but I’m doing the best I can with what I’ve got.” He then quietly looked at the disparager and pointedly asked, “Look here, friend, you’ve got grammar enough. What are you doing with it for the Master?”

The Father is always looking for children of the King who will overlook their limitations, and choose to take what they have and commit it in service to Him.

Ezekiel 22:30 I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap in the wall so I wouldn’t have to destroy the land, but I found no one.

REFLECT & PRAY

“Before we pray that God would fill us, I believe we ought to pray Him to empty us” (D.L. Moody).

Father when I look at my own ability, I recognize how little is possible. But when I look at Your ability, I realize that all things are possible.

INSIGHT

When Moses saw the burning bush, he was at first curious and then entranced. He was irresistibly drawn to the burning flame, like a moth to bright light.

Exodus 3:2-4

 2 Moses stared in amazement. Though the bush was engulfed in flames, it didn’t burn up.

 3 “This is amazing,” Moses said to himself. “Why isn’t that bush burning up? I must go see it.”

 4 When the LORD saw Moses coming to take a closer look, God called to him from the middle of the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

The Father gave Moses the greatest task on earth since the time of the flood. It was seemingly impossible for Noah to build the ark according to the Father’s specifications, but he did it anyway. No one had ever built anything like it. Noah was not an engineer, nor a carpenter, but it didn’t matter at all. He was energized and enabled by the greatest intelligent designer and carpenter that ever lived.

Hebrews 11:7 It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before.

Like Noah, the Father asked Moses to do something that was seemingly impossible. Moses was quite intimidated, overwhelmed in fact. He could not imagine any scenario in which he would be able to free the Hebrew people from Egyptian bondage. What power on earth could ever conquer mighty Egypt and free the Hebrew slaves? Surely not one man with only a shepherd’s staff, the sandals on his feet, and the clothes on his back.

Moses didn’t just question the Father, he argued with Him. Surely the Father had the wrong guy. He could not do any of the things that the Father asked of him. He had no ability whatsoever, and he knew it.

He sounded like a motorboat: but, but, but.

Exodus 3:10-15

 10 Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.

 11 But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?”

 12 God answered, “I will be with you. And this is your sign that I am the one who has sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this very mountain.”

 13 But Moses protested, “If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they will ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what should I tell them?”

The objections that Moses recorded in Exodus probably only skimmed the surface of his grave doubts and challenges to the Father’s assignment.

Once again it mattered not a whit to the Father. Every challenge was met by a specific promise and new information that Moses was privileged to be the first person in history to ever know.

Can you imagine, since the creation of the world, up until the time of Moses at the burning bush, circa 1450 BC, no human being knew God’s name? Sure they had words for God: Elohim, and Lord: Yahweh, Adonai. But what was His name? Moses had the boldness and good sense to ask, so the Father told him.

Exodus 3:14-15

 14 God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. Say this to the people of Israel: I AM has sent me to you.”

 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors – the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob – has sent me to you

Message received, assignment accepted, and the rest is history!

Hebrews 11:27 It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible.

Noah, Moses, and D. L. Moody shared the same open secret: “It’s not about you!

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

 9 “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses . . .. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

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Ee Gad

Ee Gad

David said to Joab and the commanders of the army, “Take a census of all the tribes of Israel – from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south – so I may know how many people there are.” – 2 Samuel 24:2

2 Samuel 24:10 But after he had taken the census, David’s conscience began to bother him. And he said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly by taking this census. Please forgive my guilt, LORD, for doing this foolish thing.”

What is an adult? Being an adult is defined by one word: responsibility. Taking personal responsibility is what separates a child from an adult. Children, when caught in a wrong, often look for someone or something else to blame. Also, there is that secret, or not so secret, hope and expectation that someone will come to the rescue and get them out of trouble.

Adults realize that they are completely responsible for themselves: their actions and the consequences thereof. Adults will readily admit when they are wrong and will attempt to make things right. Their credo is: “It is up to me.”

Spiritual adulthood is similar. A mature child of the King attempts to live by the Father’s standards, recognizes and acknowledges wrongdoing, agrees with the Father, and seeks forgiveness and cleansing. Their credo is: “It is up to me to seek and do and be all that the Father has for me.”

In the United States, a census is conducted every 10 years to determine the population and realign the delegates of the House of Representatives appropriately.

David decides to take a census. What could be wrong with that? Why was David’s conscience troubled? What raised a red flag? It has to do with his intentions and motives.

In ancient Israel, there was nothing illegal about taking a national census. It had been done before without arousing the attention and disapproval of the Father (Numbers 1, Numbers 26). The Torah laid down rules and guidelines for taking a census (Exodus 30:11–16). It was one of the means available to fund the work and pay the bills for the sacrificial system (Exodus 38:25-28). Later on, it was called a temple tax (Matthew 17:24–27).

However, this census was not to collect a temple tax. He wanted to know the size of his army. It was a military census. It determined that 1.3 million soldiers were available for battle (2 Samuel 24:2).

The Old Testament referred to a census as numbering the people. If you needed to go to war, it was the way to determine the size of your military forces. How many troops would be under your command? That seems like a good strategic move. What’s the problem?

Well, that all depends on Who the Commander-in-Chief is.

The Father, the Lord God Almighty, is the Commander of the armies of Israel. The kings of Israel were to walk in faith and depend upon the power and might of the Lord. The size of the military was immaterial. The Father would supply whatever was needed, not human soldiers.

But it was worse than that. David had a not-so-secret agenda. David was motivated by pride. His interest was not in glorifying the Father but rather in magnifying himself.

On the one hand, David demonstrated a blatant lack of trust in the dependability and leadership of the Father. On the other hand, it was a source of wrongful pride regarding the large number of troops under his command.

Napoleon lost the Battle of Waterloo on June 18, 1815. Rather than become a prisoner of the Bourbons, Prussians, or Austrians, he surrendered to the British. Why? He realized that the British would be harsh but just.

REFLECT & PRAY

Father You are just and merciful. I often find myself in desperate situations! I take full responsibility for my wrongful actions and surrender myself to You.

INSIGHT

Trouble was brewing. Coming judgment was certain. The Father is faithful and just. He forgives our sins when we confess (1 John 1:9), but He does not remove the consequences. We reap what we sow. Yet, the Father often grants astonishing and wonderful mercy. He sent the prophet Gad to confront David.

2 Samuel 24:11-13

 11 The next morning the word of the LORD came to the prophet Gad, who was David’s seer. This was the message:

 12 “Go and say to David, ‘This is what the LORD says: I will give you three choices. Choose one of these punishments, and I will inflict it on you.’”

 13 So Gad came to David and asked him, “Will you choose three years of famine throughout your land, three months of fleeing from your enemies, or three days of severe plague throughout your land? Think this over and decide what answer I should give the LORD who sent me.”

In essence, the Father allowed David to choose his own punishment. It was like the American TV show – Let’s Make a Deal which started in 1963.

Behind door number one – three years of famine throughout the land.

Behind door number two – three months of fleeing from enemies.

Behind door number three – three days of severe plague throughout the land.

David’s response revealed the heart of a mature child of God. David knew the Father intimately and trusted in His love, grace, kindness, and mercy.

2 Samuel 24:14 “I’m in a desperate situation!” David replied to Gad. “But let us fall into the hands of the LORD, for his mercy is great. Do not let me fall into human hands.”

David chooses punishment directly from the hands of God. It would be harsh, but it would be just. The justice of people is often unpredictable, capricious, and lacking mercy and grace.

The Father sent an angel of destruction and three days of plague began. People died. David was grieved and guilty. The angel was about to strike Jerusalem, and David pleaded with the Father on behalf of the people of the city.

2 Samuel 24:17 When David saw the angel, he said to the LORD, “I am the one who has sinned and done wrong! But these people are as innocent as sheep – what have they done? Let your anger fall against me and my family.”

David loved sheep. Both the four-footed woolly kind and the two-footed human variety. The best of David now rises to the top. David took full responsibility. He was the sinful party. He is the one who deserved to be punished. He was the one who ordered the census, not the people of Israel. He had not taken into consideration that his sinful act would have such devastating collateral damage.

He had acted like a selfish, supercilious king, now he was acting as a selfless shepherd. He asked that the Father punish him and his household rather than the innocent sheep of the house of Israel.

David was a man after the Father’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). The Father responded in grace, lovingkindness, and mercy.

Ezekiel 18:32 I take no delight in the death of anyone, declares the sovereign LORD.

2 Samuel 24:16 But as the angel was preparing to destroy Jerusalem, the LORD relented and said to the death angel, “Stop! That is enough!”

David was so right about the Father and His loving and merciful heart. The Father issued a pardon, the sentence was reduced to pestilence already received. Further punishment was quashed, and the plague was over.

Before the story ends, we get one more glimpse into David’s heart and his sacrificial devotion to the Father. Gad told him to build an altar on the spot of land that was already owned by another. It was the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite (2 Samuel 24:18).

Remember that David was king. As such he could pretty much take whatever he wanted. But David wanted to buy the threshing floor from Araunah. Araunah offered to give it to David free and clear. But David refused.

2 Samuel 24:24 “No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the LORD my God that have cost me nothing.”

Sacrifice by its very nature requires that a price be paid. Sacrifice involves cost, it is never free.

All adults know that.

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What are you willing to pay?

What are you willing to pay?

I will most gladly spend and be spent for your lives! – 2 Corinthians 12:15

2 Timothy 4:5-8

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

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

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

 8 And now the prize awaits me – the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.

When Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck walked off the field for the final time as a player in August 2019, it was to the sound of boos from fans. Luck, at age 29, decided to retire. He gave up millions in future earnings. The endless barrage of injuries stripped away his joy for the game and prompted him to walk away. His body had been “ravaged by injuries,” during his six seasons in the NFL. He felt trapped in a cycle of pain. He wanted to just stop hurting and enjoy life. Fans criticized Luck for quitting. Why? Football stars are seen as “warriors and gladiators.” As such, they are expected to willingly sacrifice everything to play an extremely violent game.

The mentality of the current generation of players has radically shifted. Many now walk away at a relatively young age. Rob Gronkowski, the New England Patriots tight end, also quit in 2019. He was 30 years old.

It is not lost on this generation of players that concussions and other injuries have left previous players with dementia or crippling pain or both. Some of the young players are no longer willing to pay such a price.

As Paul shared the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and people accepted it and believed, they became children of the King. But in addition to becoming the Father’s children, they became Paul’s spiritual children as well. He was their father in the faith.

The apostle Paul became the spiritual father of untold numbers of believers in the first century A.D.

2 Corinthians 12:15 I will most gladly spend and be spent for your lives!

As a spiritual father, how much was he willing to sacrifice for his children in the faith? For the Corinthians, he was willing to exhaust all of his human resources to contribute to their spiritual well-being. He was willing to give his very life for them. Like most all parents, he wanted the best for his kids. Paul’s utmost concern was the relationship that his children had with the Father.

The Greek of the New Testament opens up nuances that are undetected in English. Unseen shades of meaning and significance are often revealed. In 2 Corinthians 12:15, Paul uses a subtle yet sublime play on words. Two different words are used that are translated spend or spent. The first is dapanao. Dapanao means to spend freely, even squander. In our culture, we might call this “pocket change.” This money is used freely and somewhat indiscriminately for personal desires or wishes.

The second word is ekdapanao. Ekdapanao is an intensified form of dapanao. It means to exhaust oneself, give oneself completely, be spent, drained of energy, having one’s own energy exhausted. When it came to the welfare of his spiritual children, Paul was not using pocket change. Paul was expending all that he had, even his very life. No price was too great for Paul, he was all in.

REFLECT & PRAY

What’s in your wallet? What are you willing to pay? What are you willing to spend?

Father, I find myself having to make the same choices over and over again. Aid me to learn to make a choice once and for all and stick with it. Encourage me to be “all in.”

INSIGHT

When Paul met the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus, everything changed. On that day there were two deaths. Paul died to his former manner of life. He gave up everything that was valuable to him in exchange for the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord.

But he also died to himself and his personal ambitions and goals. He was no longer living for Paul. He was living for Christ, for the Father.

Galatians 2:20 My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

Paul was no longer seeking his own comfort or advancement. He was seeking the advancement of the Father’s kingdom. For Paul, living was indistinguishable from serving Christ.

2 Timothy 4:6 For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come.

Paul knows that his death is near. After a life of self-sacrifice, only one final sacrifice remains, the sacrifice of death. He sees himself as once again, yet finally laying down his life to accomplish the Father’s purpose.

Paul uses Old Testament sacrificial language regarding a drink offering to portray his fast-approaching death. A drink offering was all about repurposing the use of wine. Wine was intended for personal enjoyment and to lift one’s spirits. When it is offered to the Father, it is not used for personal pleasure, but rather it becomes a personal sacrifice. Perfectly good wine, rather than being consumed was dedicated to the Father and simply poured out.

Each of the Father’s children chooses for themselves. Regarding sacrifice and dedication, Paul’s choice was a bit more extreme. We are continually faced with choices. We endeavor to make good choices rather than bad. We make repetitive, recurrent choices. Our lives are marked by a persistent query, “will I or won’t I.”

Paul chose only once. Once and for all, he turned over his life to the Father and became His servant. The Father’s will was Paul’s will. There was no disconnect, no separation.

The Greek reveals a delightful subtlety. Paul is not pouring himself out. Rather, the Greek verb translated poured out, spendo, is in the passive voice. The Father is the one performing the action, Paul is the one receiving the action. In other words, Paul did not pour himself out. Rather Paul was being poured out by the Father.

Was Paul’s life wasted? Absolutely not. Paul’s life was invested.

When Paul first met the Lord Jesus Christ, he made the greatest of all investments a person can make with their life. He was all in. He released control and the “pouring out” his life began. And Paul’s life was poured it out until the very end.

Each child of the King is empowered to make investments. With an eye on eternity, we can make wise investments. What is in your investment portfolio? Is it earning eternal dividends?

2 Corinthians 3:5 Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God,

The writer of short stories H. L. Gee tells of a tramp who came begging to a good woman’s door. She went to get something to give him and found that she had no change in the house. She went to him and said: ‘I have not a penny of small change. I need a loaf of bread. Here is a pound. Go and buy the loaf and bring me back the change and I will give you something.’

The man carried out the commission and returned and she gave him a small coin. He took it with tears in his eyes. ‘It’s not the money,’ he said, ‘it’s the way you trusted me. No one ever trusted me like that before, and I can’t thank you enough.’

It is easy to say that the woman took a risk that only a soft-hearted fool would take, but she had given that man more than money: she had given him something of herself by giving her trust. (Barclay)

Your Father trusts you.

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What goes around . . .

What goes around . . .

Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends. – Proverbs 17:9

Galatians 6:7-10

 7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.
 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
 9 Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.
 10 So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith.

Down through the millennia, people have observed and discovered universal laws that explain and govern “how things work.” The universal Law of Cause and Effect was considered by Ralph Waldo Emerson to be the “law of laws.” The Law of Cause and Effect states that for every effect there is a definite cause, likewise for every cause, there is a definite effect.

Putting it in other terms, our thoughts, behaviors, and actions have produced life as we know it. When we change our actions, results change as well.

We always have a choice in how we respond to the vicissitudes of life. Our reactions to situations can either be foolish or wise. Wise choices are beneficial. But foolish ones can have calamitous consequences.

All we think and do has consequences. The ramifications are like ripples on a pond. They spread out and affect not only us but others as well. Regrettably, we often tend to think otherwise, but we are mistaken. Every farmer knows this. They prepare the soil and plant seeds in the hope that the harvest will yield a great deal more than what was planted. When a single seed germinates and sprouts it can generate hundreds of seeds.

Those of us that have been raised in cities are often unaware of the fact of what all farmer knows: “You reap what you sow, more than you sow, and later than you sow” (Stanley). Putting it in more contemporary terms “what goes around, comes around.”

What is true in the natural world is also true in our relationship with the Father. To think otherwise is it best wishful thinking, at worst delusion. Paul warns, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.”


What does it mean to mock? In English to mock means to treat with contempt or ridicule. The Greek word translated as mock is mukterizo. Mukterizo is used only once in the New Testament (Galatians 6:7). Mukterizo comes from the Greek noun from mukter – nose or nostril.

Mukterizo could be translated, to turn the nose in scorn or sneer at. Thus it has the sense to mock, deride, cheat, outwit, or despise. The sense of the whole statement is captured in the TEV – “no one makes a fool of God!” The JB translates it “don’t delude yourself into thinking God can be cheated.”

Yet how many people think that they can get away with ignoring the Father and His immutable principles? Somehow, they believe that they can fool the Father, deceive Him without adverse consequences. Perhaps, they do not believe that He exists or that if He does, possibly He is not looking or paying attention. Really? Pause for a moment and consider.

Proverbs 17:12 It is safer to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than to confront a fool caught in foolishness.

If she bears who have lost their cubs are ferocious, how safe would it be to mock the living God?

REFLECT & PRAY

Where we are today is pretty much the result of decisions that we have made. Bad decisions have bad consequences. But good decisions have good consequences.
 
Father enable me to him and learn and develop a pattern of making good decisions. Please help me.

INSIGHT

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got” (Henry Ford)

Sadly, it is our natural tendency, because of our fallen nature, to make bad decisions and do bad things.

“Today is the father of tomorrow. What we are today is the result of what we have been thinking and the way we have lived in the past” (Stanley).

“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional” (John Maxwell).

To change takes awareness and desire, then commitment, courage, and effort. But the good news is that when we choose to do what is good and sow to the spirit we are on the positive side of the equation. Paul reminds us that our actions always have consequences either for good or for bad.

The three rules to keep in mind.

1. The Father established the principle of sowing and reaping. Indeed, “what goes around comes around” is a law that the Father established.

2. The law of the harvest is a two-sided coin. It works for good and bad.

3. Because the law of the harvest is a principle that the Father set up; it just happens. You do not have to strive to make it happen.

The law of the harvest is in effect but the results are not instantaneous. The consequences of our good decisions and actions are not necessarily immediately apparent.

Further, if we been sowing to the flesh, we may have a rather large crop of corruption to harvest and destroy.

Relationships are often very difficult. When life gets tough, what should the children of the King do? When we are hurt or offended by others, particularly family and close friends, we should seek to forgive, and not dwell on the hurt.

Proverbs 17:9 Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.

The thought here is, “If you wish to have friends, forgive their wrongs” (UBS). This has been translated, “To forgive a wrong fosters friendship,” (FRCL) or “Whoever wishes to keep a friendship forgives offenses” (GECL).

“The ability to practice forgiveness and discretion is essential for the survival of an atmosphere of friendship” (Garrett).

James 4:17 Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.

Regrettably, many of the children of the King have “heard it all before.” But despite all they know and believe, deep down they are just going through the motions. They feel as though it’s just not working for them. They drift away. And the distance becomes ever greater and greater. The darkness sets in. Many want to give up and quit.

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Seeing as the Father sees

Seeing as the Father sees

I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. – Habakkuk 3:18

Habakkuk 3:16-19

 16 I trembled inside when I heard this; my lips quivered with fear. My legs gave way beneath me, and I shook in terror. I will wait quietly for the coming day when disaster strikes the people who invade us.

 18 I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!

 19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.

 18 Yet I will exult in the LORD, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

 19 The Lord GOD is my strength, And He has made my feet like hinds’ feet and makes me walk on my high places. For the choir director, on my stringed instruments.

“The problem with people is that they’re only human” (Hobbes, from Calvin & Hobbes).

How often do children of the King experience difficult circumstances in life? It could be a natural disaster or political and economic upheaval. It could be very personal, close to home: health, family, career. Sometimes we reach the breaking point and are ready to collapse emotionally or physically. We feel like we just cannot take anymore!

How often do we find ourselves wrestling with the Father’s plan and justice? Honestly wrestling with the Father regarding circumstances and the hardships of life is a recurrent theme in the Scriptures.

So it was with Habakkuk. Habakkuk was experiencing difficult, dark times. As a prophet, the Father had shown him the coming judgment on the children of Israel. Habakkuk was called to deliver the harsh message of judgment: the coming of the Babylonian hordes. Habakkuk’s heart was in agony. He was practically overwhelmed by heart-pounding, lip-quivering, leg-trembling fear.

Habakkuk 3:16 I trembled inside when I heard this; my lips quivered with fear. My legs gave way beneath me, and I shook in terror. I will wait quietly for the coming day when disaster strikes the people who invade us.

When Habakkuk sinks as low as he can and reaches the end of his rope, he discovers that the Father has been holding the other end all the time.

Hebrews 13:5 For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.”

Habakkuk shows the way of dealing with disappointment, discouragement, anguish, and hopelessness. “If you feel hopeless, helpless, or powerless – unable to deal with people or problems and on the verge of exhaustion – take heart in the prophet Habakkuk’s stirring conclusion to his short book” (Stanley).

Habakkuk was continually asking why. He had extended conversations with the Father questioning, challenging, wrestling with Him regarding the way He does things. No doubt Habakkuk thought many times that he had a better plan than the Father.

The Father is ready and willing to intervene when He chooses to do so. Eventually, the Father answered. The Father explained to Habakkuk the reasoning behind what He was doing. Habakkuk did not particularly like what he heard.

He actually was a bit miffed and began to pout.

Habakkuk 1:17-2:1

 17 Will you let them get away with this forever? Will they succeed forever in their heartless conquests?

 2:1 I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guard post. There I will wait to see what the LORD says and how he will answer my complaint.

When the answer came, it was tinged with a bit of a rebuke. So often our questioning is informed by a bit of pride. We are not entirely objective nor pristine.

Habakkuk 2:4 Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him.

Habakkuk took it in stride and snapped to attention. He did a 180. Indeed, the Father is the sovereign Lord of all. He knows what He is doing. Further, all that He does is right and just.

Habakkuk 2:4 The righteous will live by his faith.

Habakkuk chose to place his trust in Him. 

“Just remember… if things look hopeless, maybe you’re facing the wrong direction!” (Ziggy)

REFLECT & PRAY

“Disappointments are inevitable; discouragement is a choice” (Stanley).

Father when I find myself at the end of my human endurance and I am ravaged by fear and doubt, encourage me to trust You in the dark.

INSIGHT

Each child of the King is being child-trained by Father. It is all part of our journey to maturity. During this process, our Father repeatedly takes each of us to the end of ourselves. Our emotional and physical reserves are drained. How delightful it is to know that the Father relishes in strengthening, refreshing, and reinvigorating fainthearted and worn down children of the King.  “He will supply the power you need to traverse the rough terrain ahead. That’s His promise, and God always keeps His promises” (Stanley).

Isaiah 40:29-31

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

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

 31 But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

“Your reservoir of emotional and physical energy may feel nearly drained, but God’s supply of spiritual stamina never runs out. Come to Him and His Word for the strength to carry on, and He will supply the power you need to traverse the rough terrain ahead. That’s His promise, and God always keeps His promises” (Stanley).

How did Habakkuk respond?

Habakkuk 3:18, 19

 18 I will rejoice in the LORD! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!

 19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.

“Habakkuk has learned that he can trust God, and with that trust comes great joy, not in circumstances but in God himself: yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. Yahweh has become Habakkuk’s strength (Psalms 18:32, 39)” (ESV notes)

“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones” (Confucius).

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Idols in the heart

Idols in the heart

Do not give the devil an opportunity. – Ephesians 4:27

Ezekiel 14:4-6

 4 Tell them, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: The people of Israel have set up idols in their hearts and fallen into sin, and then they go to a prophet asking for a message. So I, the LORD, will give them the kind of answer their great idolatry deserves.”

 5 “I will do this to capture the minds and hearts of all my people who have turned from me to worship their detestable idols.”

 6 Therefore, tell the people of Israel, “This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Repent and turn away from your idols, and stop all your detestable sins.”

What is dual citizenship? Dual citizenship – or dual nationality – means being a citizen of two countries simultaneously and sharing the rights and responsibilities of the citizens in each. People with dual citizenship can have two passports one for each country.

Children of the King have “dual citizenship” as well. They are citizens of the world, their place of birth and origin. But they are also citizens of the kingdom of God. And they have a dual allegiance. Regrettably, many of them keep one foot in each kingdom, swaying back and forth as their needs or whims dictate. They say that their allegiance is to the Father. But in fact, their submission is sporadic, inconsistent, and unreliable. A friend once quipped, “I am submissive, very submissive whenever I want to be.”

These folks have allegiance to the Father but also to the idols that they have internalized.

What is idolatry? Well, the obvious answer is worshiping physical idols which are created by human hands. They are tangible representations, graven images of imagined mythical gods. Examples from the Scriptures and the ancient Roman-Graco world are Ra, Isis, Baal, Astarte, Marduk, Zeus, Athena, or household idols.

The first and second commandments speak to this very issue.

Exodus 20:3-5

 3 You must not have any other god but me.

 4 You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea.

 5 You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.

Children of the King might say to themselves, “I have never worshiped an idol. Idolatry is not my problem.” But in addition to physical objects, and there is another kind of idolatry, idols of the heart.

Ezekiel 14:4 The people of Israel have set up idols in their hearts and fallen into sin.

Although we are children of the King, we are guilty of internal idolatry. We set up idols in our hearts. We craft our idols, fashioning them with our own “hands.” Then place them into our hearts. As we internalize them, we set up obstacles to our intimacy with the Father. If we feel estranged from the Father, perhaps we have put an idol in that special place in our hearts where He alone belongs. The same would be true of the rightful intimacy intended for our mates or other loved ones. Perhaps we have displaced our affection by devoting ourselves to idols of our own making.

The Hebrew word that Ezekiel uses for idols is gillulim. Of the 48 occurrences of this word in the Old Testament, all but 9 appear in Ezekiel. The term gillulim is a disdainful word and may originally have meant “dung pellets” (Vine) or “dung-idols” (NIDOTTE). Fill in the blanks.

Ezekiel draws a tragic and vile word picture. His wording is colorful but caustic, even shocking. The children of Israel were seduced by the worst of all idols, the idols of their minds. Their hearts were divided and any and all apostate practices were on the table. Their internal idols captured their hearts, minds, and emotions. They were given over to “idolmindedness.” “Their sin is an inner idolatry, a mental idolatry, rather Than an external idolatry. . .. It is a state of mind that is at cross-purposes with the will and being of God. It is out of the heart/mind that evil comes” (Victor P. Hamilton,).

REFLECT & PRAY

“Anything that we put before God as our focus or center of attention becomes our idol. We don’t have to set Up idols of wood and stone at a physical shrine in order to engage in idolatry. If there is anything that we honor above God, we have already made it an idol in our hearts” (Stanley).

Father I have crafted idols with my own hands and placed them in my heart. I have repeatedly put things before You that I should not. Encourage and help me to uproot them by taking my thoughts and emotions captive in obedience to You.

INSIGHT

Internalized idols come in many forms and guises. Ordinary things can be idolatrous. They become idols because of human preference, desire, and imagination. Obvious things come to mind such as the pursuit of power, prestige, wealth, success in sports or our career, or physical gratification. But other less obvious things are idols too: pets, children, wrong thinking, and negative emotions. Ultimately, idolatry is a battle for the mind and the heart.

For this reason we are to destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 10:4).

When our hearts are divided, our minds are under assault, and our emotions are negative, it is a time for serious self-examination. We must test ourselves to see if we are really in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). When we give ourselves over to anti-God thoughts and negative emotions, we are on the brink of spiraling out of control. We are putting out the welcome mat for the enemy. We are inviting unauthorized intrusion to our innermost being.

Ephesians 4:26-27

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

 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity. (NAS)

 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil. (NLT)

 27 Neither give place to the devil. (KJV)

It is as though there is a location within our souls where the enemy can establish a foothold. From there he can launch an assault to entice us away from pure and simple devotion to the Father. Uncontrolled anger is identified as one potential trigger.

Ask yourself some soul-searching questions. Do negative emotions or false beliefs control your life? Do they have priority over your pure and devoted worship to God?

What is your highest priority, what motivates your life? What do you put before intimacy with God?

Bob Dylan put it well,

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed

You’re gonna have to serve somebody

Well, it may be the devil, or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

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Jesus the Merciful

Jesus the Merciful

It was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. – Hebrews 2:17

Hebrews 4:14-16

 14 We have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe.

 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin.

 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

Russell Crowe played Maximus Decimus Meridius in the 2000 film Gladiator. Maximus was a high-ranking Roman general who served under the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius. He is betrayed by the emperor’s son, Commodus. Who attempted to assassinate him, and thought him dead. Maximus took on the name “Spaniard.” Through a series of circuitous events, he eventually becomes a gladiator in Rome.


Commodus made plans for Maximus to fight and an undefeated gladiator named Tigris. He expected Maximus to die. Maximus gains the upper hand but refused to kill Tigris. In doing so he won the crowd and was proclaimed “Maximus the Merciful.”

What is mercy? “Mercy is not getting what we deserve, grace is getting what we do not deserve” (Adrian Rogers). More later.

The Father cares for all children of the King. He has provided a wonderful gift, a merciful and faithful High Priest. The Lord Jesus Christ became fully human so that He could become our High Priest. Being fully human, He understands the foibles of human beings.

Hebrews 4:15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do.

He not only understands but He is empathic. We are invited to come to Him in all of our struggles, anytime, anywhere. He is able to come to our aid when we are being tempted because He suffered similar temptations.

Hebrews 4:16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.

The Greek verb translated let us come is in the present tense. It has the sense, “let us keep on coming to” (A.T. Robertson). The Lord Jesus Christ, the Merciful, never gets tired of helping children of the King, He loves to do it.

The Greek word translated boldly or confidence is parresia. Parresia refers to an attitude of openness that stems from freedom and a lack of fear. Because of our merciful high priest and His finished work of redemption, the issue of sin has been covered and expiated. There is no reason to be afraid, but rather bold and confident.

We have confidence that we can boldly come to Him without fear in any and all circumstances when we need Him the most. We can come again and again.

How great is that?

Why would be fearful and reluctant to come confidently to Him? The apostle John explains.

1 John 4:18 there is no fear in love, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.

When we know we are loved and have experienced that love, fear is removed from the equation. On top of that, each child of the King has an invitation to come boldly signed by the Lord Jesus Christ, the merciful.

REFLECT & PRAY has

The mercy and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ the merciful is infinite. They can never be exhausted nor used up.

Father thank You that You have provided the Perfect High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ the merciful. Encourage me to come boldly and confidently into Your very presence to find grace and help whenever I need it.

INSIGHT

2 Corinthians 1:3 The Father of mercies and God of all comfort,

When we receive mercy and help in our times of greatest need, what do you suppose the Father wants us to do? He wants us to pay it forward. The greater mercy that we give to others, the more we receive. Mercy becomes like living water flowing from the source, the God of all mercies, through us to others in need. There was a familiar rabbinic saying, “The greater mercy that we give to others, the more we receive” (UBS).

Matthew 5:7 God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Children of the King are to follow the Lord Jesus Christ, the Merciful, and show mercy to others. We are to be merciful. The thought is similar to the Lord’s prayer.

Matthew 6:12 Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.

“The merciful are those who reflect God’s acceptance of the unworthy, the guilty, and the ones in the wrong, based upon the premise that God’s forgiving and restoring acceptance has been manifested in the message and person of Jesus” (Larry Chouinard).

The Greek word translated merciful is eleemon. It reflects the original Hebrew word for mercy hesed.

Hesed “does not mean only to sympathize with a person in the popular sense of the term; it does not mean simply to feel sorry for someone in trouble. Hesed, mercy, means the ability to get right inside other people until we can see things with their eyes, think things with their minds, and feel things with their feelings. Clearly, this is much more than an emotional wave of pity; clearly, this demands a quite deliberate effort of the mind and of the will” (Barclay).

“Mercy is defined as having a feeling of sorrow over someone’s bad situation and trying to do something about it. People who are merciful can be said to be ‘kind’ or ‘forgiving,’ or to be ‘people who take pity on others,’ ‘people who show mercy to others’” (UBS).

Being merciful is more than just an occasional merciful impulse or act. It refers to “those whose bent is to show mercy” (Morris). For them being merciful is a way of life.

Be merciful. You will be shown mercy. What a tremendous promise. What do you have to lose?

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