At full gallop

At full gallop

Love each other deeply – 1 Peter 4:8

1 Peter 4:7-9

 7 The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer.

 8 Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.

 9 Be hospitable to one another without complaint

Wilma was born on June 23, 1940, in St. Bethlehem, Tennessee, the 20th of 22 children. She was a premature infant. As a young child she was paralyzed by polio and was forced to wear a leg brace for many years. She contracted both scarlet fever and double pneumonia. Wilma recalled, “My doctors told me I would never walk again. My mother told me I would. I believed my mother.”

By the time she was 12, she had regained her ability to walk and took up athletics.

Eight years later Wilma Rudolph was an Olympic champion. At the 1960 Rome Games she became the first black woman to win three gold medals at one Olympics. She won gold in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay, breaking three world records.

She strained to win.

Peter exhorted believers to strain to maintain their brotherly love at full strength. The Greek word which is translated deeply or fervent is ektenes. Ektenes literally meant extended, meaning stretching out as a runner stretches out to win. It denotes “the taut muscle of strenuous and sustained effort, as of an athlete” (Cranfield). In non-biblical Greek it is used to describe a horse at full gallop and a runner straining for the tape at the finish line of a race. It came to mean earnest, eager, intense, fervent.

Our love must be energetic. Christian love is not an easy, sentimental reaction. It demands everything an individual possesses of mental and spiritual energy. It means loving the unlovely and the unlovable; it means loving in spite of insult and injury; it means loving when love is not returned (Barclay).

Peter wrote at the time of great suffering and persecution. He wrote with an expectation that the end of all things is near. For him it was a time for believers to vehemently love each other more than ever.

In the light of eternity, Christians must preserve their sanity, preserve their self-control, preserve their prayers, and preserve their love (Barclay).

REFLECT & PRAY

Loving in the same way that the Lord Jesus Christ loved is not difficult, it is impossible. It is impossible except for the fact that the Father has poured out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Romans 5:5).

Father encourage me to strain to love even when it hurts.

INSIGHT

Straining to love has a multitude of positive results. Love has a tremendous impact on how we can react to sin. Intense love is flexible and willing to forgive. It is not obdurate. In fact, love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8). “Love hides them from its own sight and not from God’s sight. Hate does the opposite; it pries about in order to discover some sin or some semblance of sin in a brother and then broadcasts it, even exaggerates it, gloats over it” (Lensky).

When your brother or sister fails, do you earnestly strive to cover it or expose it? The one who loves another, is not unaware of their sins, but rather covers them in the sense that they overlook their offenses. They do not allow them to obstruct the relationship.

Proverbs 10:12 Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.

“Love takes the oxygen out of sin the way a blanket chokes the air from one caught on fire. Similarly, as long as oxygen is present, forest fires rage. But if we could take the air away, the blaze would settle down.”

“May we love in this way. May nothing evil be allowed to breathe for long. May we keep short accounts. The last days demand our sincere love” (Helm).

The story is told of two RNs working the late shift on a cold, snowy night in the mountains of Colorado. It was almost time to go home. A young couple came in rather disheveled condition needing attention. The woman’s clothes were worn and torn. One nurse was a bit distracted by the circumstances and not sure what to do. The other went and got a blanket and covered young lady.

Which one was loving at full gallop and straining for the tape at the finish line? Which one was loving the unlovely and the unlovable and covering a multitude of sins with a blanket of love?

“Love is the badge of a believer in this world (John 13:34–35). Especially in times of testing and persecution, Christians need to love one another and be united in heart” (Wiersbe).

Athletes do not become world-class Olympians without determination, strain, practice, and discipline. Children of the King do not love in the same way that the Lord Jesus Christ loved without determination, strain, practice, and discipline.

But that is exactly what we are commanded to do and do with intense eagerness. It is not hard. It is impossible without the love which the Father has poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).

Appropriate words and actions

Appropriate words and actions

For everything there is an appointed time, and an appropriate time for every activity on earth. – Ecclesiastes 3:1  

Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

 1 For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.

 2 A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.

 3 A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up.

 4 A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.

 5 A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away.

 6 A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away.

 7 A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak.

 8 A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.

 11 Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time.

It seems that throughout history at appropriate times the Father has raised up ideally suited, capable, seemingly tailor-made individuals to utter memorable, heartfelt, appropriate words.

“In war, resolution

In defeat, defiance

In victory, magnanimity 

In peace, goodwill” (Churchill).

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.”

“But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate – we cannot consecrate – we cannot hallow – this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth” (Lincoln).

There are ebbs and flows to times and seasons and also to the events of our individual and personal lives.

“Not only are there times and seasons in this world, but there is also an overruling providence in our lives. From before our birth to the moment of our death, God is accomplishing His divine purposes, even though we may not always understand what He is doing” (Wiersbe).

The Father is at work, and He is at work all the time. The rub comes when we take inappropriate action or speak inappropriate words at unsuitable times. When it is time for peace and goodwill, we often act Out defiance and self-willed obstinacy. Upon reflection, we often find ourselves fighting against, and defying the Father God Himself.

REFLECT & PRAY

Psalms 13:5 But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.

Father thank You that You make everything beautiful in its own time.

INSIGHT

Ecclesiastes 3:1 There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.

The Hebrew word translated season or appointed time is zeman. This word does not refer to a period of time, but rather a specific moment in time. It is forward-looking and peers into the future and suggests that there is an exact time that something will occur. Its focus is not on the concept of time. But rather the succession of events that occur within the space-time continuum.

Consider the children’s fairy tale, Cinderella. As the story goes, she was badly treated by her jealous stepsisters and stepmother. Cinderella lives a life of drudgery and misery, working as a maid in her own home. A kindly Fairy Godmother comes to her aid. She is provides with a beautiful silver gown and a unique pair of glass slippers, so that she may attend Prince Charming’s ball. Only one proviso made. The magic spell will be broken at a specific moment in time, midnight. The coach and horses, the footmen and driver, the dress all revert to what they were before. This perfectly illustrates the concept of an appointed time, zeman.

Appointed times, seasons, and every event under heaven are planned and actualized through the Father’s grace and peace. No matter what the circumstances, grace and peace are always the present possessions of every child of the King. What are grace and peace?

“These are two things you can always have, no matter what your circumstances. Grace is all God’s power, all his love, all his beauty available to you. It is a marvelous term which wraps up all that God is and offers to us. It comes from the same Greek word from which we get our English word charm. Grace is charming, lovely, pleasant. It is something which pleases, which imparts charm and loveliness to a life.”

“Peace is freedom from anxiety, fear, and worry. These are the two characteristics which ought to mark Christians all the time: Grace – God at work in their life; and peace – a sense of security, of trust” (Stedman).  

When you understand grace, you can have great trust in the Father. When you trust in the Father you can have great peace and rest because your heavenly Father is gracious and kind.

Psalms 33:13-22 

 13 The LORD looks down from heaven and sees the whole human race.

 14 From his throne he observes all who live on the earth.

 15 He made their hearts, so he understands everything they do.

 16 The best-equipped army cannot save a king, nor is great strength enough to save a warrior.

 17 Don’t count on your warhorse to give you victory – for all its strength, it cannot save you.

 18 But the LORD watches over those who fear him, those who rely on his unfailing love.

 19 He rescues them from death and keeps them alive in times of famine.

 20 We put our hope in the LORD. He is our help and our shield.

 21 In him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in his holy name.

 22 Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone.

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The First Responder

The First Responder

I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God. incline your ear to me and hear my prayer. – Psalm 17:6

Psalms 46:1-2

 1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of need.

 2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea.

It is part of our human DNA to want a safe and secure hiding place. All the more so during the era of 21st century “social distancing” and “shelter in place” precautions. David sought such a safe place. But the marvelous thing is that he did not need to seek out a physical location. But rather he needed only to look to his Father God, the King of heaven. As we read David’s story found in the Scriptures, David endured repeated and frequent threats. He was a hunted man. He was stalked by Saul and spent years fleeing from him. Yet David’s prayers revealed his close and wonderful relationship with the Father and his deep confidence in Him. He came to the realization early in life that true safety was found only in the loving kindness of his Father Go

Psalms 17:8 Guard me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Your wings

Safety and security are available for every child of the King. Confidence and peace are only a moment away when we pray and reflect on the Father’s concern for us and readiness to come to our aid. David’s confidence and relationship that David is accessible for every one of the Father’s children.

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

Because of our Father’s precious promises, we can have complete confidence and trust in Him every day. He is our “safe place.” He is to be there for us. He wants only for us to realize it and come to Him. God delights in all those who place their trust in Him. He considers each one His children the apple of His eye, the object of His special devotion. They find both protection and shelter in His loving presence (Stanley).

REFLECT & PRAY

Safety is not the absence of danger but the presence of God.

Father thank You that You are our “safe place.” Sometimes it seems as though our world and the peril it brings into our lives are threatening, overwhelming, and closing in. Yet You provide supernatural peace, serenity, assistance, and the strength to get us through.
 
INSIGHT

Psalms 46:1-2

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

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

The Psalms are often written against the background of personal anguish, fear, frustration, and hopelessness. People like David are continually bringing their everyday practical issues of life to the Father in prayer and worship. He seeks help and the Father’s intervention continually and.

Psalms 46:1 was the inspiration for Martin Luther’s magnificent hymn, “A mighty Fortress is our God.” The Father is always ready to help. In our most difficult and troubling times, He always has our back. “Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. The fearful are caught as often as the bold” (Helen Keller).

When the Father’s children take their refuge in Him, they find an inner strength and the confidence to face whatever comes their way.

In our connected 21st century world, we are bombarded with worldwide upheavals, catastrophes, and disasters. Consider devastating weather, the onset of famines, plagues, and now pandemics.

Without modern technology, the ancient world faced similar catastrophes without advanced warning. In their world, the most immutable and impregnable things were the earth itself and the mountains (Kidner). Yet they could be tossed about as though they were mere like pebbles through the upheaval of violent earthquakes. Severe weather, drought, locust plagues, military invasion, local floods, and violent storms were always a possibility

It is during such difficult times, that we can be confident and unafraid. He is our strength, but what does that mean? He is there for us to keep us strong, powerful, confident, and unafraid.

He is our refuge, our fortress. What does that mean? “God is the one who protects us” or “God is the one who shelters us” (UBS). The Hebrew noun translated refuge is machaseh. A refuge is a fortress, often built high elevations for the purpose of protection. It is derived from the Hebrew verb chacah to be safe, to seek refuge. The Father is the one who takes care of us. The Father is the one who protects us from danger (UBS).

“He is first like a strong fortress into which a man may flee and be absolutely safe; He is at the same time an unfailing source of strength, enabling one to cope” (Leupold).

But there is more. The Father is not merely our fortress and able to help, He is eager to do so. We have only to invite Him.

The terms very present translate a phrase meaning “very accessible”; the verb means “be present, near.” He is “ever present.” He is available and ready to be found and depended upon. He is not absent, distant, aloof, missing or in hiding. And He is adequate for every situation. He is always on our side. And He is also by our side.

The Father is near and eager, a very present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). “Much promised help from the world is worthless when trouble comes, but that is when God shines and performs so faithfully” (Butler). He is the ultimate “First Responder.” He runs toward danger.

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

There is one more thing. Hebrew does not have a way of making characters bold, italicizing them, or underlining them for emphasis. Instead Hebrew uses “word order” to indicate emphasis. The most important word in a sentence is often placed at the front. Psalm 46 begins with the word Elohim, “God.” This is intended to draw our attention to the Father. He is of utmost importance. Our needs, circumstances, and difficulties are a distant second.

When times are tough, we reach out to the Father. But in fact we always need Him. Dependence upon Him should become our steady state.

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Everyone understands desperation

Everyone understands desperation

I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. – Psalm 13:5

Psalms 13:1-6 

 1 O LORD, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way?

 2 How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day? How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

 3 Turn and answer me, O LORD my God! Restore the sparkle to my eyes, or I will die.

 4 Don’t let my enemies gloat, saying, “We have defeated him!” Don’t let them rejoice at my downfall.

 5 But I trust in your unfailing love, your lovingkindness. I will rejoice because you have rescued me.

 6 I will sing to the LORD because he is good to me.

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind” (Henry David Thoreau).

“Nowadays most men lead lives of noisy desperation” (James Thurber).

When you are desperate, what should you do?

“When you’re at the end of your rope, tie a knot and hold on” (Theodore Roosevelt).

David had a better idea. He often experienced frustration, fear, despair, and desperation. But he worked his way through it.

Over time he learned how to trust in the Father in all circumstances, even when he felt abandoned and alone. He was confident in the Father’s unfailing love. He acquired the habit of rejoicing in the midst of his difficult circumstances. – Psalm 13:5

When it seems as though our back is up against the wall, and we grow weary because the unceasing challenges that life seems to throw at us, we often start to question. We question our own worth and identity. We question the faithfulness and loyalty of those around us. But most of all we have serious questions and doubts about the Father’s love and investment in our lives. Is He really there for us? So often we ask, “Where is God while my life is falling apart? Why has God abandoned me?” (Johnston). Four times David entreats and challenges, “How long?”

How long will you forget me?

How long will you look the other way?

How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul?

How long will my enemy have the upper hand?

How long do you ask the Father, “How long?”

David felt ignored and neglected, forsaken, and downcast. He was seeking the Father but, in his despair, he began to think that the Father was hiding from hi

This is one of the strange things that the Father seems to do. As we grow and develop spiritual maturity, we get used to it and realize what it is all about. As part of the maturation process. “At times we might feel as though God has slammed the door to heaven in our face. Yet these times do not last. Often, He is testing us to see if we will continue to follow Him, regardless” (Stanley).

Eventually, most of our questions are answered and we gain perspective and understanding. We gain wisdom that can only be obtained through periods of isolation.

REFLECT & PRAY

David is frustrated and questions the Father. But then a transformation occurs. And his questions become prayers. And his prayers become worship.

Father, thank You that that there is nothing wrong with asking questions. Encourage me to allow my questions to become worship, praise, and confidence.

INSIGHT

Most everyone understands and can identify with David’s desperation and doubts. Desperation has been with the human race since the time of the Fall. It is part of the curse. We live in a fallen world and we are fallen creatures. But not everyone has found genuine help by turning to the living God, our heavenly Father. When we find ourselves in desperate, lonely situations, David shows us the way to find hope when there seems to be none. 

“The Christian life thrives on both memory and hope. We remember how God has shown us mercy in the past, and so we look forward to how He will save us in the future” (Stanley).

However great the pressure, the choice is still ours to make, not the enemy’s. The Father never changes His lovingkindness is everlasting. David “entrusts himself to this pledged love and turns his attention not to the quality of his faith but to its object and its outcome, which he has every intention of enjoying. David’s certainty, faith exercised, looks back at the whole way he has been led” (Kidner).

Do not be afraid of asking difficult questions. The Father already knows what is in your heart.  He patiently and lovingly hears them all, even when you are angry. Often a miraculous transformation takes place as we transition from doubt to confidence. Voicing our doubts often becomes a spiritual catharsis. And we are set free from our desperation and isolation.

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Not my will, but yours

Not my will, but yours

Not my will, but yours – Luke 22:42

Genesis 4:7 You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the superpowers of that time, England, France, and Spain, were engaged in a struggle for control for the New World. Each nation had its own priorities: colonization, land, riches, freedom to practice religious faith and evangelization, and a general desire to take advantage of the abundance that the Americas offered.

In the 1740’s, Great Britain and France were continually brushing up against each other in their efforts for expansion. Both powers recognized that war was inevitable in the struggle for control of North America. Both sought more land. England focused on cash crops such as tobacco. France was heavily involved in the fur trade. In the late 1750’s and early 1760’s armed clashes raged between the two empires in North America.

England became the dominant force in North America in 1763 defeating France and Spain in the French and Indian War.

The struggle for control is nothing new. It actually began in the Garden of Eden.

Genesis 4:7 If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.

The Hebrew word translated desire, desire to control, contrary to you is teshuqah. Teshuqah has a primary sense of desire or longing. It can have either a positive or negative connotation. It is used only three times in the Old Testament. In the Song of Solomon, it is used for the loving, longing, desire of the husband for his wife. He craves to be with her.

Song 7:10 – The woman says of her beloved: “I am my beloved’s and his ‘desire’ is for me.”

But in Genesis 4:7 it has an entirely negative connotation. Here the Father is speaking to Cain and says to him that sin is like a crouching beast “hungering, intent upon” Cain (TWOT).

Genesis 4:7 You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

Sin is personified. It is like a ferocious, hungry beast crouching, desirous and eager to control and dominate. It is lying in wait at the door of Cain’s life, seeking to take control. If sin successfully pounces, and gets its way, the consequences for Cain are ominous.

There is an interplay between sin and Cain’s motivations and actions. Cain is filled jealous rage. Cain is actively plotting the murder of his brother. Sin is encouraging Cain to act out his hateful emotions. Sin is trying to dominate and take over. The Father warns Cain not to let this happen. The Father is admonishing him to be strong and resist. The Father encourages Cain is take control of his emotions and not let sin have its way.

Cain is to “rule over it.” Cain fails to take the Lord’s advice; sin gains the upper hand and Abel his brother is murdered.

REFLECT & PRAY

The original DNA of the human species apparently underwent severe mutation because of the Fall. Harmony and mutuality, love and respect were lost. Trying to retrieve them is difficult, frequently overwhelming, and seemingly impossible.

Father thank You that You have overcome the curse of the Fall. Encourage each of Your children to follow the example of the Lord Jesus Christ and surrender control back to You, the Lord God omnipotent.

INSIGHT

In Genesis 4:7, understanding that the term “desire” indicates the desire to control helps us to better understand the Father’s words to Eve.

Genesis 3:16 Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.

The complementary relationship and balance between husband and wife that were ordained by the Father before the Fall, has been profoundly fractured. Instead of harmony and unity, there will now be an ongoing struggle between the woman and the man for leadership in the marriage relationship.

Eve was previously the perfect complement for Adam. But that was lost in the Fall. She has been sullied. She now has an inordinate desire to control. She wants her own way. She is now in opposition to Adam. Instead of delightful cooperation and teamwork, there is conflict. Adam on the other hand, instead of being a servant leader and gently encouraging his wife, caring for, and protecting her, he now has a propensity to dominate and bully her.

It is, “Me Tarzan, you Jane,” and its worst.

The Father’s ideal design for harmonious marriage was ravaged by sin. There are now two opponents vying to get their own way.

Adam and Eve’s rebellion against the Father has resulted in ongoing warfare for married couples ever since. The Father’s intended roles and responsibilities are severely damaged. How tragic!

But the Father has an answer for His wayward children. When they accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior, they are endowed with supernatural power to live out their original respective roles and responsibilities in marriage.

Ephesians 5:21-32 spells out a way to achieve the original design that the Father desired.

The husband is to love his wife and put her first. He is to be willingly self-sacrificial. He is to be willing to lay down his life for her. He is to be her servant leader. In the same way that the Lord Jesus Christ is Adam’s servant leader. The Father has provided the ultimate role model for the husband regarding his attitudes and actions towards his wife. The Lord Jesus Christ “gave Himself up for” the church in loving self-sacrifice. The husband bears extremely serious and formidable obligations before the Father. Bullying, domination, or oppression are nowhere to be seen.

The husband is bound by love to ensure that his wife finds their marriage a source of rich fulfillment and joyful service to the Lord. The husband is to do all in his power to promote the holiness, righteousness, goodness, and fidelity of his wife. Paul devotes three times more space to the husband’s duty (nine verses) than to the wife’s (three verses). (ESV notes).

The wife is to respect her husband and honor him, and recognize his God-ordained role as a leader. Her willing submission is in deference to the ultimate leadership of the husband for the health and harmonious working of the marriage relationship (ESV notes). Submission by a woman is never to be driven by a biblical “sledgehammer.” She too has an example to follow, but regrettably a poor one at best. The church is pictured as the bride of Christ. The church is to be in submission to the Lordship of Christ and willingly seek to fulfill His desires and dreams for it.

Framing it in other terms. In the words of Harry Truman, “the buck stops here.” Whoever carries the responsibility for the buck, carries the dreadful weight of ultimate responsibility, and the daunting prospect of accountability before the Lord Jesus Christ and the Father. No husband would ever want to face the disapproval of his actions and attitudes in marriage by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

High standards are set for both the husband and the wife in marriage. From the beginning of creation, marriage was intended to be a reflection of and patterned after the relationship of the Lord Jesus Christ to the church. Paul’s commands regarding the roles of husbands and wives are the Father’s ideal for all marriages at all times, as exemplified by the relationship between the bride of Christ (the church) and Christ Himself, the Son of God (ESV notes).

Each of us is a work in progress, striving for the high standard to which we have been called. The Lord Jesus Christ showed us the way, “Not my will, but yours.” – Luke 22:42

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