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 can’t 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.

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 a scissors.

The apostle Paul was a tent maker by profession (Acts 18:2-3). He had mastered the art and skill required. Tent making 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 tent making term which 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 in a similar fashion. 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, guesses, opinions, or laziness.

Any child of the King that takes upon themselves to study and research the word of God in order 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 have an obligation 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, for those 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 a period of time it is removed and examined. If it has no cracks, it is approved for service, 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.

Famine in the land

Famine in the land

Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment. – 1 Peter 2:2

Deuteronomy 6:5-9

 5 And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.

 6 And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today.

 7 Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.

 8 Tie them to your hands and wear them on your forehead as reminders.

 9 Write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

What is malnutrition? Malnutrition is the condition that develops when a person’s diet doesn’t contain the right amount of nutrients it needs to maintain healthy tissues and organ function. Malnutrition results from an unbalanced diet or the lack of food. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), malnutrition is the gravest single threat to global public health. Globally, it contributes to 45 percent of the deaths of children under 5 years of age.

What about spiritual malnutrition? George Gallup and Jim Castelli have concluded, “Americans revere the Bible but, by and large, they don’t read it. And because they don’t read it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates.”

Americans suffer from spiritual malnutrition.

A majority of U.S. adults (81 percent) by self-report, consider themselves highly, moderately or somewhat knowledgeable about the Bible. Yet less than half (43 percent) were able to name the first five books of the Bible.

The Barna Group has discovered many disturbing trends regarding the grasp of Bible knowledge in America.

At no time in human history have so many copies of the Scriptures been available in so many languages and in so many different formats. Yet in spite of this extraordinary abundance, people are experiencing tremendous deprivation. There is a famine in the land. It is a famine for hearing, comprehending, and internalizing the word of God.

Amos 8:11 “The time is surely coming,” says the Sovereign LORD, “when I will send a famine on the land – not a famine of bread or water but of hearing the words of the LORD.

“Christians used to be known as ‘people of one book.’ They memorized it, meditated on it, talked about it and taught it to others. We don’t do that anymore, and in a very real sense we’re starving ourselves to death” (Berding).

REFLECT & PRAY 

The Father’s children should desire the nourishment which comes from the Father’s word with their whole heart.

Father, I recognize that there are times when I have intensely craved your word and could not get along without it, but at other times, not so much. Stir up and maintain within me a strong hunger for spiritual food that can only be satisfied by the living word of God.

INSIGHT

1 Peter 2:2-3

 2 Like newborn babies, you must crave pure spiritual milk so that you will grow into a full experience of salvation. Cry out for this nourishment,

 3 now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.

The Scriptures are quite clear. All of the Father’s children need spiritual food to maintain spiritual health and growth. Human babies are born hungry. They need and crave mother’s milk. They cry for it, in their own way, they demand it. For new parents, a newborn baby becomes like a demanding boss who spends much of its waking hours complaining.

As children of the King, we are to be like newborn babies that require spiritual milk for the nourishment of our hearts and souls. Unlike physical babies, we never outgrow our need for the pure milk that the Father has made available to us. Each of us should have a strong, intense personal desire that never wanes. It may sound a bit odd, but we are to seek to be hungry. Because when we are hungry, we are fed.

But not just any spiritual milk will do. The milk must be pure and untainted. It must be fresh and vibrant, spiritually nourishing and life-giving.

The Greek word translated pure is adolos. It comes from awithout and dolosguile, deceit. Dolos is the word used for fish bait. Adolos connotes being honest, truthful, pure, and sincere.

The FDA is charged with the responsibility of guaranteeing the purity of foods sold to babies. Sadly, you alone can guarantee the purity of your spiritual food.

Tragedy of tragedies, in a land of plenty, pure milk is hard to find. We live in a time of famine on the land – not a famine of bread or water but of hearing the words of the LORD (Amos 8:11).

As infants have a taste and a craving for their mothers’ nutritious milk, so we are to develop a taste and a craving for the life-giving Word of God. Growing in Christ requires that we spend time in His Word (Stanley).

Christmas treasure from St. Petersburg

Christmas treasure from St. Petersburg

I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. – Matthew 5:18

2 Timothy 3:16-17

 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

On December 24, 1933, a unique and irreplaceable treasure arrived in Great Britain from St. Petersburg, Russia: Codex Sinaiticus. The Soviet Communist government desperately needed cash. They sold the Bible to the British government for £100,000, $129,138, an enormous sum in those days. Today £100,000 is equivalent to $2,476,620. But this treasure is absolutely priceless.

Codex Sinaiticus or “Sinai Bible” is one of the most important books in the world. It is the oldest consequential book to survive antiquity. Handwritten over 1600 years ago in the 4th century A.D., it contains the oldest complete copy of the New Testament. It also contains a portion of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament Scriptures. Of the estimated original 1400 handwritten vellum pages, 800 remain. It was written in uncial (all capital) letters without spaces separating the words.

It was discovered by the German Biblical scholar Constantin von Tischendorf at the Monastery of Saint Catherine in the Sinai Peninsula. Of all things, Tischendorf found some leaves of parchment in a wastebasket. To the monks, they were considered “rubbish which was to be destroyed by burning.”

He retrieved 129 leaves from the wastebasket. Tischendorf identified the pages as coming from the Septuagint. Tischendorf eventually convinced the monks to give the priceless manuscript to Tsar Alexander II of Russia in exchange for protection of their abbey.

It is thought that Codex Sinaiticus may have been one of the Greek copies of the Bible commissioned by the Roman emperor Constantine, after he converted to Christianity.

Codex Sinaiticus was unknown to the outside world for 1450 years. The Father had Tischendorf in the right place at the right time to preserve it from destruction. But it was virtually secreted away in various museums for another 150 years.

Finally in July 2009, this precious treasure was digitized and placed online. The Father’s priceless book was made accessible to the entire world.

John 1:1 from Codex Sinaiticus

REFLECT & PRAY

The Scriptures are true and dependable. They reveal all that the Father God intends for His children to know. They equip us to serve and to live lives that are pleasing to Him.

Father, thank you for loving us enough to reveal Your truth to us in the precious treasure, which we now call the word of God.

INSIGHT

Can you imagine the utter incongruity and pathos of discovering that the word of God is being burned by devout, religious people who have dedicated their lives to His service as they understood it to be? And why? Because they didn’t know what they had.

Do we really know what we have? Is the Bible the very word of God? To answer that question, there are two other questions regarding the Father in Whom we believe that we must first settle in our own hearts. Is our Father love? Is our Father, all-powerful?

If our Father in Whom we believe is an all-powerful loving God, there are two more questions.

Would a loving Father God desire to communicate His truth to His sentient creation? Does our Father God have the power to accomplish His desire and purpose?

Our faith in the truthfulness and accuracy of the word of God is based upon our answers. When we answer yes, we have the self-evident foundation of our confidence.

The Bible unequivocally states that it is the word of God. It claims to be the Father’s communication to mankind

2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;

In simple terms, the Bible is claiming to be the product of God. The Father is responsible for its creation. The Greek word translated inspired by God is theopneustos which can literally be translated “God-breathed.” Scripture was “breathed into by God” (Hughes and Chapell).

The Bible claims to be the “God-breathed” word of God. Either it is or it isn’t. There is no middle ground. It is self-evident that the Father who is Truth, would speak the truth and nothing but the truth. Our loving, all-powerful Father God would not mislead or deceive His children. His word is accurate and dependable.

The Father breathed out the Scriptures using people. The Father guided and guarded the human authors to record His message without dictating it. Employing human authors, the Father is the source, the creative intelligence, the driving force of the Bible (Ryrie).

2 Timothy 3:16 states three important facts about inspiration and inerrancy: All the Bible is included, all the Bible was breathed out from God, and all the Bible is, like God, without any defects (Ryrie).

Along with this claim is normally mentioned the word inerrancy. The word inerrancy is not found in the Scriptures. What does inerrancy mean? Inerrancy simply means that the Bible tells the truth (Ryrie). The Scriptures do not merely contain the truth, they are the Truth. When the original documents, scrolls, and parchments were written, they imparted the Truth without error.

The Father, who is Himself Truth and speaks truth only, has breathed out the Scriptures to reveal Himself. They are Father’s witness to Himself.

2 Peter 1:21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

God used human authors to produce the Bible accurately and without error. The Holy Spirit carried human authors along produce the Father’s message.

The human authors were “carried along,” what does that mean ?

The Greek word translated carried along is phero. Phero means to carry, to bring, to drive along, to guide, to direct, to lead, to bear or carry something from one place to another. This word is used to describe what the wind and tides do to a sailing ship (Acts 27:17).

The prophets did not concoct or invent their message. The impulse came from the Father. The human prophets did not create the message, they conveyed it. The prophets spoke as the Holy Spirit impelled them. The human authors were active in writing as the Spirit directed. Their individual personalities, training, life-experiences, vocabulary, education, talents, and abilities are reflected in their words.The Bible is the Father’s own Word, written by men prepared and superintended by His Spirit. It is accurate, truthful, and has divine authority in all matters upon which it touches. It is to be believed, as the Father’s instruction, in all that it affirms: obeyed, as the Father’s command, in all that it requires; embraced, as the Father’s pledge, in all that it promises (Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy).

Considered trustworthy, appointed to serve

Considered trustworthy, appointed to serve

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service. – 1 Timothy 1:12

1 Timothy 1:12-16


 12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service;
 13 even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. And yet I was shown mercy, because I acted ignorantly in unbelief;
 14 and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.
 15 It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all.
 16 And yet for this reason I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.

American baseball has a way of teaching kids a lot of things. There are lots of spoken and unspoken rules. For example, how do kids choose sides when putting together pickup baseball teams?

Most of the kids in a local neighborhood know who the best players are. Normally the best two are appointed to be the team captains. As captains, they do the choosing.

Who chooses first? There is an unspoken rule that everyone knows involving a bat. A bat is gently tossed toward vertically to one of the captains with the heavy side down. The captain catches the bat with one hand. The location where his fist grasps the bat designates the starting place for what happens next. The other captain puts his fist directly above the first captain’s fist. The two captains continue alternately gripping the bat moving upward. As they approach the top, there is not enough room for the one who makes the last attempt to completely grab the bat.

The captain with a full grip of the bat is declared the winner and gets to go first. The two captains would then alternate choosing until enough players are picked for the teams.

Of course, the third best player would be chosen first. Then the fourth is selected, etc. Following this method, the opposing sides would be more or less balanced in skill and liability. Poor players are considered a liability. Most likely they are not that skilled in hitting, fielding, or throwing. But they would make the team also.

Another unspoken rule is taken for granted. The players never choose to be part of the team. Only the captains have that prerogative.

The apostle Paul was well aware of the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ alone chose him for service. Think about it. Never for a moment did Paul think that he chose Christ. He marveled that Christ chose him. Paul never considered himself worthy of being welcomed, forgiven, or chosen. In fact, he saw himself as a violent, hateful, proud, insolent, arrogant opponent of the truth. Paul was, after all, a blasphemer of the Father he thought he worshiped.

“It was as if, when he was heading straight for destruction, Jesus Christ had laid his hand upon his shoulder and stopped him in his tracks. It was as if, when he was busy throwing away his life, Jesus Christ had suddenly brought him to his senses” (Barclay).

How could a holy and righteous God welcome and forgive a sinner such as himself. The whole concept left him incredulously scratching his head. Initially, Paul could hardly take it all in. Pondering his relationship with the Father, the Lord God Almighty, Paul is rendered awestruck and aghast.

How could it possibly be? Rather than becoming the target of the Father’s disdain and wrath, something entirely unexpected, even shocking occurred. The Father’s amazing grace and mercy overflowed, covered, and canceled out the egregious blemishes of Paul’s sinful past. This proud, tenacious, persistent, resilient, energetic, powerful man was doubtlessly humbled, and deeply ashamed.

Eventually, Paul worked through it and he was left with an overwhelming sense of gratitude. His praise overflowed with thankfulness and respect. Paul thanked the Father for forgiving him, trusting him, choosing him, selecting him to service, and enabling him to carry out his appointed tasks.

What would be a natural, normal response to the realization of being so loved? What does reconciliation, restoration, and redemption yield in the human heart?

REFLECT & PRAY

Because of love, the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners from their sins, even the worst of them.

Father, I have only begun to grasp the magnitude of my sin. Open my eyes to see and fully grasp the certain eternal separation from You that loomed over me. Enable me to comprehend the incomprehensible. Your magnificent lovingkindness has made my scarlet sins whiter than snow.

INSIGHT

Paul now saw himself as God’s man.  He was all in and totally devoted to Him. The Father’s amazing grace, kindness, and mercy had melted Paul’s heart. Paul understood as few do, that undeserving as he was, the Father had still chosen him.

Paul’s past life and despicable behavior, rather than being an impediment to service, became the springboard that propelled his devotion.

Paul summed it up in a few words that echo throughout all eternity, “it is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” – and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life” (1 Timothy 1:15-16).

Paul was brilliant, highly educated, and religiously devout. What was his problem?

He was ignorant.

He wasn’t using ignorance as an excuse. Rather, he realized that he had lived in darkness and had now seen the light. Because Paul was the chief of sinners, his salvation and redemption were totally undeserved, unmerited, and unexpected, there is hope for the rest of us.

The light still shines bright.

The Lord Jesus Christ is true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.

In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it (John 1:4-5, 9).

Paul had been a brilliant, yet dim child of darkness. Now he was a brilliant child of the true light.

The Christmas Truce

The Christmas Truce

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. – Luke 2:14

Luke 2:10-11

 10 “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.”

 11 “The Savior – yes, the Messiah, the Lord – has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!”

On June 28, 1914, World War I began. The Western Front, consisted of trenches that stretched 450 miles from the English Channel to the Swiss Alps. Between the warring trenches was no man’s land. Vast numbers of soldiers fell and remained where they were shot between the trenches.

The sounds and stench of war permeated the air. As Christmas approached in December of 1914, the guns and cannons fell silent. On Christmas Eve, suddenly, unexpectedly, almost magically lit candles were placed atop the German trenches. They were soon joined by men holding tiny Christmas trees with lit candles.

A new sound lofted through the air. It was not the sound of war. It was the sound of singing. The melody was very familiar, but the words were being sung in German. Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht drifted out over the killing zone. The English recognized melody and answered back in song, Silent Night, Holy Night.

Suddenly, unarmed German soldiers came out of their trenches and walked guardedly towards the British lines. Almost simultaneously, the British soldiers did likewise. “Merry Christmas” punctuated the cold dark night, followed by the words, “We won’t shoot if you don’t.” Cautiously, troops from both sides made their way forward and began to shake hands and exchange greetings. The soldiers traded plum puddings for cigars, swapped stories and souvenirs, reminisced about home, buried their dead and even played a bit of soccer.

On this amazing night, this magical night, their shared faith in the Lord Jesus Christ brought Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men for a few hours. This became known as the Christmas Truce of 1914.

After Christmas, the war began anew. Friends were once again enemies.

The Father seeks a permanent and eternal truce for all. It is His desire that all animosity and warfare cease. But only His children have laid down their arms.

REFLECT & PRAY

The Lord Jesus Christ came to establish permanent peace between people and within people. He offered peace, a special peace, personal peace with God. The peace of God, His quiet, calm, restful, tranquil character is now accessible for each person who would become His child.

Father thank You for making peace possible. Thank You that for inviting me to lay down my arms and be at peace with You.

INSIGHT

A magnificent promise was made by the prophet Isaiah that one day a powerful monarch would enter the realm of mankind and reign in peace rather than in authoritarian domination.

Isaiah 9:6 For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

The promised Messiah, the Son of God, would come as a child born to the Nation of Israel. He would come as the embodiment of peace itself. He would rule as the Prince of Peace.

His kingdom would be unique, a kingdom of peace. This coming ruler would establish peace and reign in peace. He would usher in a time of peace on earth and goodwill to men. He would provide peace between individuals and nations. He would provide personal peace within the heart of each of His subjects. He would make it possible for peace to exist between the Father and mankind.

His reign would be marked not by intimidation and force, but rather gentle persuasion. He would rule over people “by sweetly and powerfully influencing their hearts by his grace: not governing them against their wills, but powerfully inclining their wills” (Ortlund and Hughes).

The promised Messiah of Israel, the Lord Jesus Christ did far more than declare a truce between the Father and the human race. He procured and made possible the establishment of permanent peace and reconciliation.

Most of us, when we search deep within our hearts, will stumble across anger, hostility, resentment, belligerence and warfare lurking there. Why? Because, before we become His children, we are His enemies. A state of war exists between us and God. When we are adopted into the Father’s forever family, all warfare and enmity vanish. A state of permanent peace is established. This is true for each of the Father’s children.

But this is not merely a confident hope for the future. We do not have to wait until we enter into His presence.

When our adoption was finalized, we are no longer merely called the children of God, we are the children of God. Peace with God and the peace of God become our present possession. They are His Christmas gifts to us. We can now experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand (Philippians 4:7).

Great happiness

Great happiness

I will fully satisfy the needs of those who are weary and fully refresh the souls of those who are faint. – Jeremiah 31:25

Luke 12:29-32

 29 “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things.

 30 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs.

 31 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

 32 “So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.

Have you ever been persuaded to purchase something that you never had any intention of purchasing? If so, you might well have been hooked by psychological advertising.

John B. Watson, is the father of the psychology of behaviorism. He developed Behavioral Conditioning.

Watson enjoyed a successful, early academic career at Johns Hopkins University, until he was engulfed by scandal and dismissed from his position. But he landed on his feet and made a smooth transition from academics to Madison Avenue. Having mastered the art of human conditioning, he leveraged his knowledge to become overwhelmingly successful in advertising and marketing.

Watson developed a number of successful, high-profile advertising campaigns for Maxwell House coffee, Scott toilet paper, Ponds cold cream and other personal-care products. He popularized the term “coffee break” while promoting Maxwell House coffee. Marketing was based upon creating desire, brand loyalty, and product image. How would you feel if you saw a bunch of doctors discussing a patient and asserting that the medical problem was the result of “harsh toilet paper?”

The appeal is transparent: true happiness stems from having the best products, experiences, and services available.

But what is happiness?

 
REFLECT & PRAY

The world hopes for the best, but the Lord offers the best hope (John Wesley).

Father, encourage me to seek Your kingdom above all else and find satisfaction and contentment in what You provide.


INSIGHT

The word happy entered the English language in the 14th century. It originally had the connotation of being “lucky.” Thomas Hobbes shifted the emphasis to the accumulation of material gain and the positive feelings which so doing elicited. Thomas Jefferson clearly stated that the Creator had endowed all people with the inalienable rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” For Jefferson, happiness was the enjoyment of life and liberty in calm tranquility without the fear of interference or reprisal. Happiness today has morphed once again into the pursuit and acquisition of peak experience. We try to collect moments of happiness which never seem to last.

If happiness is about having enough, can we ever be truly happy? The answer is of course, No. Why? Because we worry that we will not have enough. And that which we have accumulated seems to seep away, diminish, go sideways, or lose its edge. Additional anxiety enters the picture, and our pursuit of happiness gradually intensifies. But this is a fool’s errand. We find ourselves grasping for what we can never obtain. We clutch at foolishness.

Uneasiness tears at the fabric of our souls. “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength” (Corrie Ten Boom). Worry spawns and fosters an incorrect view of life and of the Father. Our inner turmoil fixates on temporal values and material things. But what does worry accomplish? Nothing!

Life forms not created in the image of the Father are under the Father’s care. The Father watches over and provides for them. If the Father looks after flowers and birds, how much more will He take care of His children? The Father encourages us to trust Him and work alongside of Him making the most of the abilities and opportunities that He gives us (1 Thessalonians 4:10-12 ).

He is all-sufficient. Because of our weak faith, the problem abides in us.  

Worry results from a lack of faith and trust in the Father’s provision. Let’s call worry what it is, sin.

How do we overcome worry? We began with a clear understanding and recognition of Who and What the Father is. The Father is neither weak nor feeble. We recognize that the Father is all sufficient and that He promises to care and provide for us.

But there is more. The Father wants to take care of us. The Father takes great pleasure in giving us His kingdom.

When our hearts are fixed on the transient things of earth, worry will linger within us. But when we fix our eyes on the eternal, then our hearts and minds will be guarded by the peace of God (Philippians 4:6–9, Wiersbe).

Biblical happiness is something entirely different from earthly happiness. The word “happy” is found in The King James Bible 28 times. The word “happiness” is not found at all. Instead, the Scriptures speak of blessings. There are over 300 instances of the use of the term “blessed.”

The Hebrew word translated blessed is barak. Barak meant “to endue with power for success, prosperity, fecundity, longevity, etc.” (TWOT) “Blessed is the most common word in the Old Testament for God doing something favorable to someone or something” (UBS). The Bible never promises that the Father will make us happy. But it does promise that He will bless us.

The Father never tells us to seek happiness. He encourages us to find contentment and be at peace. The Father has a better way. The Father knows our needs and promises to provide for them. More than that, the Father delights in caring for us. When we seek His kingdom above all else, the storehouse of blessing is open wide.

Luke 12:29-32

 29 “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things.

 30 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs.

 31 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

 32 “So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.

Happiness in giving and caring for others is probably embodied in the esprit de corps of the United States Marines. With its official motto, “Semper Fi,” the Marines maintain a volunteer organization called WOCHP (Words of Comfort, Hope and Promise). Their intent is to bless others, to do them good, and not harm. November and December are marked by the collection and distribution of Christmas Care Packages and Toys for Tots. The WOCHP motto is “What makes a nation great is love for one another.”

Happiness is bound up in the Father’s love, care, and concern for us. We demonstrate His love, care, and concern for us, by loving and caring for others.

What is your AQ?

What is your AQ?

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

2 Peter 1:5-8

 5 Applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,

 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,

 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.

 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

AQ, Adversity Quotient, measures the ability of a person to deal with the adversities of life. Paul Stoltz coined the term in 1997, in his book Adversity Quotient: Turning Obstacles into Opportunities.

AQ is commonly known as the science of resilience. AQ has to do with how we respond to the ebb and flow of life. AQ encompasses our reaction to all types of stress, from mere everyday hassles to the torments of deep disappointment and sorrow.

AQ has proven to be a strong indicator of an individual’s success in life. It is an accurate predictor of one’s attitude, adaptation to changes in environment, stress management, persistence, determination, wisdom, and character.

Like IQ, AQ can be modified and developed. AQ enhancement programs often result in improvements of 11-23%. Increased AQ often results in increased productivity, capacity, performance, innovation and morale (PEAK Learning).

These modern scientific “discoveries” were first revealed in the Scriptures. The Father has been in the business of developing His children’s AQ for over 4500 years

The scriptural terminology varies somewhat. The Scriptures speak of proven character, self-control, moral excellence, diligence, integrity, perseverance, endurance, maturity, hope, reverence, and godliness.

REFLECT & PRAY

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! – 2 Corinthians 4:17

Father, I am limited in my comprehension of your ways. Enable me to begin to grasp the immensity of Your eternal perspective and purpose.

INSIGHT

The Father employs intriguing methods to develop AQ. He introduces trials, difficulties, and tests into our lives. He starts small. As we develop and mature and demonstrate character and integrity, the challenges often become more difficult. AQ develops in a fashion similar to muscle. AQ is strengthened through exercise and exertion.

Romans 5:3-4

 3 When we run into problems and trials, we know that they help us develop endurance.

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

James 1:2-4

 2 When troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.

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

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

Hardship and adversity have a way of wearing us down. That is all part of the process. The difficulties of life may seem overwhelming and ceaseless. We often feel abandoned.

Paul was a man with tremendous AQ. He was determined to remain faithful and overcome every obstacle. Paul was successful. His responses to hardship revealed his character and the depth of his relationship with the Father. He had learned the art and science of surrender rather than resistance to the Father’s will for his life.

Rather than seeking to escape, he learned to depend upon the Father’s power to go through the great challenges that he faced. He developed a unique trait which should be common for all of the Father’s children, going forward on his knees.

Dr. Hudson Taylor, of the China Inland Mission, wrote to Jonathan Goforth, that to be successful in China. “you must go forward on your knees.”

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen” (Elisabeth Kübler-Ross).

Psalms 121:1-3

 1 I look up to the mountains – does my help come from there?

 2 My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth!

 3 He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber.

Psalms 27:13-14

 13 I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.

 14 Wait for the LORD; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the LORD.

Our certain confidence of knowing and experiencing our Father’s goodness while we live, encourages us to be brave, courageous, and wait expectantly.

The Father we serve is worthy of our loyalty and confidence. Adversity is one of the strategies He employs to mature our faith, conform us to the likeness of His Son, and fulfill His unique plan for each of our lives. Temporary afflictions yield “an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17). When we give Him the freedom to work, His light will illumine us and shine through us in each trial.

When God wants to drill a man and thrill a man and skill a man, when God wants to mold a man to play the noblest part; when He yearns with all His heart to create so great and bold a man that all the world shall be amazed, watch His methods, watch His ways! How He ruthlessly perfects whom He royally elects!

How He hammers him and hurts him, and with mighty blows converts him, into trial shapes of clay which only God understands; while his tortured heart is crying, and he lifts beseeching hands! How he bends but never breaks .

When his good He undertakes; how He uses whom He chooses, and which every purpose fuses him; By every act induces him to try His splendor out – God knows what He’s about (anonymous).

Peace before war!

Peace before war!

If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. – Romans 12:18

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

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

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

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

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds (Abraham Lincoln).

This is certain, that a man that studies revenge keeps his wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well (Francis Bacon).

The soldier above all others prays for peace, for it is the soldier who must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war (Douglas MacArthur).

In our fallen world, bad things happen. The term bad covers a lot of ground. It provides of a continuum of meanings. On the one side is horrific evil and cruelty, on the other are minor offenses and hurt feelings. We can choose to go to war and seek revenge or we can choose to forgive and do good.

The Bible is crystal-clear regarding the alternatives and the appropriate choice. We are to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). When we first hear the scriptural imperative and let it soak in, our first reaction is, quite frankly, something like “You gotta be kidding me.” But the Father is not kidding. He is not providing advice or counsel; He is dictating proper behavior. He is telling us how to act. Never are we to return evil for evil, but rather seek peace and conquer evil with good. The Father’s directive applies both to warfare and minor family disagreements.

Romans 12:17-21

 17 Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.

 18 Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.

 19 Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD.

 20 Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.”

 21 Don’t let evil conquer you but conquer evil by doing good.

Paul is both idealistic and realistic. He recognizes that despite the best efforts of the Father’s children to live at peace with others, others will frequently make it impossible. They simply want what they want, when they want it, on their own terms. They prefer aggression and hostility.

In fact, throughout history taking an absolute stand for Jesus Christ as the only way to come into a right relationship with the Father often arouses enmity, open opposition and hatred. Why? Because the Lord Jesus Christ is hated!

John 15:18 “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.

REFLECT & PRAY

Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone. – Romans 12:18

Father, I would much rather be a peacemaker than a warmonger. Yet revenge lurks within my heart. Encourage me to do what is right

INSIGHT

The Father commissioned ancient Israel to conquer and take over the promised land. But they were supposed to do so in a particular fashion that we may consider very strange, almost bizarre. Two strategies were involved, for cities that were outside of Canaan, a diplomatic offer of peace was proposed. The enemy city was given a chance to surrender and commit to personal service to the Israelis. The alternative was certain death. If the people accepted the terms, the city would be spared along with its inhabitants.

Whoever heard of making war by first offering peace? Answer is of course, the Father.

Deuteronomy 20:10-12

 10 “As you approach a town to attack it, you must first offer its people terms for peace.

 11 If they accept your terms and open the gates to you, then all the people inside will serve you in forced labor.

 12 But if they refuse to make peace and prepare to fight, you must attack the town.

Much of the history found in the Old Testament reflects the cultural practices of the day. During the time of the conquest of Canaan, there existed what were called suzerain treaties. The goal of a suzerain treaty was not to treat people as enemies, but welcome them as friends and allies. Rather than destructive conquest, peaceful integration was the endgame. The Father revealed His merciful and redemptive heart.

These working agreements or contracts were agreed to by two parties. One party was more powerful and referred to as the suzerain. The other party is less powerful and called the vassal. This pattern is found in the Mosaic covenant. The Father guarantees His people’s welfare and safety. They in turn commit to submit to Him as their sovereign Lord. In many ways, this is similar to the feudal society of medieval Europe.

The Father’s strategy for ancient Israel is the same strategy we should employ in dealing with others. Peace should be offered before war. Forgiveness and kindness should be sought rather than revenge. Diplomacy should combat.

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

As we learn and experience the Father’s forgiveness and mercy, He builds up a reservoir within each of us to share with others who need mercy and forgiveness.

Age of rage

Age of rage

Do not let yourself be quickly provoked, for anger resides in the heart of fools. – Ecclesiastes 7:9

Proverbs 16:32 He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.

Proverbs 16:32 Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city.

The sale of antacids mounts year after year. Antacids are generally of two classes, those that neutralize gastric acid (sodium bicarbonate); and those that absorb acid (calcium and magnesium salts). But rumbling gastric distress is only covered over by antacids, but not eliminated.

We are living in an “Age of Rage.” People are seething, simmering, and smoldering inside. It is an age of churning anger.

People are quick-tempered and fast to anger. Daily news feeds are filled with crimes of violence resulting from outbursts of anger. It almost seems as though people are losing not only their tempers but also their minds, committing senseless acts, horrific acts, brutal acts against fellow workers, total strangers, or their own families.

Does anyone really want to appear foolish? Fools are known by their actions.

Control your temper, for anger labels you a fool. – Ecclesiastes 7:9

REFLECT & PRAY

It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt (Mark Twain).

Father, teach me to stir up and provoke gentleness rather than anger.

INSIGHT

Anger can result from our own actions. We do things that make us look foolish or incompetent, and then become angry at ourselves. A good descriptor of this is internal anger or self-anger. Anger is often provoked and stirred up by the actions of others. This could be labeled as external anger.

Self-anger is handled by self-acceptance and self-forgiveness. Self-love as opposed to self-hatred goes a long way.

External anger is often the result of difficult childhood experiences and bad parenting. When anger is sowed in the heart of the child, it yields a bitter harvest of rage and wrath.


You reap what you sow,
More than you sow, and
Later than you sow (Stanley).

Hosea 8:7 They sow the wind, and so they will harvest the whirlwind!

Unresolved anger sets up a recurring cycle, a loop of wrath and rage. It repeats itself through several generations.

Numbers 14:18 The LORD is slow to anger and filled with unfailing love, forgiving every kind of sin and rebellion. But he does not excuse the guilty. He lays the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected – even children in the third and fourth generations.

Can this be reversed? Absolutely! Through recognition, repentance and confession, the generational curse can be broken by anyone in the loop.

For parents. It begins with you. The feelings and responses of children need to be considered as a part of parental responsibility.

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord.

“Literally this means, do not provoke your children to anger so that they begin to seethe with resentment and irritation like sap swelling in a tree on a hot day” (Hughes).

The Greek word translated provoke is parorgizo which comes from para – by, beyond, near, toward, implying movement toward a certain point, and orgizo – to anger, irritate. Hence, parorgizo means to exasperate, provoke to anger, irritation or resentment.

This command prohibits making unreasonable demands on children in the everyday course of family life (Nelson). “This kind of provocation can inflame the child’s anger unnecessarily. Studies indicate that the factor that causes rage in teenagers more than any other is having to face life without adequate direction from their parents.” (Constable).

Resentment and exasperation grow in a climate of unreasonableness, selfishness, faultfinding, nagging, neglect, harsh and unfair punishment, threatening, and inconsistency. It can be exacerbated by parents refusing to acknowledge their children’s efforts and accomplishments; and instead denouncing them for never being good enough. Children are like tender shoots that can easily be crushed.

Is it possible to right the wrongs? Can anything be done when angry, exasperated children grow up into wrathful, hateful, angry adults?

All things are possible when the Father intervenes. But it is by no means certain. When we invite the Father to become the center of our lives, wonderful things can happen. Acts of kindness, understanding, gentleness, and godly instruction over time often work wonders. A positive, encouraging, safe environment characterized by love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8).

Our heavenly Father yearns for, and actively seeks the restoration of broken lives and broken relationships. Consider the story of the prodigal son. The father longingly waits for the return of his son. When he finally comes home, all is forgiven. The father welcomes him with open arms and celebrates his safe return.

Luke 15:32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!

When God speaks, do we hear a forgiving or demanding Father, intimate or distant Friend, patient or intolerant Teacher, gentle or angry Guide, understanding or insensitive Counselor, generous or reluctant Provider, or a faithful or inconsistent Sustainer? (Stanley)

What do other people hear when we speak?

Guard your heart

Guard your heart

Guard your heart above all else, for it is the seat of our personality. – Proverbs 4:23

Matthew 12:35 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.

The physical human body is intelligently designed. For example, the autonomic nervous system regulates the involuntary activity of the heart, digestion, respiration, perspiration, metabolism, and blood pressure. When the body senses cold, blood rushes to the core of the body to protect the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, and brain.

The physical human heart is the control center of the human body. In the 17th century, William Harvey discovered that the heart was responsible for the circulation of blood. The discovery revolutionized medical science.  

Somehow Solomon was aware of the importance of the physical heart. He displayed a scientific awareness and accuracy far beyond his times. In fact, he takes it for granted. He used the heart to illustrate spiritual truth. In a moral and spiritual sense, the heart must be protected because life and spiritual well-being flows from within (Ironside).

Everyday life is filled with heart challenges. How often do we find ourselves offended, stressed, frustrated, or angry? Rather than allowing ourselves to succumb to these challenges, we can choose to overcome them.

Countering negative reactions and their consequent negative emotions should be among our highest priorities.

The heart can only be protected by deliberate and conscious acts of the will. It is incumbent upon every child of the King to learn how and to choose to guard their hearts. What happens within our hearts, impacts everything else.

The book of Proverbs is filled with great wisdom and sagacious sayings. There is a very important verse, a pearl of great price, which is frequently unnoticed.

Proverbs 4:23 Guard your heart above all else. [with all diligence and vigilance], for it determines the course of your life. [for from it are the sources of life, for from it flow the springs of life].

REFLECT & PRAY

The heart is the center, the home of our innermost being. Our life force flows from our hearts.

Father teach me to carefully guard my heart above all else. As goes my heart my life force follows.

INSIGHT

In the Scriptures, the heart is the center of our innermost being. It is the seat of our personality, moral consciousness, and affections. The heart is the home of our zeal and delight, our yearnings and drives, our decisions and choices. It is the command module of our inward life. Out of it flows our life force.

Of all things that people possess, the heart is the most important. If the heart becomes polluted, the consequences are dire. Whatever finds a home in our hearts, will ooze out of our lives. What we think, determines our character and our actions. If our thinking is corrupt, so will be our lives.

Consider the Nile River of Egypt. It was the source of fertility and abundance for Ancient Egypt. It was the source of life. In the book of Exodus, the Nile was targeted by one of the ten plagues. When water of the Nile turned to blood, the life force of Egypt became a source of defilement, sickness, and death.

Matthew 12:35 A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.

Because the heart is so important, it should be carefully and vigilantly watched over guarded, protected, and preserved. This is to be done with all the diligence and effort we can apply. The Hebrew word translated diligence is mishmar, it literally has the sense of above all guarding (BDB) or “more than anything else you may guard” (USB).

The term heart is often interchanged in the Scriptures with mind, soul, and spirit. In a sense, not only does the heart feel, but it also thinks.

Proverbs 23:7 For as he thinks within himself, so he is.

We become what we think! We live out what we believe and focus upon. To become what the Father wants us to become and live in a manner which is pleasing to Him, we must have the proper focus.

Colossians 3:1-5

 1 Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.

 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.

 3 For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.

 5 So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you.

“Transformation is God’s goal for us, and we cooperate with His plan of spiritual metamorphosis when we train our minds to dwell on the things of God rather than on the things of the flesh” (Stanley).

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Anointed restraint

Anointed restraint

The LORD forbid that I should put out my hand against the LORD’s anointed. – 1 Samuel 26:11

1 Samuel 26:7-12

 7 David and Abishai went right into Saul’s camp and found him asleep . . .

 8 “God has surely handed your enemy over to you this time!” Abishai whispered to David. “Let me pin him to the ground with one thrust of the spear; I won’t need to strike twice!”

 9 “No!” David said. “Don’t kill him. For who can remain innocent after attacking the LORD’s anointed one?”

 10 “Surely the LORD will strike Saul down someday, or he will die of old age or in battle.”

 11 “The LORD forbid that I should kill the one he has anointed!”

Each of the Father’s children has to decide how we are going to react when people whom the Father has put into power and authority act inappropriately.

In the current climate of animus against and resistance to authority, it is all too easy to get wrapped around the axle on one side or the other.

The inappropriate behavior of generations of abusive leaders and bosses have only recently come under the microscope. The rampant immorality within religious organizations and denominations has been exposed. The #metoo movement has played a major role in pulling back the curtain. Surely, criminal acts need to be addressed and brought to justice.

But what if we just don’t like the people in question. Suppose we disagree with their points of view, religious and political beliefs, and what then? Many in the woke generation is out for blood.

A resistance movement is an organized effort by some portion of the civilian population of a country to stand against a legally established government or an occupying power. The goal is to disrupt civil order and stability. It may use nonviolent resistance, or  force. An example from history is the nation of Norway during WW2.

It is a time of controversy and upheaval in the United States. Each of us has to decide how to react for ourselves

A decentralized resistance movement began almost overnight to disrupt and disavow the winner of the 2016 presidential election. Those resisting feel vulnerable and threatened. They are vehemently opposed to the current administration’s views and politics. Those being resisted, often represent those that feel threatened and vulnerable themselves.

Daniel 2:21 He controls the course of world events; he removes kings and sets up other kings.

Whether we like it or not, in good times or bad times, whether “our leader” is in or out, all authority is delegated authority. The Father determines who is in charge and who is not.

It goes without saying that, it is very difficult to do what is right, when we are convinced those in charge, are doing what is wrong. But the Father’s children are called to live by a different standard.

In previous millennia, there were barbarous peoples: the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Mongols. In recent times, the brutality and evil of modern nations and groups seems almost unparalleled. We are living in very difficult, perilous, fierce, savage, unprecedented times (2 Timothy 3:1).

The Scriptures provide guidelines. Frankly, they are hard to take. The Roman Empire was cruel and merciless. Paul lived under its authority. Emperor Nero was in control when Paul wrote these words.

Romans 13:1-7

 1 Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.

 2 So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.

 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority.

It is so easy to shake our heads and disagree with what we read. But this is the inspired word of God that we are handling. The Father speaks to each and every one of us, through Paul. It is incumbent upon us to comprehend what we are hearing and make decisions based upon the truth and principles taught.

Paul’s thoughts and words are not isolated. Peter and Paul are merely expressing in their own words what the Father has consistently taught throughout the Scriptures.

Titus 3:1 Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed,

1 Peter 2:13-14

 13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority,

 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.

When the Lord Jesus Christ was challenged about paying taxes, He adroitly answered those who would entrap Him.

Matthew 22:17-21

 17 Now tell us what you think about this: Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?

 18 But Jesus knew their evil motives. “You hypocrites!” he said. “Why are you trying to trap me?”

 19 “Here, show me the coin used for the tax.” When they handed him a Roman coin,

 20 he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”

 21 “Caesar’s,” they replied. “Well, then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”

REFLECT & PRAY

Kenny Rogers, sang, “You got to know when to hold ’em Know when to fold ‘em.”  

Father may my heart be right before You, and me. I seek to do what is right according to Your word .

INSIGHT

In the Old Testament all the kings of Israel and Judah were anointed and placed into their positions by the Father. Many of them were wicked and did evil in clear view of the Father. But they still were His anointed.

How do we respond to leaders that the Father has anointed, but act poorly? King David shows us the way. King Saul as the first Jewish king, had not worked out too well. He proved himself to be selfish and defiant. Eventually the Father had enough. While Saul was still king, the Father had Samuel, the prophet, anoint David as his replacement. There was a new king in town.

Saul was furious and went into overdrive. David became a marked man. Saul relentlessly pursued David. Time and again, David eluded capture and certain death.

Recall that David had six hundred mighty men of valor. They did not take too kindly to their beloved leader being hunted down for assassination. They looked for any opportunity to take out Saul and end it all. When David’s men looked at Saul, all they saw was an enemy. But David had a totally different perspective. David looked at Saul and saw “the Lord’s anointed.”

More than once David had the opportunity to kill Saul. It seemed as though the Father delivered Saul into David’s hands. Saul was totally vulnerable, defenseless, and at David’s mercy. But David would not do it, nor allow it to be done. David was convinced that the Father would remove Saul in His own time, in His own way.

The question becomes, how do the Father’s children respond to their enemies? If their heart is right with the Father. They will seek to do the right thing.

“David’s aide saw the opportunity as a divine blessing, but David saw it as a test. He would wait for God to act in His own time.” (Stanley).

David based his decisions and actions on truth and godly principles, not serendipitous circumstances. David knew that it was wrong to lay hands on the Father’s anointed, even though King Saul wasn’t serving the Father as he should. No doubt, David had little respect for Saul, the man. But David had absolute respect for the Father and the position of King. The Father had given the office of King to Saul.

Are any of your enemies, “anointed?” Perhaps it’s a test.

Deepest longings

Deepest longings

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. – Romans 8:26

Rom. 8:22-30

 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?
 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.


 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Our heavenly Father understands our language. But often we feel unable to express our deepest longings to Him. The apostle Paul encourages us to pray regardless of how we feel. Paul speaks of our suffering world and our own pain: “The whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth” (Romans 8:22), and he compares that to the Holy Spirit’s work on our behalf. “The Spirit helps us in our weakness,” he writes. “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (v. 26).

God’s Holy Spirit knows us intimately. He knows our longings, our heart-language, and our unspoken words, and He helps us in our communication with God. His Spirit draws us to be transformed into the image of God the Son (v. 29).

Our heavenly Father understands our language and speaks to us through His Word. When we think our prayers are weak or too short, His Holy Spirit helps us by speaking through us to the Father. He yearns for us to talk with Him in prayer. – By Lawrence Darmani

REFLECT & PRAY

When we feel weak in our prayers, God’s Spirit helps us in ways we can’t imagine.

Thank You, Lord, for understanding my language and innermost longings. When my prayers are weak and dry, bear me up through Your Spirit.
 
INSIGHT

Our inability to know what to ask for when we pray is part of a bigger story. According to Paul’s letter to the Romans, there’s a lot more we can’t do for ourselves. We also can’t avoid the consequences of our own choices, change our own hearts, make ourselves right with God, or even live up to our own expectations (Romans 4:5; 6:23; 7:18-21). Yet Paul doesn’t leave us helpless and hopeless. He begins and ends chapter 8 showing us how to rise on wings of wonder. Could anything lift us higher than to know that we also can’t do anything that would cause the God who is for us to stop helping and loving us? (vv. 11, 31-39). Mart DeHaanTwinkle

Shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. – Phil 2:15-16

Phil. 2:14-16
 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing,
 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,
 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

In Philippians, Paul challenges believers in Philippi to be blameless and pure as they “shine . . . like stars in the sky” while offering the good news of the gospel to all around them (2:15-16). We wonder how we can shine like stars. We often feel inadequate and struggle to think our “light” is bright enough to make a difference. But stars don’t try to be stars. They just are. Light changes our world. And it changes us. God brought physical light into our world (Genesis 1:3); and through Jesus, God brings spiritual light into our lives (John 1:1-4).

We who have God’s light in us are to shine in such a way that those around us see light and are drawn to its source. As effortlessly as a star hanging in the night sky, our light makes a difference because of what it is: Light! When we simply shine, we follow Paul’s directive to “hold firmly to the word of life” in a world in deep darkness, and we draw others to the source of our hope: Jesus. – By Elisa Morgan

REFLECT & PRAY

Jesus brings light into our life.

Dear God, may Your light shine out of the very cracks of our beings as we hold out the Word of life to others.

INSIGHT

Paul’s words here—“Do everything without grumbling or arguing” (Philippians 2:14)—remind us of the Israelites during the Exodus. Soon after the people had experienced their miraculous deliverance from slavery, they “grumbled against Moses and Aaron” (Exodus 16:2). They even said, “If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt!” (v. 3). God hated their murmuring. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians he alludes to that generation of Israelites: “Do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel” (1 Corinthians 10:10).

We’re all prone to complain; it’s the norm in this world. That’s why doing things “without grumbling or arguing” (Philippians 2:14) will set us apart in this world. When we live our lives in grateful obedience to God, we will shine “like stars in the sky” (v. 15). Our quiet and humble service will stand in stark contrast to the dissatisfied world around us. Living a quiet and peaceable life of gratitude is the real counter cultural movement.

Do people avoid us because we’re always complaining? Or are they drawn to Christ because they sense His Spirit working in us to give us a grateful heart? – Tim Gustafson

Servant mentors

Servant mentors

Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others. – 2 Timothy 2:2

Exodus 18:17-24

 17 “This is not good!” Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed.

 18 “You’re going to wear yourself out – and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself.

 19 Now listen to me, and let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you. You should continue to be the people’s representative before God, bringing their disputes to him.

 20 Teach them God’s decrees and give them his instructions. Show them how to conduct their lives.

 21 But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten.

 22 They should always be available to solve the people’s common disputes but have them bring the major cases to you. Let the leaders decide the smaller matters themselves. They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you.

 23 If you follow this advice, and if God commands you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace.”

 24 Moses listened to his father-in-law’s advice and followed his suggestions.

In Greek Myth and Legend, when Odysseus, a.k.a. Ulysses, left for Troy, Mentor, his trusted friend and loyal adviser, was put in charge of the household of Odysseus. He was given responsibility for the education of Telemachus, the son of Odysseus. Mentor soon became the guardian and trusted advisor of Telemachus.

The story of Mentor, became the source of our English word mentor. A mentor is a wise and trusted counselor or teacher.

Mentoring consists of a relationship, frequently long-term, which focuses on supporting the growth and development of the mentee. The mentor is the mentee’s source of direction, wisdom, education, and support.

Mentoring involves the willingness and ability of the mentor to serve. But it also requires the mentees willingness to be guided, directed, and instructed. Absent, apathetic mentors, or reluctant, defiant mentees disrupt the process.

While the word mentor is not in the Scriptures, the Scriptures are replete with examples of people who served as mentors: Jethro -> Moses, Naomi -> Ruth, Mordecai -> Esther, Barnabas -> Paul, Paul -> Timothy.

Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, was wise and perceptive. He mentored Moses. Moses had taken on himself the sole responsibility for settling disputes between people. Jethro observed the process and recognized immediately that Moses was overextended. Jethro advised him to change his ways. More than that, he provided specific steps of action that proved to be very effective.

Exodus 18:17-24

 17 “This is not good!” Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed.

 18 “You’re going to wear yourself out – and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself.

 19 Now listen to me, and let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you. You should continue to be the people’s representative before God, bringing their disputes to him.

 21 But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten.

 22 They should always be available to solve the people’s common disputes, but have them bring the major cases to you. Let the leaders decide the smaller matters themselves. They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you.

 23 If you follow this advice, and if God commands you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace.”

 24 Moses listened to his father-in-law’s advice and followed his suggestions.

REFLECT & PRAY

Servant mentors gladly encourage the friendless and dejected. It can make all the difference.

Father thank you for the mentors you have provided for me. May I mentor others, as I have been mentored.

INSIGHT

Barnabas had grown into a remarkable servant mentor. The leaders of the church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to mentor the new believers at Antioch. Barnabas asked Paul to assist him. (Acts 11:26). Wherever they traveled, undoubtedly Barnabas encouraged Paul to use and develop his spiritual gifts. Barnabas mentored Paul. We know how that story ended.

Barnabas played a critical role in encouraging John Mark. During Paul’s first missionary journey, John Mark failed miserably and abandoned his responsibilities. Paul concluded that John Mark was unreliable (Acts 13:13). This caused a division in the close working relationship between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-39). Paul refused to take John Mark on his second missionary journey.

Barnabas had taken a big risk on Paul. Now he took a risk on John Mark. That is what servant mentors do. He gave John Mark a second chance. John Mark not only overcame the past, he went on to serve effectively (2 Timothy 4:11).

But there is more to the story. If there had been no Barnabas to encourage and mentor, Paul might never have been embraced by those whom he had formerly persecuted. He might never have become the author of thirteen books of the New Testament. If John Mark had not been encouraged and given a second chance by Barnabas, the gospel of Mark might never have been written.

Servant mentors encourage their mentees, believing in them. They often restore them to wholeness and usefulness. An encourager motivates those they serve to believe in themselves and do their best.

When Barnabas met Paul, Paul was blind and friendless. Barnabas introduced Paul to the reluctant and frightened leaders of the Jerusalem church (Acts 9:27-28). Barnabas came alongside the rejected and now dejected John Mark. He took Mark with him and sailed to Cyprus to mentor those in need there (Acts 15:39).

So you might conclude that Barnabas acting as a servant mentor was tangentially responsible for the writing of fourteen books of the New Testament.

Servant mentors encourage and train those in their care. Their goal is to work themselves out of a job. They are willing to pour their lives into others, who may eventually go on to have tremendous impact. When the mentee becomes successful, the mentor rejoices in their success.

When Luke records the early travels of Paul and Barnabas together in the book of Acts, he refers to them as “Barnabas and Saul” (Acts 11:26; 13:2). Luke changes the order after their time in Cyprus together. Throughout the rest of the book of Acts, Luke refers to them as “Paul and Barnabas” (Acts 13:13).

Why? The Father chose to bless Paul’s efforts in an extraordinary way. Barnabas was now playing second fiddle. Barnabas undoubtedly rejoiced in his mentee’s success.

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 and courageous. 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

God’s servants, the prophets, serve many functions. Elijah was tasked to confront and overthrow. He was totally equipped for the job. Every time supernatural 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 in a dramatic and powerful way, 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 final 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.

Getting forgiven

Getting forgiven

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. – 1 John 1:9

Colossians 2:13-14

 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,

 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Robert F. Smith, a billionaire investor and philanthropist, was the commencement speaker at Morehouse College in May 2019. During his speech, he announced that a grant was established to pay off all student loan debt for Morehouse graduates in the Class of 2019.

Each graduate’s student loan debt would be paid in full. There were approximately 400 students and the gift is estimated at about $40 million.

Smith gave the ultimate graduation gift – total debt forgiveness!

What is your first thought? “I wish I were a member the graduating class,” right?

Well, if you are one of the Father’s children, you too are a member of a very special class, His forever family. The Father is far wealthier than Mr. Smith. And He has established a grant for each of His children to eliminate all of their sin debt. There was a high price to be paid. But His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, gladly paid that price. Now forgiveness is available.

In 33 AD, when the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross, all of the sins that each of us would ever commit were still future. We would not be born for overs 1900 years. He lumped them all together into one long list. Paul calls it a certificate of debt. Christ paid for all of our sins before we ever even committed them. He paid for them all at once and once for all.

The Father gave the ultimate eternal gift – total sin-debt forgiveness!

Colossians 2:13-14

 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,

 14 by canceling the certificate of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

The Greek word translated certificate of debt or record of debt is cheirographon. It literally means made with hands.It comes from cheir hand, and poieo to make. It refers to a handwritten record of debt, a record of indebtedness. Paul uses this term to describe God’s record of charges against individual people for breaking His law. In our culture, we would call it the list of charges against us. Each of us has his own list. The Lord Jesus Christ took each of our individual lists and nailed them all to the cross. When He died, He announced for all time, tetelestai, “it is finished,” “paid in full” (John 19:30).

The entire debt was paid in full.

REFLECT & PRAY

Psalms 32:1 How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven; whose sin is covered!

Father how remarkable it is that all of our sins have been paid for. Thank You that we have been forgiven and continue to be forgiven as we recognize our sin and receive forgiveness and cleansing. What a wonderful plan!

INSIGHT

Forgiveness has a bit of a strange implementation. It comes in two phases. A rough analogy is buying a home or a car and making payments over time. First you make a down payment, one lump sum. Then for the term of the contract you continue to make monthly payments until the debt is paid in full.

Do you remember the freedom from bondage you experienced when you paid off your first loan? And that was only financial bondage. What about the bondage of sin? Do you think there is a way to actually pay off or work out of the bondage that sin has wrought? The debt is too great! And there is too little time. And additional sin debt continues to accrue to your account. It is simply beyond human ability alone.

The Father knowing this in His great love, paid your debt Himself. Regardless of your motivation, trying to pay off your debt will lead in frustration and ultimate failure.

“There is nothing you can to do make God love you more! There is nothing you can do to make God love you less” (Stanley)!

When we accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, the Father made something like a down payment. But what He provided was far more than a down payment. He made a one-time gift or endowment. He provided one large lump sum of forgiveness for each of us. He deposited all of the forgiveness we would ever need into our personal forgiveness accounts. At the moment we accepted Christ, we made one large withdrawal from our forgiveness fund. At that moment we were totally forgiven for all that we had done up until that time. Some of us can recall the tremendous relief of the burden being removed.

But as we all know, life goes on and we keep right on sinning. What happens then? All of our sins have been paid for. No further payment can be made.

But we no longer feel clean. Sometimes we feel totally alienated and separated from the Father. Sometimes circumstances, disappointment, tragedy, anger, or rage get the best of us. Yet all of our sins have already been paid for. All of forgiveness we will ever need is already available. We do not need to acquire more forgiveness; we need only to experience the forgiveness we already have.

That is where the lump sum endowment comes in. There is enough forgiveness to fully pay off every sin that we would ever commit. The barrel has no bottom. Morning by morning new mercies are seen. It is impossible to draw down past God’s mercy and forgiveness.

All we have to do is make a withdrawal. We draw down our forgiveness through the act of confession. The Father simply applies forgiveness to our current sins. We are forgiven at that moment in time. We experience cleansing and restoration. Unfortunately being fallen creatures we will undoubtedly continue to sin. As we sin, we confess, and the Father applies the forgiveness we already have to our lives.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Confession clears our hearts spiritually and makes it possible for us to once more to experience deep fellowship with God. Unconfessed sin makes us weak, discouraged, and ultimately miserable (Stanley). The need to confess new unconfessed sin is an important reminder to always keep our record clean and straight.

There’s no place like home

There’s no place like home

We are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. – Philippians 3:20 

Acts 7:6 God also told him that his descendants would live as aliens in a foreign land, where they would be oppressed as slaves for 400 years.

1 Peter 2:11 Dear friends, I warn you as aliens and foreigners to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against your very souls.

Hebrews 11:13  All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads.

There is no place like home. Figures provided by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration show that it is dangerous to drive near your home. The NHTSA reports that approximately 52 percent of all accidents occur within a five-mile radius of home and 69 percent of all car accidents occur within a ten-mile radius from home. Only 1% of accidents occur more than 50 miles from home.

Does that mean that it is time to move? Of course not. Statistics only provide information. But correlation does not demonstrate causality.

Since 1967 dual citizenship has been permitted in the United States. Many Americans today have dual passports. That is kind of what it is like for the Father’s children. We are citizens of our native countries and we are also citizens of heaven. Most people down through the centuries lived on earth for less than 100 years.  Compared to eternity that is infinitesimally less than a nano drop of water measured against the Pacific Ocean.

Where is home for the Father’s children?

Philippians 3:20 We are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.

Heaven is our true and final home. The Bible is quite clear that we are exiles from our true home in heaven. We are as merely temporary, resident aliens on planet Earth. We may have earthly passports, green cards, work permits, visas, etc. but we really do not belong here.

Getting our arms around this can be a life-changing perspective transformation.

But there is a downside. In fact, the world can be quite hostile to the Father’s children. One way or another we are told, “your kind is not welcome here.” In our lifetime, this antipathy is rising to the level of hatred. Are we hated simply because we cherish the name of Christ? Sadly yes! But this is really nothing new.

John 15:18-19

 18 “If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.

 19 The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.”

1 John 3:13  So don’t be surprised, dear brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.

For most Americans, this sounds a bit “alien.” But perhaps a little less so every year.

And while we are considering hostility and hatred towards those that are associated with the Father God, ponder this prophecy concerning their future persecution in the last days.

Revelation 12:17 And the dragon was angry at the woman and declared war against the rest of her children – all who keep God’s commandments and maintain their testimony for Jesus.

Who are the players here? The Dragon is the enemy of our souls. The woman is the nation of Israel through whom Lord Jesus Christ came into the world. The enemy was unable to destroy Israel or the Lord Jesus Christ. He tried killing Christ. He was successful. But we know how that turned out. Christ Jesus was resurrected from the dead and the enemy’s plan was thwarted. So who is left for the enemy to direct his anger and hate toward?

Who is known for trying to keep the Old Testament commandments? Could it be religious Jews? Who maintains faith and testifies of Jesus? Could it be those who are known in the world as Christians?

REFLECT & PRAY

Right now, the Lord Jesus Christ is preparing a place for us in the Father’s home (John 14:2-6).

Father there is no place like home. Thank You for adopting me and making me part of Your family. My home is not where I live, but where my family is.

INSIGHT

Well if we are citizens of heaven but temporarily confined as resident aliens to the earth how should we live?

Perhaps the advice of Jeremiah to the exiles in Babylon is the same advice he would give us.

Jeremiah 29:5-7 

 5 “Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens and eat the food they produce.

 6 Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away!

 7 And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the LORD for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.”

Rather than planning on going home anytime soon, they were to settle in and carry on life as usual. But Jeremiah does not stop there. He raises the bar. The exiles were to strive for the peace and welfare of the city of Babylon and not work against it. On top of that they were even to pray for the Father’s blessing upon it! They were to pray for their enemies.

Praying for barbarous Babylonians? What a strange and revolutionary idea!

But indeed, this is the standard for all of the Father’s children and. “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).

Why should the Father’s children work for the peace and prosperity of the city? The practical straightforward answer is that their welfare is linked to the welfare of the city. When the city prospers, they prosper.

Jeremiah does not tell the people to seek peace in the city; he tells them to seek the peace of the city.  

Could this possibly work? The answer is unequivocally yes!

“What unusual advice for Jeremiah to give his exiled countrymen! History shows that in all the centuries of their world-wide dispersion, the Jews have tried to follow this pattern. They have identified themselves with the country of their residence, while at the same time looking toward eventual restoration to their native land” (Feinberg).

“This passage reflects something that becomes an important component of Jewish and Christian life in the centuries that follow. In most cases, these believers have found themselves to be the minority in their society. They have little influence over the moral and ethical tone of the culture in which they find themselves. They see themselves in a struggle with much in the society. It is important to see what this passage teaches, and what it does not teach. This passage reminds believers that their general economic welfare is tied to the society in which they live. For this reason alone the LORD tells them to pray for the city in which they live. They are not expected to promote or even condone the standards of their society. They are to pray for it for their own sake” (Willis).

We are pilgrims passing through a foreign land. We are in territory dominated and controlled by the enemy of our souls. Our values and beliefs are under pressure from the local culture. We are strangers and stand out because we have absolute values, not relative ones.

The Father requires that we remain firm in our faith and live out the truth we know from the word of God. We are to make the best of our circumstances and live life to the fullest with integrity and righteousness.  

The question becomes, “Father what would you have me do as I live here and now?”

Diligent searching or disdainful sniffing

Diligent searching or disdainful sniffing

“You also say, ‘My, how tiresome it is!’ And you disdainfully sniff at it,” says the LORD of hosts. – Malachi 1:13 

Jeremiah 29:12-14 

 12 In those days when you pray, I will listen.

 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.

 14 I will be found by you,” says the LORD. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”

Anhedonia is the loss of interest in previously fulfilling or pleasurable activities. It seems like the brain’s pleasure center goes dark and shuts down. But does it? Perhaps it is more like a rheostat light switch. We are simply suffering from a reduced capacity for pleasurable experiences. At any rate the byproduct is boredom and disinterest where there used to be excitement and passion.

David, a man after God’s own heart eagerly pursued and sought personal time with the Father. He panted for it like a thirsty deer (Psalms 42:1). But determined, defiant disobedience entered his heart and the wind was knocked out of his sails.

It is way too easy in our hurried, distraction filled lives to lose touch with our infinite, beautiful, delightful Father God. We turn up our noses and disdainfully sniff at Him and the things that matter most to Him (Malachi 1:13).

When this happens, and it sadly does way too often, how do we get back? Wishing things were better or perfunctory gestures of interest simply will not do. The problem is never with the Father. He is always there and available. He desires, even craves intimacy with His children. Diligence, determination, and wholehearted focus are necessary. Jeremiah puts it like this,

Jeremiah 29:13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.

The book of Jeremiah was written against the background of the Babylonian captivity of the nation of Israel and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple (586 BC).

The history of Israel is sadly replete with rebellion and defiance of the Father. Again and again, the Father sent His servants the prophets to warn the people. For decades, Jeremiah himself prophesied of judgment to come. Finally the ax fell, and the Babylonians swept through Israel in three successive waves 605 BC, 597 BC, and 586 BC. Large numbers of the children of Israel were killed, thousands were taken into captivity. Times were bleak and dark, and all hope for that generation was lost. It was the dark night of Israel’s collective soul.

REFLECT & PRAY

The judgment of God may come slowly, but it will come! But judgment is never the end, often it is only the beginning.

Father, thank You that you have plans for me and those I love. Our future is secure because of you.

INSIGHT

For 28 long chapters of his book, Jeremiah prophesied gloom and doom. After judgment falls, the Father redirected Jeremiah’s message. He flipped 180°. Against the bleak and dreary shadow of dismal darkness, light burst through. The Father spoke of restoration, grace, joy, and a brand-new, wonderful covenant filled with promises that were totally different from what had been given through Moses. It was though Plan M had played its course. It was tried and the results were always the same, failure. It was time to switch to Plan N.

Some of the most beautiful and precious promises of the entire Old Testament are now  uttered through the old prophet’s lips. No doubt Jeremiah himself was totally awestruck with the wonderful assurances he uttered at the Father’s direction.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Nothing that had happened was a surprise or mystery. It was all part of a plan, the Father’s plan. He knew how things were going to turn out in the end. The Father’s goal was for the ultimate good of His people. He has no interest in endless calamity, loss, and defeat.

This is the Father’s way. This is what His heart is like. The problem is never with the Father, He always wants the best for His children. The real problem is that they do not want what is best for themselves, they settle for far less. As long as that continues, they will never receive His best.

The same is true of us, each of the Father’s children. The tough part is desiring His best more than anything else, instead of our paltry, shortsighted desires.

How do we acquire a taste for the Father’s best? How do we get there from here? It is simple but at the same time most difficult. We must seek Him wholeheartedly. We must be all in. We must hold nothing back. We must not compromise. When we do exactly as He asks, He will listen. And we will find Him, and He will lovingly restore us.

Jeremiah 29:13-14  

 13 If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.

 14 I will be found by you,” says the LORD. “I will end your captivity and restore your fortunes. I will gather you out of the nations where I sent you and will bring you home again to your own land.”

The Jewish people as a group are very similar to each of us as individuals. Their behavior is intended as life lessons for each of us. When the time of the exile was over, not everybody wanted to go home to the land of promise. They had grown quite comfortable where they were. Consequently, they did not wholeheartedly seek Him. He did not return all of them to the land and the prophecies were only partially fulfilled.

Have you settled for less than God’s best? Have you disdainfully sniffed and have halfheartedly pursued the Father? What have you left on the table?

Invisible forces

Invisible forces

By faith we understand that the worlds were set in order at God’s command, so that the visible has its origin in the invisible. – Hebrews 11:3

Colossians 1:15-16

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

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

Much of what exists remains unseen, invisible: radio waves, quantum particles, dark matter, antimatter, air, oxygen, ultraviolet light, infrared, gravity, the mind, or emotions.

Many previously unseen things, have only become known and observable in the last hundred years. For example blood cells, single cell animals, atoms, mitochondria, DNA, distant galaxies and stars.

Dr. Liane B. Russell was a pioneer in the study of the dangers of invisible radiation on developing embryos. Her findings are the reason doctors today ask women if they are pregnant before giving them X-rays.

In 1938, Dr. Russell fled Vienna with her Jewish family when the Germans invaded Austria. She spent more than a half-century at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in East Tennessee. Dr. Russell arrived in 1947, just two years after the United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The United States had tremendous interest in discovering the effects of radiation poisoning.

Dr. Russell determined that in humans, developing fetuses were most vulnerable to radiation during the first seven weeks of pregnancy. Because women generally do not know right away if they are pregnant, Dr. Russell recommended that non-urgent diagnostic X-rays be taken in the 14 days after the onset of a woman’s menstrual period.

That recommendation was adopted around the world. Hence, doctors routinely ask women of childbearing age if they are pregnant or if they think they might be pregnant, before taking x-rays.

The Father God is invisible to the natural eyes of earthbound creatures. What is He like? How can we know? The apostle Paul provides the answer to this question. The Lord Jesus Christ is separate from the Father in personality, but totally equal to Him in deity. The eternal Son of God entered into the world at the incarnation. He became true humanity, real flesh and blood. If you want to know what the Father is like, look at the Son. He is the exact representation and manifestation of the invisible God.

Colossians 1:15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God

To see what God is like, we look at Jesus. He perfectly represents God to men and women in a form which they can see and know and understand (Barclay).

Think of a family portrait of a father and his son. Sometimes, allowing for the difference in age, they can look like identical twins. So it is with the Father God and the Son of God. If we had a photograph of the Lord Jesus Christ, He would look very similar to the Father.

John 1:18 No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us.

REFLECT & PRAY

The Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, is the Creator and Sustainer of all things visible and invisible.

Father it is amazing that You sent Your Son to show me what You are like. He is just like You. But the most amazing thing of all is that You have adopted me as Your child He has called me His friend (John 1:12, John 15:15).

INSIGHT

But the Lord Jesus Christ is much more! How can He be more than perfect deity and the exact representation of the Father? It was not the Father who was responsible for creation! It was the Son who created everything! This may be a newsflash for many. But this is exactly what Paul wrote.

Colossians 1:15-16

 15 He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,

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

The apostle John wrote the same thing.

John 1:3 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.

The Scripture presents somewhat of a conundrum. But it is easily resolved. “This statement is literally ‘all things through him came into being.’ The Greek phrase through him indicates that the Word was the agent in creation, but at the same time the context clearly implies that God is the ultimate source of creation.”

“Similar expressions are found in Paul’s writings and in the Letter to the Hebrews. In 1 Corinthians 8:6 Paul distinguishes between ‘God, the Father, who is the creator of all things’ and ‘Jesus Christ, through whom all things were created.’ Again, in Colossians 1:1516 Paul refers to ‘the first-born Son,’ by whom ‘God created everything in heaven and on earth.’ In Hebrews 1:2 the writer speaks of the Son as ‘the one through whom God created the universe’” (UBS).  

Twenty first century science suggests that most of the creation is actually imperceptible and invisible. When we think small, atoms consist of protons, electrons, neutrons and mostly empty space. The electrons whiz about the center at such high rates of speed that we never know exactly where they are from one moment to the next. They are like blurry clouds that seem to be everywhere at once.

When we think big, the universe seems almost without end. There are billions of galaxies and these galaxies contain billions and billions upon billions of stars. Many of the stars and galaxies are of immense size and move at nerve-racking speeds. Most of them have been undetectable until only quite recently.

But all things big and small move in mathematical precision. Even the apparent randomness of chaotic complex systems, reveals underlying patterns, repetition, fractals, self-similarity, and self-organization. The Lord Jesus Christ personally sustains them all. He controls and maintains everything He has created.

Upon reflection, would it not be sensible and appropriate to recognize, honor, and extol the Father? He is the transcendent King who is eternal, immortal, and invisible. Nonetheless, this same Lord God omnipotent intervened personally and sent His Son into world to save His children from sin and its eternal horrendous consequences (1 Timothy 1:17).

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

Glory, glory, hallelujah!

His truth is marching on    

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  

Who’s in, who’s out?

Who’s in, who’s out?

And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens, and no one will shut, and who shuts, and no one opens. – Revelation 3:7

Revelation 1:17-18

 17 Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last,

 18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.

Isaiah 22:20-24

 20 And then I will call my servant Eliakim son of Hilkiah to replace you.

 21 I will dress him in your royal robes and will give him your title and your authority. And he will be a father to the people of Jerusalem and Judah.

 22 I will give him the key to the house of David– the highest position in the royal court. When he opens doors, no one will be able to close them; when he closes doors, no one will be able to open them.

 23 He will bring honor to his family name, for I will drive him firmly in place like a nail in the wall.

 24 They will give him great responsibility, and he will bring honor to even the lowliest members of his family.”

Everyone misplaces important keys from time to time, not to mention a wallet or purse. But knowing that does not make it any less exasperating when it happens to you. Berating yourself does not make things better. Resorting to haphazard searches and wasting time are frequently our normal go to routines but they do not get us any closer to finding what we have misplaced.

A better plan is to remain calm and think through where you have been and the actions you have recently performed. Where is the last place you remember having or using the lost item? Go through a thorough and systematic search of the most logical and reasonable places the lost object might be hiding.

It makes sense to start with the messiest parts of our dwelling, office, or vehicle. Of course for some of us, we may have way too many areas to choose from. Lost items tend to get misplaced in the most cluttered areas of your home or workplace. Search these untidy locations systematically, shifting debris off to the side as you search.

In the ancient world, keys would unlock and open access to what was beyond. They could also prevent access. Keys were often a symbol of authority and power. Both the wealthy in general and the rulers and monarchs in particular would entrust the keys to their treasury and other wealth to loyal and devoted servants. The holder of the key yielded the power and authority of its owner.

In the days of Hezekiah the king of Israel, he had a faithful steward named Eliakim. Eliakim was entrusted with the Hezekiah’s key to the treasury. Thus Eliakim Had authority over all of Hezekiah’s household. Further, the holder of the key had special access to the king himself. He alone could prohibit or allow others into the presence of the king. Putting it another way, access to king Hezekiah’s presence was granted through Eliakim alone. In the same way, access to the Father and His presence is through the Lord Jesus Christ alone.

Hezekiah being of the family of David had a special key. It was called the key of the house of David. Faithful Eliakim was given the key to the house of David– the highest position in the royal court. When he opens doors, no one will be able to close them; when he closes doors, no one will be able to open them (Isaiah 22:22).

The apostle John uses the same imagery (Rev 3:7). The reference to the Lord Jesus Christ holding the key of David echoes Isaiah. Christ holds the key to the Father’s household and the promised, coming messianic kingdom. Access is granted or prevented through Him and Him alone. He has the power and authority to open and shut the door. The authority of the Lord Jesus Christ is complete and final. The Lord Jesus Christ possesses ultimate and absolute power.

John 5:26-27

 26 For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself;

 27 and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man.

John 14:6 I am the way and the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me.

His decisions cannot be reversed. When He opens a door, it cannot be shut. And when He shuts a door it cannot be opened. Christ has supreme authority over death and Hades. As such, Jesus controls death itself and judgment. Regarding the Lord Jesus Christ, today we would say, “the buck stops here.”

Revelation 1:17-18

 17 Do Not be afraid; I am the first and the last,

 18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.

REFLECT & PRAY

Supreme and final power and authority belongs to the loving and gracious Lord Jesus Christ.

Father, thank you that I have the privilege of calling You Father! Indeed, You are my heavenly Father.

INSIGHT

Have you ever been locked out, or worse thrown out of someplace you desired to be? In the ancient world of this time, Jewish synagogues were just about everywhere. When Jewish people recognized that the Lord Jesus Christ was the Messiah of Israel, the local synagogue had to make a decision as to what would happen to them. Too often Jews who believed in Jesus were excommunicated. In Philadelphia, the synagogue doors were shut to them and they could not enter in. It was as though, the local congregations put up a sign, “Your kind is not welcome here!”

But there’s more. The local synagogues erroneously thought that they had the final say in matters of faith and access to the living God. They did not. Rather, the scales of balance and judgment are in the hands of the Messiah of Israel, the Lord Jesus Christ alone.

It is poignant, personal, and touching. Empathizing with their sense of rejection, the Lord Jesus Christ softly reassures the local Jews for Jesus of Philadelphia that the doors to the true and eternal synagogue of heaven are wide open to them and they are always welcome.

When you are personally excluded. How does that make you feel? Perhaps what the Lord Jesus Christ did for those excluded in the synagogue of Philadelphia He will do for you.

The chief priests and Levites were granted sole custody of the temple key (1 Chronicles 9:27). Similarly, they thought that they held the key to David’s house. They could not have been more wrong!

The key of David belongs to David’s son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Israel. Local Jewish believers may not get into the local synagogues, but what does that really matter? They have box seats in the Father’s true and eternal synagogue.

How tragically ironic. Those who thought they were right, were dreadfully wrong. They were given every opportunity to examine and recognize their beloved and longed for Messiah. But they failed to correctly identify and receive Him. They may have had the keys to the local synagogue, but they wound up being locked out of the Father’s eternal congregation that He had set aside for them. The price of entry was faith. And they failed in their unbelief.

John 1:11 He came to his own people, and even they rejected him.

Romans 10:1-3

 1 Dear brothers and sisters, the longing of my heart and my prayer to God is for the people of Israel to be saved.

 2 I know what enthusiasm they have for God, but it is misdirected zeal.

 3 For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself. Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law.

Of all the things that you are sure you are absolutely right about today, could you possibly be wrong about any of them? Sanity checks, self-examination and talking to trusted counselors regarding my “rightness” have become a part of my personal regular maintenance.

What keys are on your keychain?

Last shadow

Last shadow

For He rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son. – Colossians 1:13

John 8:12 Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”

John 3:19 “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.

All fans of Avatar recall the feared and legendary Toruk, the apex aerial predator of Pandora. Toruk had a central place in the lore and culture of the indigenous people of Pandora, the Na’vi. It was celebrated and dreaded for its nobility, power, beauty, and domination of the air.

The name Toruk was roughly translated as “last shadow.” It flew high above the canopy of the forest and all of the other flying creatures. It’s method of attack was from above. Its shadow was the last thing its victims would see. Apparently, the preferred item on its menu was fresh, raw mountain and forest banshees. Recall that the banshees were also bonded companions and the flying “horses” of the Na’vi.

Toruk had only one limitation, it was unable to see directly above. But most the time that was no problem. As the apex aerial predator of Pandora and had no need to watch for attackers.

This weakness was exploited by Jake Sully. He flew his banshee high above, and jumped down on the back of Toruk. Next thing you know, Jake had bonded with it. Toruk now followed Jake’s commands. Jake flew it back to the Omaticaya clan command center. He was acknowledged and acclaimed as Toruk Makto, “Rider of Last Shadow.”

According to Na’vi faith history, only during times of great sorrow, will a Toruk Makto emerge to lead the Na’vi to victory over their enemies. A Toruk Makto had not appeared among the Na’vi in four generations. Only five have managed that feat in the long history of the Na’vi. Jake becomes the sixth person to bond with the creature. The Na’vi now had air superiority and control the skies. The rest is history, well imaginary history.

Darkness always precedes the light. Consider creation.

Genesis 1:1-2

 1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

 2 The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep.

But darkness is only temporary and does not last. The darkness is vanquished by the light

Genesis 1:3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

The Father commands both the darkness and the light. The Father often uses momentary darkness to accomplish His purpose. It was dark, very dark, perhaps the darkest of all nights when the Lord Jesus Christ was taken prisoner to face trial, condemnation, mocking, and death on the cross.

It was the enemy’s time. The evil one executed his wicked plan. The enemy thought he could destroy the Lord of Life and thwart the Father’s eternal redemptive plan. What a totally irrational, if not insane, idea! Can anyone kill the Lord of Life? But evil minds, even very powerful ones, are twisted.

Yet, that was the enemy’s plan. “In that hour the evil powers of darkness, Satan and his henchmen (men and spirits alike), are being permitted by God to bring the Son of the Highest down into the grip of humiliation, suffering and death” (Geldenhuys).

The Father has ordained in His infinite wisdom that now and then darkness will have its hour. But it is only an hour and it will indeed pass. What the Father has decided will certainly come to pass. His eternal plan cannot be thwarted by any created force. Resistance is futile.

John 12:27 “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, Father, save Me from this hour? But for this purpose I came to this hour.

John 14:30 “I will Not speak much more with you, for the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing in Me;

Luke 22:53 But this hour and the power of darkness are yours.

REFLECT & PRAY
 

Some of the Father’s creatures hunt to live. The outcome, most often, does not turn out well for the prey.

Father encourage me to look up. Help me to remember that dark times will come, but they will never last.

INSIGHT

The death of the Lord Jesus Christ was necessary to bring salvation and resurrection life to all mankind. All of the anguish, sorrow, and grief of that horrible night dimmed with time. Had it not been recorded in the Scriptures; it might have been forgotten.

Darkness was vanquished by light, death was conquered by life

John 16:20 “Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy.

As reasonable people, we ask why? Why would the Father choose such a grotesque and violent means to bring about redemption? We may never know why. And in the end, it will not really matter. What we can be certain of is that of all the possible strategies and permutations to bring about eternal salvation to the fallen human race, this particular one was the choice of the Father and the Son.

Colossians 1:13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son.

The term translated darkness is skotos in Greek. Simply speaking, darkness is the absence of light. But darkness also a realm of existence dominated by evil, sinfulness, and ignorance of the Father and His ways. Darkness is the enemy’s territory. The Father has granted the devil and his demons limited authority over darkness.

Ah but the enemy of our souls has the same weakness as Toruk, he does not look up. He is oblivious of what might be above him. He is totally unaware and unsuspecting of Who is coming from heaven to end his reign and dominion over him the earth. One day he will cease to be the apex predator of our spirits and souls.

Matthew 24:30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

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