Dependable friendship

Dependable friendship

Proverbs 18:24 A man of too many friends comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Proverbs 17:17 A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

Psalms 25:8-15

 8 The LORD is good and does what is right; he shows the proper path to those who go astray.

 9 He leads the humble in doing right, teaching them his way.

 10 The LORD leads with unfailing love and faithfulness all who keep his covenant and obey his demands.

 14 The LORD is a friend to those who fear him. He teaches them his covenant.

 15 My eyes are always on the LORD, for he rescues me from the traps of my enemies.

“There is nothing better than a friend, unless it is a friend with chocolate” (Linda Grayson).

When we are young, most of us make friends easily. When we are old, not so much. And as we age, we get separated from our friends because of distance or their passing.

Who makes a good friend, and how do we recognize it?

“Friendship is love that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses” (Ann Landers).

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures [Job’s friends], have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares” (Henri Nouwen).

A friend knows and understands our pain. They love us not in spite of our pain, but because of our pain. In the Bible, friendship is primarily a relationship of mutual trust and congeniality (Harper’s Bible dictionary). It is often marked by an intimate bond, such as that exemplified by David and Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:1).

Psalms 25 describes the Father as a dependable friend. He is a reliable caretaker, listener, and counselor. His advice and counsel are always right. Our friendship rests upon His loving kindness and faithfulness. The Father initiates and sustains it. We rely totally upon His gracious mercy.

Loving kindness and faithfulness are not only characteristics of the Father, they are the driving force behind His actions.

REFLECT & PRAY

The Father is a perfect, best friend! Because of His love and friendship, He sent the Lord Jesus Christ to seek out and bring home those who were lost.

Father I am so delighted and amazed that You chose me to be Your friend. Encourage me every day to draw closer to You. You are truly my BFF.

INSIGHT

Many of us have had the experience of going to the airport to meet friends we have not seen for some time. When their plane lands we wait eagerly scanning the disembarking passengers until at last we see them. As soon as we can, we move as quickly as possible to greet them and hug them. This reunion is a time of great joy. While we are seeking them, they too are seeking us. This is what being good friends is all about.

In the story of Zacchaeus, he out of curiosity has come seeking to catch a glimpse of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because he was short in stature, he climbed a sycamore fig tree in the hopes that he would be able to see over the crowd. However, the Lord Jesus Christ has come seeking him (Luke 19:2-10).  Zacchaeus was the reason that the Lord Jesus Christ had come to Jericho.

In eternity past, the Father had scheduled a divine appointment for the Lord Jesus Christ to bring salvation to the home of Zacchaeus that particular day and hour. He made innumerable appointments throughout the millennia. Some involved salvation, others miraculous healings, and resurrections: the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), the healing of the man born blind (John 9), and the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11) to name but a few examples. If you are a child of the King, His initial personal appointment with you as already been kept. Perhaps many more are to come.

Luke 19:10 “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Luke 19:5 When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”

Zacchaeus was a tax collector, and the people considered him a notorious and evil sinner. He made his living by extorting people and overcharging them. He was utterly hated and despised by them. This mattered not to the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, Zacchaeus typified the lost, outcast, guilty sinners that He was seeking to save.

Somehow the simple words of the Lord Jesus Christ were redemptive, transformative, and life-altering. When He looked directly at Zacchaeus, acknowledged, recognized, called him by name, and invited Himself to his home, it worked a total life transformation in him. Could it be that Zacchaeus was secretly, in his innermost heart, seeking a way out of his despicable lifestyle?

“Zacchaeus was wealthy but he was not happy. Inevitably he was lonely, for he had chosen a way that made him an outcast. He had heard of this Jesus who welcomed tax-collectors and sinners, and he wondered if he would have any word for him. Despised and hated by all, Zacchaeus was reaching after the love of God” (Barclay).

The interaction between the two was remarkable. Zacchaeus immediately renounced his wicked ways and promised to make reconciliation. He recognized in the Lord Jesus Christ as his new BFF. At the same time the Savior of the world, as only He was qualified to do, announced for all to hear that Zacchaeus had accepted His offer of salvation and was saved.

I can only imagine the joyful and tearful exchange and hugs that followed.

Luke 19:8-9

 8 Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”

 9 Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham.”

“God saves us, not because He thinks we’re smart or worthy of His Son’s work on our behalf, but because of His own nature and goodness. He saves us for His name’s sake and for His glory” (Stanley).

Romans 5:7-8

 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man, though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die.

 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

 John 15:13-15

 13 “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

 15 “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.

The Father beckons each of us to come to Him and exchange our old manner of life for that which He offers. We exchange our solitary, heavy load and burdens for something far easier to bear: His (Matthew 11:28-30).

Comments, Suggestions, Requests are sought and welcome.

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Ineffective prayer

Ineffective prayer

The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. – James 5:16

James 5:16-18

 16 The energized prayer of a righteous man is able to do much.

 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!

 18 Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.

There is no question about the sincerity and desire of our hearts and our prayers for others. There is nothing we can do to enhance our tender feelings, lovingkindness, or persistence. Rather let us focus on increasing the authority, effectiveness, and energy of our prayers.

Think about your favorite athlete. Now visualize them performing to the degree of excellence you know they are capable of. What do you see? Now imagine that same athlete as a 5-year-old child. Some of the talent that makes them great may already be evident. But can the child perform up to the level that they will when they become an adult? Of course not! What does it take to transform a 5-year-old child into an accomplished world-class athlete?

When it comes to prayer, assuming our heartfelt desire for others is for their best, we are too often just like 5-year-old children tugging on their parents’ clothes seeking to obtain what we think is best. The question becomes how do we become mature in our prayers with increased authority, effectiveness, and energy?

James 5:16 The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

In the Greek, the word translated effective is energoumen. Energoumen could be well translated energized. The English word energy is derived from it. Successful prayer is energized prayer.

When James speaks of effective prayer, the unspoken implication is that there is also ineffective prayer. How do we know the difference?

By the results!

Effectual prayer is prayer that accomplishes something. More particularly; it results in the will of the Father being accomplished on earth.

Matthew 6:9-10 

 9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.

 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

The Father is always at work around you. The Father invites you to become involved with Him in His work. He does not ask us to dream our dreams for Him. He does not invite us to set magnificent goals and then pray that He will help us achieve them. The kingdom of God is not a democracy. It is a theocracy.

The Father already has His own agenda when He approaches us. His desire is to invite us to leave behind our plans and aspirations and to accompany Him where He is working. He leads us from being self-centered to being God-centered. When the Father reveals to you where He is working, that becomes His invitation to join Him in His activity (Blackaby).

Effective prayer is a science whose laws can be learned. Effective prayer is praying the Father’s will into existence. To pray effectively, we must know what the Father wants to accomplish and pray towards that end.

James 5:17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.

What is the difference between Elijah and us? This is not a trick question. There is a simple one word answer: Nothing! Elijah knew what to pray and how to pray because, he knew what the Father’s plan was. He heard the Father’s voice and He told him what to pray and say. Elijah’s task was to pray what he was told into existence.

1 Kings 17:1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead, said to Ahab, As the LORD, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”

1 Kings 17:2 The word of the LORD came to him, saying

1 Kings 18:1 Now it happened after many days that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the face of the earth.”

Praying is not a shot in the dark. It is not a net cast into the sea with the hope of a good catch. Praying is working along with God in the fulfillment of His divine plan (A W Tozer).

REFLECT & PRAY

Praying needs to be pressed and pursued with an energy that never tires, a persistency which will not be denied, and a courage which never fails (E. M. Bounds).

Father when it comes to prayer, I no longer want to be like a five-year-old child. Teach me the science of prayer. Equip me to pray effectively.

INSIGHT

Jeremiah 12:5 If racing against mere men makes you tired, how will you race against horses?

If we cannot effectively contend with little and overcome, how can we contend with much? How do we turn this around? We begin with where we are, assuming we are like little children and need to grow up. We seek the Father to gently but firmly hold our hand as we begin to take baby steps on the path of effective prayer.

Matthew 26:41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

To pray effectively is a skill that can be learned. Any child of the King can master it. Prayer is the hardest thing we will ever be called upon to do and, being human, it is the one act we will be tempted to do less frequently than any other.

1 Corinthians 13:11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.

No child of God is greater than their prayer life. The two prerequisites to successful Christian living are vision and passion, both of which are born in and maintained by prayer (Ravenhill).

Comments, Suggestions, Requests are sought and welcome.

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Gentle strength

Gentle strength

Let your gentleness be evident to all. – Philippians 4:5

Isaiah 40:10-11

 10 Yes, the Sovereign LORD is coming in power. He will rule with a powerful arm. See, he brings his reward with him as he comes.

 11 He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead those that are with young.

During World War II, as the enemy occupation of the Netherlands increased, Anne Frank and her family bravely prepared a secret hiding place. There they hid to escape the danger. They were safe for two years. Eventually they were found and sent to concentration camps. Anne kept a diary. It later was discovered. It became famous as The Diary of a Young Girl. She wrote, “In the long run, the sharpest weapon of all is a kind and gentle spirit.”

Gentleness can be a complicated issue and every day real life.

The Father is depicted as a powerful yet gentle Shepherd in Isaiah 40. We get a picture of the Father that shows Him to be both gentle and powerful. He comes in power and rules with a powerful arm. Yet at the same time He is tender and kind. He carries His lambs in His arms, He holds them close to His heart and gently leads them.

Sadly, too often children of the King are mired in their soulish, fleshly, worldly attitudes and viewpoints. As such, the concept in an all-powerful King being characterized by gentleness and kindness, seems incongruous.

REFLECT & PRAY

As we serve the king, sometimes our greatest strength reveals a heart of gentleness to others (Dave Branon).

Father, I know I can be very rigid. It is too easy to demand my rights, and seek retaliation when I am hurt or wounded by others. Please develop in me the quality of gentleness.

INSIGHT

John 1:14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.

The King of Kings and Lord of Lords became a mere, mortal human being. He experienced the worst that humanity could throw at Him: injustice, insult, rejection, emotional and physical abuse, and so much more. He was the predicted Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53. It was as though the Suffering Servant jumped out of the Old Testament prophetic scrolls and came to life.

The Lord Jesus Christ faced it all in gentle strength. He did not retaliate when He was insulted, nor threaten revenge when He suffered (1 Peter 2:23). The natural response of people when abused or threatened is to retaliate, to try to get even, to hurt in return for being hurt, to seek revenge. Instead, the Lord Jesus Christ entrusted Himself into the Father’s hands.

The Greek word translated entrusted, trusted, committed is paradidomi. Paradidomi comes from para to the side of, over to, and didomi to give. It has the sense of to deliver over or to give over control, to relinquish control to another. He left his case in the hands of God.

1 Peter 2:21-25

 21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.

 22 He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone.

 23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.

 24 He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed.

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

Gentleness is the ultimate response of strength. It flows naturally from our intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. When we are gentle, we demonstrate the courage of our convictions. The Holy Spirit within motivates and empowers gentleness.

Gentleness is a way of life and action which is now possible because we are united with the Lord Jesus Christ. As the Father conforms us to His image, our gentleness grows and becomes more and more evident in our relationships with others.

The Greek term which is translated gentle is praus. Praus has the sense of being humble, considerate, meek, or unassuming. It is a disposition which is mild and friendly. Gentleness accommodates the weakness and failures of others. It is not being overly impressed by a sense of one’s self-importance (BDAG). Gentleness is not insistent on one’ s own rights, or not pushy, not selfishly assertive, not aggressive, not demanding one’s own way (Grudem). Gentleness does not insist on rigid correctness and refrains from retaliation. It is meek and mild in the face of insults and wrongs suffered. Gentleness is the high road that is most often taken by the spiritually mature.

Gentleness is not an option; it is an expectation for all children of the King.

Philippians 4:5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men.

The Lord Jesus Christ modeled and exemplified the qualities of a good Shepherd. He instructs all children of the King to be shepherded. That is receive his loving embrace and encouragement. And then to pass it forward and shepherd others.

Gentleness and kindness allow us to make a point without making an enemy (Our Daily Bread, March 8, 2019).

Matthew 11:28-30

 28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

 29 “Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

 30 “For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

John 21:17 “Do you love me?” . . . “Feed my sheep.”

Comments, Suggestions, Requests are sought and welcome.

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The paradox of unworthy belonging

The paradox of unworthy belonging

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love. – Psalms 51:1

Psalms 51:1-7


 1 A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone into Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.
 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!
 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.
 6 Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

The Shame Resilience Theory (SRT) was developed by Dr. Brene Brown. She discussed it in her book, I Thought It Was Just Me (but it is not): making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough.”

Dr. Brown writes, “shame is the intensely painful feelings or experiences of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging . . . Shame creates feelings of fear, blame, and disconnect.”

According to Dr. Brown, there are four elements of Shame Resilience:

  • Recognizing shame and understanding our triggers.
  • Practicing critical awareness.
  • Reaching out and telling our story.
  • Speaking shame is critically important because it’s survival depends upon remaining undetected (through secrecy and silence) (Brown).

When we practice these four elements, we can strengthen and expand our Shame Resilience. When people do not understand and acknowledge their shame and the expectations and messages that trigger it they employ defense mechanisms for self-protection: fight, flight, or freeze.

David had mastered the art of Shame Resilience. He understood the amazing paradox of unworthy belonging. He successfully survived the revelation and consequences of his secret sins centered around his moral failures with Bathsheba.

He admitted his guilt and shame and acknowledged his utter unworthiness. He was shaken to his core. His response was to request mercy from the only one who could provide it, the Father. Although he knew that he was undeserving, David had absolute confidence that he still belonged. He belonged to the Father God who loved him dearly.

Psalms 51:1 Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.

Two magnificent words are found in Psalm 51 that are the key for children of the King to grow and strengthen their Shame Resilience: mercy and compassion.

The Hebrew word translated mercy is chanan. Chanan has the sense of showing kindness, graciousness, pity, to be considerate. It is often translated be merciful, show mercy, be gracious. Mercy is all about not getting what you deserve.

The Hebrew word translated compassion is racham. Racham is most frequently translated as compassion or mercy. It involves a deep awareness of and sympathy for the suffering of another. “The word carries a sense of intense emotion, of deep-seated feelings, which one has for a person who is especially near and dear” (UBS). It connotes deep heartfelt feelings of love and empathy.

Based upon the Father’s essence, His core character and nature of compassion and loyal love, David beseeches the Father, he begs Him for mercy and kindness.

REFLECT & PRAY

Children of the King are the beneficiaries of an amazing and remarkable paradox. Because of their sin, they have no worthiness within themselves. Yet because of the Father’s great loyal love, they still belong!

Father, thank You for Your unconditional love which provides forgiveness and Reconciliation that I could never earn or deserve. Thank You that I belong to You.

INSIGHT

David knows that he is in a family relationship, he is part of the Father’s forever family. He has a personal covenant with the Father which is binding. When our culture was more stable, it would be similar to a marriage covenant which was intended to last unto death.

Because of the Father’s quality of persistent, loyal love, and fidelity, He extends loyalty, kindness, forgiveness, and reconciliation to all His children. It persists through thick and thin. He will never let us go or turn away from us because of the foibles of our human limitations and weakness.

Psalm 51 models how we are to pray for the forgiveness of sin. David in transparent honesty and authenticity, confesses his sins and pours his heart out to the Father. He appeals to him on the basis of who the Father is. Recognizing his own unworthiness, he confidently asks for forgiveness.

“David appealed to the Lord to cleanse him because of His loyal love and compassion. He knew he did not deserve the Lord’s forgiveness nor could he earn it. Divine pardon comes to sinners by His grace alone. He asked God to blot out the record of his transgressions, namely sins that go beyond the limits that God has established for conduct” (Constable).

The Father loves us so much that He provided the sacrifice of His dearly beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is free to provide forgiveness and reconciliation because of His Son’s death in in our place.

The Father loves to forgive!

Each child of the King has experienced times when we are overwhelmed by guilt for something we have done. But at such moments, we confidently cling the fact of the Father’s unending mercy and unfailing love. Because the Lord Jesus Christ died on our behalf, we can be cleansed and become, “whiter than snow” (Psalm 51:7). We know we do not deserve His mercy, but we can unequivocally depend on the Father’s unfailing love and compassion.

Comments, Suggestions, Requests are sought and welcome.

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Receiving directions

Receiving directions

The LORD went ahead of them. He guided them during the day with a pillar of cloud, and he provided light at night with a pillar of fire. This allowed them to travel by day or by night. – Exodus 13:21

Acts 16:6-10

 6 Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time.

 7 Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there.

 8 So instead, they went on through Mysia to the seaport of Troas.

 9 That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!”

 10 So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.

Years ago, before the days of GPS, Bob was invited to the home of a new friend, Tom. Tom lived on the top of a high hill in the middle of a thick forest accessed by country roads. There were many gravel paths, driveways, and roads that might to lead to the home. And most of them were neither marked nor had any street signs. From ground level, it was all very confusing. However, from his perspective, on top of the hill, Tom could see Bob’s car approaching from some distance away. He was able to guide and direct Bob by cell phone as to which turn to take and when.

The Father has a plan for each of His children. He always knows where they are and uses the myriad of ways to get them to their destination.

Proverbs 3:5-6

 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.

 6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

To experience the Father’s guidance requires three things from us.

  • We need confidence that the Father knows what He is doing.
  • We need to ask Him for directions and guidance.
  • We need to learn to listen and follow instructions.

REFLECT & PRAY

Sometimes I am stubborn, other times I simply desire to do it my own way. I often fail to seek and receive the Father’s help.

Father I know I can trust You and I know that You desire my best. I am just not used to listening. Encourage me to be more pliable and to trust and depend upon You for direction.

INSIGHT

The Father opens and closes doors. Some opportunities are time sensitive.

On the night that the Lord Jesus Christ was born, what would have occurred happened if the shepherds had ignored the angelic messenger (Luke 2:8-20)? What if the good Samaritan had ignored the man who was robbed and beaten (Luke 10:30-37)?

The Father does not always reveal everything at once. Rather He teaches us to depend upon Him moment-by-moment, day-by-day, step-by-step. As we rely upon Him, we are drawn into a more intimate relationship with Him. Sometimes He leads by putting up stop signs.

Acts 16:6 Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time.

Acts 16:7 Then coming to the borders of Mysia, they headed north for the province of Bithynia, but again the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them to go there.

The Father had a definite plan in mind. He wanted Paul to go west into Europe, rather than east into Asia. The Holy Spirit closed the door to the east and to the north. The Father provided specific guidance through an unambiguous vision.

Acts 16:9 That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!”

The Father has perfect timing. He creates perfect circumstances and then guides His children exactly where He wants them.

An Ethiopian eunuch had gone to Jerusalem to worship and now he was returning home. He was traveling by a chariot that was large enough to allow him to sit while someone else steered. The Ethiopian was reading from the scroll of Isaiah. What he read puzzled him. No doubt he was seeking wisdom and understanding. The Father heard the prayer of his heart, and He dispatched Philip by angel.

Acts 8:26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.”

As Philip approached the Ethiopian, the Holy Spirit spoke to him again.

Acts 8:29-31

 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.”

 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

The Ethiopian was reading about the suffering servant in Isaiah 53.

Acts 8:34-35  

 34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?”

 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.

The next thing you know the Ethiopian believed in the Lord Jesus Christ and asked Philip to baptize him. Philip did so and was immediately whisked away by the Holy Spirit. What exactly happened we are not told. But it does not matter.

Acts 8:39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.

The Father uses divine directions and diversions to get us to where He needs us to be. Bumps in the road can be momentarily difficult, but they are momentary. In retrospect, the Father’s detours are actually the most direct path to fulfill His Purposes.

Comments, Suggestions, Requests are sought and welcome.

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Condemned not

Condemned not

Haggai 2:19 Yet from this day on I will bless you.

John 8:3-11

 3 As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

 4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery.

 5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

 6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger.

 7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!”

 8 Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

 9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman.

 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

 11 “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

Charles Dederich was a reformed alcoholic and a member of Alcoholics Anonymous. In his day, Alcoholics Anonymous did not accept people who were addicted to anything other than alcohol. Dederich wanted to help everyone who had any type of drug addiction, so he decided to start his own program and named it Synanon. It was during this time that he coined the phrase, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life” (https://theredheadriter.com/).

The story in John 8 relates to the woman caught in the act of adultery and presented to Jesus for judgment. Most readers of the New Testament are familiar with it. There was no question about the crime or the guilt. The issue was what to do next. The Lord Jesus Christ reset the clock and gave her the opportunity for do over. In essence he said, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

John 8:11 Jesus said, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more.”

Consider for a moment, “As the judge in her case, He showed more interest in her prosecutors than in her guilt. Without prosecutors Jesus dismissed the case. This was His prerogative as her judge. He only issued her a warning. She would have to stand before Him again in the future, but this was not the time that He wanted to pass judgment on her (cf. John 3:17). He gave her mercy and time to change her ways” (Constable).

Through redemption and forgiveness each child of the King is given the same opportunity. What you make of that opportunity is yours to decide.

REFLECT & PRAY

Because of His great love, the Father often issues only warnings, rather than tickets. What an example He sets for His children.

Father thank You for loving me, forgiving me, and giving me the opportunity to begin anew, change my ways and make better choices.

INSIGHT

Having been given a second chance, what are we going to do with it? Modifying our lives and changing our patterns of thinking and behavior are uncomfortable and sometimes painful. Even though we are often chained to our old habit patterns, and they make us miserable, they still die hard. Starting over and creating new patterns of behavior are often more frightening and disconcerting than continuing in the misery that we have grown accustomed to and comfortable with. The degree of difficulty increases with age, and the harder it is to make changes.

There are several requirements that must be met in order to overcome our old life patterns.

  • You must recognize the need for the change.
  • You must be humble enough to admit the need to change.
  • You must seek help to make the change and allow other people to help you.
  • You must stop doing whatever it is you are trying to abolish from your life.
  • You have to constantly think about the process of changing to ensure you don’t let your guard down to old habits.
  • You have to forgive yourself for the past.
  • You have to replace the old with the new (https://theredheadriter.com/).

Each of us is given the opportunity to go and sin no more.

At the time of Haggai, the children of Israel found themselves in very difficult circumstances. As a result of their disobedience, the Father cursed their land and their husbandry.

But in due time, they repented. They experienced a change of heart and direction. Because of their inner heart transformation and their new direction, their future is brighter than their past.

Psalms 103:8-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Father asks for our obedience today so that He may bless us tomorrow. The Father’s blessings for obedience usually do not appear as soon as we obey. But the Father works for those who wait for Him (Stanley).

Comments, Suggestions, Requests are sought and welcome.

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Robbing God

Robbing God

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

Malachi 1:6-13

 6 The LORD of Heaven’s Armies says to the priests: “A son honors his father, and a servant respects his master. If I am your father and master, where are the honor and respect I deserve? You have shown contempt for my name! “But you ask, ‘How have we ever shown contempt for your name?’”

 8 “When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn’t that wrong? And isn’t it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased? Try giving gifts like that to your governor and see how pleased he is!”

 10 “How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies, “and I will not accept your offerings.”

 13 “You say, ‘It’s too hard to serve the LORD,’ and you turn up your noses at my commands,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “Think of it! Animals that are stolen and crippled and sick are being presented as offerings! Should I accept from you such offerings as these?”

Respect is one of the more gracious human sentiments. Respect is all about appreciation, regard, esteem, or honor. It is about considering someone or something important. Respect is the positive regard, the value one has for others. Respect for others begins with self-respect. Self-respect is feeling good about yourself without conceit.

The story is told of a young girl in middle school. She was different from the other students. She was friendly yet quiet. She always had a kind word for those around her. She consistently went out of her way to greet school staff and teachers. When in class she never interrupted the teacher and never talked back. While other kids were rude, even obnoxious, she was always gracious and courteous. Out of sheer curiosity, one of the students asked her why she acted the way she did. Her response is all about respect. She said, “I want to be respected for who I am. So I begin by respecting others first.”

REFLECT & PRAY

The Father deserves and desires our best. It is an affront to bring Him damaged goods and leftovers. 

Father reading Malachi reminds me of how unfaithful, even faithless I am. My heart is divided, my devotion is spotty. You deserve far better. Encourage me to do better. Thank you for forgiving me just as I am.

INSIGHT

The Father desires His children to live exemplary lives. The words of the Lord Jesus Christ and the apostles are quite clear about that. But it does not always work out that way. We often wind up ignoring and betraying the very words we say, teach, and aspire to obey. That is true for most every child of the King.

As these Reflections meander through the Scriptures, it is as though a pendulum moves back and forth between grace and judgment. If any of the Old Testament prophets exemplified the frustration, anger, and fury of the living God, it was Malachi. Malachi is the Father’s spokesman. It is almost as though Malachi’s words, emotions, sadness, and fury channel those of the King.

Malachi 1:6 The LORD of Heaven’s Armies says to the priests: “A son honors his father, and a servant respects his master. If I am your father and master, where are the honor and respect I deserve? You have shown contempt for my name! “But you ask, ‘How have we ever shown contempt for your name?’

In the military, soldiers are taught to salute the uniform, regardless of the person inside of it. But the Father’s standards are far higher and more difficult than that.

Have you ever wondered why churches have secondhand pianos? Could it be that their former owners have replaced them with new pianos and donated what they no longer wanted to God? I have never owned a piano, so I can never give Him a secondhand piano. But how often am I guilty of giving Him leftovers, rather than the best that I have.

Malachi 1:8 When you give blind animals as sacrifices, isn’t that wrong? And isn’t it wrong to offer animals that are crippled and diseased? Try giving gifts like that to your governor and see how pleased he is!”  

We would never consider doing something like this to human authorities, they would laugh at us or worse. And what about the IRS?

But when it comes to the Father, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, we somehow see things entirely differently. Do we actually think He does not see what we do and know what is in our hearts? Do we really believe that when it comes to the all-seeing, all-knowing God, out of sight, is out of mind?

When we assemble in places where people think and act like this, what is the Father’s preference? He tearfully says, shut them down!

Malachi 1:10 “How I wish one of you would shut the Temple doors so that these worthless sacrifices could not be offered! I am not pleased with you and I will not accept your offerings.”

Just imagine Him coming to the door of your heart, your home, or your local church and wrapping yellow tape around it. The tape reads: “crime scene, do not cross!”

Really? Yes really! Our disdainful and worthless efforts are like stealing from Him. And that is exactly what He calls it.

Malachi 3:8 Will a man rob God? Yet you are robbing Me! But you say, ‘How have we robbed You?’

The people were in total denial. When we rob God, we reveal our arrogance and lack of respect for Him. Too often we demonstrate a pretentious, above it all attitude.  

Malachi 1:13 “You say, ‘It’s too hard to serve the LORD,’ and you turn up your noses at my commands.”

He is the King of Kings and deserves our best.

Comments, Suggestions, Requests are sought and welcome.

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He loved them to the end

He loved them to the end

Having loved his own who were in the world, he now loved them to the very end. – John 13:1

Galatians 6:2-9

 2 Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.

 3 If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.

 4 Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.

 5 For we are each responsible for our own conduct.

 7 Do not be deceived. God will not be made a fool [mocked]. For a person will reap what he sows. You will always harvest what you plant.

 8 Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.

 9 Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not give up.

Most everyone is familiar with what are called Soap Operas. The term soap opera originated from radio dramas there were actually sponsored by soap manufacturers. They are serial melodramas with multiple principal characters. Real-life situations and challenges are transformed into long-term storylines. They are often very sentimental, filled unexpected twists and turns, and cliffhangers that keep the viewers coming back for more.

“Love to the End” is a 2018 Korean soap opera that had 104 episodes.

It told the story of unrequited love which finally ended up for the best. The main female character, falls in love. But the object of her love is uninterested. He has a girlfriend and does not return her love. But the protagonist remains true in her love for him, faithfully to the end. Because of her enduring love, she fights for and holds onto her love and perseveres. She never gives up no matter what obstacles she faces. Finally her love and determination are rewarded, and her love is reciprocated.

Often in real life, our challenges are so overwhelming, that we are tempted to throw in the towel. We continually strive to do the right thing, but things seem to last only a short time. And things seem to revert, and we are back where we started. We seem to move three steps forward, and then two steps backward. It tends to be tedious and extremely discouraging. We get bogged down in the middle of dense woods. We cannot see the forest because of the trees. We cannot grasp the big picture because our focus is primarily on the details, particularly those that annoy us.

But the view from above is quite different. Looking d and own and back, we can actually see how much forward progress we have made. This should be the source of renewed determination to love to the end and not give up. This is the perspective of the Father. He not only sees the progress, but He also sees the end result. And that is what He is determined to achieve in each of His children’s lives.

John 13:1 Having loved his own who were in the world, he now loved them to the very end.

The Greek text reveals the subtle sublimity of this short sentence. The verb translated loved is agapao. Agape is the noun form of this verb. In the first instance, having loved, it is an aorist participle in the Greek. It sums up the totality of the Lord Jesus Christ’s relationship with His disciples. He continually loved them throughout His time with them. He had always loved them(UBS). He never stopped loving them no matter what.

The second time the apostle John uses the term, he indicates that during the final hours of His life, the Lord Jesus Christ loved them to the very end. In the Greek it is a simple past tense, an aorist.

John adds the phrase to the very end. The Greek words are eis telos. To the end has a dual meaning. In the temporal sense, He loved them until the very end. In modern English, until His last breath. It also has an adverbial quality. He loved them completely or utterly. We might say, to the greatest extent possible (Michaels).

The Lord Jesus Christ never stopped loving His disciples. He loved them completely right up until the very end.

This is the same love He has for each child of the King. He will never stop loving us.

REFLECT & PRAY

Jesus always finishes what He starts. He never drops someone in midstream or gives up on a person halfway to the finish line (Stanley).

Father it is such a comfort to know that You will never stop loving me. I cannot make You love me more, and I cannot make You love me less.

INSIGHT

Consider the circumstances, the Lord Jesus Christ was about to be betrayed, He would soon be captured and arrested. He would then be abandoned by all of His followers. This would be followed by a mock trial, beatings, humiliation, and a horrid death by crucifixion.

Was He overwhelmed or distraught, was He angry or bitter? Absolutely not, rather He saw this as the moment of His greatest achievement. It was the moment in which He would be glorified (John 17:2). It was the fulfillment of His reason for coming into the world. He came to die for the sins of the entire world and make redemption possible. He was simply carrying out the Father’s ultimate purpose for His life.

There was no moping about or sadness. Rather, He demonstrated the full extent of His love to the end. Knowing everything there was about to take place, He did a totally unexpected and extraordinary thing.

John 13:4-5

 4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist,

 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him.

This is how the quintessential servant of the King lived, served, and died. He was always thinking of others and putting them first (Philippians 2:3).

John 13:12-15

 12 After washing their feet, he put on his robe again and sat down and asked, “Do you understand what I was doing?

 13 You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am.

 14 And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet.

 15 I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.

When you are tempted to give up and throw in the towel because what are seemingly unbearable circumstances, remember that night. Choose to emulate the Lord Jesus Christ.

Instead of throwing in the towel, wrap it around your waist and dig in.

Hebrews 12:4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

Comments, Suggestions, Requests are sought and welcome.

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Genuine concern

Genuine concern

For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. – Philippians 2:20 

Philippians 2:20-21

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

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

The contestants in the Special Olympics are developmentally or physically disabled. But they are special in a far more important way. They have genuine care and concern for one another. In the Special Olympics, in the 100 meter dash, the runners all start together and move together down the track shoulder-to-shoulder.

During one of these races, a young woman tripped and sprawled headlong on the track. She was in some amount of pain and rather embarrassed.

The rest of the contestants moved on for a few more feet. Without any communication among themselves, they all stopped, turned around, and jogged back to their fallen friend. They picked her up and took her off the track, comforted her. Then and only then did they continue on together, arm in arm, to the finish line. These special runners would rather finish together than win individually.

One, and only one, of Paul’s friends was just like that.

Paul wrote the book of Philippians while he was a prisoner in Rome. He had heard good things about the believers in Philippi and was eager to learn more. He wanted to share his appreciation and affection for them. He wanted to send a small group of fellow believers to them. He looked for volunteers. Apparently, there were only two who showed any interest at all, Timothy and Epaphroditus. Why was that so?

Paul knew firsthand all of the believers who were part of the local church in Rome. Actually, he knew them too well. They were not just self-centered; they were pathetically self-centered. They were only concerned about their own interests.

I can hear the whining now: “Philippi, you want us to go to Philippi? Do you know how far away Philippi is? We would have to walk the whole way or possibly take a boat part of the way and then walk the rest of the way. The trip would be long, hard, time-consuming, expensive, and hot. What’s in it for us? Not to mention the possibility of been eaten by lions or mugged by thieves and robbers. Oh, and I forgot to mention the dangers of pirates, being shipwrecked, or being marooned on Malta.”

The Romans were nothing but motorboat believers, “but, but, but, but” (as Charles Stanley so often says).

REFLECT & PRAY

The Father examines all of His children carefully, looking for the few special ones who are genuinely concerned with the needs of others.

Father I long to be like Paul and Timothy, and ultimately like You. I long to be “a chip off the old block,” Your block.

INSIGHT

Why was Timothy different? After a process of observing, learning, and maturing, Timothy finally got his priorities straight. His life was to be a life of service. He was all in! He had one all-consuming passion, to serve Paul and the Lord Jesus Christ. He was ready to go anywhere, anytime, and do whatever it took to fulfill his appointed responsibilities. Further, he was quite content being number two, to Paul’s number one. He was more than willing to be in the background, working from the shadows.

He was genuinely interested in the spiritual and physical well-being of others. Paul modeled this attitude in his words and actions time and time again. Timothy wanted to be just like Paul. Paul wanted to be just like the Lord Jesus Christ.

No one instantaneously becomes a mature and devoted servant. A submissive mind does not appear suddenly or automatically in any child of the King. It has to be cultivated and developed. Why? Because it is not natural to be a servant! It is natural to desire to be served (Wiersbe). But as Timothy grew to maturity, walked with the Father, and worked with Paul, “he became the kind of servant that Paul could trust and God could bless” (Wiersbe).

Paul did not merely say that he and Timothy were “like-minded.” Rather, he said that, he and Timothy were “like-souled.” All true servants of the King are “like-souled.” This is one of the instances where examining the original Greek, adds layers of depth, beauty, and color not seen in the English translation.

The Greek term translated of kindred spirit or like him is isopsuchos. It is derived from isos – equal, and psuche – soul, mind. It means to be equal in soul, activated by the same motives, character, affections, or sharing the same mindset. The Latin Vulgate translates the Greek isopsuchos with the Latin term unanimous. In modern English, we might say Timothy was “a chip off the old block.” Paul was his block. Paul was also “a chip off the old block,” the Lord Jesus Christ was Paul’s block.

One of the components of becoming a link in the Father’s chain of service, is a genuine concern for the well-being of others. Such concern is not only real and sincere, but it actually becomes second nature. To genuinely serve the needs of others becomes natural and the new normal for all children of the King who become His committed servants. Serving others as Lord Jesus Christ serves us, is perhaps one of the most difficult things to do. There are many hardships, difficulties, and obstacles. Often service to the King involves persecution, verbal, and physical abuse.

But the joy of being a “good and faithful servant” cannot be measured (Matthew 25:23).

Each and every child of the King can aspire to be “a chip off the old block,” like-souled. It is a lofty goal to aspire after. How are your aspirations?

Comments, Suggestions, Requests are sought and welcome.

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Muddled

Muddled

Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left. – Isaiah 30:21

Joshua 1:6-9

 6 “Be strong and courageous . . .

 7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do.

 8 Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.

 9 This is my command – be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Alice came to a fork in the road. “Which road do I take?” she asked.

“Where do you want to go?” responded the Cheshire Cat.

“I don’t know,” Alice answered.

“Then, it doesn’t matter.” said the Cheshire Cat (Lewis Carroll, Thru the Looking Glass).

For the children of the King, forks in the road are all about our pivotal life decisions. It begins with recognizing critical opportunities, and not shrinking back in fear or doubt. Rather, we are to seek wisdom from the Father.

Life is all about choices. Growing in wisdom includes learning to make wise choices for the right reasons. Wise choices are a matter of the heart and your developing relationship with the Father. Sagacious choices necessitate having a clear understanding of where it is that you want to go. Wise choices ultimately involve knowing where the Father wants you to go.

Right motivation is crucial. Two people can aim for the same goal, but for entirely different reasons. The 1981 film, Chariots of Fire, provides an excellent real life illustration. The movie tells the story of two men, Harold Abrahams and Eric Liddell preparing and competing for the 1924 Olympics. They are both great athletes. They are on the same team, but there is a huge difference between them. Abrahams is driven to compete because he has something to prove. He is deeply insecure. Winning is all important. It’s all about him.

Liddell also competes to win. When he runs, he feels the Father’s pleasure. The Father’s strength and presence energize him and elevate him to victory. He is not in bondage to himself. He runs for the honor of the Father. Two men, two motives, two inner lives. Eric Liddell competes energized and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Harold Abrahams runs on personal ambition and sheer adrenaline. It is the difference between supernatural strength that comes from mature spirituality, and extreme, earthly power derived from training, sheer willpower, and self-absorption (Ortlund and Hughes).

The world is a dark place. Jesus is the light of the world.

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

John 12:35 So Jesus said to them, for a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going.

REFLECT & PRAY

When you come to a fork in the road, take it (Yogi Berra). That is, when it is time to make important decisions, make them!

Father give me the good sense to recognize the importance of the decisions that I make and encourage me to depend upon You for wisdom to make the best ones.

INSIGHT

The Father does not play “hide and seek,” trying to make it difficult for us to find Him and know His will. The Father promises to lead and to guide His people. If we really want to do His will, He promises to make it clear. However, there is one gotcha. While the Father may be transmitting loud and clear, we may have our receiver turned off.

Yet, one of the realities of the Christian walk is that there are times of seeming divine concealment. The Father in heaven seems to separate Himself from us and erect a thick, impenetrable barrier. But these times DO NOT LAST. Once the obstruction is breached, the delightful experience of the Father’s intimacy and self-revelation awaits.

There are many ways in which the Father can communicate with us. Here is one of the ironies of life. When the eyes of His children fail to see, the Father remarkably opens their ears. What cannot be seen, can be heard. His voice becomes perceptible and He tells them which way to go.

A whisper heard, trusted, and followed changes the course of our lives.

The Father offers us a rich, hidden life with Him both in this life and eternity to come. What could be more wonderful and delightful than the experience of His presence and immediacy. Spiritual maturity involves flexibility and openness to whatever the Father has to say to us. We grow and increase our faith when we make our hearts vulnerable to hard truths that challenge us to the core. The Father challenges all of His children to greater growth. Mediocrity and remaining inactive without growth are not part of His game plan.

The Father intended our walk of faith to be a thrilling adventure, motivated by our love for Him. Obedience is about discovery, not about avoiding unpleasant consequences.

The Father’s children often approach obedience as a way of avoiding the negative consequences of disobedience. They see obedience as a burden, not as a wide and inviting road to maturity and fulfillment. Asking the right questions is key. Father, what would you have me do? Father, what would you have me learn from these circumstances? Father, which path is best for me now?

Proverbs 3:5-7

 5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.

 6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

 7 Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.

Comments, Suggestions, Requests are sought and welcome.

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