Stand alone

Stand alone

Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. – Daniel 1:8

Genesis 39:6-9 

 6 Joseph was a very handsome and well-built young man,

 7 and Potiphar’s wife soon began to look at him lustfully. “Come and sleep with me,” she demanded.

 8 But Joseph refused. “Look,” he told her, “my master trusts me with everything in his entire household.”

 9 “No one here has more authority than I do. He has held back nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God.”

Standalone or Stand Alone – What’s the Difference?

Standalone is an adjective. It is a synonym for independent. It is correctly spelled standalone or stand-alone. It modifies a noun. We speak of a standalone freezer or standalone software license. It refers to something that does not depend on other resources.

Stand alone is a verb phrase that means to be apart from others, either literally or figuratively. Such an individual often takes a unique stand and does not conform for conformity’s sake. They are in a league of their own.

There are many examples in the Scriptures of men and women who were willing to stand alone. To name but a few Esther, Daniel, Rahab, and Joseph.

REFLECT & PRAY

“Right is right even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it” (Saint Augustine). 

Father there are no shadows of gray with You. You have told us what is right and what is not right. Encourage me to walk righteously and make the best possible choices.

INSIGHT

“How can God’s people resist the pressures that can ‘squeeze’ them into conformity with the world? According to Romans 12:1-2, ‘conformers’ are people whose lives are controlled by pressure from without, but ‘transformers’ are people whose lives are controlled by power from within.” 

“Daniel and his three friends were transformers: instead of being changed, they did the changing! God used them to transform the minds of powerful rulers and to bring great glory to His name in a pagan land” (Wiersbe).

Each child of the King has the right and ability to choose to stand alone. 

“The first step in solving their problem and being transformers was giving themselves wholly to the Lord. Daniel’s heart – the totality of his being – belonged to the Lord, as did the hearts of his friends.”

“A heart that loves the Lord, trusts the Lord, and therefore obeys the Lord has no difficulty making the right choices and trusting God to take care of the consequences. It has well been said that faith is not believing in spite of evidence – that’s superstition – but obeying in spite of consequences.” (Wiersbe).

Often it comes down to the conflict between what the Father has asked us to do and what custom or law asked us to do. Paul leads the way and provides steps of action. 

Philippians 3:7-16

 7 I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done.

 8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ

 9 and become one with him. 

 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death.

 12 But I press on.

 13 I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,

 16 But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.

Conformity is doing what everyone else is doing, regardless of what is right.

Morality is doing what is right regardless of what everyone else is doing” (Evette Carter).

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Do you remember your first real Christmas?

Do you remember your first real Christmas?

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. – John 8:32

Isaiah 9:2 The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.

Several decades ago, a young student at UCLA heard that a Christian was coming to speak in his all Jewish fraternity about Jesus Christ. The announcement was made at the regular fraternity dinner meal. Most of the fraternity brothers thought it was a joke and laughed.

But on the appointed Wednesday night over 200 students appeared in their living room and dining room. This was a standard approach used to share the gospel by Campus Crusade for Christ, now called Cru, for those of you who may not know.

Out of pure curiosity, about five of the Jewish fraternity brothers went to listen.

This particular Jewish guy was intrigued by the mere idea that any intelligent, educated person could believe in Christianity’s mythology. It all seems so ridiculous. A man was God? A man was born of a virgin? A man was raised from the dead? A man died for the sins of the world? For all practical appearances, believing such nonsense and myths was absurd.

The man who came to speak was Hal Lindsey. He later wrote The Late Great Planet Earth. 

After he was done speaking, the student approached him and began to pepper him with questions. Hal invited the student to meet with him on campus anytime that would be convenient and bring a Bible from home. The student could then ask any question he wanted. Hal would attempt to answer the question from the student’s own Bible. 

The student took him up on his offer and the process went on for five weeks. Every question the student asked was answered. The student soon realized that the Bible was no ordinary book. It was indeed the Word of God. And the Lord Jesus Christ was no mere man, but rather He was the promised Messiah of Israel. He made a personal decision and prayed and accepted Him as his Messiah and Savior. Later that year, for the first time in his life, the student celebrated his first real Christmas. 

For two millennia, myriads of people throughout the world have celebrated the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. But what did Christmas really mean to them? When you are on the outside looking in, Christmas is not about Christ at all. It is often merely a time of family gatherings, beautiful decorations, exchanging gifts, and huge festive meals.

But somehow the true focus of Christmas has been lost to many.

REFLECT & PRAY

John 8:12 “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.”

Father thank You that You have provided the Savior and Redeemer. Thank You that You have opened my eyes to see and receive Him as my Savior and Lord.

INSIGHT

For many, Christmas is a beautiful and delightful time of the year. There is definitely a spirit of Christmas in the air. This is reflected in literature and, more recently, movies and television.

But it is much more than that. 

Luke 2:10-12 

 10 The angel reassured them. “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!”

 12 “And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Christmas is intended to be a celebration of the birth of the Savior of the world by those who believe in Him. The Old Testament predicted that he would come, lead people out of darkness into the light.

Isaiah 9:2 The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.

The promised Messiah would bring salvation to the world. The facts are out there for anyone to research and determine. But salvation does not come by merely knowing and understanding facts. It is about accepting and believing in the Person that these facts speak of. It is very personal and individual. It is a decision that anyone can make. 

Luke 2:25-32 

 25 At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him

 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.

 27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required,

 28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,

 29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised.

 30 I have seen your salvation,

 31 which you have prepared for all people.

 32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

At that moment, the Father’s promise was fulfilled. Simeon saw and believed. He accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as his personal Savior and Messiah. Anyone can do it. 

John 1:12 To all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.

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Coming full circle – sort of

Coming full circle – sort of

I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it. – Deuteronomy 34:4

Hebrews 11:9-10

 9 And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith – for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise.

 10 Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.

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 here on earth.

Hebrews 11:15-16

 15 If they had longed for the country they came from, they could have gone back.

 16 But they were looking for a better place, a heavenly homeland. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

Great promises offer great hope

Within months of the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, the American forces on the Philippines were defeated and taken captive. It was a horrendous, dismal, dark day. March 11, 1942, General Douglas MacArthur climbed aboard a PT boat in the Philippines and under cover of darkness ran a Japanese blockade to Australia. He then made a confident promise, “I Shall Return.”

Some 2 1/2 years later American forces landed in Leyte in October 1944. MacArthur fulfilled his promise. Ultimate victory came over Japanese occupied Philippines at the battle of Manila, March 3, 1945.

Promise made; promise kept. Yet sadly this is not always so.

The Father has given us great and precious promises. Some will be realized in this life some will not. Great promises engender great hope. As children of the King we are to learn, believe, and rely upon the promises that the Father has made. It is our choice to keep working towards their fulfillment.

What we look for and aspire to is more important than where we end up.

2 Peter 1:4 And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.

Unrequited longing creates a fragile, painful, emotional openness. Such longing may be a deep ache that defies description. Here dreams die and hope evaporates. We want more, but remain unsatisfied. It is an opportunity for both perspective transformation and perspective confirmation.

It is the Father who takes us through this amazing process. It is the death of a vision. When hopes and dreams are lost, it can be incredibly hard to cope with. It is difficult to know how and when to let go. But this is how the Father deals with His children. In fact, the death of a vision prepares us for what comes next.

The Father is teaching hard lessons that can only be learned via the difficult, often heart wrenching experiences He takes us through. Our response is of greatest importance. When we get it right, and accept His sovereign hand and recognize that He has only our best interest at heart, something incredible follows.

The death of one vision, in time and will give birth to another. Often, it is the same vision. Bill Gothard shared in his Basic Youth Conflicts seminars that time and time again in the Bible we see that the Father gives a vision that must die before it ultimately is fulfilled. Think of Old Testament characters such as Moses or Joseph. That is the Father’s way with the child of the King.

REFLECT & PRAY

“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all beauty came from” (C. S. Lewis).

Dear Father, there was a time when I had no hope at all. But by faith You entered into my life. I had hope for a time. But then my vision died. I was left empty and melancholy. That is exactly where You wanted me. You wanted my confidence to rest upon who and what You are and find fulfillment that You alone provide.

INSIGHT

After they left Egypt and reached the promised land, the land that would fulfill their hopes and dreams, they shrunk back and did not follow the Father’s direction. Because of unbelief and disobedience, the first generation of Israelites aged twenty and over all died in the wilderness, except for Moses, Joshua, and Caleb (Numbers 32:11-12). They never entered into the promised land. But now the children of Israel have come full circle. The next generation returned to the land of promise ready to follow the Father’s directive. The Father had prepared them to enter and take possession of the promised land.

The story of the wilderness wanderings began with the chaos, ungodly ribaldry, and the golden calf. It now ends with the culmination of the Father’s promise that He would bring His people safely to the promised land and they would take possession of it.

In Hebrews 2-4, unbelief and disobedience go hand-in-hand. These chapters have been referred to as the “cemetery chapters” of the New Testament. “It is a repeated burden of those sad chapters of Hebrews, which tell the story of the wilderness wanderings . . . ‘they could not enter in because of unbelief’ . . .. Because disobedience and unbelief are the two sides of the same coin – a coin of the devil’s mintage. They who disobey do not believe; and they who do not believe disobey” (F. B. Meyer).

Moses was able to see but not enter the land of promise. The Father would not allow him to enter the promised land because of his rash sin at Kadesh (Numbers 20). Was the punishment greater than the offense? Not at all. “Any offense of Moses cannot be a small offense” (Alexander Maclaren).

Moses was the leader of the Father’s own people. Moses knew that the greater the privileges, the greater the responsibilities. The Father in His grace forgives our sins, but God in His government allows our sins to work out their sad consequences in our lives (Wiersbe).

Moses did not die from old age. He was still vigorous and strong though he was no longer able to lead (Deuteronomy 31:2). He died at the Father’s command because he had completed his role in the Father’s plan. His life had spanned three generations (120 years) and was full and complete. His death closed one era and prepared for a new one. Israel was now ready to enter the land, and God had raised up new leadership in Joshua (Hall).

Many of the Father’s children are at the end of an era. They have experienced the death of a vision. This is not the beginning of the end; it is merely the end of the beginning.

Each child of the King possesses promises. We are to stand firm, being fully assured that what the Father has promised, He is able also to perform (Romans 4:21).

Abraham died having seen some, but not all, of the Father’s promises fulfilled. We stand in precisely the same situation. The Father will certainly fulfill all His promises, but the greatest of them await the next life (Stanley).

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The insanity of unbelief

The insanity of unbelief

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” – John 11:25-26

Ecclesiastes 10:12-13

 12 Wise words bring approval, but fools are destroyed by their own words.

 13 Fools base their thoughts on foolish assumptions, so their conclusions will be wicked madness.

When driven by intense negative emotions, we are capable of doing really strange, bizarre, and unthinkable things.

Imagine creating something beautiful for someone you love. It might be something as simple as a glazed clay pot, or as complicated as a painting or beautiful flower garden that took months of planning, cultivation, and care. Then you argue and you end up “hating” each other for a time. In due time, you apologize and reconcile, and all is well.

However, in the interim what happened to the handiwork of your love? In the heat of your anger, you trashed it. You trashed the very thing you created out of love, for the one you love, because of the heat of the moment. Now that is pretty insane, is it not?

Some religious leaders can be very territorial and protective. This can produce great jealousy and fierce competition. So, it was at the time of the Lord Jesus Christ. John 11 tells the story of Lazarus, the beloved friend of Jesus. Lazarus becomes ill and his sisters send for Jesus in the hopes that he will do a miraculous healing. Before the Lord Jesus Christ arrived, Lazarus died.

When the Lord Jesus Christ came to their house, it was a scene of great mourning and remorse. Both of the sisters wondered out loud why He had not come sooner. They had no doubts that if He had come sooner, He would have healed His friend (John 11:21). But now it was too late, Lazarus was dead! Perhaps there was a bit of resentment brewing.

Why the delay? The Lord Jesus Christ had purposely waited two days before beginning His journey to Bethany where Lazarus was sick and dying. The sisters wished with all their hearts that he would’ve arrived “on time” and saved the day.

But all of these events were only setting the stage for the Lord Jesus Christ to perform His final and greatest miracle before His death on the cross and resurrection. And with the miracle, He would disclose an incredible new truth.

John 11:25-26

 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies,

 26 and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

The Lord Jesus Christ stated unequivocally claiming to have the power of resurrection and life within Himself. He asserted that He was able to raise somebody from the dead. Who would make such a claim if they could not back it up? Only the insane or the deluded.

But the Lord Jesus Christ was neither. But in fact, it is indeed true. How can we be sure? The Lord Jesus Christ provided a demonstration for all to see, using three words.

John 11:43 He had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.

What happened next was wonderful, incredible, and astonishing. But it really happened. Lazarus walked out of the tomb alive!

At a moment like this, each person has only two choices: belief and awesome wonder or unbelief and rejection. Both reactions occurred among those who witnessed the miracle.

Many believe.

John 11:45 Therefore, many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him.

But for the rest, because of jealousy and fear, insanity set in. They saw the miracle; you chose not to believe. Insanity simply says, kill Him!

John 11:46-53

 46 But some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.

 47 Then the leading priests and Pharisees called the high council together. “What are we going to do?” they asked each other. “This man certainly performs many miraculous signs.

 48 If we allow him to go on like this, soon everyone will believe in him. Then the Roman army will come and destroy both our Temple and our nation.”

 53 So from that time on, the Jewish leaders began to plot Jesus’ death.

Really! If you kill a person Who is the resurrection and the life, how can you guarantee He would stay dead? What permanent, lasting damage can be done to a person Who has the power of life and resurrection in Himself?

REFLECT & PRAY

Anger, fear, jealousy, or embarrassment the source of many of our self-inflicted acts of foolishness. Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back. – Proverbs 29:11

Father I recognize that it is way too easy to become angry and lose control. Strengthen my spirit not to act out my anger. Encourage me to be wise and not foolish. Cultivate constraint and control within me.

INSIGHT

The Father provides His perspective regarding such unwise responses. Foolish clamor begins as sheer folly and ends in wicked madness.

Ecclesiastes 10:13 Fools base their thoughts on foolish assumptions, so their conclusions will be wicked madness.

From beginning to end, a fool’s words are worthless and pointless. The longer they talk, the crazier things become. The words of a fool lack sense at the outset and go downhill from there into utter, irrational madness.

“We may try to hurt others with our lies, slander, insults, slurs, mocking, and words of fury, but the one we are hurting the most is really ourselves” (Wiersbe).

Ironically, fools talk in excess, but their words accomplish at best nothing or at worst harm.  

Proverbs 10:19 Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.

Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but the wise listen to others.

Proverbs 17:28 Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.

“It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt” (Abraham Lincoln).

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The story of why

The story of why

You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. – John 8:32

To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his. – Job 12:13

James 1:2-5

 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.

 5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking

How many times in our lives have we experienced hardship, difficulty, tragedy, unmet expectations and then asked WHY?

Most of the time, the Scriptures do not directly address the question of why. In fact, there is the tacit implication that it is really the wrong question to ask. Instead the Scriptures tell us how to manage our hardships and get through our afflictions with the proper response to our Father in heaven.

There is however one outstanding example where the Father answers the question of why. It provides needed insight, and ultimately comfort for us in difficult times.

There is an entire book of the Bible that was written to address the question of why. It investigates why people suffer, how they learn from suffering, and what is really going on behind the suffering. You have probably guessed what book of the Bible it is, the book of Job.

The book of Job is the story of Job’s suffering. In the material world, he lost most everything that he had that was of value to him. He lost his children, his possessions, his property, his means of livelihood. His suffering and loss were horrendous and almost unimaginable. He was left with only four things: a few “helpful” friends, a distraught, nagging wife who was grieving the same losses that he had experienced, his health, and most importantly, his faith.

If you have your health, you have everything, right? Well, Job soon lost his health too. Next his “helpful friends” and their suggestions proved to be useless, confusing, and without merit. Materially speaking, all he really had left was his distraught, grieving, nagging wife.

His faith was greatly tested. He was almost crushed. However, Job’s initial response was truly incredible. He demonstrated that he was a man of faith.

Job 12:9-22

 9 That the hand of the LORD has done this,

 10 In whose hand is the life of every living thing, And the breath of all mankind?

 13 With Him are wisdom and might; to Him belong counsel and understanding.

 22 He reveals mysteries from the darkness and brings the deep darkness into light.

Job 13:15 “Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless, I will argue my ways before Him.”

If we were there, I am convinced we would hear him weeping, if not wailing. He was mourning and consumed with grief.

He is trapped in the twilight zone between trust and fear. His thoughts reverberated again and again, why. WHY, WHY, WHY?

If we began reading his story inJob 1:13 where his history of the suffering begins, we would have no clue as to what was really going on. Because the book of Job was written after the after the events had taken place, Job had never read Job 1:1-12. So he had no understanding as to what was going on. He had no idea or reason concerning the cause of his trials. He had done nothing wrong. Yet tragedy after tragedy befell him.

But there is a back story, the untold story explains that his tests came about because he was good and righteous and had confidence and trust in the Father above all else. Does that make any sense at all? It does in the Father’s kingdom.

REFLECT & PRAY

So often we ask why. It is a transformational moment, a perspective transformation, when we come to realize that, if we really knew why, it would change nothing. We would still have to trust the Father no matter what. We would have to take it by faith that He has our best interests at heart

Father this is a difficult lesson to learn. Sadly, we must learn it over and over again. Help me to grow up and be like Job. May I believe as Job believed. May I echo his sentiments, though You may slay me, yet I will trust You.

INSIGHT

Here’s the rest of the story:

Job 1:6-12

 6 One day the members of the heavenly court came to present themselves before the LORD, and the Accuser, Satan, came with them.

 7 “Where have you come from?” the LORD asked Satan. Satan answered the LORD, “I have been patrolling the earth, watching everything that’s going on.”

 8 Then the LORD asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless – a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.”

 9 Satan replied to the LORD, “Yes, but Job has good reason to fear God.

 10 You have always put a wall of protection around him and his home and his property. You have made him prosper in everything he does. Look how rich he is!

 11 But reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!”

 12 “All right, you may test him,” the LORD said to Satan. “Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.” So Satan left the LORD’s presence.

Job was guilty of nothing but righteousness. He was pushed to the limit of human endurance and nearly collapsed. Knowing this, do you feel any better?

The Father personally intervened and spoke to him one-on-one. Rather than answering his questions, the Father asked His own (Job 38-41).

Job fully understood with greater understanding than ever, that the Father was a creative genius and designed and made all that is. The Father knows what He is doing, why He is doing it, and what His ultimate purpose is.

Why do we suffer? Suffering is part of the Father’s plan for our lives! Our best response to suffering is not to ask “why,” but rather we should ask “what would you have me learn from these experiences and how can I draw closer to You Father.”

Especially when we find ourselves in painful and distressing circumstances, we must turn to the Father for His wisdom, strength, guidance, and knowledge. Where else can we go to find the help we need?

God is either worth trusting all the way to the end, or He’s not worth trusting at all (Stanley).

“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

Job finally ends his journey where he began in total faith and confidence. Knowing why, changed nothing. It was incumbent upon him to repent and line up behind the Father whom Job worship and served.

Job 42:5-6

 5 “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; but now my eye sees You.

 6 Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes.”

Rather than living Job’s life and struggles after him, learn from him. Begin now and take baby steps in developing total faith and confidence in the Father.

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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 existed between us and God. When we are adopted into the Father’s forever family, all warfare and enmity are abolished. A state of permanent peace is established. This is true for each child of the King.

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 the Father’s Christmas gifts to us. We can now experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand (Philippians 4:7).

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Aslan is on the move

Aslan is on the move

The sign that the Son of Man is coming will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the peoples of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. – Matthew 24:30

Luke 2:10-11

 10 Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people;

 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

In C.S. Lewis’s book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Lewis describes the once beautiful land of Narnia. But now it is, under the spell of the evil White Witch. Her spell has Narnia in the continual state of frigid winter. Not only is the land locked in icy cold, but Christmas never arrives. What a disaster! The sun never shines and the spring thaw never comes. It is like Buffalo New York in the winter only far worse. Only bitter cold with no Christmas to look forward to. Mr. Tumnus, a character in the story is a fictional faun. Mr. Tumnus grimly says, “It is winter in Narnia and has been for ever so long . . .. Always winter, but never Christmas.”

Indeed it is, “Always Winter but Never Christmas.” C.S. Lewis in one phrase describes a world under the domination of evil. It symbolizes planet Earth under the control of Satan who is the god of this world. The White Witch represents the devil.

Without the first Christmas, the world would be forever doomed to be without the loving, powerful, and positive influence of the Lord Jesus Christ. Could you imagine life in such an intolerable state where we had to endure the brutal conditions of the winter season – but never having Christmas to look forward to?

A fascinating story made the rounds back in June 2005. It was picked up by several mainstream and international media. A 12-year-old Ethiopian girl was abducted in an effort to force her into marriage. Word of the kidnapping was soon spread and a search was begun. In about a week, she was found by police. But the men who had abducted her were long gone. In their place was a pride of three lions. Apparently, they had chased off her captors and were guarding her when the police arrived.

Police Sgt. Wondimu Wedajo, stated that, “They stood guard until we found her and then they just left her like a gift and went back into the forest.” The girl told the police she had been mistreated by her kidnappers, but no harm was done to her by the lions. An Ethiopian wildlife expert said the lions may have spared the girl because her crying may have sounded like the mewing sound from a lion cub. Many people thought that some type of miracle must have occurred.

The headlines from the Associated Press read: Lions Save African Girl from Abductors.

Several big cat experts doubt the credibility of the story. The lion, whose Latin name is Panthera Leo, is not exactly known for its gentleness and shepherding qualities. On top of that, lions certainly know the difference between a furry thing that looks like them and a young human child.

This incredible story may well have happened and possibly a miracle did indeed occur. It would not be the first time that the Father tamed lions on behalf of one He was protecting (Daniel 6).

REFLECT & PRAY

In the darkest dark and the coldest cold, recall Aslan is on the move.

Father Thank You that You have sent The Lion of Judah, The Lord Jesus Christ To Protect and watch over us. Encourage us with this truth.

INSIGHT

“‘They say Aslan is on the move’ – perhaps he has already landed.” In C.S. Lewis’s book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Aslan represents the Lord Jesus Christ. To say that He is on the move means He is actively at work to break the spell of the White Witch. The temperature begins to rise and in the snow and ice began to melt. Confident assurance regarding a positive outcome is finally at hand. The White Witch will be defeated and redemption will come.

In Lewis’s tale, Aslan is a magnificent lion. Like all the other animals of Narnia, He talks. But He is the rightful king of Narnia and has returned to reclaim His throne. This fairytale is a precursor of the reality of things to come, the long prophesied return of the Lord Jesus Christ to take up His Davidic throne and rule as King. The kingdom of God is coming to planet Earth.

When the announcement was made that, “Aslan is on the move” a series of events began to unfold. “And now a very curious thing happened. None of the children knew who Aslan was any more than you do; but the moment the Beaver had spoken these words everyone felt quite different . . .. At the name of Aslan each one of the children felt something jump inside. Edmund felt a sensation of mysterious horror. Peter felt suddenly brave and adventurous. Susan felt as if some delicious smell or some delightful strain of music had just floated by her. And Lucy got the feeling you have when you wake up in the morning and realize that it is the beginning of the holidays or the beginning of summer.”

In the Scriptures, the Lord Jesus Christ is referred to as the Lion of Judah. He is first mentioned in Jacob’s blessing of Judah (Genesis 49:8-12).

Revelation 5:5 “Stop weeping! Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David’s throne, has won the victory.”

The Lord Jesus Christ came the first time to bring salvation and redemption to the earth. Whoever believes in Him would have eternal life (John 3:16). When the Lord Jesus, Christ comes back he will put an end to all warfare on earth and establish a kingdom of peace and reign on the throne of David for a thousand years (Revelation 20:4).

The Lion of Judah, will come to protect and shepherd His needy sheep. He is the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls (1 Peter 2:25).

John 10:11 I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

John 10:17-18

 17 “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.”

 18 “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.”

Aslan is on the move

The nails did not hold the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, love did.

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Standing up to Big Chicken

Standing up to Big Chicken

We will not boast about things done outside our area of authority. We will boast only about what has happened within the boundaries of the work God has given us, which includes our working with you. – 2 Corinthians 10:13

2 Corinthians 11:2-4

 2 For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband – Christ.

 3 But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent.

 4 You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.

Chick-fil-A is standing up to Big Chicken. For over 25 years, Chick-fil-A has used cows as their bovine spokespersons in its advertisements. Their slogan “Eat Mor Chikin” sets them apart from other fast-food chains which serve mainly hamburgers. Chick-fil-A is by far the largest poultry-based fast food chain in America. In 2019, Chick-fil-A posted more than $11 billion in domestic sales. Its total sales were nearly triple those of both KFC and Popeyes combined.

Chick-fil-A has sued 16 chicken producers, including giants Tyson Foods and Perdue Farms, alleging they conspired to keep prices artificially high. They inflated prices for billions of dollars of its chicken purchases, which in turn had to be passed on to the customers. The company alleges that producers colluded to inflate prices after the chain’s 2014 announcement that by 2019, it would only sell chicken not treated with antibiotics. In recent months other companies, like Aldi supermarkets and Campbell Soup, joined the ranks of buyers battling chicken producers in court.

According to Chick-fil-A, the suppliers violated federal antitrust laws when they shared confidential bidding and pricing information with one another by phone and text messages (Neil Vigdor, www.nytimes.com).

Undaunted, by no means will Big Chicken, “chicken out.” Perdue Farms’ spokeswoman, Andrea Staub, firmly asserted, “We believe these claims are unfounded and plan to contest the merits.” America will undoubtedly be witness to the most egregious cockfight in history.

Somehow the idea of standing up to Big Chicken intrigued me. The phrase itself is somewhat oxymoronic and a tad humorous, whimsical, even outrageous.

When necessary, children of the King must take a stand no matter how big the opponent may be. Developing the skill to stand up for yourself and your faith is a way of ensuring other people respect you. They are more likely to hesitate, if not halt any attempts to push you around or manipulate you. Remember, water follows the course of least resistance.

REFLECT & PRAY

1 Peter 5:12 My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. Stand firm in this grace.

Father give me the wisdom to know when to take a stand, and then the courage to stand firm upon the principles and truth of the Word of God.

INSIGHT

In the early church, opponents of the truth but often colluded to bring harm to the body of Christ. Deceivers and false teachers were rampant. Paul as an apostle was required to stand up to them. The book of 2 Corinthians provides several cameos of what went on.

2 Corinthians 11:4-20

 4 You happily put up with whatever anyone tells you, even if they preach a different Jesus than the one we preach, or a different kind of Spirit than the one you received, or a different kind of gospel than the one you believed.

 13 These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ.

 19 After all, you think you are so wise, but you enjoy putting up with fools!

 20 You put up with it when someone enslaves you, takes everything you have, takes advantage of you, takes control of everything, and slaps you in the face.

The children of the King were being led astray from purity of devotion to the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. They were gullible, taken in, and then ruthlessly taken advantage of. They caved into false teachers. They thought themselves wise, enlightened, open, compliant, accommodating, tolerant, even benevolent. Today, perhaps they would have considered themselves “woke.” But rather than growing stronger in their faith and walking closer to the Father, they were being deceived, seduced, and led astray.

In fact rather than being wise they were fools. The oft-repeated pejorative aphorism “suffer fools gladly” comes from the KJV rendering of the first half” of 2 Corinthians 11:19 (Baker). “Calling these gullible Corinthians ‘wise’ is scathingly sarcastic. They, of course, are the fools who are embracing fools so heartily” (Baker).

Paul was confrontive and discloses the true source of the deception that energized the false teachers. Paul did not shrink back or mince words. It was the enemy, Satan himself.

2 Corinthians 11:13-15

 13 These people are false apostles. They are deceitful workers who disguise themselves as apostles of Christ.

 14 But I am not surprised! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.

 15 So it is no wonder that his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. In the end they will get the punishment their wicked deeds deserve.

It was way past time for the Corinthians to stand up and resist. They needed to fight the Big Chicken of their day. They should not allow themselves to be enslaved by false teachers and be taken advantage of.

2 Corinthians 11:19-20

 19 After all, you think you are so wise, but you enjoy putting up with fools!

 20 You put up with it when someone enslaves you, takes everything you have, takes advantage of you, takes control of everything, and slaps you in the face.

“The Corinthians considered themselves unusually wise, but they were being unusually foolish by not only humoring the fools in their midst but doing so gladly. They were absurdly tolerant. They submitted to the teaching of the false apostles even though it resulted in their own enslavement” (Constable).

“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything” (Albert Einstein).

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Masters or Disasters

Masters or Disasters

Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. – Ephesians 4:32

1 Peter 3:8-12

 8 Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.

 9 Don’t repay evil for evil. Don’t retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with a blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and he will bless you for it.

 10 For the Scriptures say, “If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies.”

 11 “Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.”

 12 “The eyes of the Lord watch over those who do right, and his ears are open to their prayers. But the Lord turns his face against those who do evil.”

In the 1970’s, a crisis flared up in American marriages. They were ending in divorce, separation, or deteriorating into dysfunctional bitterness at unprecedented rates. Social scientists began studying marriages in earnest. John Gottman was one of those researchers. He has continued his research for more than four decades.

In 1986, he and his colleague Robert Levenson set up a “Love Lab” at the University of Washington. They recruited newlyweds and observed them interacting, measuring heart rate, blood flow, and perspiration which measured their psychological activity. Six years later, they followed up with the couples if they were still together. They quickly divided them into two major groups: Masters and Disasters.

The Disasters were continually in fight-or-flight mode. They were aggressive and prepared to attack and be attacked.

The Masters on the other hand were calm and connected together. They demonstrated warm and affectionate behavior even when they disagreed. What made the difference? The Masters had created a climate of trust and intimacy that made them both more emotionally and physically comfortable.

Delving deeper, he observed that the couples would make requests for connection. Gottman called them “bids.” They were looking to each other for signs of interest or support. Once a bid was made, their partner responded by either turning toward or turning away. These responses could be statistically measured. It turned out that the Disasters had “turn-toward bids” 33% of the time while the Masters had “turn-toward bids” 87% of the time. The Masters were meeting their partner’s needs 9 out of 10 times.

Qualitatively speaking, it gets down to what the couples bring to the relationship. They can either bring, enhance, and reinforce kindness and generosity or contempt, criticism, and hostility (https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/06/happily-ever-after/372573/).

21st century America is characterized by divorce, separation, or simply two people living under the same roof in perpetual dysfunctional bitterness and strife.

The Father’s answer to this tragic human dilemma lived out in time is very similar to the answer He provided for the eternal dilemma of sin, death and separation from Him. He designed a way to resurrect people who were dead in their sins and give them the gift of eternal life. He bonded with of us who are His children and established eternal intimacy and affection. He placed us at His right hand in Christ Jesus. We are forever turned-toward Him. Through redemption and transformation, it has already begun and will never end.

Ephesians 2:1-7

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

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

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

 4 But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much,

 5 that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)

 6 For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus.

 7 So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

REFLECT & PRAY

Master or Disaster, choose wisely. Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your lives. From this day on I will bless you. – Haggai 2:19

Father coach me in the skill of practicing kindness of trust and intimacy with You and my indispensable companion on planet Earth.

INSIGHT

Genesis 2:18 The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion for him who corresponds to him.”

The Father designed Adam and Eve to be partners, complements to one another. The Hebrew word translated companion or helper is ‘ezer. The Father Himself is frequently designated a helper to each of His children. He is the one who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves, the one who meets our needs.

‘Ezer connotes an “indispensable companion.” The woman would supply what the man was lacking in the design of creation and logically it would follow that the man would supply what she was lacking, although that is not explicitly stated here (ESV notes).

Paul encourages us as children of the King to find our way back to the Father’s original intent and design for marriage. It all begins and is reinforced by abundant kindness, forgiveness, and tenderheartedness.

Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.

The Greek term translated kindness is chrestos. Chrestos comes from the Greek verb chraomai which means to furnish what is needed. Profitable, fit, good for any use. A healthy marriage is characterized by each partner providing what is needed for the good of the other. Kindness has the sense of being gently pleasant, soft and mild; not harsh, stern or severe.

To live in kindness, abundant kindness, in the most important of all human relationships, marriage, is a decision each child of the King can make and reinforce repeatedly.

This is the skill in which the Masters of marriage became black belts. Anyone can do it. It comes down to choice, determination, and practice. As we learn and grow in this skill, we demonstrate for all to see the abundant grace of the Father God both now and for all time (Ephesians 2:7).

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A thief in the night

A thief in the night

But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. – Matthew 24:43

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.

In the spring of 2017, administrators at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh initiated an audit and were shocked to find out that many of the room’s holdings were missing. Almost every item of value in the library’s Oliver Room, home of its rare-books collection, was pillaged. The value of the stolen objects was estimated to be $8 million. It was the most extensive theft from an American library in at least a century.

Like nuclear power plants and sensitive computer networks, the Oliver Room was protected by what is known as “defense in depth.” Such a technique utilizes a series of small, overlapping measures designed to thwart a thief who might be able to overcome a single deterrent. Greg Priore, manager of the room starting in 1992, designed it that way.

Activity in the room was under constant camera surveillance. The room has a single point of entry, and only a few people had keys to it. The room had limited daytime hours, and all guests were required to sign in and leave personal items, such as jackets and bags, in a locker outside. Priore’s desk sat at a spot that commanded the room and the table where patrons worked. When a patron returned a book, he checked that it was still intact. When anyone, employee or patron, entered the collection, Priore knew.

How could such a thing take place? Almost every threat to the rare-books collection was considered. There was only one weak point. It had to be an inside job. It turns out, the fox was responsible for guarding the chickens. Greg Priore himself was the thief. He took nearly everything he could get his hands on with impunity for close to 25 years. The only thing that keeps an insider from stealing is conscience (Smithsonian Magazine, Sept. 2020).

Satan was the ultimate insider. He had total and complete access to the holiest part of heaven itself in the Father’s presence He was the greatest and most excellent of all the Father’s created beings. He went from being perfect to imperfect, from good and righteous to evil and abominable. He became thoroughly heinous, and reprobate.

Lucifer, the bearer of light, became the prince of darkness, the slanderer, the accuser.

Why, oh why?

REFLECT & PRAY

Haughtiness goes before destruction; humility precedes honor. – Proverbs 18:12

Father I am reminded of the night of the Last Supper.  The Lord Jesus Christ said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one, Lord?” (Matthew 26:21-22). Father, I pray that it will not be I.

INSIGHT

The Scriptures are quite explicit as to what happened and why. There came a point in the evil one’s life when being who and what he was just not enough. He wanted it all! He just snapped! He wanted to become like the Father Himself. He became filled with pride because of his great beauty, magnificence, power, and position.

Ezekiel 28:12-17

 12 You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and exquisite in beauty.

 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God. Your clothing was adorned with every precious stone – red carnelian, pale-green peridot, white moonstone, blue-green beryl, onyx, green jasper, blue lapis lazuli, turquoise, and emerald – all beautifully crafted for you and set in the finest gold. They were given to you on the day you were created.

 14 I ordained and anointed you as the mighty angelic guardian. You had access to the holy mountain of God and walked among the stones of fire.

 15 You were blameless in all you did from the day you were created until the day evil was found in you.

 17 Your heart was filled with pride because of all your beauty. Your wisdom was corrupted by your love of splendor.

Isaiah 14:12-14

 12 How you are fallen from heaven, O shining star, son of the morning! You have been thrown down to the earth, you who destroyed the nations of the world.

 13 For you said to yourself, “I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God’s stars. I will preside on the mountain of the gods far away in the north.”

 14 “I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High.”

The enemy of our souls does not deserve our pity, but rather our disdain.

The proverbial saying, “Absolute power corrupts absolutely” is attributed to the 19th century British politician Lord Acton. The idea was nothing new and had been expressed previously by others in different words.

What exactly does this mean? As a person’s power increases, their moral sense diminishes. The more power a person has, the more corrupted they will become. “It morally destroys their nature and fills them with destructive pride. However, if the person saves himself from this abuse of power, he or she is a humble person” (https://literarydevices.net).

Remember, that when we point our index finger at others, there are three fingers pointing back at ourselves. Satan’s temptations and fall are similar to to the temptations we face.

1 John 2:15-17

 15 Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.

 16 For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.

 17 And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.

What is the Father’s answer?

James 4:6-8

 6 But he gives us even more grace to stand against such evil desires. As the Scriptures say, “God opposes the proud but favors the humble.”

 7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

 8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you.

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