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 was later 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 in everyday life.

The Father is depicted as a powerful yet gentle Shepherd in Isaiah 40. We get a picture of the Father, showing Him to be both gentle and powerful. He comes in power and rules with a mighty 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. Thus, the concept of an all-powerful King, characterized by gentleness and kindness, often seems incongruous.

REFLECT & PRAY

As we serve the king, sometimes our most significant 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 as entrusted, trusted, and committed is paradidomi. Paradidomi comes from para to the side of, over to, and didomi to give. It has the sense of delivering over or giving over control, relinquishing 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 that is 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 as gentle, is praus. Praus has the sense of being humble, considerate, meek, or unassuming. It is a disposition that 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, 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 most often taken by the spiritually mature.

Living out the quality of gentleness is not optional. It is the mandatory expectation for every child 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.”

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© Dr. H 2022

Epic failure ∙

Epic failure

If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. – 1 Corinthians 10:12

Luke 22:32

 31 Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat.

 32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.

Luke 22:60-62

 60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” Immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed.

 61 The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.”

 62 And he went out and wept bitterly.

For over 30 years, Intel Corp. has been the undisputed leader in computer microprocessors and chip sets design and fabrication. Based in Santa Clara, California (a.k.a. Silicon Valley), it was the epitome of “made in the USA.” It marked America’s dominance of the semiconductor industry

It maintained a competitive advantage by marrying top-notch design and US-based state-of-the-art factories. As other chipmakers moved their plants overseas, Intel stood firm, planted on US soil.

Intel Corp. faced severe delays for years, but now it has experienced an epic failure. Its very strengths and strategies have now proven to be its undoing.

In July 2020, it announced that its next generation of technology, 7-nanometer CPUs, would be delayed by over a year. Its ability to design and fabricate had been challenged and overtaken by domestic rivals and other countries.

Can Intel overcome its epic failure?

Any child of the King can and does fail. Failure in this life, at one point or another, is regrettably the norm. We all trip and fall down. The question is, “What do we do when we experience epic failure?”

Peter was the undisputed leader of the twelve apostles. Yet he failed dreadfully when he denied the Lord Jesus Christ. But the Scriptures reveal an open secret. His failure was inevitable and predicted, but so was his recovery. Peter had somebody very important and powerful praying for him. The Lord Jesus Christ had his back.

Luke 22:32 I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.

The same is true for each child of the King.

Romans 8:34 Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

REFLECT & PRAY

Psalms 37:8 Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper– it only leads to harm.

Father how often I have failed and been so terribly discouraged. But each time, You were there for me. You pulled me out of the miry pit and caused me to stand again on firm ground, more confident than ever that You would fulfill the plan and dream You have for my life. Thank You!

INSIGHT

The focus of this brief account is not epic failure but rather epic recovery. “Peter will falter for a short period, after which he will turn back and strengthen the disciples. By telling this story, Luke prepares the reader for the leadership of Peter in the early chapters of Acts” (Black). The path to leadership for Peter is laid out for all of us to see. Epic leadership grows out of epic recovery from epic failure.

Peter was born with natural leadership qualities. Such strength can be a significant disadvantage for those that the Father wants to use. When the Lord Jesus Christ spoke to Peter about failure, Peter did not believe it. It was not that Peter was proud. Instead, he was naïve and could not imagine himself disappointing the Lord Jesus Christ in any way. Take a moment and visualize Peter. Can you imagine him saying to himself, “Wait and see, I will prove myself faithful, I will not fail my Lord! You can count on me no matter what!”

Luke 22:33 Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.”

Peter knew beyond any doubt that the Lord Jesus Christ was the Messiah, the Son of God. He could not conceive of a world where he would betray his Lord.

Matthew 16:15-16

 15 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”

 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

As things turned out, Peter was ready to take on the world. When the armed detachment came to arrest Jesus, Peter drew his sword. He was ready and prepared to fight to the death. He was impulsive and angry. He was brave. But he did not understand that he was not doing the Father’s will. Instead, he was trying to stop it from playing out. The Lord Jesus Christ had come into the world to be arrested, tried, condemned, and crucified (Matthew 26:51-56).

But Peter rose to the occasion in his brash, bold, brave way, and blood was spilled. He cut off the ear of Malchus, the high priest’s servant. Rather than receiving praise, he received correction from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Luke 22:51 But Jesus said, “No more of this.” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him.

The Lord Jesus Christ was arrested and led away. How do you suppose Peter felt at that very moment? He was undoubtedly conflicted, embarrassed, disillusioned, and full of despair. Peter was now on the downward road to epic failure.

By the way, why do you think Peter failed so miserably? Was he frightened? Doubtful, he was ready to die for Christ in the garden; instead, he was confused and downcast. His emotions were running wild, and his brain shut down. He had just witnessed what he thought was impossible; the King of Kings and the Lord of lords had been taken away to judgment and certain death.

This confident, natural leader went through epic failure as preparation for epic recovery and leadership. So it is with each child of the King.

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© Dr. H 2022

Accepting trials as a lowly believer

Accepting trials as a lowly believer

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. – James 1:2

James 1:9-12

 9 Believers who are poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them.

 10 And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field.

 12 God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

“Adversity happens to everyone but it doesn’t need to derail our lives. Learning how to overcome adversity is a life skill that everyone must master. We need to learn how to handle it in a way that will bring us to the other side without exhausting us” (Tony Robbins).

There are challenges and setbacks when we set out to achieve something worthwhile. But these various difficulties serve to make us better. Edmund Burke wrote, “He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skill. Our antagonist is our helper.” We can develop a tool kit, a strategy for dealing with adversities.

Tony Robbins provides excellent counsel on developing the life skills to overcome adversity.

1. Be prepared

Train your brain to be resilient by building your inner strength and developing a growth mindset. Develop a support system that you can fall back on.

2. Practice positivity

We overcome adversity by developing a new mindset. It is how the way they frame the things that happen to them than the actual things that happen. Positively reframe the problem. Catch negative self-talk and replace it with empowering beliefs that help you work toward your goal rather than undermine it. 

3. Stay disciplined

Develop a strategy and practices for adversity. 

4. Stay focused

Keep your eye on the prize. Stay focused on your ultimate goal no matter what.

5. Find the lesson

Realizing that life happens for you, not to you, is key to overcoming adversity. Every event in your life can teach you something. Those who blame their circumstances on others will fail. Take responsibility.

6. Work on your skills

There is always room for improvement. Overcoming adversity is about taking an honest look at your own knowledge and skills, acknowledging your shortcomings, and working to improve them. 

7. Learn from others

There’s no shortage of examples of overcoming adversity. Proactively feed your mind and spirit the same way you feed your body.

8. Elevate your peer group

Surround yourself with people who also want to grow. “The quality of a person’s life is most often a direct reflection of the expectations of their peer group.” You are whom you hang out with.

9. Get a coach

A Results Coach helps people learn how to overcome adversity and become the best version of themselves. Overcoming adversity takes just the right blend of positivity, realism, passion, and real-life skills. C

10. Don’t give up

“Persistence overshadows even talent as the most valuable resource shaping the quality of life” (Tony Robbins).

The Father provides the ultimate strategy for dealing with and overcoming adversity and shows us the way through the book of James.

James sets forth the proper attitude toward our various trials (James 1: 2-3). The appropriate attitude is joy. The Father uses trials to develop spiritual maturity in the children of the King. We are to accept trials properly.

James sets forth a path for success that goes against our inherent human DNA. We are to consider our trials a form of exaltation! (Zane C. Hodges).

There is no higher honor than to be the object of God’s gracious and loving concern” (Zane C. Hodges).  

REFLECT & PRAY

Children of the King must maintain an eternal point of view and soar above our momentary light effect (2 Corinthians 4:17).  

Father encourage me to focus on eternal values, not temporary ones and rejoice in the difficult circumstances of life.

INSIGHT

James provides counsel for both the poor (lowly) and the rich.

James 1:9-10

 9 Believers, who are poor, have something to boast about, for God has honored them.

 10 And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field.

The Greek word translated as poor, lowly, or of humble circumstances is tapeinos. Tapeinos connotesbeing low or inferior in social position or quality. Those who are tapeinos have trivial power or significance, lowly, poor, or undistinguished. They are of low degree, the opposite of wealthy, affluent, privileged, or powerful.

The “lowly brother” is a child of the King who is of low position, poor, and undistinguished. They are considered low on the totem pole in society and live in modest circumstances. I have very little in the way of material possessions.

Temporal wealth is fleeting and ephemeral, while our eternal treasures go on forever. The poor are exhorted to rejoice in eternal things, not temporal things. This is a significant paradigm shift for fallen human DNA. However, the Father promises eternal treasures that can never be lost. “Christians with the least amount of earthly wealth are richer than the wealthiest of this world. Christians calculate their wealth in terms of eternity, not time; in terms of God’s operating assets, not a given amount of mutual funds” (Richison).

“When we assume God’s viewpoint on values, we broaden our perspective and elevate ourselves above our present situation. If we own very little riches in this life, we still can rejoice because of our eternal possessions. There is a day coming when no one will put us into a class distinction because of what we own or do not own. Poverty will not last long; it will not enter into the eternal state” (Richison). The least among the child of the King is greater than the rich and famous, the powerful of this present age.

Matthew 11:11 I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is!

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© Dr. H 2022

What do you value the most? ∙

What do you value the most?

Let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. – Jeremiah 9:24

Jeremiah 9:23-24

 23 Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches.

 24 but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things,” declares the LORD.

Tribal thinking is a basic instinct. People are inherently tribal. “Humans find meaning in belonging to a group, adhering to an ideology, identifying with a religion, culture or merely a conviction” (theconversation.com). Being tribal provides a sense of belonging that makes us feel safe and secure within our “tribe.” We inherently want to hang with our “kind.”

We get so blinded by our personal tribal zeal that we support anything our side says or does. In sports, our guys are always fair, and the other guys are always cheating, playing dirty, or whining. We see it in family loyalty, where we think our loved ones are superior and morally upright even when they are not. We see this in politics.

Tribalism is now called identity politics.

Identity politics is politics in which groups of people having a particular racial, religious, ethnic, social, class, gender, cultural identity, or other identifying factor form their own exclusive socio-political alliances. They create their own group identity. They take great pride in their group identity, providing a sense of uniqueness, belonging, recognition, and unity. Their group identity is an essential expression of their worldview and core values. They tend to promote their own specific interests or concerns without regard to the interests or concerns of any other political group. There is no shortage of blinded loyalty to their group identity.

I think this is very simple to understand. We want to feel good about ourselves and our tribe. So, we identify things we value regarding ourselves, our family, and those that think or act like us. Tribalism leads to boasting about our side and the things we value while disdaining other points of view or people.

Our standards are often derived from social customs or community consensus. We settle for so little when we could have so much. Our standards are too low. Jeremiah raises the bar.

The Father speaking through Jeremiah is crystal clear about priorities, loyalties, and where our boasting should be focused.

Let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth – Jeremiah 9:24.

Our identity and satisfaction should come because we know and understand the Father who is and practices loyal love and justice, and righteousness on the earth. Identifying with and knowing the Father in this way changes us. We take on His values and learn to practice His ways.

Intelligence, power, and riches all give human beings the illusion of being in control, but the illusion always ends. When we put our confidence in God alone, however, we find something worth our boasting (Stanley).

REFLECT & PRAY

So much of our lives is about misplaced values and loyalties. We fall into conceit and pride regarding things that have no lasting value. The Father offers a more excellent way.

Father encourage me to know You and emulate Your values and ways.

INSIGHT

Jeremiah 9:24 Let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.

Jeremiah 9:24 is a concise summary of Israel’s religion at its highest. For Israel, true religion consisted of acknowledging the sovereignty of God over all of life and allowing Him to produce the qualities that mark Him in the lives of all His people (Constable).

The truth is, we all desire to boast. It is part of human nature. Jeremiah is saying that if people want to boast, here is what they can boast about: understanding and knowing the Father well enough to recognize what He delights in and values the most: lovingkindness, justice, and righteousness.

The Hebrew word translated as loving-kindness, loyal, steadfast, or unfailing love is hesed. It has a sense of loyalty and love, unfailing devotion, and consistent merciful compassion.

If you know and understand the Father’s heart and have experienced hesed, boast in that.

“No amount of education, power, or wealth – three things the world today depends on and boasts about – can guarantee the blessing of God. God doesn’t delight in a nation’s learning, political influence, armies, or gross national product. He delights in a people who practice kindness, justice, and righteousness because they know and fear the Lord” (Wiersbe).

Being a child of the King provides us with no assurance of spiritual understanding, intimacy, or the Father’s blessing. However, when we come to know the Father’s heart and understand His ways, we can choose to become like Him. We can commit to being loyal and devoted to Him. Intimacy will flow out of our commitment and closeness to Him.

The Father takes great delight in His children when they practice kindness, justice, and righteousness.

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© Dr. H 2022

Spent, daring greatly ∙

Spent, daring greatly

I didn’t shrink from declaring all that God wants you to know. – Acts 20:27

1 Samuel 17:23-58

 23 Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, came out from the Philistine ranks. Then David heard him shout his usual taunt to the army of Israel.

 24 As soon as the Israelite army saw him, they began to run away in fright.

 26 David asked the soldiers standing nearby, who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?”

 31 Then, David’s question was reported to King Saul, and the king sent for him.

 32 “Don’t worry about this Philistine,” David told Saul. “I’ll go fight him!”

 33 “Don’t be ridiculous!” Saul replied. “There’s no way you can fight this Philistine and possibly win! You’re only a boy, and he’s been a man of war since his youth.”

 37 The LORD who rescued me from the claws of the lion and the bear will rescue me from this Philistine!” Saul finally consented. “All right, go ahead,” he said. “And may the LORD be with you!”

 41 Goliath walked out toward David with his shield bearer ahead of him,

 42 sneering in contempt at this ruddy-faced boy.

 43 “Am I a dog,” he roared at David, “that you come at me with a stick?” And he cursed David by the names of his gods.

 45 David replied to the Philistine, “You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies– the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.

 47 This is the LORD’s battle, and he will give you to us!”

 48 As Goliath moved closer to attack, David quickly ran out to meet him.

 49 Reaching into his shepherd’s bag and taking out a stone, he hurled it with his sling and hit the Philistine in the forehead. The stone sank in, and Goliath stumbled and fell face down on the ground.

 50 So David triumphed over the Philistine with only a sling and a stone, for he had no sword.

Theodore Roosevelt, no stranger to criticism or boldness, wrote: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.”

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause.”

“Who at the best knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Too many of us do not want to get involved. We tend to hold back and wait on the sidelines, watching life go by. We do not error by trying and failing; we error by not trying at all. The Word of God recounts the stories of average people accomplishing great deeds with the Father’s help. Courage is an inner dynamic available to all people who possess Biblical faith.

It is not what you have that matters; instead, what matters is that the Father has you. In our struggle, we are never alone. Our good Shepherd is always with us, watching over us. He is at hand to care for us and carry us when necessary.

I am like the sheep that strays from the rest of the flock. Unless the Good Shepherd takes me on His shoulders and carries me back to His fold, my steps will falter, and in the very effort of rising, my feet will give way (St. Jerome).

REFLECT & PRAY

Instead of being critical of those who do, do!

Father give me the wisdom to know when to act and the courage to do so.

INSIGHT

Courage takes many forms. Sometimes courage advances boldly. At other times, the courage is to show up and remain constant and unswerving.

Courage is the quality of mind or spirit, mental or moral strength that enables a person to face and persevere difficulty, danger, pain, uncertainty, or intimidation without fear. Spiritual or moral courage is the ability to act rightly in the face of widespread opposition, shame, scandal, discouragement, or personal loss (Richard Zinbarg, Ph.D., Psychology Today).

Father, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference (Niebuhr).

The Scriptures are replete with stories of courageous people who did extraordinary things as they were encouraged and powered by the Father.

Acts 7:55-60

 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand.

 56 And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”

 59 As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

 60 He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.

1 John 2:28 And now, dear children, remain in fellowship with Christ so that when he returns, you will be full of courage and not shrink back from him in shame.

Revelation 3:2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing (Edmund Burke).

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© Dr. H 2022

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