In-law problems

In-law problems

You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. – (John 8:44)

Acts 5:1-3

 1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property,

 2 and kept back some of the price for himself, with his wife’s full knowledge, and bringing a portion of it, he laid it at the apostles’ feet.

 3 But Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?

One evening a young lady brought home her fiancé to meet her parents. After dinner, her mother told her father to go and learn more about the young man. So they went for walk, the father started quizzing him.

“So what do you do?” the father asked.

“I am a Torah scholar,” he replied.

The father obviously impressed with the answer continued, “Admirable, but what will you do to provide a nice house for my daughter to live in?”

“I will study, and God will provide for us,” he answered back

“Now how do you plan to buy my daughter a beautiful engagement ring?” The father asked.

“I will concentrate on my studies,” the young man replies, “God will provide for us.”

“Hmm…and how do you plan to take care of your children?”

“Don’t worry, sir, God will provide,” answered the young man.     

Every time the father asked a new question; the young man expressed his confidence in God’s provision.

At bedtime when the mother enquired about the conversation, the father responded, “Well he has no job and no plans, but he thinks I am a god, and that I will take care of all of his needs.” (https://www.laughsend.com/jokes/god_will_provide.php)

Since the time of the Fall, human beings have been subject to the subtle and overt influences of the enemy. Anyone can be manipulated. Some more than others, particularly in moments of weakness, such as, physical, or emotional distress.

It is sensible, if not sagacious, to choose wisely those to whom we are closest. This is particularly true when it comes to marriage, which is intended to be a lifelong mutual commitment of fidelity and support. Seek the Father and ask for wisdom and guidance.

Many of us marry for love without consideration of the overall family we marry into. We should ask ourselves; what kind of people are either potential in-laws. what are their values and priorities? Will this lead to potential difficulties down the road?

The Lord Jesus Christ makes a somewhat subtle, and yet upon reflection, obvious observation. There are only two family lines on planet Earth: those who have the eternal King of glory as their father, and those who have the devil as their father.

If you marry a person who is not a child of the King, you are setting yourself up for problems with your in-laws, particularly your father-in-law.

John 8:44 You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

There seems to be a strong family resemblance between the values and actions of one’s father and oneself. Consciously or unconsciously we tend to act out the desires of our father. This realization should be taken into consideration when entering into marriage. The words of the Lord Jesus Christ should be taken as more than advice, they should become a stern warning!

REFLECT & PRAY

Anyone can have a bad day. But only the Chicago White Sox had a bad century.

Father sometimes I feel so inadequate to make wise decisions. My life is marked by so many errors in judgment and mistakes. Help me to depend upon you more and more for direction and guidance.

INSIGHT

But the wiles and coaxing of the enemy is not limited to those who are not the Father’s children. Every children of the King can be tempted and succumb to his schemes.

Acts 5:3 Peter said, Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?

The enemy strongly influenced the decisions Ananias and Sophia which led to their own destruction. He planned and motivated their actions, “filling” their hearts.

This can happen to any of us any of the time. Perhaps this is what Paul had in mind when he spoke of “the flaming darts” of the evil one (Ephesians 6:16).

The enemy is a force for evil and devastation in our lives. He is always seeking a foothold, an opportunity, a launching point to wreak havoc in our hearts and minds. One obvious gateway is negative emotions.

Ephesians 4:26-27

 26 And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry,

 27 for anger gives a foothold to the devil.

The Greek word often translated foothold, place, or opportunity is topos. Topos is figuratively understood as an opportunity to function, occasion. Unchecked, not dealt with negative emotions open wide the gate to the enemy of our souls.

The English word translated devil comes from the Greek term diabolos which means accuser or slanderer. That is who is and that is what he does.

The Father has provided us with the shield of faith. To protect us and those we love. Use it quickly, often, and repeatedly. The longer we wait, the greater his foothold.

Ephesians 6:16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one.

1 John 3:8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.

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Veering off course

Veering off course

Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:62

Genesis 3:1-7

 1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?’”
 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat;
 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.’”

 4 And the serpent said to the woman, “You surely shall not die!
 5 “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
 6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.
 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened . . .

Korean Air Lines Flight 007 (also known as KAL007) was a scheduled Korean Air Lines flight from New York City to Seoul via Anchorage, Alaska. On September 1, 1983, it was shot down by a Soviet Su-15 interceptor. Due to a navigational error made by the KAL crew the airliner deviated from its original planned route, veered off course, and flew through prohibited Soviet airspace about the time of a U.S. aerial reconnaissance mission.

The Soviet Air Forces treated the unidentified aircraft as an intruding U.S. spy plane, and destroyed it with air-to-air missiles. All 269 passengers and crew aboard were killed.

Veering off course, not following the planned, or intended, route, can lead to serious consequences, even death.

Luke 9:62 No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.

‘Looks back’ is literally looks unto the things behind. The imagery comes from 1 Kings 19:19-22. It refers here to gazing back on the things abandoned in order to follow Jesus (cf. Philippians 3:13). In this instance the reference is to family relationships (Luke 9:61), but the saying has broader implications as well (cf. 2 Timothy 2:4)” (Stein).

If you are from a big city, you may have no idea what Jesus intends by this illustration. But if have ever tilled a garden or plowed a field, the significance is obvious. To till a plot of ground properly, you must fix your eyes firmly on an object straight ahead of you and consistently move in that direction. Looking away from the direction you are headed, even for a fraction of a second, can result in an unintended deviation.

The Lord Jesus Christ explains the difficulty and dedication of choosing to be a disciple with a well-known everyday activity. Following the Lord Jesus Christ involves focus, hard work, and dedication similar to plowing. A farmer who does not concentrate on his plowing is not a fit farmer. Likewise a disciple who allows life to distract him from his duties as a disciple is unfit for the kingdom (Constable).

The Greek term translated not fit, unfit is euthetos. Euthetos is literally “well-placed,” that is suitable, able, adequate to meet the standards required. “Jesus points out that the kingdom has no room for those who look back when they are called to go forward” (Morris).

If this seems a bit harsh, it is. But there is a vast difference between entering the kingdom of God by faith, and walking with the King day by day.

Unless we focus, and purpose to do what is right, it is easy to miss the mark. We must not look back when are trying to go forward. Sadly, this is a frequent attitude of children of the King. They make a decision to faithfully follow but to not live up to it. Some of the Father’s children are repeatedly looking backwards because their hearts are stuck in the past. They attempt to walk forward either regretting their past lives or wistfully recalling “the good old days.

Only when we live within the Father’s protective boundaries can we experience the freedom Christ purchased for us (Stanley).

REFLECT & PRAY

Success and freedom are the result of good life choices and continuing to follow through on them.

Father I too frequently succumb to poor choices and suffer unintended consequences. Forgive me and restore me.

INSIGHT

Children of the King regrettably often find themselves “off course.” We frequently seek the freedom to do what we want. It is not always about allurements and the sense we are being deprived. Often, we are subtly enticed to give into hurtful feelings like anger, loneliness, or rejection. Be aware that the enemy is shrewd and clever, and that sin is crouching at the door (Genesis 4:7).

When we yield, the consequences can be devastating. When we divert from our intended path, instead of freedom we find ourselves in greater slavery. We fall deeper into bondage and sin, lose our fellowship with Christ, and justify ourselves by blaming others.

Although Christ has set believers free from slavery to sin, we, like Eve, oftentimes long for the “freedom” to do what we want. But whenever we give in to sinful desires, we’re behaving like slaves instead of living as free children of God. He’s given us the Holy Spirit, who empowers us to say no to sin if we’ll just yield to His leadership (Stanley).

The best defense is a good offense, determine to do what is right, and keep on doing it.

I did not know I was hungry

I did not know I was hungry

He fed you with manna in the wilderness, a food unknown to your ancestors. He did this to humble you and test you for your own good. – Deuteronomy 8:16

Deuteronomy 8:2-3

 2 Remember how the LORD your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands.

 3 Yes, he humbled you by letting you go hungry and then feeding you with manna, a food previously unknown to you and your ancestors. He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.

The story is told of a cocoon, a butterfly, and a small boy. One day, a small opening appeared in a cocoon, through which a butterfly would soon appear. A boy stopped and watched how the butterfly was struggling to get out of the cocoon. The butterfly was exerting a great deal of effort, but the gap was not widening. The boy thought that perhaps the butterfly was not strong enough to break through.

The boy made a fateful decision to “help” the butterfly. The boy used a small knife and cut a larger opening in the cocoon. The butterfly was able to emerge without much additional effort. But it appeared scrawny and feeble. It could barely move its crinkled wings.

The boy watched hoping the butterfly would spread its wings and fly. But that never happened. The butterfly would live out its existence frail and grounded.

For the rest of its now rather short life, the butterfly would have to drag its weak body and useless, crinkled wings. It was unable to fly. The boy did not realize that the effort required to spread the narrow gap of the cocoon was necessary for the butterfly. The energy expended would pump life-giving fluid from the body to the butterfly’s wings and enable them to expand and allow the butterfly to fly. Butterflies and cocoons were designed so that it takes much effort for butterflies to emerge from their cocoons. This makes them strong and vibrant. It is part of the Father’s design for them.

If we were allowed to live without encountering and overcoming difficulties, we will not grow and develop, become stronger, and reach our full potential. The Father puts challenges into our lives to strengthen us, not destroy us.

Life is filled with challenges. Sometimes the Father leads us into extended periods of time that are barren, difficult, and seemingly without end or purpose. But the Father never does anything without a plan, well thought out, and with specific goals in mind.

When we experience such times in the wilderness, the best question is not “why?” but rather, “Father what do You want me to learn from this?”

These tests focus our trust on the Father and His ability, faithfulness, and willingness to provide for us. It provides answers to questions that often go unspoken. Will He meet our needs? Is He as good as we think He is?

We are spiritual beings and we cannot exist on material nourishment alone. We are spiritually hungry, but we do not know it. We become aware of our spiritual hunger and through the trials we face.

Deuteronomy 8:3 He humbled you and let you be hungry . . . that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.

But perhaps of no lesser importance, we discover ourselves. We learn what is truly in our hearts. What kind of stuff we really made of? Are we willing to discover the Father’s purpose and goals, cast aside our selfishness and fears, and obey Him at all costs?

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” This phrase has become a popular expression in American culture. It owes its origin to American football. The phrase was coined in 1953 in a speech made by John Thomas, the coach of the Green Hornets football team.

What is not important is how we begin our wilderness journey, what is important is how we finish it.

REFLECT & PRAY 

Who am I really? What am I willing to commit to endure for my King, my Father? Our walk with Him is ultimately not about us and our human frailty, but about Him and His marvelous strength.

Father, as I look back over my life, and I see how many times you have been there for me. I thought I was totally alone, but You were there. When I was weak, You became my strength. You coached me and taught me how to live. You showed me that inner strength and sustenance come through the Word of God! Encourage me to finish the journey I began.

INSIGHT

The Father uses the wilderness to test our character. The wilderness reveals our heart. Our true character is demonstrated through obedience or the lack thereof.

The wilderness experience was not the end of the journey. It was only the beginning of the journey. Its rigors are developmental. They prepare people to engage in the real battle that lies ahead. Success in the land of promise is dependent upon prior success in the wilderness.

Lush, abundant, natural provision was on the horizon. The Father’s supernatural provision in the barren desert is preparation for what was to come.

How do you teach someone to handle wealth and abundance? The Father’s method is through scarcity and learning to trust Him, and Him alone.

Deuteronomy 8:5-17

 5 Think about it: Just as a parent disciplines a child, the LORD your God disciplines you for your own good.

 7 For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land of flowing streams and pools of water, with fountains and springs that gush out in the valleys and hills.

 9 It is a land where food is plentiful, and nothing is lacking.

 10 When you have eaten your fill, be sure to praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you.

 11 But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the LORD your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today.

 14 Do not become proud at that time and forget the LORD your God, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt.

 17 He did all this so you would never say to yourself, ‘I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy.’

“Challenges are what makes life interesting. Overcoming them is what makes life meaningful” (Joshua J. Marine).

A reliable GPS

A reliable GPS

I will call to you whenever I’m in trouble, and you will answer me. – Psalms 86:7

Psalms 86:1-13

 1 O LORD, and hear my prayer; answer me, for I need your help.

 2 Protect me, for I am devoted to you. Save me, for I serve you and trust you. You are my God.

 3 Be merciful to me, O Lord, for I am calling on you constantly.

 4 Give me contentment, O Lord, for I give myself to you.

 5 O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for your help.

 6 Listen closely to my prayer, O LORD; hear my urgent cry.

 7 I will call to you whenever I’m in trouble, and you will answer me.

 8 No pagan god is like you, O Lord. None can do what you do!

 10 For you are great and perform wonderful deeds. You alone are God.

 11 Teach me your ways, O LORD, that I may live according to your truth! Grant me purity of heart, so that I may honor you.

 12 With all my heart I will praise you, O Lord my God. I will give glory to your name forever,

 13 for your love for me is very great. You have rescued me from the depths of death.

GPS, or the Global Positioning System, was invented by the U.S. Department of Defense (D.O.D) in 1973 primarily for military purposes. It was seen as a necessary addition for the U.S. military as an integral part of its deterrent to the ever present nuclear threat. 24 satellites, in orbital planes spaced 120 degrees apart, and their ground stations formed the original GPS. Using these man-made “stars” as reference points to calculate geographical positions, GPS was originally accurate to a matter of meters. Newer advanced technology has advanced accuracy to within a centimeter. It became fully operational in 1995. Civilians were allowed to use it beginning in the 1980s.

In the era of GPS systems, we are used to asking for directions and getting specifics and a map to guide us.

The Father has had a GPS system in place for thousands of years. His advice is precise and accurate. It also anticipates all contingencies, both in the now and the future.

There is a vast difference between a modern GPS systems we carry with us on our cell phones or in our vehicles. And the Father. It may be obvious, but it is worth saying. A GPS system is merely an instrument, a tool that helps us to go from one place to another.

But the Father is the living being who interacts with us in time and space. We have the opportunity to be in a loving, personal relationship with Him. David was deeply in love with his Father God. Psalm 86 sparkles and effervesces with David’s love for the Father and his certainty of the Father’s love for him.

It was because of that loving relationship with Father, David deeply desired to do whatever the Father was inviting him to do. He reiterated in his prayer the nature of their relationship, the love that he had for the Father, and the Father’s repeated faithfulness and kindness towards him. I doubt if we will ever talk to a GPS system that way. And certainly, it would not respond out of love or concern for our welfare. Yet we are often find ourselves totally dependent upon for accurate advice and direction.

Psalm 86 is one of the many prayers of David when he is in desperate situation and cries out to his Father God. His enemies are out to destroy him. David had a remarkable relationship with the Father. After years of experience, David knew well the Father’s character and what He is like as a person. As a result, David had tremendous confidence in the Father’s love for him and willingness to protect him. On the basis of the Father’s magnificent and delightful character, David appeals to Him. His prayer overflows with his knowledge and experience of the Father’s nature and personality. He is gracious and kind, good, forgiving, abounding in mercy, and lovingkindness. He is dependable and steadfast.

REFLECT & PRAY 

When we acquire understanding and knowledge of Who the Father is and what He is willing to do, it is easy to trust and rely upon Him.

Father I want to live according to Your ways and participate in what You have for me to do. Help me to learn to stop seeking my own way, and instead seek Yours.

INSIGHT

So often when we pray, we ask the Father to do what we think is best. Saying that another way, we ask Him to endorse our plans and carry them out. This is one of the main reasons why our prayers are ineffective, and we feel defeated, get sad or angry.

Effective prayer is praying that the Father’s Will be done on earth as it is in heaven. It is always about His plans. It is never about our plans or desires. The Father is always at work and He invites us to participate with Him (Blackaby). Effective prayer is praying to participate in His plans. Effective prayer involves recognizing what the Father has in mind and is asking us to do.

Our part in effective prayer is focusing on our walk with the Father. We need to clean up our act and get our motivations straightened out. There are definite things we can do that prepare us to hear His directions.

Self-check: A good self-check and cleansing should be our first step. We simply ask the Father if there is anything in our life that is hindering our prayers. Then, if He brings something to mind, we can receive His forgiveness and cleansing through confession (1 John 1:9).

Surrender: When our hearts are set on our own desires, things do not work out as we hope. We must exchange our desires for His. We yield our self-interest to the Father’s interest (Luke 22:42).

Spend time in the Word and wait: The Father has given us his Word as the firm foundation upon to rest our lives, security, and aspirations. The Father’s word is our light and guide. The more we become acquainted with the truths of Scripture, the clearer the way will become (Psalm 119:105). We must resist the urge to run ahead of the Father to get our own way.

Psalms 86:11-13

 11 Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.

 12 I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and will glorify Your name forever.

 13 For Your lovingkindness toward me is great.

David wanted to walk in a way that the Father was delighted and honored. David wanted to be one in heart with the Father. “Unite my heart” means “I want to have an undivided heart, wholly fixed on the Lord.” A perfect heart is a sincere heart that loves God alone and is true to Him (Wiersbe).

Perhaps it is time to do some “recalculating” of your destination and a means to get there. We have access to a far more accurate and reliable GPS than we could ever imagine.

The Father’s watchful care

The Father’s watchful care

He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. – Psalms 91:15

 Psalms 91:1-6

 1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

 2 This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.

 3 For he will rescue you from every trap and protect you from deadly disease.

 4 He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.

 5 Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night, nor the arrow that flies in the day.

 6 Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday.

Abandonment is a subjective emotional state in which people feel undesired, left behind, insecure, forsaken, or discarded. People experiencing emotional abandonment often feel a great sense of loss. A crucial source of support has been cut off or withdrawn. Abandonment conveys a subliminal message for the one who experiences it, “you are not valuable,” “you are not important,” or “you are not worth my time and energy.” If left unchecked, a downward spiral of rejection can ensue which leads to tremendous self-doubt, and ultimately shame.

Intermittent periods of time when we feel left out or unsupported are regrettably a part of living in a fallen world. But when it becomes chronic and repeated, heartache, loss, and profound sadness that results can become overwhelming. People become numb, calloused, and even self-destructive. This is often accompanied by a sense of dread or fear that those we rely upon to the greatest degree, simply will not be there when we need them the most.

Psalms 33:18 The LORD takes notice of those who rely upon him, those who wait for him to demonstrate his faithfulness

The Father watches over His children. We are safe and secure when we rely upon His unfailing lovingkindness. While He is invisible to our physical eyes, His “eye is always on us.” He is always there. He is concerned and involved. The Father lovingly watches over His children. Rather than losing self-worth because of our estrangement from people, we can enhance our sense of self-esteem knowing that our very BFF created all children of the King with tremendous worth and value. His eyes and His heart are with us.

The Lord Jesus Christ has been there. He is experienced far greater rejection and abuse the most of us could ever imagine. It is therefore competent and able to come alongside of us when we are suffer separation from those that they are closest to.

Isaiah 53:3 He was despised, rejected, forsaken, a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin.

REFLECT & PRAY

The Father is always near. In prayer, we connect our need to God’s supply. We bring our emptiness to God’s fullness and ask Him to satisfy us. Our deficits are no match for His abundance, and our cries find a home in His ears (Stanley).

Lord, thank You for the confidence and certainty You provide in that because we are always under Your watchful care.

INSIGHT

The Father protects and delivers His children in life’s darkest valleys. The psalmist’s description of the Father’s protection is couched in metaphorical language: “shelter,” “shadow,” and “refuge and . . . fortress.” The first two words suggest the imagery of a bird under whose wings it’s younglings find safety (Psalms 91:4; 17:8; 36:7; 57:1; 63:7). The other two words suggest a stronghold or military installation (Psalms 18:2; 61:3) (VanGemeren).

In Psalms 91,The Father is pictured as delivering, safeguarding, and encouraging His children. The ultimate security of each of the Father’s children is found in Him and Him alone. His ability to do this is found in the names by which He is callee in Plasms 91. He is The Most High – Elyon (Sovereign Ruler); He is The Almighty – Saddai (All powerful).

Children of the King may confidently put their trust in Him, as their refuge, fortress, and safe place. Our King is powerful, dependable, kind, sympathetic, and trustworthy.

In the New Testament, the enemy, who knows Scripture as well as anyone, tempts the Lord Jesus Christ by twisting and misquoting Psalms 91. The enemy entices the Lord Jesus Christ to put the Father’s promise of protection to an ill-timed and ill-advised test. He dares the Lord Jesus Christ to jump off the top of the temple and to prove that angels will protect him (Matthew 4:6).

Psalms 91:11,12

 11 For He will give His angels charge concerning you, to guard you in all your ways.  

 12 They will bear you up in their hands, that you do not strike your foot against a stone.

The Lord Jesus Christ was terse and direct. He confronted the enemy by quoting Scripture back to him. He effectively resisted the temptation.

Matthew 4:7 Jesus responded, “The Scriptures also say, ‘You must not test the LORD your God.’”

Undaunted, the enemy does not miss a beat and simply moves on to the next temptation. And so it is with us, the enemy’s enticements to do wrong are relentless.

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Life is too short for shallow friendships

Life is too short for shallow friendships

Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” – 1 Corinthians 15:33

Proverbs 13:20 He who walks with wise men will be wise, But the companion of fools will suffer harm.

Proverbs 22:24-25

 24 Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man,

 25 Or you will learn his ways and find a snare for yourself.

The wisdom and keen insight Aristotle’s philosophy of friendship provides wise counsel and direction that has lasted into the 21st century. According to Aristotle, there are three kinds of friendships. The two most common are more accidental than intentional. We kind of just fall into them.

The first type of friendship is defined as a friendship of utility. It is characterized by benefits that are exchanged between the two parties. It is sort of an ad hoc friendship. Thus it is very fleeting and transitory. When the mutual benefit ends so does the relationship. These are the type of relationships we usually form in the work environment. Outside of work, such “friends,” have little in common.

The second type of relationship is based upon the enjoyment, pleasure, or fun that people have when they are with one another. It formed around emotion or common interests. These are the most short-lived of all relationships and are founded upon the fleeting, transitory feelings that are enjoyed at a given time or during a certain activity. For example being on the same team, or sharing the comradery of rooting for the same team, going to the same school, or sharing a common hobby or activity.  

But the third type of friendship is the most beneficial and lasting of all. It is the

friendship of the good. This kind of friendship is based on a mutual appreciation of the virtues the other person holds dear. It is easy for them to trust one another. In this kind of relationship, the people themselves and the qualities they represent provide the incentive for the two parties to be in each other’s lives. A natural sort of bonding occurs.

Watching another person experience difficult times, if not the worst that life offers, and not merely weathering them, but overcoming them increases the depth and magnitude of the relationship.

When you respect a person and care for them, you gain joy from spending time with them. Such people often bring balance and perspective that enhances each other’s mental and emotional well-being.

These relationships require time and intention, but when they blossom, they do so with trust, admiration, and awe. They bring with them some of the sweeter joys that life has to offer.

Aristotle opted for the cultivation of virtuous friendships built with intention and based on a mutual appreciation of character and goodness. He knew these friendships could only be strengthened over time – and if they did thrive, they would often last for life.

We are, and we live through, the people we spend time with. The bonds we forge with those close to us directly shape the quality of our lives.

Life is too short for shallow friendships (Excerpted from Zat Rana).

REFLECT & PRAY

The words of good friends may hurt us, but they will not harm us.

Father help me to be wise in my relationships with others. Thank you for the wonderful friends that You have given me that love You with their whole heart.

INSIGHT

We are to choose friends wisely. Why? Because our friends have great influence in our lives. Their influence can be good or bad. The apostle Paul warns us not to be misled by our friends, “Bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

The apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15 regarding the centrality of the resurrection to our faith. If there was no resurrection of Lord Jesus Christ, then our entire belief system is false and simply crumbles. If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins (1 Corinthians 15:17). If Christ has not been raised, our faith is useless and pointless. What a tragedy! But indeed, He is risen!

There are many people who deny the resurrection. Sadly, such people may have a bad influence on us. Friends with such beliefs can have a long-term negative effect on us.

Because of our friendship, we may be blinded their influence and we may actually deceive ourselves. The NLT translates Don’t be fooled by those who say such things, for “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

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

Good friends provided by the Father can be more faithful than our closest relatives. Such friends are a genuine and wonderful treasure.

Psalms 1:1 Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers.

What kind of people do you hang out with and consider your friends? Friendship may be defined as a reciprocal relationship which involves trust, faithfulness, kindness, intimacy, and service. The Father understands this basic human need and often provides wonderful friendships. 1 Samuel 18:1 the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself.

It is a real privilege to be able to find and enjoy friendship later in life. Sometimes the Father has delightful surprises for us in this regard. This is particularly true after we accept the Lord Jesus as our Savior and begin a new life with Him.

The Father has done something truly wonderful for each of His children. It is beyond imagination. The Lord Jesus Christ said, “I no longer call you slaves, because a master does not confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends” (John 15:15). We have a new BFF (best friend forever), the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

All children of the King have the BFF that is possible.

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Hearts ablaze

Hearts ablaze

Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us? –Luke 24:32

Luke 24:13-35

 13 That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem.

 15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them.

 16 But God kept them from recognizing him.

 17 He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?” They stopped short; sadness written across their faces.

 18 “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”

 19 “What things?” Jesus asked. “The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people.

 21 We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.

 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

 31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!

 32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?”

Rocky IV starring Sylvester Stallone was released in 1985.  Rocky IV was the highest grossing sports movie for 24 years. Rocky had to come out of retirement to fight a Russian fighter named Drago in Moscow on Christmas. This world heavyweight champion fight changes both fighters and the world.

The theme song is Burning Heart. The final portion is as follows:

In the burning heart just about to burst.

There’s a quest for answers an unquenchable thirst.

In the darkest night rising like a spire.

In the burning heart the unmistakable fire.

We are born spiritually blind and unaware. In our fallen world and our natural fallen state, we sadly move through life blind to the Truth. We walk by sight and not by faith. Every now and then one thing or another touches our hearts and we burn within. Does it last? Sadly not for long. The sparks fade, the embers grow dark, and we return to our former indifference and insensitivity.

The cold, lonely darkness is intensified when we are sad, discouraged, or confused. The gospel of Luke tells the story of two people walking on the road to Emmaus. They are gloomy and despondent. Why? They had been with Jesus and the disciples in Jerusalem. They had the greatest hopes and expectations. Surely Jesus was the One, the Messiah, the Hope of Israel. But something terrible happened. He was betrayed, falsely accused, turned over to the Romans and crucified. He was dead. When Jesus died all hope and joy died with Him.

They were completely down in the dumps discussing the events of the last few days. Suddenly something marvelous happens, Jesus joins them on their journey. But the Father supernaturally prevents them from recognizing Him.

When someone is confused and distressed, sometimes just talking about it makes them feel much better.  Jesus of course is a master at helping people open up.  What does the Lord Jesus Christ do? He engages them in conversation. He asked questions which allowed them to express their grief and unload their inmost thoughts and concerns.  He got them to reveal what they knew and believed. 

Their hopes and expectations were dashed. Unmet expectations can be devastating to  our souls and spirits. Not only had Jesus been rejected, crucified, and buried. But now it was the third day. Wasn’t something big supposed to happen on the third day? But as far as they knew, nothing had!  They heard rumors and stories: an empty tomb, a missing body, and angel sightings. But who can be certain about such wild tales?  Surely, they thought, they were probably nothing more than the wild imagination of some very gullible, discouraged, if not hysterical Jesus followers. 

Can you imagine what was going on in their minds regarding their unknown and mysterious companion? What, are you dense? Are you the only guy that doesn’t have a clue about what has been going on? It is somewhat incongruous that those who are truly clueless and dense would accuse somebody else of the same thing.

REFLECT & PRAY

Jeremiah 20:9  But if I say I’ll never mention the LORD or speak in his name, his word burns in my heart like a fire. It’s like a fire in my bones! I am worn out trying to hold it in! I can’t do it!

Father I want my heart to burn within me and never be extinguished. Please start and maintain a fiery chain reaction to the Truth and nourishment Your Word alone provides.

INSIGHT

The Word of God is profound and sublime. It uses simple and easily understood stories.

The gospel of Luke offers a simple, yet poignant narrative. The value and impact of story far exceeds the events themselves. It sheds light on the sadness and despair of crushed human hopes. It demonstrates the power of the Word of God to shed light on and provide Truth regarding many of life’s mysteries. It shows that just a tiny amount of Truth, understood and internalized, can warm our hearts and even set them ablaze.

A bit of old-time religion and a quick Sunday school lesson changes everything. The Lord Jesus Christ asked probing questions and whetted the appetites of the disciples. A little spark was all it took.

Luke 24:27,32

 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

 32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?”

The Holy Spirit used gentle persuasion to prepare their hearts and minds to receive. Then came the rush of insight and the eyes of their hearts were opened. It was a profound aha moment. Then something even more wonderful happened. Their spiritual hunger was satisfied through the nutritious food of the Word of God, they wanted more!

The Lord Jesus Christ had provided answers to many of their heartfelt concerns with wisdom, kindness, and gentleness. They were no longer blocked from recognizing Him.

Suddenly they realized that it was Jesus who was present with them. All doubts and sadness were dispelled. Faith was strengthened.

How can we get excited about God’s Word? It must be read it with understanding. Sometimes this requires a tutor to show us the way. The Father provides teachers just for this purpose. We begin where we are and let the Truth of the Word speak to our hearts.

Only you can prevent spiritual fires within.

Are you the right size?

Are you the right size?

Jesus saw Nathaniel coming toward him and said, “Now here is a genuine son of Israel– a man of complete integrity.” – John 1:47

John 1:43-49

 43 On the next day Jesus wanted to set out for Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”

 45 Philip found Nathaniel and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law, and the prophets also wrote about – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

 46 Nathaniel replied, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip replied, “Come and see.”

 47 Jesus saw Nathaniel coming toward him and exclaimed, “Look, a true Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”

 48 Nathaniel asked him, “How do you know me?” Jesus replied, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”

 49 Nathaniel answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel!”

Two stories come down to us regarding the humility of George Washington.

George Washington was riding when he came across some soldiers who were trying to move a heavy log of wood without success. The corporal was standing by as the men struggled.

The rider asked the corporal why he wasn’t helping. The corporal replied: “I am the corporal. I give orders.”

The rider dismounted, went up and stood by the soldiers and as they tried to lift the wood, he helped them. With his help, the task was carried out.

He quietly mounted his horse and went to the corporal and said, “The next time your men need help, send for the commander-in-chief.”

Once when George Washington was riding near Washington DC with a group of friends, their horses leaped over a wall. One steed kicked off a number of stones.

“Better replace them” suggested the General.

“Oh, let the farmer do it,” replied the friends.

When the riding party was over, Washington turned his horses back the way they had come. Dismounting at the wall, he carefully replaced the stones.

“Oh General,” said a companion, “you are too big to do that.”

“On the contrary,” answered Washington,

“I am the right size.”

Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less (C. S. Lewis).

After spending only, a short time with the Lord Jesus, Philip was convinced that the Lord Jesus was the promised Messiah. Philip was excited and wanted to share. He sought out Nathaniel. Nathaniel was skeptical, but Philip convinced him to meet Jesus with the simple phrase, “come and see.”

As the Lord Jesus saw Nathaniel approaching, He gave Nathaniel a tremendous complement, “Look, a true Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”

Nathaniel responded in true humility. False humility might have said, “Ah shucks”, or “gosh”, or “you don’t mean it”.

Instead, Nathaniel responded in true humility, “How do you know me?” Nathaniel was well aware of his strengths and weaknesses. He knew who he was. That was not the issue.

The issue was how did Jesus know who Nathaniel was?

REFLECT & PRAY

There are no accidents in the Father’s kingdom. The Father knows all things in advance. He knows each of us intimately before we ever come to know Him. Whether we are loaded with fish bait are not, we are accepted and welcomed just as we are.

Father help me to have an accurate assessment of my strengths and weaknesses and acknowledge them both. Encourage me to think of myself less. Help me to be just the right size.

INSIGHT

Nathaniel’s response of faith in the Lord Jesus as the promised Messiah seems a bit over-the-top given the information that is recorded in John’s gospel. But the Lord Jesus knew much more. He knew Nathaniel’s inner thoughts and recent experiences. The Lord Jesus related facts about Nathaniel, that only Nathaniel and the Father knew. How could He possibly have such inside information?

While we can never know the exact content of Nathaniel’s thoughts or prayers, there is no doubt that the Lord Jesus had discerned his innermost heart. Nathaniel said to himself: “Here is the man who understands my dreams! Here is the man who knows my prayers! Here is the man who has seen into my most intimate and secret longings, longings which I have never even dared put into words! Here is the man who can translate the inarticulate sigh of my soul! This must be God’s promised anointed one and no other” (Barclay).

Perhaps a bit of educated speculation is warranted. Leafy fig trees provided cool shade in the midst of the day. They were a safe place of rest and comfort, where one could be undisturbed (Micah 4:4). Here people of faith could reflect, meditate, and pray.

Perhaps it is not a big reach to suppose that Nathaniel might have been meditating on the promises of the Father, praying, “Lord, when will the Messiah come? Will I know Him? Please show me a sign.”

John 1:47 “Look, a true Israelite in whom there is no deceit!”

The Greek word translated true is alethos has the sense of real or genuine, actual, authentic. A more literal translation might be, “Here is truly an Israelite,” that is, “Here is an Israelite worthy of the name.”

The Greek word translated deceit is dolos. This word literally meant fish bait. It came to connote deceit, treachery, fraud, cunning, dishonesty, taking advantage through craft and deception.

A person without deceit is one who “would never lie” or “would never deceive anyone.” Such a person is one who is trusted to tell the truth, without wavering.

Psalm 32:2 How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit, there is no deceit!

Are you the right size?

Integrity is not selective

Integrity is not selective

The integrity of the upright will guide them, but the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them. – Proverbs 11:3

Genesis 39:5-10

 5 It came about that from the time he made him overseer in his house and over all that he owned, the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house on account of Joseph; thus the LORD’S blessing was upon all that he owned, in the house and in the field.

 6 So he left everything he owned in Joseph’s charge; and with him there he did not concern himself with anything except the food which he ate. Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.

 7 It came about after these events that his master’s wife looked with desire at Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.”

 8 But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, with me here, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house, and he has put all that he owns in my charge.

 9 “There is no one greater in this house than I, and he has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?”

 10 As she spoke to Joseph day after day, he did not listen to her to lie beside her or be with her.

People with integrity behave in a contrary fashion to most others. They are consistent, stable, and consistent. Their actions match their words. Many make excellent role models. When things need to be done, show up take initiative and responsibility and do what needs to be done.  

5 Things People with Integrity Do Differently

(excerpted from https://www.powerofpositivity.com/)

1. They do what you say you will do.

Have you ever failed to come through for someone who you made a promise to? People with integrity inspire us because they are consistent with the fact that their word is their bond. They act differently by committing to keep promises that they have given.

2. They stand up for what is right.

They have an innate sense of right and wrong and seek to balance the scales of justice. When someone with power is abusing their power, people with integrity are there to defend the powerless. Abuse of power is an injustice. People with integrity see others being treated as “less than” and come to their defense.

3. They look in the mirror and commit to positive change.

Part of a healthy level of self-evaluation is looking at whether or not we hold ourselves accountable to the same standards that we hold others to. None of us is perfect. People with integrity acknowledge their flaws, they seek to improve themselves in the areas that need changing.

4. They take ownership for solving problems, even when the fault lies elsewhere.

People with integrity are different in that they assume the role of leader when no one else will. Maybe it wasn’t your fault that someone left trash in the hallway, but people with integrity see that there is a problem and take ownership of it anyway.  

5. They act sooner rather than later.

People with integrity do not wait to act. They are the ones who jump first and come to the aid of others as often as possible.   

Integrity is all about doing the right thing consistently. It is about being reliable, dependable, and unswerving. Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles and uprightness. It is a personal choice to hold oneself to consistent moral and ethical standards.

Some would claim that they have integrity and transparency. But often those who make such claims, practice it only when it suits them. Real integrity is consistent, not selective.

The Lord Jesus Christ did not use the word “integrity.” But His teachings are replete the concept of integrity: purity of heart (Matthew 5:8), singleness of purpose (Matthew 6:22), and purity of motive (Matthew 6:1–6).

REFLECT & PRAY

Some character traits and virtues require that we be “all in.” Integrity is one such attribute. Wishful integrity is selective, genuine integrity is unswerving, not selective.

We cannot choose to have integrity whenever it is convenient or we simply want to.

Father I understand what real integrity is and I aspire to it. Encourage and enable me to be consistent.

INSIGHT

Proverbs 12:27 The precious possession of a man is diligence.

Joseph was a man of integrity. Joseph was intelligent, competent, and well-regarded. He consistently trusted the Father and made the best of his circumstances whether good or bad. His character and abilities brought him opportunities.

Proverbs 18:16 A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before great men.

But the very same qualities also brought temptation into his life.

Genesis 39:7 It came about after these events that his master’s wife looked with desire at Joseph, and she said, “Lie with me.”

Joseph’s integrity is evidenced in his response.

Genesis 39:8-9

 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.”

Joseph’s consistent integrity is evidenced because Potiphar’s wife put pressure on him to sleep with her, day after day. He never wavered and he never broke down. His integrity was not selective.

Joseph demonstrated courage and determination living out his integrity. Because of his loyalty and devotion to the Father, he would not capitulate. He recognized that yielding would be a great sin against the Father.

Wishful integrity had matured into genuine integrity. His self-control became a steppingstone to future leadership and the fulfillment of the dreams of his youth.

The time you spend alone with the Father will transform your character and increase your devotion. Then your integrity and godly behavior in an unbelieving world will make others long to know the Lord (Charles Stanley).

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All in

All in

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. – Matthew 13:44

Matthew 13:44-46

 44 “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.

 45 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls.

 46 When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!

The story of the California Gold Rush captured the imagination of people around the world. Those seeking gold came to be called the 49ers. They traveled hundreds or even thousands of miles to seek their fortune. It is estimated that 100,000 people made the trip to California. Many obtained unbelievable wealth. Others not so much. In the middle of “nowhere” there were no banks or safety deposit boxes in which to store wealth, so many simply buried it. Much of it remains to be found.

In 2013, the Saddle Ridge gold coin hoard was discovered in the Gold Country of the Sierra Nevada, California. While taking their dog for a walk, on their property, a couple noticed a partially buried can jutting out of the ground. The can was unusually heavy. When they opened the lid, inside were numerous $20 U.S. gold pieces. A total of eight cans were eventually unearthed with an assessed worth $10 million.

If you were to stumble across something of great value, what would you do? Finding treasure gives you the opportunity to do well and perhaps more importantly to do good.

When the man in the story found a great treasure in the field, he hid it again, and went to buy the property. The value of what he was about to receive was far greater than what he already had. So, he willingly and enthusiastically sold all he had and bought the field (Matthew 13:44).

Jesus tells of a great treasure which is accessible to all. The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field. The kingdom of heaven has value beyond all measure and will well worth our complete and total investment of our resources and time.

What is the kingdom of heaven? This is been debated over the centuries. A kingdom of any kind has a ruler, a location, and people. Thus the kingdom of heaven is simply understood as a place where the Father is the sovereign King.

To gain this treasure we give up our pride, and our past with all of the sins that we recall to mind which still haunt us. When we accept the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, we receive total and complete forgiveness. The Lord Jesus Christ desires that all of the Father’s children be cleansed and purged. He offers a whole new way of life as we follow Him. We simply do not have to look back anymore.

There is no end to the treasure the Father offers. As we pursue the Father and His purposes, we encounter great riches beyond our wildest imaginations. The Father Himself has unlimited, boundless, unfathomable value and worth. Knowing Him and experiencing the joy of being in His presence is the greatest treasure of all.

Ephesians 2:7 in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

REFLECT & PRAY

To be in a place where a gentle, kind, generous, and just leader is in charge, is the not so secret longing of countless human hearts.

Father thank You that You have called me into Your kingdom, and now I can truly call You Father because I am Your child. Encourage me to pursue Your purposes and goals.

INSIGHT

The term treasure evokes ideas of what is valued or valuable. The practice of hiding valuables in the ground is widespread. Tales of buried treasure abound through the centuries. The prospect of finding hidden treasure captures the popular imagination.

The parable of the buried treasure emphasizes the priceless value of the kingdom of God, the delight and excitement of discovering it, and the “all in” investment required to lay claim to it.

Perhaps local flooding or erosion had exposed what had previously been hidden. In the parable, the finder of the treasure is galvanized into action by the joy of the prospect of possessing the treasure. To do so, he must first purchase the field. He has to totally reorient his priorities and liquidate all of his assets. Nothing less will suffice. The field is acquired, and the treasure is secured.

The “finding” is not the outcome of tremendous effort, skill, knowledge, or ability, but rather it is a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Opening people’s eyes in order that they may enter into the kingdom is the sovereign domain of the King. His kingdom is been there all along, we just never noticed it.

A modern-day equivalent of finding treasure can be likened to shopping at flea markets or secondhand shops. The first requirement is to simply show up. It can be a great chore for some of us, while others find it quite enjoyable. Some shoppers look for things that are visually pleasing. Other shoppers are looking for the best price. But the more discriminating seek value.

Is there anything you value so greatly that you would be willing to give Up  all that you have in exchange for it? That would be your ultimate treasure. And what you treasure, strongly influences your motives and behavior.

Matthew 6:21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

“To be focused on treasures in heaven is to pursue those goals and activities that have eternal significance and that have a relationship to God as the ultimate concern. Since one’s treasure is indicative of a person’s loyalty and inner commitment, one’s ultimate pursuit and interests provide a window to the true self (heart)” (Chouinard).

Your heart is revealed by the priorities you pursue. “What do you think about most throughout the day? What gets your heart beating fastest and loudest? What do you think you couldn’t live without? Whatever ‘it’ is, it’s your treasure – and nothing but God is worthy of it” (Stanley).

When it comes to the Father’s kingdom, are you all in?