What is your AQ?

Aslab
Aslan

What is your AQ?

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

2 Peter 1:5-8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REFLECT & PRAY

Our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! – 2 Corinthians 4:17

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

INSIGHT

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

Romans 5:3-4

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

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

James 1:2-4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psalms 121:1-3

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

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

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

Psalms 27:13-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Forgiven much

Aslab
Aslan

Forgiven much

I tell you, her sins, which were many, are forgiven, thus she loved much; but the one who is forgiven little loves little. – Luke 7:47

Luke 7:37-50

 37 When a certain immoral woman from that city heard he was eating there, she brought a beautiful alabaster jar filled with expensive perfume.

 38 Then she knelt behind him at his feet, weeping. Her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them off with her hair. Then she kept kissing his feet and putting perfume on them.

 39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. She’s a sinner!”

 40 Then Jesus answered his thoughts. “Simon,” he said to the Pharisee, “I have something to say to you.” “Go ahead, Teacher,” Simon replied.

 41 Then Jesus told him this story: “A man loaned money to two people – 500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other.”

 42 “But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”

 43 Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.” “That’s right,” Jesus said.

 44 Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair.”

 45 “You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet.”

 46 “You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.”

 47 “I tell you, her sins – and they are many – have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”

 48 Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”

 49 The men at the table said among themselves, “Who is this man, that he goes around forgiving sins?”

 50 And Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

Why Be Grateful?

Secular research shows that gratitude leads to happiness. R.C. Soloman wrote in the foreword to the book, The Psychology of Gratitude, “Gratitude is one of the most neglected emotions and one of the most underestimated of virtues.”

Gratitude is the expression of appreciation for what one has. It is a recognition of value. Spontaneously generated from within, it is an affirmation of goodness and warmth. Brain scans disclose that expressing gratitude induces lasting changes in the prefrontal cortex that heighten sensitivity to future experiences of gratitude (Psychology Today).

Gratitude is a spontaneous feeling but, increasingly, research demonstrates it is also a practice, that is, making conscious efforts to count one’s blessings. Studies show that people can deliberately cultivate gratitude. Gratitude is an emotion, one that makes a person feel happier. Gratefulness is also a mood and a dispositional trait. Gratitude involves a process of recognizing, first, that one has obtained a positive outcome and, second, that there is an external source for that good outcome (Psychology Today).

Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!

Anytime is a good time to stop and give thanks. Gratitude leads to love as well.  

Luke 7:47 “I tell you, her sins – and they are many – have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.”

What has to be done to be forgiven much? The answer is odious but accurate. Much sin. How many people think that when they sin too much, they cannot be forgiven? But when you are forgiven much, much gratitude and love are the result. That is the heart of this story.

There are 2 simple correlations

Little forgiveness => little love

Much forgiveness => much love

The bottom line is it does not matter how great your sin is. Any and all sin can be forgiven by the Lord Jesus Christ. The greater the sin, the greater will be your gratitude and love for the Lord Jesus Christ. “It is true to say that the greatest of sins is to be conscious of no sin; but a sense of need will open the door to the forgiveness of God, because God is love, and love’s greatest glory is to be needed” (Barclay).

“As a maxim, the intensity of one’s love tends to be proportionate to his perception of the greatness of his forgiveness” (Constable).

It is noteworthy to observe that the story in Luke 7:36-50 is also recorded in Mark 14:3-4. A similar story is also told in Matthew 26:6-13 and John 12:1-8. Another woman named Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus comes to the Lord Jesus Christ with tears of joy. They are not the same event. They are two stories that occur at different times in the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are differentiated by differing actions, differing critics, and a response by the Lord Jesus Christ.

REFLECT & PRAY

Children of the King should be aware of how great their sin is. But not fixate upon it and ruminate. It should not be mentally rehearsed. Rather, the focus should be on how great our forgiveness is. Rather than becoming remorseful, gloomy, and self-deprecating, we should express abounding gratitude and delight in exuberant joy.

Father thank You for forgiving my sin. Thank You for giving me overflowing love and joy.

INSIGHT

When we do not recognize the magnitude of our sin and the seriousness of our sinful hearts, it is difficult to experience deep love or forgiveness. Should sin make us joyful? No, sin is grievous. Forgiven sin makes us joyful. The forgiveness of our most distressing sin often results in amazing outcomes.

“Those who have been forgiven the most love the most! Some of the greatest sinners have made the greatest saints!” (Hughes).

John Newton had lived a wretched life doing unspeakable things before he came to know the Lord Jesus Christ. He composed his epitaph: “‘John Newton, Clerk, once an Infidel and Libertine, a Servant of Slaves in Africa, was, by the Mercy of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Preserved, Restored, Pardoned, and Appointed to Preach the Faith he had so long labored to destroy.’ John Newton never forgot that he was a forgiven sinner; neither did Paul. Neither must we. It does us good to remember our sins; it saves us from spiritual pride” (Barclay).

1 Timothy 1:15-16

 15 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” – and I am the worst of them all.

 16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.

“No one persecuted the early Christian church more zealously than did Saul, and no one preached forgiveness more than Paul. Yet he received God’s complete forgiveness – and so can you” (Stanley).

If you do not have a lot of love for the Lord Jesus Christ, then perhaps you were unaware of the magnitude of your own sinfulness and wicked heart. Sin creates a great debt owed to God. Our debt was paid in full by the Lord Jesus Christ. The price He paid to redeem our debt was death.

Many of you receive a copy of the Reflection in your email.

Often after it is published, I review it one more time and tweak it.

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Trustworthy servant-leader ∙

Aslab
Aslan

Trustworthy servant-leader ∙

I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service. – 1 Timothy 1:12

1 Timothy 1:12-16

 12 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him,

 13 even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief.

 14 Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus.

 15 This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” – and I am the worst of them all.

 16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How could it possibly be? Rather than becoming the target of the Father’s disdain and wrath, something entirely unexpected, even shocking occurred. “[Paul] never got beyond a response of wonder and gratitude to God’s act of saving him ‘warts and all.’ We must never move beyond the excitement and joy our conversion generates in us. (Lea and Griffin)”

The Father’s amazing grace and mercy overflowed, covered, and canceled out the egregious blemishes of Paul’s sinful past. This proud, tenacious, persistent, resilient, energetic, powerful man was assuredly humbled, and deeply ashamed.

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

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

REFLECT & PRAY

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

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

INSIGHT

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

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

Paul was brilliant, highly educated, and religiously devout. What was his problem? He was ignorant of the actual identity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

“The simple mention of the word ‘sinners’ causes Paul once again to reflect upon his own life. The term “worst” is literally “first” (protos). The term refers not to the sequence of Paul’s sin or conversion but to its magnitude. This may well seem to be an exaggeration to the reader, but for Paul, it is no exaggeration (1 Corinthians 15:9, 10; Galatians 1:13; Ephesians 3:8)” (Moss).

He wasn’t using ignorance as an excuse. Rather, he realized that he had lived in darkness and had now seen the light. He comes to grips with how dark the darkness truly was. What was Paul’s great sin? “His sin of aggressively tearing down the work that God was building up was the worst kind of sin” (Constable).

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

Because Paul was the chief of sinners, his salvation and redemption were totally undeserved, unmerited, and unexpected, there is hope for the rest of us.

The light still shines bright.

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

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

Paul the child of darkness became a child of the light.

Many of you receive a copy of the Reflection in your email.

Often after it is published, I review it one more time and tweak it.

To read the most up-to-date version, please click on the title.

¯\_()_/¯ 12-24-9

Disguises and masquerades ∙

Disguises and masquerades

So that we may not be exploited by Satan (for we are not ignorant of his schemes). – 2 Corinthians 2:11

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.

From 1976 until his arrest in February of 2001, Robert Hanssen was a spy in the FBI. Outward appearances can be deceiving. What was his disguise? He pretended to be just like everybody else and blend in. On the surface, Robert Hanssen seemed to be another steadfast and loyal FBI agent. Nothing could be further from the truth. Hanssen passed on thousands of classified documents. On top of that, he revealed the names of KGB agents that were double agents secretly spying for the United States. When he compromised their identities it undoubtedly resulted in their deaths.

There were a few early warning signs. In 1990, a suggestion was made that he be investigated for espionage. But the recommendation was not heeded and nothing was done. He successfully spied for both Soviet and Russian intelligence services against the United States for 25 years. His espionage was described by the Department of Justice as “possibly the worst intelligence disaster in U.S. history.”

How was he caught? The FBI suspected that there was a mole within its ranks. Of course, the KGB knew who their spies were. Almost everything can be bought for the right price. The FBI made a deal. It paid a KGB agent $7 million for a file on the mysterious mole. The FBI used the information to identify Hanssen as the mole.

It is so hard to recognize deceivers because they are so good at deception. They disguise themselves as steadfast and loyal children of the King. They pretend to be the good guys, in white hats. They pose as teachers and apostles of righteousness and truth. In fact, they are black hats, ministers of unrighteousness and evil. “Satan is never more satanic than when he carries a Bible” (J. N. Darby). And the same goes for his underlings.

Sadly, we often make the mistake of not doing due diligence. We lack the discernment to recognize the counterfeits. We do not carefully search the Scriptures, investigating what we are being taught. Nor do we make an effort to vet those we learn from. Most children of the King do not perform Internet searches or do background checks. However, if something does not seem right, it probably is not right.

Satan and his servants wear clever disguises (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). The Greek word translated disguise is metaschematizo. Metaschematizo comes from metato change and schema shape, outward form. Metaschematizo means to transform, change the outward form or appearance of something, to disguise oneself in order to deceive.

Inconsistencies are often subtle and therefore not always readily apparent. Often their agenda is hidden. Frequently, even overt sin is not recognized and adequately addressed. When sin is not dealt with immediately, people think they can get away with it indefinitely. It is part of our fallen DNA.

Ecclesiastes 8:11 Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily, the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil.

Ecclesiastes 8:11 When a crime is not punished quickly, people feel it is safe to do wrong.

REFLECT & PRAY

What a frightening and sobering reality to recognize that the kingdom of God will often have weeds growing among the beneficial crops. We must be on the alert.

Father help us to be discerning and alert to those who wear disguises and who masquerade as something they are not. Protect us from evil.

INSIGHT

The enemy of our souls, Satan, disguises himself as an angel of light. Angels of light, shining angels, are dazzling, vibrant, attractive, and exciting.

His minions also are bedazzling, disguising themselves as servants of righteousness and apostles of Christ. Think about it. The Father’s servants are often plain, dull, drab, unremarkable, average, even nondescript. What an anomaly!

1 Corinthians 1:26-28

 26 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you.

 27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.

 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.

The enemy’s strategy is cunning and clever. The enemy is shrewd and subtle. His plan is to infiltrate, delude, misdirect, and distract the children of the King. The enemy’s cronies do not have to battle their way in. They are often invited in, by the unknowing and misguided children of the King. How tragic.

Galatians 2:4 Some so-called Christians there – false ones, really – who were secretly brought in. They sneaked in to spy on us and take away the freedom we have in Christ Jesus. They wanted to enslave us.

The Lord Jesus Christ provided a perfect illustration.

Matthew 13:24-30

 24 Here is another story Jesus told: The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field.

 25 But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away.

 26 When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew.

 27 The farmer’s workers went to him and said, “Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?”

 28 “An enemy has done this!” the farmer exclaimed. “Should we pull out the weeds?” they asked.

 29 “No,” he replied, “you’ll uproot the wheat if you do.

 30 Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds, tie them into bundles, and burn them, and to put the wheat in the barn.”

Children of the King are caught in a quandary. We are encouraged to be hospitable.

Hebrews 13:2 Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!

It would be prudent to be hospitable yet also extremely cautious. Perhaps, we may be entertaining dark angels, messengers of Satan, masquerading as angels of light.

We have been commanded to love as we have been loved. We are not to act unbecomingly; we are not to be provoked, we do not take into account a wrong suffered, we are to never give up or lose faith, we are to always be hopeful and endure all things (1 Corinthians 13:5-8).

Yet we are to be shrewd as serpents (Matthew 10:16) and on guard against those who vigorously oppose the authentic and embrace the error of unprincipled men (2 Timothy 4:15, 2 Peter 3:17).

Only the Father’s wisdom and leading can take us safely through.

James 1:5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not reprimand you for asking.

Many of you receive a copy of the Reflection in your email.

Often after it is published, I review it one more time and tweak it.

To read the most up-to-date version, please click on the title.

¯\_()_/¯ 1-03-9

Diligent searching or disdainful sniffing ∙

Diligent searching or disdainful sniffing

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

Jeremiah 29:12-14

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REFLECT & PRAY

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

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

INSIGHT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jeremiah 29:13-14

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

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

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

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

Many of you receive a copy of the Reflection in your email.

Often after it is published, I review it one more time and tweak it.

To read the most up-to-date version, please click on the title.

¯\_()_/¯ 11-2-9

Invisible forces ∙

Invisible forces

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

Colossians 1:15-16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REFLECT & PRAY

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

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

INSIGHT

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

Colossians 1:15-16

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

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

The apostle John communicated the same idea in different words.

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

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

“Similar expressions are found in Paul’s writings and in the Letter to the Hebrews. In 1 Corinthians 8:6, Paul distinguishes between ‘God, the Father, who is the creator of all things’ and ‘Jesus Christ, through whom all things were created.’ Again, in Colossians 1:15-16, Paul refers to ‘the first-born Son,’ by whom ‘God created everything in heaven and on earth.’ In Hebrews 1:2 the writer speaks of the Son as ‘the one through whom God created the universe’” (UBS). 

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

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

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

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

Many of you receive a copy of the Reflection in your email.

Often after it is published, I review it one more time and tweak it.

To read the most up-to-date version, please click on the title.

¯\_()_/¯ 10-31-9

The CHOSEN

The CHOSEN

For you are a holy people, who belong to the LORD your God. Of all the people on earth, the LORD your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure. – Deuteronomy 7:6

Ephesians 1:4-5

 4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.

 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

The CHOSEN is a television drama based on the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Season one was the highest crowd-funded TV series or film project of all time. Season one, E8, opens with Jacob’s 12 sons are digging a well in Canaan. A Canaanite neighbor named Yassib comes by for a friendly chat. Jacob tells Yassib that he and his 12 sons are sojourners looking for land that God promised to give to his grandfather Abraham.

Yassib comments with a rhetorical question, “Have you ever noticed how the gods are always promising us things, but we never really see them happen.” Jacob answers “Sometimes it takes generations.”

Yassib asks, “What is this God of yours called”? Jacob responds “El Shaddai.” Yassib responds, “Never heard of Him.” Jacob answers, “Not many people have. But I think someday they will.”

Being sojourners, Yassib wants to know where Jacob and his sons worship their God. Do they carry Him with them wherever they go? Jacob answers, “There are no carved idols of Him.” Yassib retorts, “So He’s invisible?” Jacob responds “Yes, well usually. There was one time He broke my hip.”

Yassib chuckles and quips, “Of all the gods you could possibly choose from, you pick an invisible God, Whose promises take generations to come true, Who makes you sojourn in strange places, and Who broke your hip? That is a strange choice.”

Jacob responds, “We didn’t choose Him.”

Before the foundation of the world, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit existed in eternity past. It was then and there that they made decisions and choices regarding what was to be. They chose to create all that is in the heavens and on earth. They sovereignly chose the children of Israel. They decided that the Son would become the Messiah and come to Earth to redeem the human race. They chose all those who would become children of the King.

How can we be sure? Because they were all alone. There was no one else around to make any choices. Yet, after the creation, in the outworking of human history, people are perfectly free to make their own decisions. This is an antinomy. It is beyond human comprehension, yet in the mind of God, it all works. The Scriptures reveal that both the Father and each individual make decisions. Nothing is left to chance.

Matthew 12:18 Look at my Servant, whom I have chosen. He is my Beloved, who pleases me. I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.

The Father sent the Son to be the Messiah, the Christ, the Savior of the world.

REFLECT & PRAY

Romans 8:31 So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.

Father thank for You that You have CHOSEN – even me.

INSIGHT

The Father chose to create the nation of Israel, the Chosen People, via Abraham a gentile. The Jewish people are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob through the 12 tribes.

Deuteronomy 10:15 The LORD chose your ancestors as the objects of his love. And he chose you, their descendants, above all other nations, as is evident today.

Jeremiah 31:3 Long ago the LORD said to Israel: “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.”

Will the Father ever disown His people and abrogate His covenant with the nation of Israel? In the Old Testament, they managed to rack up quite a bit of rebellion and defiance. Did their disobedience separate them from the Father? Has He backed away because of what they have done? The answer is absolutely not!

Jeremiah 31:36-37

 36 “I am as likely to reject my people Israel as I am to abolish the laws of nature!”

 37 This is what the LORD says: “Just as the heavens cannot be measured and the foundations of the earth cannot be explored, so I will not consider casting them away for the evil they have done. I, the LORD, have spoken!

Why is this important for children of the King? Because the unconditional covenant that the Father made with the nation of Israel is very similar to the New Covenant which we enjoy as inheritors of the promises. Those of us who are Jewish were near, the heirs (Romans 11:24), and those of us that are Gentiles were far off, the fellow-heirs (Ephesians 3:6).

Ephesians 2:13-14

 13 But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ.

 14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.

Are the children of the King secure in the Father’s love forever? The answer is absolutely! Nothing can ever separate us from His love and commitment to us no matter how we behave. Exhibit A is the nation of Israel. Exhibit B is the apostle Peter.

Romans 8:31-39

 31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?

 34 Who then will condemn us? No one – for 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.

 35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?

 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.

 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below – indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Many of you receive a copy of the Reflection in your email.

Often after it is published, I review it one more time and tweak it.

To read the most up-to-date version, please click on the title.

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Thanks for being You!

Thanks for being You!

Come, let us sing to the LORD! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. – Psalms 95:1

Psalms 100:1-5

 1 Shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth!

 2 Worship the LORD with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy.

 3 Acknowledge that the LORD is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

 4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name.

 5 For the LORD is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

Gratitude Matters

Modern psychological research has demonstrated that being grateful improves our outlook on life. It fosters physical and psychological health, even among those struggling with emotional well-being. Studies show that practicing gratitude curbs negativity. It redirects inner attention away from complaining and negative speech and harmful emotions that so often accompany it such as resentment and envy. Being thankful minimizes harmful introspection and reflection which may lead to depression.

Gratitude is an attitude of appreciation. It is often spontaneously generated from within as we recognize and appreciate who and what is in our lives. In addition to being spontaneous, it can be cultivated. How can gratitude be developed? By making a conscious effort to recognize the good that has come into our lives. We are “to count our blessings.” As we recall them to mind appreciation often bubbles up from our hearts.

What steals gratitude from our innermost being? Continual craving for more, envy, cynicism, and narcissism (Psychology Today).

The psalmist invites all children of the King to approach the Father with exuberant joy and gratitude. This is no soft, demure, genteel, whispered call to worship. This is a shout, a joyful noise. Imagine that your favorite team is playing in the Super Bowl and someone gave you a ticket. You are there waiting for your team to be announced and run out onto the field. Suddenly they appear and a loud thunderous roar that erupts throughout the stadium. That’s a joyful noise!

Psalms 100:1 Shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth!

The Hebrew word translated joyful noise or shout joyfully is ruwaʿ. Ruwaʿ means to utter a sudden loud cry. A ruwaʿ was to shout a war cry, sound the signal for battle, or shout in triumph or victory.

The psalmist is not calling us to war. He is calling us to celebrate the triumph and victory that the Father has brought into our lives and will bring in the future. This is a call to jubilant, energetic celebration. It is expressed through vibrant heartfelt thankfulness and gratitude.

Psalms 100 celebrates, what are they? First, the Father made us and we belong to Him. We are the sheep of His pasture. Second, He is good, his loyal love endures forever, and He is utterly faithful.

Psalms 100:3-5

 3 Acknowledge that the LORD is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

 5 For the LORD is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

Our praises are not to be spoken. They are to be shouted in song like we really mean it.

Imagine a US Marine DI (drill instructor) seeking a lively, loud shout from his recruits. He screams, “Semper Fi, do or die.” They shout back, “Oh yeah.” He says I can’t hear you. They shout louder, “Oh yeah.” He responds I can’t hear you. They shout even louder, “Oh yeah.”

Sing your heart out, shout for joy.

The Father is looking for a few good men and good women to celebrate His triumphal excellence!

Psalms 100:5 For the LORD is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.

REFLECT & PRAY

“God is the Shepherd; we are His flock. God is the Creator; we are His creations. God is the Father; we are His children” (Stanley).

Father thanks for being You! Thank You for all the wonderful things You are, the wonderful things You do, and the wonderful things You do for me!

INSIGHT

The Father is summoning all children of the King to worship and praise. They of all people on planet Earth can experience spiritual joy because of their relationship with the Father. Spiritual joy only comes through knowing the Father. Spiritual joy is expressed through shouts and songs of praise and thanksgiving.

David showed the way. He is an example of lively, exuberant joy and thanksgiving that comes from his relationship with the Father. He had retrieved the Ark of the Covenant from the Philistines. David was transporting it back to Jerusalem.

He celebrated the retrieval of the ark and showed gratitude and thankfulness to the Father, David was all in. His wife Michal thought made a complete fool out of himself. But David danced the night away, leaping and dancing.

Michal confronted him. She thought he was being lewd and acting in a way that was unbecoming of a King. David responded by saying in essence, “You ain’t seen nothing yet,” I will go to any length the celebrate before the Father. He was willing to look even more foolish than what Michal had seen that day, He was ready to be humiliated in his own eyes (2 Samuel 6:22).

David danced for the Father alone. He was not concerned about what other people thought regarding his exuberance and joy.

“When the Lord’s presence makes us joyful, serving Him becomes an untroubled joy. Only when one takes no pleasure in God does serving Him seem like a chore and a burden” (Stanley).

Many of you receive a copy of the Reflection in your email.

Often after it is published, I review it one more time and tweak it.

To read the most up-to-date version, please click on the title.

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