Throwing in the towel

Throwing in the towel

So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. – Galatians 6:9

Galatians 6:1-10

 1 Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.

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

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

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

 5 For we are each responsible for our own conduct.

 6 Those who are taught the word of God should provide for their teachers, sharing all good things with them.

 7 Don’t be misled– you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.

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

 9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

 10 Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone– especially to those in the family of faith.

Failing to do the right thing is rampant in our times. Reports of high profile ethical or moral fiascos have become the recurrent stuff of daily news cycles through the last several decades. High profile, public failure is widespread and covers all aspects of the social fabric of our times: Enron (massive fraud, misrepresentation), Arthur Andersen (accounting fraud, obstructing justice), Madoff (Ponzi scheme), Volkswagen (emissions scandal), Mark McGwire (PEDs), Uber (spy programs, embarrassing executive misconduct), IRS (targeting conservative and the Tea Party), RCC (Boston sexual abuse scandal), EF Hutton (check chaining), AH Robbins (Dalkon Shield), Anthony Weiner (sexually explicit photo tweets), Lance Armstrong (doping).

Rather than growing weary and giving up doing the right thing, “raise the bar.” Renew your resolve to do the right thing, in the right way, at the right time, for the right reasons. We have a leader, the Lord Jesus Christ. He was determined to do what was right no matter what until the end. In so doing, He has created a “ripple effect.” He is the model, we have only to emulate Him.

The John Deere company has core values of honor and integrity. It permeates everything they do. In 2018, the John Deere company was recognized as one of the most ethical companies in the world. Doing right works in the secular world. It works the spiritual world as well. The Father’s forever family has clearly stated core values. It is incumbent for each of the Father’s children to stand firm upon them.

You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else (Winston Churchill).

Striving to do the right thing can be overwhelming.

Galatians 6:9 So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.

When faced with fighting a seemingly invincible enemy, Nazi Germany, Winston Churchill spoke to the House of Commons on May 13, 1940.

You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: victory. Victory at all cost, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.

You ask, what is our policy? To wage war . . . with all our might and with all the strength God has given us, and to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime.

I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many months of struggle and suffering.

REFLECT & PRAY

“I follow three rules: Do the right thing, do the best you can, and always show people you care” (Lou Holtz). Leave the results of our lives in the Father’s hands.

Father it is so discouraging to strive to do what is right and be slapped in the face. It stings. The Lord Jesus Christ was acquainted with this form of grief, but He never gave up. Encourage me to persist and not give up.

INSIGHT

In the popular comic strip “Peanuts,” Lucy asks Charlie Brown, “Why are we here on earth?” He replies, “To make others happy.” She ponders this for a moment and then asks, “Then why are the others here?” (Wiersbe)

The apostle Paul knows all too well that that even the most determined of the Father’s children can become disillusioned.

He warns us not to grow weary helping others and give up trying to do good. When he speaks of becoming weary, Paul does not mean merely physically tired or weak. The Greek word translated weary or tired, enkakeo, has the sense of becoming disappointed, spiritless, disheartened, or even despairing.

All too frequently, our efforts are either unrecognized or unappreciated. Even worse, our best, sincere labors are thwarted, and things do not turn out as we wished. Discouragement sets in. Such discouragement takes a bite out our motivation. It knocks the wind out of our sails. We not so secretly ask the question, “What is the point of doing this?” Our interest and energy wane. We simply give up.

Paul pleads with us to persist. Our efforts to do right and come alongside of others are like planting seeds. A harvest is certain. What we sow, we reap. It is only a matter of time. Perfection is not possible for fallen creatures in a fallen world. Continued growth and maturity to completeness are possible. Rather than seeking perfection with the certainty of disappointment, aim for improvement, gradual improvement.

“No man stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child” (James Dobson). Stooping to do what is right, is right.

Persist.

“Persistence can change failure into extraordinary achievement” (Matt Biondis)

Housebroken or heartbroken?

Housebroken or heartbroken?

Let me again experience the joy of your salvation! Sustain me by giving me the desire to obey! – Psalm 51:12

Psalms 51:9-12

 9 Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt.

 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me.

 11 Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.

 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and make me willing to obey you.

What does it mean to rub someone’s nose in it? A working definition is to remind someone of their failures or wrongdoings. It seems as though that as sparks fly upwards, people are born to do this.

The origin of this phrase comes from housebreaking pets. Traditionally when new puppies make mistakes on the floor, their human has been conditioned to think that rubbing their nose in it will help fix the problem. Does this really work? Not too much. Dog trainers have provided a lot of information to the contrary.

Housebreaking has also been applied to people, particularly men. It refers to trying to train them to behave in a more socially acceptable manner [whatever that is ;-)]. Again, does this is really work? Not too much.

For both pets and people, rubbing their noses in the messes they have made, accomplishes little or nothing. Rather, shaming and blaming seems to elicit squirming, discomfort, irritation, and resistance. In your mind’s eye, imagine the Father gently, wisely, and compassionately dealing with His wayward children. Seek to emulate Him. Positive reinforcement is far more effective than negative reinforcement.  

King David was well aware of his error, moral failure, and sinful rebellion. He does not need any additional reminders. He is racked with guilt and shame. He pleads with the Father not to rub his face in it. Rather than another memo, he seeks relief and restoration. He had brought disgrace and embarrassment on himself and his nation. And what of his Father in heaven with Whom he is bonded and identified?

His sinful behavior could well have ruined his life or even ended it. Both adultery and murder were capital crimes in the law of Moses. The death penalty is indicated for both of them. Of course David knows all this.

David knew all too well the pain of unconfessed sin. It ate away at him spiritually, mentally, and physically. It drove a wedge between him and the Father. But the Father never moved. His loving heart and outstretched hands were waiting.

Finally the time comes for David to make things right. He boldly pleads for mercy and restoration. He appeals to the Father’s gracious character and loyal love.

REFLECT & PRAY

The Father sees all, knows all, and sent His son the Lord Jesus Christ to forgive all and restore all.

Father I fail you so often. Thank you for forgiving me. But more than forgiveness, I ask for inner transformation. Give me a willing, dependable, and resolute spirit. Create an inner determination to follow Your ways.

INSIGHT

David had discovered and knew all too well one of the open secrets of the Father’s heart. The Father set up the sacrificial system. But animal sacrifices did not bring the Father pleasure. The Father had no desire to see animals killed. Why then sacrifices?

The death of innocent, unblemished animals was intended as an object lesson. What are we to learn from this bloody, somewhat gruesome course of study?

Sin is grievous and requires action, in some cases even death.  The Father does not desire or look forward to the death of animals. Rather He desires repentance, and in particular a broken and contrite heart.

The Father does not to overlook or coddle sin. He does not want His children to do so either. He wants us to confront it, to deal with it head on. Outward action is not as critical as inward action. As we search our hearts and recognize the wickedness of our iniquitous behavior, He desires that we get our hearts right.

The Father wastes nothing in our lives. Each of us have countless shameful acts and memories from the past. Our recollections often trouble us while we are awake and haunt us while we sleep. We cannot undo or redo the past. But we can do better going forward.

Housebroken or heartbroken? The choice is ours.

Psalms 32:1-5

 1 Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight!

 2 Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!

 3 When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long.

 5 Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.

The Father sent the Holy Spirit to convict us of sin (John 16:5-8). The Holy Spirit simply exposes our sin, He brings it to light. The Holy Spirit’s purpose is to help us to realize we have done wrong.  He does not come to condemn, shame, or rub our noses in it. He is firm but gentle. His purpose is to encourage us to make things right.

What about us? Do we treat others in the same way as the Father does? Are we nose rubbers?

Galatians 6:1 Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path.

Death Valley

Death Valley

It is a land as dark as midnight, a land of gloom and confusion, where even the light is dark as midnight. – Job 10:22

Psalms 23:1-6

 1 The LORD is my shepherd; I have all that I need.

 2 He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams.

 3 He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.

 4 Even when I walk through valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.

 5 You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.

 6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.

Death Valley is a desert valley located in Eastern California, in the northern Mojave Desert. Death Valley is 282 feet below sea level, the lowest elevation in North America.

Death Valley is one of the hottest places in the world. On July 10, 1913, the high temperature was 134 °F at Furnace Creek. This is the highest ambient air temperature ever recorded at the surface of the Earth.

The highest ground surface temperature on earth ever recorded was 201.0 °F in Death Valley on July 15, 1972.

The were 154 consecutive days with a maximum temperature of 100 °F or above in 2001. The year 1996 had 105 days over 110 °F and 40 days over 120 °F.

The Father invites us into a walk of faith when we receive His Son the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. This lifelong journey takes us through all kinds of spiritual and emotional terrain. There are mountaintops with delightful views and refreshing times of delight, enrichment, and encouragement. But there are also deep, dark valleys. Each of the Father’s children traverse valleys of dark shadows. Our time on the mountains seems all too brief. But our times in the valleys seems to last forever. Why valleys?

The valley is a place of purging and cleansing. The Father “draws us through valleys in order to remove every habit, thought pattern, or external crutch that we use instead of trusting Him – those suddenly seem inadequate in the low places” (Stanley).

When you are on a mountain it is easy to feel close to the Father and be assured of His love. But it is in the valleys that we get to know ourselves and discover the unexpected joy of His presence and the certainty of His promises. Without the valley we would never enter into the depths of ourselves nor nick the surface of the infinite depth of our heavenly Father.

“You don’t really know who you are until you have gone through suffering. We can measure our spiritual growth by the way we behave under pressure” (Welch).

“Believers can shout, ‘I trust God’ from the mountain because they have learned to live by faith in the valley. Walking in the shadow of evil is difficult and frightening work. But when we surrender to whatever the Lord has to teach us in this dark place, our spirit is quieted, and our faith is strengthened” (Stanley).

REFLECT & PRAY

“Knowing God without knowing our own wretchedness makes for pride. Knowing our own wretchedness without knowing God makes for despair. Knowing Jesus Christ strikes the balance because he shows us both God and our own wretchedness” (Welch).

Father thank you for the mountains and thank you for the valleys.

INSIGHT

King David had many skirmishes with death and was always the victor. Which contest does Psalm 23 reference? Could it have been when Saul was trying to kill him? Could it be when Absalom defiantly rebelled, ran David off, and took over his kingdom? Perhaps it was earlier in his life when he was shepherding and had to face a bear or lion to defend his sheep. Maybe it refers to the time when he faced Goliath.

We cannot say with certainty. What we know for certain is that it was a time of dreadful danger and possible death. The Hebrew term shadow of death is tsalmavet. It is used only 18 times in the Old Testament. It has traditionally been understood as a compound noun coming from tsalshadow and mavetdeath. It refers to a place of darkness, dark shadows, fear and dread, extreme danger. There is an implied sense of sorrow, deep distress, suspense, and gloom.

David faced the darkest of all valleys. Was David overwhelmed by darkness and gloom? Did anguish, despair, or perhaps even depression consume him? Absolutely not! He knew he was under the Father’s protection. He drew courage, confidence, and strength to prevail. His courage in the face of danger has undoubtedly inspired untold millions through the millennia.

Each of the Father’s children faces depressive and dark times. David is our brother in the faith. David’s Father is our Father. His calm confidence can be our calm confidence. Each of us can say with absolute assurance, He restores my soul, He renews my strength.

“How does He do this? He restores our souls though fellowship with Himself. Even though at times we stray far from Him, He remains the Good Shepherd. Though we wander, He receives us back gladly and willingly pardons His wayward sheep” (Stanley).

No matter how dark the valley, there is always light on the other side.

Be excellent

Be excellent

I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent. – Philippians 1:9-10

Philippians 1:6-10

 6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.

 7 So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart . . .

 8 God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.

 9 I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding.

 10 For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return.

When we accept the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, the Father adopts us as His dear children into His forever family. It does not matter what has come before. All things have been forgiven and washed clean. We begin a new journey in life. Our goal is to seek to know our new Father and please and honor Him with our lives.

What Christlike quality directs all the rest? Paul unequivocally answers, now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).

It is the Father’s desire that we grow in our knowledge and understanding of love. When we start out, we are infants in our comprehension of love. To a baby as they learn to speak, all animals with wings are “birdies,” all four-footed animals are “doggies,” and all automobiles are “car cars.” Later they learn to distinguish the things that are different.

Paul prays that they might experience abounding love and discerning love. Christian love is not blind! The heart and mind work together so that we have discerning love and loving discernment (Wiersbe).

The Father is faithful to finish what He starts. Once we accept the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, the work of sanctification begins. And it continues. There is always more to walking with God than what we’ve known, seen, learned, or experienced (Stanley).

REFLECT & PRAY

The Father has started us on a new path. We no longer have to look over our shoulder at what we have done wrong. Rather we are to look forward to the good that we will do. It is the Father Himself who has begun a good work in us, and He will continue it from now on.

Father I want to set new goals. I no longer want to be just average or good enough. I want to be excellent. Dear Father when it comes to really understanding what love is, I recognize my knowledge is like that of a small baby. Please encourage and enable me to grow up and develop real knowledge and discernment that come only from You.

INSIGHT

When I perform an honest self-check, I recognize that I seem to think and understand more than I really do. It would be better to begin to think of my knowledge as a jigsaw puzzle of a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ. The puzzle portrays His beautiful love and grace.

The puzzle has thousands of pieces but alas I only have a few properly laid out, mainly around the edges. All the pieces that are missing need to be fitted in. It takes many years, if not an entire lifetime to complete the puzzle.

Be encouraged to begin anew, to acquire the necessary knowledge and discernment to put it all together.

Time to get to work.

Trust is not earned, trust is learned

Trust is not earned, trust is learned

We give you only what you first gave us! – 1 Chronicles 29:14

1 Chronicles 29:14-16

 14 But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us!

 15 We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace.

 16 O LORD our God, even this material we have gathered to build a Temple to honor your holy name comes from you! It all belongs to you!

How is trust developed? Many of us believe that trust must be earned. In fact, trust is something we learn to freely give.

How this all works out is not entirely obvious to us at first. Because it seems unnatural and even dangerous for someone to trust another person without first “checking them out.”

The Father has a remarkable way of developing our trust in Him. He begins by first trusting us.

The Father entrusts us with abilities, talents, gifts, possessions, and for a few, even wealth and power. And then He waits to see what we do with them. If we are trustworthy, we attempt to do what we believe is right with what He has given us. Now we may not always do what is right, but the important thing is that we want to do what is right.

In so doing, we demonstrate that we are trustworthy.

Eventually, we grow out of our immature, childish thinking. We finally figure it out. The reasoning is quite simple.

If the Father trusts me, then I can trust Him.

It is easy to trust someone who first trusted me. When we trust, we give. “Everything belongs to the Father. We give nothing to God that He has not first given to us” (Stanley).

REFLECT & PRAY

Because the Father first trusted me, He awakened in me my trustworthiness. Now I can fully trust Him.

Dear Father, what a hard lesson to learn. Thank you for teaching me and showing me how to trust. How I long to trust You fully and completely.

INSIGHT

Trust is not earned, trust is learned. The Father often uses time in the “wilderness” to teach us how to trust.

Deuteronomy 8:2-18

 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.

 4 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.

 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 . . .

 11 “But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the LORD your God . . .

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

 16 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.

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

 18 Remember the LORD your God. He is the one who gives you power to be successful

How trustworthy is the Father? And how should we respond?

1 Chronicles 9:11-13

 11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O LORD, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things.

 12 Wealth and honor come from you alone, for you rule over everything. Power and might are in your hand, and at your discretion people are made great and given strength.

 13 “O our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name!

If the first part of this noteworthy prayer of David sounds familiar, it is. It is part of the liturgy of many churches: “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory.”

David lifts his thoughts to the highest plains of theological grandeur. It is almost as though David rummages through his thesaurus of theology for terms expressing the Father’s unequivocal sovereignty, vast power, authority, and regal majesty. David’s magnificent words exude devotion, awe, and appreciation of the Father’s magnificence and splendor.

David is deeply in love with the Father. His words overflow with affection, admiration, and acclamation. For David the thought, the mere sound of the Father’s name is glorious. The Hebrew word translated glorious connotes an intrinsic sense of beauty. It is frequently translated beautiful, magnificent, or adornment. There is just something about that name which touches David’s soul. His name is wonderful. If we imagine the scene, can we see spontaneous tears of joy in David’s eyes?

And how about your own?

Misplaced trust

Misplaced trust

It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in people. – Psalms 118:8

Proverbs 3:5-8

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

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

 7 Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. Instead, fear the LORD and turn away from evil.

 8 Then you will have healing for your body and strength for your bones.

Interpersonal trust, a measure of whether people think others are in general trustworthy, is at its lowest in nearly 50 years (The Week Magazine). Are people less trustworthy than they used to be?

Many have been hurt and damaged by trusting in people and their promises. Friends leave friends in a lurch, mates disappoint, then there are scammers and thieves who are cunning and intentionally deceptive. It happens all too frequently. Sometimes it is very personal when it happens to us, our family and friends. Other times it is very distant happening to complete strangers.

Are we too trusting, even gullible? Do we lack discernment? Or is it simply a matter of misplaced trust?

When our trust is dashed, our emotions span from simple disappointment and despair to vehement fury and the desire for and pursuit of retaliation.

When all the dust settles, the open secret is that we tend to trust less. We shrink back behind imaginary moats and walls. Instead of truly learning from our mistakes and going forward, we are diminished. Trusting less is invisible, yet quite costly. We do not look for new friends or seek out advice from old ones. “What might have been” is forever lost to us.  

There is a more excellent way!

Psalms 118:8 It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in people.

Fallen people living in a fallen world will always have disappointments. Trust itself is not the problem. The Father built into people a natural desire, even need, to trust. He gave each of us a “truster.”

Seek refuge in the Father and allow Him to bring new friends into your life.

Proverbs 3:6-7

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

 7 Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.

REFLECT & PRAY

Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom. – (Proverbs 3:5)

Father broken trust, dashed hope, and betrayal hurt. Thank you for being there. Encourage my heart and restore my “truster.”

INSIGHT

How can we rebuild trust? Perhaps the answer can be discerned in Scripture about the lack of trust. There were many times in the history of Israel where the people failed to trust in the Father. Their lack of faith and confidence stemmed from their failed assessment of the Father’s heart. They felt unloved and believed that He did not cherish them.

Psalms 78:22 for they did not believe God or trust him to care for them

When we do not believe or think that someone really cares for us and has our best interest at heart, our “truster” is deactivated and shuts down.

So when it comes to the Father, we have a question we must answer for ourselves. What do we believe about the Father’s heart? Is He caring? Is He loving? Does He joyfully pursue after those in need and come alongside them to help?

These questions may seem flippant, even offensive. But when we search within, we find them lurking. The Scriptures answer all these queries with a huge affirmative.

Psalms 28:7 The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.

Psalms 11:1  I trust in the LORD for protection. So why do you say to me, “Fly like a bird to the mountains for safety!

Tear down the wall. Drain the moat. Our loving Father is seeking His sheep. Then we can sing David’s song.

Psalms 40:3 He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the LORD.

It’s all free

It’s all free

Is anyone thirsty? Come and drink – even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine or milk – it’s all free! – Isaiah 55:1

 
Isaiah 55:1-3

 1 Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

 2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food.

 3 Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live

John 7:37-36

 37 Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me!

 38 Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”

In 1915, the Church of the Open Door opened its 4000-seat auditorium on Hope Street in downtown Los Angeles.

It was conceived by R. A. Torrey who had come to Los Angeles to start a Bible institute (now Biola University) similar to Moody Bible Institute. Its purpose was to reach the lost people of Los Angeles

On top of the 15 plus story building were three-story tall signs that read “JESUS SAVES.” They were visible from the surrounding freeways. Right below “JESUS SAVES” the words, “Free Food” were often visible in smaller print.

The hungry, and often homeless, came from miles around, for the free food. Many often left with not only full stomachs, but full and satisfied souls.


The Father makes a fantastic offer! He offers to sell what people truly need and want. How much does it cost? It is all free. The Father’s offer allows people “to buy” what is “free.” Pure grace, such a deal! And, everyone is invited.

This offer is far much more than something that merely quenches physical thirst. The Father’s offer is for something that satisfies our deepest longings. Most people actually have no idea what quenches their thirst. Rest assured, the Father knows.

What is the greatest desire of our hearts? We know we have a pang, a longing, a hollowness, a vacuum inside. We search for words but can find none that describe it. How can you effectively seek for something, when you do not really know what it is that you are looking for?

The Father is the architect, designer, and creator of humankind. He knows exactly what is missing. Solomon hinted at it when he wrote, “I have seen the burden God has placed on us all. Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:10-11).          .

Pascal, the great mathematician and philosopher, put it like this,

“What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace?”

“This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there, the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.”

Most of us are more familiar with the inexact paraphrase, “There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.”

REFLECT & PRAY

Because God made us for an intimate relationship with Himself, our deepest needs cannot be met anywhere else but in Him. Jesus offers the only satisfaction for spiritual thirst (Stanley).

Father, I was so hungry for so many years. The ache within was intense and the thirst enormous. Thank You for revealing the Truth. Your presence not only fills the void, but overflows.

INSIGHT

Isaiah 55:2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?

Why would anyone spend their hard-earned money for stuff that does not satisfy? Isn’t that absurd and ridiculous? Yet down through the ages, untold multitudes, having only short-term goals and values have done and continue to do just that. How often was buyer’s regret experienced?

What incongruous futility, expending effort and treasure for things that do not satisfy yet rejecting a free gift which satisfies forever. There is just no way to have your cake and eat it too.

The Lord Jesus Christ declares for all time, that He Himself is the source, the one and only source that provides ultimate satisfaction of our deepest, spiritual and emotional thirst. Everyone is invited.

John 7:37-36

 37 Jesus stood and shouted to the crowds, “Anyone who is thirsty may come to me!

 38 Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’”

Jennifer Garner asks the question “What’s in your wallet?” The Father asks the question, “Who alone satisfies your soul?”

I think I hear

I think I hear

Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts. – Hebrews 4:7

John 10:14-28

 14 “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me,

 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.

 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me,

Effective communication is about more than just exchanging information. It involves not only listening with our ears. But also requires making an active effort to comprehend what we hear. Understanding the message is essential. It is also important that the messengers know that they were heard and understood.

Empathy begins active listening. This involves putting yourself in the position of others, and without being judgmental, seeing things from their point of view. Empathy begins with affirming body language. Often all it takes is a warm countenance, a friendly smile, and good eye contact. A bit of encouragement goes a long way in allowing the other person to feel understood, respected, and valued.

Excellent communication with the Father begins with our personal relationship with Him. To hear Him, we must know Him. Our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ begins when we hear His voice and respond in faith by coming to Him (John 10:27-28). Once we come to him, the lines of communication are thrown wide open. As we continue to hear His voice, our relationship with Him deepens. 

Sadly there are times when we draw back and harden our hearts. The brakes go on and communication skids to a halt.

Hebrews 4:7 Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts. 

To maintain a vibrant and growing relationship, it is incumbent upon us to keep the communication lines open.

REFLECT & PRAY

Active listening and comprehension often require a bit of flexibility.

Father encourage me not just to hear, but also to listen and comprehend.

INSIGHT

Hebrews 1:1-2

 1 Long ago God spoke many times and in many different ways to our ancestors through the prophets.

 2 And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe.

Over the millennia, the Father spoke and revealed Himself in many different ways.

In the Old Testament, the Father sometimes spoke directly to people: Adam (Genesis 3:9-19), Noah (Gen 6:13 – 9:17), Abraham (Gen 12:1-3, 7), to Moses (Exodus 33:11), Samuel (1 Samuel 3:2-14), and others. Sometimes the message came through an angel. For example, this is how he communicated to Hagar (Gen 16:7-12), to Lot (Gen 19:1-22), to Manoah (Judges 13:2-23), and others.

Sometimes the communication process was totally unexpected even astonishing: a whirlwind (Job 38:1), a burning bush (Exodus 3:1-2), through a talking donkey (Numbers 22:28-35), a still small voice (1 Kings 19:13). The Father frequently spoke through dreams and visions.

However, in the Old Testament, the Father’s primary means of communication was through His servants the prophets (2 Kings 17:23; 21:10; 24:2; Jeremiah 25:4; Daniel 9:10; Amos 3:7; Hosea 12:10). In New Testament, He spoke through apostles, prophets, and ultimately His Son.  

The Father used people to provide His truth to mankind. The process was initiated and carried out by the Holy Spirit. The Father communicated directly and personally with each of His messengers. The written Word of God is the product of His working through people.

2 Peter 1:20-21

 20 Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding,

 21 or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.

An example of this personal interaction is seen the Book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah “heard” from the Father. The Father put on his heart what He wanted him to do. The Father prompted, directed, and guided him.

Nehemiah 2:12 I didn’t tell anyone what my God had laid on my heart to do for Jerusalem.

What does it mean to listen to the Father? Nehemiah offers a glimpse, an instance of how the Father spoke to him. Nehemiah provides the Who and the what, but not the how. Somehow the Father formed a plan in Nehemiah’s heart and mind. The Father placed thoughts, ideas, feelings, and a strategy into His servant the prophet Nehemiah.

Perhaps, like any good planner, the Father outlined the major steps of the task, and then as needed, filled in the blanks. He continued to involve Himself in the step-by-step daily challenges.

Armed with the Father’s thoughts and plans, Nehemiah went on a nighttime fact-finding mission to reconnoiter the lay of the land. The Father’s plan set in motion all that followed. Nehemiah was able to rebuild the wall in record time in the midst of his enemies.

When the Father speaks, listen.

Twinkle

Twinkle

Shine like stars in the world. – Philippians 2:15

Philippians 2:12-16

 12 My dear friends, you have always obeyed, not only when I was with you but even more now that I’m absent. In the same way continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

 13 It is God who produces in you the desires and actions that please him.

 14 Do everything without complaining or arguing.

 15 Then you will be blameless and innocent. You will be God’s children without any faults among people who are crooked and corrupt. You will shine like stars among them in the world

 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life.

When we think twinkle, we think stars. The light from stars is basically steady and constant, why then do they twinkle? It has to do with their great distance from the planet Earth. Starlight is interrupted, broken up as it passes through different atmospheric layers before reaching Earth. Stars do not twinkle in outer space because there is no atmosphere.

Stars appear as singular points of light. In contrast, objects closer to Earth, like the Moon and planets, have many observable points of light. Therefore planets are not significantly impacted by atmospheric turbulence. Their luminance does not tend to vary.

The fallen world in which we live is a very dark place. Paul describes the people of our world as crooked, corrupt, distorted, and twisted (Philippians 2:15). Darkness is growing and becoming more pervasive. It is as though we are approaching the winter solstice, the day with the longest night of the year. But sometimes we dread that the day after the solstice may never come.

Consider for a moment the social and political rancor of our times. Gone are courtesy, civility, respect, camaraderie, kindness, and hope. Outrage and vows of vengeance have taken their place. “This is our politics now: no uplifting rhetoric about ‘hope’ or ‘a shining city on the hill,’ no poetry, no norms, no decency. It is grievance, revenge, identity all the way down” (William Falk).

How can we shine like the stars of the sky in such a dark place? We simply feel inadequate. We wonder how our little, seemingly insignificant light could ever make a difference.

But remember stars do not have to try to be stars, they are stars. They do not exert effort to try shine. Stars shine because they are stars.

The Lord Jesus Christ made the stars and other heavenly bodies. He brought physical light into our world. He is also the source of spiritual light as well.

John 1:4-5

 4 The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.

 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.

The stars of heaven were created to produce light without strain or effort. Each of the Father’s children can effortlessly shine forth the light of Christ. It is the light of the Lord Jesus Christ that emanates from our lives. We only have to “let it shine.”

The spiritual light He provides makes a difference because it is His light

REFLECT & PRAY

The planet Earth is dark, but the Father’s children shine as bright stars. “Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example” (Mark Twain).

Father you put the light of the life of the Lord Jesus Christ within me. Enable me to let it shine.

INSIGHT

If we have light within, what hinders it from shining, atmosphere disturbance? Not at all. Rather it is internal turbulence. Our emotional and spiritual disarray dims the light. The brightness of our light is determined by how we react to the difficulties and challenges of everyday life. Grumbling, arguing, hurt feelings make us sullen and silent. When we sulk, we cloak the light within.

Paul commanded, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing (Philippians 2:14).

Complaining, arguing, being offended and dissatisfied are the norms for this world. How can we be otherwise? Rather than self-identifying with the norms of fallen planet Earth, we self-identify with the Lord Jesus Christ. We are not of this world (John 15:19). Paul explains how to get this right in simple terms.

Philippians 2:12-13

 12 Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.

 13 For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

Each child of God receives salvation when they accept the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Paul is instructing all the Father’s children how to live out their salvation, that is, actualize it in real life. Paul employs a play on words. We are to “work out” because the Father “works in.”

The Greek word translated work out is katergazomai. This word means to work to full completion, to put something totally into effect. This word is used describe how students “work out” a math problem. “In Paul’s day it was also used for ‘working a mine,’ that is, getting out of the mine all the valuable ore possible; or ‘working a field’ so as to get the greatest harvest possible” (Wiersbe).

The Greek word translated working, is energeo. We get the English word energy from this word. This verb means to work, to be at work, to be operative, to put forth power. In other words, the Father is supplying the energy required to work out our salvation. But there is more.

The Father also provides the motivation. The word translated will is thelein. It normally signifies to want, to desire, or to feel strongly. But in this passage, thelein signifies more than mere wishing; it denotes a resolve or purposeful determination (O’Brien).

Paul not only tells us what the Father wants, but how to accomplish it. The Father is intimately involved in the process. He enables us to do what He asks of us. He provides inward resolve and determination to comply and also the energy, the power to make it happen.

It is possible for each of the Father’s children to work out their salvation, because the Father is at work in every one of them to get it done (Philippians 2:13).

The Father has a plan for each of His children. He is given each child tremendous potential. The Father supplies the desire and the energy to achieve His dreams for us.

Are you living out the Father’s dream for you?

Cud chewer or knowledge seeker

Cud chewer or knowledge seeker

A wise person is hungry for knowledge, while the fool feeds on trash. – Proverbs 15:14

Proverbs 15:9-19

 9 The LORD detests the way of the wicked, but he loves those who pursue godliness.

 10 Whoever abandons the right path will be severely disciplined; whoever hates correction will die.

 11 Even Death and Destruction hold no secrets from the LORD. How much more does he know the human heart!

 12 Mockers hate to be corrected, so they stay away from the wise.

 13 A glad heart makes a happy face; a broken heart crushes the spirit.

 14 A wise person is hungry for knowledge, while the fool feeds on trash.

 15 For the despondent, every day brings trouble; for the happy heart, life is a continual feast.

 16 Better to have little, with fear for the LORD, than to have great treasure and inner turmoil.

 17 A bowl of vegetables with someone you love is better than steak with someone you hate.

 18 A hot-tempered person starts fights; a cool-tempered person stops them.

 19 A lazy person’s way is blocked with briers, but the path of the upright is an open highway.

Early in the history of agriculture, sheep, goats and cattle were domesticated by nomadic peoples.

Lands that are not fit or capable of sustaining crops are suitable for grazing domesticated animals. Livestock grazing provides food and income. It is estimated that 85% of grazing land in the United States is not suitable for crops.

What about people who graze?

Proverbs 15:14 The mind of the intelligent seeks knowledge, But the mouth of fools feeds on folly.

Some seek knowledge and wisdom, others feed on folly or trash. Both verbs are actually agricultural terms. A shepherd seeks good pastures for his flock, but fools feed on folly.

The Hebrew verb translated feed is raah. It normally refers only to animals such as goats and cows that eat fodder in the field. Grazing animals simply roam about randomly nibbling here and there. They haphazardly rummage, scrounge, and munch on grass or fodder. It does not take much effort or thought to graze. It is not purposeful or selective.

In the 21st century, the agricultural idiom of grazing has been replaced by channel surfing, smartphone gazing , and social media. Physical grazing has been superseded by digital grazing. We just kind of follow our noses like sheep or cattle. We take in great quantities of digital fodder, but are we truly nourished? Is 21st century digital grazing a distraction or a blessing?

REFLECT & PRAY

Our souls and spirits are shaped by what we let in.

Father encourage me to rearrange my priorities and spend my time not merely chewing cud.

INSIGHT

Our physical bodies have natural requirements to sustain life. Among our needs are air, food, and water. What of our souls and spirits? What sustains and nourishes the human spirit? Fools have an appetite for folly. The wise and thoughtful hunger for knowledge.

Do you want to live wisely and well? The book of Proverbs is filled with pithy reflections on right priorities and skills for living. These pithy observations are written in Hebrew poetry. Often, they are written in pairs called couplets. The lines of these couplets rhyme not in sound but in thought. One type of couplet is synonymous. It has two lines which say essentially the same thing. The second line uses different words or images. For example: Whoever abandons the right path will be severely disciplined; whoever hates correction will die. – Proverbs 15:10

Another type of poetic couplet is antithetical. The second line contrasts with the first. For example: A wise person is hungry for knowledge, while the fool feeds on trash. – Proverbs 15:14

What thoughts are contrasted? The subjects of this couplets are polar opposites: the wise, intelligent, or prudent versus the foolish, stupid, or dullard. The verbs are roughly dissimilar: thoughtful seeking versus haphazard feeding or grazing. The “food” consumed is totally divergent: wisdom or knowledge versus foolishness or trash.

The wise who seek knowledge, “want to learn” and “desire instruction.” And what of fools? For what do they hunger? Rather than wisdom and knowledge, they gorge themselves with folly and garbage.

This proverb is intentionally edgy and harsh. It is crafted to pick at us, even annoy us, to get us to think. How do we spend our time? What do we seek? What do we hunger for? What do we choose to chew on? Are we truly satisfied? Are our spirits nurtured?

Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

Psalms 119:103 How sweet your words taste to me; they are sweeter than honey.