Servant mentors

Servant mentors

Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others. – 2 Timothy 2:2

Exodus 18:17-24

 17 “This is not good!” Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed.

 18 “You’re going to wear yourself out – and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself.

 19 Now listen to me, and let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you. You should continue to be the people’s representative before God, bringing their disputes to him.

 20 Teach them God’s decrees and give them his instructions. Show them how to conduct their lives.

 21 But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten.

 22 They should always be available to solve the people’s common disputes but have them bring the major cases to you. Let the leaders decide the smaller matters themselves. They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you.

 23 If you follow this advice, and if God commands you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace.”

 24 Moses listened to his father-in-law’s advice and followed his suggestions.

In Greek Myth and Legend, when Odysseus, a.k.a. Ulysses, left for Troy, Mentor, his trusted friend and loyal adviser, was put in charge of the household of Odysseus. He was given responsibility for the education of Telemachus, the son of Odysseus. Mentor soon became the guardian and trusted advisor of Telemachus.

The story of Mentor, became the source of our English word mentor. A mentor is a wise and trusted counselor or teacher.

Mentoring consists of a relationship, frequently long-term, which focuses on supporting the growth and development of the mentee. The mentor is the mentee’s source of direction, wisdom, education, and support.

Mentoring involves the willingness and ability of the mentor to serve. But it also requires the mentees willingness to be guided, directed, and instructed. Absent, apathetic mentors, or reluctant, defiant mentees disrupt the process.

While the word mentor is not in the Scriptures, the Scriptures are replete with examples of people who served as mentors: Jethro -> Moses, Naomi -> Ruth, Mordecai -> Esther, Barnabas -> Paul, Paul -> Timothy.

Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, was wise and perceptive. He mentored Moses. Moses had taken on himself the sole responsibility for settling disputes between people. Jethro observed the process and recognized immediately that Moses was overextended. Jethro advised him to change his ways. More than that, he provided specific steps of action that proved to be very effective.

Exodus 18:17-24

 17 “This is not good!” Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed.

 18 “You’re going to wear yourself out – and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself.

 19 Now listen to me, and let me give you a word of advice, and may God be with you. You should continue to be the people’s representative before God, bringing their disputes to him.

 21 But select from all the people some capable, honest men who fear God and hate bribes. Appoint them as leaders over groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten.

 22 They should always be available to solve the people’s common disputes, but have them bring the major cases to you. Let the leaders decide the smaller matters themselves. They will help you carry the load, making the task easier for you.

 23 If you follow this advice, and if God commands you to do so, then you will be able to endure the pressures, and all these people will go home in peace.”

 24 Moses listened to his father-in-law’s advice and followed his suggestions.

REFLECT & PRAY

Servant mentors gladly encourage the friendless and dejected. It can make all the difference.

Father thank you for the mentors you have provided for me. May I mentor others, as I have been mentored.

INSIGHT

Barnabas had grown into a remarkable servant mentor. The leaders of the church in Jerusalem sent Barnabas to mentor the new believers at Antioch. Barnabas asked Paul to assist him. (Acts 11:26). Wherever they traveled, undoubtedly Barnabas encouraged Paul to use and develop his spiritual gifts. Barnabas mentored Paul. We know how that story ended.

Barnabas played a critical role in encouraging John Mark. During Paul’s first missionary journey, John Mark failed miserably and abandoned his responsibilities. Paul concluded that John Mark was unreliable (Acts 13:13). This caused a division in the close working relationship between Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-39). Paul refused to take John Mark on his second missionary journey.

Barnabas had taken a big risk on Paul. Now he took a risk on John Mark. That is what servant mentors do. He gave John Mark a second chance. John Mark not only overcame the past, he went on to serve effectively (2 Timothy 4:11).

But there is more to the story. If there had been no Barnabas to encourage and mentor, Paul might never have been embraced by those whom he had formerly persecuted. He might never have become the author of thirteen books of the New Testament. If John Mark had not been encouraged and given a second chance by Barnabas, the gospel of Mark might never have been written.

Servant mentors encourage their mentees, believing in them. They often restore them to wholeness and usefulness. An encourager motivates those they serve to believe in themselves and do their best.

When Barnabas met Paul, Paul was blind and friendless. Barnabas introduced Paul to the reluctant and frightened leaders of the Jerusalem church (Acts 9:27-28). Barnabas came alongside the rejected and now dejected John Mark. He took Mark with him and sailed to Cyprus to mentor those in need there (Acts 15:39).

So you might conclude that Barnabas acting as a servant mentor was tangentially responsible for the writing of fourteen books of the New Testament.

Servant mentors encourage and train those in their care. Their goal is to work themselves out of a job. They are willing to pour their lives into others, who may eventually go on to have tremendous impact. When the mentee becomes successful, the mentor rejoices in their success.

When Luke records the early travels of Paul and Barnabas together in the book of Acts, he refers to them as “Barnabas and Saul” (Acts 11:26; 13:2). Luke changes the order after their time in Cyprus together. Throughout the rest of the book of Acts, Luke refers to them as “Paul and Barnabas” (Acts 13:13).

Why? The Father chose to bless Paul’s efforts in an extraordinary way. Barnabas was now playing second fiddle. Barnabas undoubtedly rejoiced in his mentee’s success.

Falling for false teachers

Falling for false teachers

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling. Jude 1:24

Jude 1:24-25

 24 Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy,

 25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

In the 19th century, political mudslinging and character assassination were prominent in political campaigns. Complete lies and total fabrications were spread as truth.

Various popular forms of 20th century mass communication, such as TV and newspapers, permitted incorrect information to get out and rapidly spread to the public. For example, the Chicago Tribune’s infamous 1948 headline “Dewey Defeats Truman.”

The 1950’s and 1960’s were rife with political propaganda. In the 21st century with the rise and proliferation of the Internet and social media, misinformation, disinformation, and “Fake News” have come into their own.

Misinformation is false or inaccurate information that is spread, regardless of whether there is intent to mislead. Misinformation includes such things as false rumors, unsubstantiated claims and “facts,” insults, and even pranks.

Disinformation is false information deliberately spread to deceive and damage credibility. It includes malicious content such as smear tactics, character assassinations, slander, and outright prevarications. It misrepresents opposing points of view. It offers negative, misleading, often hateful media coverage.

Now “Fake News,” has come to the front. It presents inaccurate reporting and fabricated information. “Fake News” may have begun as a slanted interpretation of the facts. But these “facts” have taken on a life of their own.

In the first century A.D., “Fake News,” propaganda, disinformation came under the umbrella of false teaching, heresy, and apostasy.

The goal of false teaching is to mislead, confuse, sidetrack, shipwreck, and entangle people, and in particular, the Father’s children in their quest for knowing Him and His truth.

How do we counter this continuous barrage of disinformation?

The Scriptures have provided actionable intelligence regarding the threat. Counter strategies are provided. There are two main objectives: believe and fill.

The first action is to receive a fabulous gift. We have been given a marvelous promise. We have only to believe it, making it our own. The Father’s promises are like having money deposited in a bank account. It is there for us. All we have to do is write the check.

Jude 1:24 [The Father] is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy.

What is The Father capable of? How much ability does He have? Is He willing to exercise His ability in our behalf?

The Father is omnipotent, that is, all-powerful. Whatever power is required He is more than sufficient to provide. He is adept and able. But what is of greater importance to His children, is the fact that He earnestly desires to protect those that are His.

REFLECT & PRAY

Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us (Daniel 3:17).

Father thank you for your amazing promise to keep me stable. Encourage me to meditate and memorize Your word.

INSIGHT

The Father is acknowledged, praised, and worshiped for his ability and desire to keep His children secure.

Romans 16:25 Now to Him who is able to establish you [make you strong] according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ . . .

The Father provided a strong foundation upon which we are to take our stand. He strengthens us to do so. Nothing and no one can shake or crack this foundation. It is earthquake proof. It offers a mighty fortress for the faithful.

Ephesians 3:20 Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us,

Dream the impossible dream. Seek the unattainable. The Father is able to do far more than whatever we can ask or think. The only exceptions are things which are absurd such a square circle. The Father’s resources can never be exhausted.

When His dreams and aspirations are our dreams and aspirations, nothing is impossible.

The Scriptures are the food of faith. We fill ourselves with the truth and sound doctrine they provide. Those who are mature in the faith, study, learn, and practice the accurate information found in the word of God. A keen sense of awareness and discernment develops. This prevents them from being tripped up and falling for the toxic deception of false teachers.

Hebrews 5:14 solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil [right and wrong].

Psalms 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

Psalms 119:9 How can a young person stay pure? By obeying your word.

The Father is able to keep His children blameless. The Greek word translated blameless is amomos. This term referred to Old Testament sacrifices that were literally to be unblemished, having no defect or spot. They were without fault and measured up to the righteous requirements of the law. There was no justifiable ground for rejection.

As we fill our hearts and minds with Scripture, the promise of the Father is realized in us. When we are filled with accurate information, what room is left for inaccurate

information?

Whenever false teachers go on the attack and threaten us with their deceptions and “Fake News,” we are secure. Because we are in our Father’s hands, we are able to remain faithful until the end. There may be a few trips and slides along the way, but The Father keeps us from stumbling.

Sure-footed or stumbler?

Sure-footed or stumbler?

He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights. – Psalms 18:33

Leviticus 19:14 You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.

Matthew 18:4-7 

 4 So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

 5 “And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me.

 6 But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.

 7 “What sorrow awaits the world, because of its stumbling blocks which tempt people to sin. Temptations are inevitable, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting.

Sadly, the world is filled with natural stumbling blocks of all kinds. Stumbling blocks are often circumstances that impede or cause hesitation. A stumbling block is an obstacle or impediment, a hindrance. They are often physical obstructions which increase the likelihood of tripping and falling such as small boulders or rocks, fallen trees, etc. Not all stumbling blocks are physical. A stumbling block can be any challenge or hindrance that prevents something from being accomplished. They often hinder us in our walk with the Father.

The Father provides guidelines for right attitudes that support wise living. Vulnerable people are to be protected, and not taken advantage of.

Leviticus 19:14 You must not curse a deaf person or put a stumbling block in front of a blind person. You must fear your God; I am the LORD.

Individuals with physical limitations, the ‘deaf’ and the ‘blind’ are identified as reasonable and obvious examples of people whose physical circumstances should be respected rather than depreciated and taken advantage of. The same is true of the young and the innocent.

Matthew 18:6 But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.

The Father takes these things very personally. He is by nature a good and loving shepherd, a helper of the helpless, and an avenger of wrong.

The Father sets the ideal, the standard for human behavior. As Lawgiver, He sets limits on human freedom. Causing harm to vulnerable people is iniquity. Iniquity is an action which is wrong in and of itself, something which is perverse. In colloquial English we might say, “that ain’t right.” When people’s consciences are not seared, iniquity tugs at our sense of right and wrong. Immanuel Kant called it our sense of “oughtness.”

REFLECT & PRAY

Adeptly dealt with, stumbling blocks can become steppingstones.

Father I am so given to stumbling in my walk with You, increase my surefootedness.

INSIGHT

The Father is at work to equip us to deal with all the contingencies of life. He is the one that makes us strong and capable.

Psalms 18:32-33

 32God arms me with strength, and he makes my way perfect.

 33 He makes me as surefooted as a deer, enabling me to stand on mountain heights.

The Father is able to provide strength and safety. Safety is not the absence of danger, but the presence of the Father.

Habakkuk 3:19 The Sovereign LORD is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights.

The one who abides yielded in intimacy will know exactly where to tread and exactly when to move. He will be like the sure-footed deer, treading exactly and rightly with every step. He will know because he hears the sure voice of God, and he will follow. The presence of God is the only safe place to be, and when we live in it, we can be sure that every step we take, big or small, will be ordained and lead by Him (Isabel Chai Chiah Hui).

So it was with Joseph.

Genesis 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.

As the Father’s children we are not immune to stumbling blocks. Although we trip and fall, we are never abandoned. He will always come to our aid. The Father always holds our hand. He prevents us from being totally and completely hurled and thrown down.

Psalm 37:24 Even if he trips, he will not fall headlong, for the LORD holds his hand.

As the Father’s children grow in strength and become more surefooted, they should endeavor to protect the vulnerable and keep them from stumbling.

The smell of Christ

The smell of Christ

For we are a fragrance of Christ to God. – 2 Corinthians 2:15

2 Corinthians 2:14-16

 14 But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume.

 15 Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.

 16 To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?

Our sense of smell is physically rooted in the olfactory bulb of the brain. It is sometimes referred to as the “emotional brain.” The sense of smell is closely connected with memory, probably more so than any of our other senses. A smell can bring on a flood of memories. When a new scent is first encountered the brain often forges a link between the smell and memory. When the same smell is encountered again, the link is already there. The smell may almost instantly elicit a memory of an event, a person, a thing, a mood, or a moment in time.

For example, suppose your mother made her own spaghetti sauce which had a very distinctive fragrance. Decades later, when you smell that aroma, it may conjure up a visible image of your mom cooking her spaghetti sauce. You may literally see her in your mind’s eye standing before the stove smiling. You may hear her voice. Along with the image comes a flood enduring warm, loving feelings and emotions.

Of course, the images that we connect to aromas with are highly subjective. Some aromas can be lovely and delightful to one person yet distasteful and horrid to another. Suppose the first time he ever smelled a particular lily, it was a beautiful Spring day. The memory of that aroma would be pleasant and uplifting. But if the first time you ever smelled that type of lily was at a funeral, your reaction would be entirely different.

So it is with spiritual aromas.

The ideas in 2 Corinthians 2:14-16 are somewhat difficult to understand by themselves, but when set against the background of the images in Paul’s thoughts, they become vivid, pungent pictures (Constable).

Without doubt the apostle Paul’s intellectual capacity was immense. He could easily handle complex and divergent streams of thought simultaneously. On the one hand Paul pictures the Father’s children participating in Christ’s triumphal procession (2 Corinthians 2:14).

Triumphal processions were like the Super Bowl. The Roman Triumph was a magnificent event. Roman generals would celebrate their victories with glorious marches into the city of Rome. It was all about pomp and circumstance. It was their time to show off. One aspect of the triumphal march was the burning of incense and its resulting fragrance.

For the victorious general, the fragrance would be reminiscent of joy, triumph, and life. But for the wretched captives, it was the aroma of death, for it reminded them of their past defeat and their coming execution (Constable).

In his mind’s eye, Paul envisions the Lord Jesus Christ leading us in a universal triumph celebrating His victory over sin, death, and the enemy. Paul’s then fixates on the term fragrance and switches over to Old Testament offerings. Many sacrifices are described as producing a sweet savor before the Father.

For Paul the ultimate sweet smelling sacrifice was the life and death of the Lord Jesus Christ.

What a paradox. Many would ask, “How can death be pleasant?” Death itself is not pleasant but often grievous, brutish, and gloomy. But Paul’s focus is not on death itself, but rather on the results. Paul’s perspective is the same as the Father’s. From the Father’s perspective, the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ provided redemption to the world. Therefore, although in and of itself it was horrid, the results were delightful. This remains of paradox, a delightful yet horrid paradox.

REFLECT & PRAY

The Father’s children bear within themselves the incense of the sweet aroma of Christ.

Father how I long to smell like the Lord Jesus Christ. May I never lose His sweet fragrance.

INSIGHT

2 Corinthians 2:14-16

 14 But thanks be to God who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and who makes known through us the fragrance that consists of the knowledge of him in every place.

 15 For we are a sweet aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing.

 16 To the latter an odor from death to death, but to the former a fragrance from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?

There are actually two Greek words which are translated aroma or fragrance. Both are used in these few verses. The first is osme. This refers to a smell of any kind. The aroma can be pleasant or unpleasant (2 Corinthians 2:14, 16). The second is is euodiafrom euwell, good and ózo to smell. This refers only to a pleasant aroma, a good smell, odor, or fragrance (2 Corinthians 2:15). It refers to people or things which are well pleasing to God.

The aroma of the Lord Jesus Christ is perceived differently by believers and unbelievers. For believers it has a very pleasant smell, like a life-enhancing balm. But for unbelievers it has a dreadful stench, it is reminiscent of death and doom. It is a deadly, frightening odor, from death to death.

The same word that brings life to one group brings death to another. “Paul was not unfamiliar with the notion of a message that could be both healing and poisonous in its effects” (Shillington). Anyone would feel inadequate conveying such a message.

We often find ourselves at a loss for words when trying to describe the smells encountered on planet Earth. How much more, the heavenly aroma of the Lord Jesus Christ. We can only imagine what would it have been like to be with Him and to experience such a wonderful and pleasant aroma. How delightful it must have been.

But here and now, His aroma is still present. The life of Christ is present within the Father’s children. As His life force radiates out from within, the sweet-smelling fragrance of Christ oozes out as well. When the truth and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ is shared, His sweet fragrance is exuded

The Lord Jesus Christ was very clear in calling the Father’s children salt and light. He went on to explain that when salt loses its flavor it is basically good for nothing. Each of the Father’s children carry within the sweet smelling aroma of Christ. What happens when we no longer smell like Jesus?

When I am weak

When I am weak

For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:10

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

 7 So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.

 8 Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away.

 9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me.

 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Mark was a ten-year-old boy who wanted to study judo despite the fact that he had lost his left arm in an automobile accident.

Mark began his lessons with an aged Japanese judo master and was doing well. But after three months had passed and he had only been taught one move, he questioned the master. “This is the only move you’ll ever need to know,” was the master’s reply.

Perplexed, but trusting, Mark kept training and several months later entered his first tournament. Surprising himself, Mark won the first two matches. The third match was more difficult, but soon his opponent became impatient and charged. Mark deftly used his lone move to win the match. He was now in the finals, but this time his opponent was much larger, much stronger, and far more experienced. Mark was nervous, and it was showing in the match. The referee, concerned for Mark’s welfare, called a time-out. He was about to stop the seemingly imbalanced match when Mark’s master intervened, “Let him continue.”

The match resumed, and Mark’s opponent made a critical mistake. Instantly, Mark used his move to pin him, winning the match and the tournament. On the way home, Mark reviewed all his matches and moves with his master, finally summoning the courage to ask the question on his mind: “How did I win the tournament with only one move?”

“You won for two reasons,” the judo master answered. “First, you’ve almost mastered one of the most difficult throws in all judo. And second, the only known defense for that move is for your opponent to grab your left arm.”

Mark’s weakness had become his greatest strength (Harvey Mackay).

Each of the Father’s children have an assortment of weaknesses. Weaknesses may be physical drawbacks or emotional limitations. Added to this are the struggles and vicissitudes of everyday life. We often feel overwhelmed, defeated and powerless. It is easy to become ashamed, embarrassed, frightened, angry, or even depressed.

The Father uses adversity and weakness in almost unimaginable ways. Our lack of power, our weakness, is actually an opportunity to experience the Father’s power.

REFLECT & PRAY

The word of God is full of seeming contradictions. If you want to be first, you must be last. If you want to save your life, you must lose it. And if you want to be strong, you must glory in your weakness (Stanley).

Father thank you that You are intimately involved in all the circumstances of my life. Encourage me to develop the right attitudes and responses You ddesire for me.

INSIGHT

William Wilberforce, who led the fight to abolish slavery in the British Empire, was physically weak and frail, but he had deep faith in God. Boswell said of him, “I saw what seemed to me a shrimp become a whale” (MacDonald).

If our natural human instincts and reactions are inadequate, with what should replace them? What should be our new paradigm for living?

The Father is working to bring balance to our lives. He is slowly but surely, inexorably, molding us, shaping us into the image of His Son. The Father is working to do away with our dependence on our limited natural resources. He wants us to depend upon Him and experience His power in our daily experience.

Consider what we know of Paul. He experienced remarkable face-to-face encounters with the living God. He was given unimaginable revelations, ability, and comprehension. He was invited and taken into heaven itself (2 Corinthians 12:2,3,10).The natural negative consequence of such remarkable privileges, would be arrogant pride and boastfulness. To prevent Paul from sinning, two very grievous and overwhelming conditions became a part of his everyday life.

He was given a thorn in the flesh. The Greek word translated thorn is skolops. A skolops is frequently a pointed stake; an injurious sharp object, splinter. It may refer to “a sharp stake used for torturing or impaling” (Wiersbe).

We do not know exactly what troubled Paul, but it was obviously some type of physical condition that caused pain and distress.

But beyond the physical was a far darker reality. Paul realized that there was a messenger of Satan at work. The Father permitted the enemy to torment Paul. The Greek word translated torment or buffet is kolaphizo. It means to strike with the fist, to beat, to mistreat, to treat roughly, to ill-treat, to afflict, to cause difficulty. Was Paul the apostle experiencing demonic harassment on top of everything else?

Paul’s thorn in the flesh was given not to make him a lesser man, but a greater man. Yet his greatness was found in his weakness. His perspective transformation is the model for us all. No matter what our personal difficulties, sufferings, hardships, or traumas may be, we can apply the same lessons that Paul learned and be encouraged.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

 9 My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

The brevity of life

The brevity of life

 6 All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.

 7 The grass withers, the flower fades, When the breath of the LORD blows upon it; Surely the people are grass.

 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever. – Isaiah 40:6-8

Psalms 103:15-17

 15 Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die.

 16 The wind blows, and we are gone– as though we had never been here.

 17 But the love of the LORD remains forever with those who fear him.

“No faith is so precious as that which lives and triumphs through adversity. Tested faith brings experience. You would never have believed your own weakness had you not needed to pass through trials. And you would never have known God’s strength had His strength not been needed to carry you through” – (Spurgeon).

Each person is born with a built-in expiration date for their time on earth. None of us know when that is. But passing off this mortal coil is a certainty. Through the years we encounter constant reminders of the brevity of life. As we grow older, we lose friends and family. Things around us change. We ourselves change.

Such insights often stimulate reflection. Frequently we ask the big questions. What is constant and certain? What really matters? What lasts? Many of us reevaluate our priorities.

The love of the Father for His children never changes. It is constant. It is certain. He can always be trusted. With confidence and certain expectation, we know we can always depend on our unchanging Father. A relationship with Him is the source of great joy and fulfillment.

There are only two things on the planet Earth which are eternal: the human soul and the word of God.

REFLECT & PRAY

Life is brief. When we are young, we think we will live forever, but when we are all old we know better.

Father thank You that you treat me with understanding and compassion. Encourage me to immerse myself in Your eternal goodness and loyal love.

INSIGHT

It is sobering to realize that life passes by all too quickly. David never gives into despondency or resignation. Instead, he is joyful and expectant. Is David in denial? Absolutely not. He is learned through his walk with the Father to take the high road. The view from above provides the foundation of David’s outlook and overwhelming joy.

What does David see? He recognizes and understands the stark contrast between the Father’s everlasting goodness and loyal love and human evanescent transience and vulnerability. How does the Father respond to human frailty and weakness? He is well aware of our fragility and propensity for failure. He is the One who formed us from dust. As dust, a more pleasant and an acceptable word for dirt, we are very short-lived like flowers and grass which dries up, blows away without leaving a trace.

The Father’s intimate knowledge of people evokes a kind and gentle response. Our weakness appeals to the Father’s compassion (Expositors). The Father responds to us with pity. He knows what we are, that we are frail and needy.

Psalms 103:13 The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate

David sees as the Father sees. Rather than the brevity of life causing despair or dread, David worships the Father and sings praises of joy. David does not focus on human limitation. Rather he immerses himself in the truth and reality of the Father’s eternal goodness and loyal love. David echoes his intimate relationship with the Father and the Father’s loyal love for him.

Too often we forget what God remembers – that we are dust (MacDonald). Joy, contentment, and happiness are a choice. Each of us has been given that choice. Over time, and learning from his many mistakes, David has discovered how to make the right choice.

“As it turns out, most grumpy old people used to be grumpy young people. Aging doesn’t turn a cheerful person into a grouch. To the contrary, research has shown that, as we age, we become more emotionally stable and content” (Laura Carstensen).

Why worry?

Why worry?

My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! – Luke 10:41

Matthew 6:25-34

 25 For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?

 27 And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?

 28 And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin,

 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these.

 31 Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’

 32 “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.

 33 But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 34 So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Worrying is one of the more common and destructive of human activities. The reason why worry kills more people than work is that more people worry than work” (Robert Frost).

Worrying can become a troublesome habit or even an addiction. With a bit of effort troublesome habits can be altered, but addictions often require intervention and a long-term strategies to overcome.

The capacity to be alert and concerned is an ability that has been given to us by the Father. It is designed for protection. Worry on the other hand is not really helpful. Worry is like a mouse on a treadmill. Worry demands energy and effort. There is motion, but absolutely no progress. What is worse than one mouse on the treadmill? Two or more mice on the same treadmill. Check out YouTube for videos.

“Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow” (Swedish Proverb).

Recursive worry is disparaged in the Scriptures repeatedly. But worry is more than denigrated, it is forbidden! The Lord Jesus Christ issued a clear and firm command, “So don’t worry” (Matthew 6:31). When we give ourselves over to worry, we are in violation of this direct command. Worry indicates a lack of trust and confidence in the Father.

REFLECT & PRAY

“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength – carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength” (Corrie Ten Boom).

Father thank You that You are trustworthy, and You lovingly desire to care for me. Anxious care and undue concern are too often a natural, ingrained, go to reaction. Please encourage me and strengthen me to overcome this propensity.

INSIGHT

For all of the Father’s children worry is unreasonable (Matthew 6:25-30), uncharacteristic (Matthew 6:30-32), unproductive (Matthew 6:33), and unprofitable (Matthew 6:34) (Arthur Jackson). Why worry?

In both Matthew 6:25-34 and Luke 10:40 the Greek word translated worry or anxious is merimnao. It basically has the sense of anxious care, being troubled, or unduly concerned. Related words are meris and merizo which have the sense of dividing or parting. When we worry, we divide our emotions. We become fractured and splintered internally. Sadly, most of us know this all too well.

Considering the larger context helps us to clearly see and comprehend what the Lord Jesus Christ is saying about the heavenly Father’s loving care. Through His simple yet profound words, He opens our minds and understanding. Think it through for yourself. If there were no God, life would be random or driven by the imaginary concept of fate. People have no control over either.

Therefore, worry or anxiety is a natural reaction to the troubles of everyday life: poverty, hunger, shelter, clothing or the like. Without a loving Father God, we would stand powerless. Such concerns turn to anxiety and drive people to try to protect themselves as best he can from whatever confronts them.

The children of the King do not live in a godless world. We have a caring, loving Father who is actively involved. That is why worry is not merely discouraged, it is scorned and forbidden.

Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Paul does not write, ‘Pray about it!’ He is too wise to do that. He uses three different words to describe ‘right praying’: prayer, supplication, and thanksgiving. ‘Right praying’ involves all three.

The first word is prayer. Prayer is the general word for making requests known to the Lord. It carries the idea of adoration, devotion, and worship. Whenever we find ourselves worrying, our first action ought to be to get alone with God and worship Him. Adoration is what is needed. We must see the greatness and majesty of God! We must realize that He is big enough to solve our problems. The first step in ‘right praying’ is adoration.

The second is supplication, an earnest sharing of our needs and problems. There is no place for halfhearted, insincere prayer! Our Father wants us to be earnest in our asking.  Supplication is not a matter of carnal energy but of spiritual intensity (Romans 15:30).

The third is appreciation, giving thanks to God (Ephesians 5:20, Colossians 3:17). The Father enjoys hearing His children say, ‘Thank You!’ (Wiersbe [extrapolated])

“Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety or the handle of faith” (Henry Ward Beecher).

Only a whisper

Only a whisper

These are just the fringes of all that he does, merely a whisper of his power. Who, then, can comprehend the thunder of his power? – Job 26:14

Job 26:11-14

 11 The foundations of heaven tremble; they shudder at his rebuke.

 12 By his power the sea grew calm. By his skill he crushed the great sea monster.

 13 His Spirit made the heavens beautiful, and his power pierced the gliding serpent.

 14 These are just the beginning of all that he does, merely a whisper of his power. Who, then, can comprehend the thunder of his power?

1 Kings 19:11-12

 11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the LORD.” And behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.

 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.

Of all the knowledge available in the universe, how much do we know? Of all the books in the Library of Congress, how many have we read? And what of the infinite, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Father God, how much do we know about Him.

The answer to all these questions is the same, very little.

The Father’s omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence is seen in what has been made. What are the implications of the unlimited power and authority of the One who created and governs everything? Trying to understand the Father through His creation, is foolhardy. It would be like researching one tiny grain of sand, and thinking we had knowledge and comprehension all the sand in existence.

We hear thunder, but how can we presume to understand thunder by merely hearing it.

Job 26:14 These are just the fringes of all that he does, merely a whisper of his power. Who, then, can comprehend the thunder of his power?

The Hebrew word translated fringes or outskirts is qatsah. It refers to the end or extremity of objects, border regions, or edge. It speaks of something which is only partially disclosed or revealed; the term can be translated outline, glimpse, a small part of, only a fraction of, and only hints of.

Job’s friends saw the Father’s handiwork in nature, and erroneously and arrogantly thought they knew all about Him. They brashly thought they could explain God to Job.

Job had just the opposite view. How can you know the whole from the parts? How can you understand and comprehend an object by only observing its outline or shadow?

What we see of the Father in creation is only the fringes of His ways. What we hear is but a whisper of His power! You may read The Book of Nature carefully and still have a great deal more to learn about God. Knowing a few facts about the creation of God is not the same as knowing truths about the God of Creation (‘Wiersbe).

“He truly knows God perfectly that finds Him incomprehensible and unable to know him” (Richard Rolle). The more we learn about the Father and His word, the more we realize how little we know and how much more there is to discover. “Beware of people who claim to know all about God, for their claim is proof they know neither God nor themselves” (‘Wiersbe).

Things which are seen, heard or understood are but an infinitesimally small part of all that the Father is and has done. They provide only a small hint of His greatness.

REFLECT & PRAY

We know and realize only nano tidbits of all that Father is.

Father help me to look beyond Your power and listen for your loving, gentle whisper.

INSIGHT

Often when we think of the Lord God omnipotent, The Father of all, we think really big. The Father sees everything, made everything and controls everything (Job 26:7–13)

We wonder at the seeming infinite immensity and complexity of His creation. We marvel at the intelligent design, the precision and absolute balance, the harnessed and regulated power and energy. Even seeming chaos and disarray, has order and beauty.

The Father does not always act big. When the Father gets personal, very personal, He draws close and speaks in whispers. He uses His “inside voice.” Perhaps remembering the Exodus, Elijah set his expectations on the big, powerful, and dramatic. But the Father was not in the powerful wind, the rock shattering earthquake, or the fire.

Instead He used a powerful but gentle whisper, a still small voice to reveal Himself and to express His heart (1 Kings 19:11-12).

When was the last time you heard His whisper, His still small voice?

Night Stalker

Night Stalker

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. – 1 Peter 5:8

Job 1:6-12

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

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

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

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

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

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

 12 “All right, you may test him,”

The Night Stalker, a made-for-TV movie, was first shown on ABC on January 11, 1972 as the ABC Movie of the Week. Darren McGavin, plays an investigative reporter seeking a serial killer in the Las Vegas area.

The Night Stalker became the highest rated original TV movie on US television at that time. It inspired a sequel a single-season TV series of twenty episodes titled Kolchak: The Night Stalker which ran on ABC between 1974–75.

The popular TV movie and the TV series provided the inspiration for Chris Carter’s The X-Files. The Night Stalker of course is pure fiction.

However, there is a real night stalker. He remains in the shadows, invisible. Yet he is well-known. He makes his presence known anywhere, whenever he desires. He is the god of this world and he has temporary dominion (2 Cor 4:4). He is the enemy of our souls.

The apostle Peter pictures him as a lion, perhaps the fiercest of all known beasts of that day, a menacing, cruel, ferocious beast of prey. In his mind’s eye, he sees this huge intimidating, vicious feline pacing back and forth on patrol. He roams about, he goes from place to place, he prowls, he stalks, he is always on the alert, watching, glaring, sizing up the terrain, and searching for potential prey. His mere presence is intimidating, but if that’s not enough, he terrorizes his would-be victims with his roar. He is the original night stalker, the ruler of darkness.

The enemy’s goal is always to same, damage and destruction. He seeks not merely frighten or capture his prey; he seeks to maul and devour it.

The Greek word translated devour is katapiomai from kata down and pino drink. It has the sense of gulping down, swallowing hurriedly or greedily. Picture two dogs on either side of a barbecue watching hamburgers being cooked. The chef is momentarily distracted, two hamburgers fall off. One heads in the direction of a small Yorkshire terrier. He lets it hit the ground and then begins to take as many mouthfuls as he can, as fast as he can. The other hamburger heads towards a Rottweiler. He catches it in midair and swallows it in one gulp. He devoured it.

REFLECT & PRAY

1 John 4:4 Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.

Father thank you for reminding us that we have a real adversary, the original night stalker, the enemy of our souls.

INSIGHT

There is an ongoing dark and dreadful spiritual war. Our adversary the devil never tires or sleeps. He is subtle and clever spying out our weaknesses, vulnerabilities, and fears. He then strikes where we are most susceptible. Often when we least expect it. That’s what the enemy does.

Where would the adversary attack you?

His agenda is quite similar to that of The Terminator, the 1984 movie, with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Kyle Reese, “Listen, and understand! That Terminator is out there! It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear! And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead!”

“That’s what he does! That’s all he does! You can’t stop him!”

Being warned by the apostle Peter, how should we proceed? Peter lays out some guidelines.

Stay alert, keep awake, be constantly ready, be on watch, be ready for whatever may happen, be prepared for what will happen . . . Resist him, stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith (1Pe 5:8-9).

To be sober means to be serious-minded, to take a realistic approach to life, to be intelligent concerning the stratagems of Satan (MacDonald). We must never forget that we are in a spiritual war. Regardless of how well things may seem to be going for us, we live in a perpetual war zone. How many casualties occur because we think we live in a time of peace (Stanley)?

Our enemy may act like a lion, but The Lord Jesus Christ is a lion! The Lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5).

Our greatest weapon seems very odd and unusual until we reflect upon its significance: blood. Not just any blood, but the blood of the lamb. Through His death, the Lord Jesus Christ overcame the enemy of our souls.

Revelation 12:11 And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.

1 Corinthians 15:57-58

 57 But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ.

 58 So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.

Lost and found

Lost and found

Read [the book of the Law] in the presence of the king. – 2 Kings 22:10

2 Kings 22:11-19

 11 When the king heard the words of the book of the law, he tore his clothes.

 12 Then the king commanded Hilkiah the priest . . .

 13 “Go, inquire of the LORD for me and the people and all Judah concerning the words of this book that has been found, for great is the wrath of the LORD that burns against us, because our fathers have not listened to the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us.”

 18 Thus says the LORD God of Israel, “Regarding the words which you [Josiah] have heard,

 19 because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before the LORD when you heard what I spoke against this place and against its inhabitants that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before Me, I truly have heard you,” declares the LORD.

2 Kings 23:2-25

 2 King Josiah went up to the Temple of the LORD with all the people of Judah and Jerusalem, along with the priests and the prophets– all the people from the least to the greatest. There the king read to them the entire Book of the Covenant that had been found in the LORD’s Temple.

 3 The king took his place of authority beside the pillar and renewed the covenant in the LORD’s presence. He pledged to obey the LORD by keeping all his commands, laws, and decrees with all his heart and soul. . . all the people pledged themselves to the covenant.

 25 Never before had there been a king like Josiah, who turned to the LORD with all his heart and soul and strength, obeying all the laws of Moses. And there has never been a king like him since.

One of the great challenges of our time is losing things. Our cell phones, our keys, our wallets seem to get misplaced all too frequently. In the 1992 movie, Medicine Man, Sean Connery plays Dr. Robert Campbell a researcher looking for cure for cancer in the biosphere of the Amazon jungle. He has a breakthrough and then he misplaces it. He exclaims, “I found a cure for the plague of the 20th century, and now I’ve lost it!”

What could be worse than losing the cure for cancer? The answer depends on your value system. What is most valuable to you? What is your most valuable possession on earth?

For the Father’s children, a highly cherished possession is a copy of the word of God itself. How would you feel if you lost it?

Can you picture what it would be like to not have access to the word of God? In the privileged modern age of printed and digital media, we can hardly imagine at it.

During the dark ages of the evil, apostate kings of Judah, many valuable or highly esteemed things were misplaced, destroyed, or lost. When the scrolls of the Scripture went missing, that was the most tragic loss of all

Possibly one of the evil kings such as Manasseh or Amon had tried to destroy all copies of God’s law. Perhaps some were hidden for safekeeping like the Dead Sea Scrolls.

At any rate, that which was lost, was now found. After decades of darkness, Josiah became king. A priest found the missing scrolls of the Scriptures. The law of Moses had been stashed away in the temple area.

The Scriptures were read aloud in Josiah’s presence. Something remarkable happened!

First, Josiah was utterly shocked. Apparently, Josiah had never heard the word of God before. Can you imagine? His shock quickly turned to shame and remorse over the Nation’s rebellion and defiance of the Father. His remorse became tears, tears of joyful sorrow. Joyful sorrow is a remarkable emotion that tender hearts often experience when the living word of God is read.

Josiah humbled himself before the Lord. The seventh century BC Reformation of Judah began.

REFLECT & PRAY

“The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him. By God’s help, I aim to be that man”- (Dwight L. Moody)

Father thank you for the capacity you have provided for loyal love and devotion. Encourage my heart and mind to love you totally and completely.

INSIGHT

2 Kings 23:25 Never before had there been a king like Josiah, who turned to the LORD with all his heart and soul and strength, obeying all the laws of Moses. And there has never been a king like him since.

In spite of several generations of idolatry and rebellion against the Father, somehow Josiah arose as a righteous king. Josiah was a remarkable and unique man. He had cultivated a delightful, personal love relationship with the Father.

He turned to the Father wholeheartedly without reservation. He was all in with no reserves held back. Whatever Moses laid out in the law, Josiah was totally and completely committed to live it out. He was determined to be the poster boy for the Father’s rallying call.

Deuteronomy 6:5 You must love the LORD your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength.

How can we become like Josiah? It is a simple mixture of two things: a tender heart and exposure to the word of God. What worked for Josiah, will work for any child of God. The decision is yours.

If you want to walk with the Father, loving the Father is not merely suggested or desired, it is required and necessary. The Father requires, insists on love in action.

Why? It is all part of His intelligent design. The Father is not needy nor lonesome. He wants only the best for His children. He created us in such a way that to experience His best, we must give our best. The ability to do and give our best, is already built in. It is our choice to activate it and maintain it. It begins with a receptive heart and disposition.

This is readily found in well-trained military dogs. Such dogs are by nature and by nurture, conditioned to be lovingly devoted to their leader. This is not hard for dogs to do, as pack animals, it is natural for them to willingly follow the leader of the pack. This is expressed in their attentiveness, affection, submission, and fearless action.

Such a dog recently made international headlines. Conan, a Belgian Malinois, assigned to US special forces, aided in the pursuit of the now deceased leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi!

The Father designed all of His children with a similar nature. It merely needs to be nurtured and developed. We have the capacity to be lovingly devoted to a leader. The Father is the undeniable leader of His pack. Beginning with a tender heart and exposure to His word, loyal love is the natural outcome. We have only to hear, obey, and humble ourselves.

The words which follow, flesh out love in action. The Hebrew word for heart is lev. The heart is the seat of feeling, thought, and intention. The Hebrew word rendered soul, mind, or being is nefesh. This is the seat of emotion, passion, desire, life itself.

The Hebrew word translated might or strength is meod. When this term is used as a noun, it has the sense of strong or mighty. Most typically the term is used as an adverb with the sense of completely, totally, exceedingly, wholeheartedly. In modern Hebrew, meod is the common word for very. So if you wanted to say “very good” you would say, tov meod.

Devoted loyal love for the Father is within the grasp of each of His children. It begins

with a tender heart, humility, and exposure to the word of God. It is good, very good, tov meod.