False prophets ∙

False prophets

Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. – Matthew 10:16

Matthew 7:15-20

 15 Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.

 16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?

 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit.

 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.

 20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.

“Don’t drink the Kool-Aid” has become a well-known phrase in American slang. Roughly translated it means, “be careful not to buy into beliefs or ideas that might prove to be dangerous and destructive.”

The phrase is derived from the horrific Jonestown massacre, November 18, 1978. A California cult called the People’s Temple Christian Church committed mass murder-suicide by drinking cyanide laced Kool-Aid. Jim Jones, the charismatic but paranoid leader, literally pushed it down their throats.

The cult members were deceived because many of them believed that in following Jim Jones they were actually following God. However, Jones was a false prophet. Following this false prophet, the people paid with their lives.

False prophets are always playing make-believe. Worse yet, for some of them, every day is Halloween. They always wear disguises and hide their real identity. False prophets appear to be the real thing, but in reality, they are not. They pretend to be prophets of God, but are not. Instead, they are something quite different. They represent a real danger. They are vicious, ravenous wolves with insatiable appetites. By nature, wolves are cruel, merciless, brutal beasts.

Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.

The Lord Jesus Christ warns that all children of the King must be alert and aware. We are to be on guard. False prophets employ deceptive tactics to disguise their true character and intent behind a devious facade. They appear to be part of the Father’s flock. Because of this, their true identity is not necessarily immediately apparent. As a result, they have freedom of access to the flock and stealthily move among them. But the deception is even worse. They pretend to be not merely sheep, but shepherds.

What does it mean to be a wolf wearing sheep’s clothing? In New Testament times, when the shepherd watched their flocks, he would often blend in by wearing a sheepskin garment worn with the skin outside and the fleece inside (Barclay). Just because somebody wore this clothing made them neither a sheep nor a shepherd.

How can we tell the difference between a true shepherd in a false shepherd? The Lord Jesus Christ advocates fruit inspection. Additional caution should be taken because “Sometimes the true character of a person remains hidden for some time. People regard their good works as an indication of righteous character. However, eventually, the true nature of the person becomes apparent, and it becomes clear that one’s apparently good fruit was rotten” (Constable)

REFLECT & PRAY

What is the difference between a true shepherd and a wolf? “The true shepherd cares for the flock more than he cares for his life; the wolf cares for nothing but to satisfy his own gluttony and his own greed. The false prophet is in the business of teaching, not for what he can give to others, but for what he can get himself” (Barclay).

Father, thank You for the excellence shepherds You have provided throughout my lifetime. Encourage me anew to be wise as a serpent, yet gentle as a dove.

INSIGHT

What is a prophet of God? A prophet of God is one of the Father’s servants. He is given the responsibility to be His authorized spokesman and representative. They function as a go-between, conduit between the Father and people. Prophets receive messages from the Father and pass them along to mankind. Most prophetic messages are about the here and now and provide the Father’s insight and perspective on matters of the heart and on current events. Some prophetic messages are predictive and look forward to the near and distant future.

What is a false prophet? A false prophet is not a prophet of God. Some claim to be or pretend to be the Father’s messengers, but they are not. A New Testament Greek word, pseudoprophetes, literally translates into English as false prophet. False prophets speak lies and declare incorrect, false messages. They are messengers of darkness and not light.

The Old Testament does not have a Hebrew word for false prophet. However, the Old Testament provides vivid word pictures in order that we can better understand who they are and what they do.

Lamentations 2:14 Your prophets have said so many foolish things, false to the core. They did not save you from exile by pointing out your sins. Instead, they painted false pictures, filling you with false hope.

They speak lies in the name of the Lord (Micah 3:5-8; Jeremiah 4:9-10).

False prophets see and proclaim false and foolish visions; false and deceptive visions, false and worthless visions, vain and foolish things (Lamentations 2:14).

The words false and deceptive, translate two Hebrew nouns meaning “emptiness and whitewash.” The Hebrew word translated false is shav. Shav is used 52 times in the Old Testament and means empty, destructive, worthless, futile. The Hebrew word translated deceptive is taphel. Taphel is used 7 times in the OT and is translated whitewash, deceptive. Taphel is used to conceal defects, for example, a white-washed wall (Ezekiel 13:10).

In Hebrew, these two words are nouns that connote a single idea “empty whitewash” or “empty deceptions.” When two nouns are joined with an “and,” the first noun functions as an adjective and modifies the second noun. This is a figure of speech called hendiadys.

When something is covered with whitewash, it is intended to make something appear good on the surface, while underneath it was ugly and bad; thus whitewash became an image of deception (Ezekiel 13:10-13).

False prophets share visions that are nothing but empty lies. When they interpret visions, they are lying. True prophets are another thing entirely. “We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum.” (A.W. Tozer).

As children of the King, we must learn to guard ourselves against deceit and false teaching. We are the Father’s sheep, but we must be on guard and not allow others “to pull the wool over our eyes.”

How can we recognize false prophets? “What is the best safeguard against false teaching? Beyond all doubt the regular study of the Word of God, with prayer for the teaching of the Holy Spirit” (J. C. Ryle).

The story is told that “When the FBI trains staff members to identify counterfeit bills, they are not required to study fake money. Instead, they undergo a thorough study of genuine currency as the best preparation to identify counterfeit money” (Michael P. Green).

Children of the King should approach false prophets in the same way. We should spend considerable amounts of time handling the truth. Through practice, we become skilled and well acquainted with its characteristics. Our senses become trained to discern good and evil (Hebrews 5:14).

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A fair hearing ∙

A fair hearing

If they are planning and doing these things merely on their own, it will soon be overthrown. But if it is from God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even find yourselves fighting against God! – Acts 5:38-39

Acts 17:10-12

 10 That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas to Berea. When they arrived there, they went to the Jewish synagogue.

 11 And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.

 12 As a result, many Jews believed, as did many of the prominent Greek women and men.

Antonio Inoki was the greatest wrestler ever to step in the ring in Asia. He was one of the greatest wrestlers of all time. He was considered a bona fide “living” legend in Asia. He was one of the first top wrestlers to compete in “real” fights. Inoki is among the most respected men in sports entertainment.

Inoki’s most famous bout, however, took place on June 26, 1976, in Tokyo when he took on fighting the world champion boxer Muhammad in a rare wrestler vs. boxer match. It paved the way for the onset of Mixed Martial Arts, which would explode in popularity decades later. Inoki loved to wrestle.

The number of people who are professional wrestlers is quite limited. The number of people that make a profession of wrestling with God is countless. Benajah Carroll was such a man. But he was willing to give God a fair hearing.

On December 27, 1843, Benajah Carroll was born in Carrollton, Mississippi, the seventh of twelve children of a Baptist minister. When Benajah was five, the family moved to Texas.

Despite his Christian background, he became a fervent and outspoken atheist. Near the beginning of the Civil War, Benajah joined the rough-and-tumble Texas Rangers. During the war, he was wounded and released from the army.

He wound up going to an old-fashioned Methodist camp meeting. The Methodist minister challenged the audience to “make a practical, experimental test” of Christianity and to give Jesus Christ a fair trial. When he asked people to come forward who were willing to take the test and give God a try, Benajah stood and went to the front.

While his Christian friends were very pleased, if not shocked, Benajah explained that he was not converted. Rather, he came forward only to take the challenge and give Christianity a fair hearing. The Father had other plans. As he rode home, he stopped in the woods. He got into a “real” with the Father. He got down on his knees, he wrestled with Him. He “had it out with the Lord.” The Lord won! (christianity.com)

No one ever beats the Father at wrestling. Many rough-and-tumble individuals have taken on the Father, only to limp the rest of their lives (Genesis 32:25). Never assume any heart is beyond the Father’s reach, even yours!

REFLECT & PRAY

“The Word of God is like a lion. You don’t have to defend a lion. All you have to do is let the lion loose, and the lion will defend itself” (Charles Spurgeon).

Father, thank You for giving me a chance to give You a chance. Somehow You were able to open my closed mind. You stirred my curiosity and launched me into searching the Scriptures, day by day, to discover the Truth for myself. You overcame my unbelief and skepticism. You answered my questions using Your Word. I was soon lion’s food.

INSIGHT

What is the Bible about? What is its theme? Who is the featured main character? Does it have personal meaning for you today?

The Lord Jesus Christ claimed that He was the central character of all Scripture. It all pointed to Him.

John 5:39 Search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!

Many people know of the Bible, but few actually know it. In your lifetime, have you ever searched the Scriptures? Have you ever examined them for yourself to determine their truthfulness? Are you willing to give it a try? Are you willing to be open-minded and allow the Scriptures to speak to you for themselves?

Acts 17:11 And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth.

The Greek term translated as noble or open-minded is eugenes. Eugenes describes people are open-minded, fair, thoughtful, and without prejudice. The Jewish searchers were receptive to the truth.

“Their nobility of character was demonstrated in two practical ways. First, they received the message with great eagerness, responding enthusiastically because they realized its relevance to their own lives (cf. Acts2:41). Second, they examined the Scriptures every day (‘day by day’) to see if what Paul said was true” (Peterson).

Some people actively search for the truth. The Bereans were that kind of people. They were curious and eager to receive Paul’s message. However, they refused to take his word for it. They did their homework. They exercised due diligence and daily examined the Scriptures for themselves to see if the things that Paul was teaching were correct.

The Father has provided His word and has given us the intellectual capacity to examine it for ourselves. Are you willing to give the Father and His book a fair chance?

The basic information found in the Scriptures is clear and comprehensible. It can be understood by ordinary people. All it takes is honest curiosity.

Through the millennia, untold millions have come to the Scriptures with substantial doubts, questions, objections, and criticisms steeped in skepticism and unbelief. Often the Bible is labeled incorrectly. While it is easy to put a label on a bottle. But what if the label and the contents of the bottle do not match?

The Bible invites this type of scrutiny. Give it a try. Give the Father a fair hearing. What do you have to lose?.

Psalms 34:8 Taste and see that the LORD is good; how blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

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What was the Father doing before creation?

What was the Father doing before creation?

The LORD merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born. For when he spoke, the world began! It appeared at his command. – Psalms 33:6,9

Psalms 90:2-12

 2 Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God.

 4 For you, a thousand years are as a passing day, as brief as a few night hours.

 10 Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away.

 12 Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom.

The human race has pondered the origin of the universe. In the earliest times, ancient civilizations had their creation myths: Egyptians, Greeks, Chinese, etc. They all had one thing in common. There were no human observers. There were no eyewitnesses, so they were the result of “guesswork” and imagination. Usually, creation myths are tales of mythical gods in a cosmic struggle. From the chaos emerged order and structure.

Modern times saw the rise of rationalism, science, mathematics, physics, and unimaginable devices for measuring, calculating, and postulating. The old stories, myths were deemed fairytales and tossed aside. In their place arose theories regarding the beginning of all things. These speculations were undergirded modern science, astronomy, and physics. But once again, there were no human observers, no eyewitnesses. They also were the result of “guesswork” and imagination. The best guess that science came up with is quite simple. In the beginning, there was nothing. Then there was something. Then there was a Big Bang.

The formula looks like this: nothing + no one = everything

Really! How can nothing ever become something? Isn’t nothing always just nothing? Before I am willing to accept a theory, no matter how scientific, I want to know how nothing becomes something.

Whether human theorists worked with clay tablets or sophisticated computers, and telescopes, none of them were there to observe anything. So whatever enlightened conjectures developed, there are no first-hand eyewitness accounts from human observers. All theories and myths are taken by faith. There is no proof.

Was anyone present at the time of the creation of all things? The Scriptures provide an unequivocal answer: In the beginning, God created . . ..

The formula here is also quite simple: nothing + God = everything.

The Scriptures are clear that the Father has no beginning and no end. He is eternal. He exists outside of, and before time, the creation, the physical universe, and the physical laws that govern them.

Psalms 90:2 Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, from beginning to end, you are God.

The Father is not restricted by time. He created time itself. It is natural for us to ask: what was the Father doing in eternity past before He created the universe? We cannot fully know or comprehend what the Father was doing before creation. But the Father did provide a few details regarding His pre-creation activity in the Scriptures (Lita Cosner).

REFLECT & PRAY

Psalms 148:5 Let every created thing give praise to the LORD, for he issued his command, and they came into being.

Father thank you for having me in your mind before the world began and desiring my best in life and for all eternity.

INSIGHT

The eternal, everlasting Godhead dwelt alone in perfect harmony and union. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were all alone. Nothing else had come into being. They existed in this state outside of what we call time because time itself had not yet been created. The Father is the high and lofty one Who dwells in timeless eternity (Isaiah 57:15).

Human thinking and language are severely limited and incapable of adequately conceiving and describing the everlasting, boundless, infinite mind of the eternal self-existent God. In a way that we cannot fully comprehend or grasp, somehow, ideas came to be in the mind of God. He conceived and worked out the plan of redemption. Everything that He wanted to exist was simply spoken into existence.

Psalms 33:6,9

 6 The LORD merely spoke, and the heavens were created. He breathed the word, and all the stars were born.

 9 For when he spoke, the world began! It appeared at his command.

The phrase “foundation of the world” or “before the world began” is used in the Scriptures to designate the extreme border-line of the past. It is the starting point, the terminus a quo, the beginning of human history.  It is the point at which the timeline of human history commenced.

There was an eyewitness to what happened before the foundation of the world. The Father Himself was there. He has revealed a very small hint of what happened in His Word. We learn of His love, of His foreknowledge, His election, and His promise of eternal life. (W J Hocking).

The phrase, “before the foundation of the world,” occurs a handful of times in the New Testament (John 17:5, Ephesians 1:4, 1 Peter 1:20). A corresponding phrase, “before the ages of time” or “before the world began” (KJV), occurs twice (2 Timothy 1:9, Titus 1:2).  

John 17:5 Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.

The Father and the Son existed in perfect harmony and love before the world began

Ephesians 1:4-5

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

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

The Father alone chose the children of the King. He made plans and took the initiative to redeem us from sin and death and predestined us for adoption into the Father’s Forever Family. His goal was for us to be holy and blameless. Before the threshold of time, and the cosmos came into being, we were on the mind of God.  

1 Peter 1:20-21

 20 God chose him [the Lord Jesus Christ] as your ransom long before the world began, but he has now revealed him to you in these last days.

 21 Through Christ you have come to trust in God.  

The redemption of the human race was worked out by the Father before the foundation of the world. The Father chose to use the death of the Lord Jesus Christ to accomplish His redemptive plan.  

The Father purposed to call every child of the King to Himself. He planned for them to be saved and live a holy life.

Titus 1:2 This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God – who does not lie – promised them before the world began.

The Father made a promise to every child of the King to bring us to Himself long before we were ever born. He promised that we might have eternal life. We can be confident in His promise because the Father does not lie.

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Unswerving constancy

Unswerving constancy

God blesses those who patiently endures testing and temptation. Afterward, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. – James 1:12

James 1:2-4

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

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

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

Is it beyond the pale to say that almost every day each of us faces difficulties and trials? A wise sage said, “Cripple [a man] and you have Sir Walter Scott. Lock him in prison and you have John Bunyan. Bury him in the snows of Valley Forge and you have George Washington. Raise him in poverty and you have Abraham Lincoln. Strike him down with infantile paralysis and he becomes Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Burn him so severely that doctors say he will never walk again and you have Glen Cunningham, who set the world’s record in 1934 for the outdoor mile. Deafen him and you will have Ludwig van Beethoven. Call him a slow learner, retarded, and write him off as uneducatable and you have Albert Einstein” (John C. Maxwell).

Is there a strategy that can be used to effectively deal with the vicissitudes and struggles of life? A shortsighted solution is to attempt to change your circumstances. Many make attempts to avoid them as much as possible. But somehow difficulties and trials seem to follow you wherever you go. A better, more long-lasting approach is rather than attempting to change your circumstances, we allow the Father to change us. Our greatest enemy is not the adversity itself. Rather the greatest enemy is how we respond to adversity. It’s not difficulties or adverse conditions that mess us up. Rather it is how we react to them.

The Scriptures offer a solution path that works. A unique kind of patient, yet hard-charging perseverance.

James 1:12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial.

The Greek term that is translated persevere, endure, or patience is hupomene. It has the sense of persevering against, outlasting, resisting by holding one’s ground.

The KJV translates hupomene as patience. But patience is far too acquiescent and docile a term to accurately represent hupomene. Hupomene does not just passively ride things out and wait for better times. Rather it responds assertively. Rather than merely putting up with difficult circumstances, hupomene is the ability to turn them into greatness. Its essence is captured in the phrase, “We shall overcome.” A two-word definition of hupomene is unswerving constancy.

But there’s more. “If Christians meet the testings of life in the steadfast constancy which Christ can give, life becomes infinitely more splendid than ever it was before. The struggle is the way to glory, and the very struggle itself is a glory” (Barclay).

REFLECT & PRAY

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after the other” (Walter Elliot).

Father I am so incomplete. I desire to be perfect, complete, lacking in nothing. Teach me and encourage me to respond properly to the trials and difficulties You send my way.

INSIGHT

What is the purpose of going through trials? The answer is character development.

James 1:2-4

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

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

 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance has its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

When trials and troubles come our way, they put our faith to the test. There are two possible responses to any test. When they are faced appropriately, they are harmless and produce the desired result, in particular, endurance, that is, hupomene. When hupomene flourishes it will produce the Father’s desired end: we will be perfect, complete, and lacking in nothing. Hupomene makes us whole.

The Greek term translated perfect is teleios. Teleios has the sense of being mature, finished, or complete. In this passage, it has a relative sense. It does not mean without flaw or error but indicates maturity and completeness. It implies a process. Being perfect, in this sense, is not the opposite of being imperfect. Rather, being perfect is the opposite of being incomplete.

The Greek word translated complete, is holokleros. When something is holokleros, it is complete in every part. It is whole, entire, lacking nothing. The Greek term translated lacking is leipo. Leipo means to be deficient, wanting, incomplete.

No one becomes complete, whole, or mature overnight. It is a slow, incremental process. When the developmental process is finished, we are fully formed, everything we need, we have. We lack nothing.

Picture a caterpillar in its chrysalis. It is being transformed into a beautiful, lithe butterfly. Only when the metamorphosis is finished, and all the parts are fully formed, does it emerge and fly away.

“As the athlete ‘endures’ bodily stress in order to achieve a high level of physical endurance, so the Christian is to endure the trials of life in order to attain the spiritual endurance that will bring perfection” (Moo).

“What James is suggesting, then, is that the Christian must practice ‘steadfastness’ in order to achieve a settled, steadfast character” (Moo).

The Father uses trials and tribulations to discipline, that is, child-train every daughter and son of the King. We are often brought to the end of ourselves. He shatters our self-reliance, pride, and waywardness. When we respond properly to the difficulties, we experience an inward transformation. We learn to depend fully on the Lord Jesus Christ. He exchanges our human weakness for His supernatural strength through the work of the Holy Spirit within us. From our weakness He creates strength.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

 9 “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 . . . For when I am weak, then I am strong.

James offers a sneak peek for each child of the King regarding how we become everything the Father desires for us. When the process is complete, we are approved. The Greek word translated approved is dokimos, when precious metals and coins were tested and deemed worthy, they were considered dokimos. They had passed the test and were approved and considered genuine (EBCNT). The goal of the test was not to identify those that failed it, but rather those that had passed. They were approved. The Father’s heartfelt desire for every child of the King is that they be approved.

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Climb the highest mountain

Climb the highest mountain

A person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God. – Luke 12:21

Hebrews 11:24-26

 24 It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.

 25 He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin.

 26 He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward.

I’d Climb the Highest Mountain was a film released by Twentieth Century Fox in 1951. This story is taken from a 1910 novel, A Circuit Rider’s Wife, by Corra May Harris. It is the story of a Methodist minister who was called to a north-Georgia mountain community to serve as a circuit rider in 1910. Along with this new bride they arrive in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia. William Lundigan is from the deep South while his wife Susan Hayward is from the big city.

Lundigan shepherds his flock and tends to their emotional and spiritual needs. The area is extremely isolated and impoverished. The everyday problems of the local people are a challenge for the couple’s faith and new marriage. Lundigan’s faith meets the challenges and his inner strength is more than sufficient to guide his flock through the struggles they face. He fearlessly leads them through a major epidemic. Through it all, he is able to teach and share the message of the Father’s love. Indeed, Lundigan climbed the highest mountain.

All children of the King have challenges. One of the most important is setting priorities and making the necessary adjustments to follow through.

There are general guidelines found throughout Scripture that pertain to all of the children of the King.

For most of all, it is incumbent upon each child of the King to put the Father first.

Exodus 20:2-5

 2 I am the LORD your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.

 3 You must not have any other god but me.

 4 You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea.

 5 You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods.

Then there are individual responsibilities that are part of his purpose and plan for each of us. These challenges often create tension. The tension is relieved by a simple but very difficult decision. We make a decision once and for all to put the Father’s will and calling first. Once that major decision is made, the rest of life is simply a matter of carrying it out. You always know what you are going to do. There is no reason for tension.

That was the course of Moses followed. He refused the sumptuous, sinful pleasures of Egypt. Rather he identified with the people of God, the nation of Israel. He pursued a reward that is bestowed by the Father Himself. In the same way that Christ suffered for His people so did Moses. He chose to endure ill-treatment with the children of Israel rather than enjoy the passing pleasures of sin with the Egyptians.

Hebrews 11:24-26

 24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter,

 25 choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin,

 26 considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.

REFLECT & PRAY

Jim Elliot “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

Father encourage and strengthen me to climb the highest mountain which you have assigned to me. I want to be “All in.”

INSIGHT

In the movie Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddell’s convictions and priorities took center stage. Liddell refuses to allow his participation in the Olympics to compromise His commitment to the Father. He flatly refused to run on Sunday which he considered the Lord’s Sabbath. He was accused of putting God before King. Headline news read: Olympic athlete Eric Liddell puts religion before country.

He was strongly pressured by various officials, representatives of the British government, and the media. He was treated with scorn by the entire watching world and condemned by Britain as a traitor who “upheld a rigid regional piety on a global stage that required transcendent statesmanship.”

This all went away rather remarkably when he felt the Father’s pleasure and won his event and the gold medal. He even set a new world record. He was miraculously morphed from traitor to a celebrated international hero. But that’s not the end of the story. He went on to serve as a missionary in China. His greatest triumph of all.

Liddell said, “. . . since I have been a young lad, I have had my eyes on a different prize. You see, each of us is in a greater race than any I have run in Paris, and this race ends when God gives out the medals” (christianity.org.uk).

Liddell learned from the apostle Paul that athletics, spirituality, and calling were perfect allies (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast and when I run, I feel His pleasure.”

Was he rewarded for his efforts before the end of his life on planet Earth? Absolutely not the Father had a far different plan in mind.

The Japanese invaded China and Liddell was imprisoned in a Japanese Internment Camp in the spring of 1943. Liddell became a leader and the source of overflowing love, light, and love at the camp. Liddell spent his time teaching Bible classes, helping the elderly, arranging recreational activities, and teaching science to the children.

Was he miraculously freed by angels? Were the guards blinded, locks opened, and did he simply walk out of the camp? Was he carried off by a chariot of fire? No, not at all.

He had an inoperable brain tumor and died on February 21, 1945, five months before liberation. According to a fellow missionary, Liddell’s last words were, “It’s complete surrender.” He was referring to giving his life to the Father. Liddell was “All in” until the very end. Eric Liddell did indeed climb the highest mountain. It led him into the very presence of his heavenly Father.

Luke 12:21 A person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.

The Lord Jesus Christ cautioned all children of the King against wrong attitudes regarding earthly wealth. The richness of life is not found in the richness of wealth, but rather in a rich relationship with the Father. Rather than wealth and comfort, the Lord Jesus Christ promised hardship, opposition, and persecution. But intimacy with the Father is far more valuable than any material possessions.

“There is a story of a conversation between an ambitious youth and an older man who knew life. Said the young man, ‘I will learn my trade.’ ‘And then?’ said the older man. ‘I will set up in business.’ ‘And then?’ ‘I will make my fortune.’ ‘And then?’ ‘I suppose that I shall grow old and retire and live on my money.’ ‘And then?’ ‘Well, I suppose that someday I will die.’ ‘And then?’ came the last stabbing question” (Barclay).

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BFF

BFF

You are my friends. – John 15:15

1 Samuel 2:30 I will honor those who honor me

Friends is an American television sitcom that aired on NBC for 10 seasons from September 22, 1994, to May 6, 2004. It was one of the most popular television shows of all time. The finale was watched by 52.5 million American viewers. In a 1997 episode, Phoebe used the term BFF. She then had to explain the meaning of the acronym: “best friends forever.” Although the concept of having or being a “best friend” is ageless, the abbreviation BFF is an efficient abbreviation for the digital age of texting, tweeting, etc.

A BFF is someone’s close friend if not best friend. Such a relationship is characterized by trust, loyalty, and permanence. Interestingly, the term BFF does not necessarily presuppose exclusivity. An individual may have more than one BFF, but not concurrently.

The Lord Jesus Christ makes an astounding announcement. It is so remarkable and unexpected that most who read John 15:15 do not realize the significance. This is true even of commentators. Many simply skip over it. This fantastic truth is one of those things it is almost too good to be true.

The Lord Jesus Christ says to His apostles, “you are my friends.” Pause for a moment and think about what that means. He is calling every one of them His friend. They are all His BFF simultaneously. His friendship is not subject to the limitations of human social networks. By extension, each child of the King is also His friend.

Is this going too far? Consider the context of the statement.

John 15:13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

The Lord Jesus Christ has unequivocally stated that the greatest act of love possible is for one to lay down one’s life for their friends. Who then are His friends?

John 15:14-15

 14 You are my friends if you do what I command.

 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.

“Jesus explicitly identified his disciples as his friends (for whom he gave his life): You are my friends. Abraham and Moses were described as ‘friends of God’ (Exodus 33:11; 2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23) and Jesus spoke of his disciples in the same way” (Kruse).

Let that sink in. The Lord Jesus Christ called His disciples, His “friends.” How can we be sure? He provides supporting evidence. He chose to lay down His life for them because they were His friends. He disclosed the secrets of heaven to them because they were His friends, not His servants.

And how do His friends demonstrate that they are faithful friends? They do what He commands.

REFLECT & PRAY

“God is our Friend through Christ. In fact, friendship began within God. It’s who God is – Father, Son, and Spirit in eternal, powerful interactions of love. The heart of God is friendship reaching out” (Ortlund).

Father thank You that You chose me and made me Your friend and that You have become my Best Friend Forever too.

INSIGHT

The Lord Jesus Christ is just like the Father. They beckon and welcome all to come to Them. The Father does not reveal Himself to us in the Scriptures as a stern, distant, reluctant parent. Rather He is more like a loving, kind, welcoming grandparent. You know the kind. They invite their grandchildren to run to them and jump on their lap and smother them with hugs.

Many see the Father as a harsh, vindictive, draconian judge waiting to  draconian judge waiting to harangue and punish his children, rather than welcome them. How sad! Reflect on the following argument from silence. “The disciples are called Jesus’ friends (John 11:11; 15:13–15), Jesus is never called their friend. This is because the nature of their friendship is not mutual in the same way as human friendships usually are. On Jesus’ side, it involved giving commands, and on the disciples’ side, it involved obedience” (Kruse). Where does it say that the Scriptures? Could this conceptualization be an unwarranted extrapolation without merit lacking scriptural support?

Friendship, even friendship with the Father, the Lord God Almighty, and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ is by its nature reciprocal. Putting it in other terms the Father and the Son are BFFs with every child of the King.

Making it personal, all children of the King have the right and privilege to say, “the Father is my friend,” and “The Son, the Lord Jesus Christ is my friend.”

The Greek word translated friend is philos. A friend, a philos, is beloved, dear, and close companion. The Father has chosen us to be His beloved, dear, close companions, and Best Friends Forever. The Lord Jesus Christ called us His friends and such we are.

John 15:16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you.

There’s a tremendous difference between being a slave, and a friend. The Lord Jesus Christ has chosen to call us slaves or servants no longer. He now calls us His friends. Because that is exactly what we are. He doesn’t just call us friends; He treats us as friends.

John 15:15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.

In the first century Roman culture, slaves were thought of as little more than objects. “A slave was defined in Greek law as a living tool” (Barclay). Even Aristotle put slaves on the same level as inanimate objects – agricultural implements” (Hughes). “The bondservant might be loved by the master, and might be treated kindly; but he never would be regarded as an equal nor given an insight into the master’s mind. He would be expected to obey without knowing the reason why” (Tenney). For slaves, it was none of their business.

The Lord Jesus Christ took His disciples into His confidence. He opened and revealed His heart to them. He shared with them the secrets of heaven. He offered them full transparency.

Do you view yourself as a reluctant servant who submits only when it suits you? Or are you an intimate close friend who loves to be with Him and serve Him? How can you tell if your relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ is a true friendship?

Here are some questions to help you to evaluate your relationship. Do you know what He desires and commands? Do you know what He has said? Have you committed His words and other scriptures to memory and hidden them in your heart? Do you know what He desires for people, for you? Do you know His plans for the future? Do you know how He thinks? Do you know what He would do in various situations?

Who does not need to have close friends and a BFF? Who does not need someone with whom they can reveal their most intimate, personal feelings without fear of condemnation, repercussion, or disclosure? What better friend could we have than Lord Jesus Christ?

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Please tell me it’s not true

Please tell me it’s not true

Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. – 2 Timothy 3:12

John 15:18-21

 18 If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.

 19 The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.

 20 Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you.

 21 They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me.

What is a promise?

A promise is a commitment by someone to do or not do something. As a noun promise means a declaration assuring that one will or will not do something. As a verb, it means to commit oneself by a promise to do or give.

The great philosopher, Winnie the Pooh got it right when he said, “Promise me you’ll always remember you’re braver than you believe, you are stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

There are some promises, however, that we wish were not true and would never be kept. Several of them are found in the Scriptures. The Lord Jesus Christ promised that all those that follow Him and desire to live godly lives will be persecuted.

2 Timothy 3:12 Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.

Please tell me it’s not true. But indeed it is true. The Lord Jesus Christ made children of the King a promise that if we choose to do the right thing, we will suffer for it. “This is one of those promises of God that we’d really rather do without. God tells us this, not to discourage us, but to prepare us for the inevitable so that we can shine for Him when the time comes” (Stanley).

Suffering persecution is superficially regrettable. Yet at the same time, it is delightfully advantageous.

Who would want to suffer hardship? Who would volunteer to do it? Upon reflection, we realize that it happens every day to those we know and sometimes even us. A parent gladly risks everything to save the life of their child. Some decide to become a long-distance runners expecting nothing but grueling hours of hard work, aches, pains, and loneliness. Yet many do it. Others undergo rigorous, painful, training to “make the team” to be all that they can be. Throughout the millennia soldiers have signed up to defend their flag, their tribe, their city, their nation, their home. They gladly, heroically suffer tremendous loss.

What is the common denominator of all these things? It is self-sacrifice for a higher cause, to achieve a higher goal, to defend and protect what is the greatest value.

Paul understood these things through virtue of his close relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. As a result, personal sacrifice for the Father and the Son took on new meaning and significance.

Philippians 3:8-11

 8 Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ

 9 and become one with him. . ..

 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death,

 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!

Paul gave up everything that he had valued the most. To what end? To gain what he had now come to value most. What was so important to Paul that he chose such a remarkable paradigm shift?

Paul’s goal, his singular focus, and drive centered on one thing, “knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” He was not interested in head knowledge, that is, additional information. Rather Paul wanted to know the Lord Jesus Christ personally and relationally. He sought a personal experience and an intimate relationship.

The Greek verb translated know is ginosko. Ginosko refers to personal knowledge, not intellectual knowledge, the knowledge of certain facts or even principles. It primarily encompasses the personal experience of another person. He doesn’t want to know about Christ, he wants to know Christ, the resurrected, living Christ. He longs for a deeper personal relationship with Him.

He wanted to gain Christ and become one with Him. He wanted to know the Lord Jesus Christ and experience the power of His resurrection. But then comes the twist that seems so strange and even bizarre. He wanted to share His sufferings, that is suffer with Him. Beyond sharing his suffering, Paul would partake in sharing His resurrection from the dead. More on that another time.

REFLECT & PRAY

It is through suffering and dying to ourselves that we come to know the Lord Jesus Christ intimately. We experience oneness with Him. When we share His sufferings, we share His life, power, and resurrection.

Father how often do I struggle with suffering and become filled with self-doubt? Father help me to understand the struggle and to realize that I must become low in order to become high, and I must become weak in order to become strong.

INSIGHT

How many children of the King struggle to find meaning and purpose for themselves in this fallen, dark, and confused world. Paul discovered a secret, a seemingly incongruous antinomy. He learned this marvelous mystery from the Lord Jesus Christ. It is through death, that we truly live.

Philippians 2:8-9

 8 He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

 9 God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names.

The Lord Jesus Christ became low so that He might become high. He humbled himself so that He might be honored. He suffered a cruel death so that he might be raised to newness of life and be given the name above all other names.

Paul dedicated his life to and sought after, knowing the Lord Jesus Christ intimately. Any child of the King and follow his example and seek to know Him intimately. All we have to do is choose to pursue Him.

How do we get there from here? By spending time in the word of God and getting to know the Father and the Son. “The Word of God, living and growing within us, produces lasting and increasing joy. A lack of joy in a Christian’s life often can be traced to a lack of concentrated devotional time in God’s Word” (Stanley).

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Swim the last half mile

Swim the last half mile

Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. – Colossians 3:17

Ephesians 5:8-20

 8 Live as children of light

 14 for the light makes everything visible. This is why it is said, “Awake, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

 15 So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise.

 16 Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.

 17 Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.

 18 Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit,

 19 singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts.

 20 And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In 1952, young Florence Chadwick stepped into the waters of the Pacific Ocean off Catalina Island, determined to swim to the shore of mainland California. She’d already been the first woman to swim the English Channel both ways. The weather was foggy and chilly; she could hardly see the boats accompanying her. Still, she swam for fifteen hours. When she begged to be taken out of the water along the way, her mother, in a boat alongside, told her she was close and that she could make it. Finally, physically and emotionally exhausted, she stopped swimming and was pulled out. It wasn’t until she was on the boat that she discovered the shore was less than half a mile away.

At a news conference the next day she said, “All I could see was the fog . . .. I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it” (Randy Alcorn).

It seems as though our dark and fallen world is constantly a miasma of deceptive fog. The haze distorts our vision which in turn interferes with our thinking and emotions.

2 Corinthians 11:14 Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.

The Scriptures provide basic life principles which are applicable in real-life situations. It is incumbent upon us to spend our lives learning these principles and then consciously purpose to live them out. One all-inclusive principle is that our words and actions are to be reflective of the Lord Jesus Christ.

When faced with a question regarding how to respond to the circumstances in which we find ourselves, Paul encouraged us to simply ask ourselves what conduct would be appropriate for one identified with Christ (Constable).

When we face difficulties and pray seeking the will of the Father, a persistent pattern emerges. Rather than the Father changing our circumstances, He uses our circumstances to change us.

The Father sometimes uses the prayers of the children of the King in ways we do not expect. Often, He uses our prayers to teach us and help us grow to maturity. When we finally realize this, it is transformational.

Effective prayer is the channel through which a two-way connection is established between us and the Father, living God. Prayer is a vital connection through which the Father’s remarkable life force flows. We simply receive and welcome His delightful kindness, goodness, and love.

The Father is at work within our hearts. His method of choice is to transform us from the inside out. He utilizes a unique and marvelous combination of gentle, loyal, tough love.

REFLECT & PRAY

Paul’s admonition covers all aspects of life. Everything is encompassed with the all-inclusive words “whatever you do” and “in word or deed” (Melick).

Father, sadly, the circumstances of life overwhelm me all too often. Help me to reaffirm my desire and purpose to reflect the Lord Jesus Christ in all that I do and say.

INSIGHT

When we became children of the King, we were cut free from the anchors of our past lives. They no longer hold us in bondage. The enemy takes special pleasure in reminding us of our chains. As an inexperienced dog owner, he heaps shame and guilt upon us with accusations. He delights in condemning and announcing us with words. “How could you do that?” “How could you make a mess like?” “And you call yourself a child of the King?”

In stark contrast, the Father reminds us of our freedom. He comforts each of us over and over again with soft words and kindness. He affirms that we are no longer what we once were. We are a new creation in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is actively renewing our minds and transforming us. We are becoming more and more like His Son.

The two inaudible voices are always there in the background. But it is up to us to choose which voice we will listen to. Will we do the right thing or will we chose poorly? The magnificent reality is that we are no longer prisoners of the bondage of our past. We have been made free indeed. The Father has made it possible for us to successfully navigate our way through life despite the seemingly overwhelming difficulties we face.

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.

Concerning temptation three things are clear. Temptation is the ever-present reality in the life of every child of the King. Temptations that come our way are not unique. Others have faced similar things, endured, and overcome. With every temptation, the Father graciously, faithfully provides a means of exfiltration (Barclay).

The Father is faithful. We can place total confidence in Him. He is right there with us in all that we go through. He is by our side. The temptations themselves are like gas-powered lawnmowers. Eventually, they simply ran out of gas and stop. Before they do, we can be certain that our faithful Father is there to enable us to endure them.

How can it be true that He will provide the way of escape and at the same time that we may be able to endure it? Escape and endurance are two sides of the same coin. He provides both “the appropriate way out” and “the appropriate way to endure the test” (UBS).

The Greek word translated way of escape is ekbasis. Ekbasis is literally a way out, hence a way of escape. “The word that Paul uses is vivid (ekbasis). It means a way out of a mountain pass. The idea is of an army apparently surrounded and then suddenly seeing an escape route to safety. No one need fall to any temptation, for with the temptation there is the way out, and the way out is not the way of surrender nor of retreat, but the way of conquest in the power of the grace of God” (Barclay).

It is incumbent upon us to find the way out and choose to finish, fog in all. Indeed we can make it through the final mist obscured half-mile. Through the eyes of faith, we are able to see the end goal through the mist.

“God intends that His children act as beacons of light in a dark world, as lighthouses showing the way to spiritual safety for those about to sink into the abyss” (Stanley).

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