A solid foundation ∙

God’s truth, God’s solid foundation stands firm (2 Timothy 2:19).

Matthew 7:24-27

 24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.

 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock.

 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand.

 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

Life is filled with uncertainty. Everyone has the right to choose what they base their belief system and life upon. The choices are almost boundless. How do we make the best choices? On planet earth, there are only two things which will last forever: human souls and The Word of God.

The Father provides a best choice scenario. His solution is rock solid. It is firm, sure, dependable, and steadfast.

What is His firm foundation? The Lord Jesus Christ explained it to us by way of analogy. He focused on prudent and effective building practices. Wise builders seek the best possible foundations for their structures. When we listen to the words of the Lord Jesus Christ and follow them, we choose to build our lives upon an immovable, bedrock, firm foundation of truth.

Matthew 7:24 Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.

The Spanish-American war came just 33 years after the end of the US Civil War, and tensions between the North and the South were still high.

On Christmas Eve, 1898, the United States Army corps was encamped near Havana, Cuba. The sentry’s call rang out at 12 AM, all’s well. It was Christmas morning.

From the camp of the Forty-ninth Iowa, rose the music of the old familiar hymn, “How Firm a Foundation.” A baritone voice sang the chorus: ‘How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord!’ One voice after another joined in. Soon some fifteen thousand American army troops were singing! North and South, Protestant and Catholic, were singing together in unity as Americans.

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed;

For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;

I’ll strengthen thee, help thee and cause thee to stand,

Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

This comforting Christian hymn was first published in 1787 in a hymnbook edited by John Rippon. The Northern soldier knew the hymn as one he had learned beside his mother’s knee. To the Southern soldier it was that and something more; it was the favorite hymn of General Robert E. Lee, and it was sung at his funeral.

REFLECT & PRAY

In good times, the strength of our foundation appears not to matter. But when the storms come, it is another matter altogether.

Father, thank you for providing the firmest of immovable foundations, following the words of your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

INSIGHT

God’s truth stands firm (2 Timothy 2:19). The foundation that the Father provides is solid and dependable. Whatever the Father has Himself established cannot be shaken, altered, or moved. The Father’s solid foundation stands firm, because it is solely dependent upon the Father’s immovable character. Failure is never an option with the Father. Whatever He begins is completed on schedule.

The Greek word translated firm or sure is stereos. Stereos refers to something that is not soft and does not yield to pressure. It can be translated as strong, sure, steadfast, firm, immovable, solid, hard, or rigid. The English word stereo is derived from this term.

The foundations which the world offers are uncertain, temporary, and lead to eternal death. The foundation which the Lord Jesus Christ offers is absolute truth, permanent, and provides eternal life.

“Picture these two houses. There may not be much in their external appearance to enable the casual observer to distinguish between them. Both seem attractive and clean, freshly painted perhaps. One, however, has its foundation resting securely on bedrock; the other has as its foundation nothing more substantial than sand.” 

“Only the most severe storm will betray the difference; but granted the storm, the betrayal is inevitable” (D. A. Carson).

The Lord Jesus Christ explains that there are wise and unwise foundations available to build our lives upon: rock or sand. It is one thing to hear, approve, and admire the words of the Lord Jesus Christ. But more is required to avoid disaster. His words must be followed.

Matthew 7:24-27

 24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock . . . it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock.

 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand . . . it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

The Father offers a firm foundation. The words of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the rest of Scripture, understood and followed, provide solid rock.

What are you building your life upon? Is the foundation you have chosen enough? If not, is disaster crouching at the door?

How Firm a Foundation

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,

is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!

What more can He say than to you He hath said,

who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?

Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed,

for I am thy God and will still give thee aid.

I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,

upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,

the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;

for I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,

and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,

My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply.

The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design

thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose

I will not, I will not desert to his foes;

that soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,

I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!

¯\_(ツ)_/¯   12-29-9

Futile rage ∙

Futile rage

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? – Psalms 2:1

Psalms 2:1-6

 1 Why are the nations so angry? Why do they waste their time with futile plans?

 2 The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the LORD and against his anointed one.

 3 “Let us break their chains,” they cry, “and free ourselves from slavery to God.”

 4 But the one who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them.

 5 Then in anger he rebukes them, terrifying them with his fierce fury.

 6 For the Lord declares, “I have placed my chosen king on the throne in Jerusalem, on my holy mountain.”

Rage is a form of violent, uncontrollable anger. It influences our reasoning and judgment. Rage is angry resentment or prejudice against a person or group. Frequently, our rage is unfair and unjustified.

Road rage is angry, aggressive conduct while driving. The term originated in 1987. The expression was coined to describe a rash of shootings on freeways and interstates in Los Angeles.

Rage behaviors include rude and offensive gestures, verbal insults, threatening driving, or physical threats. The underlying goal is at best, to simply relieve the driver’s frustration. At worst, road ragers seek to intimidate or harm others. Frequently, it involves leaving a vehicle to assault or even shoot another driver. Road rage is increasing. More than 1500 road rage incidents are reported each year. Over 12,000 preventable injuries have occurred. Appallingly, more than 37% of road rage incidents involve at least one firearm. During a 7-year study period, over 200 murders were attributed to road rage.

Too often, the Father is the object of rage and rebellion. Rage is often thoughtless and blind. Sadly, it lurks in the heart of every fallen person. If you search, you will probably find it silently lurking within.

Who is ultimately in charge of planet Earth and the created universe? Where does the buck stop? The Scriptures unequivocally answer this question. The Father is the architect and creator of all. He has control and sovereignty over His creation.

Psalm 2 recounts the senseless rejection of the Father’s rule and authority. His chosen and anointed King, the Lord Jesus Christ, is also targeted. The Psalm reveals an astonishing, yet consistent pattern found throughout the Scripture. The Father sits serenely and confidently upon His throne. He rules peacefully and quietly. He is sovereign over all things. He has made choices, and His choices stand firm. On the other hand, people tend to be obtuse, stubborn, self-absorbed, willful, rebellious, and defiant.

The first word of the Psalm sets the tone, “Why.” The psalmist is not seeking information or clarification by asking “Why.” Rather, it is more of an exclamation of puzzlement, even astonishment. In modern English, we might say, “How can people be so stupid?” Why do they tumultuously rage, give themselves over to senseless anger, and “waste their time with futile plans”?

People dupe themselves into thinking they can successfully rebel against the sovereign, omnipotent Lord of lords and King of Kings. They delude themselves thinking that their vain struggle and defiance can somehow alter or even overthrow His absolute authority.

They foolishly imagine themselves as combatants in a struggle for dominance. On one side, are the kings and the officials of the earth. Their opponents are the Father Himself and His Anointed One, His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. What an impossible contest. Somehow, I picture angry mice screaming and plotting against an alpha, male elephant. Yet such a meager word picture is not an adequate representation of the absurd incongruity of it all.

If the outcome could be determined by numbers alone, the kings would win. Down through the ages, their combined armies number in the billions. The kings and their soldiers square off against only two opponents, the Father and the Son. But it is no contest. The Father is greater than all.

It is worth noting that their entire rebellion is in words only. They only raise their voices against the Father, never their weapons.

The absurdity of it all is reminiscent of the fairy tale about the big bad Wolf and the three little pigs. Similar to the Wolf, they are full of hot air. They huff and puff, but absolutely nothing changes. The Father’s plans and choices are set in granite. They stand firm and no created force can budge them.

REFLECT & PRAY

It is almost inconceivable that anyone would be so foolish as to launch a war with the Father that they cannot win. Yet, indeed they do.

Father it is so easy to judge and condemn others. I must confess that rage lives within my wicked heart as well. Thank You for forgiving my rebellion. Enable me to understand and forgive others as well.

INSIGHT

Psalms 2:1-3

 1 Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?

 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,

 3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”

The Hebrew word translated rage, angry, in an uproar is ragash. It signifies being in a state of great anger, to behave violently, to behave irrationally. “The verb ragash designates any noisy or riotous assembly that practically seethes in its antagonism” (Leupold). The nations gather in tumultuous anger and it escalates from there.

They “devise futility” (Leupold). They make plans, they plot, they scheme, they ruminate, they strategize. The Hebrew word translated vain is riq. It has the sense of empty, useless, pointless, or worthless.

The bottom line is that neither rage nor pathetic, ineffectual scheming can change anything.

The French common language version (FRCL) translates the Hebrew with a question and a statement: “The nations are in an uproar – but why? The people plot, but it is useless!” (UBS).

It is easy to imagine the psalmist writing these words and shaking his head in disbelief (Johnston). They cannot possibly win, so why try? Rage and murmured, shouted schemes and plots are rooted in the hearts of each fallen person. Our hearts are naturally bent against the Father, the living God.

How does the Father react to such feeble rebellion and raging anger? He laughs.

Psalm 2:4 But the one who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them.

Just imagine in your mind’s eye for a moment, the Father, regally sitting in heaven. He is shaking His head, laughing. I can hear Him saying, “Really! You cannot be serious!” There is more, He scoffs at them, He ridicules them, He mocks them.

Each of us, although children of the King, possess the same fallen nature. We also are given to pity parties and angry rancor. But the Father is not angry with us, because He knows we are but dust (Psalms 103:13-14). How does the Father respond to His children? Perhaps the Father would ask the same question, “Why?” And then somewhat incredulously ponder, “How can My children be so stupid?” He exclaims, “They just do not get it, but someday they will.”

In the twinkling of an eye the Father moves from astonishment to a longing sadness, then overflowing forgiveness, and longing for our restoration.

¯\_()_/¯ 12-02-9

Heart failure

Congestive heart failure

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. – Ezekiel 36:26

Ezekiel 36:25-27

 25 Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols.

 26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.

 27 And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.

Heart failure is a very common condition. In fact, it is the number one cause of death in the United States. It occurs both in young and old. Congestive heart failure sounds really scary. Congestive heart failure is a condition where the heart does not pump blood as well as it should. CHF undermines the heart’s job of pumping blood around the body. It results in shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue, and swelling of the legs. Many people can live long full lives through appropriate intervention and lifestyle changes.  

Spiritually speaking the entire human race is suffering from spiritual congestive heart failure. Human sin results in spiritual congestive heart failure. We struggle to connect with the Father. Our spiritual life force is diminished, almost nonexistent. We need radical transformation.

Why is this so? Our hearts become hard, fossilized, and stony. When the Scriptures speak of the heart, it is not a reference to the physical heart, but rather an individual’s internal control center, our immaterial heart. It includes our emotions, thoughts, and will. The people Ezekiel was confronting had hardened their hearts. How hard were they? As hard as they could possibly be. Ezekiel uses the metaphor of stone. The Hebrew word translated stone is ‘eben. Stones are very common and among the hardest substances known in the Middle East. Both rocks and precious gems were referred to as stones, even as it is today.

A stony, stubborn heart develops when people set their hearts like stone. They become stubborn and recalcitrant. Their hearts become petrified, calcified, even fossilized. When this condition arises, there is no therapy to reverse it. There is no curing of a stony, stubborn heart. What is required is a spiritual heart transplant. The petrified heart must be removed and replaced with a warm, sensitive, responsive heart of flesh (Block).

That is exactly what the Father promised. He offers each of us a heart transplant. He has a perfect spiritual surgical technique. Each of His spiritual heart transplants has perfect results. In the Father’s kingdom, there is no concern for complications or rejection. He promises to remove our old stony, hard heart and replace it with a vibrant, completely healthy one. He promises to remove our impurities and put His Spirit in us. As a result of a spiritual heart transplant, the Father gives each child of the King a fresh start.

This is the miracle of regeneration. It is a simple yet profound exchange. He takes from us our hearts of stone and replaces them with soft, tender hearts of flesh. He takes away our cold, stubborn, recalcitrance. In exchange, He provides a warm, soft, supple, compliant, responsive heart. It is quite similar to the changeover that Paul teaches regarding the exchange of our sin for the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

The Lord Jesus Christ referred to this as being born again. We are given a second chance at life. We begin afresh with the new, regenerated heart and the presence of the Holy Spirit within. At the moment this occurs, the spiritual lifeblood of the Father flows within us.

REFLECT & PRAY

Even though we are children of the King, we are still plagued by the symptoms of our human condition, spiritual congestive heart disease. We often feel blocked when we attempt to draw near to our Father. Sadly, both our desire and ability to do what is right are frequently impeded.

Father thank You that You have given each child of the King a new heart. Increase the flow of Your spiritual life force within and through us.

INSIGHT

In the physical world when corrective heart surgery will not resolve heart failure, a heart transplant is often the option of choice. Similarly, the Father is well aware that attempting to correct spiritual congestive heart failure will be ineffective. Trying to reform our old lives is simply not enough. Instead, the Father opts for a spiritual heart transplant. There is the miracle of transformation. He takes the old stubborn, stony heart and transforms it into something entirely new. When our hearts are transformed, we are given the amazing ability to become just like His Son without ever losing our identity or personality.

Through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ and our acceptance of Him as our Savior, we are forgiven, cleansed, and given the Holy Spirit. This occurs once and for all.

Why does this often seem ineffective? We have lived our whole lives walking in the flesh. That was our norm and habit and we have become addicted to it. Now we must learn to walk in the Spirit and not carry out the desires of the flesh. We must dedicate ourselves to it and renew our commitment daily. Our spiritual rehabilitation is analogous to physical therapy required to restore health and well-being after physical surgery.

A new heart does not guarantee perfection. But it does guarantee opportunity.

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

O to grace how great a debtor

Daily I’m constrained to be!

Let Your goodness, like a fetter

Bind my wandering heart to Thee.

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it.

Prone to leave the God I love.

Here’s my heart, O take and seal it,

Seal it for your courts above. – Robert Robinson

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It’s all free ∙

It’s all free

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

 Isaiah 55:1-3

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

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

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

John 7:37-36

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

REFLECT & PRAY

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

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

INSIGHT

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

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

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

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

John 7:37-36

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

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

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

¯\_()_/¯ 11-25-9

I promise, I guess

I promise, I guess

Matthew 5:37 Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything more than this comes from evil.

James 5:12 But above all, my brothers, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or by any other oath, but let your “yes” be yes and your “no” be no, so that you may not fall under condemnation.

In our world today, all manner of contracts and agreements are extant. Most contracts must contain at least two elements to be legally valid. All the parties involved in the contract must agree. Something of value is exchanged: a car, a house, services, or goods. Such contracts are intended to protect both parties.

In better more optimistic times, contracts could be established by a handshake or even a simple nod of the head. All was based on trust.

When the Constitution of the United States was written, very high standards of ethics were the foundation upon which it stood. Honor and duty are considered more important than an individual’s personal survival or selfish interest. The document concludes with these noble words: “We pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

But our somewhat dystopian 21st century, in many situations, trust is not enough. Frequently, trustworthiness is offset by forgetfulness, selfishness, greediness, or outright dishonesty. Loopholes are sought and often exploited.

But what of children of the King? How are they to make commitments? The standard is simple, but quite high and lofty. We do what we say! Keeping our promises is not always pleasant, but it is always right. We are to be consistent and follow through even if pay a price to do so.

Because of human frailty and forgetfulness, putting them into writing makes common sense.

It should not be of any surprise to discover that, the Father entered into many contracts.

REFLECT & PRAY

When we search our own hearts, the sad fact is we often find selfish ambition impacting our trustworthiness and follow-through.

Father, I know You always keep Your promises. Encourage me to be just like You.

INSIGHT

In the Old Testament, there were many ways for people to make agreements or covenants. Three prominent ways involve sandals, salt, and death. When two men made a pact, they would exchange sandals. This is quite similar to simply shaking hands in modern times. If they wanted to avoid the agreement, all they had to do was take back their own sandals.

The salt covenant was substantially more binding. In Old Testament times, people would often carry little bags of salt to season their food. When two people entered into an agreement and made a salt covenant, each individual will take a pinch of salt out of their bag and put it into the other’s bag. In the same way that it would be very hard to extract your salt from the other person’s salt, so the contract was far more unbreakable.

But the most permanent and lasting of all covenants involved blood and death. It may seem grotesque to us today but not then. When two individuals entered into a covenant that was never intended to be broken, they would kill an animal and cut the carcass in half. They would then separate the two halves. And the two individuals would walk between them. This was a vivid picture of the fact that the covenant could never be broken because animals would never live again.

The Father pledged His sacred honor to the nation of Israel (Gen 15:8-18).

Genesis 15:8-18

 8 But Abram replied, “O Sovereign LORD, how can I be sure that I will actually possess it?”

 9 The LORD told him, “Bring me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”

 10 So Abram presented all these to him and killed them. Then he cut each animal down the middle and laid the halves side by side; he did not, however, cut the birds in half.

17 After the sun went down and darkness fell, Abram saw a smoking firepot and a flaming torch pass between the halves of the carcasses.

 18 So the LORD made a covenant with Abram that day and said, “I have given this land to your descendants, all the way from the border of Egypt to the great Euphrates River.”

The Father made a covenant with Abraham and the Nation of Israel. It is briefly summarized in Genesis 12

Genesis 12:2-3

 2 I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you well-known, and you will be a blessing to others.

 3 I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.

The Father has unconditionally pledged His fidelity to the nation of Israel. No one is more trustworthy than Him. He has irrevocably and unconditionally committed Himself to the fulfillment of His promise. Indeed, His yes is yes! Israel’s future is dependent upon the Father’s character and trustworthiness.

Romans 11:28-29

 28 They are still the people he loves because he chose their ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

 29 For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn.

The same is true for each child of the King. What the Father has promised and committed to each of us, will certainly come to pass. Our eternal security is based upon His character and commitment.

Are the children of the King dependable? Do people trust them to do what they say? Are we dependable like their Father? Is our “yes” invariably yes and our “no” dependably no?

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