Daily Devotional; formerly Chaplains Corner

Discussion in 'Religious Discussions' started by ampaterry, Apr 24, 2011.

  1. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    2 Peter 1 Self Control

    5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence in your faith, supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.

    The foundation of our lives must be a rock solid faith in Jesus Christ. Then as we let Him live His life through us, we begin to show that moral excellence, that virtue, in our day to day living that pleases God and shows the world that we belong to God. We learn, we come to know things about God, about ourselves, and about others and the world around us and put that knowledge to use as we add knowledge—life knowledge—to our moral excellence. Now, God wants to build self control into our lives.

    The Greek word for self-control is “egkrateian” which is also translated temperance. It means I can contain my lusts, passions, emotions, even words. It’s the kind of self control that helps you decide to not pull that trigger when everything screams “he’s a dirty sleazebag that doesn’t deserve to live. Shoot him!!” It’s the kind of self control that keeps us from mouthing off to someone that really deserves it. It’s the kind of self control that an athlete maintains over his body.

    Paul described what that kind of self control means in 1 Corinthians 9 24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

    An athlete works hard to bring his body under control. He watches what he eats, works out, gets the rest he needs so he can win the race or the game. In the same way, Paul says we need to bring our bodies under control, have self-discipline so we can run the race God sets out before us.

    Look at 1 Corinthians 6 12 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body.

    Who or what is in control? Does my body control me, or do I control my body? Do I live to eat, or eat to live? Those habits, or things I like to do…do they take charge of my life, or do I control them? When Jesus died on the cross for our sins and we gave our lives to Him, that meant our entire lives, including our physical bodies. What do I bring into my mind? What TV programs and movies do I watch? What is the message of the music I listen to? What books and magazines do I read and pictures do I look at?

    Now that is especially true for sexual immorality 1 Thessalonians 4 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God;

    And then see 1 Corinthians 6 again: 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be!

    God wants us to have control over our emotions. Proverbs 25 28 Like a city that is broken into and without walls Is a man who has no control over his spirit. We have all seen the coverage of the riots; we have all heard about the man who just completely looses it and beats his wife to death. We see the unbridled emotional reaction of the losers in the last election.

    And then there is the tongue—what we say. God puts it concisely in James 3: 2 For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. If we can control what we say, and always say the right thing, we can control our entire bodies.

    Jesus gave us a hint on how to control what comes out of our mouths in Luke 6 45 The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.

    If we can control what goes into our hearts, our minds, our thoughts, then we can gain some control over what comes out of our mouths.

    Now. See the difference between the person whose body controls him, and the person who has self control over his body through the Holy Spirit.

    Galatians 5 16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.

    19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

    22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

    May God bless us richly as we learn to add self-control to our lives.
     
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  2. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    2 Peter 1 Perseverance

    5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence in your faith, supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.

    The next thing God wants to build into our lives is perseverance, staying power. The Greek word for that is “hupomone” It means steadfastness, constancy, endurance. In the NT it describes the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings. (from the Strong’s dictionary).

    Think of a granite cliff by the sea. Year after year it gets pounded by storms and waves powerful enough to throw rocks the size of your head hundreds of feet into the air, but that cliff withstands the beating of those waves. The winds and waves do not destroy the cliff. The cliff breaks the waves and shrugs off the winds. That’s hupomone.

    It reminds me of how Psalm 40 starts out:
    I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me and heard my cry.
    2 He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay,
    And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm.
    3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;
    Many will see and fear And will trust in the Lord.
    4 How blessed is the man who has made the Lord his trust,

    And has not turned to the proud, nor to those who lapse into falsehood.

    Sure, I may be in deep trouble, under terrible pressure. The Christians in Syria certainly are. Yet in all of that pit of destruction and miry clay of persecution, they are hanging in there. Their towns are in ruins. Their infrastructure is nonexistent. I heard a report about how these Christians were offered the chance to leave and they refused, preferring to endure the persecution and danger and hardship of keeping their geographical territory for Christ. They are waiting patiently. They have made the Lord their trust.

    And we can do that because we have God backing us. He supports us, gives us the ability, energy, endurance, to stay the course. We rest in God, and God living in us enables us to withstand the storms of time and circumstances that would tear anything else apart. Do you remember what Paul said in Philippians 4? 11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

    Did you see the CSI episode where some guy was riding in a car bashing mailboxes? He made mincemeat out of them until he hit one particular mail box that was filled with cement. It made mincemeat of him. That’s what God wants to build into us. If we are filled with Him, we will make mincemeat of whatever is trying to bash us.

    It’s that kind of perseverance that makes us able to keep going when it seems like the world is going against us. The boss gets mad at us or doesn’t like us, the car breaks, we get sick, people mock us…We can just keep going because, well, remember what 1 John 4 says: 4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.

    That term for perseverance also draws a picture of a long distance runner. Check out Hebrews 12: Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance [there it is again—hupomone] the race that is set before us, 2fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

    Yes, friends, we are in this race for the long term. It’s not easy. We will get tired. We will get hurt. If we are trying to do this on our own, we will certainly fall flat, fail to finish the race. But God in us gives us the oomph to make us able to complete the race that He has set before us. And Jesus set the pace for us. He has run this race already. So has that great cloud of witnesses God talks about in Hebrews 12:1, and they are cheering us on.

    God not only gives us the strength to persevere. He also gives us a purpose, a reason to hang in there and He promises us a reward if we persevere. Paul talked about the crown laid up for him, and for us, in 2 Timothy 4: 8 in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

    I like what Psalm 84 says. The whole Psalm expands on what Paul said there in 2 Timothy 4. The Psalm says we get a second wind somewhere along the way.
    5How blessed is the man whose strength is in You, In whose heart are the highways to Zion!...
    7 They go from strength to strength, Every one of them appears before God in Zion.


    We go from strength to strength and cross that finish line, into the presence of God and there He will present the awards. Remember the prize, the rewards Jesus promises to the Christians in the churches in Revelation 2 and 3. Time and again, Jesus says “He who overcomes, I will give…I will make…”

    May God bless us richly as we discover and develop this endurance, this perseverance, that makes us able to overcome, to run the race of life that God has set before us.
     
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  3. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

    Over here today is just like any other day. No long weekend for Thanksgiving over here. I have a meeting to get to soon. The UK does not have a Thanksgiving Day. However some stores are beginning to pick up on the ensuing Black Friday!!

    But that doesn't mean we don't give thanks to God for all His bounties over here. Churches have a Harvest Festival over here, about this time of year. That means I have the opportunity to develop a lifestyle of thanksgiving, and rather than limiting our thanksgiving to God to one day a year, we need to thank God every day, all the time, in all circumstances.

    I thank God every time I make it home from work safely. I thank God for the food He provides. I thank God for the job I have, and the freedom to worship Him openly and freely. I thank God for family and for friends, and for a myriad of other things.

    I especially thank God for the opportunity to do this daily devotional, and, God willing, be a blessing to others here on this forum. I thank God for the encouragements I receive from people here. I thank God for the online friendships that have developed with people here on TFF since I joined five years ago. (Wow!! That’s hard to believe. Time flies when I’m having fun.)

    The Psalms are chock-a-block with references to thanks and thanksgiving.

    Psalm 9
    is just one. It starts out "I will give thanks to the Lord with all my heart; I will tell of all Your wonders. 2 I will be glad and exult in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High." As we thank God for all He has provided for us, and done for us, it's a great time to let the rest of the family, and others, in on the blessings also. "All of God's wonders" is a big subject. How many of God's wonders can we remember to tell each other about? Health? Finances? Work? Things He has changed in our lives? People He has brought us into contact with? His creation?

    I never thought much about this before, but Thanksgiving is also an act of faith. Philippians 4:6-7 says "6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." God says here that when things seem to be going all wrong, whatever the situation, in everything, we ask God to fix it, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving!! We anticipate, in faith, that God will answer our prayers in His wise way.

    Thanksgiving day is only one day a year. God is good to us 365 days a year. We should develop a lifestyle of thanksgiving. The best way I know of doing that is to see the things God gives us as gifts, privileges. If we start seeing things as rights we start getting up tight and angry when we don't get what we think we deserve. Sure, the US has a Bill of Rights, which is correctly there to limit the power of man-made government over its citizens. Paul demanded his rights as a Roman Citizen at one point. But in the larger picture, God gives us gifts of a quiet few moments to relax after work, the gift of hot food on the table, the gift of so many things.

    We see the rioting going on in various places across the US; we see the angry crowds demonstrating because they are demanding their "rights". Of course all too often those rights exist only in their heads and not in reality. They demand to have what they deserve. What they think they deserve and what they really deserve are diametrically opposite things.

    Think on Lamentations 3:
    22 The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail.
    23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.


    We need to develop a lifestyle of gratefulness, thankfulness, to God, first of all, and then to other people around us for the good things they do for us.

    May God give you all a blessed Thanksgiving Day.
     
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  4. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    2 Peter 1 Godliness

    5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence in your faith, supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.

    Godliness is the next thing God builds into our lives. Or should I say it’s another thing God builds into our lives. God doesn’t just give us a crash course in faith, we pass a test, and go on to moral excellence, and when we’ve learned moral excellence we go on to knowledge, and so on. He works on us in various areas all at once. So while we are learning self control, He will go back and shore up some areas of faith and maybe add some brotherly kindness to the mix. A tree doesn’t grow all its roots first, then start growing a trunk to full size before putting out branches and leaves. All these things grow simultaneously. That’s how God works with us.

    But today, let’s look at godliness. The Greek word for that is “eusebeia”. It means piety, godliness, holiness. Now, I know that might brings up visions of those monks who hid themselves away in abbeys so they wouldn’t be contaminated by the world. It could bring up images of people who are so “heavenly minded they are no earthly good”, or religious, “holy” types that look down their long holy noses at the rest of the evil world.

    In fact, Jesus warned us about those types when He talked about the humble, repentant tax collector and the proud Pharisee in Luke 18.

    Godliness means a change in lifestyle from what we used to be like. It means becoming more like God in our everyday life. We begin to look at life from God’s point of view; we begin to do things the way God would do them. We look at people with God’s eyes. We begin to talk the way God talks.

    I think Ephesians 4 gives us a good clue about what it means to add godliness to our lives.

    17 So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.

    That’s the picture of what we used to be like. Paul has another graphic description of these types in 1 Corinthians 6, and then he says 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

    God makes a dramatic change in our lives when He cleans us up. Back to Ephesians:

    20 But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,

    First, we have to dump the things we used to do and say and be. That’s partly where the knowledge and perseverance bits come in. We learn what God wants us to be like by reading His Word. Remember 2 Timothy 3? 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

    God gives us teaching, knowledge, through His Word. We learn from Him. He shows us where we are wrong—reproof; He shows us how to change—correction; and then He shows us how to strengthen the weak areas in our lives and build on the strengths—training in righteousness. But we have to keep working at it. It takes will power, just as an athlete in training has to decide and exert will power and perseverance to keep putting one foot in front of the other as he runs that next mile.

    Back to Ephesians.

    23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

    It could be like what happens when someone puts on his uniform or robes of office. He was ordinary old Joe Bloggs in his civie clothes, but once he puts on those robes he becomes the right honorable Judge so and so. He becomes a soldier. He becomes a police officer. His whole way of thinking changes as his appearance changes. Yes, clothes don’t make the man, and there are dirty cops, dirty soldiers, and dirty judges. The important thing here is that when we “put on the new self” God makes changes in us from the inside out, so that we become what our new self says we are. I hope that makes sense.

    Now, God gives us some practical ways those changes will show up in our lives in the next verses in Ephesians 4. They pretty much speak for themselves.

    25 Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.

    26 Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.

    28 He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.

    29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

    30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

    31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.

    32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

    We’ll come back and look at this some more tomorrow, God willing. May God bless us richly as we work at getting rid of the “old self” and putting on the “new self”.
     
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  5. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    2 Peter 1 Godliness Part 2

    5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence in your faith, supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.

    That quality of Godliness merits another look. In fact, we need to make it an ongoing area of growth in our lives. We need to check ourselves on that aspect of our lives on a regular basis.

    God pulled us up out of whatever slime pit we were in before we became Christians (Psalm 40: He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God;)

    He cleaned us up (1 Corinthians 6: but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified).

    Now, we all remember what it was like…our parents got us all cleaned up and dressed up in our Sunday best for some special outing, and we went out and jumped in a mud puddle or spilled food all over our clothes. We were supposed to stay cleaned up but we just couldn’t help getting dirty again. It was either an accident or the temptation was just too great to resist.

    God has us all cleaned up and in our Sunday best and we still do that. We fall for temptation on a far too regular basis. But we are able to fight it off. God has given us the ability to not fall every time satan throws temptation our way. Before we become Christians we are easy pickings. But see what God says in Ezekiel 36: 25 Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 26 Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.

    First off, God hoses all the dirt of whatever sin we were involved in off us.

    Next He gives us a heart transplant. He takes out the old heart that was hardened in its rebellion against God, the conscience that had become calloused and unfeeling because it had been stamped down so many times. He replaces that with a new heart that is sensitive to God’s direction and instruction. He gives us a new conscience so we sense whether what we are about to do or have done is right or wrong.

    Then He puts His Spirit in us to keep us on the right track. You remember what Jesus said in John 14 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.

    We have a second line of defense against jumping into those mud puddles of sin that we used to think were so much fun to get into before we became Christians. Just before He died on the Cross, Jesus had a heart to heart talk with Peter in Luke 22. It went like this: 31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; 32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

    Satan demands to have us to play with, to try to make us fall down, to destroy us. He did that with Job, he did that with Peter, and he does that with us. But Jesus is praying for us, that our faith may not fail. He is always doing that. Check out Hebrews 7 5 Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

    Now notice something significant in those last few words of Jesus to Peter. and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers. Jesus knew that Peter would fall flat on his face in the next few hours, when he denied Jesus. Jesus was praying that in spite of that sin, Peter’s faith would not fail.

    Our temptation would be to say “I messed up. I’m just not cut out for this godliness stuff. I give up. I may just as well throw it over and take the easy way out.” When things start getting a little rough for us, the temptation is to do what Job’s wife urged him to do in Job 2: 9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!”

    Notice Job’s response: 10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

    Remember that thing we looked at a few days ago? Perseverance? Dogged determination to not give up. So Jesus is praying that we would have that perseverance and that our faith would not fail even though we fall flat on our faces.

    Notice again what Jesus said to Peter-- and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers. Falling down doesn’t mean the end of our relationship with Christ or the end of our ministry. When once you have turned again.

    When I was learning to ride a bicycle, I fell off from time to time. I had to get back on and start riding again. Jesus tells Peter that once he has repented, he should get back on his ministry bike. Strengthen his brothers. We learn our lesson, we repent (turn again). Then we get back into the work God has for us to do. That will give a new depth to our ministry, to our relationship with God.

    1 John 1 says 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We agree with God when we confess. That’s the literal translation of the Greek word. He knows, we just own up to it. Then He wipes our slate clean and starts us going again.

    Of course it’s better to not fall down in the first place. We need to be in a “condition yellow” about temptation, and when it comes along, we need to cling onto promises like 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, so that you will be able to endure it.

    May God bless us richly as we let Him keep us out of trouble, and as we cooperate fully in staying out of trouble.
     
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  6. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    2 Peter 1 Brotherly Kindness

    5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence in your faith, supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.

    The Greek word for brotherly kindness is philadelphia which means fraternal affection: — brotherly love (kindness), love of the brethren. Yes, it’s the same as the city in Pennsylvania.

    Notice something here. First is faith, then moral excellence (virtue), then knowledge, then self-control, then perseverance, then godliness and now brotherly kindness. The first five character qualities deal with our own personal growth and development and relationship with God. Then comes brotherly kindness and love. It’s as if God is saying we need to get ourselves straightened out with Him, have a good solid relationship with Him, before we can do a decent job of interacting with other people. Someone once said that we are responsible with the depth of our relationship with God; then God takes charge of the breadth of our ministry, our influence on others.

    God uses quality materials and workers to build into the lives of other people, and He wants to make us quality workers first, before He lets us loose on others. Jesus said that what we speak and do comes from what’s inside us there in Luke 6: 45 The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart. That’s why we need to be diligent in our faith, developing moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, and godliness. Those qualities in us give us the good treasures in our hearts so we can bring forth good things and pass them on to others, so we can show this brotherly kindness and love to others.

    What do you think this philadelphia, this brotherly kindness, looks like in real life?

    I see it working out here on TFF on a regular basis, where members jump in to help each other out with advice and practical help; visiting each other.

    1 Thessalonians 2 describes how Paul showed brotherly love to some new Christians. 9 For you recall, brethren, our labor and hardship, how working night and day so as not to be a burden to any of you, we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; 11 just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, 12 so that you would walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. He came to them not to be a burden, but to teach them. He didn’t charge for his services or boss them around. He did all he could to teach, exhort, encourage, implore them. That’s just one way our love for the brethren shows up. We want others to have the best relationship with God, the best life, that we can show them how to have.

    Love for the brethren shows up in how the early Christians banded together to support each other financially, and Paul talks about that in various letters.

    Romans 12 describes this kind of love for the brethren. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

    Giving preference to one another. That falls right in line with what God says in Philippians 2: 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

    Remember, as we are loving our brothers, we are serving the Lord. Remember how Jesus said in Matthew 25: 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

    Hebrews 13 has a list of things that show up as love for the brethren. It starts out

    Let love of the brethren [there it is again…philadelphia] continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. 3 Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body. 4 Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled; for fornicators and adulterers God will judge. 5 Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” 6 so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?”

    7 Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.

    This is some of what it means to love our brothers.

    May God bless us richly as we learn to 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
     
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  7. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    2 Peter 1 Love

    5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence in your faith, supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.

    Love. This is the pinnacle of the building God does in our lives. The New Testament uses two Greek words for love. Phileo is one, agapao is the other. Phileo is part of the word God uses for brotherly kindness—philadelphia. Phileo is friendship that can be warm or cool off depending on how we feel toward our friend. Agapao is the kind of steadfast lovingkindness God has for us that never stops. Notice in passing, that agapao was a well known Greek word for sincere affection, but when God got hold of it He just blew the word completely into a whole new realm of meaning.

    The difference in the words becomes clear in that last conversation Jesus had with Peter there in John 21. 15 So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”

    The English language doesn’t do justice to that passage. The word Jesus uses for love is agapao. The word Peter uses is phileo. It could be translated “Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me [with God’s kind of never failing, all giving love] more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You [I’ll be your friend].

    Remember this was after Peter had so boldly said that he would go with Jesus all the way to the grave and then failed so miserably the night of Jesus’ trial by denying Him three times. He was still hurting and repenting, and didn’t trust himself to declare all-out unending love for His Lord. He realized his love for Jesus was based on his feelings, his courage, his physical ability, and he knew he just didn’t have it in him to love Jesus or anyone else with God’s kind of agapao love. He could only trust himself to be Jesus’ friend that might be true to Him today, and might run away tomorrow.

    Let’s take a look at this agapao love for a little bit.

    The Old Testament, and particularly the Psalms, talk about how God shows His lovingkindness to us in so many ways. He protects us, He provides for us, He heals us, He avenges us, He brings us salvation. His lovingkindness lasts forever; it never fails.

    Now in the New Testament, God started using this word agapao to describe His love. Look at John 15 13 Greater love [agapao] has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.

    Now, we know giving our life is the extreme, ultimate sacrifice that we can give for our spouses, families, maybe even good friends. The closing scene in the movie Act of Valor flashes this verse up. That SEAL threw himself on the grenade to save his friends’ lives. It was an instantaneous act. He saw what was happening and acted. No thinking, no contemplation. Just do it. We’ve seen countless instances of that in war and in peace.

    But now take it a step further. See what Romans 5 says: 6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us… 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

    That SEAL died to save his friends’ lives. We would more easily give our lives for someone who we think deserves to live…for a righteous man. But for an enemy? Someone who really doesn’t deserve to live? Someone who doesn’t like us and is not particularly likeable? Not likely.

    But it says here that while we were still sinners, unlikeable, repugnant to God, enemies of God, He still loved us enough to send His Son Jesus to die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins, so that when God looks at us now He sees not our sin, but Jesus’ blood washing away our guilt so that we can have eternal life.

    And it’s not just a one-off kind of thing. He died once for all for us. He didn’t stay dead. He was resurrected on the third day. The grieving disciples went to see where he was buried and found an empty tomb. And now Romans 8 says we shall be saved by His life. See what Hebrews 7 says: 25 Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

    Most of those acts of someone giving his life to save someone else’s are instantaneous decisions. The heroes don’t stop to think about it. They just do it.

    But Jesus had a long time to think about his impending death on the cross. He had it planned from that time in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 3 when God said to the serpent 15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”

    Jesus had thirty three years of life to contemplate what He was going to do to save us. John 3 says 16 “For God so loved [agapao] the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

    Now, I don’t know about you, but the longer I think about doing something that’s going to hurt and that I don’t really want to do, the less inclined I am to do it. But Jesus carried through regardless of the pain and anguish.

    That agapao love is not just a warm fuzzy feeling. It is a deliberate act of the will, a decision that once made, will not be changed. It is a decision to do what is best for the object of that love, regardless of what it costs me. Jesus certainly didn’t have any warm fuzzy feelings when He was doing that act of agapao love there on the cross.

    So how do we build this agapao love into our lives?

    Let’s look at that tomorrow, God willing.
     
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  8. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    2 Peter 1 Love

    5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence in your faith, supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.

    Yesterday we kind of glanced at what God’s agapao kind of love is. I said that it is a deliberate act of the will, a decision that once made, will not be changed. It is a decision to do what is best for the object of that love, regardless of what it costs me. Whatever it is, it’s not a warm fuzzy feeling. Those feelings are nice to have, and they may come as a result of showing God’s love toward others, but that’s only a side benefit.

    This love is the pinnacle of the other six qualities God talks about in this 2 Peter passage. Showing God’s love toward others requires diligence, faith, moral excellence, knowledge, self control, perseverance, godliness, and brotherly kindness.

    Diligence, because we have to work at it. It doesn’t come naturally to us.

    Faith because we don’t know how God will use or not use the love we expend on someone. Faith because we don’t know if we are doing the right thing in showing love to this person. Remember, God told us to not cast our pearls before swine, and Proverbs is full of warnings about dealing with fools and angry people.

    Moral excellence because this love we show must be purely for the good of the person to whom we are showing God’s love. We have to be able to know what is good for them and for us.

    Knowledge, because we need to know the way God works and we need to know the people we are working with, so we don’t throw our pearls before swine.

    Self control, because we need to set the pace for them. Jesus prayed in John 17 19 For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. He set Himself apart for our benefit.

    Perseverance, because, well, see how God keeps loving us even when we don’t deserve it. He keeps after us, cleaning us up every time we fall into some stinking mud hole of sin, and then confess it and repent. God sets the pace for us. In fact He makes us able to hang in there and keep loving unlovable people. He gives us His example and His ability to do it. See 1 John 4: 19 We love, because He first loved us.

    Godliness, because this agapao love must be based on God’s character, not man-made ideas and philosophies about how to be nice to people. We need to have God’s character in our lives so we can do the right thing the right way. Remember what Jesus said in Luke 6 45 The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good;

    Brotherly kindness because that means looking out for others, as Philippians 2 says: 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

    Jesus set the pace for us in showing this agapao love for others. Philippians 2 says 5 Have this attitude n yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

    Jesus made a practical demonstration of that in John 13. Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end…5 Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.

    If ever there was a time for him to have a pity party for himself it was then. He knew He was going to die. Or he could have gone the other direction and been arrogant. He was a very important person about to do something supremely important. He could have forgone that footwashing ceremony; He could easily have had someone else do it. But He emptied himself, took off his robe, put on the servant’s towel, and did a servant’s work.

    God makes a point. Showing His agapao love to people means taking action, doing things. So He says in 1 John 3 18 Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

    Everyone knows 1 Corinthians 13 is the chapter extolling God’s kind of love. Pastors like to read part of it at weddings. It starts out by saying we can say and do a lot of good things in this world, but if God’s agapao love is not at the heart of those words and actions it’s all a waste of breath, time, effort, and space.

    Then God goes on to describe what this love looks like. Try to build a picture of what this kind of love looks like as you read down through this list of 16 characteristics of God’s agapao love.

    4 Love is patient,

    love is kind and is not jealous;

    love does not brag and is not arrogant,

    5 does not act unbecomingly;

    it does not seek its own,

    is not provoked,

    does not take into account a wrong suffered,

    6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

    7 bears all things,

    believes all things,

    hopes all things,

    endures all things.

    8 Love never fails;

    May God bless us richly as we work to build up God’s kind of love in our lives, so we can love others the way He has loved us. That’s part of the task Jesus gave us of spreading the Gospel throughout the world.
     
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  9. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    Psalm 53

    Interesting thing. This is almost word for word the same as Psalm 14. Why would God repeat Himself like that? He does it because we need the repetition so we can remember things. He gave us the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, and He gave them again in Deuteronomy. He alludes to them throughout the Bible. We find a good book. Do we read it just once and toss it? No, we hold onto it and read it again and again because we like the story line, or because every time we read it we learn something new. There is nothing wrong with repetition.

    Psalm 53 just kind of makes you want to do the classic face palm. How can people be such intellectual idiots? You hear them spouting academic sounding gibberish on everything from climate change to government to morality to religion to abortion and euthanasia to wildlife. And it’s all because they are trying to explain life and creation while trying to exclude the Creator.

    So the Psalm starts out

    The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God,”

    That’s their presupposition, the foundation on which they base all the rest of their thinking. If there is no God, then man is a free agent. He can do whatever he wants to do and nothing ultimately holds him to account for his actions. Man can set his own definition for what is right and what is wrong.

    You know, that kind of thinking has been around since the beginning of time. Look back in Genesis 4 where a man justified himself for committing murder. 23 Lamech said to his wives, “Adah and Zillah, Listen to my voice, You wives of Lamech, Give heed to my speech, For I have killed a man for wounding me; And a boy for striking me; 24 If Cain is avenged sevenfold, Then Lamech seventy-sevenfold.” (Perhaps he was trying to keep his wives in line?)

    Then Paul describes the downward spiral of people who refuse to acknowledge God in Romans 1.

    And these people are just fooling themselves. When I was very young, mom would put me to bed. I didn’t want to stay in bed, so a little while later my parents and their guests saw this small child running across the living room with his hands over his eyes. I figured if I couldn’t see them, they couldn’t see me. That’s just what people do with God. They figure if they can write God out of existence, then He doesn’t exist.

    So what are the results when man decides he is the supreme authority in this creation?
    They are corrupt, and have committed abominable injustice; There is no one who does good.


    God told us about Lamech; we have seen this kind of abominable injustice being carried out in totalitarian states—Communist Russia, Nazi Germany, and countless others. Then there are the totalitarian governments in which people have invented their own gods. Any time people try to rule God out of existence, or try to invent their own gods, you will find a corrupt society, rotten to the core.

    Just because these intellectual idiots run through the livingroom with their hands over their eyes, that doesn’t mean God doesn’t see them. God does see. He observes. He takes note.
    2 God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men
    To see if there is anyone who understands, Who seeks after God.


    Proverbs 9 puts it this way: 10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Real wisdom starts with acknowledging God, and honoring, revering, seeking after Him.

    Intellectual idiocy starts with rejecting God. It goes on to say man is the pinnacle of all there is, so man can decide what’s right and what’s wrong. You know people. They will get it wrong every time when left to their own devices. This is what God sees when He looks out from Heaven.
    3 Every one of them has turned aside; together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one.


    That’s what God saw in Noah’s day. That’s what God saw when He looked down at Sodom and Gomorrah. That’s what God saw when He looked at the Israelites in the wilderness, only Moses pleaded for them, so God held back.

    4 Have the workers of wickedness no knowledge,
    Who eat up My people as though they ate bread And have not called upon God?


    Well, Jesus warned us about that in several places. John 15 18 “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.

    Should we be afraid because the world hates us? Psalm 56: 11 In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?

    No. Instead, look who’s afraid.
    5 There they were in great fear where no fear had been; For God scattered the bones of him who encamped against you; You put them to shame, because God had rejected them.


    Today we see all kinds of fingers pointing at us accusing us of being various kinds of “-phobes” because we live by God’s standards. When we speak out and dare to say some lifestyle is wrong because God says it is wrong, some religion is wrong, some activity is wrong, we are being intolerant, phobic. Well, those people pointing the fingers are the ones who want “safe places”, who are afraid to listen to any opinion other than their own. I like how Proverbs 28 starts out: The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, But the righteous are bold as a lion.

    Let this be our prayer then…

    6 Oh, that the salvation of Israel would come out of Zion! When God restores His captive people, Let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.
     
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  10. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    Peace in the midst of turmoil

    Psalm 46 God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.
    2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change
    And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
    3 Though its waters roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah
    .

    It doesn’t matter when in history or where in the world we live, there is some source of turmoil, some cause for worry. It may be international conflict (who is trying to invade us now? What nation do we need to rescue now?). It may be internal conflict (the government is getting too big, interfering with our lives too much. They are rioting again.). It may be a natural disaster (drought, flood, wildfire, earthquake, tornado, snowstorm.) It may be a personal disaster (finances, work, health, family).

    Whatever ways the earth is changing around us, God is our refuge and our strength. He is our shelter in whatever storm of life we are going through.

    What is the key to this treasure chest of peace? Jesus said in John 14 27 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.

    Jesus’ peace is not the world’s peace. The world’s key to peace is to try to deaden the pain with drugs, alcohol, or other escapist activities, denial, lies. The world offers psychiatrists, counselors to try to rationalize or excuse the pain and turmoil. I have news for you. They don’t work. Drugs and alcohol wear off and the problems are still there. The counselors listen to you for an hour, make a comment or two, maybe a suggestion or two, give you a hefty bill to pay, and sign you up for next week’s appointment. They have no intention of curing you—you are a cash cow to be milked, and they don’t have real answers anyway.

    No. God said there in Psalm 46 that He is our refuge and our strength and help in time of trouble. So how do we tap into that peace? Check out Philippians 4 for a start. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

    And God does give us an inner peace that the world cannot understand. Instead of drugs and alcohol He gives us His Spirit that has no harmful side effects, never wears off, and gives us God’s insight and wisdom for dealing with whatever storms and turmoil and problems we are going through.

    Jesus said in John 15 26 “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me,

    That Helper is God’s Holy Spirit. If we give Him free reign in our lives, if we feed on God’s Word, He will make changes in our lives, in the way we see and respond to things and people. Galatians 5 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

    Now, that list of fruits of the Spirit are qualities any competent psychiatrist would give his right arm to be able to produce in his patients. Any good government would dearly love to have its citizens displaying those life qualities. It’s all there, just for the taking, if we will just let God’s Spirit, His Helper, have free reign in our lives and feed our lives on God’s Word.

    And God’s Helper, His Holy Spirit, living in us gives us a whole new relationship with God Himself. He is our “abba”, our “daddy”. It also makes us siblings with Jesus. Romans 8 15 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. That means we get to go through some of the same things He went through. The good things as well as the sufferings. The difficulties and the rewards.

    Jesus said He would send us that Helper that brings us peace. Jesus Himself is the Prince of Peace. Check out Isaiah 9 6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. 7 There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,

    Jesus Himself brings us peace. Remember the disciples talking, wondering at how they had seen Jesus die on the Cross, but He was no longer dead, but they had seen Him alive and walking and talking and eating? Luke 24 36 While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be to you.” “Peace be to you” is a common greeting, but when Jesus says it, it takes on a whole new meaning. It’s His blessing, His benediction on us. It’s not just a nice wish, it’s the gift of His peace on us.

    Check out 2 Thessalonians 3 16 Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!

    You remember what happened to the disciples that night on the lake? Mark 4 describes it. The disciples were rowing across the sea of Galilee and one of those storms came up out of nowhere and threatened to capsize the boat. They were terrified; Jesus was asleep, not a care in the world. 38 Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” 39 And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. 40 And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” There are so many times throughout the Bible where it tells us to call on God and He will answer. The disciples did, and Jesus did. Jeremiah 33 says 3 ‘Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’

    Mark 6 has another record of disciples and boats. Jesus had sent them on ahead in the boat and the storm got up. They were straining at the oars and Jesus came walking along on the water and started to pass them. Then it says 51 Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished, The storm gave up when Jesus came on board the boat. With Jesus on board our lives, He brings us peace.

    Exodus 33 14 And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.”
     
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  11. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    Contentment

    Years ago I was at the Navigators' camp in Colorado. I had saved up my money from a paper route and mowing lawns to buy my air fare and pay my fees for the camp and I was looking forward to being in the cool mountains, away from the sultry heat of the Midwest.

    I got into Colorado Springs, was met by camp staff at the airport, and whisked away to Glen Eyrie where we spent the rest of the day and that night in the luxury of the castle, headquarters of the Navigator ministry. There we enjoyed an excellent dinner, hot showers, all the luxuries of a very nice place, including comfortable beds.

    The next day we took a bus up to the camp at Eagle Lake, where I soon found myself sleeping on the ground under a lean-to, cooking over a campfire and washing myself and our dishes and cooking utensils in water heated from an icy mountain stream. We had to dig our own latrine. We learned some survival skills out there. Grasshoppers and thistles aren't all that bad. What a contrast in circumstances!!

    I have thought of that many times as I read what Paul wrote in Philippians 4 "11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."

    Since then we have come through lean times and not-so-lean times. God keeps teaching us how to "abase and abound" as the King James version puts it. Paul learned the secret of how to do that: He says "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." He looks to God to supply his daily needs, as well as his eternal needs. He focuses on making his life conform to what God wants him to be: a godly man. He focuses on carrying out the task God has given him to do. God knows what we need, and provides it for us.

    Paul knows what Jesus said back in Matthew 6: 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.

    So long as we are going about God’s business, God will foot the bill. If we can't be content with what God has to provide for us, we can't be content with anything else.

    He says in 1 Timothy 6 "6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content."

    This is the season where everything around us says "get more things!!" It's especially hard for parents whose children watch the advertisements on TV for the latest dolls, radio-controlled cars, computer games, clothes...the list goes on ad nauseam. The kids all too often throw fits if they can't have that shiny new toy right now, much to the frustration and embarrassment of the parents. And we ourselves can fall into that same trap--wanting things.

    Here's the balancing thought: We want to give good things to our loved ones at this time of year, to show our love for them. There's nothing wrong with that. It’s just a reminder to each of us of the great Gift God gave us when He sent His Son Jesus to be with us and to take the penalty for our sins on Himself there on that cross.

    But going overboard on the materialistic side of things is to lose sight of God, and allow our focus to drift to what the world says is important.

    If we want to be truly happy this season, look again at what God says: "godliness with contentment is great gain...And having food and raiment let us be therewith content."
     
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  12. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    Unashamed

    Christmas and Easter are two holidays celebrated by Christians because of their significance. Christmas, because that’s when we remember God sending His Son Jesus into the world as an infant. The infinite One became an infant. Easter, because that’s when we remember Jesus’ resurrection three days after He died on the cross. That resurrection signifies that the penalty for our sins has been paid in full.

    Sure, the timing of these holidays can be questioned. The early church decided to take pagan holidays and “convert” them to a Christian purpose, so that while the pagans who had become Christians were still able to celebrate their holidays and festivals, they would no longer be thinking about the sun god, but would be thinking about the Son of God during the darkest days of the year. He is the One who brings light into the world and light into the lives of men. They would no longer be thinking about new life from animals and seeds and eggs, but their new life in Christ during the spring.

    My attitude is that we should celebrate the birth of Christ and His resurrection every day, because His birth and resurrection affect us every day of the year, every year of our lives, and on into eternity. But during these times, people are especially interested in the message of the day, and are more open to talk about Jesus’ birth and resurrection, so let’s take full advantage and press the message of the Gospel home.

    What we see these days is a tendency in the western world to return to the pagan practices. Cities have winter festivals, festivals of lights, or some other thing. They are trying to blot out the name of Jesus; they are trying to deny Him. Members of Parliament send out cards with “Season’s Greetings” on them instead of “Merry Christmas”. In the name of being politically correct, they are ashamed of Jesus.

    If people can blot Jesus out of life, then they think they have nobody to answer to, ultimately, for their lifestyles, for the things they say or do.

    I saw an interesting example of this in Edinburgh a number of years back. In the center of the city stands a grand church building known as The High Kirk of Edinburgh, or St. Giles’ Cathedral. Just at the back of that building, facing what became the temporary house of the Scottish Parliament, was a statue of John Knox, who lived during the 1500’s. He would regularly confront Mary Queen of Scots about her lifestyle, and even made her cry from time to time. The members of the new Scottish Parliament would have to walk past that statue, under John Knox’s gaze, every time they went in to deliberate new laws. It got to them so they had it moved into the church, so they wouldn’t have to see it. It’s something like how certain groups are trying to have the Ten Commandments removed from public view, or removing prayer from public activities.

    Well, Jesus had something to say about that. You remember what He said in Matthew 10: 32 “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. 33 But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.

    People who send “Merry Xmas” cards, or “Seasons Greetings” cards are denying Christ. They are trying to blot Him out of the conversation.

    Instead of denying Jesus and going with the flow, we need to press the message of the Gospel home, and this time of year is as good a time as any and it is a far richer message than celebrating the winter solstice when the days start getting longer. We have the opening to present people with the message of the Giver of Light. Check out John 8: 12 Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

    We have no reason to be ashamed of spreading the message of this light. Jesus’ light brings life. This is what Paul said in Romans 1 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

    The message of the Gospel brings a far greater gift than anything we will find under the Christmas tree. It brings salvation to any and all who will receive it, who will believe in Jesus. It brings eternal life to the receiver. Salvation from what? The justice we deserve for breaking God’s moral law.

    It’s not a popular message. It means that people are not perfect. It means they have to admit they have done something that deserves punishment, and they would rather not think about that kind of thing. But that justice is something everyone will have to face up to, whether they want to or not; whether they realize it or not; whether they believe it or not.

    We should not be ashamed of this message we carry around with us and need to pass on to those around us because it is good news. It’s a great gift.

    We should not be ashamed of it because of the source of that good news. See again what Paul tells his student in 2 Timothy 1: 12 For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.

    I am not ashamed because I have believed God. He is the source of this message, and regardless of how the world responds; regardless of how the world reacts, He will guard me and He will protect whatever we entrust to His care.

    Friends, the message of Christmas is great news. It is nothing to be ashamed of. It is the message of how God sent His Son into the world to be among us, to live with us, eat, drink, laugh, cry, get footsore from walking so far, become tired out, even to be tempted just like we get tempted (but he never fell for those temptations). It is the message of how God’s Son went on to suffer an infinite amount of punishment for our sins so we can have a new relationship with Him.

    May God bless us with good conversations that would open the way to presenting His Good News to people, especially at this time of year.
     
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  13. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    Advent is a big deal over here in the run-up to Christmas. Card companies and chocolate companies do a roaring trade in Advent calendars which cover the month of December up until the 25th, with a little “door” that children of all ages can open, and behind each day’s door is a picture or verse or trinket, something to tell people that Christmas is getting closer. The chocolate companies put little candies behind the doors, and parents help children restrain themselves to one door a day, one piece of candy per day.

    The Jewish people didn’t have Christmas to look forward to every year in the Old Testament, but they did have the Passover Feast in Jerusalem along a couple of other festivals. Looking forward to these gatherings at Jerusalem they had their own kind of “Advent calendar”—the Psalms of Ascents, or Psalms of Degrees, comprised of Psalms 120-134. I don’t know if they sang them all at the same time, one after another, or one a day, or during the journey to Jerusalem, or during the feasts themselves, but they are associated with the “ascent” to Jerusalem.

    So let’s take an “Israelite advent” trip, and look at these Psalms. They are all relatively short.

    The first is Psalm 120

    In my trouble I cried to the Lord, And He answered me.
    2 Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, From a deceitful tongue.
    3 What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, You deceitful tongue?
    4 Sharp arrows of the warrior, With the burning coals of the broom tree.


    5 Woe is me, for I sojourn in Meshech, For I dwell among the tents of Kedar!
    6 Too long has my soul had its dwelling With those who hate peace.
    7 I am for peace, but when I speak, They are for war.


    First off, we need to realize that we are in trouble. The problem here is lying lips and a deceitful tongue. Now I can think of at least three sources of deceitful lips and lying tongues.

    The first is our own tendency to lie about ourselves. The worst kind of deception is self deception. 1 John 1 says 8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. We have this terrible penchant to look at ourselves through rose colored glasses, and when it comes to sin in our lives, we gloss over it, make excuses, call it weakness or a mistake, or some other form of whitewash. But the brutal truth is, as Romans 3 says 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. That means you, me, and everyone alive today and who has ever lived, and who will live in the future. We can lie to ourselves about this, or own up and do as 1 John 1 says, 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. We need to ask God to keep us from lying to ourselves.

    A second set of lying lips is those who flatter us, with ulterior motives to stab us in the back. David ran into that a few times and complained to God about it. Psalm 5 is one example: 9 There is nothing reliable in what they say; Their inward part is destruction itself. Their throat is an open grave; They flatter with their tongue.

    And Proverbs 26 is pretty blunt: 28 A lying tongue hates those it crushes, And a flattering mouth works ruin.

    We need to ask God to make us alert and not fall for flattery. We need to ask God to make Romans 12 come to life in us: 3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. We need to have a realistic view of ourselves, our strengths, our weaknesses, our abilities, and our tendency to fail.

    A third set of lying lips are those who spread lies about us, who slander us. 1 Peter 2 shows us how to nip that in the bud. 12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.

    We’ll pick up on this Psalm tomorrow, God willing.

    Meantime, may God bless us richly as we learn to be honest with ourselves and with God about the sin in our own lives, and as we learn to discern flattery so we don’t fall for it, and as we live in such a way that those who slander us would be put to shame.
     
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  14. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    Psalm 120, Part 2
    In my trouble I cried to the Lord, And He answered me.
    2 Deliver my soul, O Lord, from lying lips, From a deceitful tongue.
    3 What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, You deceitful tongue?
    4 Sharp arrows of the warrior, With the burning coals of the broom tree.


    5 Woe is me, for I sojourn in Meshech, For I dwell among the tents of Kedar!
    6 Too long has my soul had its dwelling With those who hate peace.
    7 I am for peace, but when I speak, They are for war.


    Lies and deceit. Sounds just like 21st Century politics doesn’t it. It sounds like office politics. It sounds like gossipy neighborhoods and churches. It sounds like the media covering conservative and Christian groups or gun laws. David had to deal with it. Jesus had to deal with it. He said we would have to deal with it. Remember Matthew 5? 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

    As we said yesterday, we face those three sources of lies: when we lie to ourselves about sin, or when we flatter ourselves; when others flatter us, and third, when others slander us. And as far as slander goes, we need to live in such a way that our lifestyle reveals that those slanders are lies.

    That still doesn’t make it any easier when people are whispering lies and innuendos behind your back to make you unpopular and to cast a shadow over your character. It hurts. We feel like David when he says in this Psalm 5 Woe is me, for I sojourn in Meshech, For I dwell among the tents of Kedar!

    Well, at least it’s sojourning, not permanently dwelling in Meshech and Kedar. We'll move on eventually and get out of the mess. Meshech and Kedar? Where are those places? Meshech was a land way up north by the Black Sea. Kedar referred to Arabian nomads wandering around to the southeast of Israel. I like what one old commentator says: …he dwelt among rude and barbarous people, like the inhabitants of Mesech and Kedar: as, when we would describe an ill neighbourhood, we say, We dwell among Turks and heathens.

    That’s the way it felt. Even though he was in his own house in his own city in his own land, it still felt like he was living among barbarians because of these lies about him that were flying around.

    And these lies and words were highly inflammatory things that provoked war or discord. Do you remember those passages in Proverbs? One of them is Proverbs 26 20 For lack of wood the fire goes out, And where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down. 21 Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, So is a contentious man to kindle strife.

    So David says 6 Too long has my soul had its dwelling With those who hate peace.
    7 I am for peace, but when I speak, They are for war.


    We try to speak peace; all they do is incite to violence. We see that in BLM and other movements today. People go around with ultra thin skins and very heavy chips on their shoulders and it takes very little to set them off into a riot.

    What’s God’s treatment for these lying tongues? Execute them and cauterize them.

    3 What shall be given to you, and what more shall be done to you, You deceitful tongue?
    4 Sharp arrows of the warrior, With the burning coals of the broom tree.


    Part of that will be God’s work; part of that will be God working through us. He gives us “arrows of scripture” to shoot. He said in Hebrews 4 12 For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

    We talk about smart bombs and cruise missiles that can hit with pinpoint accuracy. God’s Word does an even better job. He just needs an effective release mechanism, and that’s us.

    Cauterize them? How about fighting fire with fire. James 3 talks about how our tongues can be like matches in a tinder-dry woods…See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.

    Isaiah 6 describes how God sterilizes or cauterizes our tongues. Isaiah felt like he was in the same predicament as David when he came face to face with God.

    5 Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” 6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. 7 He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.”

    God sterilized his lips so clean things would come out of his mouth.

    So we live in a society that loves to lie, twist the truth, and deceive, and we just get sick and tired of it. First, remember that we are merely sojourning, passing through. This is not our permanent abode. Second, we cry out to God for relief, and He works directly and He works through us. We need to have our ammunition stored up—those arrows of Scripture, memorized and ready to fire like a lazar guided bomb straight to the target. God can work on purifying, cauterizing.

    That’s the first of these Psalms of Degrees, or Ascents.
     
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  15. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    Psalm 121

    " I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
    From where shall my help come?
    2 My help comes from the Lord,
    Who made heaven and earth.
    3 He will not allow your foot to slip;
    He who keeps you will not slumber.
    4 Behold, He who keeps Israel
    Will neither slumber nor sleep.


    5 The Lord is your keeper;
    The Lord is your shade on your right hand.
    6 The sun will not smite you by day,
    Nor the moon by night.
    7 The Lord will protect you from all evil;
    He will keep your soul.
    8 The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in
    From this time forth and forever."


    As I was growing up this was our "travelling Psalm". We have a metrical version that we can sing to the tune of Abbeyville, and as we sang it always reminded me of a car working up through its gears as it starts out. An Australian quintet sings it here.

    This Psalm took on new meaning as I was hiking around the Rocky Mountains. There were bears, wildcats, coyotes, rattle snakes and perhaps a cougar; there was the regular awesome thunderstorm with its accompanying lightning. There was always the danger of sprained ankles or broken limbs while we were miles and hours away from medical aid.

    But as I looked up at the mountains surrounding me I was awestruck by their majesty and beauty. Yes, the mountains had their dangers, but my aid comes from the God who made those mountains. He would not allow my foot to slip and me to fall. There was a time when I was hiking alone at night. The trail was pitch dark and I was almost feeling my way with my feet. The God who does not slumber or sleep kept me safe. When I was sleeping alone in the woods I could be confident God was on guard, watching over me.

    This is a Psalm of Ascents. It was one of several the Israelites might have sung as they left their homes and villages to go to Jerusalem for the Passover. Those leaving would sing the first part. For them the mountains held the danger of bandits. But they were remembering, like I did, that the God who created those mountains was able to protect them as they travelled.

    The second half calls a blessing down on those remaining at home as they went in and out of their homes, day and night. "The Lord will keep you safe, physically and spiritually while we are gone" is what they were singing, claiming God's promises for the loved ones they were leaving behind.

    And it isn’t just physical danger God protects us from.

    6 The sun will not smite you by day,
    Nor the moon by night.
    7 The Lord will protect you from all evil;
    He will keep your soul.


    Sure we can get heat stroke and sunburn from too much sun. But there were enemies around who worshipped a sun god and a moon god. Every month the police, the psychiatric wards, and various other bodies get ready for a rise in the number of psychiatric incidents whenever the full moon comes out. The Lord protects us not just physically, but from spiritual and mental attack. He protects us from all evil.

    There are mountains around us of various kinds, no matter where we live, and they harbor dangers. They might be business mountains, political mountains, social mountains, financial mountains, or any other kind of mountains. But as we go in and out, tending to our everyday business, and the odd extraordinary thing, we can know that the God who never slumbers nor sleeps, the God who created the physical mountains, is watching over us and He has our backs.

    Each day we go out to work; each time we take off on a journey of some sort, we can sing this Psalm, or pray it back to God as we go about our daily business. There are dangers out there, but we have God shielding us.

    May God bless us with a new confidence as we step out day by day and climb whatever mountain He has placed in front of us, secure in the knowledge that He is keeping us in His great, capable, strong, caring hands.
     
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