Daily Devotional; formerly Chaplains Corner

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

  1. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle TFF Chaplain Supporting Member

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    Which do you trust?

    The old saying goes “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”. I like that. It gives me the security of having something I know about as opposed to speculation, risk taking on the chance of getting something more and the possibility of losing out on something I want. I would rather get interest in the bank than risk losing money on a risky investment. I would rather get the thing I need at a possibly higher price than waste time and energy shopping from store to store looking for a better price, and possibly losing out on the item entirely.

    I like good solid security that I can see and feel. But that does not work out all the time in every way. Think about the choice Israel faced when confronted by attacks from the enemy. Time and again the enemy came up to attack, and time and again Israel made a choice between hiring mercenary help and making an alliance with another country, or trusting God to repel the attack.

    The Old Testament describes how kings of Israel who worshipped false gods chose to make alliances with Egypt or other countries, trusting in their horses and chariots to repel the enemy. Sometimes they won, sometimes they lost. The alliance always cost the kingdom lots of money.

    The kings who chose to worship God would cry out to God for protection and victory over the enemies.

    You can read one of these dramas unfolding in 1 Kings 18-20. Rabshakeh, the king of Assyria’s spokesman, challenged Hezekiah, king of Israel. 19 Then Rabshakeh said to them, “Say now to Hezekiah, ‘Thus says the great king, the king of Assyria, “What is this confidence that you have?...21 Now behold, you rely on the staff of this crushed reed, even on Egypt; on which if a man leans, it will go into his hand and pierce it. So is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who rely on him.

    Rabshakeh’s intelligence was out of date. Israel had a change of administration, and Hezekiah was now king of Israel, and he trusted God, not idols or alliances with other countries for help.

    Then Rabshakeh’s intelligence was correct, but he interpreted it wrongly.

    22 But if you say to me, ‘We trust in the Lord our God,’ is it not He whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away, and has said to Judah and to Jerusalem, ‘You shall worship before this altar in Jerusalem’?

    Hezekiah had destroyed the places of idol worship. He was cutting loose from the evil of the past and turning the nation to worship and trust Jehovah. The false gods would never be able to help Israel but the God of Israel could and did get them out of trouble. Rabshakeh and his army got called away and never came back.

    What I’m trying to say is that Egypt, with its armies and horses and chariots were the bird in the hand; so were the idols. God was the two birds in the bush. Israel could see and talk face to face with the Egyptians. They had to take God's presence and help on faith because they could not see or smell or touch or audibly hear Him.

    Psalm 20:7-8 puts all this in a nutshell: 7 Some boast in chariots and some in horses, But we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God. 8 They have bowed down and fallen, But we have risen and stood upright.

    We don’t exactly have shrines with little statues of metal or wood that we bow down to these days in the western world. But there are a host of false gods running around.

    I was filled with dread when I heard Scotland’s First Minister say she would trust science to lead her thinking when she talked about how she would decide what Scotland should do during the Coronavirus pandemic. I wondered if this would be true science, or the kind of pseudo-science that drives the green new deal climate change thinking, and the pseudo-science behind the gender fluidity movement and a number of other things. That science is not based on making new discoveries to help people. That science is based on fear mongering and forcing people to toe the line. It’s the same kind of thinking that the Roman Catholic church used back in the Seventeenth Century to try to force Galileo to withdraw and recant his discovery that the sun, not the earth, is at the center of the solar system.

    Pseudo-science is a false god. But it is a bird in the hand. People can imagine they have some security, some control over the world’s climate with this kind of thinking. And as Psalm 20 says, it will ultimately fail.

    Jeremiah 17 describes the fate of people who would rather trust the false gods they can see, feel, and that they think they can control.

    5 Thus says the Lord,
    “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind And makes flesh his strength,
    And whose heart turns away from the Lord.
    6 “For he will be like a bush in the desert And will not see when prosperity comes,
    But will live in stony wastes in the wilderness, A land of salt without inhabitant.


    That’s a rather stark outlook. But God says that is the fate of the person who trusts in his own wisdom, in things he can see, hear, touch…who trusts in the bird in his hand.

    But God goes on to describe those who trust in Him.
    7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord And whose trust is the Lord.
    8 “For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream
    And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green,
    And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit.


    Now, which would you rather be? A scrawny bush stuck out in the desert, barely hanging on to life, or a lush, fruitful bush near a never ending supply of nourishment? Do you put your trust in things you think you can control, or do you put your trust in God Who said in Philippians 4: 19 And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

    This is the same God we looked at yesterday, Who does whatever He pleases and nothing can stop Him. Our God does what He does for our good and His glory.
     
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  2. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle TFF Chaplain Supporting Member

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    Integrity

    We’re coming up on an election and people are asking us to show that we trust them by voting for them.

    One of the things that keeps coming up is the integrity of the candidates. We’ve seen plenty of evidence of the lack of integrity of some people who have won election to office time after time. They have won the votes of people based on promises that made them popular. They have done whatever it takes to win the elections. They pander to the pride and greed of the people. They have demonstrated how they will be pushed around by popular opinion, rather than standards of what is right and what is wrong. They have no anchor in their lives to hold to or hold them to set standards of right and wrong. Hence we get politicians saying one thing ten years ago, and the complete opposite thing today.

    Daniel was not a politician, but he rose to high power in the land. He was a man of integrity and would not take the easy way out or compromise his standards. He would not go along to get along.

    The first test of his integrity came just as he was getting settled in Babylon. You remember the story in Daniel 1. Daniel and a few others were selected from among the exiles to be part of the elite, one of the best of the best. He was lined up for special schooling, special treatment to become part of the royal court.

    They also wanted to put him on a special diet. But the food was not kosher. It was impure food. It did not meet the standards of food God had laid out for the Israelites from the start. 8 But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.

    It would have been easy enough to let it slide. He was away from under the supervision of his Jewish parents and teachers and religious leaders. Nobody would know any different if he ate the king’s food. It was expected of him to eat the food set before him, and it would be impolite to refuse the king’s gift and it could create difficulties.

    But Daniel wasn’t living his life for people, for the king of Babylon. He was living his life before God, and knew that God would hold him to account for whatever he did. That’s what gave Daniel his integrity. He refused to defile himself with that impure food.

    He went respectfully to his keeper and offered a reasonable alternative, a trial. 12 “Please test your servants for ten days, and let us be given some vegetables to eat and water to drink. 13 Then let our appearance be observed in your presence and the appearance of the youths who are eating the king’s choice food; and deal with your servants according to what you see.”

    That trial was a wild success. 15 At the end of ten days their appearance seemed better and they were fatter than all the youths who had been eating the king’s choice food…17 As for these four youths, God gave them knowledge and intelligence in every branch of literature and wisdom; Daniel even understood all kinds of visions and dreams.

    When they were brought up for their final exams before King Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel and his three friends who had not compromised their relationship with God not only passed with flying colors, they proved to be better than the king’s current crop of advisors.

    Over time the inevitable happened and the other advisors became jealous. They tried to find some chink in Daniel’s character with which they could bring him down. We see the same thing happening in government today, with corrupt members of congress putting people they don’t like under a microscope, minutely examining their lives to find any fault they can exploit.

    Well, guess what. Daniel 6: 4 Then the commissioners and satraps began trying to find a ground of accusation against Daniel in regard to government affairs; but they could find no ground of accusation or evidence of corruption, inasmuch as he was faithful, and no negligence or corruption was to be found in him.

    They could not find any fault in him. No chink in his integrity armor. Nothing to tag him with and bring him down.

    The reason? Daniel was not answering to man. He held himself accountable to God. That was the source of his integrity. Daniel’s integrity in office came as a result of the integrity of his relationship with God.

    That was the reason God gave him wisdom and moved him right to the top of the government. In the end Daniel’s enemies tried to trap him using his own integrity. God protected Daniel, and his enemies were thrown into their own trap—the den of lions.

    If you recall, that was the same situation with Joseph. His integrity came not from being a good slave. His integrity came from making himself answerable to God for whatever he did. You remember how he answered Potiphar’s wife when she wanted to seduce him in Genesis 39: 9 There is no one greater in this house than I, and he [Potiphar] has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?”

    Joseph was aware Potiphar might find out and punish him, but Joseph’s real concern was that he would sin against God, and he was much more worried about God’s judgment than the judgment of anyone here on earth.

    We expect our leaders and judges and others in authority to have integrity—to make just decisions and judgments and then stick by them. We become disgusted with them when they go with the flow, and justice goes down the drain. They are incapable of keeping order or dispensing justice. We feel the same way toward the media and educators and others who should be leading the nation into goodness, not evil. On the other hand, we praise leaders and judges and others who have backbone, who have integrity and do what’s best for those they are responsible for.

    Now, get personal. People with integrity will recognize people of integrity. We need to have that same standard of uprightness ourselves that we demand of our leaders. We need to live our lives knowing that God will hold us to account for everything we do.

    1 Peter 4 15 Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler; 16 but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
     
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  3. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle TFF Chaplain Supporting Member

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    Astounded

    In responding to another thread yesterday, I was deeply reminded of how Jesus loves us, and how that should fill our minds and our lives.

    Every time John thought of Jesus, the main thing that came to mind was “This is Jesus, who loves me, out of all the people in the world, and despite my failings and shortcomings and all my human-ness and sinfulness. God says in Romans 5 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

    Every time John tried to describe himself all he could think of was “I am the one Jesus loves”.

    In this world of demanding rights and reparations and punishing people who we think have stolen our rights, look at what God did for us because He loved us. John 3:16 says 16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

    And that is what left John so astounded. See the Jesus whom God describes in Philippians 2: 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.

    And this is the Jesus to whom God has given absolute supreme command and control over all that there is. Ephesians 1 20 …He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

    Jesus didn’t come into the world demanding His rights. He gave up His rights when He stepped out of heaven to come down to earth. He shielded His glory from us with a covering of human flesh and blood. He could have demanded His rights to have everyone bow down and worship Him because He is God. He could have demanded and dished out justice to every man, woman, and child who dishonored and disobeyed Him. At any time He could have called down legions of angels to destroy anyone who didn’t fall down and worship Him. But back to John 3 again: 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

    This Jesus, with all His power and might and authority and responsibility, has time and space to love this insignificant speck of humanity called John? Or you, or me? He gave up all His rights and power and majesty in Heaven and came down to earth and let John get close enough to rest his head on His shoulder there at that last supper.

    That is utterly astounding. And as the reality of that fact hits home it should cause us to do some serious thinking.

    John the Baptist said in John 3 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.

    That is what led the apostle John to think of himself the way he did there in John. Jesus was so much more important, so much greater than he was, all he could think of every time he referred to himself was Jesus’ great love for him. He was the object of Jesus’ love.

    If anyone asks us who we are, one obvious answer, after our name, is what we do for a living. If anyone asked John who he was, his answer was “the one Jesus Loves.”

    John was overwhelmed by Jesus’ love for him and the other disciples. Remember how He described Jesus’ actions 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.

    He loved them to the end. That term “to the end” is kind of lame. He loved them to the uttermost. He was fully aware of what He was facing—betrayal, desertion, pain, torture, separation from the Father for a time, taking on Himself the sins of the whole world.

    In spite of all that, one of the last things He did for His disciples was to put on a servant’s towel and kneel down in front of each of them and wash their feet. He was showing His love for them. That was extreme love. That was love to the uttermost.

    God’s love came first. 1 John 4 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

    Our response to God’s love should be like heat radiating out from an iron stove. God puts the fire of His love in us, and we should warm everyone and everything around us with that heat. Back to John 4: 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.

    A stove without fire in it cannot produce heat. John goes on to say 19 We love, because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21 And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.

    We love our brother Christians because God first loved us and because God puts His love in us so we are capable of loving one another.

    The heat of God’s love for me should fill my mind and life. And because of that, I look forward to His coming the way Paul did. He said 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.

    That’s the big question in front of us each day. How much do we look forward to meeting Jesus? We look forward to meeting loved ones; we eagerly anticipate a trip to the range or a fishing trip or a vacation. We think and plan a lot for those events. But do we have the same kind of eager anticipation to meeting up with Jesus? We will spend eternity with Him if we are Christians.
     
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  4. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle TFF Chaplain Supporting Member

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    Mushroom or Maple?

    After a wet spell my yard starts sprouting mushrooms. They appear overnight. And in a few days they are gone. I also have a maple tree. It has been there for decades. It sprouts leaves in the spring and drops them in the fall and I have to rake them up and dispose of them. But the tree stays there in all weathers.

    LeRoy Eims was speaking to a group of people a while back on how to mature as a Christian. After he finished a young man came up to him and said something to the effect of “I want to become a mature Christian, and I want it to happen as soon as possible.” He didn’t want to go through all the work that growing in Christ means. He wanted shortcuts; instant “maturity”.

    You see, becoming mature Christians is something like physical fitness. It takes work over a period of time, and then it takes constant improvement to become an athlete. Spiritual maturity means we need to grow deep roots into God’s Word. That takes time. That takes work. It means effort on our part. Then again, God takes time to create His masterpieces of work in our lives. He took 80 years to get Moses to the point where he was capable of trusting God and God was willing to trust him with the task of leading Israel out of Egypt. And even then Moses messed up a couple of times.

    You remember Psalm 1 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.

    And we looked at Jeremiah 17 the other day: 7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord And whose trust is the Lord. 8 “For he will be like a tree planted by the water, That extends its roots by a stream And will not fear when the heat comes; But its leaves will be green, And it will not be anxious in a year of drought Nor cease to yield fruit.

    It takes time for a tree to grow deep roots into the soil by the river. It takes time for us as Christians to grow our roots deep into the living water of God’s Word. Those deep roots will do for us the same thing that deep roots do with a tree. Not only nourish it, but enable it to withstand storms. If you go back in history and read the records of people who have been persecuted because they were Christians, you will see that the ones who withstood that persecution were the ones who had deep roots in God’s Word.

    You remember what Jesus said about the soils in Mark 4. The sower broadcast his seed and some fell beside the road and the birds got it before it could even start germinating. Other seed fell on rocky ground. That seed sprouted quickly, but as soon as the hot sun hit it, it died off because it didn’t have any deep roots. Other seed fell near thorns and weeds and even though it germinated, it was killed off by the weeds. The fourth lot of seeds fell into good soil where it germinated, grew into mature wheat and produced many times its own self.

    That seed that sprouted so quickly died off as soon as it came under pressure. There are people who want instant maturity as Christians, who sprout fast but die off when things get hot. They are mushroom Christians...appearing suddenly, and disappearing just as fast when things go sour.

    Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 2: 15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

    It takes work to study the Bible. It takes work to memorize it. It takes time to develop the habit of meditating on God’s Word when all the world is screaming for our attention and trying to distract us. But those are the ways God has of helping us to grow our roots deep into God’s Word. Those deep roots will keep us nourished and fruitful when things get hot for us as Christians. Those deep roots will keep us stable when storms of life come that try to tear us down.

    There is another thing. Someone noticed that when a violent wind storm hit England a number of years ago, there were some places where the wind uprooted huge swathes of trees. There were other places subjected to the same wind but the trees stayed standing. The difference was how close those trees were to each other. The trees that remained standing were close enough to each other that their roots meshed together and the combined strength made them able to withstand the force of that wind storm.

    The other thing that will help us to grow, to mature into strong healthy Christians is fellowship with other Christians. Proverbs 27 says 17 Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.

    Ecclesiastes 4 says 9 Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. 10 For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. 11 Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? 12 And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.

    And Hebrews 10 says it this way: 24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

    As we’re studying and memorizing and meditating on God’s Word, getting our roots deep, we’re enriching our own lives. But we need to take those things we’re learning and pass them on to others. We consider one another. We keep a sharp lookout on how other Christians around us are doing, what they are going through and use the things God has taught us to help them. We intertwine our roots with other Christians and we enable each other to withstand the storms of life.

    I don’t know for sure what “the day” in Hebrews 10:25 refers to. It could mean the day of Christ’s return. Or maybe we sense days of increased persecution for Christians. There is a bill in the Scottish Parliament that could mean it becomes a crime to carry a Bible on the street or read it out loud or preach it because some people interpret God’s Word as hate speech. If that becomes law “the day” will be here for Christians in Scotland. Atheists are already planning to use it to target Christians and Christian organizations.

    When those storms hit, when the droughts hit, the Maple tree will stand and the mushrooms will be gone.
     
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  5. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle TFF Chaplain Supporting Member

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    Doing things God’s way

    Go back and look at Moses for a minute. His mother had abandoned him as an infant because it was too risky to shelter Hebrew infants. Pharaoh had ordered the infanticide of any Hebrew baby because he was afraid that the Israelites would become the majority population in Egypt. But Moses’ mother kept him secretly until he became too big or too noisy to hide, so she turned him loose on the Nile River, where Pharaoh’s daughter “just happened” to find him, thought he was adorable, and took him home to be raised in the royal palace. It just so happened Moses’ older sister saw that happening and offered her mother’s services as a nurse. That sounded wonderful to the princess. She could have her plaything and not have to worry about cleaning up after it.

    So Moses grew up in the royal palace, and his mother, acting as nurse, must have taught him all about his heritage as an Israelite. He also learned all the things people growing up as a prince learn. He must have felt some kinship with the Israelite slaves, and he must have learned that some day God was going to take the Israelites out of Egypt.

    Then one day when he was 40 years old he was out and about and saw an Egyptian beating an Israelite slave. He killed the Egyptian and buried him in the sand. He was doing what he could, his way, to free the Israelite slaves from their tyrannical masters one Egyptian at a time. He was trying to do God’s work his way. Exodus 2 carries that record.

    You know what happened next. Someone saw his act of murder, and he went into hiding, out in the wilderness. He tended sheep, married his master’s daughter, and over the next 40 years forgot all about the Israelites in Egypt.

    Then God got Moses’ attention with a burning bush in Exodus 3 and reminded him that God was well aware of the plight of His people in slavery in Egypt, and now was the time for him to go back and lead Israel out of slavery.

    You know the story…how Moses’ request of Pharaoh to let God’s people go was met with repeated rejection, which God answered with plagues and eventually after God had wrecked the economy and made a mockery of their religion and killed the firstborn in every household not protected by the blood of the Passover Lamb, Pharaoh let the Israelites go.

    God knew how to put the right pressure on in the right way to get His work done in His way in His time.

    Then, Pharaoh changed his mind again, and decided to send his army after the Israelites. Then God really went to work and destroyed the entire army before the eyes of the entire nation of Israel.

    Moses started out trying to free Israel his way by killing one Egyptian at a time and had to run for his life. When God did things His way, He destroyed an entire army at one go. God’s Work, God’s Way, in God’s Time.

    Now look at Luke 9 And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. 2 And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing.

    Jesus gave His disciples power and authority to go out and proclaim the kingdom of God and do some healing.

    First thing to notice is that God will never send us out to do a task without equipping us for that task. It may be experiences He has brought us through, training we have received one way or another, or some ability He gives us in some other way. He may take training from one discipline we have been involved in and put it to use in an entirely different way. God used the training Moses went through in Pharaoh’s palace and in the wilderness taking care of sheep to equip him to lead Israel through the wilderness for 40 years.

    But later in Luke 9 the Disciples wanted to use those gifts God gave them to take vengeance on a village that rejected them.

    51 When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; 52 and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. 53 But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. 54 When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”

    James and John. Well, you might expect that of them. Jesus nicknamed them Boanerges, which means, “Sons of Thunder" in Mark 3:17. They wanted to call down fire to destroy that village. They had all kinds of reason for righteous indignation…this village had refused to care for the Son of Man. That village in Samaria was being racist so they wanted to use the gifts God gave them to do His work to achieve their ends.

    See what Jesus said…

    55 But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; 56 for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”] And they went on to another village.

    Jesus was not there to wreak judgment on people this time around. There will be a time when He comes in terrible judgment, but this was not that time. Jesus describes His return in Matthew 24-25 and in Revelation.

    But for the time being, God is biding His time. 2 Peter 3 says 9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

    Abram and Sarai discovered that we need to do God’s work His way in His time to their cost when they tried to help God out with having children. The experiment with Hagar in Genesis 16 has had repercussions ever since Ishmael was born. The entire Arab-Israeli conflict over the last 3 or 4 thousand years stemmed from that.

    Just because we can do something does not make it right to do it.

    Bottom line for us is that we need to use the gifts and abilities God has given us to do His work His way in His time. That takes discernment and a total commitment to trusting God.

    What seems like a good idea to us at the time may be wrong in God’s plan. We need to run all our brilliant ideas past God to make sure they are His plans.

    Always remember Proverbs 16 25 There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.
     
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  6. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle TFF Chaplain Supporting Member

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    First bite of a glorious meal

    Ephesians1:15-23

    15 For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.

    18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.

    These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

    This could be my prayer for everyone who reads these Daily Devotionals.

    What a glorious passage this is!! God has crammed a whole lot of things into these verses for us to digest. Like a thick juicy succulent steak, it's well worth chewing slowly to get all the flavor and nutrition out of it that we can. It's a meal that will take a few days to consume and enjoy.

    First bite... 15 For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints,

    Paul is constantly in touch with the people he has been with, and he is anxious to hear about how they are doing. He had seen the churches in Ephesus and other places started, and wrote letters to them, which were circulated and read among the various locations. He anxiously waited for news back from the places God had used him to start work, because he wanted to know for sure that what he was doing was producing lasting results. When he heard back from Ephesus he was overjoyed to know that the congregation in Ephesus was flourishing. Their reputation had spread as being a people who have "faith in the Lord Jesus" and "who love all the saints."

    Paul is not like the cuckoo that lays its eggs in a nest and moves on. He was not one to just "count scalps", to see how many people he could convert before moving on. Part of his feelings about the people he worked with show up in 1 Thessalonians 2: 17 But we, brethren, having been taken away from you for a short while—in person, not in spirit—were all the more eager with great desire to see your face.

    The Greek term "taken from you" means "we were bereaved". Picture a parent saying "good bye" to his offspring, not sure when, or if he will see them again on this earth. I think that's how Dad felt whenever I had to return to the UK after visiting him in the US. It may have been how the father of that prodigal son felt as he watched his son walk away from home with his bag full of his share of the inheritance.

    The reputation of the Ephesian Church developed in spite of the opposition they would have endured in the place where the temple to the goddess Diana was so important, and where the Roman governor made his landing to tour Asia. The people of Ephesus would have been fiercely loyal to both Diana and the Roman governor. They showed that loyalty when Paul was first there. They started a riot when he started preaching Christ. See Acts 19.

    The reputation of the church in Ephesus had spread far and wide, as people came through that busy seaport city and benefitted from the hospitality of the Christians there, and were blessed by the fellowship with the Christians in that city. The word these travelers brought to Paul would have cheered his heart greatly. He says in 1 Corinthians 3 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. Paul wanted to be sure the seeds he had planted in Ephesus grew and flourished and produced abundant fruit.

    May God grant that we also would produce the same kind of fruit, and be a lasting blessing to other Christians around us, and a shining light in our communities, and a blessing to those who have ministered to us.
     
  7. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle TFF Chaplain Supporting Member

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    Weaning

    There comes a time in every parent’s life when the kids move out of the home. Dad and Mom no longer have the same degree of influence in their lives that they did as the kids were growing up. The parents wave goodbye, and wait, and watch, and listen. They want to hear good things from their kids. They want to know that their kids are continuing to mature and make right decisions. They pray that God would continue to give their children wisdom.

    Psalm 127 says we aim our children and send them out of our homes like shooting an arrow from a bow: 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth.
    5 How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them;
    They will not be ashamed When they speak with their enemies in the gate.


    In a way this is what is happening with Paul and the church in Ephesus. Only this time it was the parent who had to leave, but the feeling was the same. He felt like he had been torn away from them as he was obeying God’s call to move on. He wanted to hear good things from his “child”—the church in Ephesus—and he continued to pray for her. And He did hear good things about her, and so he wrote this letter to that new church. We started looking at that letter yesterday.

    Let's take a second bite of the juicy steak in this passage...

    Ephesians1: 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,

    Paul had spent three years with these people, teaching them, training them, being their friend. Then it was time for him to move on. He did come back to visit. He called the elders and leaders of the fellowship together for a conference, and among other things told them he would not be able to come back. That led to a last tearful farewell as he boarded the ship at the harbor in Ephesus. It says in Acts 20 "36 When he had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. 37 And they began to weep aloud and embraced Paul, and repeatedly kissed him, 38grieving especially over the word which he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they were accompanying him to the ship."

    They may have been out of his sight, but not out of his mind. Paul was constantly praying for the people he had ministered to, for the new fellowships he had seen start up, and he was always watching out for news from the places he had been.

    The good news from Ephesus brought him joy and as he wrote to them he let them know how he was praying for them. He thanks God for them. They are the results, the fruit, of his labor in that city, but it is always God who gives the increase. No matter what activity we get involved in, we need to remember that God is the one who makes it work, or not. The opening verse of Psalm 127 underscores this:

    "Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it;
    Unless the Lord guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain
    ."

    If we ever get to the point of saying "I did this all by myself" and deny God's part in it we run the risk of what happened to king Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4 when he proudly looked out over his kingdom and said in effect, "I myself built this great kingdom for my own majesty and greatness." The next instant he was hit with a kind of madness, and forced to live in exile, homeless, until he came to his senses and acknowledged God's power and authority in his life. God can take away in an instant what it has taken us a lifetime to build up. We dare not take the credit for ourselves for something God has done.

    So Paul thanked God for these faithful people in Ephesus.

    He went beyond that. He prayed that God would continue to bless them with "a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him."

    He was asking God to continue to work in their lives, to build on what he had taught them. He wants them to see things from God's perspective with a spirit of wisdom. They can look at themselves and at others, and at what is happening in the world around them with something like God's eyes, and have some idea of what He is doing in their lives and in their times and places. Paul wants them to be thinking and seeing the way God thinks and sees as that "spirit of revelation in the knowledge of Him grows".

    Paul is not worried about whether they remember him or not. He wants them to know God.

    Paul can’t be there with them to teach them, to feed them God’s Word himself. They need to have God’s "spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him" in themselves so that they can continue to feed themselves and grow in their own relationship with Christ.

    It made Paul very happy to see that these Christians in Ephesus had weaned themselves from having to be taught by Paul and now had their spiritual eyes opened so that they could hear directly from God and help each other develop and mature as Christians.

    Watch tomorrow to see where this takes them.

    May God continue to bless us richly as we acknowledge and thank Him for the way He builds our businesses, our successes, and our ministry to others. (You don't have to be a pastor to minister to people...)
     
  8. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle TFF Chaplain Supporting Member

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    Vision

    Paul prayed for the people he worked with. He was acutely aware that he could never meet their spiritual needs. He couldn’t be with the Christians in Colossae and Ephesus and Philadelphia and Corinth and all the other places God had used him to start churches. His prayer for these churches was that the people in the churches would learn to feed themselves from God’s Word. He wanted to wean these children from his uncertain presence and wisdom to the absolute certainty of God’s constant presence and wisdom.

    Dad saw that happen. He was meeting with Jim in Bible Study every week. Every time they got together Jim had a question or a problem to discuss with dad, and dad showed him in the Bible where to find the answer. Dad got called away for a few weeks and when he got back he asked Jim how things had been. Jim started listing some of the problems he had and then where he had found the answers to those problems in God’s Word.

    Jim was beginning to do what Paul was praying God would do in the lives of these people in Ephesus. Paul was never after gathering a large following for himself. He was after getting people to become mature Christians.

    Ephesians 1:17-18

    17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

    Have you ever noticed how God builds us up one step at a time? He doesn't dump His entire curriculum on us all at once. That would be too much for us to bear. He leads us one step at a time, through good times, through bad times, through challenging times. He takes us through each stage, and each stage builds on the one before it. He gives us a dose of His wisdom, reveals a little more of His knowledge to us, opens our eyes a little more one step at a time, one day at a time, one insight at a time.

    Here’s a personal example.

    I used to work in a medical lab. I would spend the entire day testing blood samples, putting blood and reagents into test tubes, then reading and reporting the results. People’s lives depended on the accuracy of those results. But at the end of the day I had racks full of tubes that represented all my work effort for the day. I just dumped them into the bin. More than once I thought that for some people that could be all there is to life. Living from day to day, filling racks with test tubes just to throw them away at the end of the day. Ecclesiastes 1 puts it in a nutshell: 14 I have seen all the works which have been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and striving after wind.

    I have noticed people living their lives out in a series of fives and twos. Five days of work, two days of weekend. Their week goes something like "the day after the weekend", "the day before hump day", "hump day", the day before Friday" "Friday", "the weekend". Then it starts all over again. Life has to be more than that...throwing a day's work into the trash; living for the two days at the end of the week.

    When we start seeing the world through God's eyes that all changes. We have a different reason for doing what we do; we have a new purpose that goes beyond just getting things done in order to get things done in order to get a paycheck at the end of the day. We begin to see how our day-to-day work fits in with building His kingdom here on earth. Isn’t that what we pray for when we pray “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”? Each of us, in our daily grind of work, has a part to play, a piece of the wall to build in God’s Kingdom.

    God gives us a spirit of wisdom, so that we can see things the way God wants us to see them. Once we begin seeing with God's eyes, He reveals His knowledge to us. As we see things, people, events with God's eyes and understand them with His wisdom we begin having "light bulb moments"--the "eyes of our hearts are enlightened" as we begin to understand why God does things, allows things to happen to us and to those around us and why things happen in the world. We begin to discern what makes people "tick". We start looking at the character of the person, not just his outward appearance.

    As we come to understand God's ways of working in our lives and in the world around us we begin to see the purpose He has for us, the goals he has for each of us to achieve, and then the rewards He has in store for us.

    God throws the term "hope" in. “what is the hope of His calling”. That is not a hope that says "maybe it will happen, maybe it won't happen. I sure hope it does happen.” God's hope is something of which we can be absolutely certain. We can take it to the bank. That hope to which He has called us is the hope of eternal life. We can begin to understand what "the riches of his glorious inheritance" are.

    By the way, the world has a growing suicide rate. We cry about it, look for ways to help the mental health of those around us. What they really need to know is what Paul prays that God would give the Christians in Ephesus—God has a purpose for their lives, what is the hope of His calling.

    Those riches and glorious inheritance are not money, believe me. Instead it's a full, satisfying life, knowing that we have lived our lives for something that really counts. It's building up treasures in Heaven. It's not a nice gushy feeling, but it is a deep-seated assurance and satisfaction that our lives have counted for something more important than building up a big bank account or business empire or wielded great political power. We may well achieve one or more of those things--there's nothing wrong with that, but having real satisfaction in life comes from knowing we are doing what God wants us to do, being who He wants us to be.

    It doesn’t matter what stage we are in life—in school, just starting work and career, building our career, retired…God has a job for us to do, and He wants to give us His insights and wisdom to open our eyes to see the world around us with His eyes and to see what He has for us to do.

    May God bless us as He opens the eyes of our hearts to see beyond earthly success and failure, and learn to know the certainty of God's kind of riches.

    18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
     
  9. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle TFF Chaplain Supporting Member

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    Seeing through God’s eyes

    Let's take another bite out of this great steak in Ephesians 1. I can only help you chew it a little bit here now. You'll want to do some more chewing to get the full flavor out of this bite.

    Ephesians1:18-21 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, "19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come."

    I wonder if Paul was thinking about 2 Kings 6 when he wrote this. The prophet was in his village and the king of Aram sent his entire army to get Elisha. His servant got up one morning and saw they were surrounded, with no way out and nearly went into panic mode. Elisha’s response? 16 So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

    What followed was something that would put the Jedi mind games to shame. It should make you laugh. In the same way God enabled Elisha’s servant to see God’s powerful host that would protect them and deliver them from the enemy, Paul wanted the Christians in Ephesus to see just how great God’s power is to deliver the Christians. We need to see that same thing. Sure we can read about it; we can pay lip service to it, but we also need to believe it, bet our lives on it. It was a dangerous time for Christians back then; it is a dangerous time for Christians in various places around the world today and is becoming increasingly dangerous for us in the western world today. We could go into panic mode; we could go into full self-defence mode, or we can ask God to open our eyes to see His power and strength and authority.

    Paul also continues praying for his friends there in Ephesus, that the eyes of their hearts would be opened so that they could see the world from God's point of view, with His eyes, and begin to see why God has put them on this earth and so they can begin to understand some of the resources God has given us to do His work.

    Now, that’s a big step, having our heart’s eyes opened. We look around us with our physical eyes and see the wonder of God’s creation; we see people of all shapes and sizes and decide from how they look whether we would like to know them better. We see social and political and world situations developing, and react or respond to them with our own human brand of logic that is steeped in our backgrounds and ideals.

    But when God opens the eyes of our hearts, we can begin to see as He sees. We can begin to see what He sees. Remember what God said in 1 Samuel 16 when he chose the runt of the litter to be king of Israel? 7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

    We can begin to look beyond the surface to see a person as God sees him. I think that is one reason we find so much conflict and confusion this election season. People look at the outward appearance of the candidates, hear what they have to say, and never get past the surface appearances and words.

    People hear and see what they want to hear and see. People's values are completely different from God's values. Jesus said in Luke 16:15 And He said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God.

    God wants us to look at the character of a person, at what motivates him, at what his spiritual life is like. God wants us to be able to look at a person’s heart. And only God can make us able to see into a person’s heart.

    He also wants us to be able to see something of what He is doing in the world, and begin to discern why He does it, or allows things to happen.

    He has a purpose for us in this world. It goes far beyond just punching a clock and having fun on the weekends. As we see the world from God's perspective we can begin to get a handle on what He wants us to do, how He wants us to invest the time He has given us on this earth.

    We can echo David's words in Psalm 90

    "12 So teach us to number our days, That we may present to You a heart of wisdom."

    I sometimes paraphrase that to say "Teach me to make my days count so that I will become wise."

    We’ll pick up on this tomorrow.
     
    Gudaki, Mustang Jon, reflex1 and 3 others like this.
  10. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle TFF Chaplain Supporting Member

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    Power

    Picking up from yesterday…

    Ephesians1:18-21 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, "19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come."

    Can you get your mind around the hugeness of this prayer, of all that God has for us? It takes some enlightening of our eyes to begin to comprehend these things.

    The Hope that He has called us to;

    The Riches of His glorious inheritance;

    The immeasurable greatness of His power that He extends to us, that He uses for us, and that He makes available to us.

    Each of those things is worth spending time to think about.

    In order to do God's work we need to know that God is backing us, and that He has the power and authority to back us. Jesus, when giving the "Great Commission" in Matt. 28:18-20, started off with "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go..."

    He has all the authority and power He needs, and when He commands us, we have all His authority and power backing us as we obey Him.

    But what Paul also wants his friends to know is the kind of power that makes that authority possible. Authority without power is useless and leads to rejection of that authority and anarchy. Power without authority leads to bullying and totalitarianism.

    Both power and authority need to be exercised with the right motives. Selfish motives lead to dictatorship. God’s Agape Love leads to freedom in Christ.

    Let’s think about that power. God showed His great power in what He did with Jesus... “the immeasurable greatness of his power” We think of power in a large engine, in a nuclear explosion, in an earthquake, or tornado, or an erupting volcano, or a hurricane. These pale into insignificance compared to God’s power.

    He raised Jesus from the dead. I’ve seen and helped with CPR when the doctor administers the shocks. So many joules of electricity go directly across the heart in an attempt to shock it into life, and there is a limited amount of time in which to administer that defibrillation.

    Jesus' lifeless body had been in the tomb for three days, before God resurrected Him. God not only raised Jesus from the dead, He elevated Him to sit at His right hand, "far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come."

    Chuck Colson talked about the power he had when he was part of the government team. He just said something and it was so.

    God elevated Jesus to a position of power and authority far greater than Chuck Colson ever dreamed of, far above the president or king or queen of any country in the world today.

    God has given Him power and authority over the physical world. We got a glimpse of that power when Jesus stilled the storm with just a word.

    He has power and authority over the political world. Pilate was on trial that night, not Jesus.

    That position of power is not only geographical power and authority over all the nations, but spiritual, including all of the spiritual realm. We saw some of that in action when Jesus was casting out demons.

    That power and authority is not limited by time. It is not only in this age but in the one to come. Jesus’ power and authority work in the here and now as well as in the there and then. Do you remember what happened in John 11? Jesus went to Bethany where Lazarus had died four days earlier. 21 Martha then said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.

    Martha’s faith was for the there and then, but Jesus showed her how it needs to be for the here and now. He put life back into Lazarus’ dead body; brought him back to life.

    One question that pops into my head just now is "If Jesus has all this power and authority, why are Christians being killed in the Middle East and other parts of the world, and persecuted here in the western world?" I don't have a complete answer, but one possibility is that God is more concerned with us than with our physical lives. He puts us through fires to refine us. He puts us through fires to test our metal, to see if we will trust Him in the hard times.

    That has happened throughout history, ever since the time of Christ, and will continue until He returns and brings us into His New Jerusalem. At that time everyone will acknowledge His Lordship, power, and authority willingly or unwillingly.

    We in the western world have undergone a different kind of testing. Like the Israelites, when they came into the Promised Land, we have had life (relatively) easy. We are relatively wealthy, compared with other places around the world. We can meet, worship, speak freely of our relationship with Christ (although that last item is coming under pressure over here...). Our testing is whether we, like the Israelites, will grow full fat and happy, and forget God, or continue to give thanks to Him and revere Him.

    May God open the eyes of our hearts and grant us a new understanding of what kind of power God demonstrated in what He did with Jesus, and how He can work that power in and through us as well.
     
  11. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle TFF Chaplain Supporting Member

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    Unlimited power and authority.

    Think of that. What would you do if you had that? Authority over everything you see and power to do whatever you want. That’s a heady combination, and many a good man has been ruined when he was granted those two things, and it went to his head. He starts making decisions based on what’s good for him instead of what’s good for the people he is responsible for. Businesses and nations have gone down the toilet because people couldn’t handle power and authority. Or they made decisions based on their best judgment but their best judgment was wrong. They could not foresee unintended consequences.

    I think that’s why Jesus phrased it like he did in Matthew 25 when He was talking about the talents the businessman entrusted to his servants: 15 To one he gave five talents, to another, two, and to another, one, each according to his own ability; That boss knew his men and knew what they were capable of doing with what was entrusted to them. God gives us gifts, but He won’t give us more than we can handle. He gives us as much power and authority as we can safely use, so it won’t go to our heads.

    But God gave Jesus unlimited power and authority. He gave Jesus a dominion that He rules over that is without limits. Why? Because Jesus uses that unlimited power and authority wisely. He wields it with love for His subjects. That love is the agape kind of love that is an act of the will, not emotion, and puts the needs of others before one’s self.

    Ephesians 1: "22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all."

    What does it mean when God says "gave Him as head over all things to (for) the church"? What is the "all things"? We touched on this yesterday. There is no way we can cover what all this means in these short Daily Devotionals, but here’s a quick overview.

    We saw Jesus demonstrating His power and authority over some of those "all things" while He was walking and talking among us here on earth.

    He demonstrated His power over nature. Remember when He ordered the storm to stop when the disciples were terrified there in the boat? "Peace. Be Still" and the storm stopped and the waves went down on that sea of Galilee.

    He controlled physical laws when He walked on the water, and Peter was able to walk to Him as long as he kept his focus on Jesus. The moment he got distracted by the wind and waves and took his attention off Jesus he began to sink. Now isn't that just like us? We go to a conference, or listen to a speaker on the radio or TV, have a super time reading and studying the Bible, go home on a spiritual high. Then we get distracted by some stupid mundane problem and start to sink. It's then we need to cry out, like Peter did, "Lord save me". And He does save us.

    He turned water into wine, changing molecules made up of hydrogen and oxygen into molecules of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and whatever other elements are present in good wine. He made five loaves and two fish satiate the appetites of five thousand men, plus the women and children in that crowd that had stayed to listen to Him

    He showed His control over plants when he condemned that fruitless fig tree on the way into Jerusalem. The next day as they walked past the tree was withered, dried up.

    He controlled the fish of the sea. When the disciples needed money for the temple tax, Jesus told them to go get a fish. In the mouth of the fish was enough money to cover the tax. When they had been out fishing fruitlessly all night He told them to try casting their nets over the other side of the boat. All the fish they could handle, and then some, filled their nets.

    He showed power over animals, when he rode that unbroken donkey into Jerusalem the day of the triumphal entry. The people were doing everything possible to spook the animal, shouting, waving branches and cloaks in its face, yet it never bolted. The Queen's Horseguards spend months training their horses to ignore that kind of behavior from crowds, but Jesus just sat on that unbroken donkey and rode into town just as calm as you please.

    He controlled people. There was one time they wanted to stone Him but He walked out of that temple untouched. When He was on trial before Pilate, Pilate became the one on trial. Pilate’s integrity was at stake and he failed the test, capitulating to the Jews. He did the PC thing. Jesus showed His control over the political and religious leaders.

    He brought healing from diseases, sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, made the lame whole. He has control over health and life.

    He showed His authority over death itself, standing at the mouth of the tomb and shouting "Lazarus come forth!!" and Lazarus who had been dead four days, did just that.

    He has control over the spiritual realm, and He demonstrated that abundantly as He cast demons out of people.

    The list could go on...but that is a taste of what God means when He says " And He put all things in subjection under His feet"

    In the Tower of London, under heavy security, but there for the public to see, are the Crown Jewels, taken out when the monarch is crowned. Along with the crown and sceptre is a richly jeweled object called "the orb and the cross", representing the roles of the Church and the world. It has been noted that the orb is under the cross whether it knows it or not. Not only is the world under Christ's Dominion, but politicians, governments, nature, the Church, and especially individuals are under His rule.

    When the world seems to be running amok with corrupt government, Christians being arrested, prosecuted, persecuted and martyred, we need to remember that despite all that, God has put all things under Jesus’ feet, and Jesus’ rule is just and loving. He uses His power and authority for the church, for us who make up His Church, His body here on earth.

    May God bless us greatly as we begin to comprehend what this means for us--God is in control, even when the world around us seems to be falling apart.
     
  12. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle TFF Chaplain Supporting Member

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    What's in a name?

    When I was taking German many years ago my teacher educated us on ways of introducing ourselves. "Mein name ist...", my name is... That's the label I go by; or we could say "Ich heisse...", I am... This is my being, who I am, this is my essence.

    Have you ever noticed how often, especially in the Old Testament, it says something like "he was named XXX because YYY? Or that God changed someone's name for a reason?

    When Naomi returned to Israel having lost her husband and two sons, she changed her name from Naomi (Pleasant) to Mara (Bitter) because she was in such grief.

    Or look at Isaiah 8. On God’s orders, Isaiah named his child Maher-shalal-hash-baz. Imagine what that kid had to endure as he grew up. God said that was what would happen to Israel's neighbors. That kid's name was to mark a momentous event in history. His name meant Swift is the booty, speedy is the prey. And God had a reason for that name: 4 for before the boy knows how to cry out ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria.”

    Adam, in Hebrew, means "Man", the male of the species. Adam named his wife "Eve", the giver of life.

    God renamed Abram, high father, Abraham, father of multitudes. Sarai, his wife, means God is Prince. When she was a youthful 90 years old God renamed her "Sarah", Princess, a fitting name for the wife of someone who was to be the father of multitudes and who became the mother of multitudes. Isaac, their long awaited son, means laughter, from the joy Sarah had at finally, after all those years of waiting, seeing God give her a child.

    The first of Isaac's twins was all red, so they called him Esau, or "Red". The second born of the twins had a firm hold on his brother's heel when he was born. He was logically named "The Follower" or "Supplanter", Jacob. After lots of moulding, God transformed the Supplanter into One Who Prevails with God, "Israel".

    Gideon lived up to his name as a great warrior, a hewer, or feller. He also became known as Jerubbaal, the Baal basher.

    Samuel means God hears, and was named by his mother because God heard her prayer for a child. He grew to become a man who listens to God.

    David lived out the meaning of his name, well beloved. His life and his Psalms show abundantly his love for God and God's love for him.

    Simon listened to Jesus and obeyed Him when He said "Follow Me." His name comes from the Hebrew word "to hear". Later, Jesus renamed him Peter, the rock, and he became a steadfast, solid follower of Jesus, helping to anchor the new believers in their faith.

    Barnabas lived up to the meaning of his name, son of consolation, as he brought Saul, who became known as Paul, into the fellowship of Christians, and smoothed out relationships among Christians in general.


    Saul means "demands", and he lived up to his name as he demanded the persecution of Christians, and as he demanded the highest standards for himself and others. But when this demanding, Big Man On Campus type saw the magnificence and forgiveness of God first-hand, and how small he was in comparison, he started calling himself Paul, or "Little".

    Paul was acutely aware of that, and underlined it when he wrote in 1 Corinthians 15 9 For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. Notice that never gave Paul an inferiority complex. He knew who he was—a little bit of nothing, yet God gave him an assignment and he was bold in carrying that assignment out because God had given it to him and he had Christ’s authority backing him.

    What's in a name? A lot. It can describe what God wants to do, and will do, in and through us. It can describe how God wants to change us, mould us to do a special, specific job.

    Did our parents just randomly give us our names? Did they carefully choose them? Did they pick names because those names sounded like a good idea at the time? However we got our names, God was behind the choice. David said in Psalm 139 O Lord, You have searched me and known me. 2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. 3 You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.

    If God knows us that well, He knows our names. If He controls our actions before we even know what we are going to do ourselves, He knows how we will live up to our names.

    One of the exciting things we can do is discover the meaning of our names, and then think into what God could do with a person with that name. How does God want us to live up to our names?

    As we were thinking about names for each of our three kids, Mrs. BlackEagle and I considered the meanings of those names, and we are praying that God would build the character qualities of those names into our kids, even long after our nest has been empty.

    God knows our names. Our names are important to Him. He says in Isaiah 43: But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob, And He who formed you, O Israel, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!

    Jesus said in John 10 2 But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.

    Jesus calls us by name. He knows each of us individually. First, He calls us by name to Himself. He knows our strengths, our weaknesses, what makes us tick. Then, just as those people throughout the Bible lived out the meanings of their names under God’s guidance, so He calls us by our names out of His fold. He leads us into the world to live out the meanings of our names. 4 When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.

    We may think of our names as the label by which we identify ourselves, but with God, our names are who we are, our essence. May God bless us with new encouragement and purpose in life as we grab hold of who we are in God's eyes and live that out because He has redeemed us and called us by name.
     
  13. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle TFF Chaplain Supporting Member

    Joined:
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    We can do something angels are not allowed to do. In fact we are mandated to do this task.

    Just think. Angels. They stand in the presence of God. They see Him face to face. They carry messages from our Father in Heaven to earth. Both the Hebrew and Greek words we translate as Angel mean messenger.

    You remember Daniel’s interview in Daniel 921 while I was still speaking in prayer, then the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision previously, came to me in my extreme weariness about the time of the evening offering. 22 He gave me instruction and talked with me and said, “O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you insight with understanding. 23 At the beginning of your supplications the command was issued, and I have come to tell you, for you are highly esteemed; so give heed to the message and gain understanding of the vision.

    God entrusted a direct answer to Daniel’s prayer to one of His messengers—Gabriel. God also used Gabriel to talk to Zacharias in Luke 1. 18 Zacharias said to the angel, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 The angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news.

    Gabriel told Zacharias that his wife even in her old age, would have a son, John the Baptist. So the angels are messengers.

    A few verses later Gabriel was again taking God’s message to earth, this time to tell Mary she would be the mother of Jesus.

    It was a host of angels who proclaimed to those shepherds that Jesus had been born in Bethlehem in Luke 2.

    God uses angels to protect His people. You remember what happened in 2 Kings 6. The entire enemy army had Elisha and his servant dead to rights. The city was surrounded. There was no way to escape and Elisha’s servant was close to full panic mode. 16 So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

    You remember it was an angel who accompanied Daniel’s three friends in the fiery furnace in Daniel 3, and who stopped the mouths of the lions when Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den in Daniel 6.

    Psalm 34 says this: 7 The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him, And rescues them.

    It was the two angels who carried out God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah there in Genesis 19. They protected Lot and his family by blinding the mob that had gathered outside his front door after the “fresh meat” that had come to his house. 10 But the men reached out their hands and brought Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. 11 They struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they wearied themselves trying to find the doorway.

    12 Then the two men said to Lot, “Whom else have you here? A son-in-law, and your sons, and your daughters, and whomever you have in the city, bring them out of the place; 13 for we are about to destroy this place, because their outcry has become so great before the Lord that the Lord has sent us to destroy it.”

    So angels are powerful messengers from God who carry out his orders to protect and to destroy, to carry out God’s judgments.

    But there is something God does not entrust to angels, that He entrusts to us.

    Can you guess what it is? Go look at Acts 10. Cornelius was a Gentile. 30 Cornelius said, “Four days ago to this hour, I was praying in my house during the ninth hour; and behold, a man stood before me in shining garments, 31 and he said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 32 Therefore send to Joppa and invite Simon, who is also called Peter, to come to you; he is staying at the house of Simon the tanner by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you immediately, and you have been kind enough to come. Now then, we are all here present before God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”

    There are other times when God used an angel to bring a Christian together with someone who needed to hear the Gospel.

    Think about it. God could have sent an angel straight to Cornelius with the Gospel message, but He chose instead to take the long way around and send Peter, a human, to talk with Cornelius. Why would that be?

    Paul thought about how God could use angels to tell people the Good News. He also realized that angels can be fallible. He said in Galatians 1: 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!

    God chooses to use humans to communicate the Gospel to humans. He has not entrusted that task to spiritual beings. Jesus Himself, the Son of God, became a human being so that He could talk to us face to face, so that He could go through all that we go through here on this earth. He got tired and hungry and thirsty; He probably got blisters and headaches. He definitely got irritated with people but he got irritated for all the right reasons and He showed His irritation in the right way. And only as a human being could Jesus die to take the punishment for our sins on Himself. Only a human could pay the penalty for a human’s crime against God.

    God communicates His Gospel of salvation to us humans through other humans, because we humans are the ones who need to hear that message. Humans will (or should) listen to other humans when they might refuse to acknowledge spiritual beings. Do you remember how Jesus prayed for us in John 17 ? 20 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; He was saying that we, here, in the 21st century, would believe in Him because of what those disciples said back 2000 years ago.

    There's something else there...Angels are spiritual beings, and humans are by nature spiritually dead, so are normally incapable of sensing, responding to spiritual beings such as angels. Under normal circumstances we need other humans to tell us things.

    God has entrusted the great treasure of the Gospel Message to us. He said in 2 Corinthians 4 6 For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;

    God hasn’t entrusted the task of communicating the precious gospel to angels. He has given us the job of being His messengers to the world.
     
  14. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle TFF Chaplain Supporting Member

    Joined:
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    Messages:
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    Location:
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    Cracked Pots

    God has entrusted the great treasure of the Gospel Message to us. He said in 2 Corinthians 4 6 For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;

    That sparked a thought. Jesus said in Matthew 5 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

    We are housing the glorious light of the Gospel of Christ in the earthenware pots of our bodies. Remember God created Adam and all humans from the dust of the earth, and so when God talks about Him being the potter and we the clay, that takes on a new angle of meaning.

    Then remember what happened with Gideon’s army in Judges 7. He started out with a respectably sized army of 30,000 but God whittled that down to 300 picked men. He kept saying in effect “There are too many in this army. I want you and the world to know that I delivered you, not your military strength.” These were the best of the best. So when it came down to the actual battle against the overwhelmingly huge enemy army God told Gideon to arm these soldiers. In addition to their swords, they had in one hand a trumpet and in the other an earthenware jug containing a lighted torch. They deployed in three companies on the hills above the enemy army and about 0400 hours opened the attack. They stood in place, blew their trumpets, and broke open the clay pots shielding the torches and shouted . They made themselves clearly visible. 20 When the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the pitchers, they held the torches in their left hands and the trumpets in their right hands for blowing, and cried, “A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!” 21 Each stood in his place around the camp;

    Now, that entire account is exciting to read, and you can read Judges 6-7 in about 30 minutes if you take your time. We enjoy movies like Act of Valor, or American Sniper or Red Dawn, but this account is just as thrilling. 300 men showing their position clearly to an overwhelmingly large enemy army, in the middle of the night, and the enemy army destroys itself in mass confusion. The 300 never even drew their swords.

    The thing is, in order for that light to show, they had to break the pitcher that shielded the light.

    And here we are, holding that light of the Gospel in the clay vessels of our lives. The only way we can let that light shine is if that clay vessel is broken.

    And the Bible is full of examples of how the clay vessels of people’s lives were broken so they could shine the light of God’s message out into the world.

    Joseph’s vessel was shattered when his own brothers sold him into slavery. It was broken again when he was thrown into prison on trumped up charges of rape. A few more shards of his life were shattered when a promised delivery from prison was put off indefinitely. But the time came and he shined brilliantly.

    Moses was an Egyptian prince, who knew how important he was until he killed that Egyptian slave driver. Then God broke him of that pride while he was a shepherd in the wilderness. God called him the meekest man in the world.

    Or go back to Gideon. God didn’t need to break him. He already knew his place in the world. When God gave him his orders, Gideon’s response was along the lines of “surely you don’t mean me. I’m the least in my family, and my family is bottom of the totem pole in Israel.” But God used him to deliver Israel from the enemy. God said to him "Go in this your strength. I am with you." Gideon didn't have any intrinsic strength. God in him was his strength.

    And you remember Jonah. God broke him there in the belly of that great fish, and when the fish vomited Jonah out on the shore, he went on to spark a huge revival in Nineveh.

    Peter was a broken man after he realized he had denied Jesus the night Jesus was on trial. He went out and wept in repentance, and days later couldn’t trust himself to say he loved Jesus. In John 21 Jesus asked Peter if he loved Jesus with God’s kind of Agape love. Peter could only say “I can be your friend…I love You with a phileo love that comes and goes.” Peter was broken. Gone was that bravado that said “I’ll follow You wherever You go.” Jesus entrusted Peter with being the rock on which other Christians could lean. He gave Peter the task of feeding and tending His sheep.

    Then there was Saul, the powerful leader who tried to destroy any and all Christians he came across. God broke him completely on that road to Damascus in Acts 9 when He blinded him and left him helpless for three days. As we noted a couple of days ago, powerful Saul was rebranded Paul, or “little”.

    Furthermore Paul talked about all the things he could have put his trust in…his education, his position of power, his possessions…all these things that make a person important in the world. Philippians 3 describes his thinking: He had just given an extensive laundry list of all the things that made him important. Then he says

    7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,

    God gave Paul a background in education and speaking ability which he used to reason with Jews and Gentiles alike, to let the light God gave him shine as brightly as possible.

    Bottom line for us, friends, is to think a moment. Is there a clay jug obscuring the light of the Gospel that God wants to shine out into the world through our lives? Are we holding onto anything that would keep us from being like Gideon’s heroes and standing and shining and shouting the Gospel? Are our pots cracked so that God’s Gospel can shine out through our lives?

    Matthew 16 25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
     
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  15. BlackEagle

    BlackEagle TFF Chaplain Supporting Member

    Joined:
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    Location:
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    Don’t get too comfortable

    1 Peter 1 Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen 2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure.

    That’s an interesting term Peter uses to describe the recipients of this letter: “To those who reside as aliens”. The King James Version translates the Greek word to the strangers. Either way, it means someone who is visiting a country, perhaps making their home there for a time, but who have a “home country” too which they belong.

    We have various terms for this kind of person. Green card holders in the US are “Resident Aliens”. We have “refugees” who have come to another country to get away from war and persecution in their own lands. These are voluntary visitors. The Israelites were voluntary “strangers” in the land of Egypt at first, then became slaves of the Egyptians.

    Then there are the involuntary “strangers”. God sent Israel into exile in Babylon for a number of years, but the Israelites never really felt at home there. They always looked forward to the time they could return home to “their land”.

    The Bible has a term for these people who travel from one country to settle in another for a while, or are involuntarily transplanted: “sojourners”. The country where they live may be their home more or less permanently, but they come from another country and their roots, and to some extent their hearts, are in their “home” country.

    So Peter is writing to “sojourners”, “strangers”, “those who reside as aliens”. He is writing to Christians scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, And he is writing to us.

    If we have an ounce of patriotism in our blood, we will think of ourselves as US citizens, or UK citizens and we love our countries. But just think about it for a moment. We live on this earth for a few years. Then we die, our souls leave our bodies and go to what everyone calls “our eternal rest”. So we are here just for a short period of time, “sojourning” here on earth, but our permanent homeland is…where?

    Well, the Bible says that if we are Christians, our permanent home is in heaven with God. My grandfather said he looked forward to heaven because it meant no more moving!! Again, the Bible says that if we are not Christians, our permanent, final resting place is in hell. It’s not much of a place to rest. Jesus described that in Mark 9: 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire, 44where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.

    Just a side thought…Jesus said it is better to enter life crippled. When our bodies die we enter life.

    So don’t get too comfortable here on this earth. Sure, we make our homes and lives as comfortable as possible, but keep in mind that as Christians, we actually belong to God’s kingdom. That’s our real home. We’re only visiting, sojourning, on this earth for a while.

    Jesus left His permanent place in heaven to be with us for a while. We celebrate His arrival here on earth at Christmas.

    He “sojourned” among us. Then He said to the disciples, and to us, in John 14 Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.

    We follow in a long line of people who have gone before us. Check out what Hebrews 11 says: 13 All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. 15 And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.

    Jesus is preparing our permanent homes for us. He said in John 14 2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

    For those who have been left homeless by wildfires, by hurricanes here in the US, and for those who have been left homeless because their homes were destroyed by terrorists trying to eradicate Christians in the Middle East and other places around the world, that is a promise to hold onto with both hands.

    We are pilgrims, strangers, sojourners; we reside here on earth as aliens because our permanent home is with God, with Jesus, in heaven. Our first, primary, citizenship is Christian…If we have received Jesus into our lives.

    John 3 says 16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

    If you haven’t received Jesus into your life, if you don’t have this eternal life, please do so now. You never know when that last chance will pass you by. If you have this eternal life, just remember that we have a permanent home in heaven with Jesus. This place we call home on earth is only temporary. Make it comfortable, but don’t get too comfortable here.