Face to Face

The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Exodus 33:11

Although the world is connected electronically like never before, nothing beats time together in person. As we share and laugh together, we can often sense—almost unconsciously—the other person’s emotions by watching their facial movements. Those who love each other, whether family or friends, like to share with each other face to face.

We see this face-to-face relationship between the Lord and Moses, the man God chose to lead His people. Moses grew in confidence over the years of following God, and he continued to follow Him despite the people’s rebelliousness and idolatry. After the people worshiped a golden calf instead of the Lord (see Ex. 32), Moses set up a tent outside of the camp in which to meet God, while they had to watch from a distance (33:7–11). As the pillar of cloud signifying God’s presence descended to the tent, Moses spoke on their behalf. The Lord promised that His Presence would go with them (v. 14).

We can speak to the Lord as a friend.

Because of Jesus’s death on the cross and His resurrection, we no longer need someone like Moses to speak with God for us. Instead, just as Jesus offered to His disciples, we can have friendship with God through Christ (John 15:15). We too can meet with Him, with the Lord speaking to us as one speaks to a friend.

Face to face! O blissful moment! Face to face—to see and know; face to face with my Redeemer, Jesus Christ who loves me so! Carrie E. Breck

We can speak to the Lord as a friend.

By Amy Boucher Pye 

INSIGHT:Moses was described as privileged because he spoke with God “face to face” (Ex. 33:11). God affirmed this unique relationship a second time when he reminded Aaron and Miriam that “with [Moses] I speak face to face” (Num. 12:8). Four hundred years earlier, Abraham was called God’s friend (2 Chron. 20:7; Isa. 41:8; James 2:23). Validating His sacrificial love, Jesus says we are His friends (John 15:12–13).

Reflect on what it means to you that we have the privilege of speaking to God through prayer and sharing with Him as we share with a friend—our burdens, cares, and joys. Sim Kay Tee

The Outcome of Discouragement

Psalm 40:1-3

Discouragement is a common problem. As we saw yesterday, it may start with a divided mind but can easily turn into blaming others and wallowing in anger. Sadly, its effects don’t stop there.

For one thing, if you regard the one who disappointed you as the cause of all your troubles, you might distance yourself or even end the relationship. On top of that, when disappointments are allowed to build up without resolution, your sense of self-worth could be damaged. This could deliver a blow to your ministry and interactions with others, since no one likes being around critical, negative individuals.

A dangerous drift in your spiritual walk is the ultimate consequence of discouragement. God will seem distant, uncaring, or perhaps even absent because you’ve built such high walls around yourself. Things that were once cornerstones in your life—like worship, Bible study, and prayer—easily fall by the wayside. Before long, you will be surrounded only by your disappointments and negativity, unable to see anything of positive value at all.

Discouragement can eat away at a believer’s relationships and productivity. Don’t allow disappointments to build up and take such a toll on your life. Psalm 40:2 is a wonderful reminder that the heavenly Father can lift you out of the “miry clay” and “set [your] feet upon a rock making [your] footsteps firm.” Let your discouragement motivate you to turn to the Lord, the one who can “put a new song in [your] mouth”—a song of praise to Him (v. 3).

Lukewarm Laodicea

“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; . . . I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:14-16)

The Lord Jesus used intense language to rebuke this church, the last of the seven He had John write to in the book of Revelation. Laodicea was dangerously near the brink of being disavowed by He who is the Head of the church.

Such churches believe they “have need of nothing” (Revelation 3:17). Worldly wealth, extensive property, and popular recognition blinded these members and their leaders to their true spiritual condition. They failed to understand that, from the Lord’s perspective, they are “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17).

The cause of this terrible spiritual destitution is being spiritually tepid. It’s like expecting a glass of cold water or a cup of hot tea but finding everything at room temperature. This church “tasted” just like the world around them. They were neither godly nor in rebellion—just “nice people” who blended in well with the community. Their spiritual reputation did not smell either like life or death (2 Corinthians 2:16).

Despite the Lord’s distaste for such a condition, He loved and counseled them to “buy” from Him the gold of the Kingdom’s true wealth, righteous clothing that would cover their shameful exposure of worldly behavior, and to anoint their spiritual eyes so that they could see eternal values rather than temporal things.

As the Lord graciously closed His letter, He “stands at the door” of the church, waiting for anyone to open and let Him in (Revelation 3:20). Tepid spirituality keeps the Lord outside. What a shame that such could ever be said about any church. HMM III

“He shall send them as Saviour, and a great One.”

Judges 14

Israel by sinning fell under the tyranny of the Philistines, yet God did not forget his people, but raised them up a champion. An angel appeared to Manoah and his wife, foretelling the birth of a son who should deliver Israel. In due time, his promise was fulfilled by the birth of Samson, some incidents in whose history will now interest us.

Judges 14:1, 2

Thus the history of this strongest of men begins with an act of weakness; and his whole life is marred by faults in the same direction. An unusually developed animal nature rendered him the easy victim of his passions: if any of us were as vigorous as he, we should probably be even more ready to yield to the temptations which ensnared him. His faith in God was his peculiar virtue; in this, few, if any, of the saints excelled him; but his peculiar physical conformation left an unguarded point in his character, and that proved his downfall.

Judges 14:3

It must always be grievous to right-minded parents to see their children marrying ungodly persons No good can possibly come of it. It is most injurious to the soul, and generally leads to heart-rending trials. Surely there are good people enough in the church of God without our looking to the synagogue of Satan for a spouse.

Judges 14:1

This is too often the only reason men will give or can give for the course they pursue. It is the worst reason in the world, for that which pleases our flesh is usually hurtful to our better nature. Let us never be slaves to our animal nature, but govern ourselves by the power of our mental and spiritual manhood.

Judges 14:4

They were not aware that God intended to over-rule this to force him into antagonism with the oppressors of his country.

Judges 14:6

A supernatural might was given to him, and the strong lion fell before his unarmed strength, yet as he was not proud or desirous of vainglory he left the exploit untold. This was fine exercise for him, a grand preliminary trial of strength before his great battles with the enemy. Like David, he learned to fight Philistines by beginning with beasts.

Judges 14:8

He remembered thankfully how the Lord delivered him, and turned aside to survey the spot, and his memory had its reward, for he found the honey. It is well to recollect past mercies, and learn how easily the Lord can turn our terrors into pleasures.

 

“Thus the lion yields us honey

From the eater food is given.”

 

Judges 14:9

He preserved a singular silence, but great doers are frequently little talkers. Dr. Kitto very properly remarks:—”The whole of the affair of the lion is mentioned in the sacred narrative, not merely as an exploit, but on account of the circumstances which grew out of it. Samson, doubtless, performed many mighty feats which are not recorded; those only being mentioned which directly influenced the current of his history, and brought him more or less into collision with the Philistines. No one would have thought that out of this slaughter of the lion, and the finding a swarm of bees in the skin-enveloped carcass—occurring, as it did, while the hero was engaged in forming amicable relations with the Philistines, occasion for the exertion of his destroying energies against the oppressors of Israel would have arisen. But so it came to pass. The most unlikely agents—lions, bees, honeycombs, may become the instruments of accomplishing the purposes of God, and of leading or driving a man to his appointed task, when he thinks not of it.”

Judges 14:11, 12

Probably these thirty men, under the pretence of being boon companions, were set to watch him as spies: the friendship of Philistines should always be mistrusted.

Judges 14:15

This ill-blood was engendered by the wedding festivities. How can we hope things to go well if we mingle with the unregenerate? Samson was acting very wrongly in all this, but God was overruling it to make him come forth as Philistia’s foe, and Israel’s champion.

Judges 14:18

Here he began to learn that a heathen wife was not to be trusted. How could he expect that she, who worshipped a false god, would be true to him! How sad it was that he did not profit by this experience.

Judges 14:19

As the garments specified would only be worn by persons of wealth, Samson must have dealt the Philistines a heavy blow. Thirty men of rank would be sorely missed.

Judges 14:20

Thus Samson was used as God’s executioner among the Philistines, but he himself was made to smart for his folly. His foolish love yielded him small solace; where he doted he found deceit and desertion. It is perilous to any man to allow his weaker passions to become his guide. Sooner or later sinful joys will curdle into miseries. Never let us run such risks as Samson dared to encounter. Let his wreck be our beacon.

 

Up believer, face the lion,

Thou shalt rend it like a kid,

Jesus’ mighty name rely on,

Face thy foe as thou art bid.

 

Start not at his loudest roaring,

Slay him in Jehovah’s strength:

Then from forth his carcass pouring,

Honey shall be thine at length.

 

The Works of the Flesh

Galatians 5:19

I’ll never forget the day I saw a terrible accident in the former Soviet republic where I lived. Right in front of me, an elderly man dashed into the middle of traffic. The oncoming cars were coming so fast that it was impossible for the drivers to put on the brakes and avoid hitting this elderly gentleman. He was hit so hard by the first car that it threw him over into the next lane of traffic. Before the traffic was finally stopped, four additional automobiles had run over the man’s crumpled body, further crushing his mangled torso.

From where I was situated, I could see the whole ordeal unfold before me. The elderly man lay motionless on the pavement. People began to gather on the sides of the road to see what was happening. A police officer arrived to try to manage the crisis. To my amazement, not a single person went to see if the elderly man was dead or alive. They all assumed he was dead, so no one checked on him.

As a Christian, I felt compelled to go see if the man was alive. If he was still breathing, I wanted to pray for him. I went over to the police officer, who recognized me from my television program, and asked his permission to go see what I could do to help this man. The officer looked at me and laughed. Then he said, “Yeah, you can check on him, if you think it will help!”

I hastened over to the elderly man lying on the pavement. Blood was coming from his ears and nose. From the way his arms and legs were oddly lying, it was evident that nearly every bone in this man’s body was broken. When I looked into his face, my heart ached. I could see the deep lines and the burnt reddish color that so often accompanies severe alcoholics in this part of the world. The lines in his face were deep. He looked like a wrinkled, worn-out piece of leather. It was obvious that this man’s life had been one of misery. I estimated that he must have been approximately seventy years old.

Suddenly I noticed that the man was lightly breathing. I yelled to the police officer, and he quickly responded, calling for an ambulance. They loaded this man’s broken body into the back of the emergency vehicle, and I watched as it drove down the road to transport him to the hospital.

The next week, the local police paid a visit to my office to inform me that the man had died. They wanted me to testify in court about the events that took place that day. Then they told me something that just shocked me—the man who died had only been twenty-seven years old! When the court official told me his age, I had a difficult time hearing anything else that was said in the conversation. I was completely dumbfounded that someone so young could look so old!

When the meeting concluded that day, I sat in my office, still stunned by what I had just learned. According to the appearance of that man’s flesh, I had really thought he was elderly. For him to be so young and yet to look so old, I knew he had lived an unruly life. He had obviously soaked up vodka as if he were a sponge. He had degenerated to such a ruined state that he wandered right into heavy traffic that day and died.

As I pondered on all this, my thoughts went to Galatians 5:19-21, which says, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like….”

When Paul writes about the works of the flesh, he uses the Greek word ergos for “works.” This word signified some kind of action, deed, or activity. Very often it referred to a person’s occupation, to one’s labor, or to the things produced by someone’s effort or life. It described a person’s line of work, his career, his labor, or his profession. It denoted the results of his hard work.

Because Paul connects this word to the flesh, he is telling us something very important! Just like a person has a career or profession and works hard to achieve results, the flesh—if it is allowed to go its own way and do what it wants—will work very hard to produce fleshly results. When the flesh is not surrendered to the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, it will work around the clock, twenty-four hours a day, to produce fruit that is hurtful, damaging, and even deadly. This is the occupation of the flesh.

The word “flesh” used in Galatians 5:19 is the Greek word sarx, which is used mostly in Paul’s epistles to depict sinful impulses and carnal cravings. Paul uses the phrase “works of the flesh” to give the idea that the flesh has its own mind and desires. If a believer doesn’t crucify the flesh and keep it under control, it will eventually manifest those evil desires. In other words, the flesh will go to work!

Paul says, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest….” The word “manifest” is the Greek word phaneros. It means to appear, to manifest, to become visible, to become apparent, to become seen, to be well known, or to become conspicuous. By using this word, Paul tells you that if you let the flesh have its way, it will jump at the chance to manifest its evil desires and carnal cravings. In fact, the flesh is so carnal and base that if you don’t stop its activity, it will even try to lead you into adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and other similar vices.

When a little baby is first born into the world, he looks so pure, so innocent, so clean. But if that child is abandoned to the control of his flesh, he’ll end up in crime, scandal, alcoholism, or drugs and become bitter, hardhearted, and filled with malice and strife. Why? Because these are the fruit that the flesh produces. This is why it is so important to teach our children and to train ourselves to mortify the deeds of the flesh and live in subjection to the control of the Holy Spirit.

The twenty-seven-year-old man whom I saw killed that afternoon was once a beautiful, pure-looking baby boy. His proud mother and father had probably carried dreams in their hearts of what their infant son would one day become. But at the age of twenty-seven, this same person looked like an old man, with deep wrinkles in his face and the appearance of a severe alcoholic. There he lay, crushed on the highway—a wasted life. The flesh had its way in that man’s life and led him to destruction—the place where flesh always wants to go.

You may not be an alcoholic or a drug addict, but let me ask you this: Are you allowing your flesh to dominate your attitudes or your relationships? Are you giving way to the carnal impulses of bitterness or anger that the flesh wants to produce inside you? If you give in to these impulses, they will destroy your relationships, make you hardhearted, and fill you with negative attitudes that steal your joy and your peace.

You see, a life dominated by the flesh is a hard life. It is filled with excess, imbalance, extremity, laziness, self-abuse, hatred, strife, bitterness, irresponsibility, and neglect. The way of the flesh is the hardest route for any individual to take; yet the flesh cries out to be in charge, screaming to have its own way, demanding to be the boss. Unless you take your flesh to the Cross and mortify it by the power of God, it will keep screaming until you finally surrender to it and allow it to produce its ruinous effects in your life.

In the next several Sparkling Gems, I want us to look very carefully at the works of the flesh that Paul specifically listed in Galatians 5:19-21. But remember—if you crucify the flesh and choose instead to walk in the Spirit, you can produce fruit in your life that is just the opposite of the works of the flesh. You can yield the sweetest, most wonderful fruit imaginable. You can live in a way that is godly and beneficial and that truly makes a difference in other people’s lives.

So make the decision today that you are not going to take the route of the flesh. It really is the hardest way to go! Turn your attention to the Holy Spirit, and determine to let Him produce the life of Jesus Christ in you!

MY PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord, help me to mortify the deeds of the flesh and to reckon myself alive unto God! I have walked in the flesh long enough; now I want to walk in the Spirit. I no longer want the flesh to have its way in my life. Instead, I want to let the Holy Spirit produce the life of Jesus Christ in me. I know that I ultimately make the decision of what is produced in my life, so please help me to consistently say no to the flesh and to say yes to the Spirit of God!

I pray this in Jesus’ name!

MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY

I confess that it is no longer I who live, but Jesus Christ lives in me! The life I now live in the flesh, I live for the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I am His temple. I am His instrument. I refuse to allow the old flesh nature to dominate me. I willfully surrender my mind, my thoughts, my emotions, and my flesh to the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. As I yield to Him, He purifies me and makes me a worthy vessel for the work of God’s Kingdom!

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!

QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER

  1. Can you think of areas in your life where you have intentionally or unintentionally allowed the flesh to retain its control over you? What are those areas, and what do you plan to do to bring them under the control of the Holy Spirit?
  2. Is there any specific area in your life that has been more difficult to conquer than others—a habit, a thought, or some secret deed? Can you see how the Holy Spirit has been trying to help you bring that area of your life under control?
  3. How do you respond when the Holy Spirit convicts you of wrongdoing or wrong thinking? Do you ignore His voice, or do you go before the Lord in prayer and ask Him to help you overcome it?

 

Alice And The Mad Hatter

Yesterday I had lunch with a friend who said the wheels were coming off his personal and professional life as he struggles to juggle all the balls in the air. His life, he said, seemed to consist of one mad rush to keep up with the rest of the pack.

 

As he talked, I was reminded of a scene at Disneyland where Alice in Wonderland dances with the Mad Hatter. Actually, it is only an illusion inventively created with lights and mirrors. A hologram.

 

We live in a world of holograms — where Christians are often caught in an enslaving scramble to keep up with those smooth characters who seem to be two or three steps above us on the professional, social, economic or educational ladder… Just out of our reach…

 

From our vantage point, “they have arrived,” while the rest of us mortals, (who are numbly unaware that the hologram is only an illusion of reality) sweat, scrabble, and puff, to get where we think they are, as we spend money we do not have to purchase things we do not need, in order to impress people we do not like.

 

Talk about enslavement!

 

So why are we chasing the holograms in our frantic pursuit to “arrive“. Because we love what we perceive to be their “Designer” lifestyles: There are never any holes in their socks; their teen-age kids are never plagued with acne, and there is never a cash flow problem in their business. And they always vacation in the exotic spots. In blissful harmony, of course.

 

The true disciple of Jesus who is walking by faith however, sees through the holograms to the reality of the eternal, (“we walk by faith, not by sight2 Corinthians 5:7) and as such is increasingly becoming a “stranger” and “pilgrim” on the earth — out of step (and sorts) with societies’ fixation on the revered hologram:

 

These peopleliving by faithadmitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth(and were) looking for a country of their ownlonging for a better country—a heavenly one.” (Hebrews 11:13, 14a)

 

QUESTION: Judging by your lifestyle, would you say that you are captivated by the illusive and illusionary holograms? Or by a vision of the eternal? How would the folks next door answer that question of you?

 

 

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