VIDEO Tangled Up

And when people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled up and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before. 2 Peter 2:20, NLT

Last Christmas, a man dressed in a Santa outfit was paragliding over Sacramento, tossing down candy canes for children. He wanted to spread Christmas cheer. Regrettably he sailed too low and became entangled in power lines. He wasn’t hurt, but the children didn’t know what to think of Santa dangling and helpless. Fire fighters managed to rescue the man safely before his experience became truly shocking.

According to Isaiah 40:31, those who wait upon the Lord “shall mount up with wings like eagles.” But Jesus warned against becoming entangled with “the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches” (Matthew 13:22). It’s easy for us to become tangled in the high voltage lines of sin at just the moment we should be soaring by faith.

We’re wonderfully made to fulfill God’s purpose. Keep your eyes on Him, wait on the Lord, mount up daily on the winds of His grace, and be aware of anything that will entangle your flight.

You are a heavenly creature, and you are to lead a heavenly life…. Unfortunately, many Christians are bound and weighed down. Andrew Murray


Caution: Ruts Ahead! – 2 Peter 2:15-22 – Skip Heitzig

Not Fatherless

The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Romans 8:16

John Sowers in his book Fatherless Generation writes that “No generation has seen as much voluntary father absence as this one with 25 million kids growing up in single-parent homes.” In my own experience, if I’d bumped into my father on the street, I wouldn’t have known him. My parents were divorced when I was very young, and all the photos of my dad were burned. So for years I felt fatherless. Then at age thirteen, I heard the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9–13) and said to myself, You may not have an earthly father, but now you have God as your heavenly Father.

In Matthew 6:9 we’re taught to pray, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” Previously verse 7 says not to “keep on babbling” when praying, and we may wonder how these verses are connected. I realized that because God remembers, we don’t need to repeat. He truly understands, so we don’t need to explain. He has a compassionate heart, so we don’t need to be uncertain of His goodness. And because He knows the end from the beginning, we know His timing is perfect.

Because God is our Father, we don’t need to use “many words” (v. 7) to move Him. Through prayer, we’re talking with a Father who loves and cares for us and made us His children through Jesus.

By:  Albert Lee

Reflect & Pray

When have you tried to “move God” in prayer by using many words? How does having a relationship with Him as your Father help you to trust Him?

Dear heavenly Father, thank You for making me Your child and for being a Father that welcomes me into Your presence through prayer.

Read Talking with My Father at DiscoverySeries.org/HP171.

God’s Purposes for Fasting

Nehemiah 1

“Why should I fast?” It’s a question many Christians ask, and one the Bible answers. In Scripture, fasting is often associated with seeking God for a specific purpose. Daniel fasted in order to plead for Israel’s release from Babylonian captivity, which God had promised (Dan. 9:1-3). Nehemiah fasted for a similar reason when he heard of the desperate state of the Jews who had returned to the land after captivity (Neh. 1:4). 

When we look closer at these two fasts, we notice that both men identified and confessed their nation’s sins. And that is often what happens during this spiritual discipline. We may be seeking God for a certain reason, but in the process, we begin to see ourselves from His perspective and become acutely aware of ungodly thought patterns, attitudes, habits, and misplaced priorities.

The Lord sometimes uses fasting to do “housecleaning” in His children’s lives, and that is a good thing. Sin can hinder our prayers, stunt our spiritual growth, and keep us from a deeper understanding of scriptural truths. As we eliminate distractions during our fast, God is able to show us what needs to be cleaned up so we can become more like Christ.

Mockers–Ancient and Modern

“But it came to pass, that when Sanballat heard that we builded the wall, he was wroth, and took great indignation, and mocked the Jews.” (Nehemiah 4:1)

The art of mocking God and His people has changed little through the ages. The pagan enemies that surrounded the Jews as they were trying to rebuild Jerusalem 400 years before Christ tried various means to defeat them—essentially the same devices used by God’s enemies today.

They tried political and sociological means, after their efforts at infiltration failed, but these also failed (see Ezra 5:6, 17; 6:6-7; 9:1; 10:11-12). Then, when Nehemiah actually began work on the city’s wall, they tried discouragement by ridicule (Nehemiah 2:19; 4:1-3), by threat of violence (4:7-8), and by attempted treachery (6:2).

Likewise, the enemies of God’s Word and God’s plan today are trying all these devices in a modern format. They use political means (such as the ACLU), compromising infiltration (liberal teachers in once-sound Christian schools), and even persecution (as in communist countries).

The strategy of “mocking” is often especially effective against Christians in education, science, or other professional fields. Such people place a high premium on peer recognition and thus are sensitive to snide remarks about the Bible. Thus, when, in the words of 2 Peter 3:4, latter-day scoffers come saying: “Where is the promise of his coming?…all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (which is essentially a denial of God and creation), there is great pressure to tacitly agree with the scoffers, and many Christians will seek some compromise.

But Nehemiah did not compromise, and neither should we. The Bible says that those who ridicule God’s Word are “willingly ignorant” (2 Peter 3:5), and there is no need to pander to willful ignorance of God’s invulnerable truth. HMM

Thy Prayer Is Heard

Luke 1:5-25

ZACHARIAS had prayed through long, lean years for a son. He and Elizabeth had many qualifications for a life of blessing: good ancestry, they “were righteous before the Lord,” not merely before men, they walked in all the commandments of the Lord blameless—not faultless, but living up to their light.

But there follows the sad statement: “And they had no child.” Have you sought to live the blameless life, yet your piety seems to have borne no progeny—you are barren? Remember Zacharias. It was now too late, from the natural viewpoint, to have a son, but Zacharias had not forgotten his altar and his duty. He kept offering incense, a symbol of thanksgiving, when there seemed so little to be thankful for. Do not forsake your incense, and the angel will yet appear! The herald from heaven announces a son. God often waits until it is too late with us; it is never too late with Him. Poor Zacharias is doubtful. And doubt leads to dumbness—it always does. When we do not trust, we have no testimony. But God fails not, though Zacharias does. The baby is born, and when neighbors would name him for his father, Zacharias puts God first and names him by the Divine direction. Do not name things after yourself; give God the glory. Then dumbness gives way to delight: Zacharias speaks and so will you!

John was to drink neither wine nor strong drink, but was to be filled with the Spirit. Three times the New Testament sets wine and the Spirit in contrast (Luke 1:15; Acts 2:13; Eph. 5:18). Wine changes face, walk, talk—stimulates; so does the Spirit.

God was fulfilling here the prophecy made in Malachi 4:5-6. How marvelously His plans work out exactly on schedule! Zacharias, filled with the Holy Ghost, breaks into prophecy of a Jewish cast setting forth the glory of the coming Christ: “God has visited His people to redeem them.” We must bear in mind here that Christ came first to Israel. Zacharias knows the Messiah is to be of the house of David, a testimony to His royal lineage. Prophecy is fulfilled, promises performed, the holy covenant remembered. Notice how complete is this redemption: freedom, “being delivered out of the hand of our enemies”; purpose, “that we might serve Him”; nature of this service, “without fear in holiness and righteousness before Him”; the duration, “all the days of our life.” Then Zacharias turns to his own son who is to be called the prophet of the Highest, to go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation, light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. This salvation is through God’s tender mercy, whereby the “dayspring from on high”—probably the Branch of Isaiah 11:1 and Zechariah 3:8—hath visited us.

John grows and waxes strong in the spirit in the desert solitude till the day of his appearing to Israel. There is some obvious difference between this and the closing verse of the next chapter, where Jesus, living a more social life, increases also in favor with man.

Righteous Indignation

He sent His burning anger against them: fury, indignation, and calamity.—Psalm 78:49

For many of us, “wrath” conjures up the idea of being out of control, an outburst of “seeing red,” a sense of wounded pride or just downright petulance. But it is quite wrong to take these ideas or feelings and impose them on God. God’s wrath is never out of control, never capricious, never self-indulgent, never irritable, and never ignoble. These may be indicative of human anger but never of the divine. God is angry only when anger is called for.

Even among men and women, there is such a thing as righteous indignation, though (in my opinion) it is more rare than we think.

I used to believe the difference between righteous indignation and carnal hostility was this: when someone was angry with me, that was carnal hostility; when I was angry with someone else, that was righteous indignation! I have “grown out” of that opinion now, I hasten to add.

All God’s indignation is righteous. It is grief at what is happening to others, not a grudge because of what is happening to Him. Would a God who took as much pleasure in evil as He did in good be a God we could love? Would a God who did not react adversely to evil be morally perfect? Of course not. It is precisely this adverse reaction to evil that the Bible has in mind when it talks about God’s wrath. God cannot treat good and evil alike. He can look over it—look over it to the Cross where it can be forgiven—but He cannot overlook it.

Prayer

O God, the more I see the reason behind Your wrath and the more I consider the purity of its motive, the more praise and adoration I want to give. What a great and wonderful God You are. And how glad I am You looked over my sin. Amen.

Further Study

Isa 13:1-22; Ps 78:40-55; Isa 30:27; Rm 1:18

How does the psalmist describe God’s wrath?

How did Isaiah depict God’s anger toward Babylon?

Burden Bearers

Galatians 6:2

A bout 2,000 years ago, Paul, with his big sympathetic heart, exhorted the Christians of his time to bear one another’s burdens; that is, to help each other in the trials and difficulties they had to encounter as they fought their way through the world below to the world above. In doing this, he assured them that they would be carrying out the wishes of their Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

If we are to fulfill the law, that is, carry out the will of Jesus Christ and follow the example which He has left us in His own blessed life, we must do our part as burden bearers.

Look at Him lying a helpless infant in the manger. What does it mean? He has come to bear your burdens.

Look at Him contending with the devil in the wilderness. What does it mean? He is fighting for you and bearing your burdens.

Look at Him as He travels through the world in poverty, hunger and tears, being cast out, slandered and rejected of men. What does that mean? He is bearing your burdens.

Look at Him in Gethsemane’s Garden. Oh, the burden is heavy on His heart! So heavy that it forces the very blood through the pores of His dear body. What does that mean? It is your burden that makes that bloody sweat.

Look at Him at Pilate’s Judgment Bar. They are mocking Him, crowning Him with thorns, plucking the hair from His cheeks, and clamoring for His death. What does that mean? He is bearing your burdens.

Look at Him in the last dreadful agony, dying in darkness on the cross. What does that mean? He is bearing your burdens.

Look at Him lying in the grave, rising from the tomb, ascending to heaven, sitting at the right hand of the throne, showing His hands, and pleading with the Father. What does it all mean? He is bearing your burdens.

That is the rule, and there is the example He has left for you to copy. He says,

“Go and do for your comrades, so far as you have the power, what I have done for you.”

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 NKJV).

William Booth, The Warrior’s Daily Portion