Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 8 Jan 18:
1. Genesis 15:1 — “Fear not, Abram, I am your shield.” When God is your shield, you definitely
have nothing to fear. Do you think this vision ended Abram’s fear? Do you trust God in His word?
2. Genesis 15:16 – God’s promise to Abraham would take four generations to be completed. Are you satisfied to obey God without immediate reward if any at all? Do you think generationally?
3. Genesis 15:17 – “When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces.” In ancient times, two people would bind a contract by walking together through the blood of animals cut in half, signifying that breaking the contract was deserving of death. Notice that in this covenant, only God ‘walked’ through the animal parts, perhaps taking full responsibility for the covenant. God would hold up His end of the bargain, but when Abraham would inevitably fail to keep his end, God would not abandon the covenant or destroy Abraham.
4. Genesis 16:1-4 – “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. And he went in to Hagar, and she conceived. And when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress.” Rather than patiently trusting on God’s word, Sarai and Abram took matters into their own hands and followed a very common worldly practice to accomplish their goals. As a result, great strife entered into the world that continues through Islam today. Obedience requires a willingness to wait on God rather than getting desired results the wrong way. Often, popular opinion or ‘common sense’ stands in direct contrast to God’s commands but often seems to produce practical, quick results. However, God will not bless disobedience, and there are always negative, destructive consequences for disobedience, some consequences that may affect generations.
5. Genesis 16:12 – The Bible prophesied of Islam and the bloodshed it would inspire.
6. Matthew 6:1 – Our motivation for doing the good things we do should only be to serve God in love; any other motivation is unacceptable before the LORD and dangerous to you.
7. Matthew 6:2 – “When you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others.” One of the biggest traps for a Christian is being tempted to share glory with Jesus, taking credit for what they do or drawing attention to themselves. Be wary of the Christian who talks about themselves, even if in the process, they ‘tip their hat’ to Jesus. Watch your “I”s and “Me”s. Search your heart – are you trying to feel good about yourself and gain the approval of people? Or, are you serving Jesus, solely out of love for Him, and giving your all so that “when you have done all that you were commanded, [you] say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’” (Luke 17:10)
8. Matthew 6:7-14 — “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him….” The value and power of a prayer is determined by the heart behind the prayer, not the words. Jesus challenged the empty prayers of the ‘religious’ by offering the “Lord’s Prayer”, not as something to be recited (which is now customary) but rather as a challenge to the hearts of would-be followers. A true prayer first glorifies God and seeks His will above self-interest. A genuine prayer only seeks from God what is necessary to accomplish His work on earth, not to live in prosperity. A genuine prayer is truly ‘amazed by grace’ and seeks the strength to forgive all others as Jesus forgives. A genuine prayer desires the strength to resist temptation that God would be best glorified.
– Jesus ended His challenge with a reemphasis on forgiveness which is a measure of true thankfulness for salvation. How you forgive the one who persecutes you, who ‘crucifies’ you, is proof of your faith and love for Jesus. Most who recite the Lord’s Prayer don’t stop to consider that they are holding themselves accountable to forgiveness by asking God to treat them the way they treat others in forgiveness. Jesus was calling out the prideful to true humility. He was reminding all who desire grace from God that they must give unconditional grace to others. Jesus said, if you have a relationship that has not been reconciled, don’t bring Him an offering until you have sought reconciliation and have truly forgiven. Worship is in relationships first.
9. Matthew 6:9, 12, 14, 15 — “Pray then like this: …forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors…. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Again, the Lord’s Prayer is first and foremost about forgiveness (undeserved, unconditional grace), and Jesus is delivering a not so subtle rebuke to many in the crowd in order to humble the proud. Jesus calls the unforgiving ‘believer’ a hypocrite – an actor, a liar, a fraud. It is an impossibility to receive unmerited forgiveness from God while refusing to offer the same to an offender. How could there be a higher arrogance than to expect forgiveness from the Holy One while demanding justice for ourselves, mere pitiful sinners? In walking the listener through The Lord’s Prayer, Jesus is pointing out that absurdity. He first has the would-be supplicant acknowledge the absolute Holiness of the One we have sinned against; He then points out that the Kingdom is where God’s will is done — clearly, we have all fallen short of the Kingdom. Jesus then drives His point home by telling the listener to ask God for the same forgiveness we give to others – ouch! He finally tells the petitioner to acknowledge their own frailty by praying for more protection against further temptation and sin (which is inevitable). Forgiveness can be hard until we consider the offense against us in context with the awfulness of our own sin against God and the magnitude of the grace we have received at the unfathomable price of Christ crucified. To refuse to forgive is to claim ourselves to be more important or worthier of justice than Jesus Christ – unthinkable! Jesus looked down on those who had ruthlessly and mockingly nailed Him to the cross and cried out: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34) How could we refuse to do less? Forgiveness is not a spiritual gift, a skill, or an inherent trait. Forgiveness is a choice. Jesus said that if we are withholding forgiveness from another, we are not ready to worship God. (Matthew 5:23-24) So, if you realize that you have not forgiven someone; there is no higher priority in your life than to settle the matter right now.
10. Matthew 6:21 – “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” You will dedicate your time, energy, resources, and efforts to what you care about most. Many pursue Christianity in the selfish hope that God will give them what they want in this world, and their prayers reveal their self-centeredness – “Lord, give me what I want”. Sometimes, they seek to make a deal with God – “Give me what I want, and I will serve you more.”
11. Matthew 6:22-24 — “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Life perspective and focus is everything. What you really believe is true about life and what you care about most in life defines how view everything and what you will act upon. If you really believe that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, that changes everything — you will not have any competing priorities in life and will live for Him only. If your eyes are affixed on Jesus, you won’t even notice the potential distractions around you.
12. Matthew 6:27 – “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Being anxious not only accomplishes nothing, it dishonors God who graciously promises you His best for you. Also, anxiousness promotes bad decision-making.
13. Matthew 6:33 – “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Just focus on remaining obedient to Jesus, and let Jesus take care of the rest.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 8 Jan 18: Today, settle any unpaid debts of forgiveness today, and then remain debt free by unconditionally forgiving everyone, immediately, on the spot. Accept the personal price of forgiveness, cancelling the debts owed to you by others. No, it won’t be fair – that is the point. (Matthew 6:7-14)