Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 18 Jan 18:
1. Genesis 35:1, 2 – An encounter with God caused Jacob to seek holiness in his life and the lives of those around him.
2. Genesis 35:2 — “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves.” God demands total loyalty and purity from His people.
3. Genesis 35:3 – “God… answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” Jacob had a life testimony based upon his personal experiences with God, a testimony he shared with others. What is your personal testimony, and how do you share it with others?
4. Genesis 35:4 – “So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem.” Jacob’s people committed to get rid of their foreign gods but Jacob didn’t. He hid the idols which is certainly not the same as destroying the idols. Outwardly he looked pure, but in reality his idols remained, waiting to influence in the future. The Latin of the word “decision” literally means, “to cut off” completely. Making a decision is about “cutting off” choices or removing possibilities from your life. Jacob made a “decision” but not really. He kept open the possibility of the idols remaining idols. When we repent, we must cut off completely whatever was impure or unholy in our lives. Don’ t leave a door for sin to reenter into your heart.
5. Genesis 35:10 – “Israel” means, “He struggles with God,” and many believe that this name refers to when Jacob struggled with “a man” in Chapter 32. However, it seems from our readings that the name “Israel” applies to Jacob’s whole life as he struggles to transition from the “deceiver” to a godly person. Jacob struggles with his sin nature his whole life. Can you relate to that? Jacob/Israel relies solely on God’s mercy and grace. It is worthy to note once again, that the Bible reveals its main characters to be terrible sinners, not super heroes as would had been the case if the Bible were written by men. The Bible reveals the humble condition of man and the need for salvation through Jesus Christ.
6. Genesis 35:11 – God commands His people throughout the Bible to grow in numbers, regardless of the world situation.
7. Genesis 35:22 – “While Israel lived in that land, Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine. And Israel heard of it.” Israel’s family was corrupt, in no small part due to Israel’s poor example and leadership. Israel seems to do nothing when his sons sin terribly. He did nothing when they slaughtered a town, and here he seems to do nothing when his son commits this abomination. Beyond being an unthinkable sin, Reuben’s action was a challenge to the headship of his father Israel. Reuben clearly had no respect for his father or his father’s authority.
8. Genesis 36 – The word of God, in careful detail, shows how He formed other nations from the lineage of Abraham and how the Edomites became divided from the Israelites. This history is important. Of note, Herod, who reigned over Jerusalem when Jesus was born on poverty, was an Edomite.
9. Proverbs 18:1 – “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire.” Isolation is a form of self-centeredness and is contrary to love. Christianity is all about close relationships with God and with others.
10. Proverbs 18:2 – Listen
11. Proverbs 18:4 – “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.” There are countless ‘teachers’ out there, but wisdom is scarce. Let the Holy Spirit be your Counselor through the word of God.
12. Proverbs 18:12 — “Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.” Most people cannot see their own destruction because they are blinded by pride.
13. Proverbs 18:13 – “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” Christians don’t interrupt. They don’t listen just to respond, they listen to understand.
14. Matthew 14:4 – John the Baptist lost his life ultimately because he challenged the adultery of a political leader. He called out sin. How boldly to Christians challenge sin today? In the face of a moral revolution (or revulsion), the church seems pretty quiet.
15. Matthew 14:6-12 – John the Baptist was called the greatest man who had lived by Jesus, yet John the Baptist died a very inglorious death by the hands of terrible sinners. How do you define life success? Do you need to do something “big”, important, or famed to feel successful? Many Christian who say, “What does God want me to do?” are really just not satisfied with what God has called them to do. What does God want you to do? Be faithful to Him today, right where He as placed you, regardless of what happens to you in the process. Perhaps no one will give you any credit – great! Your reward is in Heaven.
16. Matthew 14:7-9 – Rash promises bring sorrow.
17. Matthew 14:9 – Being sorry and repenting are two different things.
18. Matthew 14:16 — “But Jesus said, ‘They need not go away; you give them something to eat’.” Jesus tasked the disciples to do what was clearly impossible for them. Yet, the disciples obeyed Jesus’s instructions and, as a result, experienced the power of God in a way they had never seen before. As Christians, we must learn to be uncomfortable in the realm of ‘impossible’ – this is the faith zone where we learn to rely on God rather than ourselves. This is where we see the power of God in our lives, where we grow in our relationship with God, and where God is glorified. God allows us to participate in His impossible tasks because He is always doing two things at once: strengthening our relationship with Him while glorifying Himself to the world – He does this by leaving no doubt that it was He at work. God is not trying to show the world what a bunch of really talented and committed Christians can do; He is showing the world His power through ordinary people like us. We say, “God would never ask me to do something I can’t do.” However, God is always asking us to do something we can’t do but for His mighty working. Look throughout the Bible and see how often God reveals Himself to the world through humble, obedient servants who are willing to step into the impossible, and God intentionally refuses to clear the path before His servant’s step. Noah had an impossible task; Abram had an impossible task; Moses had an impossible task; Jesus left the Apostles with an impossible task: disciple all nations. Those who refuse to step out into the impossible are like the tens of thousands of Gideon’s army who walked away from the 300 who were willing to step out in faith on an impossible mission and who personally witnessed God’s Mighty Hand at work. We are called to be witnesses. Witnesses report first-hand experience, not hearsay. If we refuse to operate in the faith zone, we miss out on what God is doing, we hinder our personal relationship with God, and we fail to fulfill our purpose in life. We have little of which to bear witness. What did Mordechai say to Esther? “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14) You were born for “such a time as this.” Even today, you will face seemingly small decisions that, for you, are like the Nile River, the Jordon River, a fiery furnace, a lion’s den, a mighty giant, an unstoppable army. Will you trust God to step into the impossible?
19. Matthew 14:30, 31 – What is truly most real in your life, Jesus Christ or your apparent situation? Keep your eyes affixed on the person of Jesus Christ rather than the storms of life, and you will not sink. However, when you do doubt, Jesus will catch you.
20. Matthew 14:34-36 — “And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick and implored him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.” Don’t miss this: Why did “the men of that place recognize Him”? Review Matthew 8:28-34. The first time Jesus had gone to the region, He healed a demon possessed man, and the people, in great fear, asked Him to leave. The demon possessed man begged to go with Jesus, but Jesus instructed him, “‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’ And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.” (Luke 8:39) By the time Jesus returned to the region, large crowds were ready to receive him. The formerly demon-possessed man apparently was a tremendous witness, preparing the way for the return of Jesus. Like the demon possessed man, you might prefer to just enjoy Jesus one-on-one, but also like the former demoniac, Jesus has commissioned you for more, to “declare how much God has done for you”. When Jesus returns, how many will be eagerly awaiting Him because of your testimony?
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 18 Jan 18: Today, truly listen to others empathetically. Don’t just pretend to listen, and don’t just listen for the things you want to hear or things that seem to validate your perspective. Don’t listen merely for facts, determining whether you agree with what is being said while preparing your response. Don’t listen impatiently where you believe you already understand what is about to be said and already have the answer (interrupting). Listen empathetically – seek to understand the person. Don’t just listen to what is being said, seek to understand their perspective and what is behind their words. Listen for what is not being said. Slow down, be patient, talk less and listen more, repeat back what was said to ensure you don’t overlook anything. Seek to understand before being understood. Listen in order to build relationship and to model the character of Jesus. (Proverbs 18:13)