Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 2 Feb 18:
1. Exodus 15:1-21 – Church worship music is used to proclaim the glory of God and to remind people of His mighty works. What Christian songs and hymns mean the most to you?
2. Exodus 15:3 – “The Lord is a man of war.” Many are on a mission to end all war, considering war to be the worst evil. However, there are evils that are worse than war. Injustice and godlessness can cause far more destruction over time than war. God is a God of justice, and “the Lord is a man of war.” Peace only comes through surrender to God’s will. When Jesus Christ reigns, war will end. Until then, wars will continue, and when there is not war, there will still be other forms of conflict and oppression. Luke 19:42 — “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”
3. Exodus 15:8-10 — “…the waters piled up; the floods stood up in a heap; the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea…. the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters.” Again, this does not describe a “reed sea” where Pharaoh’s chariots were simply stuck in mud. This describes an unforgettable miracle seen by millions that brought them to their knees in fearful worship. Also, other nations heard of this event and trembled. (v14-16) Don’t let humanists explain away God’s miracles. Don’t let them call you ignorant because you believe the truth of God’s word and because you believe in the power of God which transcends their understanding.
4. Exodus 15:24 – “And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’” If you are going to be a leader, you are going to have to deal with ingratitude, disrespect, bad attitudes, selfishness, incompetence, etc. As one pastor said, “If you can’t stand the smell of sheep, don’t be a shepherd.” People need leadership for a reason. Leadership is lonely and costly. Real leadership rarely ‘pays off’ in this world. Real leaders sacrifice all without walking around with a ‘martyr complex’. Real leaders rarely say “I” or “me”, but only point to the Truth.
5. Exodus 15:26 — “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God….” Salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ alone, not by works. However, many of God’s blessings on earth are conditional – “If”. God commands love as the Greatest Command. Jesus said that the evidence of love or product of love is obedience – If you love me, you will obey my commands. We walk with Jesus and grow closer to Jesus through obedience. If you truly love Him, you will obey Him; the more you obey Him, the more you will learn to love Him. Be diligent in your walk in the word.
6. Exodus 16:3 — “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” New believers or immature Christians are usually very self-centered in their faith and vulnerable to comfort-based temptations. Most people begin their spiritual journey selfishly much like infants only want to be fed, held, changed, and to sleep. It is natural to start out this way, but not stay that way. Mature Christians must be ready to patiently ‘parent’ babies in Christ, protecting them from their own self-centeredness, never forgetting that babies don’t grow up overnight, and they don’t grow up well without wise, consistent parenting (discipleship).
7. Exodus 16:3 — “Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the meat pots and ate bread to the full….” The Jews would have rather eaten meat as slaves than to suffer discomfort in freedom and under the protection of the Lord. The hand-fed caged bird might grow captive to comfort, unwilling to escape and experience the fullness of life in the great outdoors where each meal depends on God’s provision. It takes courage and strength to live freely and to trust in the Lord. When you grow dependent on government or other man-made institutions, the become idols that rob you of the fullness of life and prove to be poor gods, providers that take far more than they give and can’t love you back. Where have we surrendered freedom and joy for costly, unreliable security and comfort? How have we compromised fidelity to God for reliance on ungodly institutions. The comfortable captive is easy to control, and the best slave is the one that doesn’t realize he is a slave. Psalm 84:10 — “For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.”
8. Exodus 16:4 — “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not.” God’s test for you is obedience in good times and bad, during times of want, and during times of plenty. God knows your heart, but he uses tests of obedience to reveal the truth of your heart to you and to others. You might have observed in life that people are susceptible to sin when they have too much or too little. Proverbs 30:8, 9 — “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”
9. Exodus 16:8 – “Your grumbling is not against us but against the Lord.” When you get mad at others for treating you unfairly (in your eyes), remember that God is still in control and knows exactly what is happening to you. Your grumbling is really against God who did not allow you to get what you wanted. Settle the matter with God, and return only good to the offending individual.
10. Exodus 16:15 — “’What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat.’” Again, many secular ‘scholars’ have sought natural explanations for these supernatural acts of God, but God’s word intentionally provides enough detail to demonstrate the miracle. Those who are swayed by worldly theories have not read the Bible first-hand to see the whole story.
11. Exodus 16:28 — “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and my laws?” How you act reveals what you really think about God.
12. Exodus 16:35 – God provided until the people could provide for themselves. God expects growth. He doesn’t treat spiritual babies the same way He treats spiritual adults. God works in miraculous ways, but He won’t usually use miracles as a substitute for your obedience or to keep you from the circumstances of your unrepentant sin. We own responsibility, and God owns accountability.
13. Proverbs 2:1-4 – Six conditions for finding the knowledge of God: receive, cherish, pay close attention, call out, seek, and trust. How are you doing?
14. Proverbs 2:1-12 — “If you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path; for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul; discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you, delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech.” Wisdom (knowledge rightly applied) comes only from God — we do not have, within our natural capacities, the ability to do what we ought to do, we need a supernatural capacity which comes only from God. To be guided by the Spirit, we must remain in God’s word and pray for the special enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. Walking in the word, empowered by the Holy Spirit, enables us to see through the deception teachings of the world, the perverted speech, and keeps us from getting distracted or off track. Wisdom in learned for God’s word. (Proverbs 2:6, 7)
15. Proverbs 2:7, 8 — For whom is God a shield?
16. Proverbs 2:9 — A person cannot understand justice and equity apart from God’s word.
17. Proverbs 2:11, 12 – “…discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you, delivering you from the way of evil.” When you are obedient to God, you will avoid needless pain and suffering that most other people go through. Most trouble in life is self-induced. God’s word will help you avoid much self-induced trouble if you obey it.
18. Proverbs 2:13-17 — God’s word causes you to separate from those who have forsaken the paths of uprightness.
19. Proverbs 2:20 — God’s word will take you down a different path in life than the way the majority are travelling.
20. Matthew 25:1-13 — Being unprepared for Christ to come is foolish.
21. Matthew 25:12 – Salvation requires real relationship.
22. Matthew 25:34, 41 – There are two groups of people, saved and unsaved. God has no doubt to which group you belong.
23. Matthew 25:35-40 – God expects His people to be THE charitable organization on earth, ministering to the world IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST. The Great Commandment and the Great Commission go hand in hand. You cannot be successful in the one without the other. We have been given the mission of “reconciliation”. Too many Christians have pursued charity through secular organizations, failing to bring proper glory to God. These secular charitable organizations largely exist because of the void that was created when churches stopped ministering to the needs around them. Yes. Take care of people around you, but open your mouth too, and proclaim the Gospel.
24. Matthew 25:37-40 – “Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’” Our actions reveal what is truly in our hearts. Though we may make excuses, we do what we really want to do. For example, you may say you want to lose weight, but your favorite foods seem to win every time. Why? Because at the moment of truth, you want the pleasure of food more than the satisfaction of being fit and healthy. Behavior modification coaches would tell you that, in order to lose weight, your “No,” must be bigger than your “Yes,” when you stare at that cookie. Ultimately the Bible calls this self-control, not being controlled by destructive, sinful passions, urges, and desires. But self-control relies on the power of the Spirit within us, having a heart for God, and the mind of Christ. Our “Yes” to Jesus must be far bigger than anything else, giving us complete power to say, “No” to sin. In our Old Testament readings, God tests His people with specific instructions concerning food to see “whether they will walk in my law or not.” (Exodus 16:4) Was their love for God more powerful than their appetites, their most basic desires? Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Concerning the commandments, Jesus said, “The most important is, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-30) So, the greatest commandment is to love God totally; to love God is to obey His commandments, and the next greatest commandment is to love others. So, the very best way we demonstrate our love for God (the truth and proof of our love) is to love others, and certainly not just the loveable. As Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you… For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Matthew 5:43-46) The Bible makes it clear, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. ” (1 John 4:20, 21) It is in love towards others that we have relationship with God – “No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us…. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. (1 John 4:12, 16) Love is how the branch remains connected to the Vine. However, agape love is impossible in the flesh and goes against broken human nature. We must be guided by the Spirit, not by the flesh. Just as God tested the Jews in the desert with the manna, God will test you today with unloving people, guaranteed. The test is not to show God what his in your heart – he knows. The test is to show you what is truly in your heart – you are likely in denial. If you find it hard to love ‘that person’ (you know who I am talking about), then you have a heart problem that God is revealing to you. The Bible says, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3) Love for God makes loving others “not burdensome.” If you find it a burden, check your love for God. Today, Jesus makes it very clear that when we love the people who are hard to love, people who can do nothing for us in return, we are loving God. This is our act of worship. Step out today in love.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 2 Feb 18: “Your grumbling is not against us but against the Lord.” (Exodus 16:8) Today, don’t allow others to be the target of your frustrations and anger, regardless of what they do. Remember, that God allowed for His purposes whatever is happening to you. Go to God with any complaints you might have, but treat everyone around you, especially your enemies, with goodness, recognizing that it is their spiritual condition that causes their behavior – “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12) Walking in the Spirit requires seeing past the apparent physical realities of our circumstances to the spiritual realities of the real battle we are in. The person who offends you is in need of reconciliation to God who is love; reveal God through love, and trust God with your defense and physical condition. Whatever you lose in the surrendering of your personal ‘rights’ in the name of mercy, grace, and love, God can restore seven-fold.