WEEK 8, Day 1, Monday, 19 Feb 2018

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 19 Feb 18:

1. Leviticus 8:4 – “And Moses did as the Lord commanded him….” God demands absolute obedience from His servants. Though we rely totally on grace, obedience remains essential.

2. Leviticus 8:1-36 – God’s servants are purified and reconciled before they begin their missions. God’s servants must be set apart, holy.

3. Leviticus 8:23, 24 – “And he killed it, and Moses took some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot. Then he presented Aaron’s sons, and Moses put some of the blood on the lobes of their right ears and on the thumbs of their right hands and on the big toes of their right feet.” The blooding ceremony was to serve as a reminder for the priests to guard their hearts in service to the Lord, to guard their spiritual gates (eyes, ears, hands, and feet). Nothing should pass in and out that isn’t purified by the blood. As ambassadors for Christs, as priests, the reality of The Cross should determine what we allow into our hearts (what we choose to listen to and gaze upon) and what we allow to come out of our hearts (our words and our deeds). Do you need a visible reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice for you in order to keep you pure in what you choose to listen to, what you choose to say, what you choose to do, and where you choose to go?

4. Proverbs 19:2, 15, 20, 21, 24, 27 — “Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way…. Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger…. Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand…. The sluggard buries his hand in the dish and will not even bring it back to his mouth…. Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.” As a basic principle, success in life is determined by two things: decisions and discipline. We need to make good decisions and then have the discipline to follow through. Effective decision-making gets you started down the right path; persistent, consistent discipline gets you to where you intended to go. Unfortunately, most people struggle with both decision-making and discipline, which is why success eludes so many. Proverbs offers wisdom for those desiring success. Concerning making good decisions, Proverbs points to three requirements: self-study, wise counsel, and alignment with God’s will, the latter, of course, being most critical. First when it comes to decision-making, you must ensure your choices honor and glorify God and do not in any way counter or detract from His word. God will never ask you to do something or bless any decision which goes against His word. If you find yourself saying things like, “I know the Bible says this, but….” You are going down the wrong path. Even a biblical decision can be poorly executed without knowledge, which is why the Bible tells us that all of our decisions should be guided by self-study and wise counsel. Note too that Proverbs reminds us that instruction must be continuous. We can never stop learning or accepting advice, even (or perhaps especially) in the areas in which we believe we have expertise. As soon as we think we have it figured out, we stray. Finally, there is no substitute for self-control and hard work rightly applied. Of course, success doesn’t come from hard work alone; with bad decision-making, hard work will only get you to the wrong place faster. However, with sound decisions, only discipline and perseverance will get you what you are looking to achieve. The person who isn’t toiled is spoiled, and a life of ease ruins a person. You can have all the knowledge in the world, but if you aren’t willing to act upon it faithfully over time, it is useless to you. Success always involves sacrificing something good now for something great later. Success requires the pain of discipline now in order to avoid the pain of regret tomorrow. Successful people are those who are willing to sacrifice comfort where unsuccessful people aren’t willing. And, all the things that matter most to us fall under the “principle of the farm”: it takes persistent sacrifice over time to eventually get a harvest – you don’t get a harvest overnight. Most disciplines must be maintained for a long time in order to get results eventually – this is the primary reason disciplines are hard; you don’t get instant gratification or a quick payoff, and it takes faith and hope to invest in the future. It is the weak and lazy that constantly search for the ‘get rich quick’ schemes which is why the Bible warns against such thinking. Impatience always gets you into trouble – just ask Abraham, Jacob, Saul, etc. If success is eluding you in a particular area, check you decisions and your discipline.

5. Proverbs 19:3 — “When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord.” Don’t blame God.

6. Proverbs 19:4 — “Wealth brings many new friends, but a poor man is deserted by his friend.” Truly loving people are those who will love others for love’s sake, not for personal gain. Many people who claim to love don’t really love the other but merely what the other can provide them, whether that other be another person or God. Do you love God or merely the blessings of God? If God promised you no blessings, would you love Him nonetheless? This is the question Satan asked of Job.

7. Proverbs 19:17 – “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” The word “lends” in this word is the ancient word “lâvâh” which also means to unite or entwine with. So, another way to read this is that when we are generous to the poor, we unite ourselves with God. This is the unity Jesus prayed for in John 17. And this unity, this fellowship with Jesus, actually costs us nothing because God will repay us for what we lend to the poor. You can’t be that. But how often do Christians justify withholding from the poor? There are plenty of logical reasons why a person might not want to give to another person, but obedience to God and love will not always seem logical or reasonable. Let the Holy Spirit guide you, and when He puts it on your heart to give, then be generous.

8. Proverbs 19:21 — “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” No matter how you justify your actions, if it is not what God wanted you to do, it is pointless. We were made to serve Him, not self.

9. Acts 8:1 – “And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.” Before the gift of the Holy Spirit, the apostles abandoned Jesus when pressured; now the apostles refused to run for self-preservation.

10. Acts 8:2 – “Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him.” The devout responded to persecution completely differently than everyone else.

11. Acts 8:4 – “Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.” God used the persecution of the church to rapidly spread the Gospel throughout the land. This reminds me of what Joseph said to his brothers: “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Genesis 50:20).” We were created to fulfill God’s purposes and to glorify Him, and this will require that we go through trials and persecution. However, at the same time, God who IS love can only respond to His children in perfect love. What He has us go through for His glory is also what is the very best for us, though we cannot usually understand why. There is nothing that can happen to us that God does not allow, and as Romans 8:28 says, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” In your sufferings for Christ, God is doing a few things simultaneously: He is revealing Himself to you in a greater way; He is revealing Himself to the world through you; He is revealing you to yourself; and He is drawing you closer to Him and building your character to be more like that of Christ. Concerning Jesus, the Bible says, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered (Hebrews 5:8).” How is God teaching you obedience? Paul says, “We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us (Romans 5:2-5). As God uses you for His purposes and builds your character, taking comfort in knowing that “because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:18).” And if you are suffering for the name of Christ, give thanks that you have been considered worthy for such a task and for the opportunity to share in this fellowship with Jesus; take on Paul’s attitude: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18). But if you, after making an honest assessment, find that you are not really suffering persecution for Christ but rather the consequences of your own infidelity, take heart in knowing that “the Lord disciplines those he loves (Proverbs 3:12; Hebrews 12:6; Revelation 3:19), and nothing, not even you, can separate you from God’s perfect love (Romans 8:35-39). Repent and move forward with joy knowing that you live in a state of grace and God is raising you up as His wonderful child whom He loves completely.

12. Acts 8:5 — “Philip went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ.” According to the Bible, both Philip and Simon the magician “believed” in Jesus; however, Simon the magician’s belief had no power while through Philip, the Holy Spirit moved mightily. Clearly their beliefs were not the same. As James points out, “Even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19). Simon the magician had the appearance of a true believer. He publicly proclaimed his faith in Jesus, he was baptized, and he was already on a mission trip with the “greats” of the faith. However, Peter points out that, though Simon “believed” that Jesus was the Son of God, Simon had not yet repented and was trapped in “bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” Ultimately, Simon the magician was focused on and living for self while Philip was focused on and living for Christ. Simon the magician was not really seeking a Lord and Savior, but rather a genie in a bottle. Simon was led by his earthly desires and by his own understanding, while Philip was led by the Spirit which is not discernable through human knowledge. The Holy Spirit uses the surrendered, obedient life. Notice that Philip, having just rocked the city of Samaria with powerful preaching and amazing miracles, refused to be distracted and remained completely responsive and obedient to the Holy Spirit. Rather than staying to cultivate this fruitful ministry in Samaria as would reasonably be expected, he did not hesitate to “Rise and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza,” a desert place. Certainly, no person would have advised Philip to leave success in the city for a desert journey with no defined purpose. However, Philip was not pursuing success from man’s perspective but rather obedience and fellowship with God. As Peter tells Simon, the fruitfulness of your faith depends in a large part upon “the intent of your heart.” Consider your heart. Why do you do what you do? What is the ultimate motivation behind your actions? Are you truly Christ-centered? Are you living obediently to the word God has plainly given? Are you receptive and obedient to convictions from the Holy Spirit? What has the Holy Spirit put on your heart to which you have yet to respond? Do not hesitate to “rise” and take the road the goes to the desert.

13. Acts 8:8 – “So there was much joy in that city.” Joy came from experiencing what only the Holy Spirit could do.

14. Acts 8:9 – “But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great.” False teachers take the credit instead of directing it towards Jesus Christ.

15. Acts 8:11 – “…for a long time he had amazed them with his magic.” False teachers can amaze.

16. Acts 8:12 – “But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” Philip preached Jesus Christ, never seeking to share glory with Jesus.

17. Acts 8:22 – “Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you.” The Holy Spirit must change your heart. Even spreading the Gospel can be done with the wrong heart.

18. Acts 8:26, 27 – “And he rose and went.” Walking by the Spirit involves being obedient without understanding why. God will tell you to “go” without revealing His purpose or exact plan. God will arrange circumstances for His purposes; you need only obey with your eyes open for His activities in which He wants you to participate.

19. Acts 8:30-31 – “So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ And he said, ‘How can I, unless someone guides me?’ And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.” Only the Father can lead someone to the Son. We are merely His instruments to proclaim the truth when provided the opportunity.

20. Acts 8:35 – “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.” God calls us to use the Scripture to tell people about Jesus, not just our own words and opinions. We need not add to God’s word to proclaim the Gospel, but we can also share our personal testimonies as first-hand witnesses of the Truth. Are you prepared to explain the path of salvation through the Bible and to share your personal testimony?

21. Acts 8:38 – “And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.” Philip baptized the eunuch as soon as the eunuch believed, nothing else was required.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 19 Feb: Today, memorize the “Roman Road”, and be prepared to use Scripture to proclaim the Gospel to all.

The “Romans” Road to the Gospel of Jesus Christ:

– The Problem of Sin:
— Romans 3:23 — “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…”

– The Wages of Sin:
— Romans 6:23a — “For the wages of sin is death…”

– The Love of God:
— Romans 5:8 — “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

– The Free Gift of Salvation:
— Romans 6:23b — “But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

– Accepting the Free Gift:
— Romans 10:9 & 13 — “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved…. For whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.”

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