Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 28 Feb 18:
1. Leviticus 26:17 – “I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down before your enemies. Those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you.” All that matters in life is whether or not you are right with God. If God is with you, who can be against you? If God is against you, everything for you is cursed.
2. Leviticus 26:40-42 – God leaves room for forgiveness, which begins with humble repentance.
3. Leviticus 26:43 – God says you sin because you hate the teachings and expectations He has set before you.
4. Leviticus 26:45 – God keeps His commitments, 100%.
5. Leviticus 27:3-8 — A shekel was believed to be the value of a worker for an entire month. Males were more expensive to dedicate than females, based not on their value or worth in the eyes of God, but rather on the person’s ability to work in an agricultural society and on how many years that person could work. A male aged 20 – 60 was seen as someone who could perform the best labor, therefore resulting in the highest price. Those over 60 and under 20 could do some work, but not as much, generally speaking. Those 5 years old and under required the lowest payment, as they would have been unable to work much or at all. While they have different roles and responsibilities, men and women have equal value in the eyes of God (see Gen 1:27 and Galatians 3:28)
6. Leviticus 27:10 – Go will not accept substitutes.
7. Leviticus 27:12, 17 – God sets the value of the object, not markets based on shifting social values.
8. Leviticus 27:30 – Tithing is not optional.
9. Proverbs 28:27 — “Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.” Did you notice how many verses in today’s Proverbs readings deal with the stewardship of wealth? Consider them together:
— Proverbs 28:3 — A poor man who oppresses the poor is a beating rain that leaves no food.
— Proverbs 28:6 — Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.
— Proverbs 28:7 — The one who keeps the law is a son with understanding, but a companion of gluttons shames his father.
— Proverbs 28:8 — Whoever multiplies his wealth by interest and profit gathers it for him who is generous to the poor.
— Proverbs 28:10 — The blameless will have a goodly inheritance.
— Proverbs 28:11 — A rich man is wise in his own eyes, but a poor man who has understanding will find him out.
— Proverbs 28:16 — A ruler who lacks understanding is a cruel oppressor, but he who hates unjust gain will prolong his days.
— Proverbs 28:19 — Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.
— Proverbs 28:20 — A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.
— Proverbs 28:21 — To show partiality is not good, but for a piece of bread a man will do wrong.
— Proverbs 28:22 — A stingy man hastens after wealth and does not know that poverty will come upon him.
— Proverbs 28:24 — Whoever robs his father or his mother and says, “That is no transgression,” is a companion to a man who destroys.
— Proverbs 28:25 — A greedy man stirs up strife, but the one who trusts in the LORD will be enriched.
— Proverbs 28:27 — Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.
– Wealth and resources provide us with capacity to do good or evil. Of course God calls us to use whatever we have to do His will – it isn’t intended simply for our comfort and pleasure. We should work hard and acquire wealth in a God-honoring way so that we have something to give as an instrument of love, which is our primary command. We should use our wealth as an instrument of worship. If we do, we will be blessed in the process. What we do with our money reveals the condition of our hearts. We must not act like we don’t see the needs around us out of selfishness. We ALL live in excess. Start giving it away out of love right now. See if it doesn’t instantly bring you more joy and peace. Don’t let your possessions possess you.
10. Proverbs 28:9 – “If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.” Sin affects our relationship with God and how He responds to us.
11. Acts 15:6 – “The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up….” A godly church congregation knows how to disagree in love, to disagree without being disagreeable. The effect of the Holy Spirit always draws people to unity not disunity.
12. Acts 15:1, 10 – “But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’ Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” No one can obey their way to salvation. Salvation is a gift from God which comes through faith in Jesus. In these verses, the brothers were saved, but legalists were telling them they weren’t saved because they hadn’t done the right deeds. God expects obedience but as a product of salvation rather than a requirement for salvation.
13. Acts 15:11 — “Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” Interestingly, men from Judea were trying to make Gentiles earn their salvation at the same time God was offering salvation as a gift through Jesus — “And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith (Acts 15:8,9).” How do you think it made God feel when these men tried to exclude God’s children from the family? In their defense, the Judeans were undoubtedly very concerned that the Gentiles would bring ungodly immorality into the body, causing disorder and destruction while misrepresenting the holy character of God. It is understandable that in that pagan culture with its vile practices, the Jews would be very resistant to join hands with the Gentiles. However, I think Paul makes a distinction between spiritual birth and spiritual maturity. We are “born” spiritually by grace through faith in Jesus Christ — no process of human effort. We are born babies. Empowered by the Holy Spirit new believers are called to grow in spiritual maturity, being “perfected” in love. This is where church discipleship comes to play (“teaching them to obey”). This is a life-long endeavor that is impossible apart from the continual work of the Holy Spirit but also requires much human effort. The Judeans wanted the Gentiles to be born grown up already. Instead, Paul offers some very broad guidelines for the saved Gentiles for church membership so they can join the body and be discipled further. Interestingly, everyone was expected to sustain from sexual immorality immediately.
14. Acts 15:12 – “The assembly fell silent, and they listened.” How many people actually, truly listen? So many disputes would end if people would only listen, and listen beyond the words to capture the true heart and motives behind the words. The word listen and the word silent are spelled with the same letters; perhaps that is not accidental.
15. Acts 15:19, 20 – “Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood.” The Apostles agreed upon how to deal with the new Christian who was just stepping out on the road of sanctification. This is not an all-inclusive list of Christian behavioral expectations but rather a place from which to start as the new believer draws closer to Jesus one day at a time. Note that what was considered obvious was abstaining from idolatry and sexual immorality. Verse 21 explains that the new Christians need teachers will walk with them over time, day-by-day and who are teach them more and more over continually — this is discipleship/disciple-making. There remains and expectation of spiritual growth for all of us. Who is discipling you, and who are you discipling?
16. Acts 15:39-41 – “And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.” Once again, Christians must know how to disagree without damaging relationships. In this case, Barnabas and Paul were at an impasse, so they cordially agreed to separate, and God used this separation to spread the Gospel even further. Note that this separation was not a “church split”, it was not an ungodly broken relationship. It was merely de-confliction with continued collaboration. They retained their relationship and unity of purpose. They will join together again later.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 28 Feb: Today, build and sustain (repair if needed) relationships that might be threatened by disagreements. Don’t let disagreements hinder relationships. Disagree without being disagreeable. Stay on the mission Jesus gave you of reconciliation. Continue to speak the truth in love, but don’t burden people with truths they cannot handle. With whom are you in disagreement? Make sure you are still cordial with that person. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18) Also, see a need; meet the need. If you are aware of someone who has a need that you have the power to fill, just do it. References from today’s readings: “Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.” (Proverbs 28:27)