Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 19 Mar 18:
1. Deuteronomy 1:3 – “Moses spoke to the people of Israel according to all that the Lord had given him in commandment to them.” Moses led the people by leading them in obedience to all of God’s commandments. This is what God called us to do in Matthew 28 (…teaching them to obey….). Are you fulfilling your calling on this earth? Your first leadership responsibility is leading yourself (which is actually following Jesus wholeheartedly); your next leadership responsibility is to your family, then within your church, then within your community and place of employment. Make sure you keep your priorities in order.
2. Deuteronomy 1:8 — “See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land that the Lord swore he would give to your fathers….” Faith and obedience involves claiming God’s promises.
3. Deuteronomy 1:11 – “May the Lord, the God of your fathers, make you a thousand times as many as you are and bless you, as he has promised you!” God’s first command to His people was to “be fruitful, multiply, and subdue the earth.” God wants His people to grow in numbers and godly influence within the world. Healthy churches grow in both numbers and in holiness, and healthy churches have a dramatic impact on their communities and nation. Healthy churches are built from healthy families. The church must disciple its members to be strong followers of Jesus, strong leaders within their families, strong church members, and strong community leaders.
4. Deuteronomy 1:12-15 – “How can I bear by myself the weight and burden of you and your strife? Choose for your tribes wise, understanding, and experienced men, and I will appoint them as your heads.’… So I took the heads of your tribes, wise and experienced men, and set them as heads over you, commanders of thousands, commanders of hundreds, commanders of fifties, commanders of tens, and officers, throughout your tribes.” Churches must organize for growth around a hierarchy of faithful leaders, down to small teams.
5. Deuteronomy 1:16, 17 — “And I charged your judges at that time: Hear the disputes between your brothers and judge fairly, whether the case is between brother Israelites or between one of them and an alien. Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike. Do not be afraid of any man, for judgment belongs to God.” Justice is defined by God and applies to all equally. God’s justice supersedes all bias or preference.
6. Deuteronomy 1:17; Acts 28:30, 31 — “You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s…. He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.” I fear that the church has largely lost its voice, having surrendered much of its authority to execute its Great Commission. The average Christian now lacks the competence, confidence, and/or conviction to boldly proclaim Christ in the community. The world has told us that it is inappropriate and offensive to speak about Jesus in public, so we don’t much. We don’t want to cause problems that could threaten our comfort and security. In our political correctness, we have become offensive to no one but God. God not only gave us the Great Commission — go into our respective communities and make disciples (disciplined followers of Christ), baptize them, and teach them to obey all the Jesus commanded (not some, but “all”) — He also gave us the authority in His Name and the power (He is with us and in us). The daily priority for a Christian, the measure of a day’s success, should be the proclamation of the kingdom of God and the teaching of Jesus while serving as Christ’s Ambassador. Work merely provides the means to support the teaching so that the spreading the Gospel can be at our own expense. However, when work becomes the end rather than the ways and means, we lose sight of our actual mission. Too many Christians today are focused on productivity rather than effectiveness, replacing the Gospel for the American Dream. There are basically four motivations behind all that we do: fear, greed, duty, and finally love. The least honorable motivations are fear and greed; the greatest is love. Too often, we are motivated by fear over love – fear of failure, fear of men, fear of punishment. We need to return to our mission of reconciliation, motivated by love, empowered by the Holy Spirit. What I find most striking today is that as the church rapidly recedes and surrenders ground, while most Christians rarely use the name “Jesus Christ” in public, most Christians still feel that they are doing well.
7. Deuteronomy 1:26 — “But you were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God.” Courage is a choice not to be controlled by fear. Courage is the choice to live by faith rather than fear, to trust God at His word regardless of outward appearances. If a person chooses to surrender to fear, that is their choice. Fear is not an excuse for disobedience.
8. Deuteronomy 1:27 – “And you murmured in your tents and said, ‘Because the Lord hated us he has brought us out of the land of Egypt, to give us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us.’” Your fear, greed, anger, and ungratefulness reveal what you really think of God and about God. Courage, forgiveness, generosity, and contentment are the product of trust, faith, hope, and love.
9. Deuteronomy 1:30, 31 – “The Lord your God who goes before you will himself fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your eyes, and in the wilderness, where you have seen how the Lord your God carried you, as a man carries his son, all the way that you went until you came to this place.” Have you trusted the Lord enough to experience Him fight for you and carry you? Has that experience increased your faith and obedience? You have to trust Him to experience His power in your life, and that experience should only increase your trust that you can experience even more.
10. Deuteronomy 1:36 — “He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the Lord wholeheartedly.” You cannot follow God partially — it’s all or nothing.
11. Deuteronomy 1:37 — “Because of you the Lord became angry with me also and said, ‘You shall not enter it, either.'” Even Moses, like Adam, had trouble accepting full responsibility for his own sin. No one can cause you to sin. You must acknowledge sin and accept full responsibility for your sin in order to grow spiritually and closer to Jesus day by day. This is the humility that comes before honor.
12. Deuteronomy 1:43 — “So I told you, but you would not listen. You rebelled against the Lord’s command, and in your arrogance you marched up into the hill country.” Arrogance can lead you to do what God never wanted to do. Just because you claim it is for Him doesn’t mean He asked you to do it. If He is not behind it, it is meaningless and doomed.
13. Deuteronomy 1:45 — “You came back and wept before the Lord, but he paid no attention to your weeping and turned a deaf ear to you.” God knows the difference between true repentance and mere sorrow over being punished. Are you sorry because you suffered or sorry because you let your Lord down?
14. Deuteronomy 2:4 — “They will be afraid of you. So be very careful.” Fear can be a very dangerous thing in relationships, and the Christian must be the bigger person and rise above it, understanding potential fear induced responses from others.
15. Deuteronomy 2:7 — “These forty years the LORD your God has been with you. You have lacked nothing.” Trust in The Lord to make up for what others don’t do for you.
16. Deuteronomy 2:19 — “I will not give you any of the land of the people of Ammon as a possession, because I have given it to the sons of Lot for a possession.” Remember that God is also caring for others, not just you. Be careful not to resent or covet God’s gifts to others He hasn’t given you.
17. Deuteronomy 2:30 — “But Sihon the king of Heshbon would not let us pass by him, for the LORD your God hardened his spirit and made his heart obstinate, that he might give him into your hand.” God may allow conflict in your life for His purposes. He will not always reveal to you what He is doing, but often it is not mostly about you.
18. Proverbs 19:1 – “Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.” Satan is the father of lies. When your words are crooked or deceptive, you become an ambassador for Satan rather than Jesus.
19. Proverbs 19:2 – “Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.” You must have a plan for success, and you must have a plan for peace. “…those who plan peace have joy.” (Proverbs 12:20)
20. Proverbs 19:3 – “When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the LORD.” Don’t blame God for the consequences of your actions.
21. Proverbs 19:11 – “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” Do you respond to offenses in an honorable and glorifying way?
22. Proverbs 19:16 – “Whoever keeps the commandment keeps his life; he who despises his ways will die.” God’s grace will not always protect you from the consequences of your actions. God expects you to obey, particularly after having already received forgiveness.
23. Proverbs 19:21 – “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” If your plan is not God’s plan, you are wasting your time and effort. Apart from the counsel of the Holy Spirit, you can do nothing of value.
24. Proverbs 19:22 – “What is desired in a man is steadfast love, and a poor man is better than a liar.” Did you catch the only thing that is really desired of you? Did you catch that lies are always unloving and counter to your life purpose?
25. Acts 28:2 — “The native people showed us unusual kindness, for they kindled a fire and welcomed us all, because it had begun to rain and was cold.” Christians don’t have a monopoly on hospitality. Don’t let the unbeliever outdo your kindness.
26. Acts 28:4 — “Justice has not allowed him to live.” Even unbelievers have a sense of eternal justice. However, they don’t understand that justice can only come from God, the only Just One, the source of all justice and wisdom.
27. Acts 28:11 — “After three months we set sail in a ship that had wintered in the island, a ship of Alexandria, with the twin gods as a figurehead.” God can use ungodly resources and systems to spread the Gospel. Paul was not overly offended by these figureheads because he knew they meant nothing at all. Pay no regard and give no credit to idols and superstitions. Remember, all power and authority on earth has been given to Jesus by the Father. That means that Satan has none.
28. Acts 28:14 — “There we found brothers and were invited to stay with them for seven days.” God wants you to seek out fellow believers wherever you go. God wants you to care for and support fellow believers.
29. Acts 28:23 — “From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.” How hard are you willing to try to convince others about Jesus.
30. Acts 28:24 — “And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved.” Some will believe and some won’t. You are not called to do the sifting, just the preaching.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 19 March: Go out of your way to find and fellowship with other Christian believers today. (Acts 28:14, 15)