Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 29 Mar 18:
Observations from today’s readings, Thursday, 29 March 2017:
1. Deuteronomy 21:10-14 – Captives were spared from death in war, submitting to terms of surrender that were designed to ultimately integrate them into the society without them having a negative impact on the culture. Even captives were given certain rights, protections, and comforts, such as the right to mourn the deaths of their loved ones after battle. God did not allow captives to be dehumanized.
2. Deuteronomy 21:18-21 – God expects parents to hold their children accountable to the law. God expects parents to take the lead in demanding civil justice, preferring right and wrong over familial loyalties.
3. Deuteronomy 22:1-4 – “You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep going astray and ignore them. You shall take them back to your brother.” God expects you to go out of your way to help another Christian when you see a need, at your own expense, expecting nothing in return. You cannot ignore the needs of others and still claim loyalty to Jesus.
4. Deuteronomy 22:5 – “A woman shall not wear a man’s garment, nor shall a man put on a woman’s cloak, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.” God expects people to maintain identity markers for male and female and prohibits transvestitism. To be clear, it is an “abomination to the Lord.”
5. Deuteronomy 22:6 – “If you come across a bird’s nest in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young.” God wants you to protect production capacity while consuming – show enough restraint to avoid killing geese that lay golden eggs. In verses such as this one, God is commanding a specific action while also teaching a general principle by which to live.
6. Deuteronomy 22:8 – “When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, that you may not bring the guilt of blood upon your house, if anyone should fall from it.” God expects you to go out of your way and use your own resources to ensure that others are not hurt by what you do.
7. Deuteronomy 22:9-11 – “You shall not sow your vineyard with two kinds of seed, lest the whole yield be forfeited, the crop that you have sown and the yield of the vineyard. You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together. You shall not wear cloth of wool and linen mixed together.” God wanted to instill habits of holiness in all that His people did.
8. Deuteronomy 22:14 – God knows the human tendency to blame and condemn others in order to avoid social responsibility.
9. Deuteronomy 22:16 – “And the father of the young woman shall say to the elders, ‘I gave my daughter to this man to marry, and he hates her.’” Parents have a responsibility to protect the purity of their children. The behavior of children affects the honor of the parents.
10. Deuteronomy 22:18 – “Then the elders of that city shall take the man and whip him.” Those who would publicly humiliate others were to be publicly humiliated. A major theme throughout the Bible is God often punishes by treating people the way you treat others.
11. Deuteronomy 22:21 – “…they shall bring out the young woman to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her to death with stones, because she has done an outrageous thing in Israel by whoring in her father’s house.” God takes fornication far more seriously than society does. As Christ’s Ambassador, how do you address fornication? Why did John the Baptist lose his head? Are you willing to speak out against socially accepted sin and to proclaim the need for repentance and faith in Jesus for salvation?
12. Comments on Deuteronomy 22:21b from Henry T. Blackaby: “So you shall put away the evil from among you.” It is a dangerous and costly mistake not to take temptation seriously. The sad testimony of many who have succumbed to sin’s enticements is that they thought they were strong enough to remain in the midst of temptation and resist it. God requires that His people remove evil from their midst (Deut. 21:21). One way to do this is to remove anything in your environment that may tempt you to sin. When wickedness surrounds you, you are in danger of becoming anesthetized to its destructive potential. Never assume that you are immune to temptation. Do not underestimate the craftiness of the evil one. God does not tolerate evil, for evil cost the death of His Son. Sin causes untold pain and destruction to everyone it touches. Treating evil lightly shows foolish disregard for God’s redemptive work. An honest evaluation of your life will reveal temptations that you should remove, such as some forms of entertainment or ungodly relationships. When God convicts you of evil in your midst, remove it.
13. Proverbs 29:5 – “A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet.” The Bible strongly condemns flattery.
14. Proverbs 29:11 – “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” God will test your temper and self-control to test your wisdom. Again, God doesn’t test for His benefit but for yours. He knows your heart; you don’t.
15. Proverbs 29:18 – “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.” You must study and follow God’s law in order to build your self-control.
16. Proverbs 29:25 – “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.” In a particular situation, you will either be influenced by God or by man, depending on who you fear the most.
17. Mark 8:3 – Do you desire God’s word more than eating?
18. Mark 8:6 – Jesus allows us to participate in His miraculous works so that we can experience Him first-hand.
19. Mark 8:11, 12 – Most who demand evidence of Jesus don’t really want evidence but merely seek to justify their own rebellion. More evidence wouldn’t change a thing because the barrier is within their hearts, not their minds.
20. Mark 8:29 — “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” This is the defining question of any person’s life. See Matthew 10:34; Matthew 25:31-33; Luke 12:49-53; and Acts 4:12.
21. Mark 8:33-38 – “You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” One of the biggest mistakes we make, one of the most dangerous things we do, is interpret God’s word and will from a self-centered perspective. This incites Jesus’ most emphatic rebuke, and He calls it satanic. We cannot truly walk with Jesus until we deny self.
22. Mark 8:34 — “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” In the above verse, Jesus describes the continuing actions or endeavors that mark the “way of the disciple” or the “way of the cross”*: deny self, take up the cross, follow Jesus –
— Deny Self: Denying self is far more than self-denial — depriving yourself or denigrating yourself. Denying self involves setting your mind on the things of God rather than the things of man and walking on a revealed path for His purposes rather than by our own understanding for our own purposes. Denying self is a continuous, ongoing, inward act. Only you and God know if your being is centered on Jesus or focused on self. The opposite of the discipleship way is putting self before God – that is what Satan does; and when we do it, we are essentially following the devil’s lead as Peter discovered when Jesus rebuked him, “Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns (Mark 8:33).” Peter was likely focused on the prospect of his personal loss and his personal pain that would be caused by Jesus’ death, and Jesus’ death did not fit the plan for victory that Peter had envisioned. His worldly thinking was in opposition to the plan of God, hence one of Jesus’ most emphatic rebukes. Denying self is to “have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16, Philippians 2:5).”
— Take Up The Cross: This is much, much more than simply patiently enduring trials or bearing up under affliction. It is not about what is happening to us in the world but rather it is about accepting who we are in Christ. Taking up the cross is accepting and proclaiming our new identity in Christ saying, “I am in Him, and He is in me.” It is about identifying and uniting with the Crucified One, not just outwardly with our mouths but inwardly in our hearts and minds with all that is within us. It is the personal recognition that we not only died with Christ but were also made alive with Christ to live our lives solely for God (Romans 6:8, 10). We joyfully take on the name of Christ, and in union with Jesus, we willingly choose the Father’s destiny for our lives regardless the personal cost. As Paul described: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20).” Taking up the cross in relationships is not just turning the other cheek, displaying grace, returning good for evil, it is doing so with a heartfelt goal of reconciliation for the offender, with genuine love for your “enemy,” who, through the love of Christ, we no longer see as others would.
— Follow Jesus: This is an inward act before it is an outward one. It is not just about conforming our outward behavior to God’s standards (something Jesus tried to explain to the Pharisees), but continually and humbly and personally responding to the conviction of the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts and minds. This is not about rote religious rituals or traditions. This is your one-on-one discipleship with Jesus where you personally respond to him, where you remain connected to the Vine. Only you and God know if, in your inmost being, you are truly following Jesus. This is a relationship; it’s not a program, it’s the person of Jesus. This is about “abiding” in Jesus and obeying his commands out of genuine love for Him – “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:4, 5).
In our natural minds, we tend to define and reduce the “way of the disciple” based on the physical, “persevere through the trials of life and do good things.” However, “The Way” deals with the inside, the spirit, the heart, your authentic self. “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart (1 Samuel 16:7).” Pray that God will give you the heart of a disciple.
* Note: Christianity was often referred to as “The Way”. (Acts 9:2; 19:9; 19:23; 22:4; 24:14; 24:22).
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 29 March: Today, really focus on denying self rather than just self-denial. Seek genuine “oneness” with Jesus, in heart, mind, and soul. Seek to step outside of self to see things as God sees them. Seek only His will, not yours, and endeavor to follow Him, not out of a sense of duty, but genuine love. The key is receiving His love and letting it flow through you rather than trying to work harder to create your own love. (Mark 8:33-38)