Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 6 Apr 18:
1. Joshua 3:7 — “Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.” God validates His leaders by working miraculously through their lives.
2. Joshua 3:15, 16 — “…and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away.” God expects you to step out in faith, then He will respond miraculously to your faith. God will use your fiery-furnace, loin’s-den, Red-sea, Jordan-river experiences to reveal Himself to you and to others in a way that leaves no reasonable doubt that it was Him at work. Unbelievers will always try to find ‘natural’ explanations for God’s supernatural acts. Countless theories have been promulgated on how the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, how Manna was produced, how power came from the Ark of the Covenant, how Jesus rose from the dead, etc. The truth of God has always been self-evident. How has it been revealed in your life?
3. Joshua 4:6 – “When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?…’” The first thing the Israelites did when they entered the Promised Land was set up a monument to the Lord so that generations would never forget what God had done. How will you memorialize God’s blessings in your life for generations to come?
4. Joshua 4:8 – “And the people of Israel did just as Joshua commanded.” God’s plan involves God’s people diligently and faithfully obeying God’s appointed leaders.
5. Proverbs 6:6-11 – Laziness, idleness, and failure to work reveal a lack of godly wisdom and only lead to poverty.
6. Proverbs 6:13-15 – People you should stay away from are easy to spot in most cases.
7. Proverbs 6:17-19 – God judges you by how you treat others.
8. Proverbs 6:24-35 – You cannot completely escape adultery’s destruction.
9. Proverbs 6:7, 8 — “Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.” External discipline is no substitute for internal discipline. You must be willing to do what others aren’t willing to do in order to fulfill your purpose in life. No one can live your life for you, and no one is responsible for your life but you.
10. Proverbs 6:16 — “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him….” Do you know the seven things that God hates and considers an abomination?
11. Proverbs 6:19 — “…one who sows discord among brothers.” If you cause discord, you are committing an abomination before the Lord.
12. Proverbs 6:23 — “For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life.” God’s word is your guide. How deeply are you studying it, and how closely are you following it? Take a moment and re-read Psalm 119 – “… I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you…. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word…. Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law…. Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors…. The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces…. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation…. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path….” (119:11, 14-16, 18, 24, 72, 99, 105)
13. Proverbs 6:30, 31 — “People do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry, but if he is caught, he will pay sevenfold.” Contrary to popular belief, there is never an excuse for doing the wrong thing. The application of justice includes room for mercy and grace, but all are held accountable for their actions.
14. Mark 14:5 – “For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” John adds an important detail to this story: “He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it.” (John 12:6) Self-righteousness is motivated by selfishness.
15. Mark 14:19 – “They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, ‘Is it I?’” Deep down, the disciples knew their hearts were deceitful and weak.
16. Mark 14:27 — And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away.” Can you imagine how Jesus must have felt knowing that all of His closest friends would betray Him when he needed them the most? From the Scriptures, Jesus had been prepared for this betrayal (“for it is written”), and Jesus knew His disciples better than they knew themselves; but nonetheless, their unfaithfulness undoubtedly hurt Jesus more than we can imagine. Though one by one they all proclaimed, “Surely not I,” even Peter failed Jesus miserably. Note by the way that before the infamous rooster crows, Peter had already “fallen away” by failing to “keep watch” and by “following at a distance” (Mark 14:37, 54). Christian brothers and sisters, let’s take note: following at a distance is un-commitment that only lacks enough heat and pressure to become total betrayal. The silent or chameleon Christian is the one described by James and the Psalmist as double-minded, “unstable in all his ways,” and by Jesus as “lukewarm,” uncommitted, unsuitable, unprepared to stand the test (Psalm 119:113; James 1:8, 4:8; Revelation 3:16). What is truly amazing is that despite knowing that his disciples would all betray him, Jesus never quit on them or distanced himself from them. Rather, He humbly washed their feet! Concerning Judas, the most infamous betrayer who “having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it,” Jesus never kicked him out of the small, intimate group, never fired him from his role as treasurer, but rather continued to break bread with him as a close friend (John 12:6). Knowing their weakness, Jesus still took Peter, James, and John to Gethsemane. Would you take relationship advise from Jesus? Is this how you would treat your unfaithful friends? I think most Christians would call a person foolish if that person were to model Jesus’ behavior today. We would be quick to take Matthew 10:16 out of context “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves,” and we would justify putting up relational walls by quoting from theological sea lawyers who say, “Forgiveness is a gift, but trust is something you earn.” After all, God doesn’t want us to be doormats, right? By continuing to remain vulnerable to His unfaithful friends, Jesus wasn’t being naïve or foolish, nor was He engineering the fulfillment of the Scriptures, He was modeling true love as is described in 1 Corinthians 13:7, 8 – “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” When Jesus told the disciples to forgive their brothers “not seven times, but seventy-seven times (Matthew 18:22),” He understood that this implied a level of sustained vulnerability that would potentially enable continued mistreatment but that would also allow for continued closeness in relationship and the display of Christ-like love which involves selfless sacrifice. Jesus understood that the closest relationship would often hurt the most. There is a famous story about the childhood of Thomas Aquinas which highlights the trusting heart: His classmates, who mocked his trusting spirit, decided to play a joke on him. They all got together in the classroom and stared excitedly out the window. Thomas asks what they are looking at so intently. “Thomas, come quickly,” the students responded, “there are pigs—FLYING!” Thomas rushes to the window, only to be met by the uproarious laughter of his fellow students. As the laughter dies down, Thomas gently but potently exposes their sin by saying simply, “I would rather believe that pigs could fly than that my friends would lie to me.” By remaining loving (and trusting) to the disciples, Jesus exposed to them the truth of themselves that previously they could not see in themselves. His costly display of love to them convicted all but Judas to change their lives forever. How much different would their lives had been if Jesus demanded that they earn his trust and if Jesus kept up protective relational barriers between they and him until they did?
17. Mark 14:33 – Jesus knew Peter would deny Him, yet chose Him to go to Gethsemane.
18. Mark 14:35 — “And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed….” Someone once reminded, “When you are winning the race, you are running alone.” Remaining faithful to God is often a lonely place – very few will remain. Noah obeyed God with tremendous sacrifice while the entire world around him remained oblivious to God, and Jesus said the situation would be the same at the End. Mark 14 is a powerful chapter that demonstrates the tremendous insensitivity people had for the heart of God and for the climactic events that God was preparing. At the most critical time, ultimately no one was in tuned to the heart of Jesus. While Jesus prayed in Gethsemane, most were so indifferent to Jesus that they were unaware He was even in the garden; meanwhile, some like Judas were actually plotting against Jesus; the disciples were willing to join Jesus in the garden, and there was still the inner circle (Peter, James, John) who were ready to begin prayer with Jesus, but only for a short while. The disciples appear unaware of or unmoved by the deep anguish in the heart of Jesus and are disoriented to the tremendous events looming that would test them to their breaking points. Jesus knew that the decisive point of His ministry was at hand, that the legions of hell were marshalling their forces in an attempt to defeat Him. He knew that events soon to follow would be so intense, they would cause the disciples to do the unthinkable, deny the Son of God. In the Garden, Jesus told His disciples that He was deeply distressed, even to the point of death, yet at this pivotal moment in human history, the disciples were not moved enough to stay awake. They missed it! They missed out on the tremendous opportunity to serve their Lord and to minister to Him. They didn’t have the eyes (heart) to see things from God’s perspective; therefore, they simply slept. In the end, Jesus prayed alone. Do you have the eyes to see what is going on right now? Can you see the world through the eyes of Jesus? How far are you ready to go with Jesus? Are you ready to run alone if necessary?
19. Mark 14:38 – Prayer is the only prevention for temptation.
20. Mark 14:47, 67, 68 “But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear…. and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, ‘You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.’ But he denied it, saying, ‘I neither know nor understand what you mean.’” The life of Peter is a great study of Christian courage. Was Peter a courageous man or not? Certainly, there are many examples of Peter demonstrating courage where others had none. Today, we read that at one point he was willing to take on the guards with a sword, risking his life (John 18:10 says Peter is the one who cut off the ear), but then Peter denies Jesus before a servant girl warming herself at the fire. Peter was known for courageous acts, but God had to show Peter that he lacked a true, Spirit-led heart of courage. Daniel Webster’s original definition of courage: “that quality of mind which enables men to encounter danger and difficulties with firmness, or without fear or depression of spirits; valor; boldness; resolution.” I think it is safe to say that Peter was a leader, a tough guy, and not afraid of a fight. At times, Peter certainly encountered difficulties with firmness (courage), but often that “courage” was misguided, out of place, short-lived, or simply not there at all. Peter took an ear but when he shouldn’t have – Jesus’ submission and surrender was more courageous that Peter’s sword wielding. Matthew points out that “he sat with the guards to see the end (Matthew 26:58),” and because in that huddle, over the period of some hours, “he invoke[ed] a curse on himself and [swore], ‘I do not know the man.’” (Matthew 26:74). So, Why the inconsistency in his courage? I would submit that it was not inconsistent with Peter’s character, only inconsistent with God’s will – it is this latter inconsistency that results in the poor quality of Peter’s courage. Misplaced “courage” can be far more destructive than open cowardice. In fact, outwardly “courageous” acts may actually reveal an inward or moral cowardice, an unwillingness to NOT do the wrong thing for the right reasons due to risk of personal cost (often a cost of reputation). Peter’s courage fell short when his heart was not aligned with the heart of God, when “self” overcame surrender to God. Peter would have to die to self to become the Peter that would preach with power and humble himself to take the Gospel to the Centurion and thus to the Gentiles.” The issue is not with a willingness to act courageously, the issue is with the motives and the heart behind the display. When God told Joshua and the Israelites to be “strong and courageous” the strength and courage was to come from God, not self, and was to be aligned with God’s will for His purposes. God always tied courage to obedience. Why did Peter deny Jesus at the moment of decision? I believe it wasn’t that he didn’t have the guts to die, I believe he didn’t have the heart to die. Jesus remained faithful to Peter through Peter’s infidelity and transformed Peter’s heart to the point where Peter would later have the heart to be crucified upside down, not considering himself worthy to die as his Savior did.
21. Mark 14:49 — Priests thought they had control when God really did.
22. Mark 14:54 – Following at a distance is the same as not really being there. Many Christians like to keep a comfortable distance from where the action is, where God is actually working. This is not really following but rather spectating.
23. Mark 14:71 – “But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, ‘I do not know this man of whom you speak.’” Our words often reveal our heart’s true condition. A profane mouth reveals a bitter spirit. “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.” (James 3:10)
24. Mark 14:72 – Peter wept too late for the moment. But God wasn’t done with Him.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 6 April: Today, commit to not just be an observer to what God is doing around you but rather to be an active and obedient participant in what God is doing. Don’t fall asleep when God has asked you to serve Him. Don’t act prematurely when God has told you to wait. Don’t deny Jesus or remain silent when God has given you the opportunity to proclaim Jesus. Don’t follow Jesus at a distance, be about His business, today, at every moment, from this day forward. (see today’s readings)