Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 10 Apr 18:
1. Joshua 11:5, 6 — “And all these kings joined their forces and came and encamped together at the waters of Merom to fight against Israel. And the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid of them, for tomorrow at this time I will give over all of them, slain, to Israel.'” While Christians find unity in the love of Jesus, the world will find unity in hatred toward Jesus and His disciples. God says not to worry as more and more people turn against Jesus and His followers. Victory is in His hands.
2. Joshua 11:15 — “Just as the Lord had commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did. He left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses.” God honors obedience. Like Moses, Joshua understood that partial obedience is disobedience. Joshua was wholly obedient and God worked far beyond Joshua’s obedience to reveal Himself by doing only what God can do: “For it was the Lord’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the Lord commanded Moses.” (Joshua 11:20) Only God can work in the hearts of people and control circumstances. As we walk in obedience, we will see God working far beyond our activities to accomplish His purposes, to reveal Himself, and to bring glory to Himself. Our job is to be obedient, regardless the personal cost, for reasons we cannot even understand. If we are simultaneously attempting to fulfill our own personal agenda, we will end up being partially obedient which, again, is disobedience. Disobedience is working through the flesh, not the Spirit. Disobedience is why the churches lose their lampstands and real spiritual power, operating on the talents and abilities of men which is ultimately meaningless. Pray for repentance and revival in the church.
3. Joshua 11:20 — “For it was the Lord’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the Lord commanded Moses.” God hardens hearts by giving the wicked what they really want, along with the inevitable consequences, all for His good purpose. The practical implication for us is that we will face opposition and persecution from the wicked as God’s plan for both the righteous people (righteous through the blood of Jesus) and the unrighteous people unfolds over time. This calls for perseverance and persistent fidelity. Trust and obey through your circumstances. God knows what is happening to you and will work it all together for a greater good you cannot possibly imagine.
4. Joshua 12:6, 7 — “Moses, the servant of the Lord, and the people of Israel defeated them…. And these are the kings of the land whom Joshua and the people of Israel defeated….” God works generationally, over time. Christians are often shortsighted, wanting immediate results. However, God wants us to leave results in His hands and to focus on obedience in the moment. If we are faithful and obedient with what God has placed in front of us, we are fulfilling our purpose and living successfully, regardless of outward appearances. Part of our mission is preparing to handover fidelity to the next generation so they can continue to serve God’s eternal plan. Moses prepared Joshua, and Joshua continued in the mission. Who are you preparing to receive the torch of fidelity from you?
5. Proverbs 10:8 — Fools debate about commands rather than simply obeying.
6. Proverbs 10:12 — “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.” We have been given the mission of reconciliation. This involves covering over all offenses with love, bearing the burden of others’ sins as a gift of grace and an act of worship before the Lord.
7. Proverbs 10:19 — “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.” When your feel slighted, offended, and emotional, hold your tongue.
8. Mark 16:1 — “When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.” The disciples played lead, visible roles in Jesus’ ministry, but it was others behind the scenes, unlikely protagonists, who remained faithful to the end. It was Joseph of Arimathea (previously unmentioned) who “went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body,” no doubt at great personal risk and definitely at great personal cost. John records that Nicodemus claimed Jesus’ body with Joseph, again at great personal risk. While many watched Jesus’ trial from a distance (spectator believers), the Bible says that the two Marys and Salome “cared for [Jesus’] needs in Galilee. It was these same three who chose to anoint Jesus’ body while the disciples remained in hiding (John 20:19), and because of their quiet faithfulness, these women were the first to be given the Good News – “He has risen!” At one point the disciples were very enthusiastic about their leadership roles within the Kingdom, even arguing about which among them was the greatest, but now they remained fearful behind closed doors. Of course we know that this isn’t the end of the story for them, and after a personal encounter with the Risen Jesus, they are transformed into men of valor. However, I think this story has much to tell us about leadership – too much to discuss here but worth pondering today as we mediate on our readings. Often those most enthusiastic about leading are the last people who should lead. “False” leaders are like false prophets, pursuing their own appetites. Jesus said “you will recognize them by their fruits (Matthew 7:16).” Galatians 5:22-23 says, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” If a leader or teacher lacks these qualities, then there is a problem. Another test of leadership is selfless sacrifice – real leadership always comes at a tremendous personal cost, not profit or fame. Finally, I believe that true Christian leadership always lifts up the name of Christ and Christ alone. The Marys, Salome, Joseph and Nicodemus were focused on one thing – serving Jesus despite the personal cost. They served quietly, behind the scenes and modeled the foot-washing type of leadership that Jesus taught. Something to consider today.
9. Mark 16:15, 16 — “And he said to them, ‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.’” Jesus commanded his disciples to proclaim the gospel, not just to a select few or to who were likely to accept it, but to the “whole creation.” The Christian’s responsibility is to boldly proclaim the Gospel to everyone; how others respond to the Gospel is their responsibility. Question: have you chosen not to share the Gospel with someone because of how you feel about them or because of how you think they will react? Can you withhold the truth of the Gospel and remain obedient to God?
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 10 April: Resolve today to be a willing behind the scenes leader, someone who simply remains faithful to God’s word, without recognition, regardless the personal cost. Endeavor to be a nobody that Christ might recognized rather than you. Don’t seek credit or reward. Simply serve Jesus with all of your heart, be a leader in love, and lead people to Jesus. Someone once said, “Leaders know the way and show the way.” Know and show Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. If you are leading people to something else (good ideas, morals, ethics, philosophy, etc.) or showing them something else (your talents and skills, a more practical way of living, etc.), you are leading them astray, presenting a false gospel which is no gospel at all. (see notes above on Mark 16)