WEEK 15, Day 4, Thursday, 12 Apr 2018

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 12 Apr 18:

1. Joshua 15 — God blessed by providing His presence, His protection, family, and land. Concerning the latter two, God’s commands are very intentional in the protection of the family, their rightful inheritance, and property rights. When a government establishes laws and policies that threaten family and robs people of inheritance and rights to property, that government is operating against the will of God.

2. Joshua 15:8 — Jerusalem is not part of Judah’s inheritance but Benjamin’s. Interesting….

3. Joshua 16:10 — “However, they did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites have lived in the midst of Ephraim to this day but have been made to do forced labor.” You must obey ALL of God’s commands and be willing to go the distance to receive the full blessings of God. There are always consequences for disobedience, and some consequences may be tangibly significant, but always spiritually significant. Often the consequences are not realized until many years later, perhaps not for generations, but the roosters always come home to roost. In this case, the Israelites chose to disobey God by not driving out the Canaanites — this was the easy thing to do and didn’t seem to result in many problems for them. However, we will soon read that this decision to disobey God would prove extremely costly over time. In Joshua, chapter 6, God gave strange and very specific instructions to bring down the walls of Jericho — “You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.” March around the city for seven days and march around the city seven times on the seventh day. Imagine how the people must have felt marching around the city on days 1 (nothing happens), day 2 (nothing happens), day 3 (nothing happens), etc. What if the people simply stopped marching on the sixth day or only marched around once on the seventh day, giving up when no results were observed? It takes faith to be totally obedient to God, particularly when it doesn’t appear to make any sense or produce positive results. However, unconditional obedience is required to receive the blessings God intends for you. Don’t quit on day six — keep marching in fidelity!

4. Proverbs 12: Today’s proverbs speak of the wise person’s approach to building economic security. First, a wise person does not make deceptive wages and does not get rich taking advantage of others (Proverbs 12:2). A wise person’s integrity produces stability in all areas of life. (Proverbs 12:3). I wise person marries well (Proverbs 12:4). The wise don’t just jump from one thing to the next; they do long-range planning and follow their plan without distraction, though remaining ready to follow God’s unexpected redirection (Proverbs 12:5). The wise person is guided by sound thinking that comes from years of Spirit-led character development, and because of his/her outstanding character, (s)he gains a great reputation. (Proverbs 12:8). The wise person does not spend money to impress others or pretend to be wealthy; rather, the wise person uses money to provide for self and others and to build (Proverbs 12:9). The wise person has a giving heart and uses growing resources to further provide for others (Proverbs 12:10). The wise do not pursue get rich quick schemes and are not driven by the need for instant gratification. Rather, the wise work diligently day by day to build wealth little by little over time. His wealth is built the old-fashioned way – with his hands (Proverbs 12:11, 12). The wise person learns to work well with others, deals patiently and honestly in all relationships, and accepts the counsel of other wise Christians (Proverbs 12:13-19). The wise pursue peace, knowing that conflicts destroy (Proverbs 12:20). The wise mind their own business and do not get entangled in worthless arguments (Proverbs 12:23). A wise person works hard, does not worry, and avoids friendships with the ungodly (Proverbs 12:24-27). The wise person stays on the path of life.

5. Romans 2:1 — “Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.” We all expect mercy from God but demand justice for others. We are quick to defend our rights and honor but expect God not to demand His. We are quick to proclaim, “That’s not fair!” However, we certainly don’t want God to judge us based upon rules of fairness. We are quick to claim “grace”, but we don’t live by grace and give grace freely to others. If we are truly living by grace, we are driven to humility, repentance, forgiveness, holiness, selflessness, surrender, and servitude (to God and others). “God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance.” (Romans 1:2) Those who claim grace as their excuse to continue in willful disobedience (which includes partial obedience) only fool themselves as they demonstrate the reality of their prideful self-centeredness (lack of genuine repentance). (Romans 2:8) And the church-goer is cautioned that more Bible knowledge does not make you anymore virtuous; only doing God’s will has value. (Romans 2:13) Information is not transformation. The modern grace movement within church culture today tends to disrespect the holiness of God and condones compromise. In fact, if you attend a popular church today, you will likely hear a lot about grace, but you may never hear the word repent. Even “sin” is a word rarely used in churches today. Grace, repentance, and obedience go together.

6. Romans 2:3 — “Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?” We are all sinners and, by faith, rely on the mercy and grace of God through Jesus Christ for salvation. We all have a debt that cannot be paid, but Jesus paid the price for our sins on the cross. Only the One who had no debt of His own (from sin) could pay the debt of others. Only Jesus is worthy. Therefore, “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).” Since while you were still a sinner Christ died for you, how now will you threat those who are still sinning against you? Will you extend sacrificial grace? Will you ‘wash the feet’ of those who you know will betray you?

7. Romans 2:4 — “Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” Yesterday we observed that Paul had committed his entire life (and gave his life) to the spreading of God’s “Good News,” a message he felt obligated to share with tremendous urgency to all that he could. Paul began to explain that the importance of this message (more important than life itself), the greatness of this message, and the urgency of this message, the reason why this “Good News” is so good, is because it is the answer to the greatest problem facing every living person. This is far more critical than a matter of life or death; it is a matter of ETERNAL life or death for all humanity! No greater issue has faced, or ever will face, mankind. The issue: before The One and Only Holy and Righteous God, every person will stand totally guilty, without excuse, of sins that demand the righteous wrath of God and the penalty of death, everlasting punishment — Hell. The more one truly understands the reality of what it means to deserve the total wrath of Almighty God, the more this situation should instill a sense of utter terror, the kind of terror that leaves you “undone.” Conversely, the greater the understanding of the problem, the more magnificent the solution, which turns unthinkable terror into unimaginable joy, thankfulness, freedom, and peace. Jesus Christ paid the penalty of sin and has accredited to us righteousness before God as well as total access to God. The greater the appreciation of this “Good News,” the greater the love for God and love for others, the greater the sense of urgency to get the Good News to those who don’t have it. Hence, the reason Paul gave his all for the “Good News.” You would think that the messenger who gave up everything to bring this message of unsurpassed import, free of charge with no strings attached, would be more than well received. Of course we know that Paul and countless other martyrs throughout history were viciously persecuted for the message of mercy, grace, peace, and reconciliation. The problem for the messenger is that the audience has no terror but rather, for various reasons, lives in denial (not the river in Egypt). In various ways, forms, or fashions, these self-righteous, self-seeking people (both the religious and unreligious), attempt to have God dethroned (whether they admit it or not). Treason! To place themselves in authority over God and to justify their disobedience to the KING for the sake of their own passions, they have suppressed the truth of God and replaced the truth of God with lies intended to nullify His Lordship. Paul’s audiences are quick to demand “justice” from others, quick to defend their own rights or stand up for themselves when they feel they have been slighted by others (even though their judgment is myopic and flawed); they somehow think that they can continually disobey and dishonor God, and God will simply do nothing (Romans 1:1-4). It makes no difference who Paul is addressing. The Jews who had been given special access to God, unimaginable blessings from God, divine revelation, and every detail of His Law disobeyed God anyway; or they followed the commands of God only to prop themselves up before men (place themselves on a throne), thereby disobeying the Great Commandment of love. They stared Jesus in the face, watched him perform miracles of mercy, and then crucified him. The Gentiles who could not obey their own consciences revealed that they were just like the Jews, simply without as much information. For everyone, the issue is with the heart — “Because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself… the work of the law is written on their hearts… a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God… God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 2:5, 15, 29, 16) The inability of people to obey God’s Law or even their own consciences reveals that our hearts are rebellious and wicked. We don’t want God in reality to be God; we want to be the god of our lives. This was true for Adam and Eve (“when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God” (Genesis 3:5)), and it remains true today. We come up with all sorts of belief systems or excuses to justify (just-as-if-I’d never sinned) our rebellion or to convince ourselves that our defiance of God does not really matter so that we can continue to build our own kingdom on earth. Why such a violent response to the Good News throughout history until today? Because it threatens the kingship of man and exposes the truth of our great treason. It reveals the truth of ourselves, our secret heart. It strips us of our self-righteous garments exposing our nakedness. The Good News demands repentance and surrender. The Good News reveals the LORDSHIP of the KING. Jesus began his proclamation of the Good News like this: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 3:2).” This message he intentionally presented first to the “religious.” How does the church today present the Gospel?

8. Romans 2:8 — “For those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.” Disobedience is selfishness, in direct contrast to the selflessness of love.

9. Romans 2:16 — “God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” There are no secrets with God.

10. Romans 2:24 — “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” How terrible is it to give God a bad name due to bad behavior as an unfaithful Christian?

11. Romans 2:28, 29 — “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly…. But a Jew is one inwardly… a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.” Likewise Christianity is about the heart, not just outward appearances.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 12 April: Today, vow to extend to everyone around you, the same level of grace you are counting on from God. (Romans 2:1-3) Meditate upon the below verses:

– Matthew 6:12 — Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

– Ephesians 4:32 — Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

– Matthew 5:23-26 — So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly….

– Hebrews 12:14 — Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

– Colossians 1:20 — And through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

– Luke 23:34 — And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.

– 1 Peter 4:8 — Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.

– Luke 6:27-42 — But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

– Romans 12:14-21 — Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them…. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

– Matthew 18:33 — And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ (Review the Lord’s Prayer)

– Galatians 6:1-3 — Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.

– Philippians 2:1-8 — So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind…. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

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