Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 15 Apr 18:
1. Joshua 21 — Everyone was called upon to provide for the priests.
2. Joshua 21:43-45 — “Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.” God fulfilled all of His promises after many generations. God’s plan is generational, and God intends for His people to think generationally and plan for generations. It is a very modern and destructive phenomena that so many Christian parents are shortsighted, thinking merely about getting their kids out the door (usually in separate directions) so the parents can retire and occasionally visit the grandchildren. There is great strength in family. The Bible demonstrates building families for generations, dynasties, families that stay together, support one another, raise godly children together, and glorify God together for hundreds of years. We should plan for a godly legacy. Today, this is very hard but not impossible.
3. Joshua 22:5 — “Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” All relationships are based upon trust. Joshua explained to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh that the foundation of their relationship of trust would be each party’s obedience to God. You can trust the godly neighbor.
4. Joshua 22:12 — “And when the people of Israel heard of it, the whole assembly of the people of Israel gathered at Shiloh to make war against them.” The Israelites feared that the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh would drift into rebellion due to their geographical separation, so the Israelites looked for evidence to validate their fears. They viewed these tribes with undeserved mistrust and started a fight based upon false assumptions. Have you ever done that?
5. Joshua 22:20 — “Did not Achan the son of Zerah break faith in the matter of the devoted things, and wrath fell upon all the congregation of Israel? And he did not perish alone for his iniquity.’” Sin always hurts others, whether intentional or not.
6. Joshua 22:24 — “We did it from fear that in time to come your children might say to our children, ‘What have you to do with the Lord.” Parents must have a plan to ensure that their children’s children don’t forget the Lord.
7. Joshua 22:31 — “Today we know that the Lord is in our midst, because you have not committed this breach of faith against the Lord. Now you have delivered the people of Israel from the hand of the Lord.” The Israelites had misjudged the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh and almost acted rashly which would have been a great sin. Fortunately, they communicated their concerns and resolved the matter, discovering that what they once viewed as sin was actually an act of good faith. We too, acting from fear or envy, might view the actions of others as sinful when in actuality their behavior is reasonable. Best to give others the benefit of the doubt and communicate gracefully any concerns you might have. Open, honest, humble, communication is key. Christians should be masters at resolving conflict or potential conflict. We are all about peace.
8. Proverbs 15:1 – “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Again, Christians should be masters of relationship, experts at conflict resolution. Unlike the worldly, Christians enter into relationships as ambassadors to Jesus (not representing self), on a mission of reconciliation. Christians should not see people as others do but rather see them as Jesus does. Christians should enter into relationships intent on administering grace even to the point of great personal suffering (taking up the cross) and should remain in a state of perpetual forgiveness. Christians don’t regard others as the enemy but rather regard the dark spiritual forces controlling them as the enemy. Guided by the Spirit, Christians enter into relationships with the power and perspective of the Holy Spirit to see and understand what is impossible for others to see and understand. Christians should enter into relationships as leaders in love, intent on taking others where they cannot go by themselves – leaders know The Way (Jesus) and show The Way. Christians listen in order to hear beyond the words, to truly understand the heart and hurt behind words. Christians strive to always return love and blessings for hate and curses. Christians have nothing to lose in an encounter with others because they have already died in Christ and are already living eternal life in Christ. A Christian who is secure in Christ should have peace and never lose it. Christians radiate peace and love and light when others are trapped in hate, anger, and bitterness. Practice your Christianity today; don’t just contemplate it. Make your every word and deed intentional and for God’s glory. You were purposefully made by God in physical form and placed intentionally on this earth to communicate God’s truth and to translate God’s invisible truth into tangible, visible reality for His glory – this is your earthly purpose. Reveal to others the Spirit that they cannot see through your reconciling words and acts of kindness.
9. Proverbs 15:4 – “A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.” Even when Christians have to tell people things they may not want to hear, they always do it in a way that is receivable by them, that lifts them up rather than tears them down, that heals rather than hurts, that potentially draws them closer to Jesus rather than pushing them farther away. Christians never make the “issue” the focus but rather Jesus.
10. Proverbs 15:7 – “The lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the hearts of fools.” The wise understand and accept that knowledge and wisdom come from God, and they have the requisite humility to submit to the will of God, not so the foolish.
11. Proverbs 15:8 – “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him.” A gift (a sacrifice or act of admiration) can be given as an act of genuine love or selfishly, hoping to get something in return such as favor or a special blessing. Two people could give the exact same gift, but the gifts could be valued completely differently in God’s sight based upon the true heart of the giver. People cannot truly know the heart of another and can be deceived by a gift. However, God knows the heart of all people and is never deceived. Be careful not to deceive yourself by your own ‘sacrifices.’ Effort is not always love. In their relationships with God and with others, many people go through the motions, doing all they things they know they are supposed to do in relationship but for all the wrong reasons. Before you make the sacrifice of time, resources, work, etc, ask yourself, “Why am I really doing this?” Is it out of selfless love or because of an outcome you are hoping to achieve for yourself? Jesus said that, “denying self,” was key to following Him, not “self-denial.” The dictionary defines “self” as, “A person’s essential being that distinguishes them from others.” Popular psychology lifts up and finds hope in self-esteem, self-realization, self-actualization, self-respect, etc. This teaching has crept into Christian thinking. Self-denial is a struggle against our “self,” against our independent will, placing restrictions on self in an attempt to control self. It sees self as the problem but also self as the answer. However, denying self is seeing our essential being as Christ, with no distinction between ourselves and Him. We seek perfect oneness with Him. We seek the mind of Christ and the perfect will of Christ. And we seek the power of Christ (which is already ours) rather than our own strength. We become crucified with Christ, self dies, and we are resurrected in Him – the new life is Christ, the body His vessel. The last-mentioned fruit of the Spirit is self-control, something that is impossible for man, but possible with Christ. The key to self-control is denying self, becoming nothing that Christ in you would be everything.
12. Proverbs 15:14 – “The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge, but the mouths of fools feed on folly.” Why haven’t increased education, increased information, and incredible technological advances made the world a better place? Because wisdom is a heart issue not a head issue. Information is not transformation. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. As the world gets smarter and smarter while walking farther and farther away from God, people merely get more capable of spreading evil and destruction. Jesus’ final prayer was for our unity, but unity in Him. The world wants unity too, but unity in man. Globalized technology has become the new Tower of Babel, and the secular unity being created will lead the global heard to a cliff. The message of the Gospel is the hope of the world.
13. Proverbs 15:16 – “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it.” Christianity has become less appealing in America because people, more and more, seem to be getting the results they are looking for through the knowledge of man. You can have a large screen TV and two cars in the garage without ever reading your Bible, going to church, or walking with Jesus. But while the world seeks to build mini kingdoms on earth, the Christian seeks the Kingdom of God. The more you value Jesus, the less you value earthly treasures and the less you are impacted by the worries of the world.
14. Proverbs 15:17 – “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it.” Joy is found in love, not in pleasures. God is love. Joy is found in God. The love we share with others must be the love we have received from God, transferred over through us to them. Be one with God and with others in God, and experience the fullness of joy.
15. Psalm 44:3 — “For not by their own sword did they win the land, nor did their own arm save them, but your right hand and your arm, and the light of your face, for you delighted in them.” Christians understand their total dependence upon God and NEVER take credit for their own success but give ALL glory to God.
16. Psalm 44:6 — “For not in my bow do I trust.” It is not your own talents and abilities that will ultimately determine your success but rather your relationship with God and His mercy and grace bestowed upon you. Your future is solely in His hands. Eternal life is “knowing Him,” being truly one with Him (John 17:3). Don’t wait until you die to experience eternal life.
17. Psalm 44: 9, 17 — “But you have rejected us and disgraced us and have not gone out with our armies…. All this has come upon us, though we have not forgotten you, and we have not been false to your covenant.” God does uses circumstances to discipline His people, and during trials, we should search our hearts, minds, and actions as the psalmist does to ensure that we are aligned with God and that we haven’t hidden forbidden booty in our hearts that has caused our own “defeat at Ai” (Joshua 7). How foolish and dishonorable it is for a Christian to suffer needlessly due to the consequences of personal sin (Hebrews 10:29; 1 Peter 4:15)! However, as Job and his friends learned, you cannot explain every problem you have as a punishment for sin. Nor is crisis an indication that God has abandoned you, rejected you, or fallen asleep. God may be preparing you for greater things or to use you in a very mighty way. In any case, you can always trust God with your circumstances, even if you are partly to blame for them (Romans 8:8). Consider the lives of the protagonists in the Bible — how do you think Joseph felt having been left forgotten in prison with a life sentence, having previously been sold into slavery by his brothers? How do you think Moses felt before his burning bush experience, wandering in the desert as a deposed prince, a fugitive murderer? In their seemingly helpless situations, they could not understand that God was preparing them for great leadership. God has placed us in service to Him to reach the lost in a sinful world that is both corrupted by sin and full of sinners. He knows that this calling will often involve pain while we operate in this world of destruction and hurt. In the battlefield which we fight, the wounded are all around us; sin has corrupted even the cells of our bodies; and hurting people hurt people – God knows as you reach out to the wounded, you are going to get hurt too. The Bible says that when we suffer trials in the name of Jesus, we actually have cause to rejoice because we are experiencing a special and unique fellowship with Jesus as we “share Christ’s sufferings” (1 Peter 4:13). Paul would encourage us: “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:3).” However, it gets lonely and sometimes terrifying deep in enemy territory, and what do you do when you appear surrounded and are receiving no communications from the Commander? Trust and Obey! And Pray! We see today that, in silence, the psalmist recounts that God has always been more than faithful – the evidence upon which faith is based (Psalm 44:1-8). In dark, silent times, remember that God is always faithful even when we are not, and trust in Him; wait on Him; be still and know that He is Lord (Psalm 46:10). Don’t let your pride stand in the way of allowing others to minister to your needs. In your times of strength and confidence, remember how you suffered, and empathetically minister to the needs of others going through trials – God never intended for us to go it alone.
– 1 Peter 4:19 — Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
– 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4 — Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
– Philippians 4:4-13 — Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice…. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus…. I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
18. Psalm 44:24 — “Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?” Faith is tested when God appears to have forgotten you during your trials. During the exam, the professor remains silent. God is faithful to see you through.
19. Psalm 45:7 — “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness.” If you love righteousness, you have to hate wickedness. How much do you hate wickedness? Are you prepared to “ride out victoriously for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness (v4)?”
20. Psalm 45:17 — “I will perpetuate your memory through all generations; therefore the nations will praise you for ever and ever.” Our readings have much to say about God’s desires for the Christian family. First, Christian families recognize their total reliance on the grace and blessings of God (Psalm 45:2). They are led by honorable, mighty men who fight for “truth, humility, and justice,” who “love righteousness and hate wickedness (Psalm 45:4, 7).” These families are led by noble matriarchs who have committed fully to their husbands (never looking back) and honor them in every way (Psalm 45:10, 11). Through wisdom, these women build secure homes for their families (Proverbs 14:1). Together, these parents lead a house that flourishes because they don’t just hope for good but rather are diligent enough to “plan for good (Proverbs 14:11, 22, 23),” working very hard, and investing in the capabilities required for future productivity (Proverbs 14:4). The Christian family is characterized by love and faithfulness (Proverbs 14:22). The Christian home is a sanctuary (Proverbs 14:26), a place where everyone feels safe. A Christian home is led by noble parents who raise generations of noble Christian leaders after them (Psalm 45:16). As the Bible says, “Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring (Malachi 2:15).” Every Christian parent can recount countless parental failures. Today is a new day. Trust God with the past and the future. Seek to parent today like your Father in Heaven would, walking in His grace, which is sufficient in your constant failure. Demonstrate the love and ways of God to your family today.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 15 April: Praise the Lord with all of your heart today, all day. Share the hope of your salvation with as many as possible today.