Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 20 July 18:
1. 2 Chronicles 35:2 — “He appointed the priests to their offices and encouraged them in the service of the house of the Lord.” God’s priests need encouragement too. Who is encouraging you in the service of the Lord? Who are you encouraging?
2. 2 Chronicles 35:20-22 — “I am not coming against you this day, but against the house with which I am at war. And God has commanded me to hurry. Cease opposing God, who is with me, lest he destroy you. Nevertheless, Josiah did not turn away from him.” Be careful not to get in God’s way by deciding for yourself, without the leading of the Holy Spirit, what you are going to do for God. You don’t want to find yourself unintentionally opposing God by pursuing seemingly noble causes that aren’t what God really desires or intends. Just because you think it is a good idea, doesn’t mean God really wants you to do it.
3. 2 Chronicles 35:21 — “Cease opposing God, who is with me, lest he destroy you.” God uses people you would least expect to accomplish His purposes.
4. 2 Chronicles 36:12 — “He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord his God. He did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke from the mouth of the Lord.” You must take a humble approach to God’s word and obey. Each day, you should pour into the word of God, let the Holy Spirit convict you, and respond in repentance and renewal.
5. 2 Chronicles 36:13 — “He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God. He stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the Lord, the God of Israel.” God expects you to keep your promises, oaths and commitments.
6. 2 Chronicles 36:14 — “All the officers of the priests and the people likewise were exceedingly unfaithful, following all the abominations of the nations. And they polluted the house of the Lord that he had made holy in Jerusalem.” God’s people have a long and terrible history of, at times, being more influenced by the world around them than an influence on the world. In this chapter, the government leadership led the nation adrift, and the church followed. The church should serve as the conscience of the nation, exposing darkness and preserving order (salt and light) in accordance with the Laws of God. This is warning to churches found throughout the Bible.
7. 2 Chronicles 36:14 – “All the officers of the priests and the people likewise were exceedingly unfaithful, following all the abominations of the nations. And they polluted the house of the Lord that he had made holy in Jerusalem.” Your sin leads others to sin.
8. 2 Chronicles 36:15, 16 — “The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against his people, until there was no remedy.” God’s people are called to proclaim His message to the nation. If God’s word is ignored and despised, there may come a national crisis without remedy. Pray for corporate repentance and revival among God’s people and a new Great Awakening.
9. 2 Chronicles 36:16-17 – “But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against his people, until there was no remedy. Therefore he brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans, who killed their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary and had no compassion on young man or virgin, old man or aged. He gave them all into his hand.” If you disobey the God who loves you, He may choose those who don’t love you to punish you.
10. 2 Chronicles 36:17 — If God has chosen evil leaders to punish a people, the political efforts of the people to remove the evil leaders are futile. Repentance is the answer.
11. 2 Chronicles 36:19 – “And they burned the house of God and broke down the wall of Jerusalem and burned all its palaces with fire and destroyed all its precious vessels.” God’s punishment against a nation affects the believers too.
12. 2 Chronicles 36:23 — “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him. Let him go up.’” When God’s people prove unfaithful, God can use unbelievers to punish them and to complete the work He intended to be accomplished. Several times, we see God using unbelievers to do what the church should have done for His glory. Be strong and courageous and do the work of a disciple and an ambassador!
13. Proverbs 20:3 – “It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife, but every fool will be quarreling.” Quarreling is an activity of fools.
14. Proverbs 20:4 – “The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing.” You don’t get something for nothing, and you are investing in twenty years from now right now – what will you have to show later for what you do today, not just in resources but in character and sanctification?
15. Proverbs 20:6 – “Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?” There is nothing more valuable than a faithful person. Fidelity is a requirement to be loving.
16. Proverbs 20:7 – “The righteous who walks in his integrity— blessed are his children after him!” Righteousness has a positive effect on the next generation. Your integrity affects your children more than you know.
17. Proverbs 20:9 — “Who can say, ‘I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin’”? All have sinned, and no one can make their heart pure. Only Jesus can fix our impurity.
18. Proverbs 20:11 — “Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright.” How you act reveals the truth of your faith and your character. No one can truly know another person’s heart, but actions reveal much.
19. Proverbs 20:12 — “The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made them both.” How foolish is it to trust your own perceptions rather than God who created and controls everything and sees all that you cannot see or understand?
20. Proverbs 20:16 – “Take a man’s garment when he has put up security for a stranger, and hold it in pledge when he puts up security for foreigners.” God wants the wise to protect the foolish from their own actions. We all need someone in our lives who will be strong when we are weak and who will protect us from ourselves when we need it.
21. Proverbs 20:22 – “Do not say, ‘I will repay evil’; wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you.” Never try to get even with those who offend you. Only God sees the whole picture to include motives, intent, mitigating circumstances, etc. Only God can respond justly, and God can respond far better than you can.
22. Proverbs 20:30 – “Blows that wound cleanse away evil; strokes make clean the innermost parts.” If you lack self-control or self-discipline in an area of your life, God, your Loving Father, will apply external discipline. Ouch!
23. 2 Thessalonians 3:1, 2 — “Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith.” Paul’s prayers requests were first about accomplishing the Great Commission and then personal security. The focus of your life and the focus of your prayers should be that God uses you to spread His word. Seek first the Kingdom.
24. 2 Thessalonians 3:3 — “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” None of us are perfected in love; pray that God sanctifies you day by day into purer love. Love grows the closer you get to the source of love, Jesus. Know Him!
25. 2 Thessalonians 3:4 – “And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command.” Paul expected God’s people to obey God.
26. 2 Thessalonians 3:5 — “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.”
– The Lord directs our hearts to love, and we don’t grow in love unless we follow the Lord’s direction. As we grow in love, we grow in steadfastness, a word with synonyms such as commitment, loyalty, and faithfulness – persistent, unwavering obedience. So, the Lord tells us how to love, and the more we follow his instructions, the more self-discipline turns into genuine desire — we want to love and obey Him from a heart of genuine love, love is no longer hard. This is what John meant when he said, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3) At first, when our love is immature, obedience is difficult – we don’t really want to do what we should, but we force ourselves; but as we struggle in obedience, our heart changes, and it becomes easier because we want to obey more and more. Don’t we see this pattern play out with children? In so many ways, my children now desire things I once had to force upon them. Don’t you see this pattern in your own spiritual walk? Aren’t there many things you truly desire to do now that you once had to force yourself to do?
– Today, Paul reminds us of the importance of the Bible for our daily growth and development, but he also reminds us that Christians play an important role in developing one another. Paul’s emphasis in today’s readings is on “tough love,” holding fellow believers accountable for their actions. Specifically, he says twice to “Keep away from [Christians] who… [do] not live according to the teaching.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14) Why ostracize a fellow Christian? Paul says, “in order that he may feel ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” (2 Thessalonians 3:14) Holding others accountable is hard and takes moral courage; however, it protects them, you, and others from further consequences of sin. And the hope is that discipline will be replaced by desire. Being firm is not the same as being unloving, though it is often portrayed that way. But iron sharpens iron through friction. Conversely, rebukes MUST ALWAYS come from a heart of love and the motive of reconciliation.
– Perhaps the pendulum has swung in American churches from poorly administered church discipline to no discipline at all. Much of today’s “grace” movement suggests that we should not talk about obedience but only love. The idea is until we truly love, we cannot obey anyway, and talk about obedience just makes people feel guilty, angry and defeated. This is a false linear approach to growth – first you believe, then you love, then you obey. Actually, maturing in love is not purely linear. Most people believe and love enough to obey a little, and in their somewhat reluctant obedience, they grow in faith and love as their relationship with Jesus grows. Information becomes transformation through practical application, coached by the Holy Spirit (often using other Christians in the process). And don’t all good coaches make you run laps you don’t really want to run so that you can be ready to win the game you really want to win? Jesus said it this way, “If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.” (John 7:17)
– Obedience to God’s word is a path to ever-increasing love and heart/mind transformation. We are called to encourage one another in obedience and to rebuke one another, using God’s word as our standard and God’s love as our guide. This is why Paul said to Timothy, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people…. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:1-16)
– Finally, much of the current “grace” movement suggests that a church emphasis on obedience is the same as “legalism” and always comes from self-righteous, judgmental hearts. Legalism uses obedience as a path to salvation rather than a path to sanctification. Obedience doesn’t make God love us, it helps us love Him and others. Yes, in our sin, we are very tempted to approach others from a self-righteous perspective, but growing in humility is part of the sanctification process too. We must not only learn to search our hearts (empowered by the Holy Spirit) for deep-rooted pride, we must also learn to deal with those around us who are also struggling with pride, recognizing that some of their rebukes might be true, regardless of their motives. Haven’t we been reading about how God uses imperfect messengers for His purposes in our lives? Your only judge is God. He will test you in an imperfect church, family, and community. Show grace, mercy, and love to the prideful and arrogant, and see if they aren’t revealing pride that remains in you.
27. 2 Thessalonians 3:6 — “Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.” God expects you to work hard in love and to surround yourself with like-minded fellow workers.
28. 2 Thessalonians 3:11, 12 — “For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living.” Rather than worrying and talking about what others should be doing but aren’t, do what should be done yourself. Talk is cheap. Get behind the plow.
29. 2 Thessalonians 3:13 — “As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.” God’s work is hard work that at times can seem overwhelming. Don’t grow weary! Keep moving forward!
30. 2 Thessalonians 3:13 — Doing good and preaching the Good News can be wearisome because people resist the truth, and even other believers will work against you. Again, don’t grow weary.
31. 2 Thessalonians 3:15 – “Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.” You have an obligation to hold others accountable and to warn them, as painful as that may be. Do it in love.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 20 July 18: Today, prayerfully ask God to show you the truth behind your motives, why you do the things you do. If you are motivated by anything other than love (fear, pride, greed, duty, etc.), ask God to further purify you in love, and seek to eliminate self-centeredness from your actions. (2 Thessalonians 3:3; Proverbs 15:11)