Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 2 August 18:
1. Esther 3:2 — “But Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage.” Mordecai wasn’t looking for trouble but refused to compromise his fidelity to God, even if it put him at odds with powerful officials. God orchestrated circumstances that placed Mordecai at a decision point of faith.
2. Esther 3:5 — “Haman was filled with fury.” Haman hated the Jews, not because they believed in God but because they refused to treat him the way he wanted to be treated.
3. Esther 3:6 – “But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, as they had made known to him the people of Mordecai, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus.” Mordecai’s refusal to compromise threated the comfort and security of all of God’s people, much as did Moses’ fidelity to God. Are you willing to be faithful to Jesus even when other Christians don’t like it, even if it might cause trouble for people you care about?
4. Esther 3:8 — “There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws are different from those of every other people, and they do not keep the king’s laws, so that it is not to the king’s profit to tolerate them.” God’s people obeyed the laws of the land unless they conflicted with the laws of God. Mordecai and the other Jews refused to treat people as idols and were hated because of it, though they all, like Mordecai, proved faithful in other regards. Obeying God rather than government would threaten their lives. Christians are called to be the conscience of society. Christians are most faithful and loving when they stand up against sin which draws people further away from God and His blessings.
5. Esther 3:10 – “So the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews.” The king was poorly advised and influenced by people with selfish motives who only desired personal gain, despite their claims of concern for the welfare of the kingdom. Today too, politics is driven by special interest groups who seek personal benefit at the expense of others outside of their group. Also, leaders today make decisions in the name of the collective good (according to popular opinion), often in ways that promote injustice.
6. Esther 4:5 – “Then Esther called for Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs, who had been appointed to attend her, and ordered him to go to Mordecai to learn what this was and why it was.” Esther, living in comfort and luxury in the king’s palace, was unaware of what was happening to her people and untouched by the crisis impacting them. There is a lesson here for all of us.
7. Esther 4:13 — “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews.” Christians are being persecuted across the planet for their faith. We should not think that we will remain unscathed ourselves.
8. Esther 4:14 – “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Everyone will decide whether or not they are willing to put it all on the line for God and whether or not they will be used by God to fulfill His purposes. Those who remain irrelevant through compromise and indecision will simply miss out on what God is going to do anyway and suffer the consequences of being outside of God’s will.
9. Esther 4:14 — “Who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Mordecai helped Esther see God’s purpose for her life and helped her understand how God places His people in specific places, and specific times, in intentional relationships with other people, to accomplish His purposes. He also helped her understand that she had to choose to be faithful to the opportunity God had given her to join Him in His work.
10. Esther 4:16 – “I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” Esther was at a crossroads in her life, a decision-point on whether to trust God or not. She chose to remain faithful to God regardless the personal cost, and, in so doing, saved her people. What would God do with you if you put it all on the line for Him?
11. Proverbs 2:3-5 – “…if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” Acquiring the knowledge of God requires great diligence and consistent perseverance. God does not honor the half-hearted searcher. How you search for God reveals how much you value Him.
12. Proverbs 2:6 – “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Knowledge is given by God through His word.
13. Proverbs 2:10 – “…for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.” Knowledge must move from your mind (head knowledge) to your heart (character), to your feet, hands, and mouth.
14. Proverbs 2:11, 12 – “…discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you, delivering you from the way of evil.” When your obedient to God, you will avoid needless pain and suffering that most other people go through. Most trouble in life is self-induced. God’s word will help you avoid much self-induced trouble if you obey it.
15. Luke 9:1, 2 – “And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.” Luke begins with a pre-cursor to the Great Commission. Jesus, under His authority, tells His Apostles to go and do what He had modelled for them, with the power of the Spirit. Jesus gave them both power and authority to do two things together – proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal, not to do just one of those things. Some Christians focus on one or the other. Evangelism should involve ministry, and ministry should involve evangelism. Ministry and evangelism should go hand in hand.
16. Luke 9:3-6 – The disciples offered the Gospel to those who were willing to receive them and did not waste valuable time, energy, and effort with the hard-hearted, those who simply would not listen. Those who were not willing to receive the disciples freely were not blessed by them and did not receive the truth from them. Jesus did not expect the disciples to convince the unreceptive but rather to move on. There were plenty of other people ready to be healed and to receive God’s word.
17. Luke 9:10-17 — When we commit our lives to God’s service, He will place us in situations that are impossible for us to handle with our human abilities. He will force us to rely on miracles so that He can reveal Himself. If we only do what we know we can do, we don’t require faith, aren’t walking in faith, miss out on what God would have shown us, and only show others what we can do rather than the power of God.
18. Luke 9:18 — “Who do the crowds say that I am?” Faith defies public opinion.
19. Luke 9:23-25 — “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”
– Jesus meant it when He said we must deny ourselves and take up our crosses in order to follow Him. Easy to understand but hard to do. It cannot be done without the power of the Holy Spirit.
– It starts with denying self (selflessness). That alone is worth meditating on all day today and with great self-examination. Denying self is not the same as self-denial (such as restricting your diet (denying yourself food) in order to lose weight for self-centered reasons). Denying yourself is truly surrendering all ambition and motivation to God and to others. How much does self-centeredness influence even how we read and interpret the Bible? The battle against self (the flesh) is our greatest battle. Jesus said that with salvation comes the death of self, and if we don’t die of self, we will “forfeit” ourselves – hard words to hear. We see throughout Luke 9 how the disciples stumble over “self,” fighting over which of them would be the greatest (9:46), getting jealous of other preachers (9:49), and letting anger disorient them (9:54). For their self-centeredness, Jesus rebuked them and reminded them, “For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.” (9:55, 48) How many of us are working diligently to become the least?
– Taking up the cross is a daily process that is not just about suffering as church tradition would often suggest – it is about claiming our identity in Christ, replacing self with Christ. It is about, having died, now living (not our own lives) in Christ pursuing his goals, his desires, his interests. Paul said it like this: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20) Step one is death; step two is LIFE! Your mission now is “Ambassador” and “Priest,” and we live this new life one day at a time – if today, our minds are focused on what we need, and our words often include personal pronouns like (“I” and “me”); if we are bothered by worry, fear, anger, bitterness, jealousy, greed, ambition, doubt, or passions, we are missing the mark (sin). If we are “in” Christ, abiding in Christ, living through the power of the Holy Spirit, nothing can come against us. If we are attempting to live by our own personal power, we will be very ineffective just as the disciples were in Luke 9 today when they could not heal though Jesus had given them the power (see Luke 9:1 and then Luke 9:40). Of course, taking up our cross will involve forgiving those who persecute us, returning only good for bad. But our suffering is not just for the sake of glorifying God to others, it is also to draw us closer to Him.
– Following Jesus – this is where the rubber meets the road. Jesus first commanded the disciples, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19) The Bibles says they “rose and followed him.” (Matthew 9:9) Those who recognize who Christ really is and their total dependence on Him (like the vine is dependent on the branch) follow Him. (Matthew 9:27) This is something that the personally ambitious cannot do (Matthew 19:21) – you cannot live your life and follow Jesus at the same time; it is an all-or-nothing proposition. We must follow without any hesitation, wholeheartedly (Luke 9:59) Those who do follow Jesus will reign with him in the Kingdom. (Matthew 19:28) When we are not following Jesus, but rather going our own way, we are walking in darkness. (John 8:12) Christians follow no one but Christ . (1 Corinthians 3:4)
20. Luke 9:40 – “I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” In Luke 9:1, Jesus gave his disciples the power to cast out demons, but by Luke 9:40, they are found to be unable to do what Jesus empowered them to do. Why? Jesus explained that what rendered His people powerless and ineffective was not a lack of empowerment by the Holy Spirit or a lack of authority from God, but simply a lack of faith. Jesus says that they lacked the faith to do what God had already enabled them to do. How about you? Are you trusting God to live powerfully?
21. Luke 9:46-50 – “An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest.” Jealousy is unfitting of a Christian. If you have truly denied self, there will be no jealousy. Jealousy caused divisions among God’s people and detracts from ministry and evangelism. Jealousy and envy is what inspired the religious leaders to seek the death of The Savior – that’s how serious jealousy is.
22. Luke 9:57-62 – “And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’” Jesus modeled “deny self” for all to see, again, leaving no doubt that He meant His words to be taken literally rather than figuratively or metaphorically.
23. Luke 9:62 — “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” You are either going to follow Jesus or not. You cannot half follow Him.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 2 August 18: Put it all on the line for Jesus today.