Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 3 August 18:
1. Esther 5:11 “Haman boasted to them about his vast wealth, his many sons, and all the ways the king had honored him and how he had elevated him above the other nobles and officials.” A person can have all the appearances of success while being a failure in God’s eyes and while heading to calamity.
2. Esther 5:12 – “Then Haman said, ‘Even Queen Esther let no one but me come with the king to the feast she prepared. And tomorrow also I am invited by her together with the king.’” Haman interpreted circumstances from a selfish, self-centered perspective.
3. Esther 5:13 – “Yet all this is worth nothing to me, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.” Haman could not be content. Pride and Jealousy consumed Haman and ruined is appreciation of everything else. What is needlessly robbing you of your joy? Don’t let one negative thing consume you. Focus on how much God has blessed you. Remain joyfully obedient, one day at a time, and watch God work.
4. Esther 6:1 – “On that night the king could not sleep. And he gave orders to bring the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles, and they were read before the king.” At just the right time, the king had a sleepless night, read the chronicles, and remembered Mordecai – God’s hand or coincidence? God orchestrates events to accomplish His will on His timing. He works in ways we can’t in order to reveal Himself. How has God arranged circumstances in your life to work in amazing ways? Your encounters with God make you a witness to others.
5. Esther 6:3-11 – Haman’s pride led to his humiliation. Ask God to help you control your pride.
6. Esther 6:13 – “And Haman told his wife Zeresh and all his friends everything that had happened to him. Then his wise men and his wife Zeresh said to him, ‘If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of the Jewish people, you will not overcome him but will surely fall before him.’” God protected His people, and no one could stand against them. Even Zeresh could see God at work preserving His people. Where do you see God at work?
7. Proverbs 3:1-5 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” It is logical that mere men cannot possibly understand what the Creator is doing. However, it takes faith to believe that He will guide you in love and faithfulness if you obey Him. Faith will require you to do what doesn’t make sense from your very limited human perspective.
8. Proverbs 3:3 – “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck;” Love and faithfulness go together. If you truly love, you will be faithful. A lack of fidelity demonstrates a lack of love. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments.” Many say they love God, but live out a different truth.
9. Proverbs 3:7 – “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.” How much you respect God is revealed by how you respond to evil. The more you love God, the more you hate sin.
10. Proverbs 3:8 – “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce.” How we handle our resources is a test of faith. It takes faith to give. Fear and pride drive materialism. It also takes faith to rest. Both the tithe and the Sabbath demonstrate our trust in God rather than in our own productivity and accomplishments.
11. Proverbs 3:26 – “…for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.” If your confidence is in anything but the LORD, your peace and joy will always be uncertain and unstable. If your confidence is in the LORD, you will be like Paul, content in any situation.
12. Proverbs 3:27, 28 — “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. Do not say to your neighbor, ‘Go, and come again, tomorrow I will give it’—when you have it with you.”
– See a need; meet a need in the Name of Jesus. Your generosity reveals your faith.
– Christians have a tendency to measure their faith, the faith of others, and the condition of their church based on ministry programs, activities, and events. They also tend to view missionary work as something that is only done in very distant lands. Many Christians feel guilty because they are not more active in church activities. However, if the Christian will be faithful with what/who God has placed in front of them (which is no coincidence), that Christian will no longer feel a ministry or missionary void. In fact, that Christian will feel that what God has asked them to do is impossible, because it is impossible without God’s miraculous power. Jesus both communicated this frontlines ministry and modeled it for us – He was focused on people rather than programmatics. He focused on the day at hand, not worrying about past or future. He made the most of the opportunity. He stopped whatever He was doing, what He had planned to respond to where He saw God working in someone’s life, much to the dismay of His disciples. Others thought He was wasting His time with nobodies when, in their minds, He should have been doing ‘big’ things. To them, He too often wasted time, energy, and resources on things that would never ‘pay off.’ However, Jesus saw EVERY person from God’s perspective, and eternal perspective, and, though He is the Son of God, He became the servant of the lowly, those ignored by everyone else, even the religious. God has ‘salted’ you into a particular location at a particular time to be His ambassador to specific people, those you will encounter today. These people (not some group somewhere else) are your mission, your top priority, whether you would choose them or not. How you choose to interact with them depends on your perspective on your calling and reveals your faith. Don’t look somewhere else for service. The little things you do for others today may not score you any points in your congregation, but they will bring glory to God. And how many well-known, major ministries were started because one person decided to help another person, and then another, and then another…. Walk slowly through the crowd today. See where God is working in lives around you, join Him, and watch God work.
– The content and quality of our character is tested, revealed, and shaped by the small decisions we make each day. Each day we are presented with countless choices and decisions, most we make while hardly considering them. However, every little decision we make affects both our environment (to include others) and our hearts, both with which God is greatly concerned. In fact, the seemingly unobservable or unnoticed decisions we make as well as the ones we make spontaneously may in fact be the most important as they tend to be the most ‘honest’ ones. If we can be faithful with the little things, we will be ready for the big things, but our character is built on little things. There seems to be a continuous cycle of character development – how we ‘see’ the world, what we believe to be true about life, affects the way we think; what we think affects what we decide to say (affirm about life) and do; what we do over time becomes habit; and our habits shape our character which in turn shapes what we ‘see’ and really believe is true. The cycle continues towards greater goodness or badness, but it is never stagnant. Each day, in our decisions, we are building our character while also impacting the world around us. With each decision, the truth of us is revealed. As Proverbs says, “Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright,” (Proverbs 20:11) Genuine humility is essential for proper introspection to assess why we do what we do with the little, revealing decisions we make every day. If, without even thinking about it, we pass by an opportunity to give or to support someone in need, what are we revealing about our hearts? How often, in an instant, do we snap at someone and then say, “I’m not really an angry person, I was just caught off guard or overwhelmed by the heat of the moment.”? The Bible would caution us to see the revealed truth of the condition of our hearts. C.S Lewis described it this way:
“We begin to notice, besides our particular sinful acts, our sinfulness; begin to be alarmed not only about what we do, but about what we are. This may sound rather difficult, so I will try to make it clear from my own case. When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected: I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself. Now that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts: they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated. On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man: it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.”
– The Bible calls us to build our character one day at a time, by humbly making the most of every opportunity. In that process, the guarding of our hearts, the Bible tells us to simultaneously and continuously address all aspects of the character development cycle – what we think, what we say, what we do, and our habits. This will require at times doing and saying what we really don’t want to do and say while acknowledging our internal inconsistency with the mind and heart of Jesus while praying for God to heal our hearts that we would truly desire to do His will. At first, obedience may be a chore, but without the labor, there is no harvest in the heart. Conversely, we must not be prideful farmers who believe that it is our toil that ultimately produces fruit. Life comes from Jesus; apart from Jesus, our labors can produce nothing at all. Character is not built in a day but rather a lifetime, on day at a time. Today’s Psalms say, “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12) Each day is another once in a lifetime opportunity to grow in the Lord. Make the most of today by endeavoring to be faithful in the little things. If it is in your power to do good, do good.
13. Luke 10:2 — “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” Only the Holy Spirit knows who the Father is drawing to the Son. Ask God to show you whom to communicate the Gospel.
14. Luke 10:3 — “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” God knows that He is leading you into persecution in order to use you to communicate the Gospel to sinful people who are naturally hurtful. Are you willing to be hurt by the people God wants you to reach? Are you willing to show unloving people the love of Christ, regardless of what happens to you through the process? Are you willing to suffer and say, “Forgive them Father; they know not what they do”?
15. Luke 10:7 – “And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house.” On God’s mission you must be satisfied with the resources provided, not being tempted to move where it is more comfortable. You must also be humble enough to receive gifts from others.
16. Luke 10:9 – “Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’” Ministry and evangelism always go together. Don’t do one without the other.
17. Luke 10:10 – “But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say….” Don’t waste time trying to work where the Holy Spirit isn’t already working.
18. Luke 10:16 — “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” How people respond to Christ’s Ambassadors reveals what is in their spirits and whether or not God is drawing them.
19. Luke 10:20 – “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” What matters is not the gifts you receive from God but rather your relationship with God.
20. Luke 10:21 – “In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, ‘I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.’” God destroys ego.
21. Luke 10:22 – “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” God takes the initiative in salvation, and salvation comes only through Jesus.
22. Luke 10:29 — “But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”
– People complicate God’s word and place conditions upon it when they want to accommodate their sin. Many will pervert the Gospel of grace in order to justify their disobedience. Self-justification seeks to avoid God’s clear word and command.
– The owner of a high-intensity workout facility once stated, “Most people who join don’t last very long…. I can always tell right away which people won’t last – they are the ones who ask a lot of questions about the workouts…. The ones who stay never do that; they just workout.” Apparently, the dabblers in fitness who did more questioning that exercising were revealing to the instructor their half-hearted desire to commit to the challenge, hoping to find in their questioning a reason why the physical training, which had been proven effective, was somehow not quite right for them. People do the same thing with God’s word. The vast majority of what is written in the Bible is not at all hard to understand – it is quite clear. However, if we are clinging to ‘self’ it is impossible to fully accept. So, we seek to justify our self-centeredness by ‘adding’ to God’s word. We look for caveats, loop-holes, or special conditions that will limit the fullness of God’s word and provide a buffer from the requirement for total obedience. We become ‘lawyers’ defending our half-hearted followership. “Love my neighbor? Well, technically Who is my neighbor?” “Forgive those to trespass against me? Well, what if they have really trespassed against me terribly and haven’t changed?” “Give to the needy? What if they don’t deserve it or won’t change after I give the them?” “Sex is only for marriage between a man and woman in a life-long marriage? But what if two people really love each other and do not fall into this narrow condition? Surely they should not be denied sex!” “Proclaim the gospel to all creation? Isn’t just being a good person enough, and doesn’t my pastor do all the preaching?” “Deny self, pick up my cross, and follow? Doesn’t God want me to be successful in the things that I want to do and that fulfill me and my desires?” Could it be the Jesus meant EXACTLY what he said without any special caveats and conditions? How different would your life be if you did not play the lawyer with those challenging words?
— Proverbs 25:26 — Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.
— Ezekiel 34:18 — Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet?
— Ezekiel 34:19 — And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet?
23. Luke 10:37 – “He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You go, and do likewise.’” Christians administer mercy. Mercy doesn’t show favoritism or place conditions upon grace.
24. Luke 10:39-42 – “And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, ‘Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.’”
– When our sacrifices and services are driven by self-righteousness, we tend to seek credit for our efforts, compare ourselves to others, resent others for their apparent lack of contribution, and get discouraged when we don’t seem to get the reward and praise we deserve. Self-righteousness and comparison robs us of our joy and distracts us from our relationship with God.
– Jesus warns us not to let work and business get in the way of our relationship with Him. We must guard the time we spend at the LORD’s feet listening to Him. Hearing Jesus’ words is the most basic Christian activity.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 3 Aug 18: Look to see where God is moving in the hearts of people around you and tell them about Jesus. If they are not interested, simply try again with someone else. Proclaim the Gospel without fear, and let the Holy Spirit do the rest. Don’t waste your time trying to build where God hasn’t laid the foundation. (Luke 10)