Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 9 August 18:
1. Job 7:1 — “Has not man a hard service on earth, and are not his days like the days of a hired hand?” We should anticipate that life in this sin-corrupted world will be hard. If you are not currently going through a crisis, you certainly will, and we know life ends in death. But even through our inevitable trials, we can trust that God is bringing about an unimaginable goodness that we can’t comprehend in our present condition. (Romans 8:28) And we can have joy in our hope in eternal life through Jesus. And this hope we have is not hope in a wish (such as “I hope my team wins.”) This hope is confidence in a promise made by God Himself, confirmed through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Faith is trusting God today, regardless of our human perceptions, and hope is trusting God with the future, regardless of our human perceptions. Part of successful living is accepting life for what it is, challenges and all, and finding joy in faith. God has not called us to live in denial, as if the storms of life won’t come for us. God calls us to live in faith, hope, love, joy, peace, radiantly, and powerfully through the storms, with Him, as an act of worship and as a witness to others. “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock [of Jesus].” (Matthew 7:25) Paul described life as a fight, a race, a challenge requiring endurance. The race is set before you — run it well, and remember, it is not how you start that matters most, it is how you finish:
– 1 Corinthians 9:24 — Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
– 2 Timothy 4:7 — I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
– Hebrews 12:1, 2 — Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
2. Job 7:16 – “I loathe my life; I would not live forever.” Job did not want to live any longer but did not consider taking his own life due to his submission to God. Being willing to lose your life for a cause is not as hard as being willing to give your life up totally while living, denying self regardless the pain to serve God in the here and now.
3. Job 7:17 – “What is man, that you make so much of him, and that you set your heart on him.” Job understood that he had a special relationship with God. He was not just a sophisticated animal. In his heart, every person has a sense that (s)he should have a special spiritual relationship with God, though (s)he may not understand it and though many struggle against their conscience to deny it.
4. Job 8:8-10 — “For inquire, please, of bygone ages, and consider what the fathers have searched out. For we are but of yesterday and know nothing, for our days on earth are a shadow. Will they not teach you and tell you and utter words out of their understanding?” Bildad, unlike many today, understood the foolishness of a person trusting in his/her own understanding from his/her exceedingly limited experience and perspective. He reminded Job of the generations of testimony handed down proclaiming the faithfulness of God. Of course, he wasn’t telling Job anything Job didn’t already understand about God. It is amazing how many in this generation have so quickly rejected the faith of their parents.
5. Job 8 — Bildad’s counsel to Job was all based on a false assumption that Job’s pain was punishment from God for sin. Bildad’s words were true but misapplied because Bildad spoke of what he could not understand. Bildad was being judgmental because He assumed to know God’s judgment of Job.
6. Proverbs 9:1-3 – “Wisdom has built her house….” Wisdom is organized. Wisdom brings forth order and structure out of chaos. Wise people are orderly, organized, and disciplined.
7. Proverbs 9:13 – “The woman Folly is loud; she is seductive and knows nothing.” Foolish people are characterized as loud, ignorant, and lacking in self-control and discipline, always encouraging others to join them in their foolishness. Unwise people are “loud and proud.”
8. Proverbs 9 — Both wisdom and folly are inviting. Every person must decide to which they will respond and to whose voice they will follow.
9. Luke 14:1-6 – “And he said to them, ‘Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?’” The Pharisees read, interpreted, and applied God’s word from a self-centered vice selfless perspective. Jesus challenged the Pharisees with the Golden Rule, and it offended them. Godliness offends the ungodly, in part, because it exposes their own selfish hearts.
10. Luke 14:7-11 – “… do not sit down in a place of honor…. go and sit in the lowest place…. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Literally, it is hard for people to give others preferred seating, particularly if they are in positions of social status, but Jesus expects that attitude and so much more from His followers — He expects us to give others honor above ourselves and to leave it to Him to give us honor. A Christian who honors himself, who seeks praise for himself or herself is unfaithful. God calls us to embody humility. How is that going for you? True faith should drive you to complete humility. Pride is anti-Christian. We must cultivate humility, for it does not come naturally. One of the many paradoxes of the Christian life is that when God sees your genuine humility, He exalts you. (Review Proverbs 16:18 and Proverbs 25:27)
11. Luke 14:12-14 — “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” Again, Jesus reiterates His demand for us to break from all worldly norms and expectations and give our very best (not scraps, hand-me-downs, or things we don’t care about) to the poor, knowing that there will be no earthly return on investment. The value of a gift or offering is determined by how valuable it is to you, and what you give is a demonstration of how much you love. But it also takes faith and hope to give, trusting that God wants you to give and hoping (having complete confidence) that God will provide for your future needs though you gave away what you had. How many different ways do Christians justify not giving? Which homeless deserve your very best, only the ‘responsible’ ones? Christians are called to give abundantly without prejudice, demands, or expectations. See the need, meet the need. See the opportunity to love, love. I reminder: giving doesn’t just involve things, it also involves time and effort. Sometimes it is harder to give time or effort than it is to give money or things.
12. Luke 14:15-24 — Jesus compelled us, the poor, unworthy, and spiritually homeless to join His banquet. The truth of what Jesus has done for us should incentivize our response to the poor and needy. We should also heed His warning that many who are invited to His banquet don’t actually show up.
13. Luke 14:26 — “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” This statement in the Bible can be confusing. How can God, who issues the second greatest commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” turn around and tell us we must hate our father and mother? To understand this statement from Jesus, we need to first review the greatest commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” The foundation of all other commandments rests on this one commandment, and our ability to love others is fully dependent on the quality of our love for God. Before we break any other commandment, we have broken the first commandment. God is love, and the key to knowing God is loving God; without God there is no love, only artificial substitutes. I believe what Jesus is saying is that to truly be His disciple, your love for God must be so great, that comparatively speaking, it makes your love for anyone else seem like hate – your love for Jesus must be larger than life itself. Jesus goes on to warn us to “count the cost” of discipleship – “any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Why do you do what you do? What really motivates you? What concerns you? Where do you go for approval? In what do you invest? What is most important to you in life? If something or someone has more of an influence on your daily decisions than Jesus, then you have found your idol. There is a reason why I am in continual repentance and continually grateful for the Grace of God.
14. Luke 14:27, 33 — “And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple…. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” Jesus’ demand for wholehearted, total commitment follows his parable of the “Great Banquet” which describes those who are too “busy” and concerned with the worries of the world to accept his invitation. This parable is similar to the “Parable of the Sower” in the Book of Matthew: “The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful (13:22).” We are busier than ever today. How hard does it seem to even find time to read the Bible every day, even more so to meditate upon it and put it into practice on a daily basis? How much time can we find in the day to walk with the Lord? At the end of a day, consider in what you invested your thoughts, time, energy, efforts, and resources. Was it directed toward advancing the Kingdom or was it oriented on self-preservation and worldly success? How much of what we “have to do” do we really have to do? When a man lamented that he didn’t have enough time in the day to do all that he needed to do, his Pastor replied: “You have just enough time in the day to do the things God wants you to do.” I pray for the wisdom to know the difference:
– “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8, 9)
15. Luke 14:28 — “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?” Today, Jesus challenges us to truly consider the radical, fanatical steps and the personal cost required to follow Him. After many parables, He gives us the bottom line: “Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:33) Again, this is not metaphorical — He means it quite literally. Consider how rich Christians are today; yet, most are in deep debt, usually as a result of having been unsatisfied with having what they could afford.
16. Luke 14:33 – “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Following Jesus is an all-or-nothing proposition. You must surrender your whole life.
17. Luke 14:34, 35 — “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” You were created to be in union with Jesus and to serve Him on earth. If you are not serving your purpose, what good are you?
18. Luke 14:35 — “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Today, Jesus wants you to really evaluate the fidelity and impact of your discipleship. Are you extreme, radical, fanatical, and truly shocking (even offensive) to other ‘Christians’ like Jesus was to the religious leaders?
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 9 Aug 18: Why do anything half-way? Why not live life to its fullness and experience the fullness of joy that comes with wholehearted commitment to following Jesus? Today, recommit to denying yourself, to taking up your cross daily, and to following Jesus wholeheartedly, regardless of how crazy everyone else thinks your commitment is. (Luke 14; 1 Kings 18:21; Matthew 6:24; Revelation 3:16; James 1:22-25; James 4:8)