Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 12 September 18:
1. Isaiah 14:12, 13 — “How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God” The name “Day Star” is literally translated “shining one,” and likely refers contextually to the king of Babylon, though some have recognized the similarities of the fall of this earthly ruler to the fall of Lucifer. Though the text does not refer directly to Lucifer or his fall, we do know that Satan works through people who are led by him. Jesus called those led by Satan children of the devil, rather than children of God. From beginning to end, the Bible describes a contest of kingdoms, between the Kingdom of God and those who worship God as LORD, and the kingdoms of men (led by Satan) who pridefully seek to usurp the Lordship of the Almighty in futility. Whether they acknowledge it or not, everyone has a leader. Everyone follows someone or something, and Jesus warned that a person cannot serve two masters, particularly two that are diametrically opposed. Sometimes, evil people can be influenced to do ‘good’ things, and sometimes ‘good’ people can be influenced to do bad things, but ultimately, everyone is either following Christ or an antichrist which offers another ‘salvation,’ a different gospel which is really no Gospel at all. Earthly leaders are either pointing to Christ or to an antichrist, there is no middle ground. Someone once said, “Leaders know the way and show the way.” Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and The Life. No one comes to the Father but through me.” All other “Day Stars” in their apparent glory will be consumed by the Light and be seen no more. Like a mighty oak, they will be cut down by God. As a leader, be careful not to communicate hope in anything other than Jesus.
2. Isaiah 14:13-14 – “You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’” Sin basically involves placing self above God, thinking your hope and salvation depends on your personal power, thinking you’re in control of your destiny, seeking to build your own kingdom on earth rather than seeking first the Kingdom of God. The message of the world (this shiny forbidden apple) is one of self-actualization, self-realization, self-determination, and self-motivation, and just plain selfishness – humanism. These teachings creep into the church and many blend Christianity with humanism to form a false religion which suggests that God wants me to have what I want and wants to support my little kingdom on earth until I die and go to heaven. Be careful not to change “Thy will be done on earth,” with “My will be done on earth.”
3. Isaiah 14:16-17 – “Those who see you will stare at you and ponder over you: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world like a desert and overthrew its cities, who did not let his prisoners go home?’” Even our greatest accomplishments are temporary and insignificant unless they are in fulfillment of God’s eternal plan. Do not labor in vain.
4. Isaiah 14:24-27 — “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand…. For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?” God has a plan for the world from which He will not deviate and which cannot be altered. His plan is revealed in His word.
5. Isaiah 15 — There comes a point when it is too late to mourn and cry out for mercy because judgment has already been decided.
6. Proverbs 12:1 – “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.” God disciplines you to teach you. Don’t despise His discipline – learn from it. Do you have the eyes to see God’s discipline in your life, and do you have the heart to accept it? God disciplines you through your circumstances, not that every difficult thing that happens to you is discipline, but some are. Often, you will not understand why things are happening. When you face challenges, simply seek to draw closer to the Lord in obedience, reliance on His grace, and confidence in His never-ending love.
7. Proverbs 12:2 – “A good man obtains favor from the Lord, but a man of evil devices he condemns.” God condemns those who reject His mercy and grace through Jesus.
8. Proverbs 12:15 – “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.” Fools are very confident in their foolishness.
9. Proverbs 12:16 – “The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult.” It is wise to ignore insults, but many can’t resist the temptation to respond. Those who respond are led by emotion rather than the Spirit. When you are insulted, your faith, hope, and love are being tested. You will reveal in that instant what you really believe, who you really trust, and who you really love more, self or God. The biggest struggle in life is the battle against self-centeredness and selfishness. Your immediate response, what you do without thinking, reveals the truth of your faith and your heart. Take notice. If you do not respond to insults and offenses as Jesus would, you have a relationship problem. Don’t try to justify your poor behavior. Get closer to Jesus. Don’t try to shift responsibility from yourself by focusing on what the other person did to you. Their actions are between them and God. You are responsible to God for your responses. Humbly repent to God when your actions don’t adequately reflect Christ-like sacrificial love, when you fail to truly deny self, take up your personal cross, and follow Jesus’ example of, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.”
10. Proverbs 12:18, 25 – “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing…. Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” The words of a Christian should bring healing and gladness, though sometimes they may difficult to receive at first. Your words are very powerful; they change the environment and impact the hearts of others. As an ambassador for Christ, you have been charged with speaking only for Jesus, not for yourself, in every moment. You’re called to communicate reconciliation, to make Jesus more known to others and to seek to bring everyone around you closer to Him through what you say. Jesus warned that we would be held accountable for every careless word that comes out of our mouths.
11. Proverbs 12:26 – “One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.” Let God’s good word take away your stress.
[Note: Here is a link to a video summary of Philemon: https://youtu.be/aW9Q3Jt6Yvk]
12. Philemon 1:1 – “Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother….” Paul had many jobs in his life, he was a Jew, and he was a Roman citizen, but he identified himself, first and foremost, as a fully committed follower of Jesus and a member of the family of Christ. How do you introduce yourself to others? For what are you most known?
13. Philemon 1:1, 2 – “To Philemon our beloved fellow worker and Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier….” Christians are both workers and soldiers. Do you work for the Kingdom and fight for righteousness? Is that your focus today, or are you consumed by the worries of the world and wrapped up in earthly pursuits? It is critical that you walk through the day with the right perspective and focus, that you are not distracted. Your world view will impact every decision you make. Seek first the Kingdom one day at a time. The truth of the Bible cannot me just a philosophy to you, it must be your action plan.
14. Philemon 1:3 – “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul’s goal was that others might truly know, receive, and enjoy the grace and peace that comes through Jesus. Are you know by others as unnaturally graceful, gracious, and peaceful? Do the words that come out of your mouth exude surprising grace and peace? In the most chaotic environments, do you remain unflustered like Jesus sleeping in the back of a boat tossed about by the storms of the sea while everyone else panicked? If not, ask yourself why not.
15. Philemon 1:4-7 – “I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints, and I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ. For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.” Do you always thankfully pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ? How about today? Are others hearing about the impact your love and faithfulness is having on others? Are you knowing Jesus and making Him known to others more and more with each day, and are you praying that others would do the same? Does your love bring comfort and refresh others?
– We cannot fully mature in Christ outside of relationships with others. The sharing of our faith is required to truly “know” the power of the Spirit within us. God has given us the mandate of discipleship and evangelism. If we are not faithful to Christ in our relationships, we live fruitless lives.
16. Philemon 1:8, 9 – “Though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you—I, Paul, an old man and now a prisoner also for Christ Jesus.” Do you command others to do what is right or do you appeal to them? Which approach is more loving? Are your emotions held captive (as a prisoner) by the love of Christ?
17. Philemon 1:14 – “I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.” Paul wanted to give others the opportunity to do what they should by their own choice, inspired by love, rather than forcing them to do it. This comes with risk and takes great patience.
– Obedience out of a sense of duty or responsibility does not have the power of obedience inspired by love.
18. Philemon 1:17 – “So if you consider me your partner, receive him as you would receive me.” Paul’s appeal was grounded in relationship. His influence was empowered by the truth of his character. He was persuasive because he was genuine, selfless, and loving, not because he had positional authority or the power of threat. His authority was from Jesus, the authority of the Truth. Rules without relationship leads to rebellion.
19. Philemon 1:18 – “If he has wronged you at all, or owes you anything, charge that to my account.” Paul ensured there were no personal issues, issues, or debts that would distract from his appeal. Do not let unsettled matters between you and others distract them from the truth you proclaim. Let no debt remain but the debt of love. Philemon had no excuse to keep him from listening to Paul and accepting his appeal.
20. Philemon 1:20 – “Yes, brother, I want some benefit from you in the Lord. Refresh my heart in Christ.” Paul could freely and confidently ask, and Philemon could confidently accept, because Paul was not motivated by any selfishness. Being solely committed to the work of Jesus, Paul presented Philemon with a decision of whether or not to serve Jesus, not Paul.
21. Philemon 1:21 – “Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say.” Love causes us to do more than what is asked or expected. Jesus said walk an extra mile, even for the unrighteous Roman centurion.
22. Philemon 1:25 – “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” Paul began all conversations with a focus on grace and peace and ended all conversations with a focus on grace and peace. One of your biggest challenges today and everyday will be to not lose focus on your purpose and mission as an ambassador for Jesus and a reconciler. In your interactions with others, you cannot, as an ambassador, represent your own interests or speak on your own behalf but must represent Jesus and speak on His behalf; and regardless matter at hand, you must not lose focus on the goal of revealing Christ a bit more to the other purpose and seeking their reconciliation with Jesus, drawing them just a bit closer to Jesus. Don’t let the “issue,” whatever it may be, become the focus and a distraction from Jesus. Overwhelm the other person with the grace and peace of Jesus. Be willing to lose the argument or suffer temporal loss in order to win the true victory.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 12 Sep 18: Today, critique your every encounter with every person with whom you interact. Did you represent Jesus or yourself? Were you motivated by emotion or love? Did you leave the other person overwhelmed by your display of grace, mercy, and peace? Were your words refreshing and renewing? Did you leave them with a greater understanding of Jesus? Were you faithful with the moment? Did you walk away feeling closer to Jesus, with contentment and peace? If you fell short, don’t worry, just pray, repent, and get closer to Jesus.