WEEK 42, Day 1, Monday, 15 October 2018

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 15 October 18:

1. Jeremiah 19:5 – “…and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, which I did not command or decree, nor did it come into my mind….” God expects you to do only what He has planned and commanded, not what seems to succeed for other people.

2. Jeremiah 19:11 – “So will I break this people and this city, as one breaks a potter’s vessel, so that it can never be mended.” There can come a time when God knows a person or nation will never turn to Him, when the opportunity for repentance is gone. He then destroys the worthless vessel.

3. Jeremiah 20:2 – “Then Pashhur beat Jeremiah the prophet, and put him in the stocks that were in the upper Benjamin Gate of the house of the Lord.” God does not always choose to protect His faithful servant from suffering and persecution at the hands of humans who have departed from God. However, God does promise to remain faithful to His suffering servant through persecution.

4. Jeremiah 20:3 – “The next day, when Pashhur released Jeremiah from the stocks, Jeremiah said to him, ‘The Lord does not call your name Pashhur, but Terror on Every Side.’” Jeremiah was God’s messenger. He didn’t hold back God’s message from those who needed to hear it, regardless of whether or not he thought they would listen and regardless of the potential consequences he might endure for delivering an undesirable message. Often, we are far too concerned about our words being accepted than being communicated in truth and love as God desires us to do. Today, most pastors in America won’t even use words like “sin,” “Hell,” or “repent,” because these words are too unpopular and considered judgmental. God calls us to proclaim the truth, regardless of how others might choose to receive it.

5. Jeremiah 20:7-10 — “I have become a laughingstock all the day; everyone mocks me. For whenever I speak, I cry out, I shout, ‘Violence and destruction!’ For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot. For I hear many whispering. Terror is on every side! ‘Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’ say all my close friends, watching for my fall. ‘Perhaps he will be deceived; then we can overcome him.’” Jeremiah had a message no one wanted to hear. Not only did his message seem fanatical and foolish to others, it also seemed treasonous, a very serious matter. When they said to themselves, ‘Perhaps he will be deceived,’ these former close friends were actually looking for a way to kill him legally (Deuteronomy 18:22; Jeremiah 18:23). The fact that Jeremiah had already declared (in our readings) several times that all other prophets were ‘false prophets’ certainly didn’t add to his personal security (Jeremiah 5:31, 6:13, 8:10). Jeremiah didn’t have a death wish and wasn’t looking to be a martyr; in fact, at times he resented being put in that position (Jeremiah 20:7). Jeremiah simply couldn’t contain the Holy Spirit’s compulsion to testify to the truth, regardless the consequences. As much as he tried, he simply could not quench the Holy Spirit, and it cost him his family, his friends, and all his worldly comforts. Remember, Jeremiah didn’t choose to be a prophet; he was chosen. When called by God, what else matters? The Great Treason would be to disobey the LORD. You too have been called by God to proclaim the truth to a land that has rejected God as KING and LORD. Now what? Jesus said, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12). What did he say? ‘All’ will be persecuted. All who? All ‘who desire to live a godly life’ will be persecuted. Just wanting to follow Jesus will set you up for persecution. If you are not being persecuted for the truth in this day and age, it may be because you are not living a godly life, simply because you really don’t want to. And being “persecuted” isn’t the same as being “prosecuted,” which is a punishment you deserve for your wrongdoing. Everyone suffers on this earth due to the consequences of sin, particularly their own sins. However, suffering for the truth is a much different thing. “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.” (1 Peter 4:12-16)

— 1 Peter 5:9 — Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.

— Revelation 2:10 — Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.

– “I shout, ‘Violence and destruction!’ For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long.” Are you willing to be ostracized because of your message from God?

– “If I say, “’will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” Jeremiah didn’t always want to speak the truth, but He couldn’t control Himself. He had to speak the truth. Does that describe you?

– “’Denounce him! Let us denounce him!’ say all my close friends, watching for my fall.” The truth will separate close friends and family. Though others may abandon you, God will never leave you or forsake you. Remain faithful to Him, and show others what love and faithfulness looks like.

6. Jeremiah 20:11 — “But the Lord is with me as a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble.” In your persecution, God is still in control and will take care of you. Vengeance is in His hands, not yours. Trust God to handle it.

7. Jeremiah 20:13 – “Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy
from the hand of evildoers.” You can rejoice in persecution. You should rejoice in persecution.

8. Jeremiah 20:14-18 – “Cursed be the day on which I was born! The day when my mother bore me, let it not be blessed! Cursed be the man who brought the news to my father, ‘A son is born to you,’ making him very glad. Let that man be like the cities that the Lord overthrew without pity; let him hear a cry in the morning and an alarm at noon, because he did not kill me in the womb; so my mother would have been my grave, and her womb forever great. Why did I come out from the womb to see toil and sorrow, and spend my days in shame?” Some days you may wish you had never been born. Life is hard, even for God’s most faithful servants. Sometimes you have to praise God even when you don’t feel like it. Stay strong.

9. Proverbs 15:8 — “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him.” Not everyone who goes to church and sacrifices to God is acceptable to God; not everyone who prays to God is accepted by God. God knows the heart. You must approach God with a contrite heart and with the goal of serving Him not to be served by Him.

10. Proverbs 15:9 — “The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but he loves him who pursues righteousness.” The true Christian has been saved through Jesus and made righteous (or right with God) through Jesus, but the true Christian still “pursues” righteousness and holiness with all might, seeking to grow more and more into the image of Jesus. We will never fully achieve the fulfillment of righteousness, holiness, and love on this earth, but this is not an excuse to pursue that aim half-heartedly. Have a holy direction while awaiting holy perfection!

11. Proverbs 15:26 — “The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord, but gracious words are pure.” The Bible has much to say about the words that come out of your mouth, in part, because your words reveal what is in your heart. Words are very powerful — usually the first way your thoughts enter the tangible world and have an influential impact. Your words transmit your thoughts into the thoughts of others, transferring positive thoughts into their minds or negative thoughts into their minds. Your words will either lift others up or knock them down. They will either instruct or deceive. They will either unite or divide. They will make people feel better or feel worse. Jesus said, “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.” (Matthew 12:36) Today, let no careless or ungracious word come out of your mouth. Speak for Jesus (as His ambassador), not for yourself. Ensure every word that comes out of your mouth is a healing word, and encouraging word, a loving word. Don’t transmit negativity into the world, only positivity. Remember, the most powerful word you can use today is “Jesus.”

12. 1 Peter 5:1, 2 – “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly.” Leaders lead by being a good example, emulating Jesus, and coaching others to Christ-like character; and they do it not because they have to or for personal gain but because they have a heart for God and for others.

13. 1 Peter 5:2-4 – “Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly, not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.” Sheep are smelly and senseless, doing the same senseless things over and over again. Turn your back for a minute, and the sheep are wandering again. Shepherds (which can be a metaphor for pastors, parents, employees, and community leaders) are called to eagerly, patiently, and graciously care for their ‘sheep’ without a desire for personal gain. This takes great spiritual maturity, and shepherds should not expect that sheep will have the same understanding and discipline that they do; they should expect to have to continually correct the same sheep for the same things. If sheep were as wise as shepherds, they wouldn’t need the shepherd. With leadership comes lifelong responsibility to lead the weak. If you can’t stand the smell of sheep, you can’t be a shepherd. Shepherds are not to be harsh and overly domineering but rather are to be gentle and to lead the way in example. Shepherds can lead their sheep to where they need to go only if they are following the Good Shepherd, the Chief Shepherd, Jesus. Shepherds can deal with their sheep well when they are always mindful that they themselves are ultimately just dumb smelly sheep who require the daily patience and grace of the Chief Shepherd, Jesus.

14. 1 Peter 5:5, 6 – “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”

– Humility is one of the key attributes of a Christian. Is “humble” one of the first words people would use to describe you?

– From A. W. Tozer — “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5) Some time ago we heard a short address by a young preacher during which he quoted the following, “If you are too big for a little place, you are too little for a big place.” It is an odd rule of the kingdom of God that when we try to get big, we always get smaller by the moment. God is jealous of His glory and will not allow anyone to share it with Him. The effort to appear great will bring the displeasure of God upon us and effectively prevent us from achieving the greatness after which we pant. Humility pleases God wherever it is found, and the humble person will have God for his or her friend and helper always. Only the humble are completely sane, for they are the only ones who see clearly their own size and limitations. Egotists see things out of focus. To themselves they are large and God is correspondingly small, and that is a kind of moral insanity.

– 1 Peter 5:6, 7 – “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” Few people recognize that anxiety is a pride problem. How can the Bible say that anxiety comes from pride? Pride leads a person to believe that they are in control of their circumstances, that their fate depends on their abilities. Anxiety is the realization that they really are not in control, that their abilities are not enough, and their hope in self is futile. The anxious person is a prideful sheep that has wandered away from the Chief Shepherd and is starting to realize that they have no idea where they are and that they are defenseless against the wolves of life. The answer to anxiety is to humbly return to the Chief Shepherd and rest in His guidance and protection. The job of the humble sheep is to trust, obey, and follow closely as the Shepherd leads to green pastures.

– “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” From Henry T. Blackaby — As you’ve no doubt discovered, becoming a Christian does not make your problems go away. But it does give you an Advocate to whom you can take every concern. The Christians Peter addressed were facing persecution. They did not know whom they could trust; a friend, a neighbor, or even a family member could betray them, resulting in suffering and even death. But Peter had walked with the risen Christ, and he had personally experienced the love that Jesus had for His followers. He knew that Christ was in control, capable of handling every trial and that He wanted to do so as an expression of His love. Casting our cares is a choice. It means consciously handing over our anxiety to Christ and allowing Him to carry the weight of our problems. At times this is the most difficult part of trusting God! We don’t like turning over the responsibility for our problems. We have been taught that self-reliance is good and praiseworthy. We may even enjoy worrying. Yet if we are to be freed from the burden of our concerns, we must choose to cast them into the strong hands of our Father. Peter does not distinguish between little cares and big cares. God does not differentiate between problems we should handle on our own and God-sized needs. He asks us to turn them all over to Him. One of our greatest errors is to assume we can deal with something ourselves, only to discover that we really can’t. God sees you as His frail child, burdened with a load that surpasses your strength. He stands prepared to take your load and to carry it for you. Will you let Him?

15. 1 Peter 5:14 – “Greet one another with the kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.” Humility is easier when you can “cast all your anxieties on Him.” Prideful people are really fearful people, people who feel as if they have to validate themselves, defend themselves, justify themselves, prove themselves, etc. Humility is proof of faith in Him rather than self.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 15 Oct 18: Today, whether it be in your home, your office, your church, or your community, be a good shepherd by following the Good Shepherd, the Chief Shepherd closely and modelling His example of living and leadership. Don’t be the prideful leader who considers himself or herself the example, but be the humble leader who always points to the Example and demonstrates a life surrendered to Jesus. Never think the focus is you, live a life that points only to Jesus Christ. (see 1 Peter 5)

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