Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 21 November 18:
1. Ezekiel 41-42 – God had a very precise plan for the place where He would live among His people and where the people would come to worship and give gifts to Him. The Bible says, that you are His Temple.
2. Ezekiel 41 — The plans place the temple at the highest point and make the entrances to the parts of the temple increasingly narrow as one approaches the Most Holy Place where God lives. What does this suggest about the ways of God and about how He relates with us?
3. Ezekiel 41:3-5 — “Then he went into the inner room…. And he said to me, ‘This is the Most Holy Place.’” Ezekiel was taken to the outer sanctuary, but the angel did not take Him to the inner sanctuary, the Most Holy Place, because Ezekiel couldn’t enter the Holy Place as an unholy, unrighteous sinner. However, Hebrews 10 reveals that, through the blood of Jesus, we now have access to the Most Holy Place, having been covered over by the righteousness and holiness of Jesus — “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22) Now that you have access, live in that close relationship with God, and remain pure in His presence. The motto is “Semper Fidelis Coram Deo” which means “Always Faithful Before the Face of God”.
4. Ezekiel 41:21-22 – “The doorposts of the nave were squared, and in front of the Holy Place was something resembling an altar of wood, three cubits high, two cubits long, and two cubits broad. Its corners, its base, and its walls were of wood. He said to me, “This is the table that is before the Lord.” Incredible detail is planned for the furnishing of the Holy of Holies, a place only the High Priest is allowed to see. God demands our very best where only He can see, our hearts. Only you and God can enter into your heart to see what is really there. It must be the most beautiful and holy place of the Temple.
5. Ezekiel 42:1-14 – Much detail is placed in God’s temple to accommodate the physical needs of the people and the logistics of worship. Often times Christians seek to “spiritualize” their faith so much they act like the physical aspects of life are somehow inconsequential or less spiritual. Some suggest that our physical lives don’t really matter, that we are just waiting to get to Heaven. However, God made us physical on purpose and told us to translate His will into physical reality on earth – “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” God’s plan has Him returning to earth (a new earth) to reign. The physical is part of God’s spiritual reality.
6. Ezekiel 42:20 — “He measured it on the four sides. It had a wall around it, 500 cubits long and 500 cubits broad, to make a separation between the holy and the common.” In the physical world, proximity relates to time and space. Spiritually distance is measured in love, obedience, and holiness. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey….” The more you love and obey Jesus, the closer you get to Him and the more you distance yourself from the unspiritual. Obedience to Jesus makes you uncommon, holy, and holy means “set apart.” If you ever feel as if God is distant, make sure it is not because you have distanced yourself through disobedience.
7. Proverbs 21:1 – “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” God is in control of the lives of all political leaders, using them for His purposes. This was revealed in the life of Nebuchadnezzar and many other worldly leaders in the Bible. If you want political leaders to act differently, you need to go to The Lord who controls their actions.
8. Proverbs 21:2 – “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.” God is not just interested in what you do but more importantly why you do it. Every ‘good deed’ can be done with selfish motivation or selfless motivation. A good deed done selfishly and one done selflessly may appear the same outwardly, but God knows the difference, the heart and true motive behind the deed, and He judges the acts differently.
9. Proverbs 21:3, 26, 27 — “To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice…. the righteous gives and does not hold back. The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; how much more when he brings it with evil intent.” Throughout the Bible, we see that God does not accept the worship and ‘religion’ of the unrepentant sinner, regardless the person’s commitment to their futile religious practices. Of the Old Testament Israelites, God said, “Yet they seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they… did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God.” (Isaiah 58) In their sin, God did not respond to their prayers and worship, leaving God’s disobedient people to question why their church had lost its power – “Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?” (Isaiah 58) Jesus answers this question still being asked in churches today – “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15:7) The powerful life is the life truly surrendered to God, intent on fulfilling the will of God day by day, denying self, carrying the Cross, and truly following Jesus in obedience — “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1) It is God’s grace and mercy that give us the opportunity to present ourselves as ‘living sacrifices’ and to worship Him in spirit and in truth (in practical reality through tangible actions aligned with God’s will). Living by grace involves bearing fruit which comes out of obedience. To love flowers is to hate weeds. Are there weeds of sin in your life that need to be pulled that are choking out your fruitfulness?
10. Proverbs 21:10 – “The soul of the wicked desires evil; his neighbor finds no mercy in his eyes.” Mercy is a trait of the righteous.
11. Proverbs 21:11 – “When a scoffer is punished, the simple becomes wise; when a wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge.” Scoffers who have no spiritual discernment are like animals – like mules, they only respond to whips on the backside (pain) or to carrots (pleasure). The legal system is for scoffers and the simple. True Christians do what is right without need of laws, motivated by love.
12. Proverbs 21:17 – “Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.” Pleasure seekers don’t gain lasting wealth.
13. Proverbs 21:27 – “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; how much more when he brings it with evil intent.” Compare this verse with Pro 21:2. Again, God judges intent, the heart behind the action.
14. John 16:1-4 — “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you.”
– Jesus was focused on the fact that His disciples were in great danger of going astray and that they needed to abide by His word as their only hope.
– Jesus warned His followers that they would be persecuted by people from within the church in the name of God because, though these persecutors were very religious, they “have not known the Father, nor me.” Jesus warned His followers so that, under the pressure of the worldly church, His true followers would not ‘fall away.’ We must be very careful not to allow unfaithful but powerful elements of the contemporary church compromise our fidelity to Jesus. If you are truly obeying God’s word, you might find that your greatest critics are members of the church.
– Many Christians have hurt other Christians believing they were serving God in the process. If your actions don’t feel gracious, peaceful, and loving, they probably aren’t, and you our therefore outside of God’s will. When you are operating outside of the command of love, you are essentially making yourself an enemy of God.
15. John 16:6 – “But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.” The reality God has in store for us might tend to fill us with grief, though we are reminded that this is part of God’s perfect plan, and we can rely on the Holy Spirit for strength and joy in the midst of trials. God will judge the world, and we will suffer in the midst of that judgment; however, we will be rewarded for faithful service behind the enemy’s front lines.
16. John 16:8 — “When he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” Only The Holy Spirit can convict the heart. As God’s messenger, you are called to proclaim truth to others, but the Holy Spirit must do the convicting. Tell people the truth in love, and let the Holy Spirit take care of the rest.
17. John 16:12-13 — ” I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” The Holy Spirit guides you through a process of spiritual growth — spiritual growth is not obtained on your own ability and isn’t obtained overnight. For those who are diligent disciples, the Holy Spirit reveals more and more truth everyday overtime. The Holy Spirit only speaks the words of the Father. Obedient disciples do likewise. No one should care about what you think, and your credibility does not improve with position, experience, or age. All that matters is the unfiltered word of God flowing out of your mouth as a messenger of Christ.
18. John 16:14 — “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.” We glorify God when we declare His truth to others.
19. John 16:20 — “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.”
– The Christian’s response to circumstances and world events is the opposite of those who are not followers of Christ. If you are rejoicing with the world, you might want to question your spiritual discernment. If you are fearing or fretting with the world, you might want to question your spiritual discernment.
– We naturally mourn over what the world rejoices over. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you won’t mourn, quite the opposite. Happiness and joy are not the same thing.
20. John 16:22 – “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” Now is not our time of rejoicing. We will not fully rejoice until Christ returns, but our inner joy remains because we are always with Jesus. Today’s feel-good church is severely disoriented to the realities of its environment and situation.
21. John 16:23, 24 — “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” This is an important word for us from Jesus. The disciples had been with Jesus for a long time and had asked Him for many things, but Jesus said of them, “Until now you have asked nothing in my name.” What is it to ask in Jesus’ name? Essentially it is asking for Jesus’ will rather than our own will, from unselfish motives that seek only to glorify Jesus. To that point in the Bible, the requests of the disciples always had a little selfish intent. To ask in Jesus’ name is to essentially ask on His behalf, not ours. What will you pray for today and why? Are your prayers about you or about Jesus?
22. John 16:31, 32 — “Jesus answered them, ‘Do you now believe? Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone.'” Part of your spiritual growth involves God revealing to you your lack of faith. This is your opportunity not to get discouraged but rather to turn to God for strength and to grow in faith.
23. John 16:32 — “Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me.” Jesus knows better than anyone what it is to be abandoned and rejected and reminds us that the Christian is never alone, never abandoned, and never rejected. Your relationship with God is the only relationship you have that will never fail you in some way.
24. John 16:33 — “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
– The Christian should have and display peace through tribulation because of his relationship with God and total trust and confidence in Him. Jesus wants you to have inner peace on earth when there is no outer peace. Jesus speaks about peace over 100 times in the Bible. To those who have received salvation in Him, Jesus says, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:50) Walk In the peace of Jesus. Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” (John 14:27) Be troubled and worried no longer. Jesus also says, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” (John 20:21) Jesus also commands us to spread His peace to the world. We should be beacons of peace through our attitudes and communicators of peace through the preaching of the good word. Today, live in peace and preach peace to others, peace that only comes through Jesus.
– God modeled for us how to respond to abandonment and persecution while having peace in fellowship with God. If the world has not yet abandoned you, see if you haven’t indeed abandoned God when it mattered most. When it was time to speak out against adultery, abortion, homosexuality, promiscuity, injustice, etc, did you run to your home, shut the door and act like you didn’t know Jesus, His teachings, or His call for repentance, which we are called as ambassadors to communicate on His behalf? Don’t fool yourself – silence is consent. Are you scared to leave your comfortable, seemingly secure silence for Jesus? John the Baptist was beheaded because he dared speak out against adultery. Jesus said of John the Baptist that there was no man born of woman greater than John the Baptist. What does Jesus say about your fidelity and courage as His ambassador?
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 21 Nov 18: Today, practice peace. Be an agent of peace, pointing others to the peace that only comes from right relationship with Jesus.