Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 22 December 18:
Note: Here is a short video overview of Zechariah: https://youtu.be/_106IfO6Kc0
1. Zechariah 1:3 — “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Return to Me,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘and I will return to you,’” The Father drew you to Jesus Christ, but you must choose to continue to follow Him. Your salvation is secure in His perfect, unyielding love, and you have received the Holy Spirit; but the Bible warns that, in sin, you can “grieve” the Holy Spirit, “quench” the Holy Spirit, and get out of “step” with the Holy Spirit (Eph 4:30; 1 Thes 5:19; Gal 5:25) – Don’t do that! Your response to Jesus in your life will set the conditions for everything else in your life. In a practical sense, sin moves you away from Jesus, causing separation from Him, but you can return to Him by repenting and rejecting your sin. Returning to the Lord involves turning away from evil and following Him again in loving, wholehearted obedience. Nearness to God is not a distance in the physical realm, but rather distance in the spiritual realm. When we choose to sin, we are choosing to distance ourselves from God who, as a Holy God, cannot partner with or bless sin. If you have drifted from God, His call is to return to Him. God promises that if you will return, He will immediately renew His relationship with you. James 4:8 promises that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. Matthew 7:7 guarantees that if we seek Christ, we will find Him. Much of the Christian life rests upon our response and our desire to experience God to the fullest.
— Matthew 16:24 — If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
— 1 John 1:9 — If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
– From Henry T. Blackaby — Why is it that some Christians seem to go so much deeper in their walk with God than others? Why have some had such powerful intercessory prayer ministries that have changed the courses of nations? Why has God chosen to anoint the words of some so that, when they speak or pray or preach, it is obvious that their words are consecrated by God? It is because these individuals have committed themselves to pursue God until His presence is powerfully real in their lives. They have decided to settle for nothing less than a vibrant relationship with God, and He has honored their desire. Have you become complacent with your relationship with God, or are you hungering for more? Don’t become satisfied with a relationship with God that is broken by sin and void of the power of the Holy Spirit. You have just as much of God’s powerful presence available to you as the greatest saint in Christian history! Return to God. There is so much more in store for you if you will return to Him. He awaits your response.
2. Zechariah 1:5, 6 — “Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever? But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers?” People come and go, but God’s word stands forever. It is the height of pride and arrogance to think, in our fleeting existence, with our so very limited intellect and experiences, we can somehow become too smart for God’s word or that we can somehow understand God and His will from our own perceptions. Obey God and His word, and don’t rely on your own feeble understanding or on advice from other blind guides.
3. Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Habit patterns instilled in childhood are VERY hard to break. The strength of the family unit is vital to national strength. You may have bad habits that started from your upbringing, they are hard to break, but the Spirit is greater than the flesh.
4. Proverbs 22:7 — “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” Avoid all debt because God’s people should not be slaves to the world.
5. Proverbs 22:9 – “Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.” Giving and generosity is all about perspective. What you really believe about God will be revealed in how you give. Fear makes people stingy.
6. Proverbs 22:11 – “He who loves purity of heart, and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend.” Your mouth reflects what is in your heart and affects all of your relationships.
7. Proverbs 22:24, 25 – “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.” Anger is a snare that will needlessly entangle you.
8. Psalm 147:1 — “Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.” Singing praises to God is a healthy habit you should develop. Learn Christian songs to sing to yourself throughout the day to keep your spirits up and to keep you focused.
9. Psalm 147:6, 11 – “The Lord lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground…. but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.”
– The Lord blessed the humble and curses the prideful. The world honors the prideful and views humility as weakness.
– The wicked are those who have not humbled themselves before the Lord, surrendering to His rule and His sovereignty over their lives – the wicked are in rebellion. “Rebellion is the inborn tendency to give in to the lies of autonomy, self-sufficiency, and self-focus. It results in a habitual violation of God-given boundaries. Autonomy says, ‘I have the right to do what I want when I want to do it.’ Self-sufficiency says, ‘I have everything I need in myself, so I don’t need to depend on or submit to anyone.’ Self-focus says, ‘I am the center of the world. It is my right to live for myself and to do only what brings me happiness.’ These are the lies of the Garden, the same lies Satan has whispered in generation after generation of willing ears. They deny our basic makeup as human beings. We were not created to be autonomous. We were designed to be in daily submission to God and to live for His glory. Living outside this design will never work. Independence, self-sufficiency and self-absorption lead us to think of ourselves first and to climb over the fences between ourselves and our desires. We want control and hate being controlled. We want to make up the rules and change theme whenever it suites us. Essentially we want to be God, ruling the world according to our will. No matter what else we are rebelling against, our rebellion is ultimately directed at God. We refuse to recognize His authority, robbing him of his glory and usurping his right to rule.” (Paul David Tripp) We want a Savior, but we often don’t want a Lord and Savior. However, to love Him is to fear Him and to obey Him. One is impossible without the other.
10. Psalm 147:20 — “They do not know his rules.”
– The rules in the Bible are not merely a list of dos and don’ts intended to control your behavior. They are intended to help you understand the ways of God, to help you develop the mind of Christ, to help convict you of sin, to help you appreciate the grace and mercy you have received, to change your heart, and to draw you closer and closer to Jesus. God intends for us to follow His commands, but he doesn’t want just your duty, but rather your heart. God wants us to truly love Him to the point where the rules become a non-issue because you naturally obey. Jesus was the model of obedience to the rules, and Jesus said, that He did not come to abolish the law, but rather to fulfill it. Pure love obeys naturally without the need of rules. You don’t need a law to tell you to do what you love doing or not to do what you hate doing. If your heart is right, the rules are not needed, but where your heart is not right, the rules become a needed guide and control to keep you from sinning.
– God expects all nations to obey His rules, and He punishes those who don’t.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 22 Dec 18: Humbly obey God’s word today, and consider deeply where obedience was difficult for you and why. Search your heart to consider what made obedience hard. Discern where you are still not perfected in love, and pray that God will help you surrender more and more to His love. Love makes obedience easy and joyful. (see today’s readings)