Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 19 June 2022:
Listen to these comments from Dr. J. Vernon McGee on Deuteronomy 15: https://www.blueletterbible.org/audio_video/popPlayer.cfm?id=4369&rel=mcgee_j_vernon/Deu
Deuteronomy 15:11 – For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’
“Stewardship and economics take into account Scripture’s view of wealth and poverty. Fundamentally, the Bible does not say it is inherently evil to be wealthy and inherently righteous to be poor. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, not money itself (1 Tim. 6:10). A person can have great riches and be a great saint if he does not love his money. Abraham, for example, was very wealthy (Gen. 13:2). Nevertheless, we learn from him how to live by faith (Heb. 11:8–19). Likewise, poor people can be great sinners. Judas was a disciple of Jesus and suffered poverty, at least on occasion. But he loved money and betrayed Jesus for silver (Matt. 26:14–16; John 12:1–8).
Poverty and wealth are determined by standards that change from place to place. For example, many Americans today live below what is called the “poverty line.” Yet all of these poor have a better standard of living than the impoverished in the rest of the world. Even the poorest in the United States today usually have access to clean water and electricity, unlike many of the world’s population.
Regardless of the standard for wealth and poverty, God does have a special concern for the poor, and our response to them is determined by the reasons for their poverty. Some people are poor because of a calamity and not through any fault of their own. The church must care for this group as we are told pure religion involves providing for orphans and widows whose impoverishment, by definition, is caused by tragedy (James 1:27). Others are poor because of criminal exploitation. Caring for these requires Christians to bring their influence to the justice system (Lev. 19:15).
A third group is poor due to sloth. Some people refuse to work, but this is not true of every needy man or woman. Paul tells the church not to help those who will not work (2 Thess. 3:10). Finally, some forego prime opportunities to earn wealth in order to serve the kingdom. A good example here might be a doctor who chooses to be a medical missionary. Of course, Jesus is our best model of this fourth type of poverty, having left the riches of heaven to minister where He had no place to lay His head (Matt 8:20; Phil. 2:1–11).
Consider your attitude to the poor today. Do you assume all poor people are lazy? Are you sensitive to those who have become impoverished due to a calamity and then seek to meet their needs? Also consider where your chief concerns lie. Are you so concerned with earning a bigger paycheck that you neglect possibilities to use your gifts for the kingdom because you may suffer a loss in income? Give generously to the poor and eagerly serve the kingdom.” (Ligonier Ministries)
Psalm 71:6 — “Upon you I have leaned from before my birth.”
As mentioned yesterday, “To know Him is to love Him. To love Him is to trust Him. To trust Him is to obey Him. To obey Him is to be blessed. And to be blessed is to be a blessing. It all begins with knowing God and spending time with Him.” (Adrian Rogers. Here more on the topic: https://www.oneplace.com/ministries/love-worth-finding/listen/knowing-god-intimately-740253.html)
Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3) And His prayer to the Father for us before the Cross was, “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:21-23) Intimacy with God and intimacy with each other in Him is our life purpose and our life testimony. This is the Great Commandment which inspires the Great Commission.
It is all about relationship with Him, and all relationships take time and investment to cultivate. The Psalmist proclaims, “Upon you I have leaned from before my birth.” This is no incidental, casual, superficial relationship with God; this is a lifetime of intimacy with Him, relying on Him, listening to Him, talking with Him, walking with Him, trusting in Him, obeying Him, loving Him. But note that this relationship started “before” birth – “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
- Job 10:11-12 – You clothed me with skin and flesh and knit me together with bones and sinews. You have granted me life and steadfast love, and your care has preserved my spirit.
- Jeremiah 1:5 — Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you.
- Psalm 139:16 — Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
- Psalm 22:9-10 — Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts. On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
- Ephesians 1:4 — Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love….
- Romans 8:29 — For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
- Jeremiah 29:11 — For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.
- Ephesians 2:10 — For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
God loved us first, remains faithful and unfailing in His love, and enables us to love Him that we might have the fullness of joy and life in Him while sharing His love with others. However, we must abide in His love (see John 15). Perhaps, unlike the Psalmist, you don’t feel as if you can celebrate a lifetime of fellowship with the Lord. Perhaps you have neglected the relationship. There is an ancient Chinese saying, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second-best time is today.” Today is the day to seek the Lord with all your heart. He will not deny you.
- Jeremiah 29:13 — You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
- Matthew 7:7-8 — Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
- Psalm 105:4 — Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!
- Psalm 70:4 — May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!”
“O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds…. I proclaim your might to another generation…. You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again…. I will also praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praises to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel. My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you…. And my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long….” (Psalm 71:17, 18, 20, 22-24) The natural response to the experience of knowing God is to praise Him and proclaim Him continuously with an unquenchable joy, regardless the circumstances. The psalmist is one of those “fanatics” who just won’t shut up about God because he is so excited about Him, and no matter how bad things get, the psalmist never waivers in positive enthusiasm and thanksgiving. Is that how people would describe you? If not, seek the Lord with all your heart until the reality of Him truly overwhelms your heart and until you are truly amazed by grace.
Proverbs 19:2, 15, 20, 21, 24, 27 — “Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way…. Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger…. Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand…. The sluggard buries his hand in the dish and will not even bring it back to his mouth…. Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.”
As a basic principle, success in life is determined by two things: decisions and discipline. We need to make good decisions and then have the discipline to follow through. Effective decision-making gets you started down the right path; persistent, consistent discipline gets you to where you intended to go. Unfortunately, most people struggle with both decision-making and discipline, which is why success eludes so many. Proverbs offers wisdom for those desiring success. Concerning making good decisions, Proverbs points to three requirements: self-study, wise counsel, and alignment with God’s will, the latter, of course, being most critical. First when it comes to decision-making, you must ensure your choices honor and glorify God and do not in any way counter or detract from His word. God will never ask you to do something or bless any decision which goes against His word. If you find yourself saying things like, “I know the Bible says this, but….” You are going down the wrong path. Even a biblical decision can be poorly executed without knowledge, which is why the Bible tells us that all of our decisions should be guided by self-study and wise counsel. Note too that Proverbs reminds us that instruction must be continuous. We can never stop learning or accepting advice, even (or perhaps especially) in the areas in which we believe we have expertise. As soon as we think we have it figured out, we stray. Finally, there is no substitute for self-control and hard work rightly applied. Of course, success doesn’t come from hard work alone; with bad decision-making, hard work will only get you to the wrong place faster. However, with sound decisions, only discipline and perseverance will get you what you are looking to achieve. The person who isn’t toiled is spoiled, and a life of ease ruins a person. You can have all the knowledge in the world, but if you aren’t willing to act upon it faithfully over time, it is useless to you. Success always involves sacrificing something good now for something great later. Success requires the pain of discipline now in order to avoid the pain of regret tomorrow. Successful people are those who are willing to sacrifice comfort where unsuccessful people aren’t willing. And, all the things that matter most to us fall under the “principle of the farm”: it takes persistent sacrifice over time to eventually get a harvest – you don’t get a harvest overnight. Most disciplines must be maintained for a long time in order to get results eventually – this is the primary reason disciplines are hard; you don’t get instant gratification or a quick payoff, and it takes faith and hope to invest in the future. It is the weak and lazy that constantly search for the ‘get rich quick’ schemes which is why the Bible warns against such thinking. Impatience always gets you into trouble – just ask Abraham, Jacob, Saul, etc. If success is eluding you in a particular area, check you decisions and your discipline.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 19 June 22: Today, pray God will increasingly reveal Himself to you so you can’t help but continuously and joyfully praise Him and proclaim Him to the world.