Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 19 July 2022:
Joshua 11:5, 6 — “And all these kings joined their forces and came and encamped together at the waters of Merom to fight against Israel. And the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid of them, for tomorrow at this time I will give over all of them, slain, to Israel.'”
While Christians find unity in the love of Jesus, the world will find unity in hatred toward Jesus and His disciples. God says not to worry as more and more people turn against Jesus and His followers. Victory is in His hands.
Joshua 11:15 — “Just as the Lord had commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did. He left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses.”
God honors obedience. Like Moses, Joshua understood that partial obedience is disobedience. Joshua was wholly obedient and God worked far beyond Joshua’s obedience to reveal Himself by doing only what God can do: “For it was the Lord’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the Lord commanded Moses.” (Joshua 11:20) Only God can work in the hearts of people and control circumstances. As we walk in obedience, we will see God working far beyond our activities to accomplish His purposes, to reveal Himself, and to bring glory to Himself. Our job is to be obedient, regardless the personal cost, for reasons we cannot even understand. If we are simultaneously attempting to fulfill our own personal agenda, we will end up being partially obedient which, again, is disobedience. Disobedience is working through the flesh, not the Spirit. Disobedience is why the churches lose their lampstands and real spiritual power, operating on the talents and abilities of men which is ultimately meaningless. Pray for repentance and revival in the church.
Joshua 11:20 — “For it was the Lord’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the Lord commanded Moses.”
God hardens hearts by giving the wicked what they really want, along with the inevitable consequences, all for His good purpose. The practical implication for us is that we will face opposition and persecution from the wicked as God’s plan for both the righteous people (righteous through the blood of Jesus) and the unrighteous people unfolds over time. This calls for perseverance and persistent fidelity. Trust and obey through your circumstances. God knows what is happening to you and will work it all together for a greater good you cannot possibly imagine.
1 Thessalonians 5:2 – For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.
“In the Scriptures, the exhortation to prepare for the day of the Lord is usually given to God’s people, rather than to unbelievers. Christians must be prepared for Christ’s return, so that they can properly respond to Him. The most important thing about the day of the Lord is clear: it comes unexpectedly.
In Scripture, there are several references to the day of the Lord. Often this refers to Jesus’ first coming or His second coming, but it can also refer to any time God comes to His people, either in salvation or judgment (Isa. 13:6; Joel 2:11; Mal. 3:2). Amos had predicted that the day of the Lord would be far different from what the people expected (Amos 5:18). The people of his day thought it would come with joy and singing, yet Amos said there would be grieving and judgment of sin. When Jesus came the first time, His coming caught people by surprise. Because they were expecting the Messiah to come in a different way, many did not recognize Him.
The final day of the Lord will be at Christ’s second coming. Meanwhile, there will be times when God will come to you, your family, and friends. You need to be watching for the signs of God’s convicting work in your children, your friends, and your coworkers. You must take notice when God begins to do a special work in the lives of the people in your church. It may be that you have an unusual sense of God’s presence in a worship service and you begin to intercede for those who are present. Prepare yourself now and pay attention to what is happening in the lives of those around you. You may discover that the day of the Lord is at hand.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
1 Thessalonians 5:3 — “While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.”
Humanism is ‘enlightening’ the ungodly into extinction. As in the time of Noah, few, including the religious, will see the looming destruction.
Compare the instruction of 1 Thessalonians 5:12-18 with Proverbs 12.
1 Thessalonians 5:14 — “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”
Do you know how to admonish patiently?
1 Thessalonians 5:15-19 — Be at peace among yourselves. And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone. Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit.
Christians are called to seek peace and reconciliation. Our message is peace and reconciliation which is found in Jesus and Him alone –
- John 14:27 — 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 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.”
- John 14:6 — Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
- Romans 5:11 — More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
- 2 Corinthians 5:18, 19 — All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
- Ephesians 1:7-10 — In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
- John 17:11, 21 — And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one…. 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.
- Matthew 12:25 — Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.
Notice from today’s readings that seeking peace doesn’t mean avoiding conflict or friction. On the contrary, confrontation is inevitable along the path to peace, and without friction, there is no traction, and without traction, there is no movement or momentum for the wheels of change and progress. As Pastor Rick Warren says in his book, The Purpose Driven Life, “Notice Jesus didn’t say, ‘Blessed are the peace lovers,’ because everyone loves peace. Neither did he say, ‘Blessed are the peaceable,’ who are never disturbed by anything. Jesus said, ‘Blessed are those who work for peace’ — those who actively seek to resolve conflict. Peacemakers are rare because peacemaking is hard work.”
“Be patient with them all.” Some people just don’t care, and some people don’t try hard enough; we are commanded to love them all equally – “For God shows no partiality.” (Romans 2:11) There is a time to confront, a time to rebuke, a time to admonish, and a time to encourage, but it all must be done with patience, grace, and love. Before you engage that other person on an issue, consider the guidance given in 1 Thessalonians 5:
“See that no one repays anyone evil for evil….” First remember as an ambassador of Christ, you can’t represent your own personal interests in a matter – it is not about you, it is always about Him. Confronting someone can’t be about protecting your own interests or simply getting even; it must be motivated by a genuine desire to draw them closer to Jesus. You have been entrusted by God with the message and ministry of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:18, 19) Also, there is never an excuse for unloving behavior on your part – you are not controlled by someone else’s behavior if you are controlled by the love of Christ and the Holy Spirit – “For the love of Christ controls us…. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh.” (2 Corinthians 5:14, 16)
“Always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.” Your genuine motive must be to seek the very best for the other person or people involved in the issue at hand, whether they deserve it or not. Check your motive (your heart) before opening your mouth or getting involved. If your heart isn’t at peace and filled with the love of Christ, you can’t promote peace and love – “Be at peace among yourselves.”
“Rejoice always.” Approach confrontation positively, joyfully, and hopefully. Give thanks to God that you have an opportunity to promote reconciliation and anticipate God to work in the hearts of those involved. Your positive spirit will be refreshing to others. Also, it’s hard to sin in anger when you are rejoicing and praising God – “Be angry and do not sin.” (Ephesians 4:26)
“Pray without ceasing.” Continuous prayer is the most important element of conflict resolution as well as the most neglected. It is God who knows and changes hearts, not you, and apart from the Holy Spirit you will not have the wisdom required to know the right things to say and do in any give situation. Don’t open your mouth without praying first, and bathe in prayer every word that comes out of your mouth.
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” Remember, it is God who has entrusted you with the message and ministry of reconciliation, who has empowered you for the calling, and who has intentionally placed you on the frontlines of conflicts and challenges so that you can glorify Him. Life issues give you your opportunities to display the love of Christ and share the Gospel. Give thanks for the opportunity and serve joyfully and faithfully as Christ’s ambassador. Athletes are not celebrated for how well they know the game but rather for how well they play the game. Similarly, your Bible knowledge must be translated into application on the fields of life, and the more you practice, the better you get.
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver…. Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda.” (Proverbs 25:11, 20) Finally, having a sense of timing is part of wisdom (knowledge rightly applied). True love speaks the truth in love, and love demands patience, tact, gracefulness, and care rather than carelessness. We own the burden of responsibility to speak in a manner which can be received by the listener, and sometimes the best response is to say nothing. Again, this sort of wisdom requires the leading of the Holy Spirit — Do not quench the Spirit.
- Colossians 3:12-17 — Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” This is a hard one. However, Paul is calling us to see life from God’s perspective and from the realization that God, the Almighty, who IS Love has saved us through His Son, Jesus Christ; and is now working “all things… together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) There are many reasons why a loving God allows bad things to happen. However, the key is keeping perspective on the God who allowed the suffering to occur rather than trying to understand the mind of God, which is an impossibility — “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” (Romans 11:34) We can never truly understand what “God was thinking” when He let bad things happen to us, but today’s readings tell us that we can ALWAYS rejoice in our circumstances because God is only dealing with us from a position of Love perfected. A parental memory that is etched in my mind is that of taking my infants to get their inoculations. I will never forget the looks of pain and confusion they would give me as they received injections from a stranger while I watched willingly. Though they could not speak, their heart-breaking question was obvious: “Why, Daddy?” Of course, there was no way to explain to them what they could not possibly understand. However, the conclusion of the event was always the same: With tears in their eyes, they reached with all their ability back into my (or Mom’s) loving arms. They helped me understand what it means to trust as a child. Paul tells us today that perspective is everything, but he also tells us not to go through trials alone. We all need the encouragement and support of other Christians – “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11) In fact, the Bible tells us that one of the many reasons God allows us to suffer, in part, so we can be a better minister to others who are suffering. (2 Corinthians 1:4) Another key to enduring our own hardships is by focusing on ministering to the needs of others rather than focusing on our own pain.
- Job 2:10 – “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.
- Isaiah 45:7 — I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.
- Lamentations 3:37-39 — Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, Unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High That both good and ill go forth? Why should any living mortal, or any man, Offer complaint in view of his sins?…
- Jeremiah 32:42 — “This is what the LORD says: As I have brought all this great calamity on this people, so I will give them all the prosperity I have promised them.
“We cannot prevent God from accomplishing His work in the world around us, but we can quench His Spirit in our lives. God has given us the freedom to withstand the Holy Spirit’s activity in our lives. When we ignore, disobey, or reject what the Spirit is telling us, we quench His activity in us. The prophet Isaiah described the result: ‘Hearing you will hear and not understand, and seeing you will see and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them’ (Isa. 6:9; Matt. 13:14-15).
When you sin, the Holy Spirit will convict you of your need for repentance. If you habitually ignore Him and do not repent, your heart will grow hardened to God’s Word. If the Spirit speaks to you about God’s will for you, and if you refuse to take action, a time will come when the Spirit’s voice will be muted in your life. If you continually reject the Spirit’s promptings, a day will come when you no longer hear a word from God. If you repeatedly stifle God’s word to you so that you are no longer sensitive to His voice, He will not give you a fresh word. Be wary of resisting the voice of the Spirit in your life. You may not always be comfortable with what the Spirit is saying to you, but His words will guide you to abundant life.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
1 Thessalonians 5:17 – …pray without ceasing….
“Our thinking about prayer, whether right or wrong, is based on our own mental conception of it. The correct concept is to think of prayer as the breath in our lungs and the blood from our hearts. Our blood flows and our breathing continues “without ceasing”; we are not even conscious of it, but it never stops. And we are not always conscious of Jesus keeping us in perfect oneness with God, but if we are obeying Him, He always is. Prayer is not an exercise, it is the life of the saint. Beware of anything that stops the offering up of prayer. ‘Pray without ceasing…’— maintain the childlike habit of offering up prayer in your heart to God all the time.
Jesus never mentioned unanswered prayer. He had the unlimited certainty of knowing that prayer is always answered. Do we have through the Spirit of God that inexpressible certainty that Jesus had about prayer, or do we think of the times when it seemed that God did not answer our prayer? Jesus said, “…everyone who asks receives…” (Matthew 7:8). Yet we say, ‘But…, but….’ God answers prayer in the best way— not just sometimes, but every time. However, the evidence of the answer in the area we want it may not always immediately follow. Do we expect God to answer prayer?
The danger we have is that we want to water down what Jesus said to make it mean something that aligns with our common sense. But if it were only common sense, what He said would not even be worthwhile. The things Jesus taught about prayer are supernatural truths He reveals to us.” (Oswald Chambers)
1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 – …but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.
“Hold fast to what is good, or the world will take it away. Satan is the relentless enemy of good. When he saw that what God gave Adam and Eve was good, he set about to take it away from them. When he saw that King David was pleasing to God, he attempted to destroy David’s relationship with God. Never take the good in your life for granted. If you do not hold on to it firmly, it may be lost.
People will challenge the good that you are practicing. They may criticize you for your moral stand, your child rearing, your use of money, or your involvement in church. Time pressures will attack the good in your life. Your time to pray, study Scripture, be with your family, and serve in your church will all be pressured by the many other time demands you face. You may give generously to your church and other Christian causes, but you will be tempted to spend your money selfishly and minimize the good you are doing with your finances.
Scripture reveals the solution for holding on to what is good–abstain from every form of evil. Evil robs you of what God intends for you. A spouse and family are great blessings, but the evil of adultery can rob you of the good that God has given. Prayer is a wonderful gift from God. Yet sin robs the power of prayer (Isa. 1:15). If you will not abstain from evil, it will rob you of the good things God has given. God’s commandments do not restrict you: they free you to experience God’s best. Diligently abstain from every form of evil, and you will be free to enjoy every good thing God has for you.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
1 Thessalonians 5:23 — “May your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Pursue blamelessness within your heart. This is a life-long endeavor that requires all of your effort.
“’Your whole spirit….’ The great, mysterious work of the Holy Spirit is in the deep recesses of our being which we cannot reach. Read Psalm 139. The psalmist implies— “O Lord, You are the God of the early mornings, the God of the late nights, the God of the mountain peaks, and the God of the sea. But, my God, my soul has horizons further away than those of early mornings, deeper darkness than the nights of earth, higher peaks than any mountain peaks, greater depths than any sea in nature. You who are the God of all these, be my God. I cannot reach to the heights or to the depths; there are motives I cannot discover, dreams I cannot realize. My God, search me.”
Do we believe that God can fortify and protect our thought processes far beyond where we can go? ‘…the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin’ (1 John 1:7). If this verse means cleansing only on our conscious level, may God have mercy on us. The man who has been dulled by sin will say that he is not even conscious of it. But the cleansing from sin we experience will reach to the heights and depths of our spirit if we will ‘walk in the light as He is in the light’ (1 John 1:7). The same Spirit that fed the life of Jesus Christ will feed the life of our spirit. It is only when we are protected by God with the miraculous sacredness of the Holy Spirit that our spirit, soul, and body can be preserved in pure uprightness until the coming of Jesus-no longer condemned in God’s sight.
We should more frequently allow our minds to meditate on these great, massive truths of God.
When we pray, asking God to sanctify us, are we prepared to measure up to what that really means? We take the word sanctification much too lightly. Are we prepared to pay the cost of sanctification? The cost will be a deep restriction of all our earthly concerns, and an extensive cultivation of all our godly concerns. Sanctification means to be intensely focused on God’s point of view. It means to secure and to keep all the strength of our body, soul, and spirit for God’s purpose alone. Are we really prepared for God to perform in us everything for which He separated us? And after He has done His work, are we then prepared to separate ourselves to God just as Jesus did? ‘For their sakes I sanctify Myself…’ (John 17:19). The reason some of us have not entered into the experience of sanctification is that we have not realized the meaning of sanctification from God’s perspective. Sanctification means being made one with Jesus so that the nature that controlled Him will control us. Are we really prepared for what that will cost? It will cost absolutely everything in us which is not of God.
Are we prepared to be caught up into the full meaning of Paul’s prayer in this verse? Are we prepared to say, ‘Lord, make me, a sinner saved by grace, as holy as You can’? Jesus prayed that we might be one with Him, just as He is one with the Father (see John 17:21-23). The resounding evidence of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life is the unmistakable family likeness to Jesus Christ, and the freedom from everything which is not like Him. Are we prepared to set ourselves apart for the Holy Spirit’s work in us? (Oswald Chambers)
1 Thessalonians 5:24 – He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
“God never calls us to do anything without faithfully keeping His word and enabling us to do it. We are not always faithful to do what God tells us, but He remains faithful and stands by His word to fulfill what He has promised (Isa. 46:11).
When the children of Israel reached the Red Sea, they might have concluded that God had abandoned His promise to them. The sea was barring their advance, and the murderous Egyptian army was racing to overtake them! Yet God proved then, as He has ever since, that He is absolutely faithful to every word He speaks to His children.
God may have spoken to you about something in particular–a ministry in your church, the way to raise your children, or what you should do in your job. You have obeyed Him, but now you face a Red Sea experience. It seems that what you thought God wanted to accomplish is not happening. Perhaps your ministry has not been well received, or your children are rebelling, or those at your workplace are criticizing your actions. Trust in the character of God. It is His nature to be faithful. The testimony of His people throughout the ages is expressed by the psalmist, who declared: “I have been young, and now I am old; / Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, / Nor his descendants begging bread” (Ps. 37:25).
Regardless of how bleak your present circumstances are, do not lose hope. No one has ever experienced unfaithfulness on God’s part! Allow time for God to reveal His faithfulness to you. Someday you will reflect on what God has done and praise Him for His absolute faithfulness to you.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 19 July 22: Today, be a reconciler, using every ‘issue’ to share the love of Christ with everyone.