Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 25 July 2022:
Joshua 17:4 – “So according to the mouth of the Lord….”
The word of God is sufficient authority to call for obedience without any further evidence or conditions. Many worldly leaders are frustrated subordinates who consistently question and resist their orders because they simply don’t understand them or don’t really like them. “But why?” they ask defiantly. This challenge of authority ultimately comes down to a lack of trust in the leader (often due to a lack of understanding), and it delays progress and success. Perhaps there is good reason to question an imperfect human leader, though perhaps not always good justification – as the adage goes, “Leaders have the right to be wrong.” However, there is no good reason to doubt our perfect God or to delay in our obedience, even if we don’t understand the “why” behind the command. Again, delayed obedience is disobedience, which only robs us of God’s best for us and for others. The word disciple is related to the word discipline. Discipline has been defined as, “instant and willing obedience to all orders and respect for authority.” Are you a disciplined disciple, or is your delay robbing you of God’s best?
Joshua 17:11, 14 – Also in Issachar and in Asher Manasseh had Beth-shean and its villages, and Ibleam and its villages, and the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, and the inhabitants of En-dor and its villages, and the inhabitants of Taanach and its villages, and the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages; the third is Naphath…. Then the people of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, “Why have you given me but one lot and one portion as an inheritance, although I am a numerous people, since all along the LORD has blessed me?”
God gave Joseph’s sons a strong portion including places inside other tribes’ territories, but Joseph was not satisfied. We are challenged enough to be faithful simply with what God has already given us. When you are faithful with little, God can give you more. He knows what you can handle better than you do. Often, we are so worried about what we don’t have, we fail to see and appreciate what we do have. Leading small teams can often produce more fruit than leading big teams because the leader can dedicate more attention to those being led. Jesus focused on only 12 dedicated men to facilitate global change – “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled (John 17:12).” What can God do through you with what you have right now?
Contentment is the mark of faith, and an attitude of gratitude pleases our Lord and produces fruit.
Joshua 17:13 — “Now when the people of Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not utterly drive them out.”
A small compromise in your obedience to God that seems like no big deal to you, is always a big deal to God. Even small acts of disobedience reveal what you care about is more important to you than what God cares about, that something other than God has become your priority. All disobedience is you saying, “God, You are not Lord here.” Rather than driving out the Canaanites, the Israelites made a comfort-based decision and put them into forced labor, avoiding conflict while promoting financial gain. No big deal, right? I wonder how the Israelites justified this defiance of God? Have you ever told yourself that you could control the apparently small sin in your life or keep it in a box? “I know the words of this song are bad, but I just like the music….” Have you ever said something like this: “Other than the profanity and sex scenes, that was a pretty good movie”? Proverbs 6:27 asks, “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned?” Don’t strive to control sin in your life – drive it out. Accept no compromise with sin. Trust and obey.
Joshua 17:14, 15 — “’Why have you given me but one lot and one portion as an inheritance, although I am a numerous people, since all along the Lord has blessed me?’ And Joshua said to them, ‘If you are a numerous people, go up by yourselves to the forest, and there clear ground for yourselves in the land of the Perizzites and the Rephaim, since the hill country of Ephraim is too narrow for you.’”
Once again, God expects us to be thankful for what we have, not complain about it or make excuses based upon what we don’t have. God wants us to make the most of what He has given us, under the conditions in which He has placed us. Circumstances don’t determine our success but rather how we respond to those circumstances. One of the easiest and most common copouts is to claim that we don’t have the resources (time, abilities, materiel, people, etc.) to get done what needs to get done. However, if God called us to do it, He will provide the resources – “His will; His bill.” But God expects us to work diligently, persistently, and obediently. (Proverbs 10:4, 5) Proverbs remind us, “The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and He adds no sorrow with it.” (Proverbs 10:22) The people of Joseph were not satisfied with God’s blessings and commands and made excuses for their lack of obedience. As a result, they induced sorrows with the blessings they had received. Work joyfully, thankfully, contently, diligently, persistently, faithfully, and confidently with what God has given you and be blessed. Don’t make excuses. Don’t add your own sorrows.
Joshua 17:17-18 – “For you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong.”
God calls you to accomplish what is impossible for you to accomplish without His power so He will be glorified rather than you. It doesn’t take faith to do what you already know you can do.
Note: Here is a short video overview of Luke, chapters 1-9: https://youtu.be/XIb_dCIxzr0
Luke 1:15-17 – “…for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”
John the Baptist was given the mission of preparing people to receive Jesus, a mission of reconciliation, preparing people to be reconciled with God through Jesus. Reconciliation with Jesus would also result in reconciliation between believers, changed hearts turned towards God and each other. While John the Baptist was given the message of reconciliation to prepare people for Jesus’ earthly ministry, we have, likewise, been given the message and ministry of reconciliation, imploring people to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior and preparing believers (discipling) for Jesus’ Second Coming:
- 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 — Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 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. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
“…for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit….” John’s mission and calling was not self-appointed, and it wasn’t something he could accomplish in His own power and authority. God chose John and gave Him the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish His mission, and John was to remove any other influence in his life which would quench the Spirit within him, such as alcohol. Likewise, you have been chosen by God and given the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish your mission of spreading the Gospel and making disciples. Do not allow anything to control you other than the Spirit, and don’t allow anything to distract you from your calling.
- Ephesians 1:13 — In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit….
- John 16:13-15 — 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. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.
- Galatians 5:16 — But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
- Romans 8:5 — For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
- Ephesians 5:18 — And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit….
- Romans 14:17 — For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit
- 1 Thessalonians 5:19 — Do not quench the Spirit.
- Ephesians 4:30 — And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
- Galatians 5:25 — If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
- Matthew 28:18-20 — And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
- 1 Corinthians 2:13 — And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.
“And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom.” John the Baptist’s message was that unity and peace on earth could only come through repentance and unity with Jesus. The evidence (the fruit) of love and oneness with Christ is genuine, observable, extraordinary love and oneness with fellow believers. This oneness with God and others was the focus of Jesus’ prayer to the Father as Jesus prepared for the Cross:
- John 17:22-23 — “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 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. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
How is your oneness, and does it proclaim the truth of Christ in your life “that the world may know” that Jesus is Lord? Are you being used by God to “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom”?
- 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.”
“…to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” Are you ready for Jesus’ return? Do you have a great sense of urgency to make others ready for Jesus’ return? What will you do today to prepare others?
- Matthew 24:44 — Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.
- Luke 12:35-38 — Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit. Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks. Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them. Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.
- 1 John 2:28 — And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.
- Romans 13:11 — Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.
- Jude 1:17-23 — But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
Luke 1:37 – For nothing will be impossible with God.
“The angel Gabriel told Mary that God was planning to do something humanly impossible. All human logic would agree that a virgin could not give birth to a child. It was impossible. Yet this is exactly what was to happen. When God speaks of doing the impossible, it is no longer absurd. When was the last time God did the impossible in your life? When was the last time God spoke to you about what He wanted to do and you were scared to death by its magnitude?
God still does the impossible! Too often we acknowledge our belief that God can do whatever He wants, then we add a safety clause: ‘But I just don’t think God will do that with me!’ We become practical atheists, believing that God can perform miracles but never expecting a miracle in our own lives.
God wanted to bring salvation to all of humanity. It is critical that Mary not only believed God could perform a miracle but also adjusted her life to the awesome work He planned to do through her. The difference between a Christian and a moral person is the divine. The difference between a church and a social club is the miraculous. Some can duplicate the morality of a Christian, but no one can reproduce the miraculous that should be a part of the Christian experience. Do you believe that nothing is impossible for God?” (Henry T. Blackaby)
Luke 1:45 – And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.
In the kingdom of God, believing is a prerequisite to receiving. God spoke to Mary and gave the assurances He always gives when He assigns the impossible to His people. Everything was in place for God to act. Everything waited on Mary to believe Him. Once she believed, it was done! It takes an undivided heart to believe under such circumstances and a pure heart to see God (Matt. 5:8; Heb. 12:14).
This has always been God’s way with His people. Mary could not see all that had been arranged and assembled in the courts of heaven. She could not see the legions of angels prepared to protect her and her baby. She was unaware of the future and all that she and her child would face. All she knew was that God had spoken to her, and that was enough. So she responded: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
When God speaks about His plans, He does so with everything already in place to fulfill His word. God never speaks hypothetically. He knows exactly what will come to pass. He simply asks you to believe Him. You will experience great blessing when you place your absolute trust in Him. Mary could not have dreamed all that would result from her faithful obedience. Likewise, you cannot possibly imagine all that God has in store for you when you trust Him. He knows exactly what He will do to bring salvation to someone you have prayed for or to heal your friend or to provide for your needs. God has everything in place. Will you believe Him?” (Henry T. Blackaby)
Luke 1:46-47 — And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…”
“Praise is the spontaneous response of a grateful child of God in His presence. The person who knows God and experiences Him intimately sings to the Lord with deepest praise! Mary was overwhelmed by the Lord’s goodness to her. In response she sang one of the most beautiful and profound songs of praise found in Scripture. Trying to stop the praise of a thankful heart would be like trying to arrest the flow of a mighty waterfall! God created us to praise Him; praise will be our activity when we are gathered around His throne in heaven.
You should never have difficulty thinking of reasons why God deserves your praise. You should enjoy the times you have to praise your Lord, both privately and publicly in worship. If your life is not filled with praise, it may be that you have lost your appreciation for God’s merciful activity in your life. Never forget what God has saved you from. Never take for granted what it means to have the assurance of eternity with God. Do not disregard the spiritual kinship you enjoy with other believers. Take time often to recount the blessings He has poured out upon you and your family. As you contemplate the boundless love and mercy God has shown you, you will want to sing His praises as Mary did. Spontaneous praise is authentic praise. It does not have to be manipulated or orchestrated. It is a real and personal expression of a grateful heart and wonder-filled life that has encountered holy God!” (Henry T. Blackaby)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 25 July 22: Be a faithful ambassador for Christ today, faithful with the Gospel, the message of reconciliation. Proclaim the Gospel in word and deed to all around you. Let the evidence of the power of God be revealed to others by your obvious faith, hope, peace, thankfulness, grace, love and unity with fellow believers.