YEAR 2, WEEK 13, Day 4, Thursday, 30 March 2023

Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 30 March 2023:

Job 19:2 — How long will you torment me and break me in pieces with words?

Your words can really hurt people.

Job 19:4, 5 – And even if it be true that I have erred, my error remains with myself.  If indeed you magnify yourselves against me and make my disgrace an argument against me….

Often people criticize others just to feel better about themselves and to lift themselves up.  Criticism of others is usually a sign of insecurity and a guilty conscience.

Job 19:13-19 — He has put my brothers far from me, and those who knew me are wholly estranged from me.  My relatives have failed me, my close friends have forgotten me.  The guests in my house and my maidservants count me as a stranger; I have become a foreigner in their eyes.  I call to my servant, but he gives me no answer; I must plead with him with my mouth for mercy.  My breath is strange to my wife, and I am a stench to the children of my own mother. Even young children despise me; when I rise they talk against me.  All my intimate friends abhor me, and those whom I loved have turned against me.

People tend to avoid the needy and the suffering.  When people are suffering, they expose the truth of human weakness and vulnerability most people hope to deny; and needy people have little to give back to others in relationship.  Most people prefer relationships with others based on what they might gain from the relationship, either emotionally or tangibly.  Relationships that are based on self-centered motives will not be dependable.  How you treat others when they are in need and suffering, when they have nothing to offer you, when the relationship is costly, reveals the level of your love for them and for God.  When people are in need, show them the love of God and free grace.  When you are in need, and people don’t treat you as they should, exposing the limits of their love, show them God’s love and free grace. 

God will allow you to go through hard times.  In any situation, God intends to do several things at once: reveal Himself to you in a greater way; reveal the truth of you to you in a greater way; tear down the idols in your life that have caused to prioritize or trust in something other than Him; draw you closer to Him and grow you in Christ-like character; reveal Himself to others through your situation in a greater way; prepare you for greater things in the future, and use you as His instrument of grace in the lives of others.  Hard times often create a crisis of belief, challenging whether or not you really believe what you say you believe.  God knows the truth concerning the limits of your faith, but often He needs to reveal those limits to you.

Job 19:25-27 – For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another.  My heart faints within me!

Job had hope in salvation and resurrection through Jesus Christ which he did not completely understand.  He knew that Jesus would eventually return to reign on earth but didn’t know Him as Jesus.

    – Matthew 13:17 — For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

    – 1 Peter 1:10-12 — Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

Mark 8:3 – And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way.  And some of them have come from far away.

Do you desire God’s word more than eating?

Mark 8:6 – And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground.  And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd.

Jesus allows us to participate in His miraculous works so that we can experience Him first-hand.

Mark 8:11, 12 – The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him.  And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign?  Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.”

Most who demand evidence of Jesus don’t really want evidence but merely seek to justify their own rebellion. More evidence wouldn’t change a thing because their problem is their hearts, not their minds.

Mark 8:34 — Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.

In the above verse, Jesus describes the continuing actions or endeavors that mark the “way of the disciple” or the “way of the cross”: deny self, take up the cross, follow Jesus –

  – Deny self:  Denying self is far more than self-denial, depriving yourself or denigrating yourself.  Denying self involves setting your mind on the things of God rather than the things of man and walking on a revealed path for His purposes rather than by your own understanding for your own purposes.  John Calvin says that self-denial is willingness “to give up our natural inclinations, and [to] part with all the affections of the flesh, and thus [to] give our consent to be reduced to nothing, provided that God lives and reigns in us.”  Denying self is a continuous, ongoing, inward act.  Only you and God know if your being is centered on Jesus or focused on self.  The opposite of the discipleship way is putting self before God – that is what Satan does; and when we do it, we are essentially following the devil’s lead as Peter discovered when Jesus rebuked him, “Get behind me, Satan!  You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns (Mark 8:33).”  Peter was likely focused on the prospect of his personal loss and his personal pain that would be caused by Jesus’ death, and Jesus’ death did not fit the plan for victory that Peter had envisioned.  His worldly thinking was in opposition to the plan of God, hence one of Jesus’ most emphatic rebukes. Denying self is to “have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16, Philippians 2:5).”

  – Take up their cross: This is much, much more than simply patiently enduring trials or bearing up under affliction.  It is not about what is happening to us in the world but rather it is about accepting who we are in Christ.  Taking up the cross is accepting and proclaiming our new identity in Christ saying, “I am in Him, and He is in me.”  It is about identifying and uniting with the Crucified One, not just outwardly with our mouths but inwardly in our hearts and minds with all that is within us.  It is the personal recognition that we not only died with Christ but were also made alive with Christ to live our lives solely for God (Romans 6:8, 10).  We joyfully take on the name of Christ, and in union with Jesus, we willingly choose the Father’s destiny for our lives regardless the personal cost.  As Paul described: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20).”  Taking up the cross in relationships is not just turning the other cheek, displaying grace, returning good for evil, it is doing so with a heartfelt goal of reconciliation for the offender, with genuine love for your “enemy,” who, through the love of Christ, we no longer see as others would.  Taking up your cross is not just accepting persecution; it is accepting persecution in the name of Christ with the goal of Christ, seeking a greater fellowship with Him for ourselves and for the persecutor, genuinely from a heart of true love for God and for the one who would hurt us — “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

  – Follow Jesus:  This is an inward act before it is an outward one.  It is not just about conforming our outward behavior to God’s standards (something Jesus tried to explain to the Pharisees), but continually and humbly and personally responding to the conviction of the Holy Spirit to transform our hearts and minds.  This is not about rote religious rituals or traditions.  This is your one-on-one discipleship with Jesus where you personally respond to Him, where you remain connected to the Vine.  Only you and God know if, in your inmost being, you are truly following Jesus.  This is a relationship; it’s not a program, it’s the person of Jesus.  This is about “abiding” in Jesus and obeying his commands out of genuine love for Him – “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4, 5)

In our natural minds, we tend to define and reduce the “way of the disciple” to the physical realm, “persevere through the trials of life and do good things.” However, “The Way” deals with the inside, the spirit, the heart, your authentic self. “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)  Pray that God will give you the heart of a disciple.

* Note: Christianity was often referred to as “The Way.” (Acts 9:2; 19:9; 19:23; 22:4; 24:14; 24:22).

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 30 March 2023:  Today, really focus on denying self rather than just self-denial.  Seek genuine “oneness” with Jesus, in heart, mind, and soul.  Seek to step outside of self to see things as God sees them.  Seek only His will, not yours, and endeavor to follow Him, not out of a sense of duty, but genuine love.  The key is receiving His love and letting it flow through you rather than trying to work harder to create your own love. (Mark 8:33-38)

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