YEAR 2, WEEK 18, Day 2, Tuesday, 2 May 2023

Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 2 May 2023:

Ecclesiastes 10:1 — A little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.

It doesn’t take much to destroy trust and confidence or ruin a reputation. Once you lose someone’s trust, it is very hard to get it back. As an ambassador of Christ, guard your reputation carefully in order to bring glory and honor to the Name of Jesus.

Ecclesiastes 10:10 — If the iron is blunt, and one does not sharpen the edge, he must use more strength.

Invest time to “sharpen your axe” (improve your productive skills) so you can chop down more trees in the end. Being busy is not the same as being productive and effective. Sharpen your skills, sharpen your methods, and increase your abilities. Work wisely. Wise work is always obedient and makes the most of every opportunity.

Romans 15:1 — We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.

You must be patient with immature Christians who act inappropriately. When someone offends you, you may want to defend yourself and get gratification, but the Bible says do not return evil for evil, but rather to respond to abuse with love and kindness. As we read previously, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse…. Do not take revenge… (Romans 12:14-19).” Jesus was very clear:

  • Matthew 5:43-48 — “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
  • Luke 6:27-36 — “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

Of course, wholeheartedly blessing those who persecute you is tremendously hard and goes against everything we are taught by the world. This spirit of grace is developed over time as we mature and grow in our appreciation of God’s grace bestowed upon us and as we continually practice this attitude under the counsel and coaching of the Holy Spirit. God knows how hard this is and commands us to have “endurance” but also to be encouraged by Jesus’ perfect example which ultimately resulted in the Cross – he knows better than anyone what you are going through: “For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.’” (Romans 15:3).

  • Colossians 3:12-14 — 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.
  • John 15:12 — This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.
  • Romans 5:8 — …but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
  • Luke 9:23 — And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

You must take up your personal cross to follow Jesus, and this starts with denying self and considering others, particularly those who offend you, as more important than yourself, the lost sheep who are at the forefront of the mind of the Shepherd. Try this experiment for a while: stop defending yourself; respond to everyone who lashes out at you with love, kindness and blessings. See what happens. Remember Jesus’ first words on the Cross — “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) Instead of focusing on what others are doing to you or not doing for you, consider how their behavior is affecting your personal love, joy, and peace, which should be unshaken because they are grounded on the rock of Jesus. Also, consider how your response reflects the Gospel and Jesus’ sacrificial love for sinners.

Pray that God will help you carry your daily cross with joy for His glory and for the sake of others – “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

  • Romans 12:10-12 — Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
  • 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 — Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

Romans 15:5 — May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus.

Again, God wants you to suffer maltreatment from others with endurance so that you can promote unity and reconciliation.

Romans 15:18 — …bring the Gentiles to obedience.

The goal is obedience, but not just obedience, joyful obedience. As John said, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3) It isn’t hard or miserable to do what you care about passionately. When you love sinners the way Jesus does, it won’t be hard for you to suffer their abuse without responding in kind. Was it hard for Jesus to wash Judas’ feet knowing Judas would betray Him (John 13)? No! Jesus’ response to Judas was the natural response of His heart, the fruit of His Spirit.

In the Book of Matthew, Jesus gave us the Great Commission: “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.’” (Matthew 28:18-20) A disciple is a follower or apprentice of Jesus who is endeavoring to live exactly like the Teacher. Jesus called us to make disciples and teach them to observe all that He commanded. We cannot teach what we haven’t mastered. Notice it doesn’t say, “teaching them what they ought to observe,” rather, “teaching them to observe.” To obey, we must abide. Obedience isn’t the product of will power but rather the fruit of the Spirit, spiritual, supernatural (beyond natural) power which flows through a branch connected to the Vine (John 15), power which can only come to those who practice the presence of God in their lives.

Romans 15:30, 31 — I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea.

Paul’s words teach us much about prayer: First, Paul greatly valued to prayers of fellow believers, appealing to or begging them to pray. Obviously, he understood the prayers of the righteous are powerful. Second, he had in mind prayer that was akin to striving, a true struggle. This was earnest, persistent prayer that was effective and powerful, more powerful than any physical power. Third, he recognized the unique power of communal prayer, hoping that they would “strive together.” Fourth, he asked for prayer for requests he believed were aligned with God’s purpose and will, not for selfish ambitions or desires. Finally, Paul was not certain his prayers would be answered in the affirmative by God (as often they weren’t), but this did not hinder his understanding of the importance of prayer. We all need a deeper understanding of the power of prayer. The best way to grow in prayer is to pray, pray, pray.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 2 May 2023: Overlook offenses committed against you, remembering that people are weak and need mercy and grace just as you do. Don’t satisfy your own desire to defend yourself or to stand up for your ‘rights’ but rather consider how you can transmit the peace of God, grace, and reconciliation. References from today’s readings: “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.’” (Romans 15:1-3) Strive in prayer today — committed, hard, tiresome prayer. (Romans 15:30)

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