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DBRP – WEEK 1, Day 1, Monday, 31 December 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 31 December 19:

Note: Here is a short video overview of chapters 1-11 of Genesis: https://youtu.be/KOUV7mWDI34

1. Genesis 1 – “In the beginning, God….” The first thing God wants you to know is that He is the Creator, and what He creates is good, a point repeated seven times (seven — the number of completeness and perfection) in chapter one. God reveals Himself in His creation (see Romans 1), and in the first chapter of the Bible, we have revelation of The Holy Trinity – God’s oneness and His threeness – all at work in creation as One. In verse 1:2, we are introduced to the Holy Spirit (more about the Holy Spirit — https://thebibleproject.com/explore/holy-spirit/). However, the role of the Son remains less clear at this point. The Book of John, which we will read later, completes the picture – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1-5) The Greek term used for “word” in John is “Logos,” a word which really has no sufficient English equivalent. Though Logos is often equated to logic, it means far more – the ultimate reality and the source of everything, including wisdom, purpose, and meaning, and life. Proverbs 8 tells us that this Logos existed before the creation. John tells us this Logos — this source of creation, life, and wisdom — is, in fact, Jesus, the Son of God. Of Himself, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) In Genesis, the first thing God commands is, “Let there be light.” John introduces Jesus as “the light of men.” Of Himself, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) As you begin reading the Bible this year, understand that the purpose of the Bible is to reveal ‘history’ – His Story. The Book (66 books that tell one story) is intended to reveal Jesus Christ, the Living Word, the Way, the Truth and the Life, The Light of the World, the Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior. From Genesis 2 onward, we learn why people need salvation through Jesus and why there is no other way to salvation but through Jesus. We will also learn how, just as all three persons of the Holy Trinity are involved in creation, all three work inseparably in salvation:

– John 6:44 — No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

– John 3:3-8 — Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God…. unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

– Ephesians 2:18 — Through [Christ] we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

– 1 Corinthians 2:14 — The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

– Romans 8:10-11 — If Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

2. Genesis 2 – God created man to be His steward or overseer of His creation and to be in relationship with Him. The Greek word for steward is Oikonomos, which means keeper of the master’s house (see Gen 1:22-23, 26, 28; Gen 2:15; 1 Cor 4:1, 2; 1 Cor 9:17; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 4:10; ). God made mankind to live out God’s will in a tangible way on a physical earth, to translate His spiritual truths into physical reality – “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” The first thing God gave Adam was a job; the second thing God gave Adam was another person to love and to work with (in unity with God) so, in God’s image, Adam and Eve could love another – God is love. (1 John 4:8). Our primary command is love, and our primary means to love is work (caring for the needs of others in a tangible way — effort). God’s perfect order (The Garden of Eden) involved work and relationship with another in Him, with Him (God walked with Adam in Eve in the Garden – Gen 3:8) and for Him. But with love comes the choice to love. Genesis 2 reveals that love and obedience to God (who is Love) are inseparable. The command to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was given by God in His perfect love (protecting us from ourselves) and was a test of love for Adam and Eve. Would they choose God over self? Would they trust God to decide right from wrong, or would they seek to define right and wrong for themselves? Would they trust God for their provision or seek to provide for themselves? Would they love, trust, and obey? It is vital for us to put God’s commands in perspective. To question God’s commands is to question His very character, His love, His holiness, and His sovereignty. To challenge God’s commands is to commit cosmic treason and to war against Love itself (Himself). Disobedience separates us from love, and, despite popular opinion, we cannot truly love others while we are in disobedience to God — “The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Timothy 1:5) In Christ, we are new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17) who have returned to

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) — 31 Dec 19:

 

DBRP – WEEK 1, Day 3, Wednesday, 2 January 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 2 January 19:

Matthew 3:1, 2 – “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” As we read the account of John the Baptist, it can be very easy for us to miss the significance of his role in God’s redemptive history, the impact he was having on his culture at the time, and the lessons his life leave for us today. The account of John the Baptist is mentioned in all four Gospels. Understand that it had been 400 years since Malachi (the last book of the Old Testament) proclaimed the coming of “the great and awesome day of the Lord.” Since then there was prophetic silence. Think about that for a moment – 400 years! Look back 400 years in our nation’s history, the time of the Pilgrims; that is a long time. Now comes John the Baptist proclaiming the imminent arrival of the Messiah and the Kingdom of God. John the Baptist had become a national figure. “Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him” to be baptized. (Matthew 3:5). John was doing something quite shocking to the religious leaders – he was baptizing in the Jordan River. This was not the Believer’s Baptism that Christians do as an act of obedience and public profession of their faith; this was what the Jews would recognize as a proselyte baptism, a ritual of ceremonial cleansing required of a gentile to become a Jew, because gentiles were viewed as unholy and unclean. John was saying that even the Jews, including the Pharisees and Sadducees, were unclean, unprepared for the coming of the Messiah, and he was calling for national repentance. Naturally, the Pharisees and Sadducees were furious over this huge, bold, and very public insult! And when confronted, John the Baptist did not pull any punches — “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 3:7-10) The Messiah is coming, and you are not ready! The Pharisees had sent the priests and Levites to investigate the matter of John’s baptism, and their main concern was who John the Baptist was proclaiming to be. Why did he think he was so special? (John 1:19-34) However, John the Baptist immediately directed all attention away from himself and on to Jesus – “Among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” (John 1:26, 27) John the Baptist understood his mission – to proclaim Christ and Christ alone. He was not hindered or distracted by public opinion or public attention. He did not seek position, title, or notoriety. The Book of John further records that when John the Baptist saw Jesus coming, he did not announce Jesus as the King or as the Lion of God, but rather “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” The ultimate Day of Atonement was at hand! This was the beginning of the end of the Old Mosaic Covenant, and the dawn of the New Covenant of reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ. (See Hebrews) This was the proclamation of the Gift of God and salvation only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and not by works, leaving no room for anyone to boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9) John the Baptist was a faithful Herald of Immanuel (God with us), and of John, Jesus said, “among those born of women none is greater than John.” (Luke 7:28) But Jesus went on to say, “Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” Grace is the great equalizer. Anyone who is in Christ has the full righteousness of Christ credited to them, rendering the righteousness of people meaningless for salvation – Christ is sufficient. Those in Christ are now free to pursue righteousness as an act of love for God and others, rather than pursuing the law out of fear of judgment. (Romans 9:30, 31; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22) This is Good News! John was faithful with the message of reconciliation, which he boldly proclaimed to all, drawing no attention to Himself. Now God has entrusted you with the message of reconciliation. What are you going to do with it in 2019?

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.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 2 Jan 19: Today, recommit to being a faithful ambassador for Christ, never representing yourself or your views in any situation but only Jesus and His will.

DBRP – WEEK 1, Day 4, Thursday, 3 January 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 3 January 19:

Matthew 4:1 – “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Was Jesus led into temptation by the Spirit? No, he was led by the Spirit “into the wilderness.” God ordained that in the desert, Jesus would be “tempted by the devil.” At first glance, this verse seems to contradict James 1:13 – “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” And considering Matthew 4:1, how could Jesus later teach His disciples to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”? I think a key to resolving this apparent contradiction is to understand the difference between external temptations, and internal temptations.

External temptations are offered to us by an agent of temptation (a tempter), whether or not we have any desire to accept the invitation to enter into sin. External temptation is someone else’s sin, not ours. External temptations are a test, and throughout the Bible, we see that, in His sovereign will, God allows us to be tested. In fact, God uses tests to develop us into Christ-like character.

However, we are responsible for internal temptations, sinful thoughts and desires that come from our prideful, self-centered hearts. Tomorrow, we will hear Jesus’ teachings on these thought sins, which are a violation of the Greatest Commandment of love.

Contrary to what Adam and Eve said in the Garden, no person or circumstance can ‘make’ you sin. Others might tempt you to sin, and certain situations might weaken your moral resolve, but how you respond to external factors is your choice.

Based on many Bible verses such as Ephesians 2:1-3 and 1 John 2:16, church tradition teaches about three enemies of the soul, which have been called “the trinity of temptation” – the world, the flesh, and the devil (mundus, caro, et diabolus). The world and the devil are external tempters, and the flesh is internal. As per James 1:13, God is not affected by agents of temptation, nor does He act as an agent of temptation. Therefore, Jesus was led by the Spirit in the proximity of an external tempter (Satan), but He (the Son of God) was not tempted internally and didn’t sin.

The Bible calls us all to be led by the Spirit rather than the flesh, and as Ambassadors of Christ in a sinful world, the Spirit will definitely lead us into environments full of external temptations. In fact, in Jesus’ last recorded prayer for us before His crucifixion, He prayed to the Father, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.” (John 17:15) His final prayer is in direct parallel with the Lord’s Prayer — “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (more accurately translated as “evil one”).” The prayer is that God will not allow external temptations to become internal temptations, to prevent us from “entering into” temptation. In other words, “Lord, Give us strength!”

Certainly, the Bible tells us to make every effort to avoid external temptations – you cannot play with fire without getting burned. However, we cannot accomplish our mission on earth and avoid all external temptations. As Marines say, “The enemy gets a vote.” Fortunately, the Bible also says, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) The key point of this verse is when being tempted, we must not attempt to meet the challenge in our own strength – we need to turn to God and ask Him to show us the way out and to give us Holy Spirit strength to endure. As Galatians 5 teaches, self-control (internal strength) is really Spirit-control, which comes from God, not from mere willpower. And the Bible is also clear that the first response to a temptation is prayer.

More verses for consideration are provided below:

– Hebrews 2:18 — For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

– Hebrews 4:15 — For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

– James 1:14 — But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.

– Mark 7:15 — There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”

– Matthew 18:7 — “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!

– 1 Thessalonians 3:5 — For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.

– Matthew 26:41 — Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

– 1 Corinthians 7:5 — Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

– 2 Timothy 1:7 — for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

– Luke 22:46 — and he said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not enter into temptation.”

– 1 Timothy 6:9 — But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.

– Galatians 6:1 — Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.

– 1 John 2:16, 17 – “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life —is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

– Psalm 141:4 — Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies!

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 3 Jan 19: Pray that God will not let your heart incline to any evil but rather give you the strength to face the sinful world as a faithful Ambassador of Christ. And when you fail to pass the test, trust in God’s grace and remember 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

 

DBRP – WEEK 1, Day 5, Friday, 4 January 2019

https://esv.literalword.com/?q=genesis+9%2C+10%3B+proverbs+4%3B+matthew+5

Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 4 January 19:

Matthew 5:3-11 — And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Chapter 4 of Matthew concludes by introducing Jesus’ ministry, telling us that He went throughout the land “teaching… proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.” Chapter 5 begins with His teachings, specifically with what we call “The Beatitudes.” The Beatitudes are perhaps some of the most well-known verses within the Gospels, but also arguably some of the most neglected.

It is beneficial that we are reading Matthew in parallel with Genesis, giving us the perspective of two different kingdoms with two very different agendas and approaches, two different kingdoms that war against each other from Genesis to Revelation, two different viewpoints that often battle within our minds. As we have read, the great battle started in the Garden, where Adam and Eve asserted their perceived goodness and self-sufficiency, where in their pride and self-centeredness, they convinced themselves that they could live for themselves and define righteousness on their own terms. Now, Jesus is proclaiming the truth of His Kingdom, and today He delivers His battle plan, but it is not what anyone likely expected.

In stark contrast with the world’s message, even the message of the religious leaders of the day, He starts with “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” stating in the present tense rather than the future tense, “for thiers is the kingdom of heaven.” The poor in spirit are those who recognize that, of themselves, they are spiritually bankrupt, with no righteousness at all. These are they who recognize their total depravity and total dependence on God.

Then He speaks of their mournfulness – total sorrowfulness over their sinfulness with truly repentant hearts. He says, they shall be comforted. Then He communicates their meekness – total humility and reliance on God, ready to trust in God and patiently endure in obedience. Jesus goes on to tell us that His kingdom people aren’t driven by what motivates everyone else, rather they “hunger and thirst for righteousness,” to return to a right fellowship with God, metaphorically speaking, to return to the old Garden days when there was perfect unity with Him and with others. This is no casual approach to religion, this is hunger and thirst! When you are starving, it is hard to think about anything other than food, and Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life.” Today, He tells us that when people hunger and thirst for righteousness, He will satisfy.

Jesus then explains that His people, those who are “poor in spirit,” those who recognize their total dependence on God’s grace and mercy, are naturally merciful to others. They don’t see themselves as more righteous than others, and they don’t demand justice for themselves while relying solely upon grace themselves.

Next, Jesus says, “Blessed are the pure in heart,” a statement that is as hard to handle as His last statement in Matthew 5 – “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” How can either of these demands be achieved? I believe these verses speak to Christians living out more and more each day what they have already received in Christ, righteousness and purification:

– 1 Corinthians 6:11 — And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

– 1 John 3:1-3 — See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

– Philippians 3:12 — Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

The pure in heart have righteousness and purity credited to them through Jesus Christ, but then, in a response of love and as an act of worship and testimony, pursue righteous and pure lives, desiring with all their hearts to be “conformed to the image of his Son.” (Romans 8:29) For Kingdom people, conformity to Christ is their hearts’ desire and prize of life!

Jesus then tells us that “sons of God” are “peacemakers.” This doesn’t just mean that we keep the peace with others; it means that we are the messengers of ultimate peace – peace with God, reconciliation with God through Jesus, the only Peace that can bring any real peace. Paul said it this way:

– 2 Corinthians 5:16-20 — From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 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.

But then Jesus concludes with a Beatitude that is so significant He says it twice – God has called His people to ‘joyfully’ suffer, to be “persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” Understand, Christians, that our God-given ministry of reconciliation includes a ministry of suffering, modelling Jesus’ sacrificial, forgiving mercy and grace to others in our relationships — in the name of Jesus, in fellowship with Jesus, as an act of love for Him and for others. To the world, this certainly won’t look like “winning,” and to you it might not “feel” like winning, going completely against your human nature, but let God’s word encourage you:

– James 1:12 — Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

– 2 Corinthians 4:17 — For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison….

– Galatians 6:2 – … in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

– Philippians 3:10 — that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

– Luke 14:27 — Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.

– 1 Peter 4:12-13 — Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

The Beatitudes provide a framework for the rest of Jesus’ teachings, and as we continue to read, I would encourage you to continuously cross-reference them. I pray that as you read these familiar verses, they will not get stuck in your head but would instead move to your heart through the power of the Holy Spirit.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 5 Jan 19: Today, use the Beatitudes as a guide for self-examination. “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5)

 

DBRP – WEEK 1, Day 6, Saturday, 5 January 2019

https://esv.literalword.com/?q=genesis+11%2C+12%3B+proverbs+5%3B+psalm+1

Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 5 January 19:

Note: Here is a short video overview of Genesis 11-50 — https://youtu.be/VpbWbyx1008

Note: Here is a short video overview of Psalms — https://youtu.be/j9phNEaPrv8

– Genesis 11:4-6 — Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower… and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth….” And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.

– Genesis 12:8 — And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord.

– Psalm 1:1, 2 — Blessed is the man who[se]… delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

Everyone chooses citizenship in either the Kingdom of God or the kingdom (collective) of man. These kingdoms are at war. There is no dual citizenship between warring states. Jesus said you are either with Him or against Him: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46) “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” (Luke 11:23) “If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” (Mark 3:25) “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:16) James adds, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4) God demands allegiance.

The world also demands allegiance. The kingdom of man proclaims salvation in humanity and professes hope in the ultimate good of mankind — “the genius of all of us.” As demonstrated in today’s readings, the kingdom of man will promise peace through unity of ideas and common government. Appeals for unity eventually turn into demands for unity and intolerance for God’s Kingdom people who threaten the claimed sovereignty of earthly kings. As Swiss political theorist Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) warned, human governments naturally incline towards tyranny. Jesus’ sovereignty is intolerable to people who want to lord over their own lives and to governments which intend to control for gain and create their own ‘heaven on earth.’

“…until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13) Unity in Christ is peace. Unity around anything else is destruction – the greater the unity of effort, the quicker the destruction. In Genesis, we see people unifying to “make a name” for themselves, to glorify mankind rather than God. As an act of common grace, the Lord dispersed them because “nothing that they [would have proposed to do would have been] impossible for them.” He dismantled their efforts to protect them from themselves. Mankind has been attempting to rebuild the tower of Babel ever since. Only by God’s grace has mankind’s evil been contained. More and more today, globalization and technology are breaking down the barriers across the globe and giving people ‘one language.’ People see this as a good thing. Let the Bible inform you.

While the rest of the world was building towers to the glory of man, Abram (Abraham) was in dry lands building alters to the Lord and calling upon His Name. He took the road less traveled, the narrow gate — “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13, 14) Jesus is the gate (John 10:9), and “Blessed is the man who[se]… delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:1, 2)

Today, serve your King faithfully as His ambassador to the kingdom of man.

– Joshua 24:15 — And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

– 1 Kings 18:21 — And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 5 Jan 19: Today, serve your King faithfully as His ambassador to the kingdom of man.

 

DBRP – WEEK 1, Day 7, Sunday, 6 January 2019

https://esv.literalword.com/?q=genesis+13%2C+14%3B+proverbs+6%3B+psalm+2%2C+3

Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 6 January 19:

Psalm 2:10-12 — Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.

As mentioned on Saturday, it is very beneficial reading the Old Testament, the New Testament, Proverbs, and Psalms in parallel – this approach provided important perspective.

In concert with our other readings this week, Psalm 2 reminds us that God’s message to a rebellious world, the Gospel message, our message to a rebellious world, begins with a call to repentance. Today the psalmist proclaims to the nations, ‘Be wise (understand your situation, your total depravity and enmity with The Holy, Sovereign God), be warned (of God’s wrath against you), serve (repent, surrender, and submit to God’s righteous sovereignty) … and then rejoice (in the Good News of God’s grace through Jesus), but with continuous trembling (awe and reverence for God).’ Likewise we read in Matthew 3 this week, “In those days John the Baptist came preaching…, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” And John’s call to repentance was no light-hearted casual conversation – it was a dire, urgent warning – “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance…. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire…. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” Next, Matthew 4 tells us that Jesus began His ministry with a call for repentance – “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’…. And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.” (Matthew 4:17, 23) The Gospel message always begins with God’s demand for repentance. The most awful news imaginable (God’s looming, wrathful judgment against sinners) reveals the magnitude of the Good News.

Unfortunately, in our generation, the call to repentance seems to have been reduced to a whisper, and the Good News is presented more as ‘other news’. “In our attempts to make the Gospel palatable to non-believers, we sometimes promise all the benefits of heaven without demanding repentance. Thus we have celebrities who ‘love Jesus’ while reveling in immodesty and immorality, and many others who think themselves to be saved even though they never darken the door of a church or love their neighbors.” (Tabletalk Magazine)

Our call for repentance must involve boldly and directly countering culture, addressing the specifically relevant social issues of our day, exposing sin with the light of God’s word, while proclaiming salvation through Christ alone (the most socially offensive part of our message). As an example, John the Baptist boldly proclaimed Christ, while specifically, directly, and publicly challenging Herod’s unrepentant sexual sin – a relevant social issue of his day. For the latter, John the Baptist was beheaded. When we counter our culture and address current social issues in light of the Gospel, we serve as Christ’s ambassadors, bearing witness to the truth of man’s depravity and total dependence on His grace:

– John 18:37, 38 – “Then Pilate said to him, ‘So you are a king?’ Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.’ Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth?’”

When we challenge culture and social norms, we enter into the great spiritual battle – “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4, 5)

If you are questioning why the world is increasingly becoming a dark place, question instead why the Church has lost much of its brightness, since darkness cannot overcome light. I think our readings point out that it is because we have neglected to “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” The bookends of “rejoicing” are “fear” and “trembling.” I’m afraid we have made light of God’s holiness and have failed to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” When we fail to stand in reverent awe of God, truly amazed by His grace, our motivation to serve and rejoice wanes, as does our eagerness and urgency to share The Good News. With Psalm 2:11 in mind, reconsider Jesus’ words from Matthew 5:13-16 – “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 6 Jan 19: Today, “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.”

 

DBRP – WEEK 2, Day 1, Monday, 7 January 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 7 January 19:

Genesis 15:1, 6, 8; Matthew 6:25 — “’Fear not, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.’… And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness…. But he said, ‘O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?’”…. Do not be anxious about your life….”

Today’s readings can teach us a great deal about faith, fear, failure, and God’s perfect faithfulness. Abram (Abraham) was chosen by God, not by merit but because of God’s grace. As we read Abram’s life story, we might be inclined to ask, “Why would God pick this guy?” Others might be inclined to ask the same about us. The fact is, we all fall short of God’s glory, and our lives reveal God’s grace, not anything special about us – “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8, 9) Abram’s life reveals times of great faith and times of great fear and failure. Abram’s story also reveals God’s faithfulness despite or unfaithfulness. Abram is included in the “Hall of Faith” of Hebrews 11, but just like us, his faith and his faithfulness (the fruit of faith), was far from perfect.

Abram was just like the desperate father who begged Jesus to heal his son and who said to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) Abram and this father were both believers who trusted in God but still struggled with doubt (fear). Don’t you often feel the same way? The good news is that they were also willing to be honest with God about their doubts and asked God to help them with their doubts. How about you? Are you praying to God about your unbelief?

Concerning believers’ doubt, John Calvin said, “As our faith is never perfect, it follows that we are partly unbelievers; but God forgives us, and exercises such forbearance towards us, as to reckon us believers on account of a small portion of faith. It is our duty, in the meantime, carefully to shake off the remains of infidelity which adhere to us, to strive against them, and to pray to God to correct them, and, as often as we are engaged in this conflict, to fly to him for aid.” We must trust God with our doubt while striving against infidelity, continually praying for His help.

The Bible calls us to be courageous in the Lord, which is triumph over fear by trusting in Him rather than ourselves or anything else.

– Psalm 27:14 — Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

– Psalm 31:24 — Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!

– Daniel 10:19 — O man greatly loved, fear not, peace be with you; be strong and of good courage.

Courage (overcoming very real fear) is the evidence of our salvation and gives us the ability to do good – “You are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. (1 Peter 3:6). In fact, it takes courage to truly love – “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18) Think about it. It takes faith, trusting in God to overcome fear, in order to give, to forgive, to rest from work, to obey God over the world, and to face seemingly insurmountable obstacles so that the power of God can be revealed in our lives to others to His glory. “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

In doubt, Abram asked God for evidence of His promise. So, God told Abram to prepare for an ancient ritual known as ‘cutting a covenant,’ where the two parties of a contract, deal, or pact would cut animals in half and then together walk through the animal parts, essentially saying, ‘May I be cut into pieces like these animals if I don’t keep my promise(s) as I’ve stated in this agreement (covenant).’ (Genesis 15:9-11) However, in this case, God caused Abram to fall into a deep sleep, and only the Presence of God in the form of a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. (Genesis 15:17) God was saying, ‘Your confidence in my promise rests solely on my faithfulness, not yours. I am always faithful, even when you aren’t. Your salvation rests in my hands, not yours. Nothing can separate you from my love.’ We can have confidence in God’s grace, and that confidence should lead us to faithfulness.

Despite Abram’s direct encounters with God, where God told Abram to trust in Him rather than in Himself, Abram turns around and anxiously disobeys God, taking matters into his own hands by getting Hagar pregnant. As a result, God does not abandon Abram, and Abram is still blessed by God, but needless pain and suffering enters into Abrams life and remains through the generations to this day. Some practical learning points are provided here: 1) We all doubt. 2) Our first response to doubt should be prayer. 3) Fear and doubt tempt us to take matters into our own hands and to make rash decisions rather than patiently waiting for God and His timing. 4) Faith often means waiting, waiting on the Lord. 5) While waiting on the Lord, simply obey what He has already clearly said in His word, and be faithful to what He has already given you as responsibility. 6) Be careful – those closest to you will often give you bad advice, but you are still responsible for your own decisions. 7) Fear leads to infidelity which causes needless pain and suffering. Faithfulness allows us to experience the fullness of God’s blessings without unnecessary sorrow – “The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.” (Proverbs 10:22)

Finally, Jesus tells us today that, when fighting fear, we need to go on the offensive rather than the defensive and be proactive rather than reactive – “Therefore do not be anxious…. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:31-33; compare with Matt 5:6) Stay focused on obeying God, knowing Him more and more each day, and making Him known more and more each day. And Jesus concludes today’s readings by saying, “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34) The best way to prepare for tomorrow is to be faithful with today. Focus on making the most of the opportunities God presents to you today. “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15, 16) Joyfully, confidently, and gracefully, make today a masterpiece to God’s glory.

We will all doubt, but doubts need not equal defeat. When we have doubts, we need to be honest about them, take them to The Lord, trust in His provision, and obey through our doubts. Fear need not lead to failure or needless pain. But if we do fail, we need to trust in God’s grace and remember God’s promises in 1 John 1:9 and Romans 8:28, 29. God uses even our failures for good and to conform us to the image of His Son, Jesus.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 7 Jan 19: Today, confess your doubts and fears to the Lord, trust Him, wait on Him, and obey Him through your doubts. Focus on being faithful with today.

 

DBRP – WEEK 2, Day 2, Tuesday, 8 January 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 8 January 19:

Matthew 7:15, 20, 21-23 – “Beware of false prophets…. You will recognize them by their fruits…. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

From The Beatitudes through today’s readings, Jesus has addresses the heart of our problems – the problem with our hearts. We were created to love God and then to love others as His heirs of love, as His agents of love, an in His image with His heart of love. The Great Commandment of love sums up God’s will for us — “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) First, we are to love God with our entire being, then love others unconditionally and sacrificially (wanting with all our hearts to love others the way our First Love loves them); then we are to care about ourselves last, not wanting selfishness to get in the way of love. “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

With this prioritization, we would naturally see others the way God sees them, and we would want others (who we love) to know our First Love as well as we do. What greater joy could we have than to serve as the reconciler between those we truly love? “For the love of Christ controls us…. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh…. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:14-16, 20)

Unfortunately, we get it backwards. We tend to put ourselves first, then others next, and God last. From this perspective, we view everyone else (including God) as a resource, opportunity, or a threat – an ally to protect our own self-interest or an enemy. People or circumstances become ‘good’ if they support our desires or narrative and ‘bad’ if they threaten our desires or narrative. All relationships become negotiated contracts – “I will give if I get; I will love others if they love me; I will do unto others as they have done unto me (as opposed to the Golden Rule).” Finally, we judge God from our perspective of His fairness and apparent efficacy. Consequently, we blame God for the consequences of sin, resenting Him and fearing Him as an ‘unjust’ or ‘uncaring’ God rather than a just God. Some will write Him off as a non-existent God rather than the omnipresent, omniscient sovereign God.

So, we judge others, not from God’s standard and for their benefit, but rather from our standard, based upon our self-righteousness and self-centeredness. We condemn others when we want to justify ourselves or when we feel threatened by them. (Matthew 7:1-6) And we judge God when He doesn’t give us what our selfish hearts desire, questioning His “goodness”; and we envy others (which is actually anger towards God) because they have what God hasn’t given us – “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”

The fruit of this backwards thinking becomes apparent eventually as self-centeredness and selfishness eventually prevail. From this perspective, forgiving and giving don’t make sense, unless we anticipate some sort of reward for it. But things like anger and indulgence do make sense as we fight to get and to protect what we see is rightfully ours. Galatians 5 describes the fruit that comes from the two different kinds of trees:

Galatians 5:19-26 — Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Perhaps the most ominous part of today’s readings is when Jesus warns that, in their self-deception, many self-proclaimed Christians will be surprised on the Day of Judgment that their great religious studies, their preaching, their religious acts, and their miraculous deeds, were, in fact, worthless before God, even against His will. Rather than, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” Jesus will say to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:23) Workers of lawlessness? These hypocrites (the Greek work for stage actors) are those who only pretended to love (thereby breaking the commandment of love), apparently so convincingly they even fooled themselves. They do good deeds for all the wrong reasons, from the wrong motivation, from the wrong heart.

The honest Christian we review the fruit of the Spirit and admit that they continue to fall short, too often their lives reveal works of the flesh. However, “blessed are the poor in spirit.” We can rejoice in our knowledge of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, “that though he was rich, yet for our sake he became poor, so that [we] by his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9)

In our failure to love as we should, as we desire, we are to have confidence in God’s mercy and grace and draw closer to Him, not further away. Prayer is key!

– 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.”

– James 4:5-10 — “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 8 Jan 19: Today, memorize Galatians 5:19-26 in order to review it daily. Pray that God will build you up in the fruit of the Spirit.

 

DBRP – WEEK 2, Day 3, Wednesday, 9 January 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 9 January 19:

Genesis 19:1, 15-16, 26, 36 – “Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom…. the angels urged Lot, saying, ‘Up! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.’ But he lingered. So the men seized him and his wife and his two daughters by the hand, the Lord being merciful to him, and they brought him out and set him outside the city…. But Lot’s wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt…. both the daughters of Lot became pregnant by their father.”

The story of Lot and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is both shocking and tragic and should serve as a warning to Christians today against being influenced by society rather than confronting ungodly culture.

The New Testament tells us Lot was a righteous man who was greatly distressed and tormented in his soul by the sexual perversion and lawlessness he saw and heard in Sodom. (2 Peter 2:8) Genesis 19:1 says Lot “was sitting in the gate of Sodom,” which likely means that he was a town leader, at least active in community affairs and well-known. However, despite his anguished heart and apparent influence within the community, he seems to have had no significant impact on Sodom. On the contrary, he and his family were corrupted by and complicit with Sodom.

Warned by the angels of the God’s imminent judgment and destruction of the cities, Lot tried to warn his son’s-in-law (presumably Sodomites), but they thought he was only joking (v14), which says something about Lot’s convictions before the angels’ warning and about what he had communicated to his family concerning sin. Furthermore, Lot had become so attached to Sodom that the angels had to physically kick him out of town (for sake of Abraham not Lot – v29). During the destruction, his wife disobeyed the angels, looked back and died. Finally, although Lot’s two daughters survived, they had been so corrupted by Sodom they subsequently got their father drunk and slept with him in order to get pregnant by him! How could a “righteous” man allow such things to happen?

– 1 Corinthians 10:11-12 — Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

– Romans 15:4 — For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction.

Lot’s story should serve as a warning to us. It is not enough for us to lament the sins of our culture, we must counter the sins of our culture and not simply to protect our families and preserve society but to reveal the need for salvation through Jesus Christ. Salvation from what? From God’s wrath and judgment. Serving as Christ’s ambassador during times such as these is a tremendous responsibility – do not be complacent! Remember, silence is consent.

Ezekiel 3:17-21 – “Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. Again, if a righteous person turns from his righteousness and commits injustice, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die. Because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds that he has done shall not be remembered, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the righteous person not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning, and you will have delivered your soul.”

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 9 Jan 19: Do two things today: 1) Resolve not to be entertained by anything (TV shows, social media, web-sites, etc.) that makes light of what God considers abhorrent, and 2) commit to sharing the complete Gospel with at least one person today.

– Psalm 101:3 — I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless. I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not cling to me.

– Philippians 4:8 — Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

– 1 Timothy 4:7 — Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness;

– Romans 12:2 — Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

– 1 John 2:15 — Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

– Matthew 5:28 — But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

– Ephesians 5:11 — Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

– Matthew 24:14 — And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

– Mark 16:15 — And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”

– 2 Timothy 4:2 ESV — Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

 

DBRP – WEEK 2, Day 4, Thursday, 10 January 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 10 January 19:

Matthew 9:10-13 – “And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ But when he heard it, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’”

“Jesus reclined at table…. [with] many tax collectors and sinners.” The Pharisees were livid with Jesus for his relational intimacy with these tax collectors (reclining at table was a demonstration of deep affection). Tax collectors were hated by the Jews because tax collectors (also Jews) gathered taxes for Rome and skimmed off the top for themselves (traitors and thieves of their own people). Yet, Jesus had even picked Matthew (Levi, perhaps a former Levite) the tax collector to be one of His inner-circle disciples!

Many have misinterpreted these verses to suggest that Jesus accepted or condoned sin as ‘no big deal’, and many have used these verses to justify their own complacency against sin and compromise with the sinful world. However, Jesus was NOT hanging out intimately with sinners; He was fellowshipping affectionately with “repentant” sinners such as all Christians. The other Gospel accounts give us greater details behind this story:

Luke 3 tells us that, when John the Baptizing was baptizing, “Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, ‘Teacher, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Collect no more than you are authorized to do.’ Soldiers also asked him, ‘And we, what shall we do?’ And he said to them, ‘Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.’” (Luke 3:12-14)

Then Mark 2:15 points out, “Many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.” These tax collectors were among those who had repented, trusted in Jesus, and decided to follow of Jesus. Luke tells another story about a chief tax collector named Zacchaeus who proclaimed such repentance and life commitment while dining with Jesus — “’Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’” (Luke 19:8-10)

James 4:4 says, “Whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” Jesus was certainly no friend to the world, though He invites all into friendship. Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20) “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:14) Ironically, the Pharisees, the religious leaders, refused to recline with Jesus.

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’” Remember the Beatitudes? These Pharisees could not see that they were sick and unrighteous sinners too, like all people. They didn’t feel “poor in spirit” (recognizing their spiritual bankruptcy) or mournful (repentant of their own sins); they did not hunger and thirst for righteousness because they had filled up on self-righteousness (empty calories); therefore, they were not merciful, nor were they pure-hearted peacemakers. On the contrary, they were hard-hearted, mean-spirited accusers of others, no friends of God. They were not guilty of condemning usury and extortion (as should be done for sake of justice), they were guilty of condemning sinners — to them these tax collectors were unforgivable – as if forgiveness was theirs to give rather than God’s to give. Remember previously in today’s readings the scribes said, ““This man is blaspheming,” because Jesus said to a paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9:1-8) Though they understood that forgiveness belongs to God and were ready to accuse Jesus of blasphemy, they refused to see their own hypocrisy in refusing to forgive.

Jesus then points out that these ‘experts of the law’ didn’t really understand the law at all, partially quoting Hosea 6:6 which reads in full, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” These Pharisees knew how to do church but didn’t know God. And more than anyone else, these religious leaders should have understood that all people are sinners and God is eager to forgive the truly repentant:

– Psalm 14:2, 3 – The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.

– Psalm 86:15 — But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

Only those who truly appreciate God’s mercy, grace and forgiveness will respond to others with true mercy, grace and forgiveness. Those who truly appreciate God’s love will love others accordingly. Those who don’t wont. “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Luke 7:47) Also, those who are truly ‘amazed by grace’, will be compelled to proclaim The Gospel to others.

As humble, forgiven Christians who are spiritually bankrupt apart from the unmerited riches bestowed upon us by Jesus Christ, we must judge sin with a truly loving heart for the sinner, desiring their repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Jesus said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) Now as Christ’s ambassadors, entrusted with His message of reconciliation, we have been called and appointed to find the lost, but you can’t find what you aren’t diligently looking for. Who will you share the Gospel with today?

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 10 Jan 19: Share the Gospel with at least one person today.

 

DBRP – WEEK 2, Day 5, Friday, 11 January 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 11 January 19:

Matthew 10:16, 24 — “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves…. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.”

Jesus came as the Ultimate Passover Lamb, the perfect and wholly sufficient sacrifice to pay for our sins. (John 1:29, Acts 8:32, 1 Corinthians 5:7, 1 Peter 1:19) — “Christ… offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins…. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:12, 14) For our sake, with all authority in His hands (Matthew 28:18), with the power to call “twelve legions of angels” to His rescue (Matthew 26:53), Jesus “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:7, 8) “For the joy that was set before him, [Jesus] endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:12)

“God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Jesus came to bring salvation to sinners, and during His earthly ministry, He walked humbly, serving, giving, forgiving, and healing. Yet, most rejected Him, hated Him, abused Him and maligned Him. Prophetically, Isaiah wrote of Jesus –

“For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:2-11)

Now, as His “offspring,” His disciples, and His ambassadors to a sinful world, Jesus has called us to ‘deny ourselves and take up our crosses and follow Him.’ (Mark 8:34) Entrusting us with the message and ministry of reconciliation to a sinful world, He understands that He is also entrusting us with a ministry of suffering, that He is sending us out “as sheep in the midst of wolves.” While many inspirational books have been written recounting the many promises of God, few mention His promise that those who truly follow Him will suffer for His name’s sake. We are called to suffer for Christ, but we are not called to suffer foolishly and without hope. Today’s readings teach us much about how to be good stewards of suffering:

1) We shouldn’t attempt to face suffering in our own strength. Jesus appointed sheep to defeat wolves, contrary to all human reason. How do sheep defeat wolves? Only through the power of God. What do we know about sheep? They (we) are weak, dumb, smelly, submissive, and defenseless. What do we know about wolves? They are powerful, ferocious, ravenous, and work in packs to devour the weak and helpless. So, how are sheep protected from wolves? They are protected by the shepherd. Our shepherd is the Good Shepherd –

– John 10:14-18, 27-30 – “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father…. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

– Psalm 23 — The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Jesus calls His disciples by name (Matthew 10:1-4), and under His authority, which is all authority (Matthew 10:1, Matthew 28:18), commissions them to go and make disciples, to turn wolves into sheep. He leads them through trials, He restores them through trials, He comforts them through trials, He brings all things (especially trials) together for good for His loved ones (Romans 8:28, 29), and He promises to be with His disciples forever, that nothing at all can separate them from His love for eternity. God uses sheep to defeat wolves in order to reveal His power, not to reveal the ‘power’ of sheep. When sheep defeat wolves, it is clear that only God could have done that. Trust the Good Shepherd to protect, and trust Him with the victory.

– Romans 9:17 — For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”

2) We shouldn’t go into trials alone. Jesus sent his disciples out in teams. Mark 6:7 adds to Matthews accounting of the sending of the Apostles – “And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.”

– Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 — Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!

– Proverbs 27:17 — Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

– Amos 3:3 — “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?

With whom are you teaming with to share the Gospel in your community? How many people will the two of you share the Gospel with today?

3) Suffer wisely. Jesus said, “Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” You will be persecuted for sake of His name, but you don’t need to invite a beating because of your own foolishness. First, there is a difference between suffering for His names sake and suffering because you are simply wrong, disagreeable, defensive, selfish or unloving in some other way. Second, there are times when it is best just to walk away. How do you know who to engage and who not to engage, and how do you know when to stand your ground and when to leave? The Holy Spirit must guide you here.

Concerning Holy Spirit wisdom in discerning when to face persecution, John Bunyan in 1684 offered the following:

“Thou mayest do in this as it is in thy heart. If it is in thy heart to fly, fly; if it be in thy heart to stand, stand. Anything but a denial of the truth. He that flies, has warrant to do so; he that stands, has warrant to do so. Yea, the same man may both fly and stand, as the call and working of God with his heart may be. Moses fled, Ex. 2:15; Moses stood, Heb. 11:27. David fled, 1 Sam. 19:12; David stood, 1 Sam. 24:8. Jeremiah fled, Jer. 37:11– 12; Jeremiah stood, Jer. 38:17. Christ withdrew himself, Luke 19:10; Christ stood, John 18:1–8. Paul f led, 2 Cor. 11:33; Paul stood, Act 20:22–23. … There are few rules in this case. The man himself is best able to judge concerning his present strength, and what weight this or that argument has upon his heart to stand or fly…. Do not fly out of a slavish fear, but rather because flying is an ordinance of God, opening a door for the escape of some, which door is opened by God’s providence, and the escape countenanced by God’s Word.”

4) Finally, don’t be surprised by persecution – “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.”

– 1 Peter 4:12-19 — Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name…. Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.

– 1 John 3:13 — Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.

– 1 Corinthians 1:18 — For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

– Philippians 3:18 — For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.

Have peace and rejoice through persecutions. Jesus has overcome the world –

– 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.”

– Revelation 6:15-17 – Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 11 Jan 19: Today, find a partner in Christ who will be willing to go with you to share the Gospel with others daily.

 

DBRP – WEEK 2, Day 6, Saturday, 12 January 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 12 January 19:

Genesis 25:29-34 – “Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. And Esau said to Jacob, ‘Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!’ (Therefore his name was called Edom.) Jacob said, ‘Sell me your birthright now.’ Esau said, ‘I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?’ Jacob said, ‘Swear to me now.’ So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.”

Some decisions are permanent – you can’t take them back. Esau, driven by a desire for instant gratification, acted upon impulse and sacrificed his future and his legacy for a bowl of stew. And do you really think he was dying of starvation? Of course not. The Bible doesn’t say how long Esau had been without food while hunting, but doubtful it was 40 days in a desert as Jesus experienced. And Esau’s bowl of stew temptation wasn’t Satan promising him the whole world as Jesus experienced. No doubt, Esau was hungry, but he felt the same kind of ‘starvation’ gluttons feel, and insatiable desire for self-gratification. What Esau lacked was self-control, and it cost him and his generations beyond measure. Did Esau eat the stew, or did the stew consume him?

In his lack of self-control, Esau took something that should have been good (a nice bowl of stew) and made it bad, as is the case with all sin. God gives us good things and good desires (such as hunger or sexual attraction) and we pervert them in our pride, fear, and selfishness. God made food for nourishment, but we abuse it. God made sex for good, but we pervert it. Money can be used to resource the needs of many, but we use it for our own selfish desires. As C.S. Lewis says, “Badness is only spoiled goodness.” In our lack of self-control, we spoil goodness.

It is easy to arm-chair quarterback Esau’s decision, but if we are honest, we can all relate. How many times and in how many different ways have we traded something great for something that seemed good at the time but really didn’t satisfy? Often, we just can’t seem to control ourselves, but why? To some degree, we all lack self-control, and the Bible warns that this is not something we should take lightly:

– Proverbs 25:28 — A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.

– Proverbs 16:32 — Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.

– Titus 2:6 — Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.

So, how do we get in control of ourselves? Merriam-Webster defines self-control as, “restraint exercised over one’s own impulses, emotions, or desires.” Related words include, will-power, temperance, dignity, discretion, balance, discipline, and stability – all attributes of which we likely wish we had more. Helping people get more self-control is now big business. Psychology Today offers ten steps to getting more self-control – 1) Have a can do attitude; 2) set goals; 3) self-monitor; 4) get motivated; 5) have self-confidence (believe to achieve); 6) maintain will-power (“psychological energy”) by setting fewer goals; 7) avoid what tempts you; 8) be clear on the “why” and the “how” of the goal; 9) change your patterns of behavior; and 10) have an “if-then” strategy – “If (this) happens; I will do (this).” The problem with behavior modification methods such as these is (much to the diet industry’s delight) they usually don’t work – “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41) The problem with self-control is seeing “self” as the solution, expecting self to overpower self. At best, this would be an even match, but since even our better self lacks integrity, we are on a losing strategy.

The fact is, self-control issues are spiritual issues. The Bible explains that self-control is not obtained through force of will but rather by the Holy Spirit –

– Galatians 5:22-23 — But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

– 2 Timothy 1:7 — For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

– Galatians 5:16-17 — But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.

– Titus 2:11-14 — For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Self-control is faith, hope, and love practically applied. (1 Corinthians 13:13) Faith is trusting God with the present; hope is trusting God with the future (faith projected forward), and love is the pouring out of the overflow of God in our lives back to Him and to others (God is Love – the branch that provides love to the vine). Contrary to popular psychology, the secret to self-control is not seeing ourselves more clearly and mastering ourselves more effectively; the secret (which is no secret at all) is to see God more clearly, to make him our master, to be controlled by His love. We have self-control when the unseen God is more powerful and real to us at the moment than what is seen – this is faith: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen…. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:1, 6) Our self-control, or lack thereof, reveals something about how we really see our invisible God:

– 1 Peter 1:8 — Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,

– Romans 8:24 — For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?

– 3 John 1:11 — Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.

– 1 John 4:20 — If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

– John 20:29 — Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

– 2 Corinthians 4:18 — we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

– Philippians 3:19 — Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

So, how do we see God more clearly that we would follow Him and experience the fullness of His joy and satisfaction? The Bible says that the we must first remain in His word and in prayer – “Watch (from the perspective of His word) and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Then we must do what Jesus commanded – deny self (not rely on self), to up our cross daily, and follow Him. This takes effort:

– 2 Peter 1:5-7 — For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

– 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 — Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

– Titus 1:8 — But hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined.

– 1 Peter 5:8 — Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.

– Titus 2:2 — Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.

– 1 Timothy 2:9 — Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire,

– 1 Corinthians 6:12 — “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything.

– Romans 6:12 — Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions.

Said another way, self-control is all about perspective – what you are staring at and how you see things. As we know about perspective, what is closest to us seems biggest and most relevant. Make God bigger in your eye than anything else by getting closer to Him, and keep your eyes (spiritual eyes) affixed to Him, not yourself or those temptations. Draw closer to God first, and then you will be ready to resist the devil:

– James 4:8 — Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

– James 4:7 — Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 12 Jan 19: Today, turn to God for self-control rather than to self.

 

DBRP – WEEK 2, Day 7, Sunday, 13 January 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 13 January 19:

Genesis 27:18 – “Who are you, my son?”

Jesus once asked, “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:25) Jacob forfeited himself to steal what, ironically, God intended to give him anyway. (Romans 9:11-13) In so doing, Jacob brought much needless sorrow to himself and to his family – “The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.” (Proverbs 10:22) “Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be full of gravel.” (Proverbs 20:17) Now Jacob is on the run with a very hard road ahead of him.

When we think about the impact of sinful choices, we tend to think about the impact on the situation and on others – “Then what happened?” These are the very real and obvious external consequences of sin. However, sin also has an internal impact, an impact on character, and impact on our hearts — “. . .man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Character is who we really are inside, not who we say we are or who others say we are – “Who are you, my son?”

The decisions we make both reveal our character (Proverbs 20:11) and shape our future character. Each decision we make, big or small, changes our environment and changes us too. And the Bible tells us that decisions come from the heart (what you really love and care about most). Remember, in Matthew 5 Jesus points out that sins such as anger, lust, divorce, lying, and retaliation flow from a sinful heart that loves “self” more than God and others. Proverbs warns, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (Proverbs 4:23) Jacob deceived his father, but Jacob was first deceived by his own selfish heart – “The pride of your heart has deceived you…” (Obadiah 1:3).

Many books have been written about character and character development, but the Bible is the ultimate guide to character development, and the Bible tells us that character is a heart issue, a love issue, a relationship issue – your character is defined by your relationship with God, how much you really “know” Him, love Him, and walk with Him. The Bible tells us that decisions flow from the heart, and good decisions flow from a heart that loves God (who is Love), but only God can give us a heart that can love Him, and love (character) is the product of the Holy Spirit:

– Ezekiel 36:26 — And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

– Galatians 5:22-24 — But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

– Psalm 51:10 – “Create in me a pure heart, O God.”

God gives Christians their goal for character development – “that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent…. to be conformed to the image of his Son…. keep yourselves in the love of God…. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments.” (John 17:3; Romans 8:29; Jude 1:21; 2 John 1:6) And God gives us the ability to grow in character, to grow in love – “We love because he first loved us…. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him…. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him…. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” (1 John 4:19; 1 John 4:9; 1 John 4:16; 1 John 3:23)

When we know God and the perfection of His character, we love Him and we trust Him. When we trust Him, we are willing to walk with Him, but we are also willing to wait on Him. Jacob made the same mistake his grandparents and parents had made before him: Jacob did not trust the Lord with his future, so he took matters into his own hands and compromised his integrity in the process. Abraham did this when twice he lied about his wife and turned her over to foreign kings in order to save his own skin (Genesis 12:10-20; Genesis 20) and when he got Hagar pregnant rather than waiting for God’s promise to provide him with a son through his wife Sarai. Then, Jacob’s father Isaac lied about Rebekah being his wife for sake of self-preservation. And today, we read how Rebekah coached Jacob to deceive his father and steal his father’s blessing. If only they had all trusted in the Lord and waited on his timing for His blessings without sorrows. Meditate on the following verses concerning waiting on the Lord:

– Genesis 49:18 — I wait for your salvation, O Lord.

– Psalm 25:3 — Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame; they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous.

– Psalm 25:5 — Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

– Psalm 25:21 — May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.

– Psalm 27:14 — Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

– Psalm 31:24 — Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!

– Psalm 33:20 — Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.

– Psalm 37:7 — Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!

– Psalm 37:9 — For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.

– Psalm 37:34 — Wait for the Lord and keep his way, and he will exalt you to inherit the land; you will look on when the wicked are cut off.

– Psalm 38:15 — But for you, O Lord, do I wait; it is you, O Lord my God, who will answer.

– Psalm 39:7 — “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.

– Psalm 40:1 — I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.

– Psalm 52:9 — I will thank you forever, because you have done it. I will wait for your name, for it is good, in the presence of the godly.

– Psalm 62:1 — For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.

– Psalm 62:5 — For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.

– Psalm 119:95 — The wicked lie in wait to destroy me, but I consider your testimonies.

– Psalm 130:5 — I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;

– Psalm 130:6 — my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.

– Proverbs 8:34 — Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors.

– Psalm 25:21 — May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.

– Proverbs 28:20 — A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.

– Proverbs 20:22 — Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you.

– Isaiah 8:17 — I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him.

– Isaiah 25:9 — It will be said on that day, “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”

– Isaiah 26:8 — In the path of your judgments, O Lord, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul.

– Isaiah 33:2 — O Lord, be gracious to us; we wait for you. Be our arm every morning, our salvation in the time of trouble.

– Isaiah 40:31 — but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

– Isaiah 49:23 — Kings shall be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you, and lick the dust of your feet. Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who wait for me shall not be put to shame.”

– Isaiah 51:5 — My righteousness draws near, my salvation has gone out, and my arms will judge the peoples; the coastlands hope for me, and for my arm they wait.

– Isaiah 64:4 — From of old no one has heard or perceived by the ear, no eye has seen a God besides you, who acts for those who wait for him.

– Lamentations 3:25 — The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.

– Lamentations 3:26 — It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

– Hosea 12:6 — “So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.”

– Micah 7:7 — But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.

– Habakkuk 2:3 — For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

– Romans 8:25 — But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

– Galatians 5:5 — For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.

– James 5:7 — Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.

– 2 Peter 3:13 — But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.

– 2 Peter 3:14 — Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.

– Jude 1:21 — keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.

As we continue to read God’s word this year, see how many people set themselves up for failure, heartache, and pain by failing to wait upon the Lord. Consider how this impatience reflects an unloving heart. How about you; will you wait upon the Lord?

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 13 Jan 19: Wait upon the Lord and guard your integrity.

 

DBRP – WEEK 3, Day 1, Monday, 14 January 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 14 January 19:

Matthew 11:1 — “When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.”

In our future readings, Jesus will give 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) Jesus commissioned His church not to make believers only, but rather to make “disciples” who had been taught to observe “all” of His commands. Teaching to this level is no small task – it takes much time, energy, and effort. Jesus demonstrated how to make disciples who, in turn, make disciples.

A military mantra for instruction is “educate; demonstrate; replicate; evaluate; and remediate.” This means, teach them; show them; have them do it; evaluate them while they do it, and coach them to higher levels of performance. Jesus appears to use a similar approach with his twelve disciples.

We observe in Matthew that Jesus begins his ministry by teaching and healing. Then, He begins explaining the cost of following Him (Matthew 8:18-21). In chapter 9, Jesus picks His disciples. Then, after much teaching, Jesus sends out His twelve apostles in twos to teach and heal. Chapter 9 of Mark records that, though empowered by Jesus to heal, the disciples fail in at least one case – “And someone from the crowd answered [Jesus], ‘Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute…. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” (Mark 9:17, 18) Jesus heals the man’s son and then quietly remediates His disciples, helping them understand what they needed to do differently – “And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why could we not cast it out?’ And he said to them, ‘This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.’” (Mark 9:28, 29) Next, Jesus continues to teach his disciples before going out with them again into the field. Jesus appears to repeat this general process over and over again much like a coach.

A few additional observations:

1) Jesus picked only 12 apostles. It is very difficult to truly disciple more than a small group.

2) Discipleship is much more than just classes and small-group discussions. In fact, most discipling is done ‘on the job’ and ‘in the field.’ Football players don’t get better at football by just talking about it, neither do disciples get better at spreading the Gospel sitting in small group with other Christians – both athletes and disciples need to practice under the watchful eye of a good, experienced coach.

3) Jesus didn’t send His apostles out until they were ready. He didn’t set them up for failure only to be discouraged. Having said that, He didn’t hold them back either. Leaders know “there is no growth in the comfort zone, and there is no comfort in the growth zone.” Jesus knew when it was time for His apostles to leave the nest.

4) Discipleship includes both successes and failures. You don’t get better at anything without making a few mistakes. As the adage goes, “Repetition is the mother of skill.”

5) Jesus sent His disciples out in twos. Accountability partnerships and peer-to-peer counselling are key. We interact with peers differently than we do with the teacher. We are usually more transparent with a peer and more comfortable failing in front of a peer. We are also usually more comfortable receiving assistance from a peer. And even is a small group we generally have greater accessibility with a peer. Two-man fighting positions are always more effective than a one-man fighting position.

– Proverbs 27:17 — Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

6) Jesus walked daily with a small group of disciples for years. Discipling others is a big, long-term investment that involves close, meaningful, fully-committed relationships. Jesus knew His disciples better than they knew themselves. He continued to coach them, and He abandoned none of them, not even Judas.

7) The power of multiplication: Jesus’ plan to spread the Gospel to all nations started with a full-time investment in twelve. Yes, He preached to large crowds and reached out to many personally, but His primary commitment was in preparing His twelve to replicate His example and multiply. To highlight the power of multiplication, someone once asked, “Would you rather receive one million dollars in one month or a penny doubled every day for 30 days?” The answer to this obvious trick question is not so obvious – doubling a penny every day for 30 days results in a total of $5,368,709.12! To take the metaphor one-step further, if these pennies were people, one person would spend thirty days with two other people, rather than one person engaging a huge crowd of people only once in a month. Which approach would be most likely to produce real change in a person’s life? Unfortunately, we tend to give notoriety to the person who can attract a large audience but little credit to the person willing to faithfully disciple a small group for years. However, the disciple-maker produces lasting, powerful change in lives. Case in point – I bet you remember the name of your first or second-grade teacher. Why? That person taught you (and a small group of others) every day for nearly a year – teaching, encouraging, testing, and remediating you. We remember fondly those people who truly invested in us.

Who is discipling you, and who are you discipling? Who are you intentionally walking with as an accountability partner? Who has invested in your spiritual development in a positive way, and in whom are you investing? How committed are you to these relationships, and are they multiplying?

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 14 Jan 19: Today, assess how well you are fulfilling the Great Commission of making disciples. If you are not being discipled and discipling others, take the appropriate next-steps today.

 

DBRP – WEEK 3, Day 2, Tuesday, 15 January 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 15 January 19:

Matthew 12:46-50 – “While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’”
This statement from Jesus is a bit shocking. But no more shocking than some of His other similar statements regarding family –

– Matthew 10:37 – “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

– Matthew 8:21, 22 — Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”

– Mark 10:29-30 — Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.

Is Jesus showing disdain for His own family or family in general? Is he being uncaring or unloving? How could Jesus say such things?

First, Jesus was not communicating a lack of love for His own family. Throughout His life, Jesus honored His family, and on the cross, one of Jesus dying concerns was for the care of His mother – “When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” (John 19:26-27)

Neither was Jesus de-valuing the importance of family in general. The Book of Mark records that Jesus sharply rebuked the Pharisees for violating the Fifth Commandment – “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban’ (that is, given to God)— then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” (Mark 7:9-13) And Jesus inspired the writings of the New Testament authors who made very clear the importance of honoring family —

– Ephesians 6:1 – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.

– 1 Timothy 1:8 — But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Jesus was not downplaying the importance of family and our responsibilities to family but rather was highlighting the greater significance of our spiritual family as brothers and sisters in Christ. Throughout this chapter (Matthew 12) and before, Jesus had been attacked by the Jewish religious leaders who trusted in their blood lineage and adherence to the Law for their righteousness and salvation. And when these proud Jewish religious leaders conspired against Him, Jesus reminded them of Isaiah’s prophecy concerning Him – “I will put my Spirit upon him, and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles…. and in his name the Gentiles will hope.” (Matthew 12:18-21) Jesus was making vital point that God’s family is a spiritual family rather than a blood family, and righteousness and salvation is not transferred from person to person or earned through merit or works but come only through faith in Jesus Christ. To be born into God’s family, a person must be born again, born from above, or born of spirit through faith in Jesus Christ — “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)

When we were saved through Christ and born again, we were born into a spiritual family and become heirs to His Kingdom:

– John 1:12 — But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,

– Galatians 3:29 — And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

– 1 John 3:1 — See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

– 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.

– Acts 17:29 — Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man.

– Ephesians 1:5 — He predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,

– Galatians 4:5 — to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

– 1 John 3:2 — Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

– Hebrews 2:11 — For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,

– Romans 8:15-17 — For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

So how close are you to your spiritual family (your brothers and sisters in Christ)? Do you honor your spiritual family? Do you pray for your spiritual family? Do you prioritize time with your spiritual family? Do you take care of your spiritual family, and do they take care of you? Your relationships with your spiritual family reveal something about your relationship with God. What do they reveal?

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 15 Jan 19: Pray that God will give you closer relationships with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Prioritize your brothers and sisters today.

 

DBRP – WEEK 3, Day 3, Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 16 January 19:

https://esv.literalword.com/?q=genesis+33%2C+34%3B+proverbs+16%3B+matthew+13

Matthew 13:10-13 – “Then the disciples came and said to him, ‘Why do you speak to them in parables?’ And he answered them, ‘To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.’”

Today, Jesus delivers one of His most well-known parables, The Parable of the Sower. Matthew 13 opens with, “That same day Jesus went out of the house….” The same day as what? This was the same day as the events recorded in Matthew 12. This was the Sabbath day when Jesus and the disciples were chastised by the Pharisees for plucking heads of grain to eat. Then, Jesus was further criticized for breaking the Sabbath again by healing a man in the synagogue, and the Pharisees further accused Jesus of doing His work through the power of Satan. IN response, Jesus calls His skeptics “an evil and adulterous generation.”

After the confrontation described in Matthew 12, Jesus walks outside and a crowd gathers around Him, standing (not sitting) to hear His words. (Matthew 13:1, 2) Then He delivers The Parable of the Sower. After Jesus addressed the crowd, “the disciples” (His followers) separately asked Him about the parable. Since Jesus explains the meaning of the parable, I won’t focus on that today (though we should all consider which seed/soil combination represents our lives), rather I would like to consider Jesus’ response to their question, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”

Jesus said, “This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” You see, many people ‘heard’ Jesus speak, but in their hearts, they really didn’t want to listen, understand, and accept what He was saying. Many people saw Jesus, the Son of God, face to face and saw Him perform many miracles, but they didn’t want to follow Him and accept Him as Lord and Savior, leaving their old lifestyles behind. Few ‘held fast to God’s word with an honest and good heart.’ (Luke 8:15) Few truly hungered and thirsted for righteousness. (Matthew 5:6)

When Jesus “went out of the house” after teaching and rebuking the Pharisees, I wonder how many followed Him because they wanted to hear more and commit to what they had learned? How many people were willing to stand there on the beach and really listen?

When Jesus spoke in parables, no one, not even the disciples, understood what the parables meant. But, as opposed to the crowd, the disciples stuck around and asked Jesus to explain the parables, and He did. Why did the disciples ask? Because they really wanted to understand, because they were honest enough, humble enough, and willing to ask, and because they trusted Jesus to answer. At the end of the day, most people simply didn’t understand because they really didn’t care to know the Teacher or His teachings and, therefore, didn’t ask.

As we will see later, the harder Jesus’ teachings get, the fewer people will be willing to follow – “When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?’ … After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well?’ Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.’” (John 60, 66-69)

So, how intently are you willing to study God’s word to Know Him and His truth? How committed are you obeying God’s word? As you read your Bible this year, what will you do when you read things that are hard to understand or hard to accept? Obviously, we can’t pull Jesus aside and ask Him to simply explain it to us, but Jesus said, “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth…. And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin.” (John 14:16, 17; John 16:7-15) As you read God’s word, do so in the Spirit, and pray to God to reveal His truth to you more and more. And patiently wait upon the Lord to increase your understanding, diligently obey what you do understand – “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15)

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 16 Jan 19: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” Pray that God will increase your passion for His word and further open your eyes to His truth.

 

DBRP – WEEK 3, Day 4, Thursday, 17 January 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 17 January 19:

Here is a short video overview of Matthew 14-28: https://youtu.be/GGCF3OPWN14

Matthew 14:28-31 – “And Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, ‘Lord, save me.’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’”

There are so many great lessons in today’s readings, but I will comment only on one – Peter’s faith:

We should all be able to relate to Peter’s faith and lack thereof, but don’t miss Jesus’ response to Peter. Peter starts off strong by boldly proclaiming if it is the Lord’s will, God will give him the power to accomplish something impossible for Peter to do by his own strength and abilities. Faith is not just trusting in what we can do, faith is trusting God in what we can’t do. God will regularly call us out to do what is impossible for us alone because He is not trying to show the world our talents, skills and abilities but rather He intend to show the world Himself by His abilities clearly revealed in our lives. It is foolish for us to attempt to do the impossible when God never told us to do it, but it is to God’s glory to step boldly into the impossible when He does call us out.

Peter was doing great until He began to focus on the apparent danger around him rather than Jesus. When He took His eyes off of Jesus, He started to sink. When we take our eyes off of Jesus we will sink too.

But Peter knew what to do when He started to lose faith, He cried out to Jesus. Is that what you do? Note that Jesus did not let Peter sink. Jesus immediately reached out His hand, took hold of Peter, kept Peter afloat, and guided Peter to the boat. After that rescue, do you think Peter trusted Jesus more or less? I believe Peter left this experience with a deeper appreciation of Jesus’ power, love, and protectiveness.

Jesus says to Peter, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” This was not a rebuke, this was positive coaching. As if, ‘You almost did it Peter…. Keep working on your faith in me.’ Jesus understood that, like us, Peter was not perfected in faith and had much growing to do. He was working with Peter much like a loving father teaching his child how to ride a bike – “Trust me, look straight ahead, and pedal; I’ve got you. When you fall, and you will fall, dust yourself off, get up, and try again. I won’t let you get too hurt.”

The thing about Peter is he was willing to get out of the boat in the first place. No one else was. And notice that Peter didn’t spend too much time thinking about it, weighing the pros/cons, doing the math, etc. Had he not gotten out of the boat, he wouldn’t have had this amazing experience with Jesus at all, the great success, the failure, and the miraculous rescue. Peter’s life was forever changed as was His relationship with Jesus; the others merely watched in wonder. What about you? Are you willing to get out of the boat? Or, are you satisfied with watching God do amazing things in the lives of others or merely hearing amazing testimonies from others who were willing to succeed and fail forward with Jesus?

Finally, we must not lose sight that this was not Peter’s biggest faith rollercoaster. Before long, we will see Peter boldly wield a sword while severely outnumbered in order to fight for Jesus (though Jesus never asked him to), and then turn around and deny Jesus three times before a small group, just as Jesus said he would. Did Jesus abandon Peter or give up on Peter at the point of Peter’s biggest faith failure? Absolutely not! Jesus went to Peter, called him out, and lovingly guided him to incredible faith, using him mightily to spread the Gospel and glorify God.

Again, are you willing to get out of the boat? Do you have the faith to do what God tells you to do even though you know it is impossible for you to do in your abilities? Will you trust Jesus through the storms of life? What will you do when you fail (and you will) in your faith? Will you cry out to Jesus and trust Him to lovingly guide you through your failure?

– 2 Corinthians 1:5 — For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 17 Jan 19: Pray that God will increase the boldness of your faith, and trust God with your failures of faith. Get out of the boat, keep your eyes fixed on Jesus through the storms and cry out to Him whenever you feel like you are starting to sink – He will grab hold of you and guide you through the experience; and then, what a testimony you will have!

 

DBRP – WEEK 3, Day 5, Friday, 18 January 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 18 January 19:

Genesis 38:26 — “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah.”

Genesis 38 is a shocking story. You may need to read it twice, slowly. Likely, you have never heard a sermon preached about Judah and Tamar.

Judah commits unthinkable sin after unthinkable sin (it is hard to keep track of them all) and at the end of it all, he is ready to burn to death his daughter-in-law for getting pregnant from prostitution (idol worship prostitution) without condemning himself for being the one who got her pregnant in the first place.

Then, after being caught in his hypocrisy, Judah says, “She is more righteous than I, since I did not give her to my son Shelah,” — wow – as if either of them is righteous at all, and as if his big sin was not giving her his son Shelah!

What are we to make of this shocking story? What is most incredible about the story of Judah and Tamar is found in Matthew 1 – “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron….” (Matthew 1:1-3) Both Judah and Tamar are in the genealogy of Jesus!

Like so many Old Testament stories, I think this story and then how God still used these sinners for His purposes reveals our total depravity and total dependence on the mercy and grace of God for our salvation. There is no one so righteous they can stand before the judgment seat of God, and there are no sinner too wicked for God to redeem, if they accept the gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

– Psalm 8:4 — What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

– Romans 3:10 — None is righteous, no, not one….

– Romans 3:23 — …for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God….

– Romans 5:8 — …but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

– John 3:16 — For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

– Romans 6:23 — For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

– Ephesians 2:8, 9 — For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

– 2 Corinthians 10:17 — Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.

– Romans 8:38-39 — For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

– 1 John 1:9 — If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 18 Jan 19: As you meditate on your total reliance on God’s mercy and grace, let the mercy and grace you show to others be your act of gratitude, worship and praise.

 

DBRP – WEEK 3, Day 6, Saturday, 19 January 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 19 January 19:

Psalm 7:11-13 – “God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons,
making his arrows fiery shafts.”

The Bible is a double-edged sword of Good News and Bad News. (Hebrews 4:12; Revelation 1:16) To really appreciate the Good News of the Gospel, we must understand the Bad News. The Gospel declares salvation, entrance into the kingdom of heaven and eternal life for all who repent and trust in Christ alone for salvation (John 3:16, 35–36; Acts 2:38–39) – this is the Good News. But the flip side is the Bad News – the wrathful judgment of God and eternal damnation for all those who do not repent from their sin and trust in Jesus. Today, most people, even many professing Christians reject the notion that God would condemn apparently good people who don’t believe in Jesus, accepting the popular notion that there are many paths to heaven. Believing in salvation through Jesus Christ alone is considered narrow-minded and bigoted. However, Jesus was very clear — “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Only Jesus can save us from the wrath to come. (1 Thessalonians 1:10) The following link provides 100 Bible verses concerning the exclusivity of Christ for salvation — https://www.openbible.info/topics/jesus_being_the_only_way

Acts 4:12 — And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 19 Jan 19: Share the Gospel with as many as you can each day with a sense of urgency — “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’” (Romans 10:14-15)

 

DBRP – WEEK 3, Day 7, Sunday, 20 January 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 20 January 19:

Proverbs 20:24 – “A man’s steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way?”

Joseph saw his brothers and quickly remembered his dreams about them — “Now Joseph was governor over the land…. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground. Joseph saw his brothers and recognized them…. And Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. And Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed of them.” (Genesis 42:6-8)

You recall when Joseph was seventeen years old, he was chastised and mistreated by his family because of his dreams of them all bowing to the ground before him. (Genesis 37:1-11). In fact, Joseph sharing this dream with his jealous brothers was likely the impetus for his enslavement – “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits.” (Genesis 37:19-20) No wonder Joseph sees them and instantly recounts his dreams.

Joseph was seventeen years old when he had his dreams and sometime after that, likely soon after, he was sold into slavery by his own brothers (who had almost killed him). Next, the Bible recounts, “The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man….” (Genesis 39:2) However, it wasn’t long before Joseph was thrown into prison (likely with a life sentence, and this was no white-collar prison) – “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison” (Genesis 39:21-22) – not the resume bullet most people are hoping for. Today, we read how Joseph was miraculously released from prison and immediately commissioned as governor of Egypt – not a career path anyone would envision.

So, since Joseph was around 17 years old when he was sold into Egypt, and was 30 when he became governor (Genesis 41:46), and since the chief cupbearer (who had “continued for some time in custody”) had forgotten about Joseph for two years (Genesis 41:1, 9), we know that Joseph spent more than two years but less than 13 in a prison the Bible calls, “The Pit.” Since Joseph managed Egypt during its seven years of prosperity, and since his brothers came to visit him during the second year of the famine, we know that Joseph was over 39 when his brothers came to see him. No surprise they didn’t recognize him when they saw him. “And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed themselves before him with their faces to the ground.” (Genesis 42:6) Now, after all these years and after so many trials, the dreams that God gave Joseph are being realized.

God had a great plan for Joseph but a very hard path, a path neither Joseph or anyone else could have ever imagined. As with so many others we will read about this year (Moses and Job particularly comes to mind), Joseph’s journey includes incredible highs and incredible lows – rags to riches, riches to rags, rags to reward….
Some key points to take away from what we have read so far about the life of Joseph –

1) Joseph’s dysfunctional family didn’t change God’s plan for him. Joseph was born into a family full of strife, hate, deception, bitterness, jealousy, favoritism, rage, and abuse. But God was preparing Joseph for God’s greater, unstoppable plan for reconciliation and redemption. Likewise, your family background doesn’t determine your future.

2) No one else could change God’s plan for Joseph. Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph and had him thrown into prison. The cupbearer forgot about Joseph, but God’s plan was unchangeable. No one can change God’s plan for your life either. Don’t worry about what others did, didn’t do or might do. Simply trust in the Lord and remain faithful to Him.

3) God gave Joseph a dream rather than Joseph dreaming his own dream. It is God’s plan that prevails, not ours. Faith is not ‘name is a claim it.’ Faith is about being a part of what God is doing and trusting Him through His plan and with the victory. Never forget, it is not about you! God’s plan for Joseph wasn’t about Joseph, it was about His glory and His ultimate plan for redemption through Jesus. Joseph never knew of God’s ultimate plan, but he was a part of it through the grace of God. Joseph was blessed to be a part of what God was/is doing through unworthy people. Don’t pursue your own plans and miss what God is doing in His plan. Rejoice, trust, and live faithfully day-by-day.

4) God’s plan for Joseph included trials and suffering, and God’s plan for you will include trials and suffering. There is no comfort in the growth zone, and there is no growth in the comfort zone. Pain is God’s chisel to shape you more and more into the image of His Son, Jesus, to create in you Christ-like character.

5) Joseph demonstrated that faith can be costly. Joseph resisted Potiphar’s wife and landed in prison. Perhaps he could have given in to Potiphar’s wife and continued on to live a comfortable life as a slave in a palace. Don’t surrender to sin in order to remain a comfortable slave.

6) Joseph didn’t have a victim mentality. Joseph was no negative whiner, always making excuses, or blaming circumstances for his attitude and failures. When Joseph was thrown in prison, he ran the prison. Be joyful, thankful, and faithful with whatever God has given you. Do all things, big or small, hard or easy for God’s glory.

7) Joseph remained joyful and hopeful though he still had sorrows. The way Joseph named his children reveals that he still had sorrow over what had happen to him. Yet, he remained positive and continued to trust in God. No doubt you carry sorrows, but remain joyful, and when you feel down, rejoice – re-joice, or joy again. Focus on your many blessings and trust in God’s perfect love and fidelity – “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you; I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.” (Psalm 9:1, 2)

8) Joseph was successful because God was with him, not because of his own talents, skills, and abilities – “The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man…. The Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison…. ‘Can we find a man like this, in whom is the Spirit of God? Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are. You shall be over my house, and all my people shall order themselves as you command.’” (Genesis 39:2, 21; Genesis 41:38-40) Your greatest asset is your fidelity to God. Above all else, guard your heart….

9) Joseph never ceased to give all glory to God, none to Himself – “Joseph answered Pharaoh, ‘It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.’” Our purpose is to enjoy God, serve God, and glorify God before mankind as we serve as His messengers of reconciliation. Never attempt to take credit and share glory with God. Our message is one of unmerited grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. There is no room for us to boast in anything. If we are pointing at ourselves, we are not pointing to Jesus. If we are telling people about ourselves, we are not telling them about Jesus. If we are representing ourselves or our interests, we are not serving as Christ’s ambassadors.

Proverbs 20:24 – “A man’s steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way?”

You really have no idea what God has in store for you, but you know that His plan for you is perfect, motivated by His perfect love, and greater than you could possibly imagine. Trust, obey, and have peace.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 20 Jan 19: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.” (Psalm 8:1) Today, if your problems seem big, focus on the greatness of God, and pray that God will give you the right perspective that results in joy, gratitude, confidence, peace, and love and faithfulness. It is all about perspective.

 

DBRP – WEEK 4, Day 1, Monday, 21 January 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 21 January 19:

Matthew 16:9 – “Do you not yet perceive?”

It is all about perception – spiritual perception. First Jesus points out that the Pharisees and the Sadducees can’t perceive the reality of the Christ right before their eyes. (Matthew 16:1-4) Then, Jesus questions His disciples about their limited perception of Him – “Do you not yet perceive?” Then, Jesus gets to the point — “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answers correctly — “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) Next, Jesus presents a critical truth, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:17) Flesh and blood cannot discern spiritual truth – it must be given by God –

– John 3:3 — Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

– John 6:44, 65 – “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…. This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

– James 1:5 — If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

– 1 Corinthians 2:14 — The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

– John 16:13 — 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.

– Psalm 119:66 — Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.

The Father draws us to the Son (John 6:44, 65), and through salvation in Christ, we are gifted with the Holy Spirit and then have spiritual perception and discernment. And when we see Jesus truly as the Christ (sight we are given), we see the Truth, and it changes our perception of everything else, we can then judge all things rightly – “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (John 7:24)

However, we can still quench the spirit, grieve the spirit, or get out of step with the spirit if we choose to be guided by the flesh rather than the Spirit. (Eph 4:30; 1 Thes 5:19; Gal 5:25)

Immediately after Jesus commended Peter for seeing Him rightly through the gifting of the Father, Jesus gives Peter a harsh rebuke — “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Peter went right back to judging things from his human perspective rather than from God’s, rather than from spiritual discernment. God’s plan for Jesus simply wasn’t the plan Peter had envisioned for Jesus from his human understanding. Peter needed right perception. When we allow ‘common sense,’ self-centered intellect, and worldly wisdom get in the way of the Spirit, it is “a hindrance” to our mission as Christ’s ambassadors. If we aren’t careful, we can even be tempted to co-opt Jesus for our personal agendas – “Lord, please bless me in the things I want to do,” rather than, “Lord, let your will be done.” How is your perception?

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 21 Jan 19: Pray that God will give you right perception of your circumstances and of others, with a pure heart and the mind of Christ.

– 1 Corinthians 2:16 — For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

– Philippians 4:7 — And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

DBRP – WEEK 4, Day 2, Tuesday, 22 January 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 22 January 19:

Matthew 17:26 — “Then the sons are free.”

In Capernaum, the tax collectors ask Peter if Jesus planned on paying the temple tax. They were referring to the tax mentioned in Exodus 30:11-16 – “Each shall give a ransom for his life to the Lord…. Each one who is numbered in the census shall give this: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary half a shekel as an offering to the Lord. Everyone who is numbered in the census, from twenty years old and upward, shall give the Lord’s offering. The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less, than the half shekel, when you give the Lord’s offering to make atonement for your lives. You shall take the atonement money from the people of Israel and shall give it for the service of the tent of meeting, that it may bring the people of Israel to remembrance before the Lord, so as to make atonement for your lives.” Historians say that pious men paid this tax annually.

Jesus responds to the quarry with a question to Peter, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tax? From their sons or from others?” And when he said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free.” Jesus declares that He and his disciples are exempt from the temple taxes because they (we) are sons of God, and “I tell you, something greater than the temple is here.” (Matthew 12:6) A king doesn’t pay his own taxes, and the king covers the expenses of his children who are heirs of the kingdom. Once more, our debt and our “ransom” has been paid in full by Christ on the Cross —

– Mark 10:45 — For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

– 1 Timothy 2:6 — Who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

– Revelation 5:9 — You [Jesus] were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”

– 1 Corinthians 7:23 — You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men.

We have incredible riches and freedom in Christ. May God “give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” (Ephesians 1:17, 18)

Note that despite the fact that Jesus makes it clear that He and His disciples are exempt from the temple tax, He pays it anyway, in order “not to give offense to them,” (v. 27) to prevent causing a barrier to the Gospel. Jesus displays the same principle Paul describes in Romans 14 of surrendering Christian liberties for sake of the less mature in faith.

Also, note that although Jesus pays the taxes, He does so miraculously, further demonstrating His authority and power over all creation – again, how foolish is it to expect Jesus to pay the temple tax. This story is similar to one in Luke 20 where the scribes and the chief priests ask Jesus whether it is right to pay taxes to Caesar. Jesus replies, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” What is He saying? “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” (Romans 13:7) However, pay proper respect and honor to God first, to whom all is owed! Give to God what is God’s – everything! “What shall I render to the LORD For all His benefits toward me?” (Psalm 116:12) Jesus obeyed the law but spoke the truth while He was doing it. Do you?

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 22 Jan 19: Today, show proper respect and graciousness to others, but don’t miss the opportunity to communicate the truth of Jesus and His Lordship over all.

 

DBRP – WEEK 4, Day 3, Wednesday, 23 January 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 23 January 19:

Genesis 47:23 – “Then Joseph said to the people, ‘Behold, I have this day bought you and your land for Pharaoh.’”

The rest of the story…. Remember back in Genesis 41, God enabled Joseph to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams concerning the impending famine, and Pharaoh appointed Joseph as governor to take from the people one-fifth of the produce of the land during the seven plentiful years so there would be a storehouse of food during the famine. Today, in Genesis 47, we read how Joseph arranged to have his family settle in the best land of Egypt, put them in charge of Pharaoh’s livestock, and also provided them with food. Meanwhile, Joseph forced the Egyptians to sell their livestock (Genesis 47:17), their land and themselves (Genesis 47:23) to Pharaoh in order for them to have food to eat (the food they had produced during the seven plentiful years and surrendered to the government). “Only the land of the priests he did not buy” because they were essentially government employees. The Bible further records, “Thus Israel settled in the land of Egypt, in the land of Goshen. And they gained possessions in it, and were fruitful and multiplied greatly.” (Genesis 47:27)

So, how do you think Joseph’s business practices made the Egyptians feel about him, his people, and his God? God had miraculously rescued Joseph from bondage and had uniquely gifted him that he would serve as an instrument of God’s mercy and grace to both the Egyptians and the Israelites, but Joseph used his gifts from God to enslave the Egyptians while his own family (foreigners to the land) prospered. What message was Joseph communicating to the Egyptians about his God? We can only imagine the animosity that must have grown amongst the Egyptians about the Israelites. Of course we will read about the consequences in Exodus – “Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph….”

Joseph was brought to Egypt as a slave, and now Joseph has used his shrewdness to enslave the Egyptians, perpetuation a vicious cycle of abuse that comes back to haunt God’s people severely and results in God’s judgment against Egypt for their misconduct (all foretold to Abraham in Genesis 15:14). The Bible doesn’t directly address these issues in Genesis, but we will soon read in Leviticus and Deuteronomy how, following the Exodus, God establishes specific laws for his people to defend property rights, to prevent usury, and to limit servitude, protecting the dignity of all people (see Leviticus 25:23 and Deuteronomy 15:1 as examples). Furthermore, Jesus gives us the Golden Rule – “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) And the Bible teaches, “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” (1 Peter 3:9) When victims become victimizers (though they never see themselves that way), there can be no reconciliation (our mission). See Matthew 5:38-41.

So, what are we doing with the gifts, talents, abilities, and resources that God has given us? Do we use them primarily for our own prosperity, or do we use them primarily to serve as instruments of God’s common grace (God’s gracious provision to all) and to glorify Him? And do we intentionally show grace and mercy to those who previously wronged us, or do we return the favor and continue the cycle of abuse? What message are we communicating to the world about our God through how we deal with resources and with others? And as ambassadors for Christ, how might we be showing favoritism or bias? Are there some people you are more likely to share the Gospel with than others?

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 23 Jan 19: Pray that God will give you a heart for all people and that you will give and forgive in a way that reveals the love, mercy, and grace of God in a powerful way to all.

 

DBRP – WEEK 4, Day 4, Thursday, 24 January 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 24 January 19:

Matthew 19:13-15 — “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

After correcting His disciples for attempting to keep little children away from Him, Jesus uses these children for an object lesson on faith. Both Luke and Mark record more of Jesus’ words – “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” (Luke 18:17; Mark 10:15)

Jesus says that saving faith is like the faith of a child – with an open heart, ready to receive mercy and grace, trusting, eager, hopeful, joyful, excited, and comfortable in complete dependency.

Jesus says that we are to have a child-like faith, not a childish faith. Childish people don’t act their age, refuse to grow up, and dishonor the family name. Getting older is not the same as growing up. And as we all know, an adult can still act like a child. Throughout the Bible, Christians are called children of God (starting with Hosea 1:10), and the Bible has much to say to God’s little children –

– 1 John 2:1 — My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.

– 1 John 2:12 — I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his name’s sake.

– 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.

– 1 John 3:7 — Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.

– 1 John 3:18 — Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

– 1 John 4:4 — Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

– 1 John 5:21 — Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

The Bible encourages God’s little children to maintain child-like faith but to mature in their understanding and behavior –

– 1 Corinthians 3:2 — I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready,

– Hebrews 5:12 — For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food,

– Hebrews 5:14 — But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

– 1 Corinthians 14:20 — Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.

– Ephesians 4:13 — …until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,

– Hebrews 6:1 — Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,

A final point should be made about the actions of Jesus’s disciples and His response to them: For unexplained reasons, the disciples stood as a barrier between the little children and Jesus, perhaps considering them somehow unworthy of Jesus’ time and attention. Jesus essentially told them to get out of the way. As we mature, we must be very careful with how we treat those we see as less mature – “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)

– 2 Chronicles 6:30 — Then hear from heaven your dwelling place and forgive and render to each whose heart you know, according to all his ways, for you, you only, know the hearts of the children of mankind,

– 2 Corinthians 6:2, 3, 11-13 — Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry…. We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians; our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections. In return (I speak as to children) widen your hearts also.

– Romans 14:13 — Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.

– Luke 11:52 — Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.”

– Mark 9:42 — “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 24 Jan 19: Pray that God will increase your child-like faith and decrease your childish faith. Treat others as God’s little children.

 

DBRP – WEEK 4, Day 5, Friday, 25 January 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 25 January 19:

Matthew 20:15 – “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?”

How quickly we lose perspective of our utter depravity, our total dependency on God’s mercy and grace, and the wonder of God’s mercy and grace. In our pride, we tend to think God owes us something, we take grace for granted, and start to view it as an entitlement rather than a blessing. In our pride and ingratitude, we start to compare ourselves to others (Matthew 20:24-28) and what God has given us to what God has given others. We start to complain about fairness as if we could bear what we fairly deserve from God.

Today, Jesus tells a parable about day laborers who complain about receiving equal pay for different hours. The early hires were satisfied with what they were to receive until they compared their wages with those who had done less. Only then did they somehow feel mistreated rather than being grateful in their poor state that they had received anything at all and rather than being happy for the good fortune of others. Would have these workers complained if the master (representing God) had given them more than what had been agreed upon? Of course not; they would have rejoiced in their unmerited blessing. But they couldn’t stand the thought of someone else getting an unmerited blessing, so, with a denarius in their hand, they “grumbled” at the master.

Comparison, envy, which is resentment over God giving others something he didn’t give you, and bitterness emanate from a prideful, self-righteous heart that has lost touch with the reality of grace and assumes some sort of merit. This spirit robs people of peace, joy, and contentment and eventually destroys. Jesus will make this point several times in our readings this year, repeating it in different ways because we really need to hear it. Honestly, how do you feel when others easily obtain what you worked so hard to get? How does your response reveal what you think about yourself and about God?

– Philippians 2:3 — Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

– Galatians 6:3-5 — For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.

– Romans 12:15 — Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.

– Romans 12:3 — For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

– 1 Corinthians 4:7 — For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?

– Romans 14:4 — Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

– Luke 17:10 — So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”

There is another danger to viewing God’s grace as something earned or as an entitlement and subsequently comparing – some will lose hope altogether. In Jesus’ time (as is still the case in many places today) – day laborers gathered on street corners early in the morning to compete for limited jobs. They were hired early so employers could get a full day out of them. People were hired based on their perceived value. In today’s story, after hiring day laborers early in the morning, the master goes back out to the streets four more times throughout the day to hire more workers. Those who remained on the streets had no doubt felt the sting of rejection and the burden of shame. In the eyes of others and compared to others, they simply were not good enough. However, on the eleventh hour, the master goes to the few who represented the bottom of the barrel and said, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’ To these few who were now just standing there, the master communicates value. And much to the dismay of others, the master considers them of equal value to all others.

God’s grace is a gift that can’t be earned, not based on any merit. There can be no boasting or comparison in God’s grace. It is never too late to receive God’s grace, and God administers His grace to all who are willing to “go into the vineyard too” (Matthew 20:7) — “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.” (John 15:1) All the laborers receive more than they deserve and all that they need. If you have received God’s grace, display God’s grace to others, pray that others will receive God’s grace, and rejoice with those who do.

– Matthew 20:16 — So the last will be first, and the first last.”

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 25 Jan 19: Considering today’s readings, recommit to living in God’s grace by loving God more and more and loving others more and more, having peace and giving peace.

 

DBRP – WEEK 4, Day 6, Saturday, 26 January 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 26 January 19:

Exodus 4:12-14 – “’Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.’ But he said, ‘Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.’ Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, ‘Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite? I know that he can speak well.’”

God said to Abraham, “Go.” Go where? “To a place that I will show you.” Now God says to Moses, “Go, and I…. will teach you….” God’s way is to take us out of our comfort zone, to call us for assignments we can’t do without Him, assignments we don’t see as possible, and He doesn’t lay the plan out for us, tell us what is going to happen next or remove obstacles, challenges, or adversaries along the way. He takes His people on a journey of faith and expects us to trust Him so that we and everyone else can see who He is and how great He is, not so people can see how great we are. When God gives us an impossible that “would take a miracle” to accomplish, we might be tempted to say, “Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.” But don’t anger the Lord this way.

Moses was given a great assignment from God He simply didn’t want to accept, so God allowed Moses to include Aaron. Aaron remained a thorn in Moses’ side throughout Moses’ ministry. Aaron led great rebellion against God, and caused the needless death of many (the Golden Calf). Had Moses simply walked in faith, Aaron would have never entered the picture. As you continue to read about Moses and Aaron, think about what could have been different without Aaron in the picture. How are you limiting yourself due to a lack of faith and an unwillingness to trust God enough to do what He told you to do, even though it doesn’t seem to make sense to you?

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 26 Jan 19: Consider what you know God has told you to do but you have put off with due to various excuses. Now, pray, trust, and obey.

 

DBRP – WEEK 4, Day 7, Sunday, 27 January 2019

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Exodus 5:22, 23 – “Then Moses turned to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.’”

How do you measure success? How do you interpret setbacks and apparent failures? What do you assume about God through how you interpret your circumstances?

God called Moses to deliver a message to Pharaoh God knew Pharaoh would reject. Moses had already complained to God he was not capable of delivering the message, and now His protests seem to have been validated. And now, other people are suffering as a result of Moses’ actions. Why didn’t God produce the results Moses had expected from Him? Moses felt God’s actions were simply unfair, perhaps even evil. How would you have felt if you were Moses?

In fact, Moses had not failed, he had done exactly what God had wanted — success. And God had not failed to deliver His promise. God was working His plan in His way, in His timing, and for His purposes. Even more, God says to Moses, “I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself known to them.” (Exodus 6:2, 3) God was about to show Himself to His people in ways never seen before. God was not just taking the Israelites to a new land, He was bringing them into a new experience with Him, into a greater understanding of who He is in character. In the past they had heard of His mighty works; now they were going to experience them first hand – “Get ready to be amazed!”

Some takeaways:

1) When God speaks, it is perfectly clear what He said. Moses had no doubt what God had said; he didn’t convince himself he had a word from God like so many mistakenly do – “I think God is telling me….” Moses knew exactly what God wanted him to do. Moses’ mistake was doubting God’s clear promise, a different issue. Be careful not to confuse emotion with the voice of the Holy Spirit. When God speaks, you will know it, and He usually speaks through His clear written word. Many are seeking a ‘special’ word from God while they fail to do what God has plainly commanded in His written word. If we are faithful with what we do know, God will reveal more of what we don’t know, but God does not reveal everything so that He can reveal Himself to us more clearly as we walk in faith. Trust God to obey, even if obedience is taking you into a fiery furnace or lion’s den – miraculous things happen in those places.

2) God will ask you to do what is only possible through Him, not possible through your abilities. It always takes faith, not self-confidence, to do what God wants you to do.

3) When God calls you to “Go”, He doesn’t give you all the details or tell you exactly how things will play out. He wants you to learn to trust Him. Jesus pointed out that it is wickedness that causes people to want a ‘sign’ from God – “Prove to me you are faithful and trustworthy, God.”

4) God does not remove the obstacles or challenges from the path He has chosen for you. He uses the obstacles and challenges to grow you in Christ-like character and to reveal Himself more to you and to others. (See Romans 8:28, 29)

5) God does not measure success the way we do. We tend to look at things from our perspective, but God sees things from His perfect perspective. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8, 9)

6) Contrary to popular opinion, God may call you to speak truth (often to power) to those who He knows don’t want to hear it and who will absolutely reject it, and God might call you to do it again and again, despite their negative responses. There are times to not give pearls to swine and times to “shake the dust off of your sandals,” but there are also times to stand your ground.

7) Apparently negative results or a lack of apparent progress doesn’t necessarily mean God has “closed the door.” God tasks often taken incredible perseverance, with no apparent success to measure in the beginning. Later, God will tell the Israelites to take the mighty city Jericho by marching around it once every day for six days and seven times on the seventh day. On the seventh day, after marching around the city 12 times with no apparent results, what if the Israelites had simply quit marching? If God has called you to do something, don’t give up! For example, don’t stop praying for that person who, after all these years, still hasn’t accepted Jesus.

8) Trust God with apparent failure and assume the best from God, not the worst. In his hard circumstances, Moses complained to God, “Why have you done evil?” Don’t do that. Trust in God’s love and promise. God promises that He will never leave you or forsake you and that nothing can separate you from His love, not even your failures. For those who love God, He works all things together for good; even the things that aren’t ‘good’ (bad things), He works together for good. “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.” (Jeremiah 29:11)

9) Finally, when in doubt, take your fears, frustrations and complaints to God in prayer. Moses says some rather shocking things to God, and God listens and responds positively. No sense faking it with God in prayer, He already knows your thoughts and you would only be faking it to yourself. God wants and receives your honest prayers, and when you learn to pray truthfully to God, it might actually be the first time you have actually spoken truthfully on a matter to yourself too. God will use prayer to reveal Himself to you more but also to reveal you to you more. Open communication is a part of any healthy relationship. During hard times, don’t move farther away from God, move closer to Him in prayer. Prayer is not the last resort, it is the first step and a continuing action.

Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 27 January 19: Today, resolve to trust God with your circumstances and with your failures. Take your issues to Him in prayer and persevere in your obedience. Do the best you can with what you know you can a should do, and trust God with what you don’t know to do, with what you don’t understand, and with the outcomes. Remember, God is faithful even when we are not faithful. It is through grace that we have salvation, not through our efforts. Rejoice that your fate, your salvation, doesn’t rest in your hands but rather His.

 

DBRP – WEEK 5, Day 1, Monday, 28 January 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 28 January 19:

Matthew 21:31, 32 — “I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.”

Addressing the chief priests and the elders, and presumably others, Jesus tells The Parable of the Two Sons, one son who says he won’t do the work of the father but “change[s] his mind” and does it, and one who says he will do the work of the father but actually doesn’t. In concert with the parable of The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11–32), it is the previously wayward son who is accepted and restored.

Jesus then compares the chief priests and elders to the disobedient son whose heart and deeds did not match his lips. Most shockingly, Jesus says, “The tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.” How could this be? Jesus gives the answer – “For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it [the way], you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.”

The chief priests and elders rejected “the way of righteousness” while the tax collectors and prostitutes accepted “the way.” What is the way of righteousness? Matthew 3 says that John the Baptist only “prepare[d] the way.” And John said to the Pharisees and Sadducees, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:7, 8).”

Jesus revealed the way of righteousness, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) It was Jesus these religious leaders could not accept. These religious leaders “presumed” that their heritage and obedience to the Law was the way of righteousness, but John the Baptist said to them, “Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’” and the Bible adds, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-11) “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24) “For by grace [people are saved] through faith. And this is not [their] own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8, 9)

– Romans 3:20-24 — For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus….

– Romans 10:4 — For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

– 2 Corinthians 5:21 — For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Jesus further explains to the religious leaders, “Even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe” — even after seeing Jesus face-to-face and observing first-hand His works and miracles, these prideful people simply wouldn’t “change their minds” about Jesus. On the contrary, today’s readings say “they were indignant.” (Matthew 21:15)

Another word for “changing your mind,” is repentance. Remember John’s warning to the Pharisees and Sadducees — “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance…. (Matthew 3:8) Repentance is not just changing your behavior, repentance is changing your mind about “the way of righteousness,” rejecting all notions of self-righteousness and trusting solely in the righteousness of Jesus and the gift of salvation through Him alone, being “poor in spirit,” and receiving the riches of Christ. In the days of the early church, followers of Christ were known as followers of “The Way” because of their faith in Jesus, and Jesus alone, as “The Way, The Truth, and The Life.” (Acts 9:2, 22:4, 24:14)

Only after repentance and salvation through Christ and a new life in Christ can anyone bear good fruit. And those who have a new life in Christ will bear fruit:

– Matthew 7:16-23 — You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. I Never Knew You. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

– John 15:1-16 — I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. 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. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Good deeds, or works, are not the means to salvation but rather the natural product of salvation, the evidence of salvation, the expectation of salvation. As an object lesson and metaphor to His teachings, Jesus curses a fig tree that had not produced fruit. (Matthew 21:18, 19) As Jesus, said in John 15, a branch cannot bear fruit by itself. It must abide in Him, and a branch that does abide in Him will bear fruit (in keeping with repentance) – “Apart from [Him] you can do nothing.” In Christ, the Way of righteousness, we have life.

– Ezekiel 36:26 — And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

– 2 Corinthians 5:17 — Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

– Galatians 2:20 — I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

– 1 John 2:29 — If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.

– 1 John 3:7 — Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous.

– Colossians 1:9-14 — And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 28 Jan 19: Pray the prayer of Colossians 1:9-14 for yourself and for your brothers and sisters in Christ.

 

DBRP – WEEK 5, Day 2, Tuesday, 29 January 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 29 January 19:

Exodus 9:7 – “But the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people go.”

Exodus 9:13-17 – “Thus says the Lord…. For this time I will send all my plagues on you yourself, and on your servants and your people, so that you may know that there is none like me in all the earth. For by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth. But for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. You are still exalting yourself….

Exodus 9:20-21 – “Then whoever feared the word of the Lord among the servants of Pharaoh hurried his slaves and his livestock into the houses, but whoever did not pay attention to the word of the Lord left his slaves and his livestock in the field.”

Exodus 9:27-28, 34-35 – “Then Pharaoh sent and called Moses and Aaron and said to them, ‘This time I have sinned; the Lord is in the right, and I and my people are in the wrong. Plead with the Lord, for there has been enough of God’s thunder and hail. I will let you go, and you shall stay no longer….’ But when Pharaoh saw that the rain and the hail and the thunder had ceased, he sinned yet again and hardened his heart, he and his servants. So the heart of Pharaoh was hardened, and he did not let the people of Israel go, just as the Lord had spoken through Moses.”

Exodus 10:2, 3 – “…that you may tell in the hearing of your son and of your grandson… that you may know that I am the Lord…. How long will you refuse to humble yourself before me?”

Exodus 10:16-18, 20 – “Then Pharaoh hastily called Moses and Aaron and said, ‘I have sinned against the Lord your God, and against you. Now therefore, forgive my sin, please, only this once, and plead with the Lord your God only to remove this death from me….’ But the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart, and he did not let the people of Israel go.”

Exodus 10:28, 29 – “Then Pharaoh said to him, ‘Get away from me; take care never to see my face again, for on the day you see my face you shall die.’ 29 Moses said, ‘As you say! I will not see your face again.’”

The saga that began when Adam and Eve defied God and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil continues, the challenge to God’s sovereignty, the battle between the kingdom of man and the Kingdom of God. Today, God uses Pharaoh’s pride and stubborness to glorify Himself and to demonstrate His ultimate power and authority. Today, God demonstrates His justice but also His patience and mercy – “…by now I could have put out my hand and struck you and your people with pestilence, and you would have been cut off from the earth.” Those who feared God and listened to His word, even the Egyptians, were spared terrible pain and suffering (an example of common grace), but those who didn’t obey God’s word received the consequences of their complacency.

Today, Pharaoh demonstrates the difference between being “sorry” and being truly repentant, having a changed heart. There is a big difference between having regret due to consequences and having heartfelt regret that produces genuine change. For example, you might regret speeding right after you get a ticket, but if you don’t regret being a speeder and have a changed ‘spirit’ towards speeding, you will speed again, perhaps just a bit more cautiously for a while.

When Pharaoh was punished by God, he was quick to say, “I have sinned; the Lord is in the right, and I [am]… wrong.” Because his heart had not really changed, he continued in his ways and his consequences only grew worse – God was glorified nonetheless. Likewise, everyone will glorify God, either in a positive way or a negative way. God desires that He be glorified in a positive way as people abide in Jesus and naturally bear the fruit of love. In Pharaoh’s case, as has been the case for so many others, he simply refused to repent and finally refused to even hear God’s word anymore – “Get away from me; take care never to see my face again….” The Bible says to our generation, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:3, 4)

How many empty promises have people made to the Lord in shallow sorrow – “Lord, if you get me through this, I promise, I will never do it again….” Do you know someone who seems to say things like this over and over again? Perhaps you have or still do. Repentance brings life, while worldly grief only leads to shame, depression, frustration, bitterness, destruction, and death. Repentance draws you to God, while worldly grief draws you farther away. Both Peter and Judas denied Jesus, albeit in different ways. Peter had a repentant spirit that led Him to spend his life glorifying God. Judas’ worldly grief led him to commit suicide.

– 2 Corinthians 7:10 — For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

Do you find yourself regretting the same decisions and mistakes over and over again? The problem is not what you are doing, the problem is why you are doing it – your desires are not God’s desires, your heart is not aligned with His heart. As the old pastors says, “The heart of man’s problems is the problem with man’s heart.” Pray that God will give you a repentant heart, godly grief rather than worldly grief. In your continual failures, draw closer to God, not further away. He knows the truth of your condition better than you do and loves you more than even you do.

– 1 John 1:9 — If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

– Ezekiel 18:31; 36:26 — Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit…. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

– Psalm 51:17 — The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

– Hebrews 7:25; 10:22 — Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them…. let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

– James 4:8 — Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 29 Jan 19: Pray that God will continue, where needed, to replace your worldly grief with genuine repentance.

 

DBRP – WEEK 5, Day 3, Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 30 January 19:

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Exodus 12:2 — “This month shall be for you the beginning of months. It shall be the first month of the year for you.”

Exodus 12:12, 13 – “I will execute judgments: I am the Lord. The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you.”

Exodus 12:15 – “…you shall remove leaven out of your houses….”

The Passover, this day of salvation and distinction was a new beginning for God’s people. When God executed His judgment over the land, He provided a way for people to escape His wrath and death – the mark of the blood of the unblemished, sacrificial, substitutional lamb. All were subject to God’s judgment, both Israelite and Egyptian, but when Judgment saw the blood of the lamb, it passed over, not because of any attributes of the persons – there was not distinction — only because of the lamb. There was only one way to be saved from God’s wrath and death, not many ways, and this one way defied human reason. Placing the lamb’s blood on the door was an act of faith done by those who trusted God and hoped in His salvation. The Passover lamb is a foreshadowing of The Lamb of God, Jesus.

– Matthew 26:2 — “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.”

– Matthew 26:26 — Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”

– Luke 22:7 — Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed.

– Romans 6:23 — For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

– 1 Peter 1:19 — But with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.

– John 1:29 — Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

– John 19:36 — For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.”

– Revelation 1:5 — And from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood.

– Ephesians 1:7 — In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.

– Romans 5:9 — Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

– Revelation 7:10 — And crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”

– John 3:36 — Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

– Romans 3:25 — Whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.

Those who have been saved by the blood of the Lamb by God’s grace have a new beginning in Christ, they are new creations.

– 2 Corinthians 5:17 — Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

– Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

With salvation comes the exodus, leaving the old life behind.

Upon placing the blood on the doors, the Israelites were told to remove the leaven from their houses. Leaven is a symbol for sin. The call for the believer, having been saved by grace through faith, not by works, is to now remove the sin from their lives, to live lives worthy of Christ. Sin, like leaven, is pervasive, just a little bit affects the whole batch. There can be no compromise with sin, accepting just a little bit of sin can corrupt the entire person, the family, the people, the church, and the nation. Salvation by grace alone brings with it the responsibility live in purity and holiness, relying on the strength of the Holy Spirit.

– 1 Corinthians 5:7, 8 — Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

– Galatians 5:9 — A little leaven leavens the whole lump.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 30 Jan 19: Having been saved by grace through faith in Jesus, remove the leaven from your life and home.

 

DBRP – WEEK 5, Day 4, Thursday, 31 January 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 31 January 19:

Matthew 24:44 — “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”

Today, Jesus addresses two prophetic topics: 1) Jerusalem’s destruction in AD 70 (Matthew 24:1-35) and 2) Jesus’ final return to judge the living and the dead (Revelation 20–21). (Note: scholars debate which verses deal with the destruction of Jerusalem and which deal with End Times) There is much fascination, speculation, confusion, debate, and unfortunately hype associated with End Times prophecy. Here are a few things that seem clear:

1) No one knows the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36). If someone tells you they have figured it out, you can stop listening at that point.

2) Most people will not see it coming at all, even those who view themselves as religious. (Matthew 24:37-39)

3) People will be going about their business as usual (believers and unbelievers) when the Lord returns. (Matthew 24:40-41)

But the most important thing to take away from today’s readings is Jesus’ warning to remain faithfully obedient while we await His return. Jesus gives this warning several times in different ways. “Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes.” (Matthew 24:46) It is far too easy to become complacent. In the name of grace, we are tempted to take sin far too lightly. As we continue to read this year, consider all the verses that command our pursuit of holiness, purity, and obedience.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 31 Jan 19: Today, clean your house – remove the things in your life that you know are unacceptable to your Lord and Savior. (1 Peter 1:15, 16)

 

DBRP – WEEK 5, Day 5, Friday, 1 February 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 1 February 19:

Matthew 25:40 – “And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

The way we treat others reveals what we really think about God, how much we truly love God, and how grateful we are for having received grace through Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, a sacrifice He gave while we were still sinners and neither deserved it nor desired it. The “least of these” are often easy to disregard because they became “the least” as a result of their behavior, behavior in which they might still be engaging. Jesus says, treat them as He treated you – “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) Your love for God is revealed most clearly when you love those who don’t ‘deserve’ it.

– Psalm 145:8 — The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

– Matthew 24:12 — And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.

– Luke 6:27, 32, 35 — “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you…. If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them…. 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.

– Luke 7:47 — Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

– John 13:34, 35 — A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

– John 15:12, 13, 17 — “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends…. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

– 1 John 3:10, 11, 14, 16, 17 — By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another…. We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death…. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?

– 1 John 4:7-12 — Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.

– 1 John 4:19-21 — We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother.

– Ephesians 5:2 — And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

– Galatians 5:14 — For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

– Galatians 5:22 — But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

– 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 — If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

– James 2:8 — If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 1 Feb 19: Love others, particularly the unloving, the way God loves you — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

 

DBRP – WEEK 5, Day 6, Saturday, 2 February 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 2 February 19:

Exodus 17:6, 7 – “You shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” …They tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

The people were thirsty, without hope; they grumbled, they quarreled. “What shall I do with this people?” (Exodus 17:4) The Lord said, “Strike the rock, and water shall come out.” This is another foreshadowing of Jesus. Jesus is the rock who was stricken that we would be saved in a dry and scorched land and have living water through the Holy Spirit, that living water would flow to and from our hearts –

– 1 Corinthians 10:4 — …and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.

– Habakkuk 1:12 — Are you not from everlasting, O Lord my God, my Holy One? We shall not die. O Lord…, O Rock….

– Matthew 7:24, 25 — Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.

– Isaiah 53:4, 8 — Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted…. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?

– Isaiah 44:3 — For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.

– Isaiah 41:17-18 — When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.

– Isaiah 55:1 — “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

– Isaiah 58:11 — And the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.

– Proverbs 25:25 — Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country. [Good News = The Gospel of Christ]

– John 4:10 — Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”

– John 6:35 — Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.

– John 7:37-39 — On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

– Revelation 1:15-18 — …his voice was like the roar of many waters…. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

– Revelation 21:6 — And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.

– Revelation 7:17 — For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

– Revelation 22:1 — Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb

– Revelation 22:17 — The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

– Psalm 18:46 — The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation.

Now, the question is, have you built your life on the foundation of the Rock, and are you being satisfied by the Living Water of the Holy Spirit — “Is the Lord among us or not?” (Exodus 17:7)

– Psalm 42:1-2 — As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?

– Matthew 5:6 — “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

– Jeremiah 2:13 — …for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

– Jeremiah 17:13 — O Lord, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you shall be put to shame; those who turn away from you shall be written in the earth, for they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living water.

– Matthew 7:26, 27 – “And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”

– John 6:43 — Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves.”

– 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.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 2 Feb 19: Drink from the living water, do not constrain the living water, be satisfied with the living water, and let the living water flow from your heart to others. Do not build your own dead cistern.

 

DBRP – WEEK 5, Day 7, Sunday, 3 February 2019

Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 3 February 19:

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Exodus 19:4-6, 8 – “‘You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel…. All the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.”

Seeing is not believing. The Israelites saw God work in incredibly miraculous ways to rescue them, and when God miraculously rescued them, they were quick to proclaim their allegiance to God. But in between the miracles and when things got hard, they quickly turned from God, which was revealed in their disobedience to Him. Not only that, as we will see in our future readings, they also turned from God when things were going well. In their comfort they grew complacent, prideful, and arrogant. Therefore, the Proverbs say, “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God. (Proverbs 30:8, 9)

God called the Israelites to be a “kingdom of priests” to the world, a holy nation of God among the nations of men, but despite God’s love and faithfulness, they continually proved themselves unfaithful, as we will continue to read.

– 1 Corinthians 10:11-12 — Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore, let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. (see also Romans 15:$)

We should pay very close attention to how this Old Testament “kingdom of priests” responded to God’s grace as the New Testament says of us, “You yourselves [are] to be a holy priesthood…. You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:5, 9) We are saved by grace, but our response to grace must be loving, faithful obedience, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are without excuse if we continue in sin. We are called be a “holy” nation. Let no one deceive on that point.

– Hebrews 3:15-19 — As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

– 1 Corinthians 10:1-11 — For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.

– Hebrews 12:18-25 — For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 3 Feb 19: Be thankful you have been saved by grace; now, pursue love, holiness, purity, and obedience.

 

DBRP – WEEK 6, Day 1, Monday, 4 February 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 4 February 19:

Matthew 26:31-32 – “Then Jesus said to them, ‘You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.” But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.’”

Jesus’ Passover evening with His disciples and The Lord’s Supper is a well-known event among Christians, but we couldn’t meditate enough on the example Jesus sets for us on this night. Think about it — Just before His imminent crucifixion, Jesus meets with those closest to Him, those with whom He has walked with through great challenges and through miraculous moments for the last three years; He sits with them knowing that one has already decided to betray Him to the malevolent authorities, and knowing that the rest of them will abandon Him and deny Him. What does He do? He loves them. The Book of John tells us even more –

John 13:1-5 — Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”

In the face of unthinkable betrayal by those closest to Him, Jesus “loved them to the end,” even to the point of washing their feet as a servant. Not only did Jesus tell the disciples they would abandon and betray Him, He also told them that He wouldn’t abandon them but rather would be waiting for them on the other side of their betrayal – “But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”

This is an amazing account of God’s mercy, grace, and unfailing love, perhaps hard for us to even imagine, and all this before Jesus suffers the cross for generations of undeserving, uncaring sinners like us. But John records, after Jesus had washed their feet, He said, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” (John 13:14-17)

Ok, did you catch that? Did your really let that sink in? We are to do what He did. How do we treat those who mistreat us in shocking ways? Do we humble ourselves in love as Jesus did, and do we continue to love others through and beyond betrayal or persecution even though it might cost us everything? Or, do we somehow think we are greater than our Master, that we deserve better treatment and justice than He did? Jesus reminds us, “a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him,” and then, Jesus counsels us, “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” So, do you want to be blessed? “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44) Truly love them from your heart.

Of course, we all know how hard it can be to love those who hurt us, because it is so easy for us to lose perspective. Remember what John said, “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, rose [and washed their feet]. In the face of betrayal, Jesus maintained an eternal perspective. He didn’t view circumstances and people the way others do. He knew the Father had already given Him all things. Jesus wasn’t driven by fear, but rather driven by love. Likewise, in Christ, we have riches beyond imagination, we have nothing to fear, nothing to be defensive about, and we are free to love in confidence, trusting God with whatever we surrender to others in His Name. Do you trust God enough to love the way He has commanded you to love?

– Hebrews 11:6 — And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

– 1 John 4:18 — There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

– 1 John 4:16 — So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

– 1 John 4:8 — Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

– John 14:21; 15:12 — Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him…. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.

– Luke 6:27 — But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you….

– Romans 8:35 — Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

– Titus 3:4-5 — But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy….

– 1 John 4:9-10 — In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

– John 13:34-35 — A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

– 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. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 4 Feb 19: Meditate deeply on today’s readings, and pray that God will instill the reality of His love in your heart. Focus intently on loving others as Jesus loves you.

 

DBRP – WEEK 6, Day 2, Tuesday, 5 February 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 5 February 19:

Matthew 27:22 – “Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, ‘And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.’”

Matthew makes reference to the fact that Jesus’ betrayal, crucifixion, death, burial, resurrected and ascension (and Final Advent) were all prophesied in the Old Testament – a couple of the most obvious and detailed prophecies will be provided below for your additional meditation today. In this instance, the prophecy mentioned in Matthew is found in our Bibles in Zechariah 11:12, 13, causing many to question whether Matthew slipped up in his Bible verse memory. Most likely Matthew references Jeremiah because the Jews broke the Old Testament into three parts — the Law, Writings, and Prophets. (Luke 24:44) The Prophet scroll began with Jeremiah, hence Matthew’s reference.

Zechariah 11 is an interesting chapter. The sheep reject the shepherd so, the covenant between the sheep and shepherd is annulled (Zechariah 11:10), and those sheep doomed for destruction are then led by a foolish and worthless shepherd who devours them. Of Himself, Jesus said to the people —

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” There was again a division among the Jews because of these words.” (John 10:11-19)

Jesus is the Good Shepherd who was rejected by the Old Covenant sheep.

The Old Covenant is annulled, and with the blood of Christ we can enter into the New Covenant of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus –

– Luke 22:20 — And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

– Hebrews 8:13 — In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

Matthew further records, “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.” (Matthew 27:51) In the New Covenant of Christ, we have complete access to God and the Holy of Holies –

– Hebrews 10:19-22 — Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

However, as John records above – “There was again a division among the Jews because of these words.” Some will choose to follow the Good Shepherd, and some will put their faith in foolish and worthless shepherds who only devour. Everyone will make a choice. No one can follow too shepherds, and there is only one Good Shepherd, only one who lays down His life for His sheep. Those who choose not to decide have still made a choice not to put their faith in the Good Shepherd and follow Him.

For further meditation and amazement, consider the below verses of Old Testament prophecy –

Isaiah 53 — Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Psalm 22 — My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning…? All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him…!” Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet— I can count all my bones— they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my precious life from the power of the dog! Save me from the mouth of the lion! You have rescued me from the horns of the wild oxen…! You who fear the Lord, praise him…! For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. From you comes my praise in the great congregation; my vows I will perform before those who fear him. The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek him shall praise the Lord! May your hearts live forever! All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations. All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive. Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 5 Feb 19: Today, rejoice in your salvation through Jesus and your complete access to God. Read Psalm 23 and rest in your salvation. Focus on following the Good Shepherd closely today, and don’t be concerned about the wolves around you.

 

DBRP – WEEK 6, Day 3, Wednesday, 6 February 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 6 February 19:

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.”

The Book of Matthew records very little after Jesus’ resurrection – the bribing of the guards and then the Great Commission, upon which the book concludes. I believe the abrupt landing on the Great Commission is intentional, leaving us with our marching orders – “Go.”

According to Barna Research Group, 51% of churchgoing Christians said they had never “heard of the Great Commission” term and among those who had, only 17% were familiar with the Biblical passage reference.

How important is the Great Commission to Jesus? Consider Jesus’ “Farewell Prayer” in John 17:18, 20 — “As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world…. I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word.” Facing the cross, Jesus’ heart, thoughts and prayers were on His disciples, not only on the eleven, but on all those who would believe in Him throughout the age until His return. What would be our final prayer before the cross?

So, how important is the Great Commission to you? Does your heart match Christ’s heart? Are you “one” with Christ as He prayed you would be?

Some think they don’t need to clearly communicate the Gospel to others but only love them with good deeds. But how can you love someone more than to share the Gospel with them? And if you do love someone, how could you not share the Gospel with them?

Who will you share the Gospel with this week? Where does sharing the Gospel sit on your priority list today?

– Romans 10:13-14 — For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? [Question: Is your pastor more likely to reach your family members, neighbors, co-workers, and friends preaching the Gospel, or are you more likely?]

– 1 Peter 3:15 — But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

– Mark 13:10 — And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations.

– 2 Timothy 4:2 — Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

– John 15:8 — By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

– Proverbs 11:30 — The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and whoever captures souls is wise.

– 2 Corinthians 5:20 — Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

– Matthew 9:37 — Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;

– 1 Chronicles 16:24 — Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous works among all the peoples!

– 2 Timothy 4:5 — As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 6 Feb 19: Commit to sharing the Gospel message with at least one person today. Then, repeat every day.

 

DBRP – WEEK 6, Day 4, Thursday, 7 February 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 7 February 19:

Note: Here is a short video overview of Acts, chapters 1-12: https://thebibleproject.com/explore/acts/https://thebibleproject.com/explore/acts/

Yesterday we read how Matthew concluded his account of Jesus’ life with the following commission from Jesus: “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) Today in Acts, the author, Luke records Jesus’ final words before His glorious ascensions – “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Again, we see Jesus’ intent for us to be His witnesses to the world, with an inside-out approach, locally to globally. We also see how our mission is empowered, not by our own talents, skills and abilities, but by the Holy Spirit. How much time do we have to proclaim the Gospel before the Final Judgment? “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” (Acts 1:7) This human uncertainty should instill a sense of urgency for those we love.

So how do a bunch of simple people possibly proclaim the Gospel to the whole world? Step 1: Pray together in one accord – “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.” (Acts 1:14) Step 2: Take action in obedience – “Peter stood up among the brothers….” (Acts 1:15) When God tells you what to do, pray and don’t delay – delayed obedience is disobedience.

– 2 Corinthians 6:2 — Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 7 Feb 19: Be a witness wherever you are by making the reign of Christ visible in your life. Pray that the Holy Spirit will guide you in the sharing of the Gospel with at least one person today.

 

DBRP – WEEK 6, Day 5, Friday, 8 February 2019

https://esv.literalword.com/?q=exodus+29%2C+30%3B+proverbs+8%3B+acts+2

Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 8 February 19:

Acts 2:37-47 – “’Brothers, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit….’ So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls…. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”

Acts 2 demonstrates the Great Commandment of love and the Great Commission in execution and should serve as the model today. Acts 2 also shows us the indicators of a true church – love, presences of the Holy Spirit, faithful preaching of the word, leadership, administration of the sacraments (baptism and the Lord’s Supper), membership, witnessing, evangelism, ministry, worship, discipleship, individual/corporate prayer, and regular growth.

The power of the Holy Spirit was evident in this church, which was full of believers who proclaimed the Gospel to sinners. As with John the Baptist and Jesus, these believers first proclaimed the need for repentance, a word rarely heard today. Those who accepted the Lord were immediately baptized and then entered into true community with other believers, devoting themselves wholeheartedly to instruction, fellowship, and prayer (true discipleship), not every Sunday but every day! They cheerfully took care of the tangible needs of everyone in the church, even selling their possessions to do it, and they gave immediately – “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.” (Proverbs 3:27) What was the consequence? “The Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” And those added represented many cultures – “devout men from every nation under heaven…. the multitude came together,” a Holy Spirit reversal of the Tower of Babel curse and a representation of God’s Kingdom restoration yet to be fulfilled in completeness (Acts 2:5–6; Genesis 11:1-9) —

Revelation 7:9-12 — After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

Does your church experience match the Acts 2 experience? If not, why not? Some might say that Acts 2 describes a “special” move of the Holy Spirit reserved for the inauguration of the church. However, I see nothing to indicate that God intended to limit His Spirit after these days – “The Lord is… not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:8, 9) But the Bible does say that we can “quench” the Spirit, “grieve” the Spirit, and get out of step with the Spirit. Perhaps, we are limiting the Spirit. Let’s pray for revival in the church.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 8 Feb 19: Pray for revival within the church.

 

DBRP – WEEK 6, Day 6, Saturday, 9 February 2019

https://esv.literalword.com/?q=exodus+31%2C+32%3B+proverbs+9%3B+psalm+16

Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 9 February 19:

Exodus 32:25 – “Moses saw that the people had broken loose (for Aaron had let them break loose, to the derision of their enemies)….”

The first thing that jumps out at you in Exodus 32 is how “quickly” and drastically the Israelites turned from God during Moses’ absence. But another key take-away is Aaron’s utter failure as a leader.

Remember, in Exodus 17, the Israelites were on the verge of stoning Moses, and Moses challenged them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” Moses went to the Lord in prayer, and God brought the people water miraculously.

In today’s readings, the Israelites grumble to Aaron, and he immediately surrenders to the rebellious will of the people and even leads them in their abomination, proclaiming, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the Lord,” a shocking blasphemy.

In contrast to Aaron’s self-centered, spineless leadership (inspired by self-preservation), Moses intercedes to the Lord for the undeserving, sinful Israelites, even to the point of saying, “If you will forgive their sin—but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.” As a true leader, Moses took responsibility for the sins of the people and sought to reconcile them with the Lord. In contrast, when Moses rebukes Aaron for his complete leadership failure, Aaron responds, “Let not the anger of my lord burn hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil.” Rather than taking responsibility as the leader and seeking reconciliation, Aaron simply deflects responsibility, blaming the people. However, God’s word specifically makes the point – “The people had broken loose for Aaron had let them break loose….”

God calls His people to be leaders, leaders in family, community, church, government, and society. Leadership comes with great responsibility, and leaders are held accountable by God. The foundation of leadership is followership, faithfulness in following God. Someone once said, “Leaders know the way and show the way.” Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” The key to real leadership is knowing Christ, following Christ, revealing Christ to others, and empowering others to follow Christ.

And the way of Christ-like leadership is the cross, selfless sacrifice for others for the purpose of their reconciliation with God. Leaders, with a genuine heart for both God and others, seek to protect others from their own sinfulness, while seeking to draw them closer to Christ that they would no longer desire to sin. Moses, unlike Aaron, established and enforced rules as an external control for people who lacked internal control (self-control), not for his own personal power but rather to protect them from sin. When they broke the rules and sinned, Moses didn’t despise them, he prayed for them earnestly, served as an instrument of God’s discipline as God directed, and then moved forward, never giving up on those God had given him to lead. The question for us today is, do we lead more like Moses or Aaron? Do we truly know the Way and show the Way, Jesus? How are we protecting others from sin, while promoting their reconciliation (unity) with God?

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 9 Feb 19: Lead someone to Christ today?

 

DBRP – WEEK 6, Day 7, Sunday, 10 February 2019

https://esv.literalword.com/?q=exodus+33%2C+34%3B+proverbs+10%3B+psalm+17%2C+18

Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 10 February 19:

Exodus 33:1, 2 – “The Lord said to Moses, ‘Depart; go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, “To your offspring I will give it.” I will send an angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanites, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.’”

Here we see a pattern repeated throughout the Bible – God’s commands us to step out in faith, and He does, through His power, what we could never do without Him. God made a promise to Moses and the Israelites, and God commanded them to act according to that promise, with boldness, complete confidence, and full commitment. When God makes a promise, it is a sure thing – but we must act on that sure thing, and how we act determines not only how much we will actually benefit from that sure thing but also reveals to others what we really think about our God. When we totally commit to God’s promises, we receive the fullness of blessing, and we glorifying God to others.

Think about what Jesus said in Matthew about the Kingdom of Heaven – “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44, 45) When you truly believe in the unseen reality of God’s promises and His Sovereignty, you will invest fully in it. If you aren’t willing to ‘sell all that you have,’ you won’t be able to buy the field with the hidden treasure or the pearl of great value.

When God offers a gift, it is free, but you must take it in order to possess it. God offers the free gift of salvation through faith in Christ, but a person must take it. Likewise, God offers you sanctification and blessings through obedience to Him, but you must have faith to cross through the ‘Red Sea’ the ‘Jordon River,’ day by day, in loving, confidence, fully committed obedience to experience the fullness of His promises – “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:10, 11) Through it all, God does not remove the challenges, He uses them for your development into Christ-like character, your ultimate benefit, and for His glory. “Go up from here… to the [place] of which I swore… [and] I will send an angel before you….”

Hebrews 11:6 – “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 10 Feb 19: Today, trust and obey, “for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

 

WEEK 7, Day 1, Monday, 11 February 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 11 February 19:

Acts 3:19-21 – “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus.”

In today’s church, I don’t think it can be over emphasized that the Gospel message begins with the need for repentance. John the Baptist’s message began with a call to repentance. Jesus began His ministry with a call to repentance, and now we are reading about the early church leaders doing the same. But today, a direct confrontation of sin with a call for repentance is increasingly viewed as insensitive and unloving.

Peter and John were about as blunt with the crowd as could be imagined – “You denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.” (Acts 3:14, 15) However, Peter and John’s harsh words were not intended to condemn but rather to convict the audience of their need for repentance and salvation through Jesus – “Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus.” (Acts 3:19, 20)

The Gospel message is a two-edged sword that cuts and heals, that reveals both God’s judgment and God’s offer of grace and salvation. Consider the below from Steve Lawson:

– “The preaching of divine wrath serves as a black velvet backdrop that causes the diamond of God’s mercy to shine brighter than ten thousand suns. It is upon the dark canvas of divine wrath that the splendor of His saving grace most fully radiates. Preaching the wrath of God most brilliantly showcases His gracious mercy toward sinners. Like trumpeters on the castle wall warning of coming disaster, preachers must proclaim the full counsel of God. Those who stand in pulpits must preach the whole body of truth in the Scriptures, which includes both sovereign wrath and supreme love. They cannot pick and choose what they want to preach. Addressing the wrath of God is never optional for a faithful preacher—it is a divine mandate. Tragically, preaching that deals with God’s impending judgment is absent from many contemporary pulpits. Preachers have become apologetic regarding the wrath of God, if not altogether silent. In order to magnify the love of God, many argue, the preacher must downplay His wrath. But to omit God’s wrath is to obscure His amazing love. Strangely enough, it is merciless to withhold the declaration of divine vengeance…. Every preacher must declare the wrath of God or marginalize His holiness, love, and righteousness. Because God is holy, He is separated from all sin and utterly opposed to every sinner. Because God is love, He delights in purity and must, of necessity, hate all that is unholy. Because God is righteous, He must punish the sin that violates His holiness…. Ironically, Jesus had more to say about divine wrath than anyone else in the Bible. Our Lord spoke about God’s wrath more than He spoke of God’s love. Jesus warned about “fiery hell” (Matt. 5:22) and eternal “destruction” (7:13) where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (8:12). Simply put, Jesus was a hellfire and damnation preacher. Men in pulpits would do well to follow the example of Christ in their preaching…. Christ suffered the wrath of God for all who would call upon Him. If there is no divine wrath, there is no need for the cross, much less for the salvation of lost souls. From what would sinners need to be saved? It is only when we recognize the reality of God’s wrath against those deserving of judgment that we find the cross to be such glorious news. Too many pulpiteers today boast in having a cross-centered ministry but rarely, if ever, preach divine wrath. This is a violation of the cross itself…. The Apostle Paul warns unbelievers of the “God who inflicts wrath” (Rom. 3:5) and declares that only Jesus can “deliver us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10). Peter writes about “the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly” (2 Pet. 3:7). Jude addresses the “punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 7). John describes “the wrath of the Lamb” (Rev. 6:16). Clearly, the New Testament writers recognized the necessity of preaching God’s wrath. Preachers must not shrink away from proclaiming the righteous anger of God toward hell-deserving sinners. God has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:31). That day is looming on the horizon. Like the prophets and Apostles, and even Christ Himself, we too must warn unbelievers of this coming dreadful day and compel them to flee to Christ, who alone is mighty to save.”

Now, consider these observations from John MacArthur:

– “According to recent polls, some 81 percent of adult Americans believe in heaven, and fully 80 percent expect to go there when they die. By comparison, about 61 percent believe in hell, but less than 1 percent think it’s likely they will go there. In other words, a slight majority of Americans still believe hell exists, but genuine fear of hell is almost nonexistent. Even the most conservative evangelicals don’t seem to take hell very seriously anymore. For decades, many evangelicals have downplayed inconvenient biblical truths, neglecting any theme that seems to require somber reflection. Doctrines such as human depravity, divine wrath, the exceeding sinfulness of sin, and the reality of eternal judgment have disappeared from the evangelical message…. Hell’s fall from fashion indicates how key portions of Christian theology have been influenced by a secular society that stresses individualism over authority and the human psyche over moral absolutes. The rise of psychology, the philosophy of existentialism, and the consumer culture have all dumped buckets of water on hell…. Churches are under enormous pressure to be consumer-oriented. Churches today feel the need to be appealing rather than demanding…. Once pop evangelism went into market analysis, hell was just dropped. When churches go door to door and conduct a market analysis … they hear, “I want better parking spaces. I want guitars at services. I want to have my car greased while I’m in church.”… Only a few leading voices in the evangelical movement have lobbied boldly for a more orthodox approach to the doctrine of hell. They seem to be outnumbered by those who think the disappearance of hell is a positive development…. It is a serious mistake to imagine that we improve Scripture or enhance its effectiveness by blunting its sharp edges. Scripture is a sword, not a cotton swab, and it needs to be fully unsheathed before it can be put to its intended use…. The gospel is supposed to be an affront to fleshly pride, offensive to human sensibilities, foolishness in the eyes of worldly wisdom, and contrary to all carnal judgments.  No Christian teaching exemplifies those characteristics more powerfully than the doctrine of hell. It is an appalling truth. We rightly recoil at the thought of it. The doctrine of hell thus stands as a warning and a reminder of what a loathsome reality sin is. No reasonable or godly person delights in the reality of eternal damnation. God Himself says, “As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Ezek. 33:11). We do no one any favors by downplaying the truth of God’s wrath or neglecting to mention the severity of His judgment…. We certainly don’t eliminate the threat of hell by refusing to speak or think of it. If we truly believe what the Bible teaches about the eternal fate of unbelievers, it is in no sense “loving” to remain silent and refuse to sound the appropriate alarm. What, after all, is the good news we proclaim in the gospel? It is not an announcement that no one really needs to fear God or fret about the possibility of hell. As a matter of fact, there would be no glad tidings at all if God merely intended to capitulate to the stubborn will of man and forgo the demands of His perfect righteousness. The good news is even better than most believers understand: God made a way for His righteousness and His love to be fully reconciled. In His incarnation, Christ fulfilled all righteousness (satisfying, not nullifying, the demands of His law). In His death on the cross, He paid the price of His people’s sin in full (assuring the triumph of perfect justice). And in His resurrection from the dead, He put a powerful exclamation mark on His own perfect, finished work of atonement (thus sealing the promise of justification forever for those who trust Him as Lord and Savior). That is the message we must declare to a worldly culture utterly lacking any real fear of God. We cannot do it faithfully or effectively if from the very outset we have omitted the harsh truth Scripture declares about “the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty” (Rev. 19:15).

True love speaks the truth in love.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 11 Feb 19: Make a list of those people close to you who you don’t think are saved. Pray for those on the list, and ask God to reveal to you an opportunity to share the Gospel with them.

 

DBRP – WEEK 7, Day 2, Tuesday, 12 February 2019

https://esv.literalword.com/?q=exodus+37%2C+38%3B+proverbs+12%3B+acts+4

Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 12 February 19:

Acts 4:18-20 – “So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.’”

Romans 13:1 is clear – “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” However, Jesus was also clear in Matthew 28 — “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.” The ultimate Authority had commanded the Apostles to preach the Gospel, and no human authority could stop them; and today’s readings point out that the Apostles were astonishingly “bold” before the “rulers and elders and scribes,” despite being “uneducated, common men.” Why? Because Jesus was with them through the power of the Holy Spirit. And note that the Apostle’s message didn’t change whether they were speaking to the receptive or the resistant. The Apostles had the responsibility to proclaim the Gospel, but the responsibility to respond rested with the hearer.

Are you boldly “preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered”? (Acts 28:31) Or is something holding you back from fulfilling your primary calling — laws, policy, social pressure, insecurity? You have been given full authority by Jesus, and He is with you. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

Romans 1:16 — For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Ephesians 6:18-20 — To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 12 Feb 19: Pray that God will give you the courage to proclaim the Gospel unhindered.

 

DBRP – WEEK 7, Day 3, Wednesday, 13 February 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 13 February 19:

Acts 5:38, 39 – “If this plan or this undertaking is of man, it will fail; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You might even be found opposing God!”

Gamaliel was a highly respected Pharisee and teacher of the law who understood the futility operating outside of God’s will and the danger of resisting God’s will.

“If this plan… is of man, it will fail.” Are your plans of man? So many Christians are wearing themselves out trying to accomplish things God never intended for them to do. Too often, we ask God to bless what we want to do, or we tell God what we are going to do for Him, rather than waiting, praying, and obeying. Planning is an act of faith, stewardship and obedience when God has given the assignment, but it is an act of pride and futility when He hasn’t. Do you feel like there is just not enough time in the day to get done all you need to get done? As the old pastor would say, “You have just enough time in the day to do what God wants you to do.”

– Ecclesiastes 7:29 — See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.

– Psalm 127:1, 2 — “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.”

– Proverbs 23:4 — Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist.

– Proverbs 16:1-3, 9 — The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established…. The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

– Proverbs 19:21 — Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

“If it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them.” Are your plans of God? If you are a part of what God is doing, accomplishment is assured, not that it won’t still require great effort on your part. Key, is obediently following God and trusting Him with the outcome – this requires faith. Doubt, fear, and pride cause us to deviate from God’s guidance and direction. “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) A good way to test whether you are on your plan or God’s plan is to give yourself the love/joy/peace/relationships test – “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.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” (James 1:2) “Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.” (2 Peter 3:14) “Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.” (2 John 1:3) “The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it.” (Proverbs 10:22) “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) “Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends, each by name.” (3 John 1:15) If what you are doing is robbing you of love, joy, peace, and relationships, you are not doing what God wants you to do. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s course correction.

“You might even be found opposing God!” Gamaliel makes a final important point, when we are not doing what God has called us to do, or if we find ourselves conflicting with those who are doing what God intends, we are actually opposing God Himself. This is a great sin. Many people, in the name of religion, are actually working against God, and this causes great division and conflict even within the church. The mark of a faithful church is unity with God and with each other, which always produces fruit. Where there is disunity, there is distance from God somewhere.

– Acts 26:14 — And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’

– Matthew 12:30 — Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

– Matthew 25:44-46 – “‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

– Proverbs 16:7 — When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.

– Isaiah 14:24 — The Lord of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand….”

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 13 Feb 19: Give yourself the love/joy/peace/relationships test today. Pray that God will show you where you are deviating from His will and plan for your life and make a course correction today!

 

DBRP – WEEK 7, Day 4, Thursday, 14 February 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 14 February 19:

Acts 6:4 – “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”

Disputes among Christians and church divisions can be huge distractions from the Gospel and can greatly hinder the work of the church.

Jesus’ will for the church is revealed to us in His prayer before the Cross in John 17 – “…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) Unity in Christ is the mark of a godly church.

Recall that in Acts 2, the coming of the Holy Spirit reversed the Tower of Babel division among the people — “The Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved…. devout men from every nation under heaven…. the multitude came together.” (Acts 2:5–6) However, in today’s readings, as “the disciples were increasing in number,” cultural differences appear to have fueled perceptions (valid or invalid) of favoritism and neglect, causing conflict that threatened to divide the body of believers and hinder the preaching of the Gospel. This problem required direct, immediate attention by leaders who could be trusted reconcilers.

Seven ‘deacons’ were selected based on their reputation, their faith, their wisdom, and their fullness of the Holy Spirit, and Stephen was one of them. Though Stephen “full of grace and power, [did] great wonders and signs among the people,” still some “rose up and disputed with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.” Despite Stephen’s grace, wisdom and power, he couldn’t reason with the agitators who eventually falsely accused Stephen of blasphemy. Why couldn’t Stephen reconcile with these people? The Bible explains, “It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit.” (Jude 1:19) “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other.” (Galatians 5:17)

Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35) Divisions among God’s people detract from the witness of the church. Paul says, divisions and public disputes among God’s people “defeat” the work of the church – “Brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers! Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?” (1 Corinthians 6:6-9) The Bible makes clear, “Now the works of the flesh are evident… enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy… and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatian 5:19-26)

The Bible teaches us how to protect the church from divisions:

1) Romans 12:9-21 – Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 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. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

2) Titus 3:10, 11 — As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 14 Feb 19: Today, practice Romans 12:9-21.

 

DBRP – WEEK 7, Day 5, Friday, 15 February 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 15 February 19:

Acts 7:51-53 — “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

Falsely accused of crimes warranting death, Stephen stood on trial before the Sanhedrin — “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” What would you do? Stephen does not seek to directly defend his actions but rather uses the opportunity (the issue at hand) to serve as an ambassador for Christ and to challenge his accusers on their rejection of the Truth.

Stephen’s bold, confrontational words aroused the Sanhedrin into a murderous rage, but Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, only saw Jesus standing (not sitting) at the right hand of God, which Stephen also proclaimed to the crowd. Still his accusers refused to listen to him, and they stoned him.

Many today might decry Stephen’s lack of ‘wisdom’ and tactfulness in dealing with the Sanhedrin. They might argue that he was only casting “pearls before pigs” and sacrificing his future opportunities to influence. Perhaps he should have stuck with what many today call “pre-evangelism,” hinting at the truth without over offending, hoping for future opportunities to share. Perhaps there are times to withhold the Gospel. The key to Stephen’s choice was he was full of Holy Spirit discernment, not fear. Concerning Holy Spirit wisdom in discerning when to face persecution, John Bunyan in 1684 offered the following as shared previously on 11 January:

“Thou mayest do in this as it is in thy heart. If it is in thy heart to fly, fly; if it be in thy heart to stand, stand. Anything but a denial of the truth. He that flies, has warrant to do so; he that stands, has warrant to do so. Yea, the same man may both fly and stand, as the call and working of God with his heart may be. Moses fled, Ex. 2:15; Moses stood, Heb. 11:27. David fled, 1 Sam. 19:12; David stood, 1 Sam. 24:8. Jeremiah fled, Jer. 37:11– 12; Jeremiah stood, Jer. 38:17. Christ withdrew himself, Luke 19:10; Christ stood, John 18:1–8. Paul fled, 2 Cor. 11:33; Paul stood, Act 20:22–23. … There are few rules in this case. The man himself is best able to judge concerning his present strength, and what weight this or that argument has upon his heart to stand or fly…. Do not fly out of a slavish fear, but rather because flying is an ordinance of God, opening a door for the escape of some, which door is opened by God’s providence, and the escape countenanced by God’s Word.”

Nonetheless, inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit, Stephen faced his trial and execution in stereo with that of His Savior, Jesus: Jesus said before Pilate, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth.” (John 18:37) Stephen before his accusers bore witness to the Truth. On the cross, Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) Similarly, Stephen said, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” (Acts 7:60) On the Cross, Jesus, called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46) Likewise, as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” (Acts 7:59) Truly, Stephen was a faithful disciple, ambassador and martyr (which means ‘witness’) “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 6:5) who glorified God unto death. May we be so bold and faithful in the Holy Spirit when opportunities to share the Gospel and glorify God arise.

– 2 Kings 7:9 — Then they said to one another, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us.

– Proverbs 25:25 — Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.

– Proverbs 3:27 — Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.

– Ephesians 5:16 – Mak[e] the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

– Proverbs 27:1 — Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.

– Isaiah 52:7 — How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”

– Isaiah 61:1 — The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

– Luke 3:18 — So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people.

– Luke 4:18 — “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed,

– Luke 4:43 — but he said to them, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”

– Luke 7:22 — And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.

– Luke 8:1 — Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him,

– Romans 10:15 — And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”

– Mark 13:10 — And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations.

– Mark 16:15 — And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.

– Acts 20:24 — But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

– Romans 1:16 — For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

– Romans 15:20 — I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation….

– 1 Corinthians 9:12 — Nevertheless, we have not made use of this right, but we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ.

– 1 Corinthians 9:23 — I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

– Ephesians 6:18-20 — To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel….

– 2 Timothy 1:8 — Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God….

– 1 Peter 4:6 — For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.

– 2 Timothy 4:2 — Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 15 Feb 19: Share the Gospel with someone today.

 

DBRP – WEEK 7, Day 6, Saturday, 16 February 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 16 February 19:

Psalm 19:12, 13 — “Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults. Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.”

Yesterday morning in a pre-work fellowship group (highly recommended), we were reviewing the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 and Luke 6 –

– “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
– “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
– “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
– “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”
– “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.”
– “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
– “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
– “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
– “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”
– Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

I see these heart conditions as both the starting point for growth in Christ and as continuing actions (or attitudes) for growth in Christ, reflected in the referenced Psalms above. This is a humble, contrite spirit that recognizes his/her total inadequacy of self and total dependence on God’s mercy, grace (forgiveness and salvation through faith alone in Christ alone) and Holy Spirit empowerment, revelation, conviction, coaching, and encouragement, while walking confidently in God’s forgiveness, love, and faithfulness. The Psalmist is a blessed, joyful mourner who, with earnest, nagging desire (“hunger and thirst”) for a closer relationship with God, realizes his inadequacy to overcome ‘self,’ and is comforted and satisfied (now, but still not quite yet) by the promise of God’s provision. “Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.” We rely on the “sharp two-edged sword” of God’s word and the revealing Light of the Holy Spirit to expose our hearts, to strengthen or faith in Christ, and to guide us to greater Christ-like character, while continually reminding us we are ‘declared innocent’ in Christ. However, the Bible warns us not to grieve the Holy Spirit (Ephesian 4:30), quench the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19), or get out of step with the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:25).

“Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins.” In Luke 6, after the Beatitudes, Jesus declares a few ‘woes’ —

– “But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.”
– “Woe to you who are full now, for you shall be hungry.”
– “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep.”
– “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.”

We get grieve the Holy Spirit, quench the Holy Spirit and get out of step with the Holy Spirit when we get prideful, presumptuous, self-centered, and self-righteous, when we get complacent in our disciple disciplines, when we start to lose perspective on our total reliance on God –

– Romans 12:3 — For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

– 1 Corinthians 10:12 — Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

– 2 Peter 1:3-11 — His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 16 Feb 19: Pray Psalm 19 today.

 

DBRP – WEEK 7, Day 7, Sunday, 17 February 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 17 February 19:

Psalm 20:9; Psalm 21:13 — O Lord, save the king! May he answer us when we call…. Be exalted, O Lord, in your strength! We will sing and praise your power.

Trust and Praise. Psalm 20 and 21 remind to trust the Lord and Praise Him both in “the day of trouble” (Psalm 20:1) and when He gives us our “heart’s desire.” (Psalm 21:2) Romans 8:28, 29 says, “For those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 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.” In perfect, unfailing love, God uses both good times and bad times to reveal Himself to us more and more, to draw us increasingly closer to Him, to reveal Himself to others through our lives, to conform us to the image of His Son, and to ready us for good works which He has prepared for us in advance, that we would be instruments and messengers of His grace to others.

“Now I know that the Lord saves…. Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.” (Psalm 20:7, 8) Through trials, God teaches us to rely on His strength rather than our own, and He further reveals His sovereignty, love, and faithfulness. “You… have not withheld the request of his lips.” (Psalm 21:2) When God blesses us, we are further reminded on His love and grace but also refreshed in spirit, renewed in joy, and strengthened in faith.

The key, whether facing bad times or good times, is to continually draw closer to God, not further away. In Proverbs, Agur prays, “Two things I ask of you… give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.” We must guard our hearts against pride and presumption, which can cause us to become complacent (crass and smug) during good times and callous in bad times, hindering our relationship with God.

Certainly Christians can rest upon the assurance of God’s saving grace and trust the benevolence and beneficence of his common grace (what He provides or withholds), but we must be cautious not to become so accustomed to grace we are no longer amazed by grace and then start demanding grace as if it were our entitlement, losing sight of the holiness and sovereignty of God. As the old Scottish prayer goes, “May God grant us grace to feel our need of grace, then… grace to be grateful.” Perhaps our gratitude for grace is best revealed by how we show grace and proclaim grace to others.

In all circumstances trust and praise God.

– Psalm 34:1-4 — I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together! I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.

– 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 — Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

– Philippians 4:4-9 — Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

– 2 Peter 3:18 — But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

– 2 Corinthians 9:8 — And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 17 Feb 19: Reflect upon God’s grace today, be amazed, sing His praises, and show grace to all in His Name!

 

DBRP – WEEK 8, Day 1, Monday, 18 February 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 18 February 19:

Acts 8:3, 4 – “Saul was ravaging the church…. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the word.”

Saul was intent on crushing Christianity – God had a different plan. God used Saul’s persecution to scatter the church and shake out the “salt” so the Gospel would spread more broadly across many peoples. Also, God had a plan to transform Saul into Paul, “a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God… by the will of God.” (Romans 1:1; Ephesians 1:1)

Note how the apostles responded to persecution: they avoided it while continuing to proclaim Christ where they could — “And the crowds with one accord paid attention to what was being said…. as they were going along the road…. as he passed through he preached the gospel to all the towns until he came to Caesarea. (Acts 8:6, 40)

Some take-aways:

1) Nothing or no one can stop God’s plan.
2) God works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. God has placed you where you are and in your circumstances for a reason – proclaim Christ where you are as the Holy Spirit leads!
3) There are times to stay and times to go, times to fight and times to withdraw; either way, follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and proclaim Christ!
4) You never know what God has in store for the “Sauls” in your life – He may be preparing to make them “Pauls.” Don’t worry about them. Be a witness and ambassador to all. The Holy Spirit will move where the Holy Spirit moves. You communicate, and the Holy Spirit convicts.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 18 Feb 19: Share the Gospel today where God has placed you, and don’t presume to know who God will convict and who He won’t.

 

DBRP – WEEK 8, Day 2, Tuesday, 19 February 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 19 February 19:

Acts 9:4, 5 – “And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And he said, ‘Who are you, Lord?’”

Acts 9:17 – “So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’”

God chose Saul, Saul did not choose God. Quite the contrary, Saul was a sworn enemy of Christ. Nonetheless, God would further demonstrate His sovereignty through the life of Saul. God stopped Saul in his tracks and transformed his life, and there was nothing Saul could do about it.

In His Sovereignty, God chose Ananias as His instrument in Paul’s life, much to Ananias’ dismay. Once again, God demonstrates that His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways – who would have dreamed of such a thing? Certainly not Ananias.

Note too that God said when Saul persecuted Christians, he was actually persecuting Him.

Some takeaways: God saves who He shall save, and He takes the initiative in salvation, not us. God calls His disciples, led by the Holy Spirit and under His authority, to participate in what He is doing in the lives of others, and as people treat His disciples, so they treat Him. When disciples are persecuted, they are in fellowship with Christ – “But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” (1 Peter 4:13) “…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. (Philippians 3:10) “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake….” (Philippians 1:29) “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 2:3)

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 19 Feb 19: Pray that God will guide you in the Spirit to serve as His ambassador in the lives of those around you He is calling.

 

DBRP – WEEK 8, Day 3, Wednesday, 20 February 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 20 February 19:

Romans 10:28, 34, 35 — “God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean…. Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”

What an incredible moment in history (His story) we read today in Acts 10! In this chapter, God tears down every man-made social stratification on all positions of human pride to distinguish between only two groups of people, those who fear and obey God and those who don’t. Some specific points to think about below —

– “There was a man named Cornelius.., a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.” One of the primary character traits of a true disciple is generous giving to the poor and needy (‘alms’ are gifts to the poor, above the tithe). Remember, just yesterday we read that Tabatha “was full of good works and acts of charity.” (Acts 9:36) Charity is the evidence of righteousness used for both Job and the Proverbs 31 woman. It is the mark of genuine worship and love for God, and it separates the true disciple from the hypocrite (actor). The generous giver is blessed by God. Twice today, Cornelius’ giving is praised — “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God…. Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God.” (Acts 10:4, Acts 10:31) The kind of giving the Bible talks about is radical, shocking giving, hands “wide” open. The Christian sees the need and then meets the need. Cornelius was known by both God and the community as a generous giver. Are you? Is charity one of the primary character traits others would use to describe you? Cornelius was also recognized as being a person who prayed continuously, and his prayers were heard by God (powerful). Again, the true disciple is known for prayer. How about you? Are you known as a person of prayer? Note that Peter’s special vision of revelation was received during his time of prayer (Acts 10:9-6). What is God revealing to you in your times of prayer?

– “[Cornelius] called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him….” Everyone knew Cornelius was a believer, but Cornelius also knew who among both his servants and soldiers were believers to be trusted, and Cornelius “related everything to them.” Cornelius was a servant to Rome, but more importantly a servant to God who apparently had figured out how to do both at the same time, building ‘Christian’ fellowship groups within his work environment. Note that for this special assignment, Cornelius used his position and specifically assigned believers to carry out a mission directed by God for the Kingdom of God. Do you know who the believers are where you work? What are you doing together within your work environment to share the Gospel?

– “When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him…. And he said to them, ‘You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.’” (Acts 10:25-29) I don’t think our generation can fully appreciate the shocking significance of the events that occur in Acts 10: A Roman Centurion kneeling in reverence before a devout Messianic Jew who had agreed to enter his home despite Jewish law, all to mark the commencement of the pouring out of the Holy Spirit to the Gentiles. A Jew visiting a Centurion, and a Centurion bowing down to a Jew would have created a shocking, unthinkable scene in that day, challenging the deep-rooted beliefs and customs of all involved. However, the god-fearing men put God’s commands above all else and obeyed without hesitation. The power of God destroys all barriers. God does not celebrate diversity; He provides unity in Christ. God created the ‘universe’ – the combination of two words, unity and diversity. God brings different things and people in perfect order when He is as the center. This is not a “Coexist” moment where Cornelius and Peter make a public political statement of social tolerance or say, “I’m ok, and you’re ok.” No, this is two servants of God surrendering to the will of God for the glory of God. The message is “none of us are ok, apart from Christ;” however, “everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through his name (Acts 10:43).” Race, ethnicity, gender, social status, etc. are not virtues. But nothing of man is virtuous – no man can boast. “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). “So let no one boast in men.” (1 Corinthians 3:21) “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” God shows no partiality; do you? In God’s economy, there are only two classes of people – saved and unsaved. Christians should reject all other social classifications or stratifications as measures of ‘worthiness’.

– “To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:43) This is the Gospel we are called to preach. There is no other name by which a person may be saved but the name of Jesus.

– “’Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?’ And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.” (Acts 10:47, 48) Baptism was immediate.

In Acts 10 we see a great example of the ‘tactical’ execution of the Great Commission given to us in Matthew 28 – “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.” Peter went to make disciples of ‘all nations’ (he didn’t have to go far to do that), he taught them what it means to “obey,” and he baptized them, all under the power and authority of Jesus which removed all human obstacles. How are you participating in the Great Commission in your town?

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 20 Feb 19: Find out who the Christians are where you work, fellowship with them, and pray that God will use you as a team to fulfill the Great Commission.

 

DBRP – WEEK 8, Day 4, Thursday, 21 February 2019

https://esv.literalword.com/?q=leviticus+14%2C+15%3B+proverbs+21%3B+acts+11

Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 21 February 19:

Acts 11:26 – “For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.”

The plot thickens as we see how God puts disparate people and circumstances together to build His church and spread the Gospel to all nations. Antioch was an important, cosmopolitan city of influence, full of Jews and Gentiles. Antioch is first mentioned in Acts 6 when, during a time of dispute between the Hebrews and Hellenists, seven devout and reputable men were selected (as deacons) to equitably care for the needs of the people. One of those seven was Nicolaus, a proselyte (convert to Judaism, and subsequent believer in Christ) of Antioch.

Today, we read that during the persecution and scattering of the church after Stephen’s execution, some believers went to Antioch, “speaking the word to no one except Jews.” However, some others also went to Antioch “preaching the Lord Jesus” to the Hellenists as well, “and the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number who believed turned to the Lord.” (Acts 11:21) When the church in Jerusalem heard of the work God was doing in Antioch, they sent Barnabas, but why? “For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord.” (Acts 11:24) Then, Barnabas went to Tarsus to get Saul and bring him to Antioch. Why? Likely Barnabas recalled what God had proclaimed of Saul, “He is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles.” (Acts 9:15) For a whole year, Barnabas and Saul taught the church in Antioch, transforming new believers into real disciples. They weren’t just preaching (kerygma), they were teaching (didache), moving from the basics to deeper understanding and application.

As a result of Barnabas’ and Saul’s teaching and discipling in Antioch, “the disciples were first called Christians,” separate and distinct from the Jews or any other religious group or faction, an identifier that is used only two other times in the Bible (Acts 26:28 and 1 Peter 4:16). The evidence of Barnabas’ and Saul’s leadership in Antioch is perhaps best revealed by Antioch’s eagerness to sent relief to their brothers in Judea during a world-wide famine. (Acts 11:27-30)

Those who have been reached by preaching must be subsequently discipled – this is the Great Commission. Discipling requires consistent effort over time. A discipled church is an effective church, ready to subsequently fulfill the Great Commandment of love and the Great Commission. Is your church known most for its preaching or its disciple-making? Who is discipling you, and who are you discipling in Christ? What is the fruit of these discipling relationships?

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 21 Feb 19: Today, get a piece of paper and draw out your discipleship tree – who is discipling you and who you are discipling. If your tree looks more like a seed or a small sprout, pray that God will grow it and fill it out.

 

DBRP – WEEK 8, Day 5, Friday, 22 February 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 22 February 19:

Acts 12:5 — So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church….

Prayers and answers to prayers. Both James and Peter were targeted by Herod the king. James was killed, and Peter was imprisoned. Undoubtedly both James and Peter had remained in the continuous prayers of the disciples, yet James was not spared, much like John the Baptist was not spared from beheading, and Stephen was not spared from stoning. Even more, consider Jesus’ Prayers in Gethsemane before the Cross –

Matthew 26:39, 42-44 — And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will….” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done….” And… again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again.

The violent death of James must have been a devastating blow to the disciples. Were the disciples’ prayers for James somehow ineffective as opposed to their prayers for Peter? Was Peter simply more favored by God than James? No, in all the cases mentioned above, God compassionately heard the prayers of His children and answered in accordance with His perfect will and to far greater benefit than could be possibly imagined. All these (including Peter eventually) lived for God’s glory, died for God’s glory, and received God’s glory. Consider death from God’s perspective –

– John 11:25, 26 — Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

– Psalm 63:3 — Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.

– Philippians 1:21 — For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

– Luke 23:43 — And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

– Revelation 14:13 — And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!”

Meanwhile, while Peter was imprisoned, the disciples continued to pray for him earnestly. In Peter’s case, God answered their prayers the way they desired and miraculously freed Peter. However, when the servant girl reported to the disciples that Peter had been freed and stood at the door, the disciples’ response was, “You are out of your mind.” They were praying earnestly, but apparently didn’t really expect God to answer their prayers in a miraculous way. “But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed.” (Acts 12:16) Was it really so hard to believe that the Almighty God might snatch Peter right out of Herod’s prison? Perhaps James’ death caused the disciples to lower their expectations of God’s answers to prayer.

Do you pray expectantly, anticipating God to respond in miraculous ways? Or have past disappointments hindered your prayer life? “The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” (Psalm 145:18) “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to His will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” (1 John 5:14, 15) We don’t always know God’s will in a matter, but the Bible calls us to pray in faith and to wait expectantly. Anticipate, “Yes,” and have no doubt that “No,” means something far more wonderful than you ever imagined.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 22 Feb 19: Today, pray in confidence, expecting God to do God-sized things in your life. Rejoice in knowing that God hears all of your prayers and lovingly answers them in accordance with His perfect will for your life. Walk boldly in that confidence and glorify Him with your joy and peace.

 

DBRP – WEEK 8, Day 6, Saturday, 23 February 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 23 February 19:

Leviticus 18, 19 – “I am the Lord.”

Today in Leviticus 18 and 19, God gives several rules, statutes and commands to His people, and throughout He reminds, them, “I am the Lord;” in fact, in these two chapters He repeats this proclamation 21 times. Why should you obey God? Because He is the Lord! Note that all of chapter 18 is dedicated to unlawful sexual regulations. For example, God says, “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” (Leviticus 18:22) Why? “I am the Lord [and] it is an abomination.” Homosexuality is listed in God’s prohibitions next to incest and bestiality, yet today our society celebrates it, and we now see some churches ordaining homosexual clergy. Some might argue that God’s laws concerning homosexuality only applied to Old Testament times, but these prohibitions are clearly reiterated in the New Testament (Romans 1:26-32; Jude 1:5-8; 1 Timothy 1:8-11; Mark 10:6-9; 1 Corinthians 7:2; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11)

Similarly, God says, “You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God (Leviticus 18:21),” yet we have recently seen states in America expand the laws for late term abortion. Concerning this verse, some might argue that the prohibition against giving “your children to offer them” is only about sacrifices to idols, or only about children who have already been born, but Exodus 21:22-25 leaves no doubt that God views the unborn child as being just as valuable and entitled to life as anyone else.

The issue is not that God’s laws aren’t clear enough, the issue is we have made light of the sovereignty and holiness of God, and God is equally as offended with “those who practice such things” and those who “give approval to those who practice them.” (Romans 1:32) Silence is consent. ““Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, I am the Lord your God. You shall not do as they do in the land…. You shall not walk in their statutes. You shall follow my rules and keep my statutes and walk in them. I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 18:2-5)

Of course, God doesn’t just tell us what we must not do, He also tells us what we must do – Be holy, love your neighbor as yourself, and obey all of His statues. (Leviticus 19)

Leviticus 19:2, 3 — “Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy…. I am the Lord your God.”

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 23 Feb 19: Pray for repentance and revival among God’s people.

 

DBRP – WEEK 8, Day 7, Sunday, 24 February 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 24 February 19:

Psalm 24:3, 4 – “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart….”

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8) However, our intimacy with God depends on our response to God. Sin separates us from God. The more we desire to fellowship with God, the more we will desire to remove from our lives the sins He abhors, the sins for which Christ died on the Cross to pay. And the closer we get to our Holy God, the more obvious even our smallest sins become, the more we will truly desire “clean hands and a pure heart,” (purity, to live faithfully in thought, word and deed). In genuine worship, today’s psalmist is overwhelmed by the holiness of God and truly desires to be in fellowship (unity) with Him — True Christians are never casual or complacent with sin – “Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the Lord your God. Keep my statutes and do them; I am the Lord who sanctifies you…. You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine…. for I, the Lord, who sanctify you, am holy. (Leviticus 20:7, 8; Leviticus 20:26; Leviticus 21:8)

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Psalm 16:11) “And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.” (1 John 1:4) Jesus said that “eternal life,” was to “know” Him. Here the word “know” refers to the sort of intimate, personal and experiential knowledge intended between a husband and wife – “The two shall become one.” This is perfect unity in love, heart, soul, mind, and strength. In genuine fidelity and unity with Christ, we experience the fullness of joy. Today, the psalmist says those who seek to approach holy God as holy “will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. Selah.” (Psalm 24:5, 6)

Today, the psalmist prays to God in concert with how Jesus instructed His disciples to pray — “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9, 10) ‘Lord, in accordance with your sovereign holiness, your faithfulness, and your justice, mercy and grace, may we honor you by serving you and glorifying you on earth as instruments of your will.’ To do otherwise would be to “trample underfoot the Son of God, and [to] profane the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and [to] outrage the Spirit of grace.” (Hebrews 10:29)

How will you seek to approach your sovereign, holy God today and in the days to come?

– Deuteronomy 6:5 — You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

– John 14:21 — Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

– 1 John 5:3 — For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

– James 4:8 — Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

– 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 — For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God;

– Colossians 3:5 — Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

– 1 John 2:15-17 — Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

– Ephesians 5:1-3 — Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.

– 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.

– Isaiah 55:7 — Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

– 1 John 1:9 — If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 24 Feb 19: Today, pray that God will give you “clean hands and a pure heart,” then, with full confidence in God’s fidelity, grace and mercy, and with full confidence in the power of the Holy Spirit which empowers you, step out in faith and remove from your life all of the things (thoughts, words, deeds, idols, etc.) you know are not worthy to be in the presence of your sovereign and holy God who dwells within you. Every aspect of your life is a display of your love and respect for God.

 

DBRP – WEEK 9, Day 1, Monday, 25 February 2019

https://esv.literalword.com/?q=leviticus+22%2C+23%3B+proverbs+25%3B+Acts+13

Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 25 February 19:

Acts 13:1 – “Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.”

It is truly an amazing thing and quite a testimony when a diverse congregation has true unity in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and works together to spread the Gospel to all nations. Consider this unlikely team of leaders God put together for His glory in Antioch. Not only was this group ethically, racially, and economically diverse, but one of them (Manaen) had grown up as a friend of Herod Antipater who beheaded John the Baptist, conspired against Jesus. And another among this group of church leaders had spent a portion of his life persecuting Christians (Saul). Who would have imagined that God would use the likes of these to spread the Gospel as a team?

Don’t be surprised if God teams you up with an unlikely crew glorify Him and to spread the Gospel in ways you had never planned or imagined. Be ready and faithful with the opportunity. “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 25 Feb 19: Pray the God will help you see people for who they are in Christ rather than who they once were or how the world might view them. Pray that God will help you eliminate partiality in how you treat others. Ask God to show you with whom He might want you to interact that you might have been neglecting due to preconceived notions or hidden biases.

 

DBRP – WEEK 9, Day 2, Tuesday, 26 February 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 26 February 19:

Acts 14:2, 3 – “But the unbelieving Jews stirred up the Gentiles and poisoned their minds against the brothers. So they remained for a long time….”

When to stay and when to go? Paul and Barnabas did not shy away from a challenge or conflict. When the unbelieving Jews stirred up trouble, Paul and Barnabas doubled-down their efforts. However, when they saw that the situation was getting dangerous, they “fled to Lystra and Derbe.” (Acts 14:6) However, there they went right back to teaching. Paul and Barnabas fled Iconium, not due to fear, but rather so that nothing would hinder them from continuing to spread the Gospel. In fact, Paul was still stoned in Lystra and left for dead. But immediately after his stoning, Paul went to Derbe and continued to preach the Gospel without hesitation. Paul was bold in proclaiming the Gospel, but he avoided persecution whenever possible, but sometimes it just wasn’t possible. Even then, he didn’t let persecution slow him down.

How do we decide when to stand up against challenges to the God’s word and when it’s best to walk away or remain silent? First, we should seek the counsel of the Holy Spirit. If direction remains unclear, we should seek to do whatever seems most profitable for the advancement of the Gospel overall – “anything but denial of the truth.” “The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any who go down into silence. But we will bless the Lord from this time forth and forevermore. Praise the Lord!” (Psalm 115:17, 18)

Once again, concerning when to face persecution and when to leave, John Bunyan’s 1684 comments shared previously are well worth review:

“Thou mayest do in this as it is in thy heart. If it is in thy heart to fly, fly; if it be in thy heart to stand, stand. Anything but a denial of the truth. He that flies, has warrant to do so; he that stands, has warrant to do so. Yea, the same man may both fly and stand, as the call and working of God with his heart may be. Moses fled, Ex. 2:15; Moses stood, Heb. 11:27. David fled, 1 Sam. 19:12; David stood, 1 Sam. 24:8. Jeremiah fled, Jer. 37:11– 12; Jeremiah stood, Jer. 38:17. Christ withdrew himself, Luke 19:10; Christ stood, John 18:1–8. Paul fled, 2 Cor. 11:33; Paul stood, Act 20:22–23. … There are few rules in this case. The man himself is best able to judge concerning his present strength, and what weight this or that argument has upon his heart to stand or fly…. Do not fly out of a slavish fear, but rather because flying is an ordinance of God, opening a door for the escape of some, which door is opened by God’s providence, and the escape countenanced by God’s Word.”

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 26 Feb 19: Pray that God will give you a heart truly receptive to the Holy Spirit’s leading when sharing the Gospel becomes potentially risky. Pray that God will give your boldness and strength when required to stand, and the wisdom to know when to disengage, and pray for confidence, fidelity, joy, hope, and peace in any case. There is always an opportunity to share the Gospel with someone somewhere – God is at work all around you.

 

DBRP – WEEK 9, Day 3, Wednesday, 27 February 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 27 February 19:

Leviticus 26:3-12 — “If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, then I will give you…. rains in their season…. fruit…. bread…. peace…. I will remove harmful beasts from the land…. your enemies, and they shall fall before you…. I will… make you fruitful and multiply you…. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people.

Leviticus 26:14-23 – “But if you will not listen to me and will not do all these commandments…. I will visit you with panic, with wasting disease and fever that consume the eyes and make the heart ache. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. I will set my face against you, and you shall be struck down before your enemies. Those who hate you shall rule over you, and you shall flee when none pursues you…. I will discipline you again sevenfold for your sins, and I will break the pride of your power…. And your strength shall be spent in vain, for your land shall not yield its increase, and the trees of the land shall not yield their fruit…. I will continue striking you, sevenfold for your sins. And I will let loose the wild beasts against you, which shall bereave you of your children and destroy your livestock and make you few in number, so that your roads shall be deserted…. I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins…. I will send pestilence among you, and you shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy…. And I myself will devastate the land, so that your enemies who settle in it shall be appalled at it. And I will scatter you among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword after you, and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8 ) However, there are consequences for your actions. According to God’s word above, God blesses obedience with positive outcomes outside of mankind’s control, but most importantly, He blesses with His presence. On the other hand, God curses disobedience with panic disease, blight, defeat, natural disaster and catastrophe, and He does this personally – “I myself will devastate the land.” Disobedience is cosmic treason, challenging or belittling the Sovereignty of God, warring against Him, trampling on the blood of Christ. In disobedience, you are no longer walking with God, and today God warns, “If… you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you,” a statement God repeats four times in one chapter for emphasis. (Leviticus 27:21, 23, 24, 27, 28, 40, 41)

– Hebrews 12:9 — Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?

The God of Justice disciplines in justice but also with mercy and grace. God offers opportunity for repentance.

– Revelation 3:19 — ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.

As today’s verses say, “But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers in their treachery that they committed against me, and also in walking contrary to me, so that I walked contrary to them… if then their uncircumcised heart is humbled and they make amends for their iniquity… I will remember the land…. I will not spurn them, neither will I abhor them so as to destroy them utterly….” (Leviticus 26:40-44) “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7)

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 27 Feb 19: Today, don’t take God’s commands lightly, pray that God will reveal to you where you are currently dishonoring Him with disobedience, pray for the Holy Spirit’s conviction, and repent. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) “Go, and from now on sin no more.” (John 8:11)

 

DBRP – WEEK 9, Day 4, Thursday, 28 February 2019

https://esv.literalword.com/?q=numbers+1%2C+2%3B+proverbs+28%3B+Acts+16

Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 28 February 19:

Note: Here is a short video overview of Numbers: https://thebibleproject.com/explore/numbers/

Acts 16:3 – “Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.”

If you want to understand someone and their past, present and future behavior, find out what they really care about most, what truly motivates them. Some have called this ultimate motivator, the true “center” of a person’s life, or “core value” – everyone has one, definitive core value. If you understand someone’s core value, their behavior becomes pretty predictable. If you don’t understand their real core value, their behavior can seem very unpredictable and easily misinterpreted. We often misjudge a person’s actions because we misinterpret the person’s motives, and the Bible says that only God truly knows a person’s heart. (1 Kings 8:39)

Today, we read that Paul circumcised Timothy, which should catch the reader’s attention since in the last chapter, “Paul… had no small dissension and debate with” those who taught salvation required circumcision. (Acts 15:1, 2) The apostles and elders came together with one accord – “But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” (Acts 15:11) Yet now Paul is circumcising Timothy, but why? To understand this seemingly inconsistent action and the remainder of Paul’s behavior in Acts 16, we must understand Paul’s core value – “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified…. (1 Corinthians 2:2) I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation…. (Romans 15:20) I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.” (Romans 1:14, 15) Paul’s sole motivation was to know Christ and to make Him known to as many as possible. He wanted nothing to hinder his ability to spread the Gospel. He desired Timothy to be circumcised, and Timothy (half Jew and half Greek) was willing to be circumcised (quite painful for an adult), so they could preach in the synagogues without distraction.

Paul’s behavior would seem quite strange, perhaps crazy, apart from an understanding of his inspiration and motivation, which rendered his response to every person and situation truly extraordinary. It was Paul’s joy in Christ alone that compelled him to pray and sing hymns to God in while in prison. (Acts 16:25) It was Paul’s earnest desire to spread the Gospel to all that caused him to remain in prison rather than escape when he had the miraculous chance. (Acts 16:27-34) And this same conviction to share the Gospel motivated Paul to demand release from the civil magistrate alone so they too would be forced to see for themselves the power of God. Who would do such things? Only the one who has been crucified with Christ and no longer lives to self but rather as in instrument of Christ who lives in him or her and guides and empowers them. (Galatians 2:20) How does your love for Christ cause you to do what otherwise would be completely unexplainable? Are people amazed by your peace of God, which surpasses all understanding? (Philippians 4:7) How has your ‘crazy’ behavior served as a testimony to others?

2 Corinthians 5:13-21 — For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 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.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 28 Feb 19: Today, consider what your actions reveal about your core value, your center. Pray that God will give you the wholehearted fidelity that would be shockingly evident to all around you through your actions and attitudes, a shining testimony of the glory of God.

 

DBRP – WEEK 9, Day 5, Friday, 1 March 2019

https://esv.literalword.com/?q=numbers+3%2C+4%3B+proverbs+1%3B+Acts+17

Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 1 March 19:

Acts 17:10-12 – “Paul and Silas [went] to Berea…. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.”

Acts 17 begins with Paul and Silas in Thessalonica. Paul preached there and some believed and some didn’t. Those who were opposed to Paul’s message just wanted to shut him up and many reacted violently. Paul and Silas were forced to leave, and they went to Berea. The Berean response to Paul’s preaching was much different.

The Bereans are described as “more noble” than those in Thessalonica because they didn’t just listen to good preaching and form an opinion based on what they heard, they ‘examin[ed] the Scriptures DAILY’ with ‘ALL EAGERNESS.’ My prayer, and the point of this Bible reading fellowship, is that more Christians would be like the Bereans. Too often Christian’s rely on preachers, commentaries, and books from well-known Christian authors as their staple diet, seasoned with the Bible, rather than using the Bible as their staple diet, seasoned by preaching and secondary sources. Overreliance on secondary sources has resulted in shallow Christianity and malnourished, weak Christians.

Daily Bible study is a basic, essential and critical discipline of a true disciple of Christ. Daily prayer and Bible study must be sacred and non-negotiable on your daily schedule. A good way to keep yourself honest is vow to eat nothing (no food) and read/listen to nothing in the day until you have prayed and studied your Bible. Note that for the noble Bereans, daily Bible study was not a chore, they did it with all eagerness. Note also that is wasn’t just the Jewish men among them, who had grown up on God’s word and were comfortable with God’s word, who studied it eagerly; Greek women (who had not grown up with habits of Bible study) dug in to God’s word too. Daily Bible study is a habit everyone can and must acquire, and the younger a person starts the better. Don’t underestimate a child’s ability to read and learn straight from the real Bible rather than a kid’s book about the Bible.

Jesus said, “’Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4) People live off of which words from God? EVERY word from God, not just those chosen by others. Good preaching is essential, and secondary sources for Bible study are extremely helpful, but none of these are a substitute for daily Bible study. We are very blessed today through technological advances to have more access to God’s word than any other time in human history. But we also have more access to countless opinions from others on what God’s word means. Increasingly today, harried people just want the ‘answers,’ rather than paying the price of consistent study, prayer, and meditation to acquire true understanding. So, Christian resources have become a big business in America, with small-group Bible studies increasingly turning to study guides rather than the Bible itself. Also, popular Bibles sold today now include embedded commentaries so you can get ‘the answer’ as you read, as if the Holy Spirit weren’t there to counsel. I have met many, many Christians who have been attending church and Bible studies for years but have never read (much less studied) the whole Bible, though they have shelves full of books about the Bible. Also, I find, more often than not, when Christians talk with others, they will refer to and quote preachers and books more than the Bible itself. I think its time we get back to the pure water of God’s living word.

— Ezekiel 34:18, 19 — Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet?

— Proverbs 30:5-6 — Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.

— Deuteronomy 4:2 — You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you.

— Revelation 22:18 — I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book,

— 2 Timothy 3:14-17 — But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

— 1 John 4:1 — Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 1 Mar 19: Re-commit today to daily, consistent prayer and Bible study, going straight to God’s word and seeking the counsel of the Holy Spirit before turning to someone else.

 

DBRP – WEEK 9, Day 6, Saturday, 2 March 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 2 March 19:

Psalm 25:21 – “I wait for you.”

Psalm 25 begins and ends with a fundamental virtue of Christian faith: the ability and willingness to wait upon the Lord, which is not the product of sheer willpower but rather a fruit of the Spirit – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22, 23) Waiting upon the Lord is at the heart of faith; it is trust in God based upon our belief in His trustworthiness, regardless of apparent circumstances. But you can’t trust someone you don’t know. The key to growing in faith, hope and love that trusts and waits, that is joyfully patient and perseverant, is growing in intimacy with the Lord, knowing Him more each day – growing is knowing. Jesus’ greatest prayer for us before the Cross was that we would experience the eternal life that comes from intimacy with Him – “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3) This was the prayer of David in today’s Psalms – “The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him.” (Psalm 25:14)

Intimacy with God – “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8) “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) Intimacy with God is a virtuous cycle. You must have faith to draw near to God, but the more you draw near to God, the more faith you will have, and your blessings will be multiplied, not just added. “In Your presence is fullness of joy.” (Psalm 16:11) “These things I have spoken to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” (John 15:11) As the former Adrian Rogers once said, “God does not have favorites, but He does have intimates.” So, how do we draw near to God so that we will trust to wait on the Lord?

– “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16) Draw near to God, confident in the grace and access you have received freely through Christ. You have received grace, so claim grace, have faith in grace, and confidently obey God in the grace you have received and through the power of the Holy Spirit which you have also received in salvation. “Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:22)

– “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8) Drawing near to God requires cleansing and purification. As a Christian, the Bible says, “You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Corinthians 6:11) Now walk with clean hands and a pure heart, with pure actions resulting from a pure heart. Remember what we read last week in Psalm 24 – “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?
And who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. He will receive blessing from the Lord and righteousness from the God of his salvation. Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob. (Psalm 24:3-6) John says, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 2:3, 4) Waiting on the Lord is not idleness, it is obedience. Jesus said, “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (John 14:21) “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1)

– “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word.” (Ephesians 5:25, 26) Prepare for intimacy with God by being freshly cleansed by the word of God. “How can a young man [or woman] keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.” (Psalm 119:9) Most people bathe their bodies daily so they will be presentable to the public, but they don’t wash themselves in the word daily to be presentable to the Lord. Begin your daily walk with Jesus with prayerful Bible study. But still, Bible study is insufficient without Bible life application – doing the word. Bible study gives you knowledge; Bible application gives you understanding. Bible study gives you knowledge about God; walking in the word with the Word gives you knowledge of God (intimacy). “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (James 1:22)

– “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:7-9) Confident in the grace of God, maintain a humbly repentant spirit as you strive imperfectly to walk in the light (which is always done in fellowship with other believers). “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12)

– “…that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death….” (Philippians 3:10) Take up your cross and confidently follow Jesus through the trials of life, boldly and joyfully proclaiming Jesus through inevitable persecution and through the harsh realities of a sinful world. Intimacy with the Lord results in a joyful, confident trust and hope that has no bounds. Job said, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him.” (Job 13:15) This confidence is grounded on the faith that Christ is the resurrection and that Christ has overcome death – “Do not fear what you are about to suffer…. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10) It is intimacy and trust in God that will give you the readiness to step into your personal ‘Red Sea,’ the rushing waters of your ‘Jordon River,’ your ‘fiery furnace,’ and your ‘lion’s den,’ that you will inevitably face, knowing confidently that God is with you through it all, working all these things for good and in accordance with His purpose of conforming you to the image of His Son, Jesus. Are you willing to obey God’s command, “Be still, and know that I am God”? (Psalm 46:10)

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 2 Mar 19: Pray for the strength to be still and to wait on the Lord, not in idleness but in loving obedience.

 

DBRP – WEEK 9, Day 7, Sunday, 3 March 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 3 March 19:

Psalm 26:8 – “O Lord, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells.”

Psalm 27:4 – “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.”

Is it hard for you to go to church or hard to leave? During service is your mind on lunch, or do you hunger, thirst and long for God and to be in His presence? (Psalm 42:1, 119:131) “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.’” (John 6:35) Today, the Psalmist exclaims his love and desire to be in the presence of God above all else. Is that your passion too? God has an inherent, eternal desire to dwell in fellowship with His people in the “house of the Lord.” Through Christ and in Christ, the communion of God’s people is God’s temple, both house and household, in whom the Spirit of God dwells.

– 1 Corinthians 3:16 — Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

– 1 Peter 2:5 — You yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

– 2 Corinthians 6:16 — For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

– Hebrews 3:3-6 — For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses—as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself. (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.) Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, 6 but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.

– Ephesians 2:19-22 — So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

– 1 Peter 2:4-5 — And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

“And he said to them, ‘Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’” (Luke 2:49) You too must be in your Father’s house, in communal worship with God’s people, where God dwells
— “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matthew 18:20) Today, many people feel they can skip church, perhaps watch a sermon on TV or the internet, pray by themselves and have proper fellowship with God. Nothing could be further from the truth. If a temple stone is off to the side, alone, it is simply not in place with the Cornerstone Christ, not fulfilling its God-given purpose, and not dwelling in the “house of the Lord.” We can’t be in fellowship with God while being out of fellowship with God’s people – “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 17:22, 23) When you are in right fellowship with God, like Jesus as a child, people will know where to find you, in the midst of God’s people, the “Father’s house.” In fact, you will desire to be nowhere else more — “For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” (Psalm 84:10)

– “I am writing these things to you so that, if I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:14, 15) “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil.” (Ecclesiastes 5:1) Today, in general, the church community has become more casual, but we must be cautious not to become complacent, not to treat lightly the holiness of God when we come together for worship. Don’t lose sight of the fact that when you enter into communal worship, whether it be in an cathedral, a public building, a tent, or someone’s home, you are in the presence of the Almighty God on holy ground. Your attitude should naturally be a ‘be-atitude.’ (Matthew 5:2-11) Finally, just as you would take great care not to disrespect a national monument, a great cathedral or a important historic building, so too should you show honor and respect to the stones of the “house of the Lord,” in fact even more. Make the temple walls stronger, not weaker, by promoting unity, order and mutual support.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 3 Mar 19: Today, before church, pray that God will give you the right spirit for communal worship to Him, in His presence, with God’s people, who are the “house of the Lord.” Enter the house of the Lord with an expectant heart of love, awe, reverence, praise and worship, ready to receive the counsel, conviction and instruction of the Holy Spirit.

 

DBRP – WEEK 10, Day 1, Monday, 4 March 2019

Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 4 March 19:

https://esv.literalword.com/?q=numbers+9%2C+10%3B+proverbs+4%3B+acts+18

Acts 18:24-28 – “Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.”

Have you ever worried about sharing or teaching God’s word inaccurately? Hopefully you have. I have met many Christians who would not participate in small group Bible studies for fear that they or someone else would mislead others with Bible misinterpretation. To that point, if you have been in many Bible study groups, you have undoubtedly heard someone communicate some pretty crazy stuff about God’s word, perhaps even heresy. But, on the other hand, if perfect understanding was required to share God’s word, no one would.

Apollos was a gifted speaker, well-versed in God’s word, and passionate about sharing the truth of Jesus, but his teaching wasn’t perfect. So, Priscilla and Aquila took him aside privately and straighten him out. Then, encouraged by the brothers, Apollos returned to preaching and helped many.

So, was Apollos a false teacher? When you share your imperfect knowledge of the Bible with others, are you a false teacher? Take a look at this 2-minute video of a discussion between John MacArthur, Albert Mohler, and R.C. Sproul on the difference between false teachers and false teaching — https://www.ligonier.org/learn/qas/how-to-define-a-false-teacher/

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) Since Christians are called to share God’s truth, but since no one understands the Bible perfectly, it’s important to maintain a correctable spirit and to continually question both our understanding and the teachings of others, no matter how respected the teacher may be –

– Proverbs 1:7 — The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

– Psalm 1:1-6 — Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

– Proverbs 28:26 — Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom [The Logos, the Spirit] will be delivered.

– Proverbs 3:5-6 — Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

– Proverbs 19:20 — Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.

– Proverbs 4:13 — Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.

– James 1:5 — If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

– James 3:17 — But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. [Judge the tree (teacher) by its fruit.

– 2 Timothy 2:15 — Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.

– Romans 12:3 — For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

– Proverbs 27:17 — Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

– James 3:1 — Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

– 1 John 4:1 — Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.

– Acts 17:11 — Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 4 Mar 19: Share God’s word honestly and humbly to the best of your knowledge, careful as you can not to exceed the limits of your understanding. Always validate the teachings of others with your own careful, prayerful Bible study, like a good Berean. The Holy Spirit is your teacher.

 

DBRP – WEEK 10, Day 2, Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 5 March 19:

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1. Acts 19:15 – “And the evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?”

– There is no secondhand spirituality. No one else can develop Christian maturity on your behalf. A strong Christian heritage is an asset, but it cannot take the place of your own vibrant, growing relationship with Christ. Paul had a powerful walk with God. God used him so mightily that extraordinary miracles occurred through his life. Cloths that touched Paul were taken to the sick, and the sick were healed (Acts 19:10-12). Evil spirits were cast out. Paul’s preaching and teaching were instrumental in building a strong church in Ephesus. Paul’s ministry was so impressive, in fact, that others tried to duplicate it. Seven sons of the chief priest, Sceva, attempted to cast out demons the way Paul did. They confronted an evil spirit and attempted to exorcise it “by the Jesus whom
Paul preaches.” These men were trying to use a spiritual power that Paul had acquired after years of walking closely with his Lord. They could imitate Paul’s words, but they could not duplicate the power that was his through his personal relationship with God. The evil spirit retorted, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?” The demon then viciously attacked them and humiliated them. The evil spirits were fearfully aware of Jesus (James 2:19); they were familiar with Paul’s influence over the powers of darkness. But the demons had no knowledge of the seven sons of Sceva. You can duplicate the words and deeds of a spiritually mature Christian, but you cannot inherit his or her walk with God. Christian maturity takes effort; it comes over time. If you ignore the place of prayer and if you neglect your relationship with Christ, you will not grow in your faith. Imitating the faith of others will not give you victory. Only as you nurture your own relationship with Jesus will your life be filled with spiritual maturity and power. (Henry T. Blackaby)

2. Acts 19:18-20 – Revival came when people repented and confessed their sins in the church.

3. Acts 19:20 – “So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.”

– Paul’s world worshiped idols. No idol was more revered in Ephesus than the goddess Diana. The great statue was housed in a magnificent temple and was recognized as one of the wonders of the world. An idol-making industry, providing a livelihood for many people, developed in Ephesus to support the widespread idolatry of the day. Paul did not go to Ephesus to condemn those worshiping idols but to unashamedly proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. As Paul shared the truths of God, and as people were set free from their sins, idol worship began to decline. The contrast between stone carvings and God’s power to change lives became obvious. The righteous lives of the Christians stood in stark contrast to the hedonistic practices of the idol worshipers. The victorious Christian witness was so compelling that the economy of the entire city was thrown into upheaval as idolatry diminished in favor of Christianity. An idol is anything that diverts our devotion from God. Our society is as idolatrous as Paul’s was. Rather than worshiping statues, we choose possessions, pleasures, or careers as our gods and pour our time, finances, and energy into these things. Each of us is called, as Paul was, to live a victorious, joyful, and purposeful Christian life in the midst of an idolatrous society. We do not have to seek out and condemn today’s idols. Rather, as we live out our Christianity, enjoying the abundant life God gives, our lives will discredit the idols around us. We may face opposition and hostility from those who are angered at the contrast between our God and theirs. People do not like to have their idols dethroned! Yet as we uphold Christ, others will see a difference and be drawn to Him and the life that He offers. (Henry T. Blackaby)

4. Acts 19:23-41 – Revival stirred up opposition among unbelievers.

5. Acts 19:26 – Revival came when God alone was recognized as God.

6. Acts 19:27 – Revival threatened all other religions.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 5 Mar 19: Seek a closer, more personal walk with Jesus throughout the day as your primary focus, your main effort. Don’t just ask God to give you the ability to do what you want to do or feel you need to do, rather, seek to join Him and serve Him in what He is doing all around you. Pray that the reality of your close relationship with Jesus would naturally be evident to all, and be ready to share the truth of Jesus in your life with anyone who asks about what they see in you but can’t understand.

 

DBRP – WEEK 10, Day 3, Wednesday, 6 March 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 6 March 19:

Acts 20:26, 27 – “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”

Paul felt tremendous conviction as well as great burden of responsibility and obligation, to declare “the whole counsel of God” to the people around him. In fact, he understood he would stand accountable before God for the blood of those with whom he didn’t share the Gospel. Paul was merely reconfirming what God had said to Ezekiel and what the Bible reaffirms in many other places –

– Ezekiel 3:17-21 — “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul. Again, if a righteous person turns from his righteousness and commits injustice, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die. Because you have not warned him, he shall die for his sin, and his righteous deeds that he has done shall not be remembered, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the righteous person not to sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning, and you will have delivered your soul.”

– Acts 13:47 — For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

– James 4:17 — So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

– Proverbs 24:11, 12 — Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?

Are you potentially guilty of the blood of people at your work, neighborhood or community because you failed to share the Gospel when you could have? Does God’s word convict you to prioritize the Gospel above all else?

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 6 Mar 19: Pray that God will convict your heart and empower you to share the Gospel with those around you, regardless how you think they might respond. “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)

 

DBRP – WEEK 10, Day 4, Thursday, 7 March 2019

https://esv.literalword.com/?q=numbers+15%2C+16%3B+proverbs+7%3B+acts+21

Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 7 March 19:

Acts 21:39 – “Paul replied… I beg you, permit me to speak to the people.’”

As mentioned in previous comments, Paul was single-mindedly intent on spreading the Gospel to as many as possible, which guided his response to every situation –

– Romans 15:20 — I make it my ambition to preach the gospel….

– Romans 1:14, 15 — I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So, I am eager to preach the gospel….”

Paul risked his life to preach the truth of the Gospel in the Temple — “They [the angry mob] were seeking to kill him” and beat him ruthlessly. (Acts 21:31, 32) Paul’s life was saved by soldiers who arrested him and decided to take him to the barracks. However, Paul appealed with the tribune to let him speak to the mob before departing. “Paul, standing on the steps, motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language….” (Acts 21:40) Wow! Now, that is focus and commitment to the Gospel!

Put yourself in Paul’s shoes: You tried to share the Gospel with some people, and you were nearly killed, beaten, and arrested. Would you then, rather than simply leaving quietly under protection, turn right around and share the Gospel with those same enraged people? Hopefully, you don’t have too many people in your life who would rather see you dead, but do you have this sort of heart for those who persecute you? When persecuted, do you defend yourself, remain passive, or proclaim Christ? Unfortunately, it takes far less than a bloodthirsty mob for me to regularly lose sight of my calling from God to be His ambassador, making the most of every opportunity (good or bad) to share to Good News. How about you?

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 7 Mar 19: Today, pray for wholehearted Gospel commitment and boldness in sharing the Truth, both for you and for all believers.

 

DBRP – WEEK 10, Day 5, Friday, 8 March 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 8 March 19:

Acts 22:3-7 — “…being zealous for God as all of you are this day…. I persecuted this Way to the death… I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’”

“…being zealous for God….” Information can give you knowledge, but knowledge is not understanding, and understanding is not wisdom. Some people study the Bible, but they don’t apply the Bible to their lives to obtain understanding, like reading books about how to play football, without every playing the game. Practical application develops and demonstrates understanding. But faith isn’t football; it requires more than just intelligent application; it requires ‘wise’ application. Wisdom is knowledge rightly applied, and only God knows what is ‘right.’ – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8, 9) Wisdom is not obtained through intellect but only through spiritual revelation – “Wisdom… comes down from above. (James 3:15) Jesus explained only those born again can obtain wisdom through the Holy Spirit — “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) “Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossian 2:2, 3) Information is not transformation. But even born again Christians can quench the Spirit, grieve the Spirit, and get out of step with the Spirit, subsequently stepping outside the law of love and misapplying God’s truth.

There is a worldly version of ‘wisdom,’ but the Bible warns that this earthly, man-centered, counterfeit wisdom is actually demonic – “This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.” (James 13:15) This form of wisdom is highly deceptive, may even involve misapplication of the Bible, and is destructive.

Paul was zealous in his Bible application, but lacking in wisdom (a love relationship with Jesus and the gifting of the Holy Spirit) he persecuted Jesus and His body the church, while boldly proclaiming faith. Bible knowledge is misapplied and dangerous without the love of Christ compelling you, both in your understanding and in your execution. This is why Paul said that if you have all the power in the world, and do miraculous things, but don’t have love, you have nothing. This is why Proverbs tells you, “Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools [those who lack wisdom].” (Proverbs 26:9)

– 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 — “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.”

– James 3:13-18 — Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

– Ephesians 5:15-17 — Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

“I persecuted this Way to the death….” Wisdom starts with a fear of the Lord and true humility in recognition of spiritual bankruptcy apart from the riches of Christ. Paul’s testimony started with a confession of his sinfulness and total depravity. Paul’s message was clear, “I was a worthless sinner saved by God through Jesus Christ, not because of anything I had done or because of who I had become, but merely because of God’s mercy and grace.” Isn’t that our message too? But yet we still have a tendency to act prideful in our own ‘righteousness,’ wanting others to think highly of us. We hide our sins from others because we don’t want others to see who we really are, and we justify ourselves in conflicts, defending our ‘rights,’ demanding ‘justice’ for ourselves from others while simultaneously claiming grace for ourselves from God. Not Paul, he wanted everyone to know exactly how unworthy he was so that the grace of God and the glory of Jesus Christ could be magnified before men. Paul wanted all attention, honor, glory, and praise to go to Jesus, and he wanted all other sinners like him to know that it is faith in Jesus Christ that saves, not good works done on earth. Do you want people to see goodness in you or greatness of God? In conflict will you defend your rights and your position, or will you fulfill your calling as Christ’s ambassador and represent Him only, seeking reconciliation between your offender and Christ?

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 8 Mar 19: Today, get wisdom and share wisdom by knowing Jesus more and making Him known more. (Proverbs 4:5-7)

 

DBRP – WEEK 10, Day 6, Saturday, 9 March 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 9 March 19:

Numbers 20:10 — “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?”

It is hard to completely understand what happened at Meribath. Moses ‘struck the rock’ the first time in Exodus 17 – no problem. This time, however, it cost him entry into the Promised Land, a seemingly dead end to a life journey. What happened? True, Moses was not supposed to strike the rock this time but rather “speak” to it. True, Moses seems to lose His temper. However, it would appear to me that the main issue (subject to much debate) was that Moses gave himself partial credit for the miracle of the water rather than giving all glory to God – “shall WE bring water….” God rebuked Moses, saying — “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold ME as HOLY in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them (Numbers 20:12).” It is unthinkable for God’s servant to share glory with God. God’s ambassador represents Him and Him alone, and ALL glory must go to God.

“Therefore, you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” God’s punishment of Moses may seem extremely harsh and unfair. After all, Moses had dedicated his whole life to humbly leading this stiff-necked people through great challenges in the desert, and his character was so much greater than everyone else’s. However, God holds leaders to a much higher standard than He does others (James 3:1), and when such an influential leader fails to uphold God as holy in the eyes of the people, that is a monumental violation that must be dealt with powerfully and publicly (before all who witnessed the offense).

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 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.” (Romans 8:28, 29) If God’s sole purpose for Moses’ life was to lead the people into the Promised land, then this incident would be a tragic end Moses’ life – he failed miserably and didn’t make it. Everything he had worked for was lost. However, God had a much greater plan for Moses. God gave Moses a mission to lead His people, but God’s ultimate purpose for Moses was to draw Moses closer to Him in eternal relationship, “to be conformed to the image of His Son.” It wasn’t as much what Moses was doing (the task) but rather who he was becoming along the way (the purpose). What was Jesus’ ultimate prayer for God’s people? “…that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent…. 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 17:3, 22, 23)

God was using this failure to further refines Moses’ character and to reveal the reality of His grace and sufficiency to Moses – this was personal. God was more interested in Moses’ relationship with Him than in Moses reaching the temporal goal of crossing the Jordon River. God’s standard for Moses was much, much higher than His standard for everyone else, because Moses was at a different place in his relationship with God than anyone else, and God intended to take Moses to the next level by exposing Moses’ hidden pride so Moses would understand his total reliance on the love and grace of God. And ultimately, Moses did make it to the Promised Land, but in a much more powerful way — “And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus (Mark 9:4).”

Eternal life is not found in accomplishment but rather in “Knowing the Father and the One He has sent, Jesus.” (John 17:3) God often causes us to fail in our areas of strength we tend to rely on and take pride in order to expose and tear down our idols which stand in the way of our reliance on Him and fidelity to Him. Moses was the humblest man of his time, but he failed in pride so he could understand the sufficiency of God’s grace. Abraham was known for his faith, yet time and time again, God had to expose his lack of faith. Solomon was the wisest man of his day, and God had to bring him to the place where he would see that his ‘wisdom’ and unapparelled accomplishment was ultimately “meaningless.” Peter was courageous, yet he had to fail through cowardice, denying Christ three times, in order to come to a place where he truly understood the sufficiency of God’s grace, empower Peter to truly die for Christ.

Where might you still be trying to share glory with God in your pride and efforts? What personal ‘strengths’ will God have to expose as idols in your life, that you may learn to understand the total sufficiency of God’s grace?

Psalm 28:8, 9 – “The Lord is the strength of his people; he is the saving refuge of his anointed. Oh, save your people and bless your heritage! Be their shepherd and carry them forever.”

God wants you to learn to rely solely on Him in complete confidence and have fullness of peace and joy in Him. Christians are God’s anointed and His heritage. 1 John says, “But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge…. But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie — just as it has taught you, abide in him.” (1 John 2:20, 27) Revelation 21 says, “The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Revelation 21:7) “For the Lord will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage.” (Psalm 94:14) The Lord Himself is your strength, your shield and your rock; call on Him, trust in Him, and give Him thanks. (Psalm 28:1, 7) He will never abandon you.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 9 Mar 19: Today, rest in the sufficiency of God’s grace, and give Him all the glory. Trust God with both your successes and failures, and be further conformed to the character of Christ.

 

DBRP – WEEK 10, Day 7, Sunday, 10 March 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 10 March 19:

Numbers 22:7 – “So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the fees for divination in their hand. And they came to Balaam and gave him Balak’s message.”

The story of Balak and Balaam is quiet fascinating and full of important lessons for us. Balaam was a false prophet who God used, much like God uses many wicked people, to fulfill His greater purposes. Through the story of Balaam, we can learn much about false prophets and the dangers of trying to use God’s word for selfish, man-centered ends.

At first glance, Balaam might appear somewhat noble in this chapter. Afterall, he does say to Balak and his princes, “I [can] not go beyond the command of the Lord my God to do less or more…. [and] “The word that God puts in my mouth, that must I speak.” (Numbers 22:18, 38) However, if we look closer, we will see the true heart of Balaam, which is wicked.

Balaam earned a living ‘speaking for god’ and practicing divination for profit, which is clearly prohibited in God’s word (Deuteronomy 18:9-14), and he served as the agent of godless governments which practiced idolatry. The Bible has many warnings about false prophets, one being a warning against those who pedal the word of God for profit – “And in their greed they will exploit you with false words.” (2 Peter 2:3) What did Jesus say, “You received without paying; give without pay.” (Matthew 10:8)

Peter further expands upon his warnings about greedy false prophets, using Balaam as his example – “They entice unsteady souls. They have hearts trained in greed. Accursed children! Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing, but was rebuked for his own transgression; a speechless donkey spoke with human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.” (2 Peter 2:14-16) Again, we should be careful not to assume that since God used Balaam to speak truth, Balaam was a worthy prophet. Likewise, we must be careful not to believe every preacher who proclaims God’s word is sent by God. Judge the tree by its fruit.

– Matthew 7:15-23 — “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

To understand more about the dangers of false prophets, consider ‘the rest of the story,’ mentioned in Revelation, “But I have a few things against you: you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, so that they might eat food sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.” (Revelation 2:14) Balaam would later counsel Balak to sabotage the Israelites by enticing them to practice sexual immorality and idolatry, and it apparently worked as described in the verses below:

– Numbers 25:1-9 – “While Israel lived in Shittim, the people began to whore with the daughters of Moab. These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel. And the Lord said to Moses, “Take all the chiefs of the people and hang them in the sun before the Lord, that the fierce anger of the Lord may turn away from Israel.” And Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Each of you kill those of his men who have yoked themselves to Baal of Peor.” And behold, one of the people of Israel came and brought a Midianite woman to his family, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of the whole congregation of the people of Israel, while they were weeping in the entrance of the tent of meeting. When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose and left the congregation and took a spear in his hand and went after the man of Israel into the chamber and pierced both of them, the man of Israel and the woman through her belly. Thus the plague on the people of Israel was stopped. Nevertheless, those who died by the plague were twenty-four thousand.

– Numbers 31:16 – “Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the Lord.”

God’s people suffered by the teachings of an ungodly prophet supported by government officials, perhaps under a theme of maintaining peace among diverse population groups. God eventually dealt with Balaam the false prophet, “Balaam also, the son of Beor, the one who practiced divination, was killed with the sword by the people of Israel among the rest of their slain, (Joshua 13:22), but not before Balaam induced many Israelites to fall to sin. “For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” (Matthew 24:24) Today, not only has the government changed laws to support sexual immorality condemned by God, many churches now are endorsing it, even celebrating it. Who are the Balaks and Balaams of our day? Where do we stand?

A final point is that we must be careful personally not to make the mistake of Balaam by trying to uses God’s word for our personal gain, such as to win an argument, to impress others, or to simply support our own sense of ‘righteousness.’ Whenever we use God’s word in a selfish or self-centered way, whenever we are representing our own self-interests, we are no longer serving as Christ’s ambassador. We have lost our authority, and have become a false teacher – teaching from false motives.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 10 Mar 19: Pray that God will give you the heart of a good Berean, who tests the words of others with your own diligent prayerful Bible study, and pray that God will give you a heart that uses God’s word rightly, as a true ambassador for Christ on the ministry of reconciliation.

 

DBRP – WEEK 11, Day 1, Monday, 11 March 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 11 March 19:

Acts 23:11 – “The following night the Lord stood by him and said, ‘Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.’”

It hasn’t been an easy road for Paul: He was persecuted and driven out of Antioch (Acts 13); he was almost stoned at Iconium and fled (Acts 14); he was stoned and left for dead at Lystra (Acts 14); he was attacked, beaten, and imprisoned at Philippi (Acts 16); he was evacuated out of Thessalonica and Berea to escape an angry mobs (Acts 17); he was beaten and arrested in the temple (Acts 21), nearly flogged by the tribune (Acts 22), nearly “torn to pieces” by the council (Acts 23); and soon Paul will discover that forty assassins have committed to kill him, vowing by oath neither to eat nor drink till they have. (Acts 23:12) And Paul knows his journey is not going to get easier, culminating with his death. No one could blame Paul if he started feeling a bit discouraged, even defeated.

But the Lord stood by Paul and said, “Take courage.” The Greek word used here is Tharséō – be bold; be of good cheer; radiate confidence; be firm, resolute, and steady in the face of trials set before you. This word is used seven (7) other times in the New Testament, all by Jesus (Matthew 9:2; Mathew 9:22; Matthew 14:27; Mark 6:50; Mark 10:49; Luke 8:48; and John 16:33), either when Jesus was healing a person through His miraculous power or to comfort the disciples who were gripped by fear when He walked on water. In all cases, the message is the same – “Take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

– 1 John 4:4 — Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

– 1 John 5:4 — For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

– 1 John 5:5 — Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

We will all face great life challenges, not just the persecution that comes from being a Christian, but also the pains that come from living in a fallen world, including sickness and death. But through it all, Jesus stands beside us and says, “Take courage, take heart, I have overcome the world, and in me, you have the victory that has overcome the world.” And, “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 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.” (Romans 8:28, 29)

Sometimes, we face life challenges because of the consequences of our own sins, but this too is intended to draw us closer to Jesus in repentance and reconciliation as we learn to trust in the sufficiency of His grace and to walk in grace closer to Him with each new day –

– 1 John 1:9 — If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

– Romans 8:31-39 — What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 11 Mar 19: Today, no matter what happens, take courage, be of good cheer, radiate joyful confidence, and press forward boldly, trusting not in your strength or righteousness but in the strength and righteousness of Christ and in your victory in Him who has overcome the world.

 

DBRP – WEEK 11, Day 2, Tuesday, 12 March 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 12 March 19:

Acts 24:22, 24-27 – “But Felix, having a rather accurate knowledge of the Way, put them off…. After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, ‘Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity, I will summon you.’ At the same time, he hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So, he sent for him often and conversed with him. When two years had elapsed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus. And desiring to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison.”

Paul “reasoned” with Felix and Drusilla “about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment,” and Felix was alarmed. Felix had good reason to be alarmed — he was a ruthless and unscrupulous governor, and Drusilla (the granddaughter of Herod Antipas and the daughter of Herod Agrippa the first) was his second wife (of three) who divorced her husband, Azizus, the King of Emesa, to marry him. Felix had accurate “knowledge” of the Way (Christianity), but dismissed the truth — Felix said to Paul, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity, I will summon you.” But for two years Felix conversed with Paul with no apparent impact on Felix’s life. Felix didn’t have a “knowledge” problem, he had a heart problem – he simply wouldn’t repent and accept Jesus as his Savior. So, Felix chose not to decide, which is really a choice to reject the truth.

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30) Perhaps the Holy Spirit has convicted you to make a change or to take action in some area in your life. Perhaps you need to address an area of compromise in your life; perhaps you need to forgive someone or seek forgiveness; perhaps you have been putting off giving or serving in a way God has convicted you to give or serve. Don’t delay – delayed obedience is disobedience. The longer you put off the truth, the easier it becomes to ignore it and forget about it, and the more you lose receptivity to the truth in general. Conversely, if you are faithful with the truth, more will be given to you. “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25) “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” (1 Kings 18:21)

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 12 Mar 19: Obey without delay.

 

DBRP – WEEK 11, Day 3, Wednesday, 13 March 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 13 March 19:

Chapter 27 has much to teach us about the heart of a real leader. Below are just a couple of points for consideration:

Numbers 27:14-17 — “You also shall be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was, because you rebelled against my word in the wilderness of Zin when the congregation quarreled, failing to uphold me as holy at the waters before their eyes…. Moses said to the LORD, ‘May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the LORD’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”

– Moses had the heart of a true leader. He had just been told by the Lord that it was his time to die — he would not lead the people into the Promised Land because Moses had failed. Moses doesn’t complain, blame-shift or defend himself before the Lord. Rather, Moses’ immediate concern is for the people and their welfare. Moses asks God to provide the people with a leader who will ‘shepherd’ them because Moses has the heart of a shepherd. As someone once said, “If you can’t stand the smell of sheep, you can’t be a shepherd.” These people were hard to lead, constantly drifting into sinful, destructive practices, often rebelling against Moses himself, even threatening his life more than once. In fact, as today’s verses point out, it was the quarrelling of the congregation that incited Moses to temporarily lose his temper and dishonor God. Yet Moses remains committed to them. There aren’t many leaders like Moses. Of course, Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11) Despite our infidelity, Jesus remains faithful. It is His leadership we seek to emulate.

Numbers 27:18 — “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.”

– Joshua was God’s choice to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land; Moses didn’t choose Joshua, God did. Joshua was uniquely qualified for the job. First and foremost, he was filled with the Spirit. True leaders are led by the Spirit and lead by the Spirit for God’s glory. So, true leaders are followers, guided by the Spirit. And true leaders are always leading others closer to Jesus as their ministry of reconciliation. Someone once said, “Leaders know the way and show the way.” Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27) “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17)

Of note, Joshua’s name means, “The Lord is Salvation,” and is the Hebrew version of “Jesus.”

Joshua was a man of great experience, character, competence and commitment. For 40 years Joshua served as Moses’ faithful aide, commanded the Israelites’ victory over Amalek, and was one of the two spies (Caleb the other) that encouraged the Israelites to enter the Promised Land in faith, despite the strength of their enemies. He served the Lord wholeheartedly and was a great example to others.

People and nations need mighty, faithful leaders such as Joshua who are led by the Spirit and equipped with character and competence. Who are the Joshuas of today?

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 13 Mar 19: Regardless your leadership role, follow Jesus, be led by the Spirit, and lead others to Christ — “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34) “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” (John 12:26)

 

DBRP – WEEK 11, Day 4, Thursday, 14 March 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 14 March 19:

Acts 26:17-20 – “I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me…. that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.”

The Bible is clear we are saved by faith, not by works or deeds – “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8, 9) However, the Bible is also clear that saving faith also produces sanctification and the fruit of good works – “deeds in keeping with their repentance.” As Ephesians 2 continues to state, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) Our deeds are not the means to salvation but rather the evidence of our salvation. Martin Luther said, because of our faith, we “freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown [us] such grace. Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire!”

Paul reminds us that we are justified by faith, but we are also sanctified by faith as we progressively learn to step out in faith and obedience – “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” (Hebrews 11:6) As the Father conforms us to the image of His Son, Jesus, He calls us to do many things that don’t make sense from the world’s point of view, and this takes faith, faith that is given to us by the Holy Spirit, but which we must employ. Certainly, Paul is a good example for us. Compelled by the love of Christ to spread the Gospel to as many as possible at all cost, his actions were baffling to most – “Festus said with a loud voice, ‘Paul, you are out of your mind; your great learning is driving you out of your mind.’ …And Agrippa said to Festus, ‘This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.’” (Acts 26:24, 32)

How far are you willing to go in your faith to love God and others? “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8) Are you ready to empty yourself, completely humble yourself, take up the form of a servant, take up your cross, and become obedient unto death? What did Jesus say? “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) Why was Paul so bold before those who could take his life? He had already died – “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20) What about you?

– Hebrews 10:38 – “But my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.”

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 14 Mar 19: With full assurance of your salvation in Christ, ‘perform deeds in keeping with their repentance,’ while proclaiming Christ to as many as possible.

 

DBRP – WEEK 11, Day 5, Friday, 15 March 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Friday, 15 March 19:

Acts 27:11, 12, 21, 25 – “But the centurion paid more attention to the pilot and to the owner of the ship than to what Paul said. And… the majority decided to put out to sea from there…. Paul stood up among them and said…. take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.”

God’s word will defy the experts, ‘common sense,’ and majority opinion. However, God’s word prevails. Everyone will decide in whom or in what they will place their faith, whether they will take God at His word in faith or rely on worldly ‘wisdom.’

Paul had no credibility as a sailor, but as an ambassador for Christ, he tried to warn everyone of impending doom, but they refused to listen. When the sailors, soldiers, prisoners and passengers finally did decide to listen to Paul, he explained that God’s deliverance from the storm required their complete commitment, an all or nothing proposition — “Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved.” (Acts 27:31) He also demonstrated that faith in God is revealed by confident thanksgiving in the face of apparent crisis — “He took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat.” (Acts 27:35) Through Paul’s faith and leadership influence, all 276 persons in the ship survived despite the apparent odds.

“Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:12, 13) “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.” (Proverbs 3:5-7) Trust and obey God wholeheartedly despite all other influences, even your feelings. When God’s word is clear on a matter, fully commit to it with thanksgiving as a witness to all around you.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 15 Mar 19: Trust and obey no matter what others say, and proclaim Christ along the way.

 

DBRP – WEEK 11, Day 6, Saturday, 16 March 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Saturday, 16 March 19:

Numbers 33 – “And they set out from…. and camped at….”

Numbers 33 lists all the movements and encampments of the Israelites during their 40 years in the desert, from Egypt to the plains of Moab. Over 40 displacements are recorded, and God didn’t want His people to ever forget any of them, each with its own story of joys, sorrows, encounters with God and displays of God’s holiness, sovereignty, providence, mercy and grace. As an Israelite in Moses’ day heard this abridged version of his family’s history, I suspect he might be overwhelmed by emotion. As God prepared His people for the next great chapter in their lives, He wanted them to first recount all that He had already done in their lives so they would not lose sight of their total dependence upon Him and His steadfast love, faithfulness, mercy and grace.

The pillar of cloud and fire led the Israelites all over the desert for forty years to eventually bring them to the Jordan River, which is only a two-week journey from Egypt by direct route. But ultimately, God wasn’t leading them just to the Promised Land, He was leading them to Himself. And as discussed previously, Moses wasn’t even allowed to cross the Jordon River with the people, because God was more interested in Moses’ relationship with Him than He was about Moses reaching a temporal objective. The Israelites’ complicated and tedious path through the wilderness was a journey of sanctification, reconciling God’s people to Him — “…for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me.” (Psalm 31:3) Likewise, our life’s journey is not about what we accomplish, it is about becoming
“one” with Him, and our journey only makes sense from the perspective of that purpose –

– John 17:3, 21 — And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent…. 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.

– Romans 8:28, 29 — And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 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.

“On their gods also the Lord executed judgments…. destroy all their figured stones and destroy all their metal images and demolish all their high places.” (Numbers 33:4, 52) The bookends of the Israelites’ incredible journey are idolatry – God substitutes. The Lord miraculously and triumphantly led His people out of the idolatrous land of Egypt, but despite God’s mighty works, the Israelites continuously drifted back into idolatrous thinking, resulting on God’s discipline. God brought the people out of Egypt but then spent 40 years getting Egypt out of the people. Now, God is leading His people into a new land full of idolatry, a “Promised Land” if they see Him as the Promise, if they refuse to accept any substitutes for Him, if they will “demolish all their high places.” God gave the people a strict warning to tear down the idols so they could experience the fullness of joy in Him. Likewise, God calls us to tear down our idols, those things that detract from our right relationship with Him; and to be clear, our idols are not small statues –

— 1 Samuel 15:23 — For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.

— Colossians 3:5 — Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

Perhaps you have been wandering too long in your own personal desert wilderness because you are still hanging on to idols. Perhaps you aren’t ready to cross over into a new ‘promised land’ because you are still too susceptible to being influenced by idolatry. “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” (1 Corinthians 10:14) Pray that God will give you a heart like today’s psalmist — “I hate those who pay regard to worthless idols, but I trust in the Lord. I will rejoice and be glad in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have known the distress of my soul, and you have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place.” (Psalm 31:6-8)

Job 21:22-30 — “Agree with God, and be at peace; thereby good will come to you. Receive instruction from his mouth, and lay up his words in your heart. If you return to the Almighty you will be built up; if you remove injustice far from your tents, if you lay gold in the dust, and gold of Ophir among the stones of the torrent-bed, then the Almighty will be your gold and your precious silver. For then you will delight yourself in the Almighty and lift up your face to God. You will make your prayer to him, and he will hear you, and you will pay your vows. You will decide on a matter, and it will be established for you, and light will shine on your ways. For when they are humbled you say, ‘It is because of pride’; but he saves the lowly. He delivers even the one who is not innocent, who will be delivered through the cleanness of your hands.”

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 16 Mar 19: Today, clean out your tent – remove from your life (your thought life and your physical life) all that dishonors God for distracts you from God.

 

DBRP – WEEK 12, Day 7, Sunday, 17 March 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 17 March 19:

Psalm 32:1 – “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.”

Guilt. Repentance. Confession. Judgment or mercy and grace. Blessings or curses.

Psalm 32 begins and ends with enthusiastic testimony about the blessings of being forgiven by the Lord and cleansed of all iniquity by the Lord’s redemption. (Psalm 32:1, 2)

The psalmist begins his personal testimony by telling of his intense burden of being racked with guilt over hidden sin, which affected him spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically – “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.” (Psalm 32:3, 4) The first step to receiving forgiveness is having genuine remorse for sin, a good guilt that leads to repentance, rather than the destructive guilt of self-pity and victimism.

– Psalm 38:4 — For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me.

– 2 Corinthians 7:10 — For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

– Isaiah 66:2 — But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.

– Psalm 51:17 — The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

In his guilt, the psalmist repented and confessed His sin to the Lord — “I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” (Psalm 32:5) With genuine repentance and confession comes forgiveness, and with forgiveness comes freedom, peace and joy –

– 1 John 1:9 — If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

– Psalm 103:12 — As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

– Isaiah 43:25 — I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more….

– Isaiah 1: 18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”

However, we must be careful not to use our freedom in forgiveness to drift back into the sins that God abhors and that destroy –

– Galatians 5:1 — For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

– Galatians 5:13, 14 — For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

– 1 Peter 2:16 — Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.

Then the psalmist warns the godly to “offer prayer to [God] at a time when [He] may be found; surely in the rush of great waters, they shall not reach him.” (Psalm 32:6) The psalmist may have had the great flood of Noah’s day in mind here when he provided this imagery. We must not presume upon God’s grace, delay in repentance, and continue in sin. There comes a time when our opportunity has passed to avoid God’s discipline, punishment and judgment.

– Isaiah 55:6 — “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near….”

Then the psalmist describes two types of people, those who are guided by the spirit and those who are led by the flesh, those who listen to God and those who listen to their own instincts and desires. The psalmist describes those who ignore their conscience (see Romans 1) as animals and warns – “Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle…. Many are the sorrows of the wicked….” (Psalm 32:9, 10) Too often we ignore the conviction of the Holy Spirit in our lives, which leaves us responding to the consequences of our own bad decisions, like a mule which must be guided by force. How much better is it to listen to the Holy Spirit’s rebuke and to repent than to receive a hundred blows? “A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.” (Proverbs 17:10) Wisdom is being guided by the Holy Spirit and having the internal discipline to obey without requiring external discipline to keep you on track. The key is humility as opposed to pride –

– Psalm 49:20 — Man in his pomp, yet without understanding, is like the beasts that perish.

– Proverbs 11:2 — When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.

– Proverbs 29:23 — One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.

– Matthew 5:3-10 — “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

– Isaiah 2:17 — And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.

The psalmist concludes, “Steadfast love surrounds the one who trusts in the Lord. Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart!” (Psalm 32:10, 11) Don’t let anything stand in the way of you experiencing the abundance of joy that comes from receiving God’s forgiveness and walking obediently in His grace.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 17 Mar 19: Listen humbly to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, confess your sins today, without delay, turn away from evil, and rejoice in your freedom in Christ.

 

DBRP – WEEK 12, Day 1, Monday, 18 March 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 18 March 19:

Note: Here is a short video overview of Deuteronomy: https://youtu.be/NMhmDPWeftw

Deuteronomy 1:43-45 – “You would not listen; but you rebelled against the command of the Lord… presumptuously…. And you returned and wept before the Lord, but the Lord did not listen to your voice or give ear to you.”

Deuteronomy is the Bible book most quoted by Jesus. Deuteronomy means “second law” and is a retelling by Moses of the teachings and events of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, expanding upon the Ten Commandments. It is Moses’ farewell address to the next generation as they prepare to enter the Promised Land. Try to imagine how important this message is to Moses, his final message to his people after all they have been through together and as he realizes he will no longer be there to guide them. His basic message to the people is love God wholeheartedly, listen to Him intently, obey Him unconditionally, and live a life of blessings rather than curses, shining as a light to other nations for God’s glory. The Greatest Command was/is love. Moses understood that Love had to be the motivation for obedience. Without love, the people wouldn’t obey – laws could never be a substitute for love. And when the people refused to obey, it was simply because they did not love God and others as they should, as they were created to do. Moses will warn the people he so desperately loves, ‘Choose life and blessings rather than death and curses’ by living in love rather than living in selfish pride, greed and lust. Unfortunately, he knows they will fail, but God will use these failures to point to grace and the work of Jesus Christ, the only name by which anyone can be saved. “’Who then can be saved?’ But Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” (Matthew 19:25, 26)

Today, Moses reminds the Israelites of their history of presumption, when they refused to listen to the Lord and obey Him and when, subsequently, He refused to listen to them or dry their alligator tears as they faced both the natural consequences of their sin and the Lord’s mighty arm of discipline. He reminded them that they could not defy God in unrepentant sin and then expect God to be with them and bless their efforts, even if they ‘dedicated’ their efforts to the Lord. Christians should take heed, lest we take the form of religion but live powerless lives because we dishonor the Lord in word and deed and quench the Spirit, grieve the Spirit, and get out of step with the Spirit. What does God say? “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16) “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8) “And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (1 John 3:3) God forbid that we should treat grace as a cheap thing, losing sight of the blood of Christ that paid for it.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 18 Mar 19: Pray that God will convict your heart of sins that might be hindering your right relationship with Him, and pray that God will give you the love to obey Him with passion and joy, as your heart’s true desire.

 

DBRP – WEEK 12, Day 2, Tuesday, 19 March 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Tuesday, 19 March 19:

Deuteronomy 4:1, 2, 6, 9, 15, 35 — “And now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the rules… do them, that you may live, and go in and take possession…. You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God that I command you…. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’… Take care, and keep your soul diligently…. Watch yourselves very carefully…. To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him.”

“By grace [we] have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8) We weren’t saved so we could continue to live sinful, ungodly, defeated lives and yet go to heaven when we die, but so we could be free to live victorious lives in Christ, enjoying Him and bringing Him glory on this earth. Stop now, and read Romans 6 for more.

Picking up from yesterday’s readings, Moses continues his theme of ‘listen, obey, live, overcome the world (take possession), and glorify God.’ This is a message of victory, not victimization and failure. All this MUST be inspired by love, but none of us are perfected in love, our motives are often mixed, but if we obey with a humble desire to grow in love, we will grow through the power of the Holy Spirit. The path though must be one of obedience. Consider again 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) Teaching them to what? “To observe (or obey) all that I have commanded….”

Today, Moses warns the people not to add to God’s word or take away from God’s word. Since the original sin, people have manipulated God’s word in an attempt to justify their own sin – “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Gen 3:1) We attempt to adjust God’s word to our behavior rather than adjusting our behavior to God’s word. We add caveats or modifiers to God’s clear commands, or we downplay commands that we would rather not deal with in our lives. Consider what sins rarely come up in sermons or in Christian conversations today because they are so widely accepted among God’s people, all in the name of grace.

Also, pay close attention to what Moses says — “Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’” Note that Moses addresses both what peoples will see from our behavior but also what they will hear from us. Many Christians have convinced themselves that they don’t need to publicly proclaim the truth, only serve as a visible, silent example of the truth. Sometimes silence is appropriate, but too often, it is a comfort-based decision motivated by fear or complacency. What did Jesus model for us in Mark today? Not just healing – “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14, 15) “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” (Mark 1:38) Jesus’ message was repent and believe. Is that your message? How many times will you hear the word repent this year?

God commands us to obey. Jesus said obedience was the indicator of our love for Him (John 14:15), and the Bible commands us to proclaim His Gospel to all. Sharing the Gospel is an obvious command, a “no-brainer,” since love would never withhold the message of forgiveness and eternal life from anyone. And the Gospel message begins with a call for repentance, which is never an easy message; but it ends with grace through faith, which is a magnificent message — it is a two-edged sword that cuts and heals, that reveals both God’s judgment and God’s offer of grace and salvation. How well are you doing on your God-given command and ministry of reconciliation?

– Psalm 105:1 — Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!

– Isaiah 12:4 — Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted.

– Ezekiel 3:17-19 — “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, in order to save his life, that wicked person shall die for his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, or from his wicked way, he shall die for his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.

– Luke 12:8 — And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God.

– Acts 1:8 — But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

– Acts 13:47 — For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, “‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

– Acts 20:24 — But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

– Romans 10:10-16 — For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel.

– 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 — And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

– 2 Corinthians 5:20 — Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

– 2 Timothy 4:5 — As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.

– 2 Peter 3:9 — The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 19 Mar 19: Let nothing stop you today from obeying God and fulfilling your calling as Christ’s ambassador to the people around you.

 

DBRP – WEEK 12, Day 3, Wednesday, 20 March 2019

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Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 20 March 19:

Mark 2:23, 24 — “One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. And the Pharisees were saying to him, ‘Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?’”

The truth of our character is revealed when we are tested, and God will test us so that we may be convicted by the Holy Spirit to grow in Christ-like character. Consider the character revealed by Christ today: Jesus and his disciples were so hungry, having invested everything they had in service to others, they were plucking heads of grain to eat — a lot of work for very little food, something impoverished people would do. It was that moment that the Pharisees, who lived luxurious lives in their lack of service to others, criticized Jesus and His disciples. Imagine you are exhausted and starving after a hard days’ work in selfless service to others when you are criticized by a self-righteous hypocrite. How would you respond? Jesus calmly instructs the Pharisees. Would that have been your move? How do you act when your hard work is underappreciated by co-workers, family or friends who might have done far less than you?

Consider the two opposite potential approaches presented in Galatians 5 –

– The ‘natural’ human response — enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, etc. (Galatians 5:20)

– The ‘supernatural’ (beyond our nature) spirit-led response — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22, 23)

The Greatest Command is love. What does love require? “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.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

To whom are we to respond with love? “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.” (Matthew 5:43-48)

When you are tested by others in your moments of mental, emotional and physical weakness, Jesus says, “Deny [yourself] and take up [your] cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23)

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? — unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5) Don’t miss the lessons of your daily failures. We all fail daily to love as we should, but through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can and should fail forward, growing in sanctification. Pay attention to how you respond in the ‘little things’ throughout the day, your response serving as a glimpse into your character. Catch your immediate, internal reaction when you are slighted, offended, or frustrated. Consider these convicting words from C. S. Lewis –

“When I come to my evening prayers and try to reckon up the sins of the day, nine times out of ten the most obvious one is some sin against charity; I have sulked or snapped or sneered or snubbed or stormed. And the excuse that immediately springs to my mind is that the provocation was so sudden and unexpected; I was caught off my guard, I had not time to collect myself. Now that may be an extenuating circumstance as regards those particular acts: they would obviously be worse if they had been deliberate and premeditated. On the other hand, surely what a man does when he is taken off his guard is the best evidence for what sort of a man he is? Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth? If there are rats in a cellar you are most likely to see them if you go in very suddenly. But the suddenness does not create the rats: it only prevents them from hiding. In the same way the suddenness of the provocation does not make me an ill-tempered man; it only shows me what an ill-tempered man I am. The rats are always there in the cellar, but if you go in shouting and noisily they will have taken cover before you switch on the light.”

You can’t fix what you aren’t willing to humbly honest about. Don’t make excuses for your failures in love, repent, seek forgiveness, receive forgiveness, and strive in grace to walk more closely with Jesus tomorrow.

“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 20 Mar 19: Today, examine yourself, your thoughts, attitudes, and behavior as compared to the requirements of love. Inspect your fruit, but also your roots, the real “why” behind your behavior, which will have something to do with your relationship with Jesus, like the relationship between the vine and the branch (John 15). Don’t just seek behavior modification, pray for heart change.

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