Together, we serve
to know Christ
and to make Christ known
for the glory of God

Devotions

13 May 2021

Proverbs 19:11

A person’s wisdom yields patience;
    it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.

Here is a good measure for how much good sense you have: How do you respond to offenses? Are you quick to retaliate? Do you quickly throw back a verbal jab? Do you get easily flustered? Do you dash off curt emails or text messages? Then good sense is lacking.

What is the connection between good sense and controlling one’s temper? For one thing, the person with good sense understands that angry responses are more likely to worsen a given situation, rather than resolve it. Because he knows his goal is to bring resolution and understanding to the matter at hand, he controls his temper.

Also, the person with good sense understands what should and should not bother him. Injustice committed against those who cannot defend themselves will make him quick to be angry. Personal offenses thrown at him by those who are foolish or by those caught in a foolish moment will have little effect on him. Such offenses have no weight and thus will not harm a person with good sense.

So today, when a car pulls in front of you; when the co-worker at the office makes a curt remark; when you get a silly email, show good sense. Show that what really matters to you is the regard of Christ for you, who is your model for one who knew his goal and loved his Father, and thus could endure the foolish offenses of many.

 

1 John 3

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears,[a] we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.

Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not God’s child, nor is anyone who does not love their brother and sister.

 

More on Love and Hatred

11 For this is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters,[b] if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him.

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

19 This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: 20 If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God 22 and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. 24 The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

12 May 2021

Proverbs 19:10

It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury—
    how much worse for a slave to rule over princes!

It is not fitting for a fool who has done nothing to earn or deserve wealth to live in wealth. Like a pig with pearls, he will treat his wealth with disdain, not merely indulging in worthless pursuits, but turning what is beautiful and noble into base objects. There is something to appreciating what is of value and beauty. Unlike the tragic figure who appreciates such things, but cannot restrain his vices, the fool neither appreciates what is good nor recognizes his vices.

It is not fitting for a slave to rule over princes, for princes ought to fit their position by truly being noble, wise, and just. They ought not to be subject to manipulation by those under them. This is not a comment on slaves being kept in their places, but rather on those given positions of power to use them wisely and ably.

Indeed, the rise of the fool and the slave is more a comment about the failure of those entrusted with power and influence to use that power for the good, assuring that those who rise to wealth and power are those who earn such reward, and not merely obtain them by luck or deceit.

What is fitting? For us who are princes and princesses by virtue of belonging to Christ, to use our position for good. If we have wealth, then to use it responsibly both in terms of helping others and in valuing what is truly admirable and beautiful. If we have power and influence, to use it for the common good, dispensing justice. We are to display the justice and the nobility of our Prince Jesus Christ.

 

1 John 2

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

 

Love and Hatred for Fellow Believers

We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. But if anyone obeys his word, love for God[a] is truly made complete in them. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.

Dear friends, I am not writing you a new command but an old one, which you have had since the beginning. This old command is the message you have heard. Yet I am writing you a new command; its truth is seen in him and in you, because the darkness is passing and the true light is already shining.

Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister[b] is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister[c] lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.

 

Reasons for Writing

12 I am writing to you, dear children,
    because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
13 I am writing to you, fathers,
    because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
    because you have overcome the evil one.

14 I write to you, dear children,
    because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers,
    because you know him who is from the beginning.
I write to you, young men,
    because you are strong,
    and the word of God lives in you,
    and you have overcome the evil one.

 

On Not Loving the World

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father[d] is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

 

Warnings Against Denying the Son

18 Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.[e] 21 I do not write to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it and because no lie comes from the truth. 22 Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

24 As for you, see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is what he promised us—eternal life.

26 I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. 27 As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.

 

God’s Children and Sin

28 And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.

29 If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.

11 May 2021

Proverbs 19:9

A false witness will not go unpunished,
    and whoever pours out lies will perish.

This is the same proverb as 19:5, except that it spells out what is alluded to in the previous one which states that the liar will “not escape.” He will perish. However much he may try to lie his way out of such a destiny, his lies only serve to secure that destiny. Punishment will come; judgment will take place and the verdict will be death.

The biggest lie of the liar is the one he makes to himself – that he will escape such an end. He is the fool who has bought into the lie of the first Liar, Satan – “You will not die.” If only he would listen to the words of the one who is Truth – “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

 

1 John 1

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our[a] joy complete.

 

Light and Darkness, Sin and Forgiveness

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 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, purifies us from all[b] sin.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

10 May 2021

Proverbs 19:8

The one who gets wisdom loves life;
    the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.

Do you love yourself? Do you want what is good for you? Then pursue wisdom! Seek commonsense. Value understanding and discernment. Get knowledge. For it is through attaining good sense – the skill to discern what is right and true and good – that you will discover and enjoy the good in life.

How do you get sense? You pray for it; you study God’s Word; and you observe. You observe what God reveals through natural revelation. You study the knowledge he gives to anyone through his common grace. You learn from the experiences – all the experiences – he takes you through.

More importantly, you study the knowledge God’s Spirit gives through his special grace of revealing the Gospel. It is through the Gospel that you may now look at everything else. Explore redemption; explore what salvation entails; explore what it means to be adopted in Christ, to be sealed by the Holy Spirit; explore justification and sanctification. As you dig deeper into Gospel truth; as you delve into the holy attributes of the God who made you and saved you; as you seek such wondrous knowledge, so you will you grown in good sense and understanding.

And then keep understanding as you would keep any treasure you may possess. You hold on to it, take pleasure in it, work to protect it and add to it. For the more understanding you have and the greater care you take to keep it, the more useful it becomes in leading you to discover good. Indeed, the more useful it becomes in leading you to the One alone who is Good.

 

2 Peter 3

Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you. I have written both of them as reminders to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Savior through your apostles.

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.[a]

11 Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives 12 as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming.[b] That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. 13 But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

14 So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 15 Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

17 Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.

8 May 2021

1 Peter 2:9-10

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, the giver of all good things, grant that by Your holy inspiration we may think those things that are good, and by Your merciful guidance may perform them; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

7 May 2021

Proverbs 19:7

The poor are shunned by all their relatives—
    how much more do their friends avoid them!
Though the poor pursue them with pleading,
    they are nowhere to be found.

If a wealthy generous man has many friends, a poor man with nothing to give has none. They not only do not hang around him; they stay far from him. Of course, such “friends” are neither true friends of the generous man nor the poor man.

These “friends” are the true losers. At best they may gain some material favor. But what they gain with it is a bad reputation for lacking integrity, for not being trustworthy, for selfishness, and other shameful traits. They also miss out on what is of greater value than material prosperity – true friendship. They have no one they can count on, no one for comradeship, no one who will be for them in time of need. They will ever experience loneliness, ever live in suspicion of others who share their same worthless values.

And they are made blind to who truly is wealthy and rich. The reason many turned away from Jesus is that he was perceived to be poor. The reason many keep away from him now is that his Body is perceived to be poor. All his Church has to offer is the Gospel, which seems a poor substitute to the “wealth” that Satan and the world have to offer. Such “friends” miss out on the riches that are in Christ Jesus as they move forward to their destruction.

2 Peter 2

 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell,[a] putting them in chains of darkness[b] to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. 10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh[c] and despise authority.

Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to heap abuse on celestial beings; 11 yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not heap abuse on such beings when bringing judgment on them from[d] the Lord. 12 But these people blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like unreasoning animals, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like animals they too will perish.

13 They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you.[e] 14 With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood! 15 They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer,[f] who loved the wages of wickedness. 16 But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—an animal without speech—who spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.

17 These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” 20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22 Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,”[g] and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”

6 May 2021

Proverbs 19:6

Many curry favor with a ruler,
    and everyone is the friend of one who gives gifts.

“Generous man” could be translated “nobleman” or “prince.” Whatever the case, the point is that the person in a position to bestow gifts – be it of money, of position, of power – will have many “friends” who in truth are lovers of what he can give. The person may understand this and all the more loves his position because he can get “friends” to show him attention. The end result, however, is his own downfall from the ego that swells up in him, and the desertion of such friends when the downfall comes.

The irony of such behavior is that the One who rules over all and is more than generous is the one such “friends” are least likely to turn to. What does God offer? All the riches in Christ Jesus. He offers not only escape from damnation, but eternal bliss. He offers food and drink without cost. He paid the greatest cost in order to offer these marvelous gifts. Furthermore, he guarantees what he gives. Think about this. The one things that is the most important – eternal joy – is the one thing that he gives away and guarantees that we cannot lose.

And how do most people respond? “No thanks.” C. S. Lewis was right. Our problem is not that we desire too much, but that we are satisfied with so little. Seek the favor of this generous King who gives costly gifts beyond measure. You who have turned to Christ: why do you act as though you do not have his favor? Why do you act as though you are poor, that your King does not give you gifts? It is such an attitude that keeps the lost from turning to our King, because they look at you and conclude that he is a poor giver. Make them envious of the gifts of peace, of love, of so many other gifts that you have in Christ.

 

2 Peter 1

Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

 

Confirming One’s Calling and Election

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters,[a] make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things, you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

Prophecy of Scripture

12 So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. 13 I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, 14 because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things.

16 For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”[b] 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

19 We also have the prophetic message as something completely reliable, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. 20 Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. 21 For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

5 May 2021

Proverbs 19:5

A false witness will not go unpunished,
    and whoever pours out lies will not go free.

The irony in this proverb is that people lie for the express purpose of escaping punishment. We lie to cover up other sins. We fudge the truth so that our spouses will not get upset; so that our bosses will not blow up at us, etc. We will lie so that suspicion is passed on to others. Our lying so that we can get ahead is a form of escape. We think that our present status, our present financial state, our present job and position is life is not as good as it should be. We want to escape it and climb higher. We lie on our tax forms to escape more taxes to pay.

But such lies, though they may seem to provide escape, are merely leading us into entrapment. As often as not, our sins are found out and our lies prove only to magnify their gravity. But more to the point, we cannot lie before and to our Maker who sees all things even into our hearts. Furthermore, we cannot lie about our faith. We can fool others about our faith, but we cannot fool God.

Before you can exercise faith, you must exercise honesty. You cannot be inwardly convicted about what you will not own up to. You cannot repent what you will not admit. You cannot turn in faith to your Redeemer if you will not confess your true need. And you cannot grow close to your Lord if you try to deceive him. Remember then that your goal is not to escape, except to escape from the clutches of sin and lying. You want to be caught by your Lord who is your Redeemer. You want to be forced to confess your sin and your need for your Savior. Like the father caught in his own lie – “I believe” – you want to be caught in mid-sentence and cry out – “Help me in my unbelief!”

 

James 5

Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.[a] You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.

 

Patience in Suffering

Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!

10 Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

12 Above all, my brothers and sisters, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. All you need to say is a simple “Yes” or “No.” Otherwise you will be condemned.

 

The Prayer of Faith

13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

17 Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. 18 Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.

19 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, 20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

4 May 2021

Proverbs 19:4

Wealth attracts many friends,
    but even the closest friend of the poor person deserts them.

If the writer of this proverb had access to quotation marks in his day, he would have added them around “friends” and “friend.” In each instance the friends are nothing of the sort. The friends of the wealthy person hang about to get what they can. The poor person has but one other person willing to “be a friend.” Such a friend is obviously not hanging about to share in the wealth, but he is a “fair-weather” friend, the kind of person who will not be dependable. Indeed, he will desert his poor friend as soon as he thinks the poor man wants something from him.

Are there true friends? Yes, but such friends are cultivated. The bonds of friendship are forged through sharing experiences and through learning to give-and-take with each other. And one more ingredient is necessary – the friend himself must have integrity, at least regarding the friendship. A trusted friend must be trustworthy. And, again, that trustworthiness can only be tested through experience.

How do you find such a friend? The most sure way is to cultivate trustworthiness in your own heart. It is more difficult than it may seem, for your own trustworthiness is purified through the fires of trials.

Give thanks for our Friend, Jesus Christ, who walked into the fire of trial to demonstrate his trustworthiness and to make us trustworthy.

 

James 4

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

You adulterous people,[a] don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us[b]? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
    but shows favor to the humble.”[c]

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

11 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister[d] or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

 

Boasting About Tomorrow

13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. 17 If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

3 May 2021

Proverbs 19:3

A person’s own folly leads to their ruin,
    yet their heart rages against the Lord.

This is so true of Christians! Why can’t I get a job? Why are my workplaces always so difficult? Why is this ministry by which I serve God filled with so much trouble? Why, when I am devoted to God, am I having so much trouble in my marriage, in my family, with my health, in my church, etc., etc., etc. Doesn’t God keep his promises to bless his children? Doesn’t he reward those who serve him and make sacrifices for him? Why won’t he/can’t he control the behavior of others (especially other believers) who are making my life so difficult? Doesn’t God care? Doesn’t he see what my troubles are? Can’t he be merciful to me? What have I done so wrong?

What we will not do is examine our folly. Sometimes the folly is direct and obvious. I am in trouble at work because I lied about my performance. My marriage is in trouble because of my unfaithfulness. Oftentimes the folly is subtle or the consequences follow folly committed long before. My marriage is in trouble because of my sins committed long before leaving me with disease or in debt. It could be the folly of unwise decisions. I can’t get good work because I decided not to get the education needed when I was able to get it.

The point is that we are always more quick to put blame on someone else, including God, than to own up to our folly. “Bad” things do happen to good people and even because we are doing what is right. Suffering will happen to those who follow God. But suffering is as likely to happen because of our folly. We made foolish decisions; we gave way to foolish behavior, spoke foolishly, panicked foolishly, acted with pride foolishly, doubted God foolishly.

And then we questioned God about his goodness, his faithfulness, his mercy.

Folly leads to folly.

 

James 3

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

 

Two Kinds of Wisdom

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

1 May 2021

Luke 15:11-32

11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

Prayer: Almighty God, You alone can order the unruly wills and passions of sinful men: grant to Your people that they may love what You command and desire what You promise, so that, among the many and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

30 April 2021

Proverbs 19:2

Desire without knowledge is not good—
    how much more will hasty feet miss the way!

Is this not the cause of our troubles? We desire without knowledge. The young man desires the Forbidden Woman, not knowing that she leads to death. The fool desires fortune and fame, not knowing that he chooses ignominy and destruction. The wicked desire to take advantage of others, not knowing that they are entrapping themselves. Man desires to exalt himself, not knowing that he is debasing himself. Pride, greed, ambition all serve to make us ignorant.

Then we haste to fulfill our desires and thus miss the signs that would lead us aright. Our desires not only blind us, but compel us not to look, not to use discernment. The result of this all is that we miss The Desire instilled in us – the desire for God. We substitute it with the trivial and the profane; we substitute it with desires which, if they did spring from desire for God, would be good; but now that we have made idols of them in place of God they become soiled and lead us astray.

Desire is good – desire that is with the knowledge of the fear of the Lord. Such desire leads to what is truly fulfilling, what is lasting, what raises one up to glory. Desire that springs from the love of God found in Jesus Christ – that is abundant joy.

 

James 2

My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,”[a] you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “You shall not commit adultery,”[b] also said, “You shall not murder.”[c] If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

 

Faith and Deeds

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[d]? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,”[e] and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

29 April 2021

Proverbs 19:1

Better the poor whose walk is blameless
    than a fool whose lips are perverse.

There is too high a price to pay for crookedness. The lost of integrity is worse than the loss of money and position. The world considers a person not willing to compromise the truth to achieve a goal to be a fool. So be it. God, through his Word, declares a person who compromises integrity to be a fool. Whose judgment is more likely to be correct? In the end, who more likely will see that his judgment is vindicated?

This applies to politicians who are crooked in speech and promises. It applies to preachers who are crooked with Scripture. It applies to business people crooked about their services and products. It applies to teachers crooked with their responsibilities to their students. The list goes on. Where is the person willing to sacrifice election, promotion, fame, money, job for the sake of integrity? Where is the “fool” who counts favor with God as greater value than achieving worldly success?

There is only one – Jesus Christ, who walked in integrity even unto his death. Let us walk behind him, leaning on him, until we reach the destination he has prepared for us in our heavenly city.

 

James 1

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,

To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:

Greetings.

 

Trials and Temptations

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

 

Listening and Doing

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.

26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

28 April 2021

Proverbs 18:24

One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,
    but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

It is not the number but the depth of relationships that matter. It is good to have many companions. We are meant to be social creatures, and we should seek and enjoy the acquaintance of many people. And yet, what will sustain us through the trials of life and enrich our happiness is deep, meaningful friendship.

Such friendship arises both out of active and passive experience. You ought to desire and seek close friends. Many of us are reluctant to do so for various reasons, mostly out of timidity and fear of becoming vulnerable. But once a close friendship is formed, then it is a great blessing. For it is good to have a friend who sticks closer than a brother, who can understand and tolerate your moods and failings, who will encourage you when you are down and reprimand you when you are at fault.

But always remember the One who calls you his friend and is not ashamed to be known as your brother. No human friendship is guaranteed to last. We can offend both brother (and sister) and friend, and they can offend us. There is the one friend, Jesus Christ, who has already demonstrated a steadfast love that will never die. Keep up your relationship with him today; he is already sticking closer than a brother.

Philemon

Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother,

To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker— also to Apphia our sister and Archippus our fellow soldier—and to the church that meets in your home:

Grace and peace to you[a] from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Thanksgiving and Prayer

I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your love for all his holy people and your faith in the Lord Jesus. I pray that your partnership with us in the faith may be effective in deepening your understanding of every good thing we share for the sake of Christ. Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the Lord’s people.

 

Paul’s Plea for Onesimus

Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I prefer to appeal to you on the basis of love. It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— 10 that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus,[b] who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me.

12 I am sending him—who is my very heart—back to you. 13 I would have liked to keep him with me so that he could take your place in helping me while I am in chains for the gospel. 14 But I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that any favor you do would not seem forced but would be voluntary. 15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord.

17 So if you consider me a partner, welcome him as you would welcome me. 18 If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me. 19 I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back—not to mention that you owe me your very self. 20 I do wish, brother, that I may have some benefit from you in the Lord; refresh my heart in Christ. 21 Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.

22 And one thing more: Prepare a guest room for me, because I hope to be restored to you in answer to your prayers.

23 Epaphras, my fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus, sends you greetings. 24 And so do Mark, Aristarchus, Demas and Luke, my fellow workers.

25 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

27 April 2021

Proverbs 18:23

The poor plead for mercy,
    but the rich answer harshly.

Our status often determines our behavior. If we are poor, we will rely on entreaties to coax help from others. If we are in a position of power or wealthy enough to procure the help we need from many, we are likely to speak roughly or be more demanding.

Think about this in our relationship with the Lord. It is those who recognize their poverty who will humble themselves before him; those who think they are rich in life see no need for him and are offended to be told otherwise. They patronize and ridicule those who are spiritually humble. Their riches – be it of money or talent or pleasures – blind them to their true position. They are impoverished, believing they are rich.

Are you rough sometimes in your speech or thoughts towards the Lord? Do you find yourself at times demanding the help you want? Are you ever resentful, thinking that your good behavior merits better response from God? What do you have that you have not received, even the ability to behave well?

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. They turn to their Savior and Lord humbly for all things. They are not blind to their poverty, nor are they blind to the blessings that are theirs in Christ. They make entreaties like the poor, but they receive the blessings of heirs. Entreat the Lord today for his favor, and know this – that to all who entreat humbly he answers tenderly and generously.

 

Titus 3

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.

But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. 10 Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. 11 You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.

 

Final Remarks

12 As soon as I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, because I have decided to winter there. 13 Do everything you can to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way and see that they have everything they need. 14 Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.

15 Everyone with me sends you greetings. Greet those who love us in the faith.

Grace be with you all.

26 April 2021

Proverbs 18:22

He who finds a wife finds what is good
    and receives favor from the Lord.

God instituted marriage as a blessing to man. It was “not good” for man to be alone, and so God created and brought the woman to the man. And he realized it was good, for “she is flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone.” Marriage is not a trap; it is not a mere social convention to procreate and keep order. Marriage is good. Blessed is the man who finds a good wife, and the woman who finds a good husband.

The husband, who may be wishing for freedom, should especially take note. Your wife is a blessing from the Lord. It does not seem so? Instead of focusing on what you consider her shortcomings, perhaps you need to examine yourself. As head of the marriage, you have the greater control and responsibility for the health of your relationship. Are you taking charge by making the sacrifices of a Christian leader for the person under your care? Are you aware that God is using your wife for your own sanctification? Are you letting your wife know that she is a good gift from the Lord? Understand an important principle in leadership – those for whom you are responsible are likely to live up to or live down to what you communicate about them.

Husbands and wives, give thanks today for your spouses. See the good that the Lord has given you, and communicate to your spouse how good you have it because of them.

 

Titus 2

You, however, must teach what is appropriate to sound doctrine. Teach the older men to be temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love and in endurance.

Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can urge the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God.

Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, 10 and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.

11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

15 These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.

24 April 2021

Luke 15:1-10

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

 

The Parable of the Lost Coin

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins[a] and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

Prayer: Almighty God, You show to those who are in error the light of Your truth so that they may return to the way of righteousness: grant to all who are admitted to the fellowship of Christ’s service that they may renounce those things that are contrary to their profession and follow all such things as are agreeable to it; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

23 April 2021

Proverbs 18:21

The tongue has the power of life and death,
    and those who love it will eat its fruit.

Bad and good result from the power of speech; those who love speech will reap the consequences of how they use it. This proverb carries the weight of a warning to those who love to talk and those who skillfully use speech for bad ends. Sooner (usually) or later (for those who are skilled), one will eat the fruit of one’s wicked ends.

Over and again, the proverbs teach the power of the tongue for good and ill, and thus the necessity to exercise godly wisdom. Do not be quick to speak. Think before you do speak. Seek such a heart that the words which pour out of it will be good and true. Death and life are in the power of the tongue both for those who hear your words and you yourself.

Those of you who are given the gift of speech, such as teachers, trainers, preachers, and counselors, all the more you must use your gift wisely. For as you use your gift of speech, so your reward will be measured out to you, good or ill. The same holds true for anyone in a position of authority over others – parent over child, teacher over student, supervisor over employee, elder over church member. Your speech carries power for death or life. A momentary comment can lift up the spirits of a person that he will never forget; it can also tear him down and be a bitter memory.

Such power should humble us and lead us each day to pray for wisdom to use our tongues wisely and for good, and for mercy for the times we misuse them. Such power should lead us to the wise words of truth found in Scripture. For it is there that all words spring from and lead us to the life that is in Christ.

 

Titus 1

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness— in the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time, and which now at his appointed season he has brought to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior,

To Titus, my true son in our common faith:

Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

 

Appointing Elders Who Love What Is Good

The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint[a] elders in every town, as I directed you. An elder must be blameless, faithful to his wife, a man whose children believe[b] and are not open to the charge of being wild and disobedient. Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.

 

Rebuking Those Who Fail to Do Good

10 For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. 11 They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. 12 One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: “Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.”[c] 13 This saying is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith 14 and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. 16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.

22 April 2021

Proverbs 18:20

From the fruit of their mouth a person’s stomach is filled;
    with the harvest of their lips they are satisfied.

This proverb is based on the assumption that the fruit is good. When our speech produces good fruit by blessing others and conveying wisdom and knowledge, then we receive blessing, as when satisfied by a good, healthy meal. Conversely, when our speech stirs up trouble and offense, we will experience our own stomach aches.

To delve deeper, Jesus pointed out that it is what comes out of a man that defiles him. Thus, the fruit of a man’s mouth does not spring from the mouth but from the heart. Most of what we say, we say without conscious thought. We merely react with our mouths to what we see or hear. Those reactions will reflect the condition of our hearts. Do we speak carelessly often causing offense? Do we speak foolishly? Do we find ourselves having to apologize regularly for offending others, even though we really don’t understand what all the fuss is about?

Good fruit ultimately reflects good soil. Give attention to the soil in your heart that you might bear good fruit in your mouth and be satisfied.

 

2 Timothy 4

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

 

Personal Remarks

Do your best to come to me quickly, 10 for Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry. 12 I sent Tychicus to Ephesus. 13 When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, and my scrolls, especially the parchments.

14 Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done. 15 You too should be on your guard against him, because he strongly opposed our message.

16 At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. 17 But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. 18 The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Final Greetings

19 Greet Priscilla[a] and Aquila and the household of Onesiphorus. 20 Erastus stayed in Corinth, and I left Trophimus sick in Miletus. 21 Do your best to get here before winter. Eubulus greets you, and so do Pudens, Linus, Claudia and all the brothers and sisters.[b]

22 The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you all.

21 April 2021

Proverbs 18:19

A brother wronged is more unyielding than a fortified city;
    disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel.

The closer a relationship the deeper an offense is felt. It may or may not be easier to offend a brother, but when he is offended the wound goes deep, as is the witness of many, many family divisions. The offense only goes deeper and the brother more unyielding when the offender tries to argue his case which ends up in quarreling.

How to break through the city wall and the castle bars? Here are practical steps to take: First, listen. Take the time to hear out the offended brother. Ask good questions that help you understand what he is saying and how and why he feels the way he does. Don’t be satisfied until you are able to articulate to his satisfaction his side and feelings.

That’s about it. You will be amazed at how easily your brother’s defense system comes down when he believes you really understand him. Because he is your brother (or sister), he wants resolution and reconciliation. But he cannot bring down his defenses until he knows you understand him and that you will not attack once he brings them down.

It sounds too simple, but you will be surprised at how effective it is. The reason? You are having to put down your attack weapons and your own defenses in order to listen well. You are having to make changes in yourself. And the best chance of our brother making the changes we think he needs to make is when he sees us making our own for his sake.

 

2 Timothy 3

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.

 

A Final Charge to Timothy

10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God[a] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

20 April 2021

Proverbs 18:18

Casting the lot settles disputes
    and keeps strong opponents apart.

It is interesting how the casting of lots or drawing straws or flipping coins settle matters that could produce controversy or are already controversial. Rival teams let a coin flip decide who gets the ball first; kids arguing over who has to take the worse job will meekly accept the result of drawing the shortest straw. There is an odd sense of fairness to committing a decision to chance. That is when there is no clear reason for choosing one side or person over the other, or sometimes simply to avoid the ill will that choosing will cause.

There is some kind of resignation to a “higher” decision through committing decisions to “chance.” All the more then, Christians ought to accept the seemingly random events that result in pleasant and unpleasant consequences. We are to accept our lots as coming from the Lord to be used for his purposes for his glory and our good. Scripture is not teaching us to cast lots to make our decisions, but it is teaching us to accept the consequences of all decisions, however random they may seem, as God working out his purposes.

Instead of wallowing in self-pity or anger over “bad luck,” we should be exploring how God wants us to live for his glory. Instead of swelling with pride over our “good luck,” we should be moved to humility and exploring how God wants us to live for his glory. What matters in life is not so much what lot we get, but what we do with whatever lot is ours. Whether we get heads or tails, the short straw or the long straw, what matters is what we do in the circumstance. And what we do will ultimately lie in our confidence in God’s sovereignty and goodness. And our confidence will ultimately lie in how much we treasure Jesus Christ and the grace shown to us through him.

 

2 Timothy 2

You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. 10 Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.

11 Here is a trustworthy saying:

If we died with him,
    we will also live with him;
12 if we endure,
    we will also reign with him.
If we disown him,
    he will also disown us;
13 if we are faithless,
    he remains faithful,
    for he cannot disown himself.

 

Dealing With False Teachers

14 Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. 15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. 16 Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. 17 Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.”

20 In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for special purposes and some for common use. 21 Those who cleanse themselves from the latter will be instruments for special purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

22 Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. 24 And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. 25 Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

19 April 2021

Proverbs 18:17

In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right,
    until someone comes forward and cross-examines.

What a true observation! How many times have we heard one speaker lay forth an argument that seems the epitome of commonsense, only to hear someone else give a different opinion or exam the first speaker, and we completely change our opinion? Perhaps the first speaker omitted pertinent information; perhaps he operated from presuppositions that needed questioning. Whatever the case, it took another examiner – either one impartial or with a differing opinion – to present a fuller picture.

Thus, we need ourselves not to be quick to form opinions nor to assume that the speaker on our side is always right. This happens in politics and theology where we presume that our guy is the one with the right facts and opinion. Take time to listen to the examiner, regardless of his position. The truth can reside even in the one with the wrong motivation or perspective. We are not to judge by what “seems” right, but by the evidence itself. Oftentimes we need someone with another perspective to help us consider what the evidence may be.

A more common scenario is our taking sides in a dispute before listening to each party. Take, for example, a marital conflict. One spouse shares with you how he or she has been wronged. You are sympathetic and now become angry with the other spouse. You either hold a grudge or even confront the other spouse with his or her wrongdoing. What then happens? The conflict escalates. Before you bothered to hear the other side, you made accusations, which only increases the trouble between the couple. Do not be quick to judge. The proverb is right: The one who states his case first seems right. But seeming right and being right are not the same thing. It is fine to be sympathetic, but not to rush to conclusions.

Finally, give thanks that we have a Lord who judges not by what his eyes see or ears hear, but only with righteousness and equity (Isaiah 11:4). And give thanks that we have God’s Word that gives, not an opinion, but truth by which we may judge the opinions of others, including ourselves.

 

2 Timothy 1

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, in keeping with the promise of life that is in Christ Jesus,

To Timothy, my dear son:

Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Thanksgiving

I thank God, whom I serve, as my ancestors did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy. I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.

 

Appeal for Loyalty to Paul and the Gospel

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher. 12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.

13 What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. 14 Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.

 

Examples of Disloyalty and Loyalty

15 You know that everyone in the province of Asia has deserted me, including Phygelus and Hermogenes.

16 May the Lord show mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains. 17 On the contrary, when he was in Rome, he searched hard for me until he found me. 18 May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord on that day! You know very well in how many ways he helped me in Ephesus.

17 April 2021

Psalm 22

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me,
    so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
    by night, but I find no rest.[b]

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
    you are the one Israel praises.[c]
In you our ancestors put their trust;
    they trusted and you delivered them.
To you they cried out and were saved;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
    they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
“He trusts in the Lord,” they say,
    “let the Lord rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
    since he delights in him.”

Yet you brought me out of the womb;
    you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast on you;
    from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

11 Do not be far from me,
    for trouble is near
    and there is no one to help.

12 Many bulls surround me;
    strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions that tear their prey
    open their mouths wide against me.
14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint.
My heart has turned to wax;
    it has melted within me.
15 My mouth[d] is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
    you lay me in the dust of death.

16 Dogs surround me,
    a pack of villains encircles me;
    they pierce[e] my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
    people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
    and cast lots for my garment.

19 But you, Lord, do not be far from me.
    You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
20 Deliver me from the sword,
    my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
    save me from the horns of the wild oxen.

22 I will declare your name to my people;
    in the assembly I will praise you.
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
    Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or scorned
    the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
    but has listened to his cry for help.

25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
    before those who fear you[f] I will fulfill my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek the Lord will praise him—
    may your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth
    will remember and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    will bow down before him,
28 for dominion belongs to the Lord
    and he rules over the nations.

29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
    all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—
    those who cannot keep themselves alive.
30 Posterity will serve him;
    future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness,
    declaring to a people yet unborn:
    He has done it!

Prayer: Almighty God, You have given Your only Son to be for us both a sacrifice for sin and also an example of godly life; give us grace that we may always thankfully receive the immeasurable benefit of His sacrifice, and also daily endeavour to follow in the blessed steps of His most holy life; who now lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for evermore. Amen.

16 April 2021

Proverbs 18:16

A gift opens the way
    and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.

What is the difference between a gift and a bribe? Is this proverb permitting the offering of bribes to get one’s way? The proverb may not be giving permission for anything. Many proverbs are mere observations about life, adding no comment about the moral value. That is true of this one.

And yet, there are many situations in which a gift may be used wisely. In this proverb the gift is used to win an audience with someone in a greater position. It is mere bribery – i.e. a payoff – to pay a sort of fee and obtain unfair advantage over others, especially in the matter of justice. And yet a wise person will take the time to give a pleasing gift that softens an otherwise stony composure and thus win a fair hearing. It is also appropriate to give gifts that express true sentiment of appreciation, such as giving a gift to someone whom you admire.

Again, this is not the case of a rich man able to give a higher cost bribe than his poorer opponent, or deliver secret bribes. Rather, it is the wise paving of the way that allows him to receive his hearing and to enhance good relations. Thus, Jesse sends David to his brothers not only with food for them, but for their commander; Jacob sends gifts to Esau and the brothers bring gifts to Joseph on behalf of their father. The givers are expressing to the recipients that they acknowledge their position of being under the recipients’ authority or power. They are not demanding rights, but appealing to generosity.

It is in such spirit that we come before our Lord in worship, offering gifts of worship, perhaps our tithes, and certainly offering ourselves in service. Such gifts, the Lord is pleased with, and in his generosity continues to overflow our cup with blessings.

 

1 Timothy 6

All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. Those who have believing masters should not show them disrespect just because they are fellow believers. Instead, they should serve them even better because their masters are dear to them as fellow believers and are devoted to the welfare[a] of their slaves.

 

False Teachers and the Love of Money

These are the things you are to teach and insist on. If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

 

Final Charge to Timothy

11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.

17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19 In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

20 Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge, 21 which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith.

Grace be with you all.